Jesus and the Mosaic Law


Many Christians are perplexed when they confront the issue of the Mosaic Law. How binding is the Law on the Christian? Some have said that Jesus abolished the Law of Moses. I would have to disagree, based on the following passage spoken by Jesus Himself:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. (Matthew 5:17)
Some have suggested that by "fulfil," Jesus meant "abolish." Indeed, "abolish" is one meaning of "fulfil," but it is also the only meaning of "destroy." So if He had meant "abolish," He might as well have said, "I am not come to abolish, but to abolish." We can assume, therefore, that Jesus meant, "to develop the full potentialities of" when He said "fulfil."

So why then do Christians not observe the Mosaic Law? The answer is that they do observe parts, but not all of it. Some parts of the Law were meant to be temporary, while others were intended to be permanent. This is seen in the fact that before Moses, the ancient Jews were not bound to the ritual commands (except circumcision). If this is not the case, then either God changes or the God of the righteous men and women before Moses was a different god. But this is absurd. We know that the God of Abraham was the God of Moses, and that He is our God today. The coming of Christ made parts of the Mosaic law unnecessary.

In order to understand this, we must realize that the Law is made up of three parts: ceremonial, civil, and moral.

The ceremonial law related specifically to Israel's worship. Since its primary purpose was to point to the coming Savior, Jesus made it unnecessary. He did not abolish it, in the sense of destroying it; He fulfilled it. Nowhere do we read that Jesus thought that the ceremonial law was wrong. The principles behind the ceremonial law are still applicable to us today, that is, the principles of worshipping and serving a holy God.

The civil law prescribed rules for the Israelites' daily living. These laws separated the Jews from the Gentiles, and gave the Gentiles the example of how a holy people should live. Since much was given to the Jews, much was expected. But God gave a new covenant in Christ, and there is now no distinction to be made between Jew and Gentile. We are still to follow the requirements of this law as God's people, but the punishments are not for any nation to impose on its people, because we are no longer separated by nations but by God's grace (Christians and non-Christians).

The moral law is basically the Ten Commandments. We are still bound by these laws, not for salvation, but to live a holy life. Jesus not only desired that His followers adhere to these commandments, He wished that they would go above and beyond them. He said, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment..." He desired not only an outward observance of these laws, but an inward observance as well.

Do not forget that it was not only Israel that was held accountable for disobeying God's laws. Take, for example, Leviticus 18:24-30:
‘Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you  (for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled), lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you. For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people. Therefore you shall keep My ordinance, so that you do not commit any of these abominable customs which were committed before you, and that you do not defile yourselves by them: I am the LORD your God.’”
Note that God punished the other nations for violating moral laws having to do with adultery, child sacrifice, homosexual acts, etc., which were presumably only divinely revealed to Israel. Nevertheless, all men have these laws written in their hearts (Romans 1:20-21, 32; 2:11-15). We should not forget the example of Sodom and Gomorrah, either. Ninevah also would have been destroyed had they not repented. It cannot be said, therefore, that the Old Testament laws only apply to Israel. Such a statement was not true when the laws were first given, and it is not true now.

The parts of the Law that have been rendered obsolete are those that contain ordinances. An ordinance is either a memorial of something that has already passed or a type of something in the future. The Old Testament laws containing ordinances were not meant to be permanent. There are no ordinances in the Ten Commandment Law.

Now, we must remember that following rules and regulations will not get us into heaven. It is only through the blood of Jesus that we can see heaven. But if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15).