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 In this segment we consider the fact that the Mosaic Law – and specifically the 10 Commandments – are no longer in effect.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).

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.