Strangely, some groups that believe in Jesus insist that we are still under this Law. One such collection of groups is the Hebrew Roots Movement. Although they concede that “no one can be saved nor made righteous by works of the law,” they maintain that we are still required to keep the OT laws for the purpose of fellowship with God:
* “We believe that Moshiach Yahshua taught all His true followers both Jew and non-Jew that all the precepts of written Torah are eternally binding. Moshiach Yahshua, never negated Torah, but expects and commands us to follow Torah (Matthew-Mattityahu 5:17-19), so as to continually express and renew our love for Him by our obedience.” (www.watchman.org)
Does Jesus teach that we are still under the Law? Not really:
- “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18; ESV)
It certainly seems like Jesus fulfilled or "accomplished" the Law on the Cross, when He proclaimed that "it is finished," and the veil of the Temple was rent in two, signifying that the Mosaic Law separation between God and His people had been removed.
However, Jesus had been secretive about many things including His Deity, His Messiah-ship, the Atonement, and His instituting the New Covenant, at least until the end:
* And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." (Matthew 26:27-29; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20)
Jesus gave many other indications that the Mosaic Covenant was coming to an end. He had equated His body with the New Temple of God, the new place that God's people would meet Him:
- So the Jews said to him, "What sign do you show us for doing these things?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking about the temple of his body. (John 2:18-21)
He even indicated that He was greater than the Temple:
* “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath." (Matthew 12:6-8)
Not only did Jesus declare Himself greater than the Mosaic Temple, but by declaring Himself "lord of the Sabbath," He was also declaring Himself above the Mosaic Law.
Jesus even cryptically dismissed the Mosaic Law, teaching against its stipulations:
* And he said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) (Mark 7:18-19)
This teaching contradicted Mosaic Law that specified that certain foods would defile when ingested, along with the dead and with certain diseases. As a result, Mark noted that Jesus was cryptically teaching that all food was now clean.
It also seemed that Jesus was teaching that people are also clean, despite their health condition. He illustrated this by touching many of the infirmed who, under Mosaic Law, would have defiled Him with their contact.
On one occasion, a woman with a constant issue of blood secretly touched Jesus' garment, hoping that she'd be healed. However, Jesus exposed her. She was frightened and shamed, because He had exposed her sin. However, instead of condemning her, as Mosaic Law required:
* Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." And instantly the woman was made well. (Matthew 9:20)
Similarly, when Jesus sent out His disciples to minister, He never instructed them to teach the Law, but rather His teachings:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)
If He had intended that His disciples would have to teach that they were still under the Mosaic Law, it is curious that He hadn't been plain about this.
Instead, in the Gospel of Luke, He commissioned His disciples:
* ...and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-47)
Again, no instructions to preach Moses. Jesus' commission of His Apostles in the Gospel of John was even more dismissive of the Mosaic Law. Instead of the Levites administering God's forgiveness, it would now be His Apostles:
* Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld." (John 20:21-23)
As we advance further into the NT, the teachings become more explicit that we are not under the Law. This question had become hot:
* Some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, "It is necessary to circumcise them [Gentiles] and to order them to keep the law of Moses." (Acts 15:5)
However, a council was convened in Jerusalem to decide this matter.
* And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?”(Acts 15:7-10)
Peter argued that, now, Law-keeping was an unnecessary burden. James, the head of the council concurred:
* “Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God." (Acts 15:19)
Instead of requiring the Gentiles to follow the Law, James concluded that they should merely abstain from those Gentile practices that would alienate them from the Jews.
Paul consistently taught that we are no longer under the Law and that being under the Law precluded being under Christ:
* Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:4-6)
According to Paul, being under the Covenant of the Law was to be in bondage:
* For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the [Mosaic] law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)
Instead, the bondage of the Covenant of the Law was necessary to prepare us for our liberty in Christ:
* Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. (Galatians 3:23-25)
This doesn't mean that the stipulations of the Law are no longer the Word of God or even that they are no longer normative for us. Instead, there are stipulations we must obey:
* Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:31)
Laws, like those of The Ten Commandments, have been carried over into the New Covenant and should now be obeyed Christologically. For instance, we are still to keep the Sabbath, but now we have great freedom as to how to keep it:
* One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. (Romans 14:5)
Nevertheless, some commandments, like "Thou shall not kill," need no further NT re-interpretation. However, we are mandated to understand the Old through the lens of the New. After Paul taught that Christ had fulfilled the Law, he provided us with a principle to understand and apply their ongoing stipulations:
* God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross...Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:13-14, 16-17)
The Law contained both shadow and substance, those teachings that remain Christologically normative for us today, and the shadows or types of Christ. Both of these are instructive for us, but we need not rebuild the Temple and make animal sacrifices.
Nevertheless, those aspects of the Law that still provide moral guidance now fall under the "Law of Christ" (to which they have always belonged):
* For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. (1 Corinthians 9:19-21)
Paul contrasted being under the Law and being under Christ. It is either one master or the other. There could not be two. (Matthew 6:24)
The Book of Hebrews clearly indicates that we are no longer under the Law. It even goes further - that the Covenant of the Law has placed away, having been replaced by the New:
* In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:13)
This suggests that even the Jews are no longer under the Mosaic Covenant:
* He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.(Hebrews 10:9-10)
It was only through Christ that even the OT saints found a complete forgiveness for their sins (Hebrews 9:14-15).
James also suggested that we are now under a new regime, the “law of liberty”:
* For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. (James 2:10-12)
We are now under a new regime. However, some charge that the NT represents a perversion of the teachings of the Old. Therefore, it is imperative that we also consult the OT evidence that the Old Covenant was only meant as a temporary measure.
We even see clues of this in the Mosaic legislation, where we find that the Covenant of the Law only pertained to the Land and the theocratic State of Israel:
* You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes, for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 12:8-9)
Moses instructed Israel that the Law wasn't fully operative while they were wondering. Joshua reflects the same:
* At that time the Lord said to Joshua, "Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time." (Joshua 5:2)
Circumcision had been the sign of the Mosaic Covenant. However, it wasn't practiced during their 40 years of wandering. Evidently, the Covenant had only pertained to their time within the Promised Land. This suggests that it might not be relevant for today.
Jeremiah wrote that there would come a time when it would no longer be remembered or maintained:
* “And when you have multiplied and been fruitful in the land, in those days, declares the Lord, they shall no more say, 'The ark of the covenant of the Lord.' It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again. At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart.” (Jeremiah 3:16-17)
The Ark of the Covenant was the banner of the Mosaic Covenant. If the Ark would not come to mind, neither would the Law.
Besides, there are many indications that it would not be able to achieve God's final goal for His people. Instead, they would continue in their uncircumcised heart (Deut. 30:6) until the arrival of the New:
* “But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.” (Deuteronomy 29:4)
For God to accomplish His plans, some things would have to be changed. He had promised to marry Israel. However, the relationship remained very distant. Israel could not even endure the voice of God (Exodus 20) or come into His presence without being struck dead, but this would change:
* “And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.” (Hosea 2:18-19)
Such an idea was foreign to the Old Covenant. A New and radically different one would be required:
* “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
In order to salvage their claim that the Old will be eternal, the Rabbis maintain that the New Covenant simply represents a minor modification of the Old. However, our Lord explicitly tells us that the New will "not [be] like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt."
The New Covenant had to be radically different in order to fulfill the promises of God, in view of the fact that the Law had placed Israel under an inevitable curse:
* "'Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.' And all the people shall say, 'Amen.'” (Deuteronomy 27:26)
However, the OT extended the Messianic hope to Israel that the promised Savior would come and take upon Himself Israel's curse (Isaiah 53; Psalm 40, 22, 69; Daniel 9:24-27), indicating the insufficiency of the Old Covenant.
While the other covenants - the Noahic, abrahamic, the Davidic, and the New Covenant - are termed "everlasting," not once is the Mosaic, the Covenant of the Law, described in this way (although certain of its stipulations are regarded as everlasting.) This is surprising because the OT says far more about the Mosaic than it does about all of the others combined.
If the OT never claims that the Law is eternal and that it will be superseded, why should we!