Statement of Belief
The Scriptures teach that the Law of Moses was to pass away in favor of the covenant with Christ:
In that he saith, “A new covenant,” he hath made the first old. But that which is becoming old and waxeth aged is nigh unto vanishing away (Hebrews 8:13).
This covenant was done away with because it was written against us and served as a tutor to lead to Christ:
…having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out that way, nailing it to the cross, (Colossians 2:14).
So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now faith that is come, we are no longer under a tutor, (Galatians 3:24-25).
And it was therefore replaced:
For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law, (Hebrews 7:12).
And for this cause he is the mediator of a new covenant, that a death having taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they that have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance, (Hebrews 9:15).
Sections on this Page
The Ten Commandments and the “Moral Law”
Many denominations teach that we as Christians are under the Ten Commandments today, and that the “moral law” established by it represents the unchanging law of God. Let us examine how and why this conclusion was reached and then examine if the Scriptures teach if this is so.
This belief system began as a response to a question brought about by a seeming contradiction within the Scriptures: how can we have “liberty in Christ,” set free by His death on the cross and the grace made manifest in that act, and yet still maintain a moral/ethical standard by which a Christian might live? Verses like Romans 8:2, Romans 3:20, and Romans 5:20-21 are compared in this viewpoint:
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.
…because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for through the law cometh the knowledge of sin.
And the law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly: that, as sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The conclusion reached by these denominations is that knowledge of sin comes through the Law of Moses, and that we receive our redemption through the “law of grace” of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the “Law” as described by Moses is the “law” under which we are to live.
It was understood, however, that the death of Christ demanded the end of certain parts of the Law; these are described as the “ceremonial” or “ritual” portions of the Law along with the “dietary laws” in the Law. By necessity, therefore, these denominations distinguish the “moral law,” the principles of which are clearly illustrated in the Ten Commandments and are to be followed, from these other groups. Do we see this distinction in the Scriptures?
We do not see within the Scriptures concerning the Law any distinction between the “moral” law, the “ceremonial” law, and the “dietary” law. It is considered to be the same law. Furthermore, the concept of the “moral law” brings about many questions: upon what standard is the “moral law” determined? The Ten Commandments alone? The specific instructions given by God concerning each of these commandments? The Scriptures do not give any such instruction.
The Scriptures themselves demonstrate that Christians are not under the “moral law” of the Law of Moses; this is seen in Matthew 19:7-9, Ephesians 2:13-16, and Colossians 2:14-16:
They say unto him, “Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorcement, and to put her away?”
He saith unto them, “Moses for your hardness of heart suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it hath not been so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery.”
But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in the flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.
Having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out that way, nailing it to the cross; having despoiled the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a sabbath day.
Each of these examples refers to one of the commandments within the Ten Commandments and what would be deemed the “moral” law. According to Jesus, laws concerning divorce were different from the beginning than they were under Moses; divorce under the Law of Moses was granted for many more reasons than in the beginning and under Christ. Therefore, someone who divorced his mate legally under the Law of Moses in many cases could not do so legally either in the beginning or under the covenant in Christ. It may be argued, however, that since the commandment says simply to not commit adultery, this commandment is still in effect. This cannot be, however, since the whole thrust behind a commandment is in how the language is defined. If adultery is defined differently in the Old Testament than it is in the New (as has been demonstrated), the commandment to not commit adultery in the Old Testament will be examined differently than it is in the New. Since the meaning of the term “adultery” changed between the Law of Moses and the covenant of Christ, we cannot be under the commandment as it was given to the Israelites by Moses.
Paul explains in the Colossian letter how the Law has passed away, having been “nailed to the cross.” It is argued by many that this verse does not refer to this “moral law” seen in the Ten Commandments, but rather the “ceremonial” and “dietary” portions of the Law. The text itself, however, shows that this is not the case in verse 16:
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a sabbath day.
“Therefore” is always used to demonstrate a conclusion: because A is so, therefore B is its consequence. Paul refers to the fact that the “certificate of debt” was taken from us, “nailed to the cross.” He concludes from this premise that no one is to judge a Christian on the basis of food and drink, a festival, a new moon, and a Sabbath. The first refers to the “dietary law,” and the second two the “ceremonial law,” yet what other conclusion can we draw concerning the Sabbath save that it refers to the “moral law,” considering that the fourth commandment was to observe the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8)? In order to extricate themselves from this difficulty, some would posit that the “Christian Sabbath” is Sunday, and therefore wholly transport the legislation regarding the Sabbath observance for the Jews onto Sunday for Christians. The Scriptures, however, say nothing regarding this; furthermore, the Sabbath rest for Christians is portrayed in terms of Heaven, not Sunday, in Hebrews 4:1-11! We therefore may conclude that the common practice in the denominations that believe that we must use the Ten Commandments, that Sunday is the “new Sabbath,” in which no work may be done, does not conform to the message of Paul in the Colossian letter.
The message of Paul in the Ephesian letter confirms the lessons we have found in the Colossian letter, for he tells those who are of the Gentiles that Jesus, through His death upon the cross, destroyed the wall dividing Jew from Gentile and did so by removing the “law of commandments contained in ordinances.” What else could this be but the “moral” law of Moses, enjoined upon the Jew but not upon the Gentile? This law had to be done away with in order for the Jew and the Gentile to each become part of one new group, those following Christ. We see, therefore, that the New Testament explains very clearly that there is a distinction between the “moral law” of the Old Covenant through Moses and the New Covenant through Christ.
What, then, can we say about the Law? There are multiple verses that show clearly that the Law has passed away. Many are given above; others include Galatians 3:19 and Galatians 4:21-26:
What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise hath been made; and it was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator.
Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the freewoman. Howbeit the son by the handmaid is born after the flesh; but the son by the freewoman is born through promise. Which things contain an allegory: for these women are two covenants; one from mount Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar. Now this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia and answereth to the Jerusalem that now is: for she is in bondage with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother.
Therefore, we can see that the Law had a purpose: people will know what is sin and understand the redemption in Jesus Christ. This point is demonstrated fully in Galatians 4:4-9, which also explains how Christians are free today:
But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father.”
So that thou art no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. Howbeit at that time, not knowing God, ye were in bondage to them that by nature are no gods: but now that ye have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how turn ye back again to the weak and beggarly rudiments, whereunto ye desire to be in bondage over again?
Paul explains that the Law is a form of bondage, committing one to slavery. This same metaphor is used and emphasized in Romans 6:17-18:
But thanks be to God, that, whereas ye were servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered; and being made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness.
The word translated as “servants” has two meanings in Greek: servant and slave. I believe that the passage above is best served reading as the following:
But thanks be to God, that, whereas ye were slaves of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered; and being made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness.
I believe this is so because of the connotation of the terms “slave” and “servant;” one is forced to be a slave, yet one chooses to be a servant. This is the demonstration of how we as Christians are “free.” Thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we have been given an opportunity to believe in Him and be freed from the slavery of sin and now allowed to choose to serve righteousness through Jesus Christ. Likewise, the world was bound to be slaves of the Law, since one was born into the Law and would die in the Law. Jesus set the world free from that Law, allowing all men the opportunity to choose to be servants of righteousness.
The fact that we are not compelled from birth to follow Christ, unlike Israelites under the Law, affirms that the practice of denominations of equating the Old Testament circumcision with New Testament baptism is not from the Scriptures. The premise of infant baptism because of the Old Testament circumcision is Scripturally unjustifiable and demonstrably wrong since we are no longer under such bondage, as is made clear in Baptism: Infant Baptism and “Original Sin”.
Therefore, we see clearly that the Law is a form of bondage, just like sin also is a form of bondage. Neither justifies us, and according to Galatians 5:4, the Law can only ruin us:
Ye are severed from Christ, ye would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace.
Seeing, then, that the Law of Moses is in no way bound upon Christians today, the question is begged: is there a law for Christians today? Let us examine the Scriptures.
John defines what sin is in 1 John 3:4:
Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.
If sin is “lawlessness,” by necessity that which is not sin is “lawful”. Therefore, there must be some form of law that guides Christians today. A possible idea of this law is given to us in Galatians 6:2:
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
We may call this law the “law of Christ,” and examine its contents. We see that Jesus often ratified many of the commandments that God gave to Moses, yet He also pointed to the narrower way concerning these values, as is evidenced in the Sermon on the Mount. The “law of Christ” therefore consists of the commandments given to Christians by Christ and His Apostles throughout the New Testament.
Many will argue that it is a semantic game to affirm that the Law of Moses was passed away yet many parts were ratified by Christ for the New. This distinction is critical, however, so that we may understand from whom we should receive our laws: Christ or Moses. The laws in the old covenant ratified in the new are binding because Christ and His Apostles gave them that authority, not because they had that authority within themselves.
A parallel example would be the formation of the United States in the late eighteenth century. When the laws and guidelines for the creation and execution of the government and the obligations of the people were written, many times the authors used the laws that governed the colonies under British rule, and in many other places those laws were adapted to conform to the desires of the citizens of the United States. Could someone argue in 1789 that Americans ought to follow a law that was in effect when Britain ruled simply because the United States incorporated many of the rules of England and that the “basic laws” of the law of England did not change? This would be considered preposterous; the new country would set new precedents with every law created. A rule had authority not because it was first an English rule, but because it was declared proper for the United States. Likewise, a commandment that originated in the Law of Moses does not have authority today because it comes from Moses, but because Christ and His Apostles affirmed it as true.
Ultimately, the example of America also demonstrates our freedom in Christ. In America, we consider ourselves to be “free persons,” living under liberty. We still have many laws guiding our conduct, however, and if we do not follow these laws, we lose our freedom. Essentially, by declaring ourselves citizens of the United States, we affirm the responsibility of having liberty and freedom, for having liberty and freedom necessitates protecting the liberty and freedom of every other citizen of the United States. The laws exist to protect each individual’s liberty. In the same manner, when we declare ourselves citizens of Heaven by believing in and obeying Christ, we affirm the responsibility of having liberty and freedom from sin by not performing it. If we perform those sins, and we do not follow God’s guidelines concerning repentance, we lose the liberty from sin that we initially desired. We are free because we have chosen Christ not by compulsion but with our own will, and therefore we must now follow the guidelines given to us that we may continue to live in Christ Jesus. This is how we are free yet under the law of Christ, and this belief does not necessitate the use of the Law of Moses.
Many denominations teach that Christians today are to tithe, just like the Israelites did under the Law of Moses. A tithe refers to ten percent of one’s income to be given; under the Law of Moses, the Israelites were told to give one-tenth of their gain, be it by funds or animals, to God (Leviticus 27:30-33) and another tenth to the Levites (Numbers 18:21). These denominations teach that since this was the demand of God in the Old Testament, this demand is still binding in the New. Do the Scriptures teach this?
The New Testament does not command a tithe, nor is it given as an example. The word itself is only used five times in the New Testament, and every time it refers to either individuals under the Law of Moses or past historical events. Furthermore, the Scriptures do not give an exact number or figure for our giving; it is given to the individual to decide, as is evidenced in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7:
But this I say, He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
The giving in the New Testament is to be done by the purpose of the heart over a specific quantity. The concept of the tithe can be a good guideline, and may be used by an individual if he purposes to do so; this guideline, however, is by no means bound in the New Testament.
Let us not be deceived, however, that since no specific guideline has been given that Christians are not expected to give as the Israelites did. All examples of giving that we see in the New Testament would indicate that Christians were giving far more than 10% when there were times of need (Acts 2:42-4:37, 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15). Since we are under a better covenant with better promises (cf. Hebrews 7:19, 22), we are set free from the tithe so that we may give more, not less, to God and to build up His Kingdom!
Jesus taught concerning giving in Mark 12:41-44:
And He sat down over against the treasury, and beheld how the multitude cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing. And He called unto Him His disciples, and said unto them,
“Verily I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than all they that are casting into the treasury: for they all did cast in of their superfluity; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”
The principle taught by Jesus in this passage demonstrates the attitude that a Christian ought to have in his giving. It should not be compulsory, nor should it be out of one’s excess: it should be a form of sacrifice, the demonstration of one’s concern with the things of God over all else. This sacrifice cannot be measured in a number or a percent, for there are many who can live comfortably without 10% of their income, and yet there are far more for whom every extra dollar is a luxury. Jesus demonstrates here the concern of God: one’s desire to serve God, not percentages and numbers.
We have seen that many denominations attempt to justify either practices or laws on the basis of their usage in the Law of Moses, despite the fact that Paul speaks often about how the law brings one under bondage. Let us heed these words, remembering foremost the rhetorical question Paul asks of all those who would bind any of the Law in Galatians 4:9:
But now that ye have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how turn ye back again to the weak and beggarly rudiments, whereunto ye desire to be in bondage over again?
Let us press on for the freedom in Christ, and avoid the bondage of the Law.
- The “Judaizers”
- Understanding Covenant, I: What is a Covenant?
- Understanding Covenant, II: Old Testament Covenants
- Understanding Covenant, III: Covenant During the Life of Christ
- Understanding Covenant, IV: The New Testament Covenant
- Understanding Covenant, V: Misunderstandings of Covenant
- Acts of the Assembly: Giving
- The Importance of Understanding Covenant