Most Christians today, if asked, would most likely say that the Law of Moses was made obsolete by the New Testament. Some scholars on the other hand would argue that the old Law and the Law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), are founded on the same commandments (Mark 12:28-31; Matthew 22:37-40; Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18), therefore the Law of Moses was not abolished or changed—rather it was made perfect in understanding and thereby superseded by the New Testament, which is the same in its nature. This is based in part on this statement of Jesus: “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. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes 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 does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20).
The failure of this argument is twofold: (1) While Christ did not come to abolish the Law, He did come to fulfill it. When something is fulfilled, or its purpose has been met it is no longer required. As for the rest of this passage, Jesus was telling His fellow Jews, who lived under the Law of Moses as He did, that they could not relax in their efforts to uphold and obey the Law in its entirety (Not just the first two commandment on which it was founded); to fail in one point of the Law was to violate the Law itself, and to be accursed (Galatians 3:10). (2) If the Law of Moses was not superseded in fact, but in understanding only, then the Law and all its regulations are still in effect as well as the curse attached to it. However, when Christ was crucified and rose from the grave, He set us free from that curse (Galatians 3:13), by establishing a different sort of law, as Paul noted: “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). Both laws were from God. Both are founded on the same two foundational commandments (Mark 12:28-31). However, while one revealed sin and condemned violators to death, the other set them at liberty because its testator Himself had paid the penalty for all violators who are willing to come to Him for redemption. One system of law was based on works of the Law which required perfect adherence from its subjects (who could not live up to its demands), the other is based on grace freely given, and works of obedience, which does not require the perfection of its subjects, but faithful obedience to the One Who was made perfect for them. By proxy the followers of Christ are made perfect through His sinless life, not through their own actions.
The Law of Moses accomplished its task as God intended. The foundation of God’s law remains, but much of the original structure was swept away to be replaced. The ordinances and regulations and their associated works are no longer in effect. That which was by its nature incomplete has been replaced by that which was made perfect (I Corinthians 13:9-10; Hebrews 7:28; 12:23). Upon that foundation Jesus Christ has established a new covenant, which has been made complete in a way that the Law of Moses never was. The new covenant encompasses the perfect law of Christ/God (I Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2; Romans 7:22-25; Matthew 22:37-40). So, what is to be made of the Law of Moses?
According to Paul, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). The Old Testament, the Law and Prophets remain an example and a source of instruction (I Corinthians10:11). They also provide the student with the history of God’s dealings with man and the background that we need to more fully understand the New Testament, and man’s current relationship to his Creator.
When we look into that history, we find that the Law never stood alone, nor was it intended to be a permanent solution to man’s woes. It wasn’t until 430 years after God established His covenant with Abraham that He gave man the Law, for a specific reason: “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made… Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:17-24).
The law made man aware of his transgressions and convicted him, yet at the same time guarded him until Messiah would come to redeem him (Hebrews 9:15). It was Christ, not the Law that set man free from his sins and the burden of the Law itself (Hebrews 10:1-7; Romans 3:20). Jesus did what the Law could not do and what man could not do for himself. Through Jesus man can once again draw near to God, both Jew and Gentile, in order to be reconciled to Him (Galatians 3:10-16; 5:1). It is in Jesus Christ that man can throw off the shackles of the Law through faith (Galatians 3:24-26), as Paul wrote the Romans, “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:4-6).
The Bible tells us that all who have broken the Law are dead in their trespasses but can be set free from its condemnation (Colossians 2:13-14). We can find that freedom by turning from the world to Christ: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot” (Romans 8:1-7).
In the end, while it still has much to teach us, the Law of Moses was made void. As Paul wrote, “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13). It was made so by Jesus Christ, according to the will of God the Father. According to Paul: “For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this One was made a priest with an oath by the One who said to him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, 'You are a priest forever.'" This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:18-22).
We do not live under the Law of Moses. We are fortunate, for we have been given an opportunity to accept God’s gift of grace. We are able to find salvation under a better, perfect covenant. On the Day of Pentecost, as Peter preached the gospel message those who stood convicted under the Law of Moses asked a simple question, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37), “And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). On that day the new covenant was ushered in to effect and Christ’s Church was established.
Years later the Lord’s brother would write, “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25). A covenant is a contract between two parties. It stipulates what each side is responsible for and what benefits each will receive under its provisions. It also outlines what constitutes a breach of contract. James is telling us not to forget— to persevere so that we will indeed receive the benefits of the contract we have entered into. For those who do persevere there is a one-way ticket to a better place, as Paul wrote, “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16).
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.