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Contending for the Faith
Do the Old Testament Laws Apply to Christians?
Monday, December 23, 2013 at 2:00pm


The Old Testament law was given to the nation of Israel, not to Christians.

  • Some of the laws were to reveal to the Israelites how to obey and please God (the Ten Commandments, for example).

  • Some of the laws were to show the Israelites how to worship God and atone for sin (the sacrificial system).

  • Some of the laws were intended to make the Israelites distinct from other nations (the food and clothing rules).

None of the Old Testament law is binding on us today.

When Jesus died on the cross, He put an end to the Old Testament law.

An exposition of Romans 10:4, which says: "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." ... will help in understanding what is means that Christians are not under the law. The apostle Paul clarifies the effects of original sin in Romans 2:12, stating "For all who sin apart from the law will perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law." All men stand condemned before God, whether they are Jews or not, or to put it another way, whether they have the Law of God or not. Paul also states "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

  • "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 10:4);

  • "But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."  (Galatians 3:23-25);

  • "by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,"  (Ephesians 2:15).

If we are without Christ, we are justly condemned in God’s sight by the Law that was given to His servant Moses. However, we might argue that those who are not Jewish and therefore do not benefit from the knowledge of the Mosaic Law (including the moral and ceremonial laws), should not be condemned in the same way. This is dealt with by the Apostle in Romans 2:14-15, where he states that the Gentiles have the essence of God’s legal requirements already ingrained and so are just as much without excuse.

  • "For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them," (Romans 2:14-15)

The Law is the issue that has to be dealt with in order to bring us into a right relationship with God.

  • "nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified". (Galatians 2:16).

This passage reveals that the Law cannot justify or make righteous any man in God’s sight, which is why God sent His Son to completely fulfill the requirements of the Law for all those who would ever believe in Him.

The origin of the Sabbath goes back to Creation. After creating the heavens and the earth in six days, God "... rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made" (Genesis 2:2). This doesn’t mean that God was tired and needed a rest. We know that God is omnipotent, literally "all-powerful." He has all the power in the universe, He never tires, and His most arduous expenditure of energy does not diminish His power one bit.

So, what does it mean that God rested on the seventh day? Simply that He stopped what He was doing. He ceased from His labors. (The word Shabbat means to cease work) This is important in understanding the establishment of the Sabbath day and the role of Christ as our Sabbath rest.

The various elements of the Sabbath symbolized the coming of the Messiah, who would provide a permanent rest for His people. With the establishment of the Old Testament Law, the Jews were constantly "laboring" to make themselves acceptable to God. Their labors included trying to obey a myriad (613) of do’s and don’ts of the ceremonial law, the Temple law, the civil law, etc. Of course they couldn’t possibly keep all those laws, so God provided an array of sin offerings and sacrifices so they could come to Him for forgiveness and restore fellowship with Him, ... but only temporarily.

The Word of God makes it quite clear that Sabbath observance was a special sign between God and Israel: “The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested” (Exodus 31:16-17).

Once the New Covenant was established by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the New Testament nowhere describes Christians setting aside the Sabbath day as the day of worship.

Jesus can be our Sabbath rest in part because He is "Lord of the Sabbath" (Matthew 12:8). As God incarnate, He decides the true meaning of the Sabbath because He created it, and He is our Sabbath rest in the flesh.

Of course Jesus kept the sabbath. He was a Jew. By saying, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27), Jesus was restating the principle that the Sabbath rest was instituted to relieve man of his labors, just as He came to relieve us of our attempting to achieve salvation by our works. We no longer rest for only one day, but forever cease our laboring to attain God’s favor. Jesus is our rest from works now, just as He is the door to heaven, where we will rest in Him forever.

Hebrews 4 is the definitive passage regarding Jesus as our Sabbath rest. The writer to the Hebrews exhorts his readers to "enter in" to the Sabbath rest provided by Christ. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we no longer have to "labor" in law-keeping in order to be justified in the sight of God. Jesus was sent so that we might rest in God and in what He has provided.

In the New Testament, nine of the Ten Commandments were repeated. But not #4. "Honor the Sabbath day".

A common error in the Sabbath-keeping debate is the concept that the Sabbath was the day of worship.

Herbert W. Armstrong adopted from the Seventh-Day Adventists that God requires the church service to be held on Saturday, the Sabbath day. That is not what the Sabbath command was. The Sabbath command was to do no work on the Sabbath day (Exodus 20:8-11).

For all Christians (Jews or Gentiles), the Jewish Sabbath was abolished at the cross.

"When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." (Colossians 2:13-14).

In Colossians 2:16-17, the apostle Paul declares,

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day - things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”  (Colossians 2:16-17)

Similarly, Romans 14:5 states, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” These Scriptures make it clear that, for the Christian, Sabbath-keeping is a matter of spiritual freedom, not a command from God.

Rest from your work one day a week, any day you choose. Is there anything wrong with worshipping on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath? Absolutely not! We should worship God every day, not just on Saturday or Sunday.

More than anything, it's not what day you choose to rest that concerns God, it's why you do it in the first place.

There is no other Sabbath rest besides Jesus.

  • He alone satisfies the requirements of the Law, and

  • He alone provides the sacrifice that atones for sin.

  • He is God’s plan for us to cease from the labor of our own works.

In place of the Old Testament law, we are under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), which is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39 ESV). If we obey those two commands, we will be fulfilling all that Christ requires of us: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40). Now, this does not mean the Old Testament law is irrelevant today. Many of the commands in the Old Testament law fall into the categories of “loving God” and “loving your neighbor.”

The Old Testament law can be a good guidepost for knowing how to love God and knowing what goes into loving your neighbor. At the same time, to say that the Old Testament law applies to Christians today is incorrect.

This is the love of God: that we keep His commandments; and his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3). The Ten Commandments were essentially a summary of the entire Old Testament law. Nine of the Ten Commandments are clearly repeated in the New Testament (all except the command to observe the Sabbath day). Obviously, if we are loving God, we will not be worshipping false gods or bowing down before idols.

If we are loving our neighbors, we will not be murdering them, lying to them, committing adultery against them, or coveting what belongs to them.

What does it mean that Jesus fulfilled the law, but did not abolish it?

The purpose of the Old Testament law is to convict people of our inability to keep the law and point us to our need for Jesus Christ as Savior (Romans 7:7-9; Galatians 3:24). The Old Testament law was never intended by God to be the universal law for all people for all of time. We are to love God and love our neighbors. If we obey those two commands faithfully, we will be upholding all that God requires of us.

If Christ fulfilled some of it, such as the sacrificial system, He fulfilled all of it.

"For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all."  (James 2:10)

In Matthew’s record of what is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount, these words of Jesus are recorded:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18).

It is frequently argued that if Jesus did not “abolish” the law, then it must still be binding. Accordingly, such components as the Sabbath-day requirement must be operative still, along with perhaps numerous other elements of the Mosaic Law.

This assumption is grounded in a misunderstanding of the words and intent of this passage. Christ did not suggest here that the binding nature of the law of Moses would remain forever in effect. Such a view would contradict everything we learn from the balance of the New Testament (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15).

Of special significance in this study is the word rendered “abolish.” It translates the Greek term kataluo, literally meaning “to loosen down.” The word is found seventeen times in the New Testament. It is used, for example, of the destruction of the Jewish temple by the Romans (Matthew 26:61; Matthew 27:40; Acts 6:14), and of the dissolving of the human body at death (2 Corinthians 5:1). The term can carry the extended meaning of “to overthrow,” i.e., “to render vain, deprive of success.” In classical Greek, it was used in connection with institutions, laws, etc., to convey the idea of “to invalidate.”

It is especially important to note how the word is used in Matthew 5:17. In this context, “abolish” is set in opposition to “fulfill.Christ came “...not to abolish, but to fulfill.Jesus did not come to this earth for the purpose of acting as an opponent of the law. His goal was not to prevent its fulfillment. Rather, He revered it, loved it, obeyed it, and brought it to fruition. He fulfilled the law’s prophetic utterances regarding Himself (Luke 24:44). Christ fulfilled the demands of the Mosaic law, which called for perfect obedience under threat of a “curse” (see Galatians 3:10, Galatians 3:13). In this sense, the law’s divine design will ever have an abiding effect. It will always accomplish the purpose for which it was given.

If, however, the law of Moses bears the same relationship to men today, in terms of its binding status, then it was not fulfilled, and Jesus failed at what He came to do. On the other hand, if the Lord did accomplish His goal, then the law was fulfilled, and it is not a binding legal institution today. Further, if the law of Moses was not fulfilled by Christ—and thus remains as a binding legal system for today - then it is not just partially binding. Rather, it is a totally compelling system. Jesus plainly said that not one “jot or tittle (representative of the smallest markings of the Hebrew script) would pass away until all was fulfilled. Consequently, nothing of the law was to fail until it had completely accomplished its purpose.

Jesus fulfilled the law. Jesus fulfilled all of the law. We cannot say that Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial system, but did not fulfill the other aspects of the law.

Jesus either fulfilled all of the law, or none of it. What Jesus' death means for the sacrificial system, it also means for the other aspects of the law.

A final warning to the Lost Tribes of Hazzard.

The Old Testament law is a unit (James 2:10). Either all of it applies, or none of it applies.

The Mosaic Law caused people, after Christ came, to see that they couldn’t keep the Law but needed to accept Christ as personal Savior, for He had fulfilled the Law in His life and paid the penalty for our breaking it in His death, burial, and bodily resurrection (Galatians 3:24; Romans 10:4).

The believer in Christ has the very righteousness of the Law fulfilled in him as he obeys the Holy Spirit (3rd person of the Trinity) who lives within him (Romans 8:4).

No Sabbath keeping, or keeping the OT Feasts will save anyone.



  "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong."  1 Corinthians 16:13  

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"Saint Pete", Sr.


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