In the church today, there is something that underlies so many disputes, discussions, deceit and divisions: the Law. Not the law of the land, but the Old Covenant. I have not found another teaching that is so pervasive in its scope and the places that it pops up. It worked its way into my beliefs.
God speaks very clearly about the Law in the New Testament. He says:
Luke 16:16-17 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. 17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.
Acts 15:1-2,10-11, 19-29 And certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. …10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. … 19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. 22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas: namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: 23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia. 24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: 25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well, Fare ye well.
Romans 7:1-4 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. 4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 15:54-57 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Galatians 2:16-21 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. 17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. 18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Galatians 3:24-25 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
So why do we think that we need to follow the Law? If only we knew! It sneaks into the smallest places and affects our lives. As i have surveyed the church, I have realized that there are many places where the Law sneaks into our thinking. Like:
- A church building being “God’s House” (Referring back to the Temple and the Tabernacle of the Old Testament)
- Going to this house to worship one day of the week.
- Applying the “Sabbath day” to Sunday
- Applying the rules about the Sabbath to Sunday
- Priests (pastors) who go to God for us and are the intermediaries between us and God.
- Sanctioning divorce because the Law allowed divorce
- Following dietary laws based on Old Covenant laws
- Applying Israelite methods of romance to Christians today
- Requiring beards
- Using the Old Covenant as a basis for a doctrine or teaching instead of Jesus’ commands
There are other things that could be on this list. We must beware of “flat Bible” theology: holding that the Old and New Testaments carry equal weight in determining our doctrine and way of life. Most such teachers will not keep all the Old Law or the New Covenant. They pick and choose from each, making a mis-mash of teaching. Others pick out other commands from each section while ignoring some commands. Is that what God wants?
No! God wants us to realize that we are dead to the law. We are not to go back to the Old Law and pull out things to do. Galatians 2:18 says:
For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
If we go back to the Law and try to resurrect certain things in it, we make ourselves transgressors. Nobody keeps the whole Law. They would have to offer sacrifices if they did so. But if we want to use part of the Law, we have to accept the whole thing. We are building again what we have destroyed. You can’t die to something, but bring part of it back to life.
God has brought over certain things from the Old Covenant into the New. For example, He brought over the last six of the Ten Commandments—but not the first four, as such. We are still commanded not to be idolaters and not to blaspheme and use filthy language. BUT—God never re-instituted the fourth commandment—“Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.”
God instituted things in the Old Covenant that were for the nation of Israel—a nation on earth that did not have a Savior. There were things that they did that were types for today.
Such is the Sabbath. In Colossians 2:16-17, God says:
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
So the Sabbath day is a type. In Hebrews, God explains further:
Hebrews 4:1-5 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. 3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. 5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.
There is an argument that I saw one time: “God never said that we don’t need to keep the Sabbath.” No. God said that the whole Law of Moses no longer applies. That includes the Sabbath. If you want to observe the Sabbath, that’s fine (Col. 2:16). But God does not command us to observe it. Nor do we need to observe feast days, dietary laws, or other ceremonies.
This is so important if we want to have unity in the church. So much division comes from pulling commands out of the Old Testament and holding them up as things we must observe today.
For years, I would have agreed that we are no longer under the Law. I wrote an article called “The Guaranteed Christian Success Formula” in which I said:
No, we do not need to keep the Old Testament law.
At the same time, I had an article online that said that women who wear pants are an abomination to God, because Deuteronomy 22:5 says, “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.” This is clearly part of the Old Covenant, but I said that we still needed to follow it because it said that women wearing pants was an abomination to God.
But when we started studying the Law and its relationship to us as Christians, we saw that there were only four commands in the Law that we need to keep, spelled out in Acts 15: “That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication”. Our guide in life is the New Testament, and you cannot argue from the New Testament alone that women must not wear pants.
The Law is still with us for us to refer to, to help us understand the New Testament. But we must not go back and try to keep the Law. We are dead to it through Christ.