We are under the New Covenant
Are we to keep the law under the new covenant of grace?
Mt. 5:17-19: What is Jesus’ intent when He states, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”
The Law Keepers interpretation is that the law is still necessary.
In the greater context of His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is contrasting his correct interpretation of the law with the Pharisees’ wrong interpretation.
The Pharisaic traditions destroyed the law because they reinterpreted the law, not presenting it in the way Moses had intended.
As long as Jesus was alive He had to keep the Law the way it was written by Moses, and Jesus did exactly that, this is one of the reasons why the Pharisees could not accuse him of sin.
By Jesus’ perfect obedience He fulfilled all the law’s requirements, consequently he was able to take upon himself the penalty and the curse of the law on the cross. With his dying he rendered the law inoperative for the believer (Rom.10:4-5; Heb. 8:13).
To say one is going to keep the Old Testament Law because of requirement is to ignore the work that Christ did in our place, and rejecting the New Testament covenant.
The meaning of the word “fulfill”:
What it does not mean is to continue or reinforce. Matthew consistently used the word fulfill in a specific manner - once something is fulfilled completely, (not in type) there is not a future fulfillment to look for. (Matt. 5:19 (is fulfilled) means: is completed…
He quotes Isa.7:14 for the fulfillment of the virgin birth. Where the Messiah was to be born (Mic. 5:2); there is no waiting for this to reoccur in the future. This is how the word fulfill is used. To fulfill something means to bring it to a completion (Gr. teleos). It is used consistently in this way throughout Matthew’s gospel (Mt. 2:17, 23; 12:17; 13:13, 35; 27:9, 35). Following are a few examples:
Mt. 2:15: “and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
Mt. 8:17: “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.”
Mt. 21:4-5: All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Mt. 26:56: “But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.”
All the Scriptures that Matthew writes about being fulfilled means a completion of something that was prophesied or written and Jesus fulfilled it, bringing it to its end, having it come to pass.
Paul who was a law keeper writes, Rom. 10:4: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” By trusting in Christ’s work the law is fulfilled (completed for us).
Christ is the End of the Law; the Greek word used is telos which means termination or goal. Once Jesus died and rose again, the believer was to abide by the Law of Christ (not Moses).
Commands were either given directly by Jesus (Acts 1:2) or through the apostles after the resurrection in the epistles. The law was replaced; all the Old Testament types and shadows were replaced by the light (Jeshua) the one who gave them to us.
Christ did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it, to bring it to its natural conclusion and completion. The law is non-operative for a believer, it is put aside.
Heb 8:12-13 "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (After the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ)…
obsolete – Gr. palaioo from 3820; to make (passively, become) worn out, or declare obsolete:
KJV-- decay, make (wax) old.
Hebrews 8:13 Perfect active indicative of palaiooo (NT:3774), an old verb from palaios (NT:3772) (in contrast with kainos (NT:2502), fresh, new), to treat as old and out of date. The conclusion is to the point. (from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament)
The author is explaining that the Old Testament system of Law under Moses was about to vanish before the new covenant of grace replaced it.
The law’s original recipient was Israel (The Jews). The New Covenant recipients are both Israel and the gentiles.
The Old Testament Law clearly is not our reference point under grace. Jesus becomes the instructor in the New Covenant through the Holy Spirit. We are told to keep New commandments, under the new law of faith.
The 'perfect law of liberty' (Jas. 1:25), the 'royal law' (Jams. 2:8), the 'law of Christ' (Gal. 6:2), the 'law of the spirit of life' (Rom. 8:2).
Jesus’ last words before he left are found in Mt. 28:20: “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Jesus after the resurrection continued with the apostles for 40 days. We find in Acts 1:2-5: “Until the time he was taken up after he through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles he had chosen.”
There are moral laws, commands God expects Christians to keep in the New Covenant. The biblical view is that believers are not required to observe the Old Testament Mosaic Law.
He was with the apostles 40 days giving instruction, the same amount of time Moses was on the Mountain of Sinai receiving the commandments from God.
Jesus was not just teaching them the same thing he had taught them prior to his crucifixion; these were new instructions through a New Covenant.
Commands can be something God gives at a certain time. They are not to be confused with something always kept at all time; otherwise we would all have to go to Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit as He instructed in Acts 1:4. Some commands are specific and one time events. Some are temporary such as the sacrifices and Levitical priesthood; others still continue. Some are to certain individuals, still others are to the whole Church. For example, Jesus did not tell the disciples to stop sacrificing animals during the time they were still under the law before His resurrection. However, after he died as the sacrificial lamb, the veil was rent and His sacrifice was once for all, they no longer continued with sacrificing. Yet it is not recorded that he did explicitly tell them to discontinue sacrificing after His resurrection. So when Mt. 28 states to observe all things that I have commanded you, it must mean and include what he spoke to the disciples after His resurrection, which could explain why he stayed 40 more days and did not ascend to heaven immediately after His resurrection, to give them new commands.
The whole Old Testament law revolved around the Temple, the priesthood and sacrifices. The law was in the ark and the book of the law testified against the people. Only the high priest could enter the temple once each year. The high priest acted as the mediator for the nation. All these were part of the mosaic system of the Old Covenant that came to an end. These were done away with by the last sacrifice, Jesus Christ. God made the point when He ripped the veil when Jesus died (Heb. 10). The whole old covenant that was fading away came to an abrupt end. The new way is through Jesus Christ crucified without any of the functions of the Old covenant practices.
Today we do not need access to his commandments in the Temple by the Levitical priesthood, but rather from the person and presence he deals with us all on a personal basis; that’s the good news.
We are under the new law of Christ, NOT the Law of Moses. Some of the Old Testament moral laws are ratified in the new covenant and some are not. He did not polish up the Old Testament laws to shine better. The moral laws continue, reaffirmed in the New Testament because they preceded the Law of Moses (you shall not murder, no adultery, no lying or stealing etc.). The Sabbath was not a moral law (like the other 9 are), it was the seal of the Old Covenant.
Mankind was originally created in the image of His maker and God had incorporated a moral likeness in his nature, though it is now corrupted. These moral laws were related to man’s moral nature that was made in God's image.
Lk. 5:36-38: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
The old wineskins were stretched out to their limit and any more fermentation would burst them. Once the wineskin was used and stretched it could not be stretched more, it was useless and a new wineskin was needed to hold the new wine. To try to mix the old (law) with the new (gospel) would destroy both. This is why you are not saved or sanctified by Jesus plus the Law.
The new covenant is not a mixture; it is not a better version of the Old Covenant. It is based on the work of the God/man’s death for mankind’s sin.
The Pharisees that rejected Jesus held on to the law, but even the Pharisees that believed in Jesus found it difficult to transition to grace (Acts 15:5). But those who found Christ to be their all in all found life in the new covenant He made; they happily left the old for the new.
Adapted from letusreason.org