Messianic Bible Study #2 (Part 1 of 3): The Law of Moses & the Law of Messiah

How the Law of Moses relates to believers is of critical importance.[1] Not only is the issue unclear for many people, but one’s life choices are affected by it, including how one approaches Jewish missions and evangelism. However, more than anyone else, the Jewish believer must contend with the issue of his or her relationship to the Law of Moses. Generally speaking, it could be said that the average American messianic believer concurs with a partial keeping of the Law, while the average Israeli believer concurs with the keeping of all of it, excluding those parts dealing with the Temple and its functions. But regardless of the extent, the dilemma is the same: to what extent is the messianic believer to keep the Law of Moses?

Two factors have contributed to the creation of this problem. One is the practice of dividing the Law into ceremonial, legal, and moral commandments. On the basis of this division, many have come to think that the believer is free from the ceremonial and legal commandments, but is still under the moral commandments. The second factor is the belief that the Ten Commandments are still valid today, while the other six hundred three commandments are not.[2]

One might ask, “So what was the purpose of the Mosaic Law?”

A.  To Reveal the Holiness of God

The first purpose was to reveal the standard of righteousness that God demanded for a proper relationship with Him. At no time is it taught in Scripture that the Mosaic Law was the means of salvation; it was always by grace, through faith.

B.  To Provide the Rule of Conduct for Old Testament Saints

The Mosaic Law provided the rule of conduct for Old Testament saints. Romans 3:20 and 3:28 state:

20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin…

28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

 C.  To Reveal Sin

The Mosaic Law revealed sin (Rom 3:19-20; 5:20; 7:7), to show exactly what it is. Thus Paul and other Jews became aware of the fact that they fell short of the righteous standards of the Law and became very aware of the fact that they were indeed sinners.

D.  To Make One Sin More

The fourth purpose is a strange one, but its purpose, as will be seen, is to make one sin more. Paul speaks of this in the Book of Romans. For example, see Rom 4:15 and 5:20:

4:15 for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.

5:20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.

The picture Paul presents here is that the Law came in to actually make one sin more. In 1 Cor 15:56 and Rom 7:7‑13 Paul contends that the sin‑nature needs a base of operation, and the Law is used as such a base. When Paul stated in Romans 4:15, “Where there is no Law, there is no transgression,” he did not mean, of course, that there was not any sin before the Law was given. The term “violation” (“transgression”) is a specific type of sin in violation of a specific commandment. People were sinners before the Law was given, but they were not transgressors of the Law until the Law was given. Once the Law was given, then the sin nature had a base of operation. For, as soon as the Law said, “you shall not do this” or “you shall do that,” the sin nature said “oh yes I will” or “oh no I won’t,” respectively. Suddenly all these new commandments (i.e. the Law) were given, and the sin nature “went to town” so to speak, and started doing what it could to cause the individual to violate these commandments, thereby sinning all the more.

E.  To Lead Us to Faith

The fifth purpose of the Law is to drive one to faith, and specifically faith in Yeshua the Messiah. See Galatians 3:24‑25:

24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

Because of our sin nature, as much as one may try to keep the Law perfectly, he will never do it. As Paul stated in Romans 7, “as much as I tried not to covet, suddenly, I found myself coveting everyone and everything. And I found myself full of the sin of coveting.” It caused him to sin more until it drove him to utter faith.

F.  To Serve as a Wall of Partition

The sixth purpose of the Law is to serve as a wall of partition to keep the Gentiles as Gentiles away from enjoying Jewish spiritual blessings (Eph 2:15)

In the Old Testament, if a Gentile wished to become a recipient of Jewish spiritual blessings, he would have to take upon himself the entire obligation of the Law; be circumcised; and live as any other Jew had to live. Only a Gentile as a proselyte to Judaism could enjoy the blessings of the Jewish covenants; Gentiles as Gentiles could not. If the Mosaic Law were still in effect, there would still be a wall of partition to keep Gentiles away. But the wall of partition, the Mosaic Law, was broken down with the death of the Messiah. On the basis of faith, Gentiles as Gentiles can and do enjoy Jewish spiritual blessings by becoming fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus. While Gentile believers do not benefit from the physical blessings, they do benefit from the spiritual blessings.

For the sake of space, we will continue this discussion in a second post.


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

[2] When confronted by a Seventh Day Adventist, for example, the individual taking this approach runs into problems concerning the fourth commandment on keeping the Sabbath. At that point, “fudging” begins, and results in inconsistency.