14
Jan
13

Are We Still Under The Old Law?

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”Matthew 5:17-20

In these verses, Jesus seems to give continuing credence to the Old Law. And he appears to warn the people not to break this Law, or punishment will result. But isn't the Old Law done away with? Didn't Jesus come to give us a new covenant, as Paul describes in Galatians 3?

It's important to read this passage carefully. Jesus says that the Law will not disappear “until everything is accomplished”. By this, he means that the Old Law will remain until it has accomplished what it pointed to all along – to his coming to earth and dying on the cross. Jesus' life and death was the fulfillment and end of the Old Law. He is what the Law has been waiting for. A new covenant is established, beginning with the first words of his ministry which begin in this chapter.

It seems very likely that when Jesus begins the phrase, “Anyone who breaks the least of these commandments…”, he is referring to the words he just got done teaching earlier in the chapter. He is NOT referring to the words of the Old Testament. He can't be. There are 316 distinct laws in the Old Testament, and some of them are very esoteric. And Paul makes it very clear in Galatians 3:24-25 (NLT) – “Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian and teacher to lead us until Christ came. So now, through faith in Christ, we are made right with God. But now that faith in Christ has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.” We are not expected to follow the Old Law after Christ fulfills it. To be sure, many of the things in the Old Testament (such as the Ten Commandments) are mirrored in the New Testament. But we are no longer expected to keep the Sabbath as described in the Old Testament, nor are we required to return to Jerusalem each year for annual festivals. Similarly, Paul would have been wrong to teach that circumcision was no longer necessary in Romans 2:25-29. Clearly, there is no longer the same requirement for us to live under the Old Covenant.

For more on this topic, read this excellent article – http://www.gci.org/bible/matthew517 .

 

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