If the emails we receive are any indication, Christians who attempt to keep the Jewish laws are on the increase. We have the Messianic Jews, the seventh-Day Adventists, and other various groups who are sure that we are still under the law of Moses to some degree or another. Anytime I question this bondage, I get angry emails from people who seem to think that I have attacked God.
I remember wondering when I was younger why the New Testament deals so much with the liberty we have from the Old Testament law. Much of Romans, practically the entire book of Galatians, and other portions of scripture, deal clearly with this. Now I know why God gave so much text on this. Man has a tendency to reduce living Christianity to a set of laws. This seems even more valid if we use the laws God gave to the Jews. Even in the book of Revelation, John speaks of "the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not" (Revelation 2:9). This has been a problem area for the last 2,000 years.
However, the Bible is very clear when it comes to the authority of the law in this age. We can learn from it, for it teaches us many things. However, we are free from the rules and regulations of this law. Let us look at some of the proofs for this teaching in scripture.
- The Bible clearly states that we are not under the law. Romans 6:14 says, "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." Since we are under grace, we are not under the law. The two are mutually exclusive.
Jesus Christ has delivered us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:10-13). Those who "are of the works of the law are under the curse" (v.10) But "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law" (v.13). We come to God by faith and "the law is not of faith" (v.12).
- Before faith came (clear faith in the person of Jesus Christ), we were kept under the law (Galatians 3:23). The "law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ" (v.24). "But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster" (v.25). How much clearer could it be? We are no longer under the Mosaic law as a rule of practice.
- In Galatians, Paul goes even further. The very desire to be under the law is a carnal desire. He calls the Galatians "foolish" for trying to return to the practices of the law as a way to please God (Galatians 3:1-3). In Galatians 4:21-31, he tells an allegory to those "that desire to be under the law" (v.21). He concludes that those who follow the law are "children of the bondwoman" (v.31), but those who follow faith are "free." Paul is not dealing here with the law as a plan for salvation. He is dealing with those who have trusted in Christ and then desire to return to the law in order to please God.
The council in Jerusalem in Acts 15 plainly stated that the requirements of the law were not to be exacted from Gentile believers. It also clearly states that Jews must come to Christ in the same way that Gentiles get saved--"But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they" (v.11). The problem came when certain of the Pharisees decided that the Gentiles who had believed must be circumcised and keep the law of Moses (v.5). The men at the conference (including Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and James the brother of Jesus) agreed that this was not to be required of the Gentiles. Peter even accused the Pharisees of tempting God, "to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear" (v.10). Evidently, it is tempting God to require grace age believers to keep the Jewish regulations of the law.
- Paul specifically excludes circumcision as a requirement for New Testament believers. See Galatians 5:1-6; 6:15.
- We are not subject to the particular restrictions of the law. Colossians 2:16-17 states, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ." the Jewish laws were shadows of things to come. That is, they pointed to Christ. But now that Jesus Christ has come, there is no need to hold on to the shadow.
I have not dealt here with the present value of the law and do not have time to do so now. Suffice it to say, the Mosaic law proceeds from the higher law of God and reflects much of God's holiness. We learn from the law but we are not under the law. We seek to fulfill the righteousness of the law through the power of the Spirit in us (Romans 8:4) and not by the keeping of 613 rules and regulations of the Mosaic law.