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Dear Bob, What are people talking about when they argue about whether Christians are "under the law" or not? Confused in Phoenix.
Thank you so much for this question! In the Old Testament, God began to give His "Law" and "commandments" to the Nation of Israel with the 10 Commandments, in Exodus Chapter 20. These commandments to the Nation of Israel became known as the "Old Testament Law".
1. THE OLD TESTAMENT LAW CONSISTED OF:
a. Ceremonial Law, consisting of the priesthood, sacrifice system, and the Seven Feasts of Israel. We find these primarily from Exodus chapter 25 through the end of the Book of Leviticus.
b. Civil Law. The civil "laws of the land" that God gave Israel, which are the basis of the civil laws of America, and most other civilized nations. The ten commandments form the core of the Civil Law, and many other details are found from Exodus 20:1 through Exodus 23:12.
c. Dietary Law. What Israel could eat, and what God forbade them to eat. We find these laws in Leviticus chapter eleven, and in Deut. 14:3-21.
d. The 10 Commandments given to Moses, in Exodus 20:4-17. These "ten commandments" were written by God on a tablet of stone (Ex 34:28), but are actually just the first 10 of over 50 "Thou shalt not's" in the Books of Exodus and Leviticus.
2. THE PURPOSE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT LAW:
a. Heb 10:1, It was a shadow of good things to come through Christ.
b. Gal 3:19, It was necessary because of sin until Jesus came.
c. Rom 7:7, It revealed sin. It showed man that he is a helpless sinner.
d. Rom 3:19-21, To exclude man's boasting.
e. James 2:10-11, Break one, you break them all! That is why we need a Savior!
3. TO WHOM DOES THE OLD TESTAMENT LAW APPLY?
a. Rom 5:13-20, it was for Jews only, and from Moses to Christ.
b. Rom 2:12-15, Gentiles were never under the Old Testament Law at any time in history. This passage states that God chose many Gentiles, in all nations from Adam to Christ to be His, and He regenerated them (made them spiritually alive) and wrote work of the Law in their hearts. These regenerated Gentiles were a "law unto themselves", God requiring them to follow their "conscience".
Note: Gentiles were never under the Old Testament Law given to the Nation of Israel, and yet the first century Judaizers in Galatia were attempting to place them under the Law, in the Age of Grace! See the whole amazing Epistle to the Church at Galatia.
4. The Old Testament Law was removed by the finished work of Christ on the Cross, for Jew & Gentile believers in Christ:
a. Gal 3:10-13, The Law is called a "curse", that was removed by Christ.
b. Eph 2:15, Jesus nailed the Law to the Cross.
c. Col 2:14-17, It was nailed to the Cross, "ordinances" and all ("Thou shalt not's" AND what Israel was told to DO). Note: "Tithing" 10 percent was an "ordinance" of the Old Testament Law, Mal. 3:7-10.
d. In the Church Age, the Old Testament Law is replaced by New Testament teachings:
(1) The Old Testament Ceremonial Law was fulfilled by Jesus on the Cross. The two New Testament "ceremonies", believers water baptism and the Lord's Supper, both look back at the completed work of Jesus on the Cross. "Tithing" was an "ordinance" (Mal.3:7&8) of the Old Testament Law, to support the Old Testament priesthood and temple. Tithing has been repealed for the Church Age, being removed as a requirement by Jesus on the Cross. (Col. 2:14-17 ordinances removed). (There were many tithes under the Law. Tithe simply means 10%) In the New Testament, every believer is a priest, 1 Pet 2:5, 1 Pet 2:9, Rev 1:6, and Rev 5:10. We are also a holy temple 1 Cor 6:19, and the Holy Spirit resides in us. New Testament giving is "willingly", not as a requirement, 2 Cor 8:9-12; "As you purpose in your own heart", 2 Cor 9:6-8; proportional to income, but not as a burden, 1 Cor. 16:2 & 2 Cor. 8:13-15.
(2) Old Testament Civil Law: Was only for the Nation of Israel. It is now replaced by the Law of the Land, in the Country in which you live. (Rom 13:1-7 & 1 Pet 2:13-21)
(3) Old Testament Dietary Law: This was repealed after the Cross. Paul explains in Rom. Chap 14. In the Church Age, the teaching of what to eat and what not to eat as a "requirement from God" is called by Paul a "doctrine of demons", 1 Tim 4:1-5.
(4) The Ten Commandments given to Moses: Nine of the original Ten Commandments given to Moses are repeated in the New Testament. Only the "keeping of the Sabbath" is eliminated. (Col 2:16)
5. THE LAW AND JESUS:
a. Jesus obeyed it perfectly, Jn 8:46, Jn 15:10, Matt 17:5, & 1 Pet 2:21-23.
b. He verified it.
c. He quoted it.
d. He interpreted it.
e. He didn't destroy it, Mat 5:17.
f. He fulfilled it, Heb 9:11-26.
g. He redeemed us from it, Gal 4:1-7.
6. THE OLD TESTAMENT LAW, AS IT APPLIES TO US IN THE CHURCH AGE:
a. Rom 6:14&15, We are free from the Law & under Grace!
b. Matt 22:36-40, There was always a higher law, than the "details" of the Old Testament written Law, the "Law of Love".
c. Rom 3:31, Our living by faith fulfills the Law.
d. Gal 5:14-18 & 6:2, God's love working in us by means of his Spirit fulfills the Law.
e. Gal 4:1-7 Jesus bore the curse of the Law for us that we might be the adult Sons of God rather than being His servants under the Law.
f. Rom 2:25-28, True circumcision is not physical, but to do righteousness.
g. James 1:25, We live now by the perfect (completed) Law of Liberty (Freedom), the New Testament from Romans through Revelation Chapter 3.
h. Matt 11:28-30, The yoke of Jesus is easy & His burden is light!
7. Our salvation is by Grace, through faith, and is God doing His work through us, in His energy - not our own. What is required of us?
--- Study His Word,
--- Grow in the sphere of Grace and into the full knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
--- Maintain our moment by moment fellowship with God through instant confession of all known sin (1 John 1:9),
--- And prayerfully seek to live by His Word and do His will.
And God works in us to "will and do His good pleasure", Phil. 2:13, "For it is God which worketh in (is presently working in) you both to will (to want to) and to do (to have the ability to do) of his good pleasure.
Theologian Kenneth Wuest notes, in his book "Golden Nuggets From the Greek New Testament", that when the word "law", the Greek word "nomos", is preceded by the Greek article "the", it speaks of THE Old Testament Law, but, when the Greek article is absent ("nomos" is anarthrous), it often speaks of "a law METHOD" of operation, versus a "Grace method" of operation. As in Rom. 6:14 -
Rom. 6:14 "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, ("a law METHOD") but under grace" ("a Grace METHOD").
A "law method" attempts to please God by "doing" a list of "do's and don'ts" in our own energy. The "Grace method" is staying in fellowship and allowing God to work THROUGH us, as Paul says in Rom. 12:1, as a "living sacrifice".
As Kenneth Wuest states, "law commands obedience, but neither gives the desire nor power to obey", but "under grace as a method divine method of dealing, grace sweetly exhorts to a life of obedience and provides both the desire and the power to obey".
Your questions are a blessing to me, and I am sure the Scriptures we examine are a blessing to others also. As always, I hope my answers are clear, and an equal blessing.
Yours "in Christ",