The Law Fulfilled in Christ
Out with the Old, in with the New

Three primary possibilities exist as to the status of the Mosaic Law in the New Covenant.

  1. It is still in force; therefore it all still applies.

  2. Some of it is still in force; therefore some of it has been removed or cancelled.

  3. It has been removed.

Within Christendom there are those that, to one degree or another, hold to any of these three positions, often for creedal or traditional reasons. Without hard evidence, yet based on experience and personal research, I believe that a majority of Christians hold to some version of the middle position. One thing that is clear from Scriptures is that a majority position doesn't necessarily make it right. This makes it exceedingly necessary that any standpoint be completely developed using a totality of Scriptures and not to be found arguing from silence, conjecture, or merely the traditions of man.

(1) The Law is Permanent.

Quick proof-texts appear to establish the first point that the Law is to be forever valid.

Matthew 5:18-19 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (NIV)

Romans 3:31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

Psalms 119:150-152, 159-160 Those who devise wicked schemes are near, but they are far from your law. 151 Yet you are near, O Lord, and all your commands are true. 152 Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever. ... 159 See how I love your precepts; preserve my life, O Lord, according to your love. 160 All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. (NIV)

The big problem, here, is living out the belief that all the Law still applies. While this conviction may lead some to reinstitute (professedly to retain) dietary law, festival dates, the Sabbath, and more, other aspects are so impractical or impossible that they are set aside. Functionally these people end up in the middle position.

(2) Some of the Law has been cancelled or done away with.

As it is obvious that we no longer have to follow many aspects of the Law, their conclusion is that only some of the Law is forever. Most then take the Law apart, dividing it into three categories.

(a) Ceremonial
(b) Judicial
(c) Moral

Since the ceremonial Law primarily had to do with the temple, and the Judicial Law was primarily in regards to the nation of Israel, these two are singled out as being finished. (To be fair, there are some who believe that the judicial law, or at least some of it, should still apply today). While much of the Law can be neatly divided into one of the three categories, not all of it can. In fact, it is highly uncertain as to which category some of it belongs, a few perhaps belonging to two categories. This professed divisibility would be conceivably understandable if the Jews actually held to these divisions - but they don't and never have! The Law, in Old Testament times, at the time of Jesus, and even today was (and is) held to be indivisible by Judaism. Functionally, these arbitrary divisions are exactly that, arbitrary divisions without precedence or mandate of Scriptures.

When, by context, a New Testament passage speaks of the Mosaic Law, the hearers at that time would have understood it to be all of the Law. Clearly this is the view of the Old Testament too. If some of the Law was somehow eliminated then Scriptures would have to expressly state it to be so and this testimony is lacking. Moreover, if some of the Law was abolished, the remaining portions would actually be considered new law because of the indivisible nature of the original. Even today a law that has a change in punishment or in aspects of its coverage is considered to be enacting a new law which supersedes the original.

The practical result of this middle position has become an amalgam of contradictory belief as to which Laws apply and which don't. Most hold the Ten Commandments to all apply, some hold to nine (excluding the Sabbath ordinance). In fact, those who hold a Sabbath ordinance to still pertain and yet move it to Sunday, have actually enacted a new law. Again, you can't rewrite one part of the Law and still call it the same Law. Inconsistency commonly shows up elsewhere. Others, while claiming all of the ceremonial Law to be finished, have actually reenacted aspects of it, of course changing hosts of details to make it work. Perhaps the modern tithe is the greatest example of this, a subject we have cover in detail elsewhere. The entire middle view has a fundamental problem; a lack of supporting texts. This absence of Scriptural underpinning is the historical foundation on which hosts of practical contradictions have been built.

(3) The Law has been removed.

Immediately this raises objections from those who would offer the aforementioned proof-texts in support of the opposite view. How can Scriptures teach that the Law is both permanent and finished? Isn't this a contradictory position, placing Scriptures at odds with itself? This is where a detailed and contextual examination of Scriptures becomes so important.

Starting with their cited passage in Matthew, featuring Jesus' words on the subject, we'll provide the surrounding verses as well, to supply even more context.

Matthew 5:17-20 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish *** them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (NIV) [Also Luke 16:17]

Jesus was speaking to Jewish people, part of the nation of Israel, who were still under obligation to follow all of the Mosaic Law. As this was prior to His death and resurrection, unquestionably the Law was still binding. In fact, Jesus alone became the only One to ever completely fulfill every righteous requirement of that Law.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. (NIV) [Consider also Romans 8:3-4]

The key to Jesus' words in Matthew chapter 5 are "until everything is accomplished." Jesus specifically said that before this heaven and earth is done away with, every aspect of the Law would remain in effect "UNTIL". The focus of when the Law would be done away with was not the end of the world; rather it is clearly the clause following the "until", namely when it is accomplished ***. In other words, the Law was valid and in place until it had served its purpose(s).

Purposes of the Mosaic Law

(a) To govern (or supervise) the nation of Israel
(b) To provide a means of access to God
(c) To show what is required for salvation
(d) To show how sinful people are (imprison them)
(e) To show how righteous Christ is
(f) To establish who is Christ

Jesus, in His own words, came to "fulfill" the Law (Matthew 5:17) and unquestionably He accomplished everything He came to do. His final words on the cross reflect this; "It is finished!" (John 19:30).

Why was the Law removed? With its fulfillment in the person of Christ, its reason to exist fell away, other than as a former reminder of what it (past tense) had done. In reverse order to our previous list of purposes...

(f) The Law established who Christ was. It testified of Jesus, with every detail and prophecy of His coming, life, death, and resurrection, fulfilled completely in Him.

John 5:39-40 You diligently study the [Old Testament] Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (NIV)

(e) Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life (Hebrews 4:15). This established Him as being the only suitable sacrifice for sins (i.e. the lamb of God, John 1:29), and as being able to be a perfect high priest (though not one under Mosaic Law, see Hebrews 7:11-17).

(d) This past tense function of the Law also serves a current application: the Law was given so that sin could be seen as being more sinful. Though Gentiles were never subject to Mosaic Law (unless they converted and became a Jew), the Law still showed the standard God had set and the failure of even His chosen people to keep it. Wherein the Law is a reflection of the Holiness of God, it still serves the same purpose today.

Romans 3:19-21 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (NIV)

Romans 7:7-12 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet." 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. (NIV)

The same Paul, who spoke clearly against those who would re-enslave believers to the Law, also spoke of the lawful (or right) use of the Law. This proper and ongoing use of the Law is to show the sinfulness of sin - mankind's failure and natural (fallen) inability to be perfect (Matthew 5:48) or holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).

1 Timothy 1:8-11 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers - and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. (NIV)

(c) The Law clearly showed what was required for salvation, while at the same time demonstrating that sinful man could never attain it: perfection!

Ezekiel 20:11-13 I gave them my decrees and made known to them my laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. 12 Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the Lord made them holy. 13 "'Yet the people of Israel rebelled against me in the desert. They did not follow my decrees but rejected my laws - although the man who obeys them will live by them - and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths. (NIV) [See also Deuteronomy 4:1-2 and especially Leviticus 18:5]

Wherein every person who lived under the Law fell short of the required perfect obedience to God's Law - through which they could live - they showed that they had earned death (i.e. Romans 6:23, Genesis 2:17, Ezekiel 18:4). This meant that their salvation could not depend upon themselves, but that they needed to look forward in faith to the Messiah, the One who could provide forgiveness of sins apart from works. With the coming of Christ, the gospel fully revealed this righteousness that was apart from the Law. The standard never changed - namely perfection. But, the perfection that has been imputed to us is that of our perfect, sinless, Savior, through faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Galatians 3:10-13 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." 11 Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things [perfectly] will live by them." (NIV)

Romans 3:21-24 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (NIV)

This is such an important concept that we need to emphasize it again. The Law provides a promise of salvation, but because of the sinfulness of mankind, it can never bestow it (see Hebrews 7:18-19). The weakness of the Law is man. Jesus, himself, used this contrasting manner of teaching when confronted by a self-righteous individual (who was still under the Law).

Matthew 19:16-23 Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" 17 "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." 18 "Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, "'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'" 20 "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?" 21 Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. (NIV) [See also Mark 10:17-22 and Luke 18:18-23]

In this encounter, Jesus used only a fraction of the Law to show this individual that his god was his money and that he had fallen short of the Law. Again, the standard was shown to be absolute perfection (verse 21), to which all have fallen short (Romans 3:23). A command does not have to be possible to have a practical use ******. Though far less reaching, a hypothetical example from everyday life might help. Suppose that my son wants to no longer practice soccer, but only show up for the games. Because he thinks himself so good, my merely telling him that he will not perform well enough in the games will only fall on deaf ears. So, instead, I offer him a challenge: "Run down the field 100 times and make a perfect shot on goal each time and you don't have to practice any more." The goal of this command is not that he will attain it; rather it is that through trying to attain it he will see that he cannot.

(b) God used the Law to provide a temporary means of access to Him. The priesthood established by the Law, along with the veiled Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and temple, all showed that people were unable to come to God themselves. Through the Law, God showed our need of a perfect high priest and a perfect blood sacrifice. Christ was both. As our perfect sacrifice and eternal high priest, the need of any lesser earthly priesthood and sacrifices is forever done away with.

Hebrews 7:11-12 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come - one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law. (NIV)

Hebrews 7:18-25 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. 20 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever.'" 22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. 23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (NIV)

Hebrews 8:13 By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear. (NIV)

The entirety of the former regulation, the whole Law, has been set aside because a better has come. Our High Priest, in the order of Melchizedek, is not a priest under the Old Law (which necessitated being a descendent of Aaron). His new and enduring priesthood is established apart from the Law, which was fully set aside. How was it set aside? Because it was completely fulfilled in Christ, having fully served its purpose.

The obsolete covenant (and its Law) will "soon disappear" because even the last aspect of it, its ability to show what sin is, will also have no purpose in the new heavens and earth to come. When the last enemy has been defeated (1 Corinthians 15:26) and there is no more sin (Revelation 21:1-4), even this last function of the Law will be obsolete too.

(a) The Law was a temporarily put in charge to govern, or supervise, the nation of Israel. Much of the Law had a very specific purpose for the Jewish people that God brought into the land of Israel. This is shown by repeated usage of the phrase "in the land" throughout the Law. A few examples:

Leviticus 25:18, 23-25 "'Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land. ... 23 "'The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. 24 Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land. 25 "'If one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells some of his property, his nearest relative is to come and redeem what his countryman has sold. (NIV)

Leviticus 26:6 "'I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. I will remove savage beasts from the land, and the sword will not pass through your country. [Even Leviticus 27:30 was understood by the Jews to mean only the land of Israel, placing no burden on those living outside of the land.] (NIV)

Deuteronomy 5:33-6:2 Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess. 6:1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. (NIV) [See also Deuteronomy 11:8-9]

Deuteronomy 32:45-47 When Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, "Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. 47 They are not just idle words for you - they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess." (NIV)

With the coming of Christ and the establishment of the church - comprised of Jew and Gentile - the focus is no longer one geographic people; rather it is one people of every land and tongue (Revelation 5:9, 7:9; Zechariah 2:11).

A New Law

The removal of Mosaic Law, through fulfillment (completion), does not leave the church without a Law. Nor were God's people without a Law prior to the giving of the Mosaic Law. God, as the absolute authority and lawgiver, has always established what is right and wrong. A quick accusation often made against those who understand the passing of the Mosaic Law, is that they are antinomian (against the Law) or even Marcionian *. Let me be clear: we are never against any God-given Law. We uphold the Mosaic Law for the purposes for which it was given and we seek to uphold the new Law subsequently established in Christ.

While some would focus on perceived discontinuities through Scriptures, perhaps based on this changing of the Law, it must be emphasized that there is one goal and focus of God's redemptive plan that spans from the beginning to the end. The establishment of Mosaic Law, for a brief time, was part of that plan, all with a specifically defined purpose. Having fulfilled that purpose, it gave way to the new Law of Christ which became the last and greatest Law. By His power we are now able to obey this Law, which unquestionably shows that Christ has fulfilled all He came to do, now having set us free to live for Him.

The following is a brief exposition of Paul's writings on this subject, as found in the book of Romans. While it begins with his statement that we "uphold the Law" it finishes by showing that this does not demand continued observance of the Mosaic Law because "Christ is the end of the Law!"

Romans 3:27-31

27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. 29 Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. (NIV)


After clearly stating the Mosaic Law's inability to save anyone (Jew or Gentile), the issue becomes faith (v30). It is this faith that "uphold[s]" the Law (v31), a term that by context cannot mean either to continue the Law or arbitrarily abolish the Law. To uphold means "to confirm" the Law, which we do by recognizing its ability to establish the sinfulness and weakness of man, and the perfection and identity of the Messiah, our Savior Jesus Christ. We forever hold and value the Law to be a firm foundation, as something established by God and unchangeably given for a set time and purpose, yet now fulfilled in Christ.

Christ established the replacement of the Old, with the New, through His life and sacrifice - the New being called a better way (Hebrews 7:22). The writer to the Hebrews uses the same word translated as "uphold" in v31, but not in connection to the Old, but rather in regards to the New. Consider Hebrews 10:9 (below), where this word is translated as "establish". The second is upheld, as a replacement, even as the original is (and was) upheld for its purposes. There is no contradiction.

Hebrews 10:1-4, 8-10 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming - not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, 4 because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. ... 8 First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). 9 Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish [i.e. "uphold"] the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (NIV)

Romans 4:13-15 It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15 because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. (NIV)

Though the Mosaic Law provided a promise of salvation it could never confer it due to the sinfulness of mankind. The illustration, provided here by Paul, was that of Abraham who received the attainable promise that came by faith, attainable because it was fully dependant on the One who made the promise and not on his own efforts. In verse 14 it is emphasized that there would be no purpose for faith if living by the Law could save us, in whole or in part. Finally, in verse 15, Paul upholds the primary purpose of the Law, to show the sinfulness of mankind and that all justly deserve God's wrath for failure to attain and maintain the perfection which the Law demands. **

Romans 5:20-21 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (NIV)

The Law was given so that man's lack of perfection would be more recognizable. With more individually defined laws, the more people failed. The more people failed; the more their need of grace. In contrast to this natural state of failure, the salvation that came by grace, through faith in Christ, now displays itself as being so great. When, by the Law, all despair of attaining eternal life, the amazing grace of our Lord shines brightly - a salvation and life that is completely apart from the works of the Law.

Romans 6:8-18 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey - whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (NIV)

Jesus lived the perfect life we could not live. He perfectly fulfilled every aspect of the Law. By the grace of God, through faith in Christ, this has been credited to our account (imputed), even as Jesus also bore the just penalty of our sins against a Holy God. In His death, the Law lost all claim or hold on Him. As we are in Christ, in the same way (v11) we count ourselves dead to sin and now alive to serve God out of love.

Paul anticipates a logical argument that could mistakenly arise from this understanding. Since the Law no longer applies to us, doesn't this allow us to sin? (v15) His response is clear: In being freed from sin and the Law (which continuously points out our failure), we have been given a new master, Christ! We serve Him not by compulsion, or fear of punishment, but solely out of love. This love makes us a slave of righteousness, with a desire to do what is right even though we may stumble or falter. And when we stumble or falter, the Law is no longer there to condemn or punish us. Sin's former hold on us was through the deserved punishment and consequences of the Law. Where these have been removed (paid in full by Christ) there is no longer any hold.

If the Law had any remaining claim it would be evidence that Christ's sacrifice and atonement for sin was insufficient, that we must somehow still pay something for our own sins. (This is the errant Roman Catholic view which shows in extra-biblical doctrines such as purgatory). In fact, it's all about the utterly sufficient and complete salvation that came through Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 7:25). This freedom we have been so graciously given by Christ leaves us filled with gratitude and a longing to please our Savior. While theoretically free to willfully sin grievously, we rather grieve over even the sins we inadvertently commit against the One who loves us and set us free.

Romans 7:1-6 Do you not know, brothers - for I am speaking to men who know the law - that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? 2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. 3 So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man. 4 So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. (NIV)

Paul uses an illustration from a commonplace use of the Law to show how the Law has now lost all claims against a believer. When a husband and wife are married, both are bound by the law to each other. When either dies, the remaining one has been set free to marry another. Through the death of either party, it has brought about complete release from the law which once bound them.

In verse 4, Paul equates this same principle to believers. Since we were crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), we died through Christ, freeing us from not only the penalty of the Law but also its authority (i.e. v1). The Law is the living party, we through Christ are the one who died, yet now live again. In being raised to new life, we no longer are bound to the Law but wholly to the One who gave us this new life. Freedom from the Law enabled us to belong to another, namely Christ.

It is only because we have been completely released from the Law (v6) that we can now serve Christ in a new way - by the inward power of His Spirit and motivated by love. Our desired goal, perfection, remains the same, but we are never condemned (as the written code demands) for falling short. With my failures never held against me, what an amazing incentive to keep on trying!

Romans 8:1-5 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature [Greek: "flesh"] but according to the Spirit. (NIV)

Chapter eight builds on Paul's illustration from chapter seven. Obviously concerned that people still haven't got the message that we are completely freed from the Old Law, here he presents a New Law which fully replaces the Old. The Mosaic Law is called "the law of sin and death" because all it could effectively do was condemn people. Again, it promised life but could never convey it due to the weakness of mankind (see v3). The New Law, which replaces the Mosaic Law through Christ Jesus, is called "the law of the Spirit of life".**** In this Law all the just requirements of the Mosaic Law have been fulfilled by the perfect sin offering of Jesus Christ (v3). This perfection was imputed to us (credited to our account) through faith in Jesus Christ (v4). We no longer live after the flesh but according to the Spirit (v4). Even in this contrast it shows the difference between how the Old Law worked versus the New: The Mosaic Law acted from the outside in, demanding and enforcing external conformity. The New Law works from the inside out, having provided the needed inward change (i.e. a new creation. See 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 6:15). This inward change will increasingly show to the outside as God works to transform us (see Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18).

Romans 10:4 Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (NIV)

This clear and unequivocal statement, that Christ is the end of the Law, is incredibly important to all believers. The word translated "end" also means "goal", which doesn't really change this statement. The Law pointed to Christ, who is the culmination and ending of the Law - the finish line. This righteousness, for everyone who believes, comes not from the Law but apart from the Law.

The writer to the Hebrews illustrates the once-for-all completion of the requirements of the Law by our heavenly High Priest.

Hebrews 10:11-18 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13 Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. 15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: 16 "This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds." 17 Then he adds: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." 18 And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. (NIV)

Quoting from Old Testament prophecies now fulfilled in Jesus, Hebrews 10:16 proclaimed a new covenant with newly emphasized laws. These laws (the law of love****) have been written on our hearts not on tablets of stone. They are impressed on our minds, working to change us from the inside out. In Hebrews 10:17 the complete and entire forgiveness of all our sins, past, present and future, is highlighted. The Mosaic Law was incapable of (indeed prohibited from) forgetting sin. But with the removal of the Old Law (through fulfillment), there is nothing to lay claim against us any longer. With complete forgiveness of all our sins there is never a need for another sacrifice for sin ever again! This too emphasizes that there is no need to continue and reinstitute any of the sacrificial system that was part of the Mosaic Law. Total forgiveness means no fear of punishment ever, something the Old Law was filled with. It's hard for many people to grasp, but we serve not because we fear but because we love.

Out of the three possible options proposed at the beginning of this article, only the last - that the entire Law was fulfilled and removed - leaves the believer with the true freedom shown in Scriptures. In contrast, if all the Law still applied, the believer would justly be filled with guilt, knowing that they cannot live up to its standard of perfection, and fear of the righteous punishments that the Law mandates (see Hebrews 10:1-2, 22). The middle view is equally untenable. If, somehow, the Law could be divided piecemeal (and their burden would be to prove from Scriptures how this was done), the result would still be the same as the more severe (first) position. When we died to the Law with Christ, it lost all claim again against us, as means to live, as a pedagogue *****, and in regards to punishment. This complete freedom and the inward-out nature of the new covenant enable us to live a life of love.

Galatians 5:13-14 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (NIV)

Galatians 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. (NIV)

There is no question that love limits freedom. Out of love we want to find out what pleases our Lord (Ephesians 5:10) and then try and live it (John 14:15, 23). This is why moral aspects of the Mosaic Law end up being carried forward into this new Law of Love, even as they existed before the Mosaic Law. When we understand that God has always hated lying, stealing, coveting, murder, false gods, adultery, etc., we are going to strive to keep our lives free from these things. We certainly don't need the fear of punishment (intertwined with the Mosaic Law) to motivate us to this. Without re-imposing Mosaic Law, God made sure that every one of his moral standards is re-incorporated into the New Testament, clearly showing the New Covenant believer that these things have never changed.

Gentiles had never been under Mosaic Law, for it had been given to the nation of Israel. If one tries to make the argument that the grafting in of the Gentiles (Romans 11:17, 24) therefore obligates them to follow the Law (somehow holding that it is still mandatory even for the Jewish church), Scriptures show a completely contrary pattern. It wasn't only circumcision that some wanted to force on the church; it was the entire Law of Moses...

Acts 15:5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses." (NIV)

The Gentile church rejected this idea from the very beginning and the Jewish church, when confronted on it, agreed!

Acts 15:6-11 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are." (NIV)

Scriptures calls it "hypocrisy" when some fell back into a pattern of trying to live by the Mosaic Law (or any component), once they had found salvation and freedom in Jesus Christ. Of course this is in reference to the aspects which are not held in common with the Law of Love (i.e. not lying, stealing, cheating, etc.).

Galatians 2:11-16 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. 14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? 15 "We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' 16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. (NIV)

Praise God for the freedom He gives! Use it well in love.

End Thoughts:

"Love God and then do whatever you please." - Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430 A.D.)

The Mosaic Law provided a way to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor; the New Covenant brought a better way.

End Notes:

* The so-called (apocryphal) Gospel of Marcion was an alteration to the true Gospel of Luke. His purpose in this new gospel was to provide a book which minimized Judaism and any tie to the Old Testament. To accomplish this he dropped completely the first two chapters and adapted the rest freely. (Marcion was also against marriage and his alterations tended to reflect this as well).

True Christianity will never minimize the Jewish roots of Christ and the Church, all without trying to reestablish or re-impose the Law that was given them for a time and purpose. Not only did God's chosen in the nation of Israel proclaim and preserve His word, they provided the legal setting through which Christ could be shown as perfect and sinless (unlike the rest of us natural lawbreakers). The Old Testament clearly showed the condition of man and our need of a Savior. The message of the New Testament is that we believe and rejoice in the fact that Jesus came to be that great Savior!

** In response to those trying to still mandate aspects of the Law, Paul clearly stated that the real issue is "by faith" which brings with it a command (law) of love. Yet, again, he upheld the old Law's proper position, to illustrate and convict of sin (... mankind's ever-present failure to be perfect).

1 Timothy 1:3-11 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work - which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. 8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers - and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. (NIV)

*** One question often raised is this... Isn't the effect of Jesus fulfilling the Law, in fact it's abolishment? Doesn't that contradict Matthew 5:17b where Jesus said, "I have not come to abolish them..."? Not all English translations use the word "abolish", as does the NIV and NASB. Others, such as the KJV, NKJV, NCV, and ASV choose to use the word "destroy". I believe that the word "destroy" better encompasses what Jesus was saying. He did not come to completely destroy the Law or nullify all reason for its existence. In fact, He upheld the Law's reason for existence, validated its claim of perfection, and fulfilled it in every detail. This in no way can be a claim of destroying the Law. Yet, through its fulfillment it does "abolish" the need and purpose of its continuation. I can use the word "abolish" here because one of its valid synonyms in English is to "cancel" (as in the Random House Unabridged Dictionary), or by definition "to end the observance or effect of" the Law (as in the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law). The Greek word, in Matthew, can legitimately be translated into the word "abolish" but because of our potentially lighter meanings (synonyms) in English it may fail to show that the Greek word also means to "utterly destroy" or "annul (as if it never existed)". This is one of the weaknesses of selecting one word over another when translating into English. For example, returning to the weaker use of the word abolish in English, namely "to cancel", Scriptures clearly tells us that Jesus cancelled the legal regulations that opposed us (i.e. the Law) through His death.

Colossians 2:13-14 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. (NIV)

If the Law was canceled, it was abolished, using the weaker (yet valid) understanding of this word in English. So as to not confuse people with an apparent contradiction perhaps it is better to not use a statement such as "the Law was abolished in Christ" (as I have occasionally done) and rather to say "the Law was fulfilled and cancelled through Christ." Yet, if one does use that phrasing it is not incorrect. Showing its validity, consider this passage in Ephesians...

Ephesians 2:13-18 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (NIV)

The Greek word translated "abolish" in Ephesians is admittedly different than the word translated in Matthew 5:17 but it does mean "to make of no effect" or "to put an end to". This is not an isolated rendering. Virtually all major English translations uniformly represent this word in Ephesians 2:15 as "abolish". The key difference between Jesus' statement and this later one of Paul is what we have already mentioned. Jesus was saying that he wasn't arbitrarily dismissing or annulling the law, as if it didn't exist or have any purpose, rather He was fulfilling it. Paul is focused on the result of that fulfillment, which did put an end to the Law. His use of the word meaning "abolish" legitimately focused on the result of Christ's fulfillment.

**** The "Law of the Spirit of life" is only one of the descriptive names given to this New Law. Due to its focus on love, many prefer to call it the "Law of Love". What it is called seems to be less important than teaching how it is lived out. Paul, elsewhere calls it "Christ's law (1 Corinthians 9:21)". James refers to this new law as "the royal law (James 2:8)", "the law that gives freedom (James 2:12)" and "the perfect law that gives freedom (James 1:25) also emphasizing that it works from the inside out (James 1:21). John doesn't give it a name, as such. Yet, especially in 1 John, he repeatedly emphasized our love for God and our fellow man, both as being marks of a believer. His portrayal of a Christian is one who is living a life of love for God and showing it through their love for mankind. This is certainly a description of someone living out the Law of Love.

While it is valid to highlight the many great differences between the Mosaic Law and the New Law of Love, there is one primary similarity or common focus. Consider this summary of the Mosaic Law by Jesus...

Matthew 22:35-40 One of them, an expert in the [Mosaic] law, tested him with this question: 36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (NIV)

The goal, or focus, of the Old Law was that people would love God with all their being and that that love would be lived out toward their fellow man. This is the perfection demanded by all the regulations of that Old Law and also the perfection demanded by the New Law. In the Old, the list of regulations worked from the outside to conform people to this goal, but obviously the weakness was one on the inside, namely a heart problem. The New Covenant (which brought this New Law) has dealt with the heart problem, freeing us to now truly live this life of love. Moreover, God has removed all penalty or condemnation for our failure to live out this love perfectly, because Christ's perfection has been credited to our account. This doesn't stop us from trying. Why? In one word: Love!

***** The Greek term from which we get our word transliterated word "pedagogue" carries a slightly different meaning than typical modern usage. Renderings of English translations have equally wrestled with finding a term that best expresses this, with the King James and New King James opting for the "schoolmaster" and "a tutor"...

Galatians 3:24-26 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. 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. (KJV)

Galatians 3:23-26 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (NKJV)

It sounds strange to us that there is an implied contrast between being under a schoolmaster, or a tutor, and then being free from them because we are sons. This derives from a lack of understanding to what, exactly, a pedagogue is. Attempting to define it, the NIV renders the passage with a more descriptive phrase. To assist with context, we have provided more of the surrounding passage...

Galatians 3:19-4:7 What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one. 21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. 23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. 26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. 4:1 What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. (NIV)

"The law was put in charge" and "supervision" both come closer to what the term "pedagogue" encompasses, but still fall a bit short. In the Greek and Roman world, a pedagogue was a servant (or, more typically, a trustworthy slave) who was charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of the son of the master. The son was not allowed to do anything without him prior to attaining the age of manhood.

Calling the pedagogue a teacher or tutor is to understate the importance and primary function of this individual. The term "schoolmaster" especially limits the role, for a specific portion of the day, in a formal setting for learning. Yet, the ancient pedagogue actually took the child to school, both to make sure he got there but also to insure he acted properly on the way. The pedagogue was primarily concerned with the moral and behavioral upbringing of the child rather than his academic instruction which was left to other teachers (and another Greek word is available for "teacher", so as to not confuse the two). Simply put, the pedagogue was the disciplinarian and enforcer of the father's rules. Typically the severity of discipline was greater than what the father, himself, would administer.

During the period when the son was in the care of the pedagogue, he never really had access to his father apart from the pedagogue. This is a great picture of the Mosaic Law versus the direct sonship found in Christ. In the Mosaic Law, all access to God was limited to the means included in the Law, namely through a priest. With the removal of this Law, by fulfillment, we have been given direct access to God as sons! (See Romans 8:15-16. In fact, our heavenly high priest is God; see Hebrews 4:14-16).

Consider another contrast of the pedagogue to the father. The pedagogue teaches and enforces what the father has instructed. Yet, when the son is full grown and no longer has a pedagogue, and is finally able to spend time with the father, the father still desires that his son will do what is right. Truly the father wants his son to imitate him, with the motivating force being love and respect, not the fear of discipline and enforcement by a temporary pedagogue.

The ancient pedagogue was responsible for the child from the ages of six to sixteen. This too illustrates the temporary aspect of the Mosaic Law. The period of time before the Law was given can be thought of as the time from birth until age six. The preset time for the Mosaic Law parallels the six to sixteen period, with a definite end in sight once having fulfilled its purpose. And finally, the period following age sixteen is the time of maturity; complete with all rights of being a son. What an illustration this is of the sonship we now have, by adoption, through Jesus Christ.

The Law must be set aside, even as the pedagogue was upon completion of his task. If we are still under the Law, we are no better than a slave, serving out of fear and compulsion. Having been set free from the Law, which served its temporary purpose to its completion, we are sons and heirs forever (Galatians 4:7). We serve out of love!

****** This teaching technique, of using an unattainable standard for purposes of instruction, is hard to grasp for many. Some don't want to accept its possibility in regards to the Law because it opens similar prospect in other areas as well. For example, many times I've heard it preached, or written, that "God will never demand something of you that you are unable to do." The speaker is usually directing this rhetoric at the subject of salvation and God's universal command to believe, holding that all individuals have been given the ability to believe if they so desire. They have out-of-hand dismissed any possibility that God could make a demand knowing that people are unable to attain it apart from His intervention (i.e. Romans 3:10-12).

Clearly, in regards to the Law, God has shown that He can and does make demands knowing that mankind is incapable of perfect obedience. This was done with intent. With out-a-doubt God uses His standard of perfection, and His call to meet it, to show the sinfulness and inability of mankind. Left alone, in that state of sinfulness and inability, all are justly condemned and culpable for our actions. But, for those given the ability to believe (by grace alone), we understand how great God's grace is in providing what we could never attain! (See Ephesians 2:1-10).

Written by Brent MacDonald of Lion Tracks Ministries. (c) 2007
Duplication permitted as long as the source is cited.