WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LAW?

 

How many times in your life have you heard or read the following statements: "Christ has set us free from the law" or "We are not obligated to follow the law anymore" or "Be careful that you don't become legalistic" or "The law was intended for the Jews, not for new covenant believers"?   Most people attending church regularly are conditioned by tradition to label any kind of reference to the Old Testament law as being "legalistic".  And whenever there is the slightest possibility of something being "legalistic", people tend to become tense and upset, thinking about the way our Saviour, Y'shua, confronted the Pharisees and about the warnings of the apostle Paul that no man will be saved by the works of the law, but only through faith in the Messiah.

But what does the Word really say about the law? Does the law still have any roll to play in our lives ... or does it belong only to the "Old Covenant"?  Has the law lost its power when the Messiah established the "New Covenant"?

To answer these kind of questions concerning the ongoing validity of the law, it is important to listen honestly to the message of the complete Scriptures and to distinguish very clearly between Scriptural truth and doctrinal speculation.   A good starting point is the words op the apostle Paul to Timothy in 2 Tim 3:16-17:  "All Scripture is Elohim-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of Elohim may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."  The phrase "all Scripture" which Paul is using here, refers to the Old Testament (the Tanach), that is:  the law and the prophets and the other writings contained in what we know as the "Old Testament".  At the stage when Paul was writing to Timothy, the document that we know today as the "New Testament" was not yet in existence. 

It is important to notice that Paul (who is being credited many times as the one who had "abolished" the law) in one of his latest letters (his second letter to Timothy) made such a clear statement about the continued validity of the Old Testament and especially those parts that had to do with teaching, rebuking, correcting and righteousness. The Hebrew word that is usually translated with "law" and is used as a broad term for every command of Yahweh in the Old Testament, is "torah" and the basic meaning of "torah" shows a striking resemblance with the four words that appear in 2 Timothy: "Torah = to point out; to direct; to show the right way; to teach; to instruct".  Can it be that the same Paul who, earlier in his life, had written such (apparently) "negative" things about the law,  is now writing to Timothy that the torah is a wonderful gift out of Yahweh's hand, that it's "useful" in the faith and that it equips us perfectly for every good work?  This apparent "inconsistency" in Paul's writings is the reason why another apostle, Peter, warns potential readers that it is difficult to understand some of Paul's letters and that people who are uneducated and not stable would distort his letters and try to deceive others with their lawless approach (2 Peter 3:13-17)!   Is this not, to a large degree, exactly what is happening today in many churches?

Let's just look at some statements concerning the law coming from "all Scripture" (quotations come from "The World English Bible"):

Deut 4:8: What great nation is there, that has statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?   The law is absolutely perfect and righteous and impeccable, because Yahweh Himself gave it.

Deut 30:9-10: Yahweh will again rejoice over you for good, as he rejoiced over your fathers; if you shall obey the voice of Yahweh your Elohim, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law; if you turn to Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart, and with all you soul.   Yahweh rejoices over those who obey the law.

Psa 19:7: Yahweh's law is perfect, restoring the soul. Yahweh's testimony is sure, making wise the simple. The law is perfect and brings healing and assurance and wisdom.

Psa 119:18: Open my eyes. That I may see wondrous things out of your law.   Sadly many people's eyes today are blinded to the power and the truth of the law.

Jer 31:33: But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says Yahweh; I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their Elohim, and they shall be my people.    The new covenant doesn't mean that the law will be taken out of our lives, but that it will be planted in our hearts.)

Dan 7:25: He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High; and he shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and half a time.   A clear prophesy that in the last days the spirit of the Antichrist or Anti-messiah will try to change the law of Yahweh.

Mic 4:1-2: But in the latter days, it will happen that the mountain of Yahweh's temple will be established on the top of the mountains ... And peoples will stream to it. Many nations will go and say, "Come, and let us go ... and He will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in His paths." For out of Zion will go forth the law, and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem.   Another clear prophesy that in the "last days" both the temple and the law of Yahweh will be restored to its previous esteem.

Mal 4:4: Remember the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded to him in Horeb for all Israel, even statutes and ordinances.   The very last commandment in the Old Testament is that the law of Moses - with its statutes and ordinances - should not be forgotten.

Matt 5:17-19: Don't think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn't come to destroy, but to fulfill. For most assuredly. I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished. Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.   This is the very first reference to the law in the New Testament where Y'shua explain plainly that He didn't come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it - "fulfill" in this verse according to Thayers means "to fulfill Yahweh's will as made known in the law").

Rom 6:15: What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? May it never be!    To be "under the law", in Paul's view, means to trust in the law (only) for one's salvation and it's against this deception that he seriously warns us. We must not be under the law - the law must be under us - or rather IN US, so that we shall neither try to "earn" our salvation by the works of the law, nor live in sin any more.  1 John 3:4 makes it perfectly clear that sin and lawlessness are one and the same thing.

Gal 2:19:  For I, through the law, died to the law, that I might live to Elohim.   Paul says that he had died to the law, in other words his old nature had died (with the Messiah) and therefor he had received (in the Messiah) the legal punishment for his sin.  This means that he is not a servant of sin anymore and, for the first time, he can truly live for the Messiah - cf. Rom 6:11-12 and Gal 2:20.

Jam 1:25: But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of freedom, and continues, not being a hearer who forgets but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed in what he does.   There is no reason whatsoever to presume that when James uses the word "law" he means something other than "torah" - the only place where Yahweh Himself had indicated in clear terms what the difference is between right and wrong.

2 Pet 2:21: For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.   Exactly that which Peter warns against, is being proclaimed today in a very subtle way:  "Now that you know the way of righteousness, you may turn your back on the law spoken of in the Old Testament".

Rev 12:17: The dragon grew angry with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of the seed, who keep Elohim's commandments and hold Y'shua's testimony.   The true believers - according to John's vision in Revelation - are those who don't worship the beast and his image, who don't receive the mark on their foreheads or right hands, who keep Yahweh's commandments and who cling onto the testimony of Y'shua, their Messiah.

The message proclaimed today in most Christian churches is a classical example of throwing out the baby with the bathing water. The clear message of Scriptures is that nobody will be saved by the works of the law, but only by faith in Y'shua the Messiah. This Message must be protected and proclaimed. But not in a manner that opens the door to lawlessness. The Word of Yahweh declares unambiguously: Those who live in lawlessness will not enter the kingdom of Yahweh (cf. Matt 7:23; Matt 13:13:41; Matt 23:28 and Matt 24:12 where the Greek word "anomia" - which means "to be or act against the law or live without the law" - is used repeatedly).  It is a tragedy that most people are more worried about legalism - a word that never appears in Scriptures - than about lawlessness, against which there are numerous warnings in the Word of Yahweh.

Time and space are not enough to go into the many "faces" of lawlessness in the world that we live in - and, more specifically, in the lives of those who call themselves "born again christians".  Most christians realize the validity of the law when it comes to blatant transgressions like murder and adultery and theft.  Why is there such a resistance against the fourth commandment (remember the sabbath i.e. the seventh day, that you set it apart)? Why is the third commandment taken so lightly (you may not use in vain (or: falsify or substitute) the Name of Yahweh? And what about the other precepts over and above the 10 commandments which Yahweh Himself had given to teach His people in more detail what it truly means to love Him and one's neighbour? Do we have the right to sieve His commandments, keeping only those ones that we like and tossing out the rest?

The Word says plainly: "Do not add to what I command you and do no subtract from it, but keep the commands of Yahweh your Elohim that I give you" (Deut 4:2, cf. also Deut 12:32 and Rev 22:18-19). I think the time has come for each one of us to take seriously this warning, confessing before Yahweh that for too long now we have listened to people and beginning to obey every command that we had received from Him.