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The Law of Moses
Most Christians misunderstand this pivotal topic.
The Law of Moses was not Moses' invention.
It was what God gave him as a guide for righteousness!
When Elijah contested with the false prophets on
Mt Carmel (1 Kings 18), he vigorously upheld the Law of Moses!
The prophet Malachi foretold of the return, at the time of the end,
of an Elijah who would restore this Law to the people
(Mal 4:4-6). That time is now here!
By Malcolm B Heap, Midnight Ministries
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The term ‘Law of Moses’ is misunderstood and misrepresented. Some years ago I heard a message given by Derek Prince, in which he talked as if the Law of Moses was no longer applicable today under the New Covenant. He did not properly explain what the Law of Moses was, and it was clear that he was not sure what it was either.
He is not alone in his misunderstanding. Such ignorance is widespread among evangelical and charismatic Christians. Most think it is ‘done away’.
However, the last prophecy in the Old Testament says to REMEMBER the law of Moses. Isn’t it ironic that whenever God has something recorded so that we can remember it, people generally forget it?! That’s the reason He states it in such a way. He knew beforehand how the devil would twist and distort the truth, causing the majority to believe a lie.
But then, God is extremely wise. He knows the heart of man, and that many do not want to obey Him. So, He lays a trap for them:
He catches the wise in their own craftiness (Job 5:13).
For this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie (2 Thes 2:11), because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved (2 Thes 2:10).
Notice that God allows STRONG delusion to come upon those who have rebellion in their spirit. The delusion about the Law of Moses is just such a delusion. It is widely believed, and it is so strong that you will have a hard job convincing most people that they have believed a lie.
Notice also what that last prophecy says, because it defines what the Law of Moses was:
Remember the Law of Moses My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgements (Mal 4:4).
The law which God gave Moses was not Moses’ law. It was GOD’S LAW for mankind – God’s instruction to man. He gave it to Israel first, because Israel was the only nation to whom He was revealing spiritual truths at that time. Israel was the Old Testament forerunner of the New Testament Church. She was the "church in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38).
If God has commanded something, man has no right to say that it is no longer relevant unless God says so. And you can search the New Testament from beginning to end and not find that the Law of Moses has been disbanded. In fact, some of the very first words of Jesus recorded for us totally contradict that view:
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law... (Matt 5:17).
Jesus was so adamant about the fact that the Law of Moses was not to be annulled that He elaborated further:
For assuredly I say to you [He couldn’t have been stronger in His emphasis!], till heaven and earth pass away [that hasn’t happened yet!], one jot or one tittle [fragment] will by no means [further emphasis!] pass from the law till all is fulfilled [all has not been fulfilled yet!] (Matt 5:18).
So, what is His view of those who say some parts are no longer in force? Let Him speak:
Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:19).
There you have it. Jesus says that Bible teachers who espouse and teach the wrong view that the Law of Moses has passed into desuetude are very low in His estimation. Their teaching is not worth much. By contrast, the man who teaches that all God’s precepts have tremendous value, he is great in God’s estimation.
Not long ago I received a dream from God in which I was given this prophetic word:
A preacher’s success is not rated by the number of people he reaches, but by the depth of repentance he teaches.
It was a catchy little piece, and since I am not one for prose, perhaps that’s why God had to reveal it to me via a dream.
So, to return to the beginning, the Law of Moses comprised teaching given to Moses BY GOD! It contained the Ten Commandments, and also the statutes and judgements, as Malachi 4:4 makes clear. Some of these statutes are applicable in their present form. Some need modification or amplification because they were geared to the system in which they lived, which was basically agrarian, and we need further revelation to see how they fit us in our society. For example, the Land Sabbath and Jubilee. The principles are still valid, but how to apply them is not clear, because we are not a nation under theocratic rule. We are individuals trying to live by God’s law in a highly imperfect (satanic!) system.
The Ten Commandments, of course, have not changed one bit, despite what others may say. They were engraved in stone, for permanence. It was the statutes and judgements which were written on parchment.
However, all that is God’s law for man, which was not superseded at Golgotha when Jesus died, except for the Levitical laws concerning ritual purification – animal sacrifices, physical offerings and washings, etc. Those physical rituals, which were given for the Levitical priesthood to perform, were a reminder of the penalties of sin until Christ came and made complete atonement. Hebrews explains that Jesus disbanded the Levitical priesthood, annulled those rituals by His death, and instituted a new universal priesthood composed of those with His Spirit (1 Pet 2:5).
Those are the aspects of the ‘Law of Moses’ that were superseded at Jesus’ death (see later). All the other commands of God concerning human behaviour are as valid today as they were when God gave them to Israel via Moses. Otherwise, at the ‘Jerusalem Council’ (Acts 15), the believers would not have advised Gentiles to keep these aspects of the Law of Moses:
...we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things [animal meat] strangled, and from [consuming] blood [with meat] (Acts 15:20).
Why didn’t the apostles recommend other more well known aspects of the Law of Moses, such as keeping the Sabbaths and festivals, or not eating unclean meat? Because those aspects were so well known, and recognised by the newly converted Gentiles, that they needed no further emphasis. Notice that in the very next verse:
For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath (Acts 15:21).
The main objection to what I am explaining here comes from a misunderstanding. There are those who claim that Acts 15 shows that there is no longer any need to keep the Law of Moses. After all, it records that the problem being addressed there was one of legalists claiming that they had to keep the Law of Moses. Notice:
Certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved (Acts 15:1). Some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Law of Moses." (Acts 15:5.)
The ‘Law of Moses’ was here being broadened to include the previous rite of circumcision, which was given to Abraham’s descendants as a reminder of the Covenant which God had made with him (Gen 17:11).
But there is something else that escapes most people’s attention in the Acts 15 account. It is that the emphasis of the Pharisees and other legalists was on the works, not on the faith of Christ. They were insisting that the works were necessary precursors to salvation, subtly inferring that they were a part of the salvation process, which they are not. Jesus saves us by His blood, and by His life or Spirit living in us. Our works don’t save us.
However, that does not mean that once we come into the faith, that we can throw out those works and say they are not necessary at all. We do good works when we receive the Spirit of God (Eph 2:10). We come into submission to God, obey His precepts as fully as we are able, not in order to gain salvation, but because it is right to do so. In one sense, they confirm that we are recipients of the promises of God in salvation through Christ, because we then live out the same life He lived while on earth, and He was completely obedient to all God’s Law.
If the laws of Moses were no longer relevant today to Christians, then Acts 15 would contain no details of that Law, reminding us of our obligations to keep them (15:20), and you could do just as you like. You could break all God’s commandments with impunity!
And that’s just the reason such a false teaching has gained so much ground! Many people prefer lawlessness to life!
Further Reading: Who Is The End-Time Elijah? (E)
The Controversy Concerning Law and Grace (LG)
Most Evangelists Reject
The Law of Moses
In the nineties, I wrote several letters to Derek Prince or his ministry staff, to try to alert him to some serious doctrinal errors in his teaching. Like most evangelists, he didn’t want to know. Here is just one of those letters, on this subject.
28th November 1997
I recently obtained a copy of your excellent booklet God is a Matchmaker. On page 133, you make some comments which I find ambiguous. They contradict some of your teaching in other publications. I write to ask for clarification, please. I have written previously to your office in England, only to have my letters ignored, even though I asked them to forward them to you. I would much appreciate your response, despite the heaviness of your schedule.
On page 133 you say that "the Law of Moses must always be applied as a single, comprehensive system, all the requirements of which are equally valid." Then, in relation to this law you quote James 2:10 that if we break one point we are guilty of breaking it all.
Yet, in another publication, How To Fast Successfully (page 58), you say that there is one aspect of this law which we as Christians should not be keeping today – the Sabbath. Yet, this is an immutable command, engraved in stone by the finger of God. Isn't that symbolic of its intended permanence for us? It was not like the other directives about sacrifices which God gave Moses, and which were superseded by Jesus' supreme sacrifice later.
In Acts 15, the apostles recommended to new Gentile converts that they should be keeping certain aspects of the Law of Moses, specifically they were not to eat blood and strangled animals. Also, they emphasised obedience with regard to certain other points which we would not argue about today such as avoiding sexual immorality. The reason these aspects were singled out was because they needed emphasising to that audience, whereas all the other aspects of that law didn't warrant repetition:
...For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues every Sabbath (Acts 15:21).
Clearly, those other points [such as the Sabbaths and Festivals of God] needed no further emphasis.
The point I am making is that the apostles were not saying the law of Moses had been abandoned. After all, that law contained the ten commandments, and there is a need for Christians to keep those, not just in the letter but in the Spirit, as Jesus showed us in His 'sermon' on the Mount.
The... dispute concerned an aspect which predated the law of Moses, such as circumcision (Acts 15:5), but which ended up bearing that label.
Malachi prophesied the need to uphold the law of Moses (Mal 4:4), which is strongly implied as being part of the work of the end-time Elijah (verses 5 and 6). Obedience toward God, in every respect, as you strongly emphasise, is fundamentally an aspect of holiness.
My question is therefore: If James (in James 2:10) is referring to the law of Moses as you say, and insists we should be keeping all of it, why are you teaching people there is no need to keep certain aspects of it?
I'd appreciate your considered response when you are able. Thank you.
There was no response!
Further Reading: The Festivals of God (FoG), Our Sabbath Rest (S).
Paedophiles in the Church, contained in Sunday Versus Sabbath (SS),
And The Faith Once Delivered To The Saints (FOD).
The Law of Moses
Despite what most preachers claim about the Law of Moses now being obsolete, or worse still ‘done away’, a careful scrutiny of the New Testament reveals several specific aspects of the Law of Moses, which Jesus indicated are still valid.
For example, He berated the Pharisees for their legalistic approach and heartless lack of true love and spirituality. But, He acknowledged that what they taught had validity:
The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. [In other words, the commands in Moses’ writings – the Law of Moses – which they taught the need to obey, carry weight or authority for human conduct.] Therefore whatever they tell you, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do [they were hypocrites; so don’t be like them!] (Matt 23:2,3).
Then He specified tithing as a credible principle. That was part of the Law of Moses (Deut 14:22-29). Notice Jesus said it is still valid:
You pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy and faith. These ought you to have done, without leaving the others undone (Matt 23:23).
The Tithe of God (T) Giving and Receiving (GR)
In Acts 10:9 onwards, we find the account of Peter’s vision in which he was shown not to call any man common or unclean (10:28). It is also clear that Peter refused to eat (10:14) unclean foods which God had forbidden in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.
Likewise, in Acts 15:20 and 15:29, there are reminders that strangled animals and blood are not fit for human consumption. These were proscribed in Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:13,14 and 19:26.
What Should We Eat? (Eat).
Sexual immorality was another issue which the apostles reminded new Gentile believers to be very careful about (Acts 15:20,29). There is a very detailed code of sexual taboos listed in Leviticus 18, which goes far beyond the one commandment that forbids adultery (Ex 20:14; Deut 5:18).
Further Reading: Why Marriage? (WM).
When Jesus was asked which are the greatest commandments, part of His reply was:
You shall love your neighbour as yourself (Mark 10:31).
He was quoting Leviticus 19:18, the Law of Moses.
By so doing, Jesus was validating the authenticity of that Law as a valid code of conduct for Christians. In the same chapter, Leviticus 19, alongside the edict of not consuming blood, for which we find specific NT support in Acts 15 is this:
You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor shall you practice divination or soothsaying (Lev 19:26).
Occultic divination and soothsaying is relying upon revelation provided by demonic sources. Would those who espouse the view that the Law of Moses is now irrelevant to us, also subscribe to sanctioning occult activity? I shouldn’t think so. But their logic breaks down. There is no consistency in their argument.
Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them (Lev 19:31).
Notice some other points in Moses’ Law which are just as applicable to NT believers today:
Do you see how applicable the Law of Moses is today? I hope so.
God spoke to a N American prophet in 1996 and said that America and the Church face severe judgement and captivity because they have defiled the holy things of God.
He added that if the nation instituted the Law of Moses and lived by it, they could avert that judgement!
Further Reading: The Imminent Fall of America (USA).
The Law of Moses
Prior To Moses
It may sound ludicrous to suggest that the ‘Law of Moses’ was in existence before Moses’ time, but it doesn’t take much searching to see that parts of it were around long before Moses received it from God.
The ‘Law of Moses’ was not legislation thought up by Moses. It was given by God at Horeb, and was additional to the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) which God gave Moses on Sinai.
While it was initially given to Israel, it was not intended solely for Israel. In one sense, the Church today is the ‘Israel’ of God. He has finished working with Israel as a nation for the time being (Rom 11), and will resume that after Jesus returns to institute the Millennium. Meanwhile, He is working with the Church, and the outline of ideal behaviour that He gave Moses applies equally to all the Church now.
Furthermore, prior to Moses, aspects of that law are identified long before Israel was ever born!
I have mentioned at least two of those – the law against consuming blood (Gen 9:4), and the command to keep holy the Sabbath day which God instituted for man at Creation (Gen 2:3).
There were other effective rules of conduct which God gave to the entire human race from the beginning of mankind – long before Moses codified them! These included legislation against:
If you look carefully in Genesis, you can also see references to other matters which Moses’ Law contained:
The allusions to the festivals in Genesis are shrouded from the unsuspecting. However, close study reveals much. In Genesis 1:14, God declares that He has set the sun and moon in the sky in such a way as to be signs to demarcate seasons as well as days and years. The word seasons is from the Hebrew moedim, which does not just refer to the four seasons, but to the festival seasons.
In Genesis 4:3, we find that God expected to receive an offering from Cain and Abel at a particular time of year. This was not an unspecified requirement, or that would have been an unreasonable demand. God is not unreasonable. He had stipulated what He required as an offering. It was a lamb:
Abel brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat (Gen 4:4).
"In the process of time" (Gen 4:3) means literally "at the end of days", which could refer to the Feast of Tabernacles, the festival kept around the autumn equinox, at the end of the harvest or at the end of the rural cycle – "at the end of days".
Moreover, what was Abram receiving from Melchizedek as tokens of deliverance and blessing? (Gen 14:18-20.) Bread and wine, forerunners of the Passover symbols in the New Testament (Luke 22:15-20).
And who was Melchizedek? The name means "My King is Righteousness". He was a Priest, appearing in human or bodily form – an ‘apparition’ of God, who later came to earth as Jesus, our Passover Lamb.
Jesus & The Law of Moses
Jesus upheld the Law of Moses, not solely because it was His duty as the Messiah to keep the law perfectly, but also as an example to us of how we should live.
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness fast, every scripture He quoted to defeat Satan was from Moses’ Law. He didn’t consider that law invalid! He quoted exclusively from Deuteronomy (Matt 4:1-10).
The Ten Commandments are the central facet of that law, and Jesus was unwavering in His insistence on obedience to all of those commands:
If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments (Matt 19:17).
The keeping of those precepts does not earn salvation (Eph 2:8,9), but why would you think God will grant you salvation if you despise them? He requires good works from you (Eph 2:10; Rev 22:12). And not just basic obedience. You are to aim for perfection (Matt 5:48).
Jesus’ earliest theological exposition hinged on this dogma:
Do not think [what most theologians today DO think!] that I came to destroy the Law [what is written in the Pentateuch, first five books of Moses: Moses’ Law] or the Prophets [the writings of the prophets who showed up Israel’s unfaithfulness to that Law]. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil [Greek, fill up to the full]. For assuredly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:17-19).
That’s pretty plain, yet many don’t understand.
Many people simply don’t want to understand! So, God allows them to believe a lie, because their nature is such that they refuse to obey God (2 Thes 2:10,11). But you don’t have to be deceived.
Paul & The Law of Moses
Paul was ‘pulled up’ by the Jews in his day, accused of violating the Law of Moses:
They said to him, ‘You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the [Mosaic] customs (Acts 21:21).
This was not true, however. Paul did not teach that we should disobey the Law of Moses, rather that dependence upon our obedience to that Law does not grant salvation. Justification is not by works, but by faith through God’s grace (Eph 2:8,9). No one can ever be made righteous by what they do. Jesus imputes His righteousness to us (2 Cor 5:21) when we repent and show our desire to receive the righteousness of God. But that righteousness is not something that WE attain by our own efforts. It’s something that is produced from the indwelling of holy Spirit.
This is what Paul taught. His emphasis was on works of the Spirit, not on works of the flesh.
Paul had been reared in the most acclaimed school of Jewish religious law and was zealous towards God in that respect (Acts 22:3). He did not teach against obedience to any aspect of the Mosaic law as it applied to personal conduct. What he taught against was that such obedience was the means to salvation. Paul also explained that the Levitical laws of purification and redemption via animal sacrifices, offerings, and ritual washings were now no longer necessary because Jesus had paid that price in full (Hebrews 7-10).
The believers who knew that the accusation against Paul wasn’t true urged Paul to shave his head as an outward ritual which would indicate to these Jews that he did indeed obey the Law of Moses:
Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law (Acts 21:23,24).
Paul did as they suggested (v 26), to visually demonstrate the point. However, it does not mean that such purification rites are still valid under the New Covenant.
It is also significant that Ananias had this commendation from God and Paul:
A certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, came to me; and he stood and said to me, ‘Brother Paul, receive your sight.’ (Acts 22:12,13).
Why would God have used Ananias, a man so devout in the Jews’ estimation – one so devoted to strict adherence to the Mosaic Law – to bring healing to Paul’s blindness, if that adherence to the law was now a legalistic throwback and no longer a part of the New Covenant faith once delivered? Many misguided theologians today, as in former centuries, throw the false accusation that obedience to the Law of Moses is ‘legalism’ or ‘Judaizing’.
If so, Jesus was a legalist, too. And if He had not been a Jew, He would also have been labelled a 'Judaizer'!
Peter mentioned later about similar misunderstandings that were being spread as highly tendentious rumours among the believers. These later took root and gave rise to the beginnings of heresies that have become widespread among Christians today. Peter wrote about Paul:
...our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction... (2 Pet 3:15,16).
Have you ever wondered why God, in His supreme wisdom, allowed the New Testament to contain so much material by Paul that has been so widely misunderstood by believers and scholars alike? I’ll tell you why: so that they can fall backward. It was prophesied:
The word of the Lord was to them, ‘Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they might go and fall backward, and be broken and snared and caught' (Is 28:13).
Peter called it "the error of the wicked" (2 Pet 3:17).
It’s one of God’s ways of separating the wheat from the chaff, the true from the false.
I find it amazing how ingenious God is. Even some scriptures which prove the validity of the Law of Moses for believers in Jesus today are twisted to mean the opposite. These very words will judge them at the last day. Here’s one example:
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths (Col 2:16).
And yet, these antinomians use that very text to judge others who keep the festivals, new moons and Sabbaths! They claim it proves we don’t have to keep such times of worship today – the very opposite of what it intimates.
I can’t believe that all scholars are that stupid that they don’t see what it actually says! Many of them are blatantly dishonest! Most Bible teachers use it as a clever ruse to pull the wool over the eyes of their followers and teach the accepted dogmas that they don’t want to defy. But they will be judged by it when they pass from this world into the next.
You don’t have to fall for such lies. You are privileged to have access to the truth, because,
...we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully (1 Tim 1:8) ...according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust (1 Tim 1:11).
Clarifying The Law Of Moses
Moses’ Law (Teaching / Instruction) contained these categories:
To understand the applicability of each of these categories to us today as Jesus’ followers, you should first familiarise yourself with the truth contained in The Controversy Concerning Law and Grace, and the literature referred to earlier in this publication.
After God drew Israel out of Egypt, it was His intention to make them His model nation. However, He foreknew that they would reject Him, and that He would finally accomplish this objective during the Millennium after Jesus’ 2nd Coming. Nonetheless, He offered them the chance to be His special people, ruled exclusively by Him.
For them to fulfil His aspirations, God gave Israel the laws codified in the Pentateuch which were designed to teach Israel about God’s holiness. They were not designed to make Israel holy. That could not be achieved until Jesus came to provide the indwelling of His Spirit in man. The purpose of the Mosaic laws was to outline various basics in human conduct that identified their sinfulness. The Mosaic period showed Israel (and all mankind through Israel’s example) their innate stubbornness and self-will which led to wickedness – the antithesis of God’s holy state. They failed to obey and do as God asked of them.
The ‘experiment’ with Israel was to demonstrate their need for inner spiritual purification of motives, and their utter failure, without Christ, of achieving the holy standard God required for Him to dwell in their midst. (It’s no different for any other nation or people.) The failure of Israel to submit to and obey God was an essential lesson in history, and was one stage in the nation’s humbling.
Before God can come into you and change you, you have to be humbled. Israel had to be humbled. Everyone has to be humbled. The process of humbling is not straightforward or simple. It has many twists and turns, and can take many years, decades, or even a generation. It starts with God’s invitation or offer, followed by man’s rejection of it, and the ensuing consequences (usually referred to as ‘judgement’).
That was what occurred. Israel was offered a special relationship with God as their Ruler, Leader, Protector, Provider and Lover (Husband). To effect the relationship, He was also their Lawmaker. The laws He gave them – if they obeyed them – would keep them in relationship with Him. He would be their God, and they would be His people. He would rule over them and protect and guide them, providing all they needed. That was the deal. That was the Covenant He made with them at Sinai. They agreed.
It was to be a unique form of government – the only time it has ever existed in all history – a Theocracy – an entire people ruled by God. He promised to fight their battles, to provide all their needs, to watch over them, care for them and make them an envy to the surrounding nations – IF they kept His laws which He gave them at Sinai.
Well, you know what happened – that they did not stay faithful and fulfil their part of the Covenant. Later, you read in Samuel that Israel rejected God in favour of having a human king as their leader.
The Ten Commandments
The foundation of that Covenant was the Decalogue. Those ten commandments, thundered by God from Mount Sinai, and written on stone by the finger of God, given to Moses, and passed on to the people, are the foundation for righteous conduct. This is why we read from Paul:
Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good (Rom 7:12).
The Decalogue was not merely written on parchment or clay tablets; it was engraved in stone. What does that imply? Can you erase engraved wording, and restore the original surface of the rock to make it look like there was nothing there before? Of course not. You might be able to chip more rock away, but it’s obvious to anyone that it has been tampered with. God’s law of the Decalogue was never to be altered in any way – and certainly not by man! It was perfect (Ps 19:7,8) and needed no modification. It is permanent for humanity and will endure without alteration to the end of time.
That perfect law of liberty, as James described it (Jas 1:25), is the bedrock for human righteous conduct. The problem of failure was not in that law, but in human inadequacy to obey it (Gal 3:22; Heb 8:8; Rom 3:23).
The Sacrificial Laws
Because God knew Israel would fail, He added to that basic law. He had to remind Israel of their infractions. A physical nation, without insight into the Spirit, needed physical rituals to perform as reminders of their sin and need for spiritual atonement and redemption which they could otherwise not perceive. Those were the laws of sacrifices which God added, and which the Levitical priests conducted for the people.
Paul explains in Hebrews that the Levitical priesthood, with the physical sacrificial system, was disbanded at Jesus’ death (Heb 7-10). Paul must have been taught this personally when he was with Jesus (Gal 1:12) in Arabia (Gal 1:17). Thus, these animal sacrifices, offerings and ritual washings are no longer relevant to us under the New Covenant.
In Israel’s theocracy, God gave various additional laws to the ten commandments. These are either described as ‘statutes’ or ‘ordinances’ to differentiate them from the Decalogue, but no less important. They were given for spiritual, moral or physical guidance (for example, most of Lev 18 about sexual conduct; Lev 11 about unsatisfactory foods), or for instruction about spiritual worship (Lev 23; Deut 16).
Regarding the latter – God’s festivals – these have great meaning. They keep us in remembrance of the plan God is working out with humanity – of His various days of salvation. While the festivals are still binding upon us today, just as all the other commandments and statutes of moral conduct, the physical sacrifices on those days are superseded now by spiritual counterparts as we are individually moved by the Spirit.
The early Church kept all these days of worship. They are God’s Appointed Times (Heb moedim) when He meets with His people congregationally. He invariably pours out more inspiration, revelation, and prophetic words on these occasions – as we have personally experienced time and time again.
The Rites of Purification were physical rituals required for various situations or bodily conditions. Like the physical sacrifices, they were to remind the people of the need for purity, because God is pure and holy. Today, they are no longer relevant to a people in whom God’s Spirit lives. For the Spirit is now meant to be our Tutor, reminding us, as we learn to listen to the Spirit and follow God’s lead. (See earlier footnote 1.)
These were punishments which God decreed for the nation at that time under that theocracy (for example, Lev 20).
Israel rejected God, and the theocracy was annulled by their disobedience. Along with that annulment went the specific judgements.
However, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t any judgement from then on. There most certainly was! The underlying principle of judgement / punishment for disobedience is inexorable.
The nation later went into exile – a fulfilment of the most severe judgement of all, which God had warned them about in Deuteronomy 28:58-68. He had predicted multiple curses for disobedience:
All these curses shall come upon you and pursue and overtake you, until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you (Deut 28:45).
Notice that God does not separate the commandments and statutes. They are both equally valid in moral conduct and worship of Him.
The principles underlying the judgements are still valid. Demons are instrumental in doing the work of punishment for wrongdoing. Jesus warned of the jailers who would be unrelenting in their pursuit of sinners (Matt 5:25; Lk 12:57-59). In that analogy, sin is our adversary, God is the judge, but Satan and his demons are the officers or jailers who hold people in their grip until they learn to submit to good and resist evil.
Prejudice Against The Law
We live in an antinomian age; a lawless, rebellious time. False teachings abound in ‘Christianity’ about the Law of Moses. It has been labelled ‘bondage’ and rejected by the majority who think that Jesus did away with it all. He didn’t (Matt 5:17-19). He only modified certain parts.
There is massive prejudice against the Law of Moses and many judge it based upon what they see others do in Judaism, assuming they are living out what Moses commanded Israel. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover; it’s far worse judging it after it has been given a wrong cover!
When you see Orthodox Jewish men with long beards, peculiar curls for sideburns, black coats and distinctive hats – making them stand out as totally different from others – and performing weird ceremonies, genuflexion and rituals – don’t assume that such customs are what God gave Moses for Israel. Most of that is an aberration from what God said! Religion has departed a long way from God’s ideals.
Moses and the laws which God gave him have been terribly tainted by human invention in the name of religion. The Law of Moses, which is really the Law of God, has been given a bad reputation. Yet Paul said that if there was a law that could have brought life, that was it!
Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law (Gal 3:21).
The problem with prejudice is pride. Pride leads to deception and wrong perception. Misconceptions then abound because of this evil root in the human heart. Most folk who reject the applicability of keeping God’s Sabbaths and festivals under the New Covenant do so because they are too proud to accept them. They think they have a superior theology, one achieved by misunderstanding and misrepresenting Paul’s writings.
All that is part of the humbling. When they come to see the truth on the other side of the veil, they will realise they opposed the very Truth they claimed to espouse. Moses and Elijah will be there with Jesus to welcome them.
By rejecting Moses’ law, they actually reject Jesus, because the One who came in human flesh to save us from our folly and sinfulness was the One who gave Moses those instructions for Israel and you and me to live by. (1 Cor 10:4).
With most of them God was not well pleased (1 Cor 10:5). Is it any different today?
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