Not Under The Mosaic Covenant 1

Different views about New Covenant non-Jewish believers

 

There are many different views among born-again Christians about whether non-Israelite (Gentile) New Covenant believers should obey the commands of the Old Covenant and Mosaic Law. Here are some of the main alternative views:

 

1.       Non-Israelite New Covenant believers should obey all the moral, civil and ceremonial commands found in the Mosaic Law.

2.       Under the New Covenant, Gentile believers are expected to obey all of the moral and civil commands of the Mosaic Law but not the ceremonial laws.

3.       Gentile New Covenant believers should obey all the commands found in the Mosaic Law which are not cancelled or amended in the New Testament.

4.       New Covenant non-Israelite believers should obey only those commands of the Mosaic Law which are specifically restated in the New Testament as applying to them.

 

Many very godly preachers, Bible teachers and other believers have firmly believed that New Covenant believers should obey the Ten Commandments and other moral commands which are in the Mosaic Covenant and Mosaic Law as part of our growing in holiness. But note the New Testament teaches God does not desire New Covenant non-Israelite believers to obey any of the Law of Moses, this including the two great love commands in their Mosaic Covenant contexts and the Ten Commandments in their Mosaic Covenant context. The New Testament teaches non-Israelite New Covenant believers are not under the Mosaic Covenant. Verses which support this are Acts 15:5-29, Romans 6:14-15, 7:1-3, 7:4, 7:6, 7:11-12, 10:4-5, 1 Corinthians 9:20-21, 2 Corinthians 3:6-15, Galatians 2:11-14, 3:19, 3:24-25, 4:9-11, 4:21-5:12, 5:18, Ephesians 2:14-15, Colossians 2:14-17, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, Hebrews 7:18, 7:19, 8:6-9, 8:13, 9:6-10, 9:23-24 and 10:1.

But note that the New Testament instructs New Covenant believers to obey the two great love commands and nine of Ten Commandments which have all been rewritten in New Covenant contexts. Also observe that God has amended His Mosaic Covenant commands about divorce among God’s people, adultery and murder to a higher standard under the New Covenant (see Matthew 5:21-32, 19:3-9 and Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

 

The letter which kills and condemns

 

2 Corinthians 3:6-11 teaches that the section of the Mosaic Covenant and Mosaic Law which was engraved in letters on stone – the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 34:1 and 29) – only bought condemnation and death and has been replaced by the Gospel and the ministry of the Spirit: “who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.”

2 Corinthians 3:6-11 teaches:

 

         the written Mosaic Covenant and Mosaic Law in one sense is the letter that kills, whereas the Gospel involves the Spirit bringing eternal life (see verse 6).

         the Mosaic Covenant and Mosaic Law is related to the dispensation of death and condemnation, but the Gospel relates to the dispensation of the Spirit and righteousness from God (see verse 7 and 9).

         the Mosaic Law related to the Old Covenant, whereas the Gospel relates to the New Covenant (see verse 6).

         the Mosaic Covenant and Mosaic Law was engraved on tablets of stone, whereas the Gospel is imprinted on human hearts (see verses 3 and 7).

         the Mosaic Covenant and Mosaic Law had great glory but the Gospel which is fully manifested under the New Covenant has greater glory (see verse 10).

         the Mosaic Covenant and Mosaic Law in many senses was only temporary, but the Gospel and associated New Covenant are to last forever (see verse 11). (The Mosaic Law still continues to operate in a few ways. For example, it condemns all unbelievers even during the New Covenant period – Romans 3:19-20, 7:7, 7:13 and 1 Timothy 1:8-11.)

 

Refer to my Chapter           “The Letter and the Spirit” to see that the “letter” referred to in 2 Corinthians 3:6 is not interpretations of the Mosaic Law which are supposedly not anointed by the Holy Spirit but is instead the God-inspired written Law of Moses itself.

Note the surrounding context of 2 Corinthians 3:6 shows “letter” or “gramma” means the Mosaic Covenant and Law. In 2 Corinthians 3:14, Paul refers to reading the Old Covenant while in verse 6, he refers to the New Covenant. In Greek, the word “covenant” in verses 6 and 14 here is a form of the word “diatheke”. The word “diatheke” is sometimes translated “covenant” and at other times “Testament”.

In 2 Corinthians 3:14, it is wrong to translate “diatheke” as “testament” instead of “covenant”. This is because this verse is referring to the Old or Mosaic Covenant and not the whole of the Old Testament. The surrounding context of verse 14 shows this. In verse 15, Paul refers to reading Moses. Moses did not write all the Books of the Old Testament. Moses wrote the books which contain the Mosaic Covenant and Law – Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and most of Deuteronomy. (Moses did not write Deuteronomy 34:1-12 referring to his own death.) In his Greek lexicon, Perschbacher says “diatheke” means “the writings of the Old Covenant” in 2 Corinthians 3:14. [1]

In Greek, the word “letter” in 2 Corinthians 3:6 is “gramma”. In John 5:45-47, Jesus used the Greek word “gramma” which is translated as “writings” in the New King James Version and New American Standard Bible. In verse 46, Christ referred to believing what Moses wrote. Remember as stated above, Moses wrote the Books of the Mosaic Covenant and Law but not all the Books of the Old Testament. So in John 5:45-47, Jesus Christ was referring to the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy when He was speaking about Moses’ writings or “gramma”.

John 5:45-47 confirms that 2 Corinthians 3:14 is referring to the Mosaic or Old Covenant and not the whole of the Old Testament and that 2 Corinthians 3:6 relates to the Mosaic Law and Covenant and not some supposed Pharasaic “letter of the Law”

 

Completely freed from previous legal obligations

 

Romans 7:1-3 says: “Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.” Here Paul compares being under the Mosaic Covenant and Law to being married to a first husband. Then Paul compares being transferred to the New Covenant to having your first husband die and you marry a second husband.

Verse 2 uses the word “bound” in relation to the obligations the wife has to her first husband. This is similar to the obligations people have who were under the Mosaic Covenant and Law.

In Greek in Romans 7:2, the word “bound” is a form of the word “deo” which means in the context of this verse “binding by law and duty”. [2] In Greek the word “released” here is a form of the word “katargeo” which means in this context “to free from…” [3] or “to reduce to inactivity” [4] or “have nothing more to do with”. [5]

So in Romans 7:1-3, Paul teaches that when believers are married to Christ through the New Covenant, they are completely released or freed from any obligation to obey the Mosaic Covenant and Law. The whole Mosaic Law becomes inactive in their lives. They have nothing more to do with the Mosaic Covenant and Law.

Also, these verses teach that through Jesus’ death, New Covenant believers have become dead to the demands and penalties of the Mosaic Law.

Romans 7:4, 7:6 and 6:14-15 prove New Covenant believers no longer have to obey the moral commands found in the Law of Moses. Romans 7:4 and 7:6 state: “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God…But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.” In Greek, the expression “we have been delivered” is a form of the word “katargeo” which in this context means we have been “released from an association with something, have nothing more to do with” [6] or “we were discharged”. [7]

Romans 7:7-8 confirms New Covenant believers do not have to obey any of the moral aspects of the Mosaic Law. This is because these verses show that the part of the Law of Moses which Paul is referring to in Romans 7:4 and 7:6, is the moral part. Romans 7:7-8 quotes the last of the Ten Commandments“Do not covet” – found in Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21.

Romans 7:6 also uses the Greek word “gramma”. I commented on this word earlier in relation to my comments on 2 Corinthians 3:6 and John 5:47. In Romans 7:6, Paul is saying New Covenant believers serve God in the newness of the Holy Spirit and not in the oldness of the Mosaic Covenant and Law. Only a very small number of Old Covenant believers had the Spirit of Christ and even then this was not in a full born-again sense (see Numbers 11:16, 11:29, John 7:37-39 and Colossians 1:27).

Romans 6:14-15 states: “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” Here Paul twice says we are not under the Mosaic Law but are under God’s grace.

Someone may argue that when Paul uses the word “law” in Romans 6:14 and 6:15 without the word “the” before it in Greek, he is not referring to the Mosaic Law but instead is meaning legalism. Legalism means trying to merit the initial receiving and/or maintenance of salvation and to deserve being declared righteous by God through obedience to the Mosaic Law or any other set of laws. But note in Greek, the word “law” in Romans 2:14 (1st usage), 2:17, 2:25 (two usages), 5:13 (1st usage), 5:20, 7:9 and 13:10 is used without the word “the” before it. But these usages of “law” in their various contexts still all refer to the Law of Moses.

In the Book of Romans, Paul used the phrase “the law” 31 or 32 times and the word “law” 41 or 42 times without the article “the” before it. In most contexts, Paul used “the law” and “law” to mean the Mosaic Covenant and Mosaic Law. Exceptions to this are, for example, the phrases “the law” in Romans 2:15, “a law of faith” in Romans 3:27, “the law of my mind” in Romans 7:23 and “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” in Romans 8:2. Also note the phrase “a law” (N.K.J.V.) or “the principle” (N.A.S.B.) in Romans 7:21 is “the law” in Greek and does not refer to the Mosaic Law.

Someone may argue, “In parts of his New Testament letters, Paul was dealing only with certain Jewish misusages of the Law of Moses when he spoke of being not under the Law, being released from the Law and being dead to the Law.” It is true that in Romans 2:17-24 and Galatians 2:11-14, Paul deals with certain Jewish misusages of the Law. But Paul also taught in the New Testament that the Mosaic Law – the terms and conditions of the Mosaic Covenant – did not apply to non-Israelite believers under the New Covenant.

Also others may argue, “The expressions ‘not under law’ (Romans 6:14-15), ‘released from the law’ (Romans 7:2), ‘free from the law’ (Romans 7:3) and ‘dead to the law’ (Romans 7:4) refer to being freed from the bondage of legalism. There is no specific Greek word for ‘legalism’. So this is why Paul referred to legalism by the above expressions.” But note this is misleading because even though there is not one Greek word for legalism, Paul coined the expression “justified by works of law” to mean legalism (see Galatians 2:16).

Also it is highly unlikely that in the Book of Romans, Paul would have used the expressions “not under the Law”, “released from the law”, “free from the law” and “dead to the law” in ways so contrary to their more straightforward meanings when he could have easily used a combination of the Greek words “axios” which in some contexts means “having a relatively high degree of comparable merit or worth” [8] or “worthy of, deserving” [9] and “nomos” meaning “law” to describe being under legalistic meriting type of religion. A combination of “axios”, “nomos” and a few other Greek words would have far more clearly described legalism than expressions like “under the Law”.

When Paul used the phrases “released from the law”, “free from the law” and “dead to the law” in Romans 7:2-4, he was not referring to being released from, freed from and dead to legalism. This is evident in the fact that in these verses, Paul used these phrases to relate to the context of a woman being married under the Mosaic Covenant. God never taught that marriage was a form of legalism which He wants to release and free believers from.

In Romans 7:2-4, Paul used the expressions “released from the law”, “free from the law” and “dead to the law” to teach what many other verses in the New Testament verses and Jeremiah 31:31-34 teach. This is that God has replaced the Mosaic Covenant and Mosaic Law with the New Covenant and the Law of Christ.

 

Paul ate with non-Jews contrary to the Mosaic Law

 

Galatians 2:11-14 shows Paul opposed the idea that non-Jewish and Jewish believers needed to obey the clean and unclean food laws of the Mosaic Covenant found in Leviticus 11:1-47. Galatians 2:11-14 says: “But when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabus was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews’.”

Peter and Barnabus were tempted to compromise about this issue because of pressure from Jewish Christian believers who had arrived at Antioch from Jerusalem. Peter feared the opinions of these Jewish believers. Paul accused Peter and Barnabus of hypocrisy for refusing to eat with these Gentile believers.

 

Until the Seed came

 

Galatians 3:19 says: “What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.” Here Paul stresses the Law of Moses was only operative in relation to believers until the Seed came. Galatians 3:16 says the Seed is Christ. This means the Law of Moses applied to believers until Christ came. In this context, the Law in Galatians 3:19 is not just referring to the Mosaic Law’s ceremonial aspects.

Galatians 3:10 and 3:12 refer to obeying all the Law. Galatians 3:10 is a quote from Deuteronomy 27:26. Deuteronomy 27:26 says: “Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law. And all the people shall say, Amen.” The above verse refers to all aspects of the Mosaic Covenant and Law.

 

Abolished or cancelled

 

In Galatians 4:9-11, Paul warned the Galatian believers of the danger of observing the special holy days, months, seasons and years of the Mosaic Covenant and Law: “But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.”

Some Bible teachers may argue Paul is referring here to pagan “holy” days, months and so on. But note the surrounding context of Galatians 3:19-5:6 involves much teaching on the Mosaic Covenant and Law and its differences from the New Covenant. So the context proves Paul is not referring to pagan “holy” days.

Note in Galatians 4:9, Paul referred to the Galatian believers turning back to the “weak and beggarly elements” in the context of them observing the holy days, months, seasons and years of the Mosaic Covenant and Law. In Greek, the word “weak” in Galatians 4:9 is a form of the word “asthenes” which Vine says means in this verse “in the spiritual sense, said of the rudiments of Jewish religion in their inability to justify anyone”. [10]

Hebrews 7:18 uses another form of the same Greek word “asthenes” in relation to the weakness of the Mosaic Law and commandment: “For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness.” This verse states the commandment or Mosaic Law is “former” and annulled.

In Greek, the word “annulling” is the word “athetesis” which means “a setting aside, abolition” [11] or “abrogation”. [12] The word “abrogation” refers to “the cancelling of a law or set of laws”. In context, Hebrews 7:18 means the Levitical priesthood, the altar, sacrifices and offerings, Holy Place, Holy of Holies and other aspects of the Old Covenant Tabernacle and Temple worship have been abolished or cancelled.

 

Shadows and signs are no longer needed

 

Colossians 2:14-17 declares: “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. Therefore let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”

Here Paul teaches the Mosaic Law’s requirements of perfect obedience and punishment for those who do not perfectly obey – “that was against us” – was nailed to Jesus’ Cross. In other words, Jesus’ death freed us from the unyielding demands of the Law.

In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul shows that because the written Law’s requirements have been wiped out as a result of Jesus’ death, the Colossian believers were freed from the commands and statutes of the Mosaic Law. Paul insists no one should judge the Colossians in relation to commands about foods, drink offerings, feast days, New Moon offerings and Sabbaths. He stresses such things are only a shadow pointing to Jesus Christ.

In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul cannot be referring to pagan practices or Pharisaic extra-Biblical rules. This is because these things are not a shadow of Christ. Paul is referring to the commands and statutes of the Mosaic Law. The New Moon offerings are commanded in Leviticus 23:24-25, 28:11-14 and 29:1-6 and are mentioned in 2 Kings 4:23, 1 Chronicles 23:31, 2 Chronicles 2:4, 8:13, 31:3, Ezra 3:5, Nehemiah 10:33 and Isaiah 1:13-14. 2 Chronicles 31:3 records: “The king also appointed a portion of his possessions for the burnt offerings: for the morning and evening burnt offerings, the burnt offerings for the Sabbaths and the New Moons and the set feasts, as it is written in the Law of the Lord.”

In the context of Hebrews 10:1-10, its author reveals the animal sacrifices of the Mosaic Covenant and Law are a shadow of Christ. But note Colossians 2:16-17 broadens this to say that the food laws, drink offerings, feast days, New Moon offerings and Sabbaths are only a shadow of Christ also. The Sabbath command is one of the Ten Commandments (see Deuteronomy 5:12). So Colossians 2:16-17 reveals New Covenant believers are not under both the moral and ceremonial aspects of the Law of Moses.

Hebrews 9:9-10 also teaches the Mosaic Covenant and Mosaic Law with its food laws, drink offerings, washings and carnal ordinances were symbolic of Christ and only applied until the time of reformation – the beginning of the New Covenant: “It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience – concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.”

Hebrews 9:23-24 also reveals the Mosaic Covenant animal sacrifices are copies of Christ's death: “Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”

In Greek, the word “copies” in Hebrews 9:23 is a form of the word “hupodeigma” which means “a sign suggestive of anything, the …representation of a thing, and so, a figure”. [13] This means the blood sacrifices of the Mosaic Covenant and Mosaic Law were only signs or representations of Christ's death. In Greek, the word “copies” in verse 24 is a form of the word “antitupos” which means “copy…representation”. [14] Verse 24 therefore teaches the holy places in God’s earthly Temple under the Mosaic Covenant were representations of the true Heavenly Throne of God where Christ entered for us.

Hebrews 9:6-10 reveals the services of the priests and High Priest in the earthly Tabernacle were only symbolic of Christ's work. Hebrews 10:1 not only says the Mosaic Law is only “a shadow of the good things to come” through Christ. But it also stresses the Law is “not the very image of these things”. The very image is Jesus Christ and the New Covenant.

Hebrews 7:19 reveals the Mosaic Covenant and Law made nothing perfect: “for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” But in Hebrews 10:14, the same author reveals Jesus Christ has perfected His people through His death: “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”

 

Obsolete, abolished and superseded

 

Humans can be under more than one covenant. Those who were under the Mosaic Covenant were also under the Noahic and Abrahamic Covenants. Those under the New Covenant are also under the Noahic, Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants.

But note the Book of Hebrews sets the Mosaic or Old Covenant and the New Covenant in opposition to each other in some but obviously not all ways. Hebrews 8:6-9 states: “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: ‘Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah – not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them,’ says the Lord.”

In Hebrews 8:8-9 above, the God-inspired writer said those under the New Covenant would not be under the Mosaic Covenant. Also he says God found fault with the Mosaic Covenant. From eternity, God knew the Mosaic Covenant would have faults. This is why He also planned its replacement – the New Covenant from eternity past (see Titus 1:9).

Hebrews 8:13 declares: “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” In Greek, the expression “he has made obsolete” in its first usage above is a form of the word “palaioo” which means in this context “make old…treat the first covenant as obsolete” [15] or “to treat as antiquated, to abrogate, supersede”. [16] The word “antiquated” means “abolish as out of date” and “abrogate” means “cancel”. [17] “Supersede” means “to set aside, to replace by another thing, to take the place of. [18]. Therefore, the Mosaic Covenant has been abolished, cancelled and replaced by the New Covenant.

In Hebrews 8:13, the expression “he has made obsolete” is in the perfect tense in Greek. The perfect tense refers either to a completed action with continuing results or a state resulting from an action. The writer of this verse used the perfect tense to emphasise the completed nature of the abolishing or making obsolete of the Mosaic Covenant.

In Hebrews 8:13, the expression “being made old” is in the present tense in Greek. The Greek present tense usually refers to continuous or ongoing action. So the expression “being made old” means the Mosaic Covenant is continuously being made obsolete because the New Covenant has been given.

Also in Hebrews 8:13 in Greek, the expression “growing aged” is in the present tense. This means the Mosaic Covenant is continuously growing old because the New Covenant has been given. Note “growing aged” is not in the future tense. So this verse is not saying the aging of the Mosaic Covenant will be delayed to the future Second Coming of Christ or some other future time.

The expression “near vanishing” in verse 13 is not contradictory to the fact the Mosaic Covenant is continuously being made obsolete. “Near vanishing” refers to the fact that certain elements of the Mosaic Law – the terms and conditions of the Mosaic Covenant – are still operating and will cease in future. One example of an operation of the Mosaic Covenant which is continuing in the New Covenant era is the revealing to the unsaved through the commands of the Mosaic Law that they have sinned (see Romans 3:20, 7:7 and 7:13).

Many do not understand that the Mosaic Law is the terms and conditions of the Mosaic Covenant. So if believers are no longer under the Old or Mosaic Covenant, they are obviously not under any aspect of the Mosaic Law. Such Law is “Old” Law.

Some Bible teachers may try to separate the Mosaic Covenant from the Mosaic Law. But we cannot do this. The Mosaic Covenant and Mosaic Law are a union which cannot be broken. We can see this in Hebrews Chapters 7 to 10. The word “law” meaning the Mosaic Law is used in Hebrews 7:5, 7:11, 7:16, 7:19, 7:28 (twice), 8:4, 9:19, 9:22, 10:1, 10:8, and 10:28. The word “covenant” is used to refer to the Old or Mosaic Covenant in Hebrews 8:7, 8:9 (twice), 9:1, 9:4 (twice), 9:15, 9:18 and 9:20.

 

The New Covenant is better than the Old

 

The Book of Hebrews emphasises that the New Covenant is better than the Mosaic. The writer of Hebrews says the New Covenant is based on “better promises” (see Hebrews 8:6), has brought in “a better hope” (see Hebrews 7:19) and is “a better covenant” (see Hebrews 7:22 and 8:6).

 

Other relevant verses

 

Galatians 3:24-25, 4:21-5:12, 5:18, Ephesians 2:14-15 and 1 Timothy 1:8-11 also teach the Law of Moses and associated Mosaic Covenant do not apply to New Covenant believers. Galatians 3:24-25 states: “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”

Galatians 4:21-26 says: “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a free-woman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the free-woman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants; the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar – for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.”

Galatians 5:1-6 declares: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.

Galatians 5:18 stresses: “But  if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Ephesians 2:14-15 says: “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.”

 

The ministry of the Mosaic Law in the New Covenant era

 

In 1 Timothy 1:8-11, Paul teaches that in the New Covenant era, the Law of Moses is meant to be ministered to unbelievers and not believers: “But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.”

In context, the above verses refer to the Ten Commandments and other moral commands of the Mosaic Law and not to the ceremonial laws. Also in these verses, Paul was not teaching that Israelite righteous believers living under the Mosaic Covenant in previous times, were free to disobey the Mosaic Law.

 

For Israelites and Gentiles living in Israel

 

Leviticus 26:46, 27:34, Romans 2:14 and 9:4 say the Law of Moses was given to the Israelites. Romans 2:14 says: “for when Gentiles, who do not have the Law”. In 1 Corinthians 9:21, Paul refers to the Gentiles or non-Israelites as being “those who are without the law”. Psalm 147:19-20 relates to the same thing when it reveals God had given His written statutes and judgements in the Mosaic Law to Jacob or Israel, but not to the other nations: “He declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and His judgements to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any nation; and as for His judgements, they have not known them.”

 Non-Israelites living in the land of Israel could have a relationship with God through the Mosaic Covenant under certain conditions (see Leviticus 24:22, Numbers 9:14, 15:14-16, 15:29, Deuteronomy 23:3-8 and Ruth 1:1-4:22). But non-Israelites outside of the land of Israel were not given the Mosaic Covenant and Law.

Bible teachers who teach New Covenant believers should obey some of the Mosaic Law argue that Leviticus 18:24-27, 2 Kings 17:24-41, Psalm 9:4-8, 119:119, Isaiah 24:4-6, Daniel 4:24-25, Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13 and 2:1 show that even during Old Testament times God expected all non-Israelites to follow all the commands and statutes of the Mosaic Law. But when we examine these verses, we find they do not support this conclusion.

2 Kings 17:24-41 is referring only to God expecting non-Israelites who were living in the land given by God to the Israelites, to obey the Law. This passage does not support the idea that all non-Israelites should obey the Mosaic Law.

In the sense of revealing sins and resulting condemnation by God, it is true the Mosaic Law applies to all humans and not just the Israelites. Romans 3:19 reveals the Law condemns those under the Law – the Israelites – and all the rest of the world: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” As shown previously, 1 Timothy 1:8-11 shows the Law of Moses condemns all hardened sinners whether Jew or Gentile. Being condemned by the Mosaic Law is not the same as being fully given the Mosaic Law as part of being under the Mosaic Covenant.

In Isaiah 24:4-6, God says the people on Earth at that specific time had transgressed His laws and changed His ordinances and as a result He had judged them: “The earth mourns and fades away, the world languishes and fades away; the haughty people of the earth languish. The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.” This occurred during the Old Covenant period. These verses may be referring to the nation of Israel. Or these verses may relate to some or all nations on Earth. The non-Israelite nations did not have the written Mosaic Covenant and associated laws. But they had God’s Law inscribed on the consciences (see Romans 2:14-16). So God judged them for their continual serious rejection of His Law found on their consciences. [19]

In Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13, and 2:1, God speaks of various non-Israelite nations during the Old Covenant period transgressing or rebelling against various aspects of His Law and of Him holding them responsible for this. He judged them as a result. Note God held these pagan nations responsible for transgressing His Law just like He did the people of Judah and Israel (see Amos 2:4-16). Leviticus 18:24-27, Psalm 9:4-8, 119:119, Daniel 4:24-27 and 5:1-31 also refer to God holding non-Israelites accountable for their sins in Old Testament times.

But these verses in Amos, Leviticus, Psalms and Daniel are referring to God holding non-Israelites responsible for sins against the Law of God written on their consciences. Romans 2:15 refers to this when it says Gentiles or non-Israelites have “the work of the law written on their hearts”. In this verse, the word “law” does not refer to the thousands of moral, civil and ceremonial commands and statutes of the Mosaic Covenant and Law. Instead “law” here refers to the Law of God similar to the laws Abraham followed prior to the Mosaic Law being given (see Genesis 26:5) and to God’s two great love laws and their specific applications in attitudes and conduct.

The obvious difference between this broader Law of God written on their consciences and the Mosaic Law is seen in the fact Abraham did not fulfil all the Mosaic Law commands about various offerings at the Tabernacle, the Atonement money, the various feasts, unclean foods, the Sabbath and so on but Genesis 26:5 still says: “because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”

 

Under the Law of Christ

 

1 Corinthians 9:20-21 teaches that believers have to obey the higher level of moral teachings given in the New Testament instead of obeying the Ten Commandments and other commands given in the Law of Moses. 1 Corinthians 9:20-21 states: “and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law.”

In 1 Corinthians 9:21, the phrase “law toward God” (N.K.J.V.) or “the law of Christ” (N.A.S.B.) probably refers to Jesus’ two love commandments found in Matthew 22:37-40 and His other moral teachings found throughout the whole New Testament.

In 1 Corinthians 9:20-21, Paul reveals “the law” – the Law of Moses and the Law of God in its manifestation in the Law of Christ are not exactly the same. In verse 21, Paul says that when he was with those who are without the law – the Mosaic Law – he lived without law – the Mosaic Law. He then qualifies this and says he is not without law toward God but is under Christ's Law. The expression “the law of Christ” is also used in Galatians 6:2.

 

Circumcision is not required under the New Covenant

 

Circumcision is the sign of the Old Covenant relationship between the Israelites and God (see Leviticus 12:3) whereas water baptism is the outward sign of the New Covenant relationship between believers and God (see Acts 2:41 and 10:47-48). Galatians 5:2-3, 5:6, 5:11 and 6:12-15 reveal God does not demand circumcision for New Testament believers as a requirement of salvation.

Because the sign of the Old or Mosaic Covenant has been done away with, the whole Law – moral, ceremonial and judicial – which is a part of the Mosaic Covenant is therefore done away with also in relation to New Testament believers.

Under the New Covenant, Jewish Christians can circumcise their sons not as a means of salvation, but as a sign of them being Abraham’s physical descendants (see Genesis 17:10-14).

1 Corinthians 7:19 declares: “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.” Here Paul insists that circumcision has no real value for New Covenant believers. In Greek, the word “nothing” used twice above is the word “oudev” which in the above context figuratively means “worthless, meaningless, invalid”. [20] But note under the Mosaic Covenant and Law, circumcision was a command. Also circumcision was not just related to the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic Law. As stated before, circumcision was the sign of being under all aspects of the Mosaic Covenant – moral, civil and ceremonial.

In 1 Corinthians 7:19 above, Paul said keeping God’s commandments is important. I have heard some interpret this expression “God’s commandments” here to mean the commands of the Mosaic Covenant and Mosaic Law. But this could not be true because circumcision is one of the Mosaic Covenant commands. Paul would not contradict himself by telling us to obey all the Mosaic Law commands and then tell us not to obey circumcision – one of the main commands of the Law.

In 1 Corinthians 7:19, Paul did not command us as New Covenant believers to only obey the moral and civil aspects of the Mosaic Law. Instead Paul told us to obey all the commands found in the New Covenant.

 

 

 

A handy excuse

 

In order to try to win non-Israelites to Judaism, the Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria tried to spiritualise many verses in the Mosaic Law, giving them highly dubious symbolic interpretations instead of their more obvious, more literal but less convenient meanings. Philo had no warrant from God to interpret the Mosaic Covenant this way. But he still did it to try to achieve his missionary goals.

This same wrong tendency to give symbolic interpretations of various Mosaic Covenant commands can be seen in the apocryphal writing “The Epistle of Barnabus” written by an early Christian. For example, in Chapter 10 of this non-Biblical writing, it claims that the Mosaic Law command to not eat pig (see Leviticus 11:7) meant: “Thou shalt not join thyself to men who resemble swine.”

Also, the Epistle of Barnabus symbolically interprets the Mosaic Law command to not eat eagles, hawks, kites or ravens (see Leviticus 11:13-15) to mean not being in partnership with men who steal the food of others. This apocryphal writing spiritualises the Mosaic Law command to not eat hyenas (see Leviticus 11:27) into a command against adultery. Similar ridiculous symbolic interpretations are given about the Mosaic commands against eating rabbits and numerous other creatures mentioned in Leviticus Chapter 11.

In Chapter 9 of the Epistle of Barnabus, the author follows the same wrong practice of finding hidden symbolic meanings when he claims that the reference to Abraham’s 318 men in Genesis 14:14 symbolises Jesus’ death on the Cross. The author says the Greek letter for 300 is in the shape of a cross and the Greek numerals for eighteen are the first two letters of Jesus’ Name.

Christian Bible teachers who claim that New Covenant non-Israelite believers must obey the moral and/or civil commands of the Mosaic Covenant, use similar methods of Biblical interpretation to that used by Philo of Alexandria and the apocryphal “The Epistle of Barnabus”. These Bible teachers spiritualise parts of the Mosaic Law by giving fanciful and strained symbolic interpretations of any verse in the Mosaic Law which gets in the road of their aim to see New Covenant non-Israelite believers obey the moral and sometimes even civil aspects of the Mosaic Law.

In 1 Timothy 5:18, we see God inspired Paul to give a symbolic interpretation to a verse from the Mosaic Covenant which in its original context had a literal meaning. But today’s Bible teachers have no warrant from God to do similar things with other Bible verses.

This practice of giving symbolic interpretations of various verses in the Mosaic Law which one does not wish to obey literally in the New Covenant is a handy excuse. It is a handy excuse in the sense it gives Bible teachers the license to pick and choose what verses in the Mosaic Covenant which New Covenant believers are expected to literally obey and which only require some vague symbolic obedience.

 

The difficulties of separating moral, civil and ceremonial laws

 

When we examine the Mosaic Law thoroughly, we see how enormously difficult it is to distinguish between its moral, civil and ceremonial aspects. This is because, for example, Leviticus Chapter 19, like many other parts of the Law found in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, mixes verses from the moral, civil and ceremonial aspects together.

Leviticus 19:1-4 appears to be moral law, verses 5-8 seem ceremonial, verses 9-10 possibly moral or civil and verses 11-18 moral or with the possibility of one or two civil laws included. Verses 19-20 seems to be civil, verses 21-22 ceremonial, verses 23-25 civil/or ceremonial, and verse 26 moral. Verse 27 appears civil and verse 28 either moral or civil. Verses 29-32 appear moral and verses 33-36 either moral or civil. Note also that in Leviticus 19:37, God concludes by not separating these laws into any types of categories.

Similarly, the moral law about loving our neighbour as ourselves in Leviticus 19:18 is next to commands about not planting fields with two kinds of seed and not wearing clothes woven of linen and wool together. How can Bible teachers say we have to obey Leviticus 19:18 without also obeying the surrounding commands? Who becomes the infallible judge of such matters?

Also, how do we know if the laws found in Deuteronomy 24:6 about taking pairs of millstones as security for a debt and those found in Deuteronomy 22:13-21 about females showing the proofs of virginity are aspects of the moral law of Moses or are civil laws given for the nation of Israel alone?

What about Deuteronomy 23:24-25: “When you come into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes at your pleasure, but you shall not put any in your container. When you come into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not use a sickle on your neighbor’s standing grain.” How can we tell if these are aspects of the moral law or are civil laws given only for the nation of Israel? Who is the final judge of such disputes?

 

Unclipped beards, stoning, two wives and no ham sandwiches

 

Few people consider the practical implications of having to obey, for example, all the moral and civil commands of the Mosaic Law. But here are some which would have to obeyed:

 

         Men’s hair could not be cut at their sides (see Leviticus 19:27).

         Men’s beards could not be clipped (see Leviticus 19:27).

         We could not eat ham and other pig products (see Leviticus 11:7).

         We could not eat any sea creature without fins and scales, for example crabs, mussels, oysters and prawns (see Leviticus 11:9).

         We would have to stone people who committed certain sins (see Leviticus 20:27, 24:14, Deuteronomy 13:10, 17:5, 21:21 and 22:24).

         Slavery would be permitted (see Exodus 22:3 and Leviticus 23:39-55).

         Leviticus 21:9 commands that if a daughter of a Levitical priest committed sexual immorality, God’s people must burn her to death. If this command was carried over to New Testament times and applied to the families of church leaders, we would have to burn to death minister’s and pastor’s daughters who were involved with sex outside marriage.

         A wife, who grabbed the genitals of a man who was fighting her husband would have her hand cut off (see Leviticus 25:12).

         Men could have two wives (see Deuteronomy 21:15). In his writing “Antiquities” (Book 4, Chapter 8, 249), the Jewish historian Josephus refers to Jewish men having two wives in the period around the time of the Apostles.

         Men could have second-class wives called concubines (see Exodus 21:7-11 and Leviticus 19:20). Concubines were slaves.

         The brothers of husbands who died and had wives who did not have children, must marry them in order to provide them with children (see Deuteronomy 25:5-10). They must do this regardless of whether they already have a wife or whether they like each other or not.

         A female captive of war could be taken as a wife regardless of whether she wanted this (see Deuteronomy 21:10-14). Such captives would have to perform a ceremony-like routine before becoming believers’ wives (see Deuteronomy 21:12-13).

         Bride prices or dowries would have to be given to parents (see Exodus 22:16-17).

         Wives accused of adultery would have to go through a ceremony in which the priest pronounced a curse on them which would be effective if the wives had committed this sin (see Numbers 5:11-31).

         Husbands and wives who have sexual intercourse would be regarded as unclean until evening (see Leviticus 15:16-18). They would not be allowed into church meetings during such times of uncleanness. Unclean people were not allowed into the Temple.

         Any woman who was having her monthly period, would be regarded as unclean during this time. Everything she touched or sat on would be unclean (see Leviticus 15:19-20). Anyone who touched her bed or anything she sat on would be unclean also (see Leviticus 15:21-23). She and those who were made unclean by her would be excluded from church meetings during the time of their uncleanness.

         All new brides would have to show evidences of virginity on the bedclothes which were used when they and their new husbands first had sexual intercourse (see Deuteronomy 22:13-21). These bedclothes were often kept as proof. Women who failed this test would be stoned (see Deuteronomy 22:20-21). As a result, in modern Western societies those churchgoers who had backslidden for a time and committed fornication and most new converts would have to be stoned.

         Our rebellious sons would have to be stoned (see Leviticus 21:18-23). They would not be given counselling or shown any mercy at all.

         Guidance could be obtained from God through the Urim and Thummin which was on the breastplate of the High Priest’s clothes (see Exodus 28:30 and Numbers 27:21). We would need Israelite Levite High Priests for this.

         We would have to put tassels on our clothes (see Numbers 15:37-41).

         We could not wear clothes with mixed fabrics such as cotton and nylon (see Deuteronomy 22:11)

         We could not sow different kinds of seed in our vineyards (see Deuteronomy 22:9).

         We would have to slay all unbelievers and false prophets in our midst (see Deuteronomy 13:1-18). In most countries, approximately 70-99% of people are unbelievers.

 

For those who believe we should also obey those ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic Law not related to atonement for sin, we would then have to:

 

         give firstfruits offerings (see Numbers 18:12-17 and Deuteronomy 26:1-11).

         give drink offerings (see Numbers 15:1-5).

         give grain offerings (see Leviticus 2:1-16, 6:14-18 and 7:12-13).

         Participate in the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Day of Firstfruits, Feast of Pentecost, Day of Trumpets and Feast of Tabernacles (see Leviticus 23:6-25 and 23:33-43).

 

One qualification

 

It is not wrong to teach verses from the Mosaic Law which reveal God’s character and nature, how He related to Israelites under the Mosaic Covenant and aspects of human nature. But it is wrong to command New Covenant non-Israelite believers to obey any of the commands of the Mosaic Law in their original context.


 


[1] Perschbacher, page 92.

[2] Bauer, page 178.

[3] Perschbacher, page 226.

[4] Vine, page 3.

[5] Bauer, page 417.

[6] Ibid, page 417.

[7] Marshall, page 456.

[8] Louw and Nida, page 622.

[9] Perschbacher, page 34.

[10] Vine, page 669.

[11] Ibid, page 170.

[12] Perschbacher, page 8.

[13] Vine, page 129.

[14] Ibid, page 76.

[15] Bauer, page 606.

[16] Perschbacher, page 303.

[17] The Concise Oxford Dictionary, pages 51 and 5.

[18] “Modern Home Dictionary”, page 1030.

[19] The phrase “broken the everlasting covenant” here either refers to the Israelites breaking the Mosaic Covenant or to non-Israelites and Israelites breaking the Noahic Covenant by their human sacrifices, killing of newborn babies and other murders (see Genesis 9:5-6).

[20] Bauer, page 592.

 

 


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