This is just a 10,000 foot view on the subject but in our youth group lately there have been some questions on the law, and how it pertains to us. It was brought up in a recent conversation on controversial topics of the bible, and one that defines a large part of the story of the bible.
Now really to understand all of the law and all of grace you really need to read all of the bible. It all is one big story about Jesus. Don’t believe me? For example, the girls love the book of Ruth and it’s been preached from at the church lately. The book of Ruth shows not only how God works and guides in our lives, but if you study the genealogy of Jesus guess who you’ll find? Ruth! God was working in the life of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz, to lead to Jesus himself. God didn’t just put a love story in the bible for the fun of it. So go read the entire bible. Tonight lol. If nothing else read all the verses mentioned throughout this post.
There are roughly 613 old testament laws. Some instantly seem to make sense to us like don’t kill anyone (moral law). some were regarding specifically how to worship in and around the temple and in life like work 6 days take a sabbath for 1 (ceremonial law). Some were laws for the nation like how to deal with slavery (civil). Within those categories of law there are some laws that are just weird to someone in our time like don’t wear clothes with mixed fabrics (Leviticus 19:19). Now you’ll notice I mentioned three categories there, moral, ceremonial, and civil law. Keep those in your mind, we’ll come back to that.
God didn’t give these laws though as a way of flexing his authoritative muscles as some people will say in a roundabout way, each law was given for a reason whether it be to treat others right, or to make a holy sacrifice for sins. God gave the law to the Israelites as a “guard rail”. A guard rail keeps your car from flying off a cliff, sure it may hurt when you run into it, but it’s better than landing at the bottom of the mountain.
If you get a chance you should at least read through the first 5 books of the bible, look at the sin man was in, look at the idol worship Israel had fallen into and you will understand the law was given as gift. That’s why David was able to say that he delighted in God’s law Psalm 1:2.
The law though could not be kept by man, but it was never intended to be (stay with me here). God knew that sinful man could never keep a holy righteous law and in the New Testament we learn the law was actually meant for something much bigger than just a list of do’s and don’ts, it was intended to point people to Christ.
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
But why Christ? Breaking God’s law is sin, sin leads to death (Romans 6:23, James 1:15). According to the law there must be a blood sacrifice for sins. It had to be a perfect sacrifice, one without any flaws or imperfections. God became flesh in the form of Jesus and lived a perfect life meaning he did not break any of the Law, which would have made him guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10), in other words he fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17). This made Jesus the perfect sacrifice, a sacrifice that was better than goats and rams, and one that could actually take away more than just one persons or families sin away for a year, but remove all sin from the whole world. (Isaiah 1:11, John 1:29).
So because of Christs fulfillment of the Law we know now that those who are saved are no longer under the law but under grace (Romans 6:14). Those who have not accepted Christ, they are still 100% under the law (Romans 7:1-4). That brings up the big question, what does it mean to be under grace, and what laws do we have to follow or not follow under grace? This question brings up a TON of debate. Debates that have been going on since the days of the bible. People who try to discredit the bible will often take laws out of context and use them as a way to say Christians pick and choose what parts of the bible they want to follow. A debate over the subject even come up between Paul and Peter, you can read about their exchange in Galatians 2:11-21. Basically, Peter was living like he was under the Law around Jews and living like he was under grace around gentiles. This led Paul to say if we try to live like we’re under the Law to gain the righteousness of God then Jesus died in vain! What a bold statement, and one we should look at very very seriously.
So let’s look at this big question. By looking at each of the three categories of law. We’ll start with the ceremonial law. The ceremonial law had in it how the tabernacle was to be set up, how the sacrifices should be made, how the priests should be dressed and their role in the sacrifice, how, who, and what to worship. There’s a lot to it so go read it. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, and no other sacrifice is needed after him (Isaiah 1:11, Romans 4:25), this means all of the law concerning sacrifice has been fulfilled and we no longer are under those laws.
So what about the temple/tabernacle and all the laws around that? In those days God’s spirit would be behind the veil in the holy of holies. Only the high priest could go in there, and only if he followed the law in how to prepare himself to go in there. Had he went in without following the law, he would have went in with sin, because sin cannot go into the presence of God he would have instantly been killed. But that one place is where the Spirit of God would dwell. Now there was an OT prophecy In Jeremiah 31:33 that God would put his Law on his peoples hearts, and Paul reminded the people of this in Hebrews 10:16. Now before I go any further with that I want to run a quick rabbit trail. Many people in today’s time will say that they wished they could have lived in OT times to see some of the things God did then, like bringing fire down from heaven which is kind of backwards in thinking. When God gave that prophecy through Jeremiah he was saying there is going to come a day where I actually dwell in the hearts of man. To someone in the day of this prophecy they would have been like SHUT UP! You mean the God that parted the sea, the God whose glory caused Moses’ face to shine so bright people had to cover it up, the God whose spirit behind the veil in the temple causes sinful man to drop dead in their tracks is going to live in men’s hearts? Ha go home Jeremiah you’re drunk. So we live in a time today they thought would have been crazy to be in. But when Christ died it says the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom(Matthew 27:51). So because of that where does the spirit of God go? In us! 1 Corinthians 3:16 says Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? This means that any law regarding the temple has been fulfilled and we no longer have to go to the temple to make our sacrifice. God does not live in a building, in a tent, or even in a church, but in his people (Acts 7:48, Matthew 27:51). This means “having church” can be done anywhere (Matthew 18:20).
So, Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial laws. Check. There usually in our time isn’t much of a debate around these ceremonial laws. Sometimes there is however debate over which laws are ceremonial laws. I’m not going to get into those here but if you want to talk about it I would be glad to. Debate does start to come in a bit on moral and civil law. Paul even got into these a bit 1 Corinthians 8, Galatians 5.
Civil law is debated because much of it was to the nation of Israel and how they were to live in the nation, but we do find civil law in the New Testament. Things like pay your taxes (Matthew 22:21), and obey the government you’re in (Romans 13:1-7). The civil laws pertaining to Israel though most scholars say have passed because the Church is not the nation of Israel. There are though New Testament commands like the ones listed above on how to live civilly in society and those guide us today in the time of Grace.
Last is the moral Law, those that say don’t kill anyone, even your little brother. Don’t commit adultery and so on. In Galations 5:16-26 Paul makes the point that we are no longer under the law, but he lists off certain moral laws and makes a big statement that those who are guilty of those things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. That’s a big statement. Jesus also talked about some of these moral issues when he said if you even look at someone with lust you’re guilty of adultery. You don’t even have to commit the act to be guilty. In 1 John 3:15 it goes as far to say if you hate someone you are guilty of murder. When it comes to especially moral law the Pharisees always looked to try to only do the letter of the law. It’s why they asked dumb questions like who really is my neighbor? They asked that because moral law says to help you neighbor, they wanted to only help the guy who lived next door to him. Jesus taught us in his parable our neighbor is whoever we come in contact with. If you commit lust your heart isn’t right, if you hate someone, your heart isn’t right. Moral law looks deeper than what you do, it looks at who are, and who we are, are wicked sinful people. 1 Corinthians 6 gives such a great picture of breaking many of these moral laws with such a great picture of grace.
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
This is saying we broke God’s law, but are justified by Christ!
By all accounts in the New Testament, the moral law is the only part of the law that we still live under in the day of Grace as Christians. It’s even stricter under grace.
Now with all that said I want to end this post with a few things Paul points out for us in the New Testament. First once saved we are no longer condemned (Romans 8:1), second we are not going to be perfect (Romans 7:15-20). Grace is greater than the Law and any sin we could ever commit (Romans 5:20). Just because we are no longer under the Law and Grace is greater than sin, we do not have any excuse to sin (Romans 6:1-2). Sin is a prison cell, one that we are chained to, but through salvation in Jesus, as the song says my chains are gone, I’ve been set free! (Romans 6:7, John 8:36)
I hope this clears some things up, I also hope it raises more questions in everyone that make you interested to go study it all out for yourself! (2 Timothy 2:15)