James Patrick’s Blog

September 5, 2009

The Law of Moses completely abolished [I&NC #4]

Filed under: Prophecy — alabastertheology @ 7:29 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

New Testament writers clearly recognised that Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic covenant with all its regulations.  The death of Jesus paid in full the fines of the ‘old covenant’ and also served as the sacrifice needed to confirm the ‘new covenant’, as promised by Moses and all the prophets after him.  The old covenant which had been fulfilled and replaced by the new covenant had therefore become obsolete, and the destruction of the temple in AD70 demonstrated its abolishment.  This did not, however, include abolishment of the promise of land which had been given to Abraham and his physical descendants six centuries before the covenant through Moses.

Matthew 5:17-18 – Jesus rejected accusations that He was intending to abolish the Law or the Prophets; He declared instead that He had come to fulfil and accomplish everything in the Law.  The equivalent would be if a fiancé was accused of trying to end his engagement, when actually he planned to fulfil it by marrying his betrothed; once the wedding happens, the engagement relationship is done away with.  Jesus didn’t break a single command of the Law of Moses, nor did He teach that any of the commandments be broken; rather, He accomplished the purpose for which it had been given, and was therefore authorised to establish a new law of the Spirit.  Throughout Matthew’s Gospel we find ‘fulfilment’ quotations, demonstrating how Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures throughout His ministry (cf. 1:22-23; 4:12-16; 8:17; 21:4-5; 26:54-56; etc.).

Luke 22:20 – Just before His death, Jesus explained His coming death as establishing “the new covenant in my blood”.

Hebrews 8:1-13 – The whole book of Hebrews was written to urge Jewish believers to put their trust in Jesus for their future inheritance of promises, rather than in the Mosaic covenant for the present.  This is because Jesus has completely fulfilled and therefore abolished that covenant of Moses.  In this passage the writer expressly says that the establishment of a “new” covenant makes the first covenant “obsolete”.  That means the regulations (laws) of the first are also done away with:

(1)   Hebrews 4:14–5:10; 6:19–8:6 – The writer to the Hebrews carefully demonstrates how the Levitical priesthood, connected to the Mosaic Law, was weak and useless and has been set aside because now Jesus is our permanent high priest, according to an eternal priestly order.

(2)  Hebrews 8:1-5; 9:1-28 – The writer to the Hebrews here shows that the earthly sanctuary with its sacred objects and vessels of ministry, instituted through Moses, has also been superseded by Jesus in the heavenly sanctuary of which the earthly was just a pattern.

(3)  Hebrews 10:1-18 – The writer to the Hebrews explains that the third element of the Mosaic Law, the sacrificial system, has also been done away with once and for all by the sacrifice of Jesus’ own physical body.  10:19-21 then summarises these three parts of the abolished Law.

Hebrews 3:1–4:11 – Before considering the above three ways in which the Law had been abolished, the writer to the Hebrews first dealt with the question of the promised land.  He showed that trusting in Jesus for inheriting the land is more reliable than trusting in Moses, because Moses bore witness to future things (3:5) and then died with his generation in the wilderness because of their unbelief and disobedience.  However, Joshua’s generation had clearly not fulfilled Moses’ prophecy of a permanent ‘rest’ in the promised land (4:8), because David and later prophets still spoke of a future time of restoration (4:7).  Furthermore, even in the present generation there was still ‘work’ to do throughout the world (4:10), and the future ‘Sabbath rest’ for Jewish believers [as for those from every nation] was a promise that would only be inherited by trusting in Jesus ‘until the end’ (3:14; 4:3, 11).  Believers might still ‘today’ be disqualified from inheriting the promise through unbelief and disobedience (3:19–4:2).

Obviously the writer here is not saying that the promise of ‘rest’ has been withdrawn now that the Mosaic Law has been abolished, nor even that it has been ‘spiritualised’.  On the contrary, the entrance into the land under Joshua is treated as the most plausible possible fulfilment of that promised ‘rest’ so far in the history of Israel;  if even Joshua’s inheritance of the land was not the fulfilment, how much less could Jewish believers in the mid-first century AD think that their generation was the final fulfilment (a proposal Jesus denied / postponed in Acts 1:6).  The true ‘Joshua’ (same name as ‘Jesus’ in Hebrew) was the promised One who would come at the end of the age to conquer the promised lands of all nations including Israel, and then assign to each nation their territory (Rev 2:26-27; cf. Psa 2:7-9).

The complete abolishment of the Mosaic Law in this era of the new covenant is further reinforced when we consider what the New Testament says about two further aspects of it – kashrut and festivals:

(4)  Mark 7:14-23 – In verse 19, Mark introduces an editorial comment of explanation into his account of Jesus’ teaching on washing of hands, noting that by this teaching Jesus “declared all foods clean”.  Such a wholesale abolishment of all the commandments about purity and kosher food from the Mosaic Law was evidently not immediately understood by the disciples.  Years later Peter was shocked that Jesus would instruct him to eat non-kosher animals (Acts 10:10‑16), and he appears to have initially interpreted the vision as purely metaphorical (Acts 10:28).  Some time later, he could still be persuaded by fellow Jews that the strict Jewish dietary laws must be followed even by believers (Gal 2:11‑13).  Nevertheless, these laws too had been abolished along with the entire ‘old covenant’ of Moses (Col 2:16‑23), and Paul was convinced that no food is inherently ‘unclean’ (Rom 14:14, 20; 1 Tim 4:1‑5).  Even so, he would be willing to eat only vegetables if it would protect a weak fellow believer from doing what he considered sinful (Rom 14:2, 15‑21).

(5)  Romans 14:5-6 – Paul similarly taught that the special commemorative feasts, or ‘Sabbaths’, instituted by Moses in the Law, were now a matter of personal conviction and no longer commanded for God’s people.  Festivals, beginnings of the month (‘new moon’), and Sabbath days (cf. Exod 34:18-27; Lev 23:1–26:2; Num 28:1–29:40) are described along with the rest of the laws of Moses as “a shadow of what is to come; but the substance is of Christ” (Col 2:16-17).  Although Paul himself still chose to celebrate some feasts (Acts 20:6, 16), he and others interpreted the Jewish festivals as fulfilled by Jesus:
e.g. Passover – 1 Cor 5:7-8 (cf. Luke 22:15-16)
Firstfruits – 1 Cor 15:20
Trumpets or Jubilee – 1 Thes 4:16 (cf. Lev 23:24; 25:9; Mat 24:31)
Atonement – Heb 13:11-13.
Of course, when Jesus returns, He is perfectly at liberty to institute festivals that are associated with dwelling permanently in our lands, the first of which will be the ‘marriage feast of the Lamb’ (Rev 19:7-9).  In the present age, however, believers do not have an obligation to treat certain days as more holy than others, which includes even the weekly Sabbath.  Observing it is not wrong, but neither is it necessary, as Romans 14:5-6 clearly teaches.

More explanation will be given in later posts for which particular parts of the five books of Moses count as the ‘Mosaic covenant’ that was abolished, with clear demonstration of what Moses said about the reasons for this coming fulfilment and the introduction of the new covenant that would supersede it.

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5 Comments »

  1. Your assertion that obedience to the Mosaic laws is no longer necessary very seriously contradicts many verses in the Bible. It appears that many Mosaic laws are still in force, except the ceremonial animal and grain sacrifice laws done away with as explained in the book of Hebrews. The Apostles also indicated circumcision is no longer needed, but these laws are about the only ones abolished. Romans 3:31 and 6:15 “spell out” the continuing need to observe Old Testament laws such as the dietary, festival, and multiple tithing laws. The website TithingHelps.com provides and explains many pro-law verses, especially on its VERSES MAINSTREAMERS USE page. Matthew 7:23: “Depart from me, you who violate the Torah” and Matthew 13:41-42 (exeGeses Companion Bible) warning that angels will someday grab everybody that violates the Torah and throw them into a lake of fire are about the scariest verses in the Bible.

    Comment by Wolfgang — December 6, 2011 @ 7:04 am | Reply

    • Dear brother,
      Thank you for your comment, and I recognise the weight of those verses you appeal to in support of an ongoing submission to the Law of Moses. Jesus Himself said that “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:19) Similarly, the apostle Paul went out of his way to prove that he never taught Jews who lived among Gentiles to forsake Moses, or to stop circumcising their children or living according to the ancestral customs (Acts 21:20-26). Paul himself lived in a Law-abiding way (Acts 20:6, 16; 21:24), but he also explicitly proclaimed himself free from any actual obligation to live under the Law of Moses (1Cor 9:20-21) since the Messiah had established a new ‘law’ of obedience to the Spirit (Rom 8:1-4).
      The Law of Moses was never ever intended to be followed by non-Jews, as is made very clear in Acts 15:1-16:5 and 21:25, so Gentiles who are Christians are and have always been completely free from obligation to it (which is the whole argument of the book of Galatians). As for Jews, Jeremiah prophesied that the new covenant through Messiah would improve upon the old covenant through Moses (Jer 31:31-34), and the writer to the Hebrews explains that this makes the Law of Moses obsolete (Heb 8:6-13). To speak against the Law of Moses would be wrong (Rom 7:7-12), but to remain enslaved to it would be worse, ignoring the freedom that Jesus’ perfect Law-keeping has paid for at such great cost.
      To Gentiles who want to submit to the Law of Moses, Paul would warn them strongly that doing so will oblige them to keep every part of the Law, cutting them off from the grace that is in Messiah through the Spirit, because it is based on a logic that does not come from the loving God who has called us (Gal 5:1-8). To Jews who want to submit to the Mosaic Law despite following Yeshua as Messiah, Paul would warn them that the Law cannot bring about righteousness in God’s eyes – “all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law” (Rom 2:12), and only faith in the Messiah’s death on the cross and resurrection has the power to make us righteous before God (Rom 3:19-31; 4:19-24).
      This amazing grace, which declares sinners according to the Law to be righteous in God’s eyes simply because of their faith, must not then become an excuse to go and break as many laws as possible. This would be in direct opposition to the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work in us, and would be likely to enslave us once again to the sinful desires and actions we have been freed from through Jesus’ blood (Rom 6:15-23). Even so, we must make every effort to avoid keeping a biblical instruction or command simply ‘because it says so’ – righteousness is not (and has never been) a matter of keeping rules, but rather a natural outworking of a relationship of love for and trust in the God of grace (Rom 9:30-33; Deuteronomy 10:12-11:1).
      May the Holy Spirit grant you a fresh experience of the overwhelming grace of God as you study these matters further.

      Comment by alabastertheology — December 6, 2011 @ 1:54 pm | Reply

  2. I do not completely agree with your discussion of verses in Acts, but I’ll probably save a more time consuming discussion of those verses for later. Instead of explaining Matthew 7:23 and 13:41-42 by quoting other verses, could you, in your own words, explain exactly what those 3 verses mean? Both verses in the original Greek contain the anomia word, a word used relatively rarely in the New Testament. World renowned Biblical word experts James Strong and Joseph Thayer both define anomia as referring primarily to the Mosaic laws, don’t you agree? Also, doesn’t Isaiah 66:17,22, and 23 pretty much bury your belief that many Mosaic laws no longer need to be obeyed? Those verses reveal that our Creator will literally kill anyone who keeps violating the dietary laws by eating pork and other forbidden food, and that everyone will be forced to worship the Lord on Saturday, not Sunday, whether they like it or not, in the distant future during the millenium when lions and wolves will be peacefully eating grass like cattle. Zechariah 14:16-19 tells us that people will be severely punished by the Lord for not observing the annual Feast of Tabernacles in the distant future. Are you trying to tell us these great prophets are liars or that their prophecies have been annulled? They have never been liars in the past and have never failed in previous prophecies. Since every original word in the Bible is divinely inspired by God Himself, would not annuling a major prophecy make the Lord look like He didn’t know what He was talking about, an impossible situation? Matthew 23:23: “……..you SHOULD TITHE, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.” — New Living Translation. Is tithing not a Mosaic law? I think it is. Is that verse not a strict command instead of a mere suggestion? I fully realize that 100% reliance on divine law keeping as the sole justification for salvation, righteousness, and the atonement of sins has been changed, abolished, and done away with completely. Christians now need and have received the perfect sacrificial death of Jesus for salvation and the true forgiveness of sins. Divine law keeping, which would include the Mosaic laws, however, allows Christians to keep and maintain holiness and saintliness after their repentance and baptism, something that Jesus apparently insists upon. Few Christians realize, for example, that if the world’s religions obeyed just one Mosaic law, the third year food tithe for the hungry, world hunger and death by starvation would come to an abrupt, screeching, permanent halt, saving 9 to 25 million people from starving to death each year. Few people realize, also, as another holy benefit of observing the Mosaic laws, that by observing the dietary laws they would avoid eating harmful, forbidden fat deposited directly inside the muscle cells of pork, a significant problem not normally found in other animals. Fat is usually deposited in specific, visible fat cells that can be cut away or scraped away, but not so with pork. In pigs much fat is also inside the muscle cells, an apparent curse for disobedience.

    Comment by Wolfgang — December 6, 2011 @ 5:27 pm | Reply

  3. Correction: I believe the Isaiah verses I quoted above actually refer to after, not during the millenium, when a literal, new earth (exterioir surface renewed) and new heavens will be created.

    Comment by Wolfgang — December 6, 2011 @ 6:22 pm | Reply

  4. TithingHelps.com has been renamed TithingHelps.us and the newer site is getting better all the time. Deceived mainstream Christians are encouraged to visit it for a better understanding of why many Mosaic laws are still in force and still quite mandatory concerning obedience to them.

    Comment by Wolfgang — June 7, 2012 @ 8:30 pm | Reply


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