Friday, February 9, 2018

The Mosaic Law in Perspective

Among Christians today there is a growing movement that believes the Mosaic Law is still applicable to believers today. The people that make up this movement call themselves by different names, although the basic teachings of Two House, Commonwealth, and Renewed Covenant doctrines are common throughout the movement. The movement is called the Hebrew Roots Movement (HRM) and is also known by the terms Torah Observant, Law Keeping and Torah Keeping movements. Many are sensitive to being identified with these movements and will assert that they are just Jesus followers with no affiliation, but upon questioning, reveal that they do in fact adhere to HRM doctrines whether they know it or not.
The purpose of this article is to show that the Mosaic Law had a beginning and an end, and that it is not applicable to believers today. Believers today are under the Law of Christ (Gal 6:2) and the Law of the Spirit (Rom 8:2) through which we are released from the Law of Sin and Death (Rom 8:2).

The Initial Offer of One Flesh Through the Indwelling Spirit

In Gen 17:7, God promised to Abraham that his descendants that He would be their God. The term "I will be your God, and they will be my people" is generally recognized as "the covenant formula". This formula is derived from ancient legal terminology, specifically regarding the marriage ceremony. In marriage "the two become one flesh" (Gen 2:24), and Paul picks up on this as it is a type of God and the church (Eph 5:31-32). The marriage reference is pointing to God and His people in that "the two will become one flesh" by the indwelling Spirit (Joh 17:20-21, Heb 13:20-21, Jas 4:5, 1Jn 3:24, 1 Jn 4:12-13).
In Exo 6:7, God repeats his promise to the descendants of Abraham.
In Exo 19:5-6 we see a reference to this again in the term "a treasured possession".
In 2 Cor 6:16, Paul reveals that the promise to "be your God" and for the Israelites to "be His people" was a reference to their being indwelt with the Holy Spirit.
The offer on Sinai was a marriage covenant, through which the Israelites would have been indwelt with the Holy Spirit, who is the only means through which circumcision of heart could occur.

The Rejection of the Offer

In Exo 20:18-21 we read that the Israelites refused the offer, stayed at a distance and asked for a mediator to stand between them and their God. This is corroborated in Deu 5:4-5, and Jer 7:22-24. It is further corroborated in Act 7:51.
The promise given to Abraham that Israel would be greatly blessed was postponed when they resisted the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who would have brought the promise to realization in their hearts. Sinai was a "marriage covenant", an indwelling that the Israelites rejected.

The Book of the Covenant

It is only after this rejection of the marriage proposal that we read of written law, and that law that is written is given to Moses to be relayed to the Israelites as their mediator.
From Exo 20:22 to Exo 24:4 we read what God tells Moses to tell the Israelites as a result of the failed marriage proposal. In Exo 24:7 the Israelites receive the Book of the Covenant, and declare that they will do everything in it. But even this is doomed to failure.

The Book of the Law of Moses

In Exo 32:1-9 we read that the Israelites not only didn't do everything in the Book of the Covenant, but they rebelled against God with the Golden Calf. As a result of this, the Israelites received the Levitical Law (Books of Leviticus, as well as additional law in parts of Deuteronomy and Numbers).
In Deu 31:24-26 we read that the sum of the law given to the Israelites at this time is called the Book of the Law. Joshua later referred to this as "The Book of the Law of Moses". (Jos 8:31).

The Requirement of Circumcision of Heart

Throughout this period of time, God reminds the Israelites that His divine requirement for them was always circumcision of heart (Lev 26:41, Deu 10:16, Deu 30:6, Jer 4:4, Act 7:51, Rom 2:29). Circumcision of heart is referred to in the NT as regeneration (Tit 3:5), renewal (Eph 4:23), and transformation (Rom 12:2) brought about by the Holy Spirit.
Being aware of the failure of the Israelites to accept the marriage covenant at Sinai, and recognizing that the Law of Moses was insufficient to bring about circumcision of heart in national Israel, Jeremiah foretold of the future pouring out of the Spirit (Act 2:17-18) when the law would be written on our hearts (Jer 31:31-33). cf. (Eze 11:19, Eze 36:26). The writing of the law on our hearts is not a transcription of the written word, but a transformation of heart by the Holy Spirit.
The Israelites had refused the Holy Spirit, and refused circumcision of heart all the way through till the time of Jesus (Act 7:51).

The End of the Mosaic Law

As we look at the end of the Mosaic Law, the preceding commentary is critical to keep in mind. 
The only means of circumcision of heart (aka transformation, renewal, regeneration) in the Old or the New Covenant is by the inner work of the Holy Spirit bring change to our minds. The Israelites had rejected the marriage covenant, and resisted the Holy Spirit (Act 7:51). It is because of the resistance of the Holy Spirit that the Law of Moses was given, and everything in the Old and New Covenants points to it's replacement upon the institution of the New Covenant (Heb 7:12, Heb 8:7-13). The New Covenant is the covenant that Jeremiah and Ezekiel speak of, and Paul corroborates, and is the Covenant under which all believers are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Under the New Covenant, God fulfilled the marriage agreement through the pouring out of the Spirit, thus eliminating the reason that the law was given in the first place, resistance of the Holy Spirit.
Mosaic Law was given to Israel through their mediator Moses because when they resisted the Holy Spirit, a guardian or tutor was required. That is the specific time period for the Mosaic Law, from Sinai to Christ.
Jesus states in Luk 16:16 that the Mosaic Law was proclaimed until John.
Paul supports Jesus when he says in Gal 3:24 that the Mosaic Law is a guardian until Christ.
Paul states in 2 Cor 3:6-8 that the Mosaic Law is temporary.
Some special notice must be taken of Mat 5:17-18 which is a favorite of the HRM in which they try to prove that Mosaic Law will in no means disappear until the end of time.
Israel at the time of Jesus commonly referred to the Tanak (Old Testament) as "The Law and the Prophets". They understood Jesus to be speaking of the entire Tanak. It is an error when HRM limits this to Mosaic Law.
When Jesus refers to the Law, He is speaking of it's passing not by destruction, but by fulfillment. A common illustration of the principle is that of the bud and the rose. As the bud passes into the flower, the bud is not destroyed, but everything that was in the bud has come into fulfillment in the flower. Jesus is making the point that the law will pass through fulfillment, not destruction. Applied this illustrates that the law will pass from it's written form of rules and commands (Col 2:20-23, Eph 2:15, Heb 9:10) into a changing of heart through regeneration by the indwelling Spirit spoken of by Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jesus and Paul. 

Agape Love

There are three common Greek words translated "love" in the English bible. "Eros" speaks of erotic love such as that between a husband and wife, "phileo" speaks of brotherly or affectionate love, and "agape" which speaks of an intimate love. It is "agape" which is commonly spoken in the New Testament, and it conveys the deeper meaning of an intimate relation of Christ in us (Col 1:27).
Agape love in short is the love of Christ in us, divinely flowing outward to others. This kind of love shows the difference between following commands to love God and love neighbor from that of "phileo" love to a divinely planted love that resides within us. With this in mind, consider the following passage:
Rom 13:8-10 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. (9) The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not covet," and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (10) Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
The fulfillment of the law spoken of in Mat 5:17-18 is that divine love planted in us. That divine love planted in us is the full realization of the law written on our heart (Jer 31:33), the heart of flesh rather than stone (Eze 11:19, Eze 36:26). The love of Christ in us is the full meaning of the commands to love God and love our neighbor. The command is not to "phileo" God and our neighbor, but the "agape" them. Jesus sought to bring this awareness to Peter in John 21:15-19 when Jesus asked Peter "do you "agape" me" and Peter answers "yes, I 'phileo' you" three times.
It is the full presence of Christ in us that is the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law, and it is why we are released from that Mosaic Law. 
In Rom 7:6 we read that it is through Christ in us, I.E. through the Spirit that we are released from the Mosaic Law. This release comes through the active association and participation in the death of Christ whereby we also then participate in His resurrection (Rom 6:1-8, Rom 8:11). 
In Rom 8:4 we read that the requirements of the law are fulfilled in us who live according to the Spirit.
In Rom 10:4 we read that Jesus is the culmination of the Mosaic Law.

Repentance in the Old and New Covenants

In this discussion I would be remiss not to mention how repentance plays into the Mosaic Law. Most followers of modern day keeping of Mosaic law also adhere to the Hebrew (OT) definition of repentance, "shuvb"). They define the word properly from an OT mindset, and speak of having a radical change of direction, turning away from sin and to righteousness, making a conscious decision to change. This is in keeping with the guidance they had at the time in the OT, which is, the Mosaic Law, and requires obedience on the part of the person repenting in order to receive blessing.
But something changed after John (Luk 16:16) and after Christ (Gal 3:24). The Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh (Act 2:17). In the Greek New Testament, a new word for repentance was added, "metanoeo", meaning "to change the mind". 
When we see "repentance" in the Old Testament as regards the people, the expectation is that the people will be obedient and change their behavior, and be obedient to the Law of Moses. Remember that as a nation, they had resisted the Holy Spirit, and as a nation generally were on their own.
When we see "repentance" in the New Testament, it means that we will yield and submit to the transformative, renewing presence of the Holy Spirit in us to bring about a change of mind (Rom 12:2) from which will come a behavior change.
The change in definition between the Hebrew "shuvb" (to turn) and the Greek "metanoeo" (to change the mind) is consistent with the change from the Old to the New Covenant and the New Covenant presence of the Holy Spirit to all people. It is the Holy Spirit that changes minds, and without the Holy Spirit, we are left on our own strength to turn from sin (Rom 8:3-4).


The Mosaic Law is no longer in effect for those who are in Christ. It was a tutor or guardian for Israel during their time of resisting the Holy Spirit. The time of it's authority ended with Christ, and the presence of the Holy Spirit poured out on all flesh.
HRM adherents argue, perhaps rightfully so, that many Christians understand this to mean that without the law, we are free to do as we wish. But nothing could be further from the truth. Romans 6, 7 and 8 provide the answer to this argument. Christians today are to live to a higher standard, that of identification with Christ in His crucifixion and resurrection. Read Romans 7:6 carefully:
Rom 7:6 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.
There is no release from the law without death, personal death for each Christian. We are released from the law by dying to that which once bound us. We can't then freely engage in what used to bind us, sin, and expect to be released from God's law.
But neither can those who live by the Spirit, with "agape" love in their heart as the fulfillment of law, and "metanoeo" repentance as a change of mind followed by change of behavior be considered under the law. The change of behavior will follow when we are identified with Christ in His death and resurrection through the process of transformation and regeneration by the Holy Spirit.