Messianic Bible Study #2 (Part 2 of 3): The Law of Moses & the Law of Messiah

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Rom 10:4, NASB)

In part 1 of this three part series, we looked at the purpose of the Mosaic Law. In this segment we consider the fact that the Mosaic Law – and specifically the 10 Commandments – are no longer in effect. Our final segment (next week) will place all of this in perspective as we look at the believer’s (and especially the Messianic believer’s) relationship to the Law of Messiah.

1. The Unity of the Law of Moses

In order to have a clear understanding of the Law of Moses and its relationship to the believer, Jew or Gentile, it is necessary to understand it biblically.[1] Scripturally, the Mosaic Law is viewed as a single unit.[2] Although a division of the Law into “ceremonial,” “legal,” and “moral” parts may be convenient for study, it is artificial. In the same way, the Ten Commandments should not be separated from the larger collection (613) as though only the 10 are perpetual and binding. James 2:10 says this:

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.

The point is clear: a person needs only to break one of the six hundred thirteen commandments to be guilty of breaking all of the Law of Moses, which can only be true if the Law is a single unit. If it is not, the guilt lies only in the particular commandment violated. As a point of illustration, if a person eats ham, according to the prohibition in the Law of Moses, he or she is guilty of breaking the Ten Commandments, although none of those speaks to the eating of pork.

2. The Law of Moses Rendered Inoperative

The New Testament is clear that the Law of Moses has been rendered inoperative with the death of the Messiah. In other words, the Law – in its singular totality – no longer has authority over any individual. This is evident from the following:

A.  The Law No Longer Justifies, Sanctifies, or Perfects

Christ is the end of the law (Rom 10:4), and this includes all 613. With his death, there is no justification in the Mosaic Law (Gal 2:16), nor sanctification, nor perfection (Heb 7:19). Furthermore, it will be shown that the Law has ceased to function entirely.

B.  A Temporary Administration

The Law was never meant to be a permanent administration, as is evident from Gal 3:19. Paul’s point is the Law of Moses was an addition to the Abrahamic Covenant, an addition designed to make sin clear so that all would know that they have fallen short of God’s standard for righteousness. It was a temporary addition until the Seed, the Messiah, would come; and now that He has come, the Law is finished. The addition has ceased to function with the cross.

C.  The New Priesthood According to the Order of Melchizedek

With the Messiah there is a New Priesthood according to the Order of Melchizedek, not according to the Order of Aaron. The Law of Moses provided the basis for the Levitical Priesthood. In Hebrews 7:11‑12 it is contended that only one type of priesthood was permitted: the Aaronic/Levitical Priesthood. However, the Levitical Priesthood could not bring perfection: animal blood could not bring perfection; only the Messiah’s blood could do that (Heb 9-10). Thus, a New Priesthood required a new Law under which it could operate. Hebrews 7:18 in fact states that the Mosaic Law was “annulled” or “set aside.”[3] As a result, there is now a New Priesthood in which Yeshua can be and is a priest.

D.  The New Law

The fourth line of evidence for the annulment of the Mosaic Law zeros right in on the part of the Law that most people want to retain – the Ten Commandments. A very significant passage is 2 Cor 3:2‑11 (<<- open bible and read here). In verse 7, the Law of Moses is called the ministry of death, and in v. 9, the ministry of condemnation. This would still be true if the Law was still in effect today. However, the Law is no longer in force, for it states in verses 7 and 11 that the Law has “passed away” (katargeo καταργέω), which means “to render inoperative,” or to “abolish.” Since the emphasis in this passage is on the Ten Commandments (vv. 3, 7), this means that the Ten Commandments have passed away. In contrast, the Law of the Messiah is superior because it will never be abolished (Eph 2:11-16).

In short, the Law in its totality (613 commandments) has been invalidated. There is no commandment that has continued beyond the cross of the Messiah. The Law is there and can be used as a teaching tool to show God’s standard of righteousness and man’s sinfulness and need of substitutionary atonement. It can be used to point one to the Messiah (Gal. 3:23‑25). However, it has completely ceased to function as an authority over individuals.

Part 3 of this post will continue with insight regarding the Messianic Believer and the “New” Law.

[1] This post is a modified version of Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s original Messianic Bible Study. The full version may be obtained here.

[2] When applied to the Law of Moses, the Hebrew word Torah (תורה) meaning “law” is always singular, even though it contains six hundred thirteen commandments. The same is true in the New Testament of the Greek word nomos (νόμος).

[3] The word used here, athetesis (ἀθέτησις), pertains to the refusal to recognize the validity of something, to its annulment (BDAG 24).