Which Old Testament Laws Are in Force Today?
The Savior's statement, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God," Matthew 4:4, is quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3. Paul says in II Timothy 3:16-17 that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."
In spite of these crystal clear statements many people are in doubt as to just what portions of the Bible apply to us. They are like the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and asked, "Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Luke 18:18. They may realize that nothing they do can earn them the gift of eternal life because the result, the wages of their past sins, is the death penalty, Romans 6:23. They know that eternal life will not be given to the disobedient, those who rebel against their Maker. How then shall we live to please our Creator so that He will give us the gift of eternal life?
Jesus clearly answered, "if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments," Matthew 19:17. Just like the rich man, some today ask, "Which laws? The moral ceremonial civil, Mosaic law or etc.?" They are totally confused about the Law. Patiently the Messiah explained that it is the Ten Commandments that we must keep, verses 18-19. The rich young ruler claimed that he had kept the commandments from his youth up. Jesus realized that this bold claim was unfounded, and told him to sell his possessions, give to the poor and come and be His disciple. This cut the rich young man to the quick. He could not bear to part with his riches, and went away sorrowful, verses 20-22. It is humanly impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven, verses 23-26.
The "magic formula" for entering the kingdom of God is "Keep the Commandments." Which ones? This is also plain.
The two great Commandments are a summary of the entire Bible, Matthew 22:36-40. ALL the law (the first five books of the Bible), and the prophets (rest of the Bible, note that David, Jesus, Paul and John were prophets) relate, rest on, or "hang" on the two great commandments: love God, with all your heart and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.
A man said to me, "I'll just keep the two great commandments and I won't have to worry about keeping the ten commandments and other Bible laws." Jesus said the law and the prophets all hang on or relate to the two great commandments. Jesus was quoting the laws stated in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. The two great commandments are not separate from the law and the prophets. They are the summary of them. All the law and the prophets relate to the two great commandments.
The Bible is a Book of Law
Many people today are confused, wondering which Old Testament laws they are to keep. Religious leaders muddy the waters by using non-Biblical terms such as "moral law," "spiritual law," "physical law," and "civil law." Moses has become a "whipping boy." Bible laws most offensive are said to be part of the "Law of Moses" or "Mosaic (ugh) Code," which supposedly were "nailed to the cross" and "done away with."
Biblical Law is a highly controversial topic, an emotional issue. The reason is that no other book authoritatively tells man how to live, describing the penalties for breaking God's laws. The Bible shows that sin is universal on this earth. The Bible details how the Eternal will put an end to lawbreaking rebellion against Him.
Let us look at the facts:
(1) Ignorance of the Law
There is great ignorance of Bible Law. Even many Sabbath-keepers would fail a simple test on Bible law. Few have read and studied Biblical Law. Fewer still understand what laws to keep, and how to keep them.
(2) Carnal Opposition to the Law
The carnal (fleshly, natural human) mind is enmity (in bitter opposition) to God's Law, does not and cannot obey it, Romans 8:7.
Without the gift of the Almighty's Spirit, no human can understand the Creator's Law, or keep it. Yet, unless one has a humble attitude of obedience, he will not be given the Holy Spirit, Acts 5:32.
(3) Ministerial Responsibility to Teach God's Laws
It is a primary responsibility of the Eternal's servants to teach God's Laws. Modern priests and ministers "have violated My law, and have profaned My holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from My Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them," Ezekiel 22:26. Levites had the obligation to teach Israel all the Lord's statutes, Leviticus 10:11; Malachi 2:1-7. They departed from the way, causing many to stumble and disobey the LAW. Levitical priests became "partial in the law." That is, they held back from teaching ALL the law, excusing lawbreaking. Especially in the area of divorce and remarriage was their corruption evident. They treacherously broke their marriage covenants and encouraged others to divorce and remarry as well, claiming falsely that He would not judge them for this evil, which the Eternal hates, Malachi 2:8-17.
Malachi is primarily a prophecy for the end time, "the day of His coming," 3:2, 3:5, 18, 4:1-3, the return of Messiah for judgment. What Malachi says in chapter 2 applies to ministers today who encourage divorce and remarriage. Malachi shows that an Elijah will be sent "before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers," Malachi 4:5-6. Thus, he will teach the Bible laws relating to the sanctity of marriage and the family.
Most importantly, the righteous at the time of the end are exhorted: "Remember ye the law of Moses My servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments," Malachi 4:4. What is the law of Moses? Most professed Bible believers say that it is done away.
(4) What is the "Law of Moses"?
The "Law of Moses" is the "Law of the Lord" as written in the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Those who speak against "the law of Moses" are speaking directly against their Creator. Moses did not initiate the "Law of Moses," John 1:17. The Eternal gave the law to Moses, who in turn wrote it down and gave it to the people, Malachi 4:4.
Mary purified herself "according to the law of Moses," and presented the baby Jesus to the Lord, Luke 2:22. Luke quotes Old Testament statutes for this practice, citing "the law of the Lord," verses 23-24. Thus it is plain from the Bible, that the terms "law of Moses" and "law of the Lord" are interchangeable.
Other New Testament references to the "law" or "Moses" or "the law of Moses" show clearly this term refers to the laws contained in the first five books of the Bible. See Matthew 8:4, 19:7-8, 22:24; Mark 1:44, 7:10, 10:2-6, 12:19, 26; Luke 5:14, 20:28, 24:27, 44; John 1:17, 45, 8:5, 9:29; Acts 6:11, 13:39, 21:21-23, 28:23; I Corinthians 9:9; II Corinthians 3:15; Hebrews 10:8.
(5) Messianic Believers Must Follow Law of Moses
If you truly believe and obey the Law of Moses, you believe and obey the Messiah. The Old Testament scriptures testify of the coming Messiah, John 5:39. If you don't receive the Messiah, Moses' Law testifies against you, verses 40-45. "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" verses 46-47. In other words, one cannot be a true Messianic believer unless he believes and follows Moses.
Would anyone repent if someone was resurrected from the dead and witnessed to them? They would not listen to a resurrected saint if they wouldn't listen to Moses and the prophets. "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead," Luke 16:27-31. The Jews falsely claimed to be keeping the Law of Moses, but rejected the Law through their own traditions. "Did not Moses give you the law," Messiah told them, "and yet none of you keepeth the law?" John 7:19. See also Acts 7:37-40.
(6) Law the Foundation of the Bible
The entire Bible depends upon the Law. Matthew 22:36-40 is one of the most important foundational statements of the Bible. It sums up what the Bible is all about. "Teacher, which kind of commandment is great and important the principal kind in the Law? And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind (intellect). [Deut. 6:5] This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. [Lev. 19:18] These two commandments sum up and upon them depends all the Law and the prophets," (Amplified Bible).
Let's think about what this means. God is Love, I John 4:8. The two great commandments, love to God and love for one's neighbor and for oneself, are a summary of the Ten Commandments. The first four commandments tell us how to love God. The last six commandments tell us how to love our neighbor as ourself. Many of the Ten Commandments relate to one another. For example, covetousness (10th commandment) is idolatry (1st commandment), Colossians 3:5. If you break one commandment, you break them all, James 2:10.
Many people stop at the two great commandments. Others stop at the Ten Commandments. Matthew 22:36-40 doesn't allow this twisted reasoning. It says that all the law and the prophets hang on the two great commandments. The "law" here refers to the "Law of Moses," the first five books of the Bible. The "prophets" refers specifically to the rest of the Old Testament scriptures. The New Testament is a commentary and magnification of the Old Testament, often quoting passages verbatim. Jesus was a prophet, Deuteronomy 18:15-19, Acts 7:37. He magnified the Law, Isaiah 42:21. Therefore the New Testament is included in Matthew 22:40. The whole Bible depends upon, relates to, corroborates and expounds upon the two great commandments. They ALL fit together and interrelate.
"But which Old Testament laws do I have to obey?" you may ask. "Do we have to sacrifice animals and keep all the (ugh) law of Moses?"
Recently a man with Protestant theological training asked me if there is a "magic formula" that would indicate clearly which Bible laws we are to keep. When I explained Matthew 22:36-40, he said, "I'll just keep the two great commandments." What he meant is that he will decide for himself how to love God and his neighbor. Matthew 22:36-40 does not allow this! It shows that the Ten Commandments, further detailed by the statutes and judgments in the Law and the Prophets (the whole Bible), define how to love God and love your neighbor. They provide the details for the two great summaries of the Law, which is the Love of God. One cannot have a summary without detail!
Let's look at a very meaningful analogy. As an Accountant, I could correctly state that the two great accounting principles are: (1) put debits on the left, and (2) put credits on the right. On these two great accounting principles hang all the American Generally Accepted Accounting Principles as defined by the Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Now, using this man's reasoning, could I as an Accountant, say "I believe that debits are on the left and credits are on the right. I'll decide for myself what items to make debits and what to make credits. I'll ignore all the accounting statutes and laws." This type of "Accountant" would sooner or later end up behind bars!
We cannot perform "religious surgery," cutting out of the Bible what we do not like or what we think has no use for us. If one throws out the Law he destroys the foundation of the Bible.
(7) Law Not Done Away
Jesus and Paul did not do away with the Law. In Matthew 5:17-19 the Savior said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Notice that when He said "the law" He was not referring to the Ten Commandments, but "the Law of Moses" because He says "the law, or the prophets." In the law there are some very little detail laws, "the least commandments." The Messiah did not come to break any one of the detail laws. Those who teach others to break even the little laws will be least in the Kingdom of Heaven, if they are there at all.
The New Testament usage of the terms "law" and "commandments" has to be carefully studied in context because "law" does not always refer to the "Law of Moses," the first five books of the Bible. "Commandment" does not always refer to the Ten Commandments.
Paul says that the law is holy, spiritual and good, and the commandment is holy, just and good, Romans 7:12, 14, 16. Neither Paul nor Jesus taught the doing away of Bible law.
(8) Law Binding From Creation
Biblical law has been continuously binding since Creation. In Matthew 19:8, Jesus says that adulterous divorce and remarriage was a sin from the beginning of the creation of man. As can clearly be demonstrated, the commandments, statutes, and judgments of God existed and were in force before the ratification of the Old Covenant at Mount Sinai (Horeb). The Old Covenant did not establish these laws. Israel had been in captivity for over 400 years in Egypt, and had lost much of the knowledge of God's laws. So, at the giving of the laws at Mount Sinai, God revealed laws already in force.
Notice Exodus 16:28 where the Eternal spoke to Moses about Israel's Sabbath breaking. "How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?" Israel could not refuse to keep what did not exist! The Sabbath has been in force since creation, Genesis 2:1-3.
In Exodus 18:16, still before Sinai, Moses told Jethro his father-in-law, that when the people had disputes, "I do make them know the statutes of God, and His laws." As these statutes and laws existed before the Old Covenant, they could not be abolished when the Old Covenant ceased to exist. The end of the Old Covenant could not do away with what it did not bring into force.
The Law of the Lord, summarized in the Ten Commandments, has been in full force since human life has existed on this earth. It is a spiritual law that is inexorable and eternal, summarized in the one word, LOVE.
Death is the penalty of sin, Romans 6:23. Sin is the transgression of the law, I John 3:4. If there were no law in existence, there could be no sin. Death held sway from Adam to Moses. Therefore, every human being from Adam to Moses sinned. Sin is not charged to men's account where there is no law to transgress. Therefore, the law was in effect from the time of Adam to the giving of the law from Sinai. See Romans 5:12-21.
Those who state that God did not explain or give His Holy Laws until Sinai are blatantly accusing the Creator of being unfair. Adam knew the law. That is why his just Maker held Adam responsible for disobeying. In Noah's day, the world knew of the message of repentance spoken by Noah, a preacher of righteousness. In every age, the words of the Eternal have been available to mankind. Those who seek Him, He will in no way cast out.
Adam did not originally know God's law. The Eternal had to teach him, Genesis 2:15-17. The Eternal gave Adam, and us, the freedom to either accept or reject His commandments. Adam and Eve chose to disobey.
The serpent, the Devil, told the first recorded lie, "Ye shall not surely die," Genesis 3:1-4. He lied in accusing the Creator of lying. That's the Ninth Commandment broken. Adam and Eve disobeyed their only Parent and broke the Fifth Commandment. They had another god instead of the true God broke the First Commandment. They broke the Tenth Commandment by lusting after the forbidden fruit. They broke the Eighth Commandment by stealing what wasn't theirs. Four of the Ten Commandments were directly broken in the first human sin.
Cain murdered Abel his brother broke the Sixth Commandment. The Eternal labeled it sin, Genesis 4:4-15. Cain tried to conceal his guilt. Again, this was lying.
Breaking the Second Commandment, idolatry, which is serving other gods, was a sin before Moses, Joshua 24:2; Genesis 35:1-4.
Egyptians and Canaanites profaned the name of the Eternal before Moses, which is breaking the Third Commandment. They took the name of the Eternal in vain. The law enjoined Israel not to follow the Egyptian and Canaanite practices, Leviticus 18:3, 21, 27. Because the wickedness of the Canaanites in this matter was so great, God called Israel out of Egypt to displace and destroy these wicked Canaanites.
Some say that, aside from God resting on the Seventh Day of Creation in Genesis 2:1-3, there is no Biblical record of any man keeping the Sabbath until the Commandments were given at Sinai. Exodus 16 shows that God expected Sabbath observance of Israel, weeks before the giving of the law at Sinai. Abraham kept the Commandments, statutes and laws of the Eternal, Genesis 26:5. How could Abraham keep something that was not given? Abraham kept the Sabbath.
Canaan, son of Ham, dishonored his grandfather Noah. Dishonoring a parent was a sin and God pronounced a curse on Canaan for doing so, Genesis 9:18-27.
Adultery, breaking the Seventh Commandment, was also a sin before Moses. Do you think that the creator of marriage, Genesis 2:18-24, would condone "free love" for 2,500 years until he forbade adultery at Sinai? Absurd! Righteous Joseph avoided sinning against God when he repelled the sexual advances of Potiphar's wife, Genesis 39:7-9. In Genesis 20:2, Abraham lied to Abimelech about Sarah, saying she was his sister (a half-truth, because she was his half-sister). God let it be known to Abimelech so he would not sin against the Lord in adultery, verses 3-7.
Coveting lusting after the wrong partner was wickedness, Genesis 6:1-3, 5, before the flood. Every one of the Ten Commandments was in existence from creation. And coveting was as much a sin then as it is now.
(9) Are Sacrifices Still Binding?
Animal sacrifices were temporary ordinances, imposed until the perfect sacrifice of Christ. Are we required today to perform animal sacrifices? When did sacrifices begin? Who began them? A most enlightening book on Old Testament sacrifices is Andrew Jukes' The Law of the Offerings (available from Giving & Sharing). Jukes explains the symbolical meaning of each one of the kinds of sacrifices and physical ordinances.
Sacrifices did not begin at Mount Sinai with the Old Covenant between God and Israel. The first recorded sacrifice, that of Cain and Abel, is given in Genesis 4. It is introduced as an already established practice. Genesis 3:21 may refer to an earlier sacrifice.
Neither animal sacrifices nor the Ten Commandments were instituted by Moses. They were sanctioned by the Almighty before the Old Covenant with Israel at Sinai. At the ratification of the Old Covenant, Exodus 19, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) with the judgments (Exodus 21-23) were made part of the Covenant. Besides the mention of earthen altars for burnt offerings and peace offerings (Exodus 20:24-26), the only specific sacrifice mentioned was the Passover sacrifice, which the Eternal calls "My sacrifice," Exodus 23:14-18. In Exodus 12:11 it is called "the Lord's Passover."
Later, because of Israel's rebellion over the golden calf incident, additional mandatory sacrifices were imposed. And a Levitical priesthood was ordained to administer these sacrifices.
God did not originally command Israel to offer sacrifices. Jeremiah 7:21-23 (Amplified), "Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh [if you will. It will avail you nothing]. For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this thing I did command them: Listen to and obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people; and walk in the whole way that I command you, that it may be well with you."
Sacrifices were added to the Old Covenant later, because of Israel's transgression, Galatians 3:19. The sacrifices were a continual reminder of sin, Hebrews 10:3, "But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year." The "gifts and sacrifices" of the Old Testament sacrificial system could not make the offerers right with their Creator, Hebrews 9:9. The meats, drinks, different washings and other carnal (physical) regulations were imposed upon Israel until "the time of reformation," Hebrews 9:10, instituted by Christ.
Were animal sacrifices and all they symbolize done away by Christ? Let us understand this important question. The Passover is preserved by different symbols today. The fact that Jesus specifically substituted unleavened bread and wine for the Passover lamb, and not for the other offerings and sacrifices, is an indication that the Old Testament sacrificial offerings are not binding today.
The sacrificial law was a temporary schoolmaster, a teacher through symbolic acts, that pointed Israel to Christ, Galatians 3:24-25. Some falsely claim "the law" of Galatians 3 refers to the Commandments, statutes and judgments. This cannot be so. Sin is the transgression of the law, I John 3:4. Galatians 3:19 shows a "law" that was "added" because of transgressions. This "added law" was animal sacrifices, oblations, etc. It does not define sin. It is generally a penalty for sin. A reminder of sin, to teach people that they need a Messiah to pay for the penalty of sin, which is death. Since sin is the transgression of the law, and the "added law" was added because of sin, this added law does not define sin. Again this shows that the added law was the sacrificial system, not the commandments and statutes which define sin.
(10) Are Animal Sacrifices "For Ever"?
Several times the Bible shows that the Levitical priesthood and the sacrifices were ordained forever. For example, see Leviticus 7:34, 36, 16:34. Aren't they still in force? NO.
"Forever" means continuous, as long as the circumstances involved exist. Men could be made slaves of a master forever, meaning till the death of one of the parties (see Exodus 21:6; Leviticus 25:46; Deuteronomy 15:17).
What are the circumstances surrounding the animal sacrifices? First, there must be a priesthood and Tabernacle or Temple. Second, there must be a need for sacrifices.
The purpose of the priesthood was to offer sacrifices and gifts for sins, Hebrews 5:1, 8:3. Did these physical sacrifices for sins continue to be necessary? No. Paul says, "Now where remission of these [sins] is, there is no more offering for sin," Hebrews 10:18.
To offer typical symbolic animal sacrifices after Messiah gave His life for the true remission of sins, would be a mockery of Him. Besides, there is no Tabernacle or Temple and no authorized priesthood to offer sacrifices. Since the circumstances necessary for sacrifices are no longer available and the need for sacrifices no longer extant, the Old Testament sacrificial laws are no longer binding.
As the resurrection of Lazarus demonstrates, God alone has the right to change, rescind or alter material laws. Carnal Old Testament laws were subject to change because their endurance depended upon physical circumstances. When the promised Messiah came, and these physical circumstances changed, the everlasting obligation to the carnal laws ceased.
God will not, however, alter His spiritual laws, because they reflect the character of the Almighty. God is perfect love, unchanging and unchangeable, Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8; I John 4:8, 5:3. If God were a frequent changer, you could not trust Him!
(11) Animal Sacrifices Not Tied to Sabbaths and Holy Days
Some "religious surgeons" attempt to tie animal sacrifices to the Sabbath and Holy Days. They say that the Sabbath and Holy Days cannot be kept without sacrifices. Since sacrifices are done away, they claim that the Sabbaths and Holy Days are also done away. Other, more "conservative" scripture twisters only tie sacrifices with the Holy Days. They keep the Sabbath, but throw out the Holy Days.
What is the truth? Numbers 28 and 29 unquestionably show that special animal sacrifices were an integral part of Sabbaths, New Moons and Holy Days. The "conservative" Sabbath-keepers who are anti-Holy Day are wrong.
Are the "religious surgeons" right? Are sacrifices irrevocably tied to observance of Sabbaths and Holy Days? Numbers 28:1-8 destroys their erroneous theory. Special sacrifices were offered morning and evening of every day of the year. Animal sacrifices are no longer binding, but this doesn't "do away" with every day of the year. Neither does it abrogate the Sabbaths, New Moons, nor Holy Days. Sacrifices are not necessary for worship and religious holy days.
(12) Spiritual Sacrifices Are Still Obligatory
Remember that spiritual laws and principles do not change. Every physical law has an underlying spiritual aspect. The spiritual principles underlying the physical sacrificial laws are still binding. All the sacrifices pointed to the everlasting sacrifice of Jesus, Y'shua, the Messiah. It is necessary to have the Supreme sacrifice applied to our sins.
As believers in the Messiah, we are "a royal priesthood," i.e., "a holy priesthood," I Peter 2:5, 9. The Savior is the High Priest. Therefore, we must offer sacrifices. What kind of sacrifices? Romans 12:1 (Amplified) "I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies presenting all your members and faculties as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship."
Thus, the spiritual principles underlying sacrifice are applicable today, even though the physical sacrificial law passed away nearly 2,000 years ago.
(13) Temporary Laws Are Clearly Defined in Hebrews 9
Hebrews 9:7-10 shows which laws were temporary. The "Holy of Holies" was entered into only once a year, on the Day of Atonement and only by the High Priest. This demonstrated our need for a High Priest to atone for our sins before the Father in Heaven. The "gifts and sacrifices" of the tabernacle and later the Temple, were "a figure for the time then present," i.e., a physical type that did not make the offerers perfect. These rituals consisted "only in meats and drinks [meat and drink offerings], and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation." These sacrifices and washings were temporary until the reformation. No, this is not referring to the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s A.D. "The time of reformation" was the Messianic Reformation of 31 A.D. when our Savior offered Himself as the supreme sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.
Any OTHER LAWS not included in Hebrews 9 were NOT temporary ritualistic laws. They are STILL BINDING.
(14) What is The Truth About Circumcision?
Physical circumcision is not a prerequisite for salvation, but is a physical law of good health. The Apostle Paul spent years attempting to convince the Jews that ritual circumcision was not necessary for salvation. Even though the physical rite was not obligatory for salvation, the underlying spiritual purpose is still binding. Romans 2:29 says "circumcision is that of the heart." Philippians 3:3 adds, "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." Baptism is a physical ritual still binding, a type of "the circumcision made without hands," Colossians 2:11-12.
Many have misunderstood the subject matter of Acts 15 relative to circumcision and which part of God's law is applicable today. They have failed to understand just what the Judaizing Pharisees among the Christians were saying, and just what was the decision rendered by the Apostle James.
First of all, the main point of controversy, Acts 15:1, was not the law of male baby circumcision as found in Leviticus 12:2-3. The dispute concerned the law of circumcising newly converted Gentile proselytes, found in Exodus 12:43-49.
When Abraham entered into his covenant relationship with God, he and his household were all circumcised. His faithful descendants continued to circumcise their eight-day-old male babies. God renewed the covenant with Israel after the forty years in the wilderness, because circumcision had been neglected, Joshua 5:2. Based on these precedents, Jews required Gentile converts to be circumcised.
In Acts 15, we are told that the former Pharisee Christians were trying to enforce Exodus 12:43-49 in a physical way upon the Christian Church. The validity of the law of Leviticus on all Jew or Gentile to circumcise male babies was not under question. The custom of circumcising Gentile Christian proselytes was the topic of debate.
With New Testament baptism, it was now unnecessary for Gentile Christian converts to be physically circumcised. Since salvation does not require circumcision, it would have been a painful burden. Acts 2:38 says nothing about physical circumcision. James made a decision of how to observe Exodus 12. He did not do away with it!
John the Baptist came with a new kind of circumcision baptism. Circumcision as a religious rite of entrance into God's covenant is not a part of the Christian requirement. However, baptism, of which circumcision is a type, IS required, Colossians 2:11-13. Circumcision of the heart (repentance and change of attitude) is required for conversion, but the physical act of circumcision is no longer required. Exodus 12:43-49 is still required of new, uncircumcised believers before they can take the Passover in the spiritual sense of repentance and baptism.
What then of the physical law of circumcision in Leviticus 12? Christ, setting us an example, was circumcised on the eighth day, Luke 2:21. He came, not to destroy the Old Testament physical laws, but to magnify them to their full spiritual intent. Even the Old Testament speaks of circumcision in the spiritual sense as the truest fulfillment of this requirement, Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6.
The Ministerial Conference of Acts 15 did not do away with the physical law of circumcision of Leviticus 12. A decision was made regarding the law of circumcising proselytes in Exodus 12. Gentiles who become Christians do not have to undergo physical circumcision. But all of God's people who want to keep His living laws are commanded to follow the physical law of circumcision (and the example of the righteous Joseph and Mary), and have their male babies circumcised the eighth day. Neither the law of Leviticus 12, Exodus 12, nor any of the Old Testament laws were, or are burdens. Gods Law defines the right way to live. The only time anything is a burden is when it is really unnecessary in the first place.
God's church does not have the authority to decide or determine which physical laws from the Old Testament are binding on New Testament Christians. Instead, the Church should understand and teach us how to keep the Laws of God. The Bible tells us which physical laws have ceased: Daniel 9:27, and Jeremiah 7:22-23. However, the spiritual sense of these laws is in force as much as ever. Otherwise David was lying when he said that all of God's commandments and statutes were good.
Because of Jewish customs, the issue of circumcision in the first century was a point of issue among many Christians. Viewed without prejudice today, we can see that James merely rendered a decision on what the Bible specifically required, or as in this case, did not require.
Did the Apostle Paul teach that male babies should be circumcised? Yes he did, consistently. Acts 21 records Paul's journey to Jerusalem and his assault at the hands of the Jews in the Temple. Jerusalem believers told Paul that Jewish zealots had heard that Paul taught Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children neither to walk after the simple rites and customs. Paul went into the Temple with four other men who had a vow to be purified with them, so that "all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law," Acts 21:17-27. It was a lie that Paul taught Jews not to circumcise their male children! Many today continue to believe this lie.
One cannot keep God's spiritual law without as a natural result keeping the physical law, whenever possible, as well. Can we as a people circumcise the foreskins of our hearts without also circumcising our male babies? NO! We as Christians must remember the law of Moses, Malachi 4:4, and keep all the statutes and judgments to their full spiritual intent.
The physical act of circumcision is of value, only if we keep the whole law. If we break the law, circumcision doesn't do us any good at all. True, lasting circumcision is of the heart, Romans 2:25-29. See Also Galatians 5:1-6, 6:15; I Corinthians 7:19; Philippians 3:3. Let's all be circumcised in the heart and mind.
(15) Part of the Law of Moses IS Done Away!
Besides circumcision, the contention in Acts 15 concerned another related issue: the law of Moses! "But some who believed . . . belonged to the sect of the Pharisees, and they rose up and said, It is necessary to circumcise [the Gentile converts], and to charge them to obey the Law of Moses," Acts 15:5 (Amplified).
As we have seen, the common Biblical usage of the term "Law of Moses" shows that this refers to the first five Books of the Bible, the Torah, written by Moses. Acts 15 shows at least one additional, narrower, meaning for the term "Law of Moses." Here, "Law of Moses," refers only to the ceremonial and ritualistic portions of the Torah. How can this be proven? Some say that Acts 15 does away with the Sabbath, unclean meats or whatever other portion of the law they dislike.
The Ministerial Council's decision, rendered by James, lays only four things on Gentile converts to the New Testament faith: (1) Abstain from meats offered to idols, (2) abstain from fornication, (3) abstain from meat of strangled animals, and (4) abstain from eating blood Acts 15:20, 29. These four points are binding upon Christians everywhere, Gentile or Jew.
If the subject of Acts 15 was whether or not the first five books of the Bible are binding on Gentile converts and these four items were the only portions of the law they had to follow, then these Gentile converts would be free to lie, steal, dishonor their parents, use unjust weights, etc. Wouldn't this be an absurd conclusion to make?
The context of the decision shows that the point of contention over the "Law of Moses" was not the Ten Commandments, not the statutes and laws which magnify the Ten Commandments. The subject of Acts 15 was circumcision and other ceremonial laws. The Ten Commandments and civil laws were not involved.
Notice Leviticus 17:7 and Numbers 25:1-3. Pagan idolatry involved physical fornication as well as spiritual whoredom. Leviticus 17:10 gives the statute forbidding the eating of blood. Any animal that has been strangled contains blood. The decision of Acts 15 upheld the Law of Moses, and stated that these portions of the ceremonial law were binding on all, including Gentile converts.
The civil laws, such as those regulating tithing, unclean meats, annual Sabbaths etc., are still binding on the New Testament Church because they explain and amplify the Ten Commandments.
Remember that the point of contention of Acts 15 was NOT the entire law of Moses. It was the "customs," Acts 21:21, the "rites [margin] which Moses delivered," Acts 6:14, the temporary gifts and sacrifices mentioned in Hebrews 9:9-10.
(16) Civil Governments Should Administer Death Penalty
There is not a law given that does not require interpretation, or "administration." Some ask if the Church, today, should administer the death penalty for breaking the law, as did the "church of the wilderness," Israel under Moses.
How is the law to be interpreted? The Jewish Talmud is an attempt to interpret the laws of God. Jesus Christ did not come to do away with the law, Matthew 5:17. He definitely did come to administer, interpret, and magnify the law. In doing so, He often "knocked in the head" the false explanations and customs of the Jewish authorities who interpreted the Law incorrectly.
Today, we have three ways to interpret the law: (1) The Bible provides many illustrations and detailed examples of how the law applies, (2) The Holy Spirit is to guide us into all truth, and (3) The Church, the faithful ministry, has the authority to make binding decisions regarding the interpretation of the law, Matthew 18:15-20.
Matthew 5 may seem to be a paradox. On the one hand, verses 17-20 show that the Messiah did not come to do away with the law. Not even the little commandments. Those who teach others to break even the "little" laws will be called the least in the Kingdom of God, if they make it there at all! On the other hand, Matthew 5:21-48 records at least six places where the Savior changes, or magnifies, the law: "Ye have heard that it was said," and "But I say unto you." Jesus restored spiritual laws that existed from the beginning. He went way beyond the laws of the letter given to the physical nation of Israel. He was expounding spiritual law for spiritual Israel the Church!
The spiritual laws Jesus was expounding are not civil in nature. A civil government could not penalize someone for being angry with his brother without a cause, for looking lustfully on a woman, for not turning the cheek, and for not praying for one's persecutors. Messiah was showing that the truly spiritual person should not get close to the edge of the letter of the law, but stay solidly within the spiritual intent of the law. Civil government can administer penalties for sins such as adultery. The true believer should not even lust after someone else.
The spirit of Messianic believers is not to take vengeance. "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord," Romans 12:19.
This is all true. However, if you are robbed, if your wife is raped, if your children are molested, are you to willingly let all this happen to you without a whimper of protest? If you are besieged by charity after charity, and one transient bum after another, are you to give all you have to the poor and needy? Is this what Matthew 5:38-42 means? If this were true, Christians would be fair game for the criminal element and every charitable huckster group. Adam Clarke's Commentary provides sound balance to our understanding of these verses: "These exhortations belong principally to those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake . . . . To give and lend freely to all who are in need is a general precept from which we are excused only by our inability to perform it."
The Church is not a civil government with the divinely ordained authority to administer the death penalty and other civil judgments. In every nation, there are civil powers ordered by God that do have this authority. These governments are ministers (servants) of the Almighty to execute wrath on the doers of evil. Those who resist the civil authorities resist the Eternal! Romans 13:1-8; John 19:11; Titus 3:1; I Peter 2:13-17.
In Matthew 5, Jesus did not do away with laws, which are to be administered by the civil government. He was instructing his disciples, Matthew 5:1-2.
The civil penalties of the Law of God, such as the death penalty for pre-meditated murder and rape, and restitution for theft, are just as binding today as they ever were. The death of our Savior on the stake did not destroy the civil laws.
Civil governments that do not enforce God's laws on theft, rape, murder, etc., are defying the Almighty. As a result they reap the curses for disobedience. Because human governments in general have not obeyed Biblical law, mankind suffers from rampant crime, disease and misery. In today's evil society, instead of the thief paying restitution, society (through taxes) pays for a brief stay of the thief in prison only to be victimized again when the thief is released. The land cries out for vengeance against all this human injustice! As followers of Biblical laws, we often feel we would like to put a stop to all this wicked injustice. This is what the Savior meant, "resist not evil." Because our civil governments do not obey Bible law, we must suffer wrong, and pray "Thy kingdom come."
(17) "The Administration Of Death," in II Corinthians 3
Some have said that II Corinthians 3 proves that the Ten Commandments are done away. Others have said that II Corinthians 3 does away with civil penalties properly administered by judges, according to Bible laws. What does this inspiring chapter really say? With the aid of the Amplified Bible, here is the sense of II Corinthians the third chapter:
False ministers require written letters of recommendation. Paul's letter of recommendation, his credentials, were the true believers at Corinth. They were like a letter from Christ delivered by Paul, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. Not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.
God enables us to be fit and worthy ministers of the new covenant of salvation through Christ, not ministers of the letter that is of the legally written code but ministers of the Spirit; for the code of the Law kills, enforces the death penalty, but the Holy Spirit makes alive, Jeremiah 31:31-34.
Now, the ministration of the Law, the administering of death engraved on stone, was inaugurated with such glory and splendor so that the Israelites were not able to look steadily at the face of Moses because of its brilliance, a glory that was to fade, and pass away. Why should not the administering of the Spirit that is, this spiritual ministry whose task it is to cause man to obtain and be governed by the Holy Spirit, be attended with much greater and more splendid glory?
For if the service that condemns had glory, how infinitely more abounding in splendor and glory is the service that makes righteous, the ministry that produces and fosters righteous living and right standing with God!
Indeed in view of this fact, what once had splendor, the glory of the Law reflected in the face of Moses, has come to have no splendor at all because of the overwhelming glory that exceeds and excels it, the glory of the Gospel reflected in the face of Jesus Christ. For if that which was but passing and fading away came with splendor, how much more must that abide in glory and splendor which remains and is permanent!
Since we have such glorious hope, we speak very freely and openly and fearlessly. We don't put a veil over our face as Moses did to keep Israel from seeing the splendor. Their minds had grown hard and calloused, and remain so until today. When the Old Testament is read, that same veil is still on their hearts. They are not aware that in Christ the veil is made void and done away.
Whenever a person turns in repentance to the Lord, the veil is stripped off and taken away. The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, emancipation from bondage, and freedom.
All of us have unveiled faces because we continue to behold, in the word of God as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord, and are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor from one degree of glory to another. This comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
This is the meaning of II Corinthians 3. The Ten Commandments were written on two tables of stone. They are so glorious that the face of Moses shone when he received them from the hand of YHWH. All the law, the Torah, was written on an altar of great whole stones, as a witness for Israel to obey, Deuteronomy 27:1-6; Joshua 8:32-35. Contained in the statutes and judgments are penalties prescribed for certain sins: execution for the highest crimes, restitution for others, and various other judgments. The Levites and judges had the authority from the Eternal to administer these penalties. Civil governments today should administer these penalties.
Some liberal "do gooders" of today think that these punishments are too harsh. Imagine punishing a wanton murderer, rapist, kidnapper, adulterer, homosexual or child abuser with the death penalty! That is what the glorious Law of Moses (the Law of the Lord) requires. The Apostle Paul called this law glorious. Moses' face radiated its splendor.
How great the Creator was to give such a law to the physical nation of Israel. Evildoers were shown the enormity of sin and crime. Taking the life of one hardened criminal often saved the lives of many decent law-abiding people. People today take sin, which is crime, lightly. The Eternal wants us to FEAR to do wrong! His system of civil laws provides quick and efficient punishment of evildoers, and restitution to the victims.
Now why were these civil penalties necessary? They are necessary because of sin. If there were no murder, there would be no need for the death penalty for murderers. Judges could not decide cases arbitrarily or because of bribery. If they didn't judge righteously, they too, suffered the severe civil penalties! As long as Israel obeyed God, there were no long-drawn-out trials, no sensational media coverage, but simply the speedy administration of JUSTICE.
Nobody could be convicted of a crime without at least two witnesses, Deuteronomy 19:15-21. Punishment for false witnesses was the same as the penalty for the crime in which they testified. This severe sentence must have been much more effective in preventing perjury than swearing with one's hand on a Bible!
Israel did not have to pay taxes for a prison system because there was none. Our pitiful court and prison system of today is wicked and evil, an affront to the Creator, a travesty of justice. The Eternal's laws, when enforced, put a STOP to crime and made men FEAR to do wrong!
(18) What is "the Administration of the Spirit"?
The more glorious Administration of the Spirit came to replace the glorious administration of Death. What is the Administration of the Spirit and why is it more glorious?
The first administration gave only strict to-the-letter penalties: death for murder, restoring so many sheep for one stolen, etc. Human judges could not account for repentance and mercy, could not impart eternal life, could only administer the penalty prescribed by the law. There needed to be a new administration of the same laws that could give pardon and eternal life to those who repented and desired to be obedient.
Ministers of the Messianic Kingdom teach people the way to eternal life, how to obtain the Holy Spirit and the need to quit sinning, i.e., breaking God's laws. Unless our sins are covered by the blood of the Lamb, we too will suffer the wages of sin, Eternal death. True believers have the laws of God written in their hearts, II Corinthians 3:3, Hebrews 8:10-13, 10:15-22. The laws of God are the same under both Old and New Covenants. The Administration is different.
Instead of administering civil judgments against sin, ministers of the Spirit "administer" life. That is, they teach the people the way to eternal life. True believers are to have the laws of the Almighty written in their hearts, not on tables of stone as under the Old Covenant. That is, they are to obey the laws naturally, from the desire of the mind, and not because of the "cast in concrete" necessity.
In the West Hills of Portland, Oregon is a beautiful conservative Jewish Synagogue. On the South side of the building is a massive stone wall well over 100 feet tall, containing two huge tables of stone with the Ten Commandments written in Hebrew. Standing beneath them is an awesome experience. It is glorious. How much more glorious it is when a Spirit-led believer lives these laws of love! These stones will eventually erode and wear away. The Commandments are sure, "They stand fast forever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness," Psalms 111:8.
Messianic followers are now being judged by this perfect and just law of liberty, James 2:12. The law liberated us from sin. If we break one point of the law, we are guilty of ALL points, James 2:10. Thus we need the Administration of the Spirit. We need mercy and pardon for our past iniquities. We need the Holy Spirit united with our spirit (mind) to give us the power not to sin in the future, to have the law written in the fleshly tables of our hearts, II Corinthians 3:3.
The Savior's death, which we commemorate annually at the Passover, paid the price for our rebellion against God's law, IF we ask the Eternal to apply that sacrifice for our sins. He made it possible for us to receive the Holy Spirit. His ministers (servants), under the Administration of the Spirit, are to teach people how to be reconciled to the Father and receive the Holy Spirit. We are to forgive men of their trespasses, Matthew 6:14-15, not to avenge ourselves, but leave vengeance to the Creator, Romans 12:18-21. We are not to condemn one another, Matthew 7:1-2, that is, not consign others to eternal condemnation.
(19) Ministration of Death a Type of Eternal Death
The Lawgiver has not gotten soft on sin. The wages of sin is still death, eternal death, Romans 6:23. The penalty of death is still in effect for those who break God's law. They are still "under the law," that is, under the penalty of the law, death.
True believers are "under grace," Romans 6:14, "under the law to Christ," I Corinthians 9:21. Are they then exempt from obeying the law? Can they sin willfully now that they are not "under the law" but instead are "under grace"? Romans 6:15 says "God forbid!" "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgement and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' [glorious] law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot, the Son of God, and hath counted the [more glorious] blood of the [new] covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" Hebrews 10:26-29.
The penalty for wanton murder under the Administration of Death is physical death execution. Under the Administration of the Spirit, the penalty for willfully violating God's laws is eternal, everlasting death.
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh [sins] shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting," Galatians 6:7-8. Remember, Matthew 5:17-20 shows that even the least commandment is still very much in force!
(20) What Are The Ten Commandments?
The Ten Commandments are ten summary statements of love, the very character of the Creator. They are further summarized by the two great commandments: love to God, love to neighbor and self. The Ten Commandments are a summary of the detail laws, statutes and judgments contained in the first five books of the Bible, and expounded and magnified by the rest of the Bible.
The Ten Commandments are NOT the "Law of Moses" but a clear statement in human terms of God's eternal spiritual character. The Commandments, Statutes and Judgments are the basis for a happy abundant life. Those who keep the Ten Commandments are those who will inherit the gift of eternal life.
Repent of breaking God's law, be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:38. Through the Holy Spirit, you will receive the love to keep His law. The Eternal will not give Eternal life to those who rebel against His laws.W