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Are We Still Under Old Testament Law?

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This past week, we re-posted an article from Apologetics Press Discovery Magazine entitled What Use is the Old Testament?  The conclusion of that article has prompted several of our readers to question if we are still under the Old Testament laws which include the Ten Commandments.  I will attempt to offer a response that I pray answers everyone’s questions.

 

From Rich:

Are you implying that God does not expect us to obey the Ten Commandments? Maybe I’m reading a different Bible.

Response:

Rich, I understand your question and concern over this article.

You are referring to the end of the article by Apologetics Press which reads:

God did not plan for us to follow the laws of the Old Testament after Jesus died. But, the Old Testament still is important and valuable to us. In the New Testament book of Romans, Paul wrote that the Old Testament was “written for our learning” (Romans 15:4). And, in one of his letters to the Christians at Corinth, Paul wrote that the events recorded in the Law of Moses were written “for our instruction” or “admonition” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Although we are not bound by the Old Law, we can learn many things from the examples recorded in the Old Testament.

The fact is, learning from the Old Testament can help us better understand the New Testament and its message that “the Savior is coming again.”

Many a Bible scholar and theologian have written entire volumes on this topic and they still do not agree with each other as to whether or not we are still under the Law. Some like the author from Apologetics Press believe that Christ abolished the Law and we are no longer commanded to live by it.  They use the same references the author cited to justify their stance.

However, a number of other biblical scholars will argue that Christ did not do away with the Law in its entirety.  They say that Christ fulfilled the temple laws when He was crucified and the temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom (Matt 27:51).  From that point on, we were no longer under all of the temple sacrificial laws.

They also cite Matthew 5:17 which says:

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.

Some try to argue that his statement of fulfilling the Law means that we are no longer under the Law, but note that He specifically states that He was not here to abolish the Law.  His fulfillment referred to the temple laws and required sacrifices for sin that had taken place from the time of Moses.  Christ was telling them that He was the last sacrifice that needed to be made for the remission of sin.

Never did Christ say that we did not need to obey the Ten Commandments or the rest of the Laws of Moses that pertained to every aspect of life.

As for what the Apostle Paul taught on the subject of the law, I strongly suggest one turns to the second chapter of Romans (12-29) where Paul wrote:

For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal?  You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?  You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

If Paul believed that Christ did away with the Law why would he have taught on it as he did so often?

I personally believe that the author of the Apologetics Press article used the passages they quoted in error.  Paul is not saying that the Laws are now null and void, rather he is emphasizing that they are still intact and they are a source for teaching, guidance and admonition, which have nothing to do with replacement.

Rich, the argument used in the AP article is weak and I do not agree with it.  I truly do appreciate you bringing it to our attention and pray that my brief response helps.

The Ten Commandments: Manual for the Christian Life

The Ten Commandments provide “the fundamental pointers we need for our concourse with God and our neighbors,” writes Professor J. Douma in this work. As the subtitle indicates, the Ten Commandments are a manual for the Christian life, relevant to all thought and experience.

In this commentary on the commandments, Douma tackles the difficult yet practical issues of our time with insight, thoroughness, and faithfulness to God’s Word. Discussions of the commandments span current issues from religious art to sorcery and witchcraft, from Sunday observance to civil disobedience, from abortion to euthanasia and suicide.

Because the commandments speak to every area of life, this volume lends itself to a wide range of uses. Pastors, professors, counselors, and interested laypeople will gain much wisdom and direction from the careful and up-to-date exposition, as well as from the thoughtful and necessary application.

Endorsements:

“When the law of god is eclipsed, the gospel is obscured. This book imparts the light of the law with such clarity that the character of God is made wonderfully plain to us.” —R.C. Sproul

“Applicable, practical, and accessible—a commentary on the Ten Commandments should be all of these things. This thoroughly biblical and forthrightly Reformed work satisfies these requirements and more and thus should be a welcome addition to any bookshelf.” —George Grant

 

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  • Tommie Wells

    I believe we are no longer under the Mosaic covenant. We have a new covenant through Jesus. He told us how we are to behave. We are to love God with all out heart and mind and love our neighbor as ourselves. We are to obey the laws of the country in which we live unless those laws would cause us to disobey the laws of God. The Mosaic covenant was for the Jewish people to keep them as a people set apart till Jesus was come into His crucifixion and resurrection.

    We are admonished frequently in the New Testament not to turn again to the bondage of the old laws. If anyone is out of line, it is your teachings in this article. Do you keep kosher? There are nearly 700 of these laws.

  • Dennis

    With a little study and common sense its easy to see that we are still under the law.If not whats the point? If its all done away with then we have nothing to answer for.Transgression of law is sin,period end of story.

  • Seán Ó Cluaid

    The apostle Paul clearly said we are not under the law and we are not saved EVEN IF we obey the law.
    If we are not “under the law” then we are “above the law”. However, that phrase in our culture tends to mean flouting the law, ignoring the law, in practise, breaking the law. Paul would not have intended that meaning.
    If we see the LAW as the very bottom line; you shall not murder, steal, commit adultery. These are stated as contrary to following the Spirit so if a person says they are Spiritual but is murdering, stealing, committing adultery, then without question others can doubt their claims of spirituality as they are not even living up to the level of the law.
    Now Jesus lifted the required level to have “righteousness above the Pharisses” or to “be Spiritual”, from the level of just keeping the law to the higher plain of “love your enemy”, “not even look of lust” etc. If we, by the Spirit” seek to live to the level Jesus requires in the New Testament conditions, THEN, we won’t have worry about keeping the ten commandments because we will be at a much higher level. Using a reverse illustration. I have likened it to driving on a crowded road on which the traffic is going slow. Because of the conditions, one doesn’t have to worry about obeying or breaking the speed limit because a driver is automatically keeping the law without even thinking about it.
    If, as Christian believers, we follow the level Jesus wants, if we are living by the Spirit, then for us we are not under the law.
    The law teaches the unbeliever about sin and should lead him to Christ for salvation.

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