THE EIGHT COVENANTS
OF THE BIBLE (Part 2)
THE EIGHT COVENANTS OF THE BIBLE
Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum
For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes atonement by reason of the life. – Leviticus 17:11 -
PART 2: THE MOSAIC COVENANT
V. THE MOSAIC COVENANT
The Mosaic Covenant contains very extensive detailed information, and the Scriptural account of the covenant extends from Exodus 20:1.
B. The Participants in the Covenant
The parties involved in this pact were God and Israel. The covenant was made with Israel and not merely with Moses acting as a representative of Israel. This is clearly brought out in Exodus 19:3-8:
And Moses went up unto God, and Jehovah called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and
keep my covenant, then ye shall be mine own possession from among all peoples: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak unto the children of Israel. And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which Jehovah commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that Jehovah has spoken we will do. And Moses reported the words of the people unto Jehovah.
The covenant was not made with the Gentiles or the Church, but with Israel only, a point also made in Deuteronomy 4:7-8; Psalm 147:19-20; and Malachi 4:4.
C. The Provisions of the Covenant
The key provision of the Mosaic Covenant was the Law of Moses, which contained a total of 613 commandments. Involved in these provisions of the Law were blessings for obedience and curses for
disobedience. It was signed and sealed by the Shechinah Glory in Exodus 24:1-11, but signed in such a way that rendered the covenant conditional. So in essence, there are 613 provision of the covenant, too many to be individually listed here. Instead, seven observations will be made concerning the provisions of the Mosaic Covenant.
1. The Totality of the Law
First: as stated earlier, there were a total of 613 specific commandments, not just ten, a rather common misconception. Of these, 365 were negative commandments, things which were forbidden; 248 were positive commandments, things that should be done.
2. The Blessings and Judgments of the Law
Second: this was a
conditional covenant, which meant that there would be blessings for
obedience, but judgment for disobedience (Ex. 15:26; 19:3-8).
3. The Blood Sacrifice Added
Third: the key element of the entire Mosaic Law was the blood
sacrifice, brought out in Leviticus 17:11: For the life of the flesh is
in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make
atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes atonement by
reason of the life.
There were five different offerings detailed in Leviticus 1-7. The
Hebrew word for atonement does not mean the removal of sin but merely
the covering of sin. While the blood of animals covered the sins of the
Old Testament saints, it never took those sins away; only the blood of
the Messiah can remove sin (Heb. 10:1-4).
However, the blood sacrifice did provide for the forgiveness of sin and the restoration of fellowship.
4. The Diet Restrictions Imposed
Fourth: for the Jews, it restricted some of the provisions of the
Noahic Covenant. Beasts had to be both cloven hoofed and those that
chewed the cud; fish had to have both fins and scales; concerning
fowls, no birds of prey were allowed; and concerning insects, only one
type of locust was permitted.
5. The Death Penalty Expanded
Fifth: for the Jews, it added the death penalty for other sins such as
idolatry, adultery, cursing God, cursing parents, breaking the Sabbath,
practicing witchcraft, among others.
6. The Sign of the Covenant
Sixth: it reaffirmed the practice of circumcision (Lev. 12:3), but not
for the same reasons. Under the Abrahamic Covenant, circumcision was
the sign of the covenant and it was mandatory for Jews only.
Under the Mosaic Covenant, circumcision was the means of submission to
the Law of Moses and it was mandatory for all Jews, but also for
Gentiles who wished to become part of the Commonwealth of Israel. That
is why Paul warned the Gentile Galatian believers that, if they
submitted to circumcision, they would be obliged to keep the whole law,
not just this one commandment (Gal. 5:3).
7. The Token of the Covenant
Seventh: the token or sign of the Mosaic Covenant was the Sabbath.
Concerning the Sabbath, five specific observations can be made.
First: being the token of the Mosaic Covenant, it was a sign between
God and Israel; it was a sign that Israel had been set apart by God
(Ex. 31:12-17); it was a sign of the Exodus (Deut. 5:12-15; Ezek.
20:10-12); and it was a sign that Jehovah was Israel’s God (Ezek.
20:20). Every reason given for the observance of the Sabbath has
relevance only to Israel, not to the Gentiles or the Church.
Second: the Sabbath was not a creation ordinance; it began only with
Moses. Genesis 2:1-3 states only what God did on that day, but there is
no command to observe that day. The word Sabbath is not even used in
the Genesis account and that day of the week is just called the seventh
day. From Adam to Moses, there is no record of anyone’s keeping the
Sabbath. While God listed a number of obligations upon humanity in the
previous covenants, keeping the Sabbath was not one of them. The Book
of Job deals with a pre-Mosaic saint and it, too, mentions many
obligations man had toward God, but keeping the Sabbath was not one of
them. Sabbath observance begins with Moses in Exodus 16:23-30 and was
made part of the Law of Moses in Exodus 20:8-11.
Third: the Sabbath was a day of rest, not a day of corporate worship,
which is another common misconception. As the Sabbath commandment was
further developed in other parts of the Law of Moses, what was meant by
“resting” on the Sabbath was largely a matter of prohibitions: no
gathering of manna (Ex. 16:23-30); no traveling (Ex. 16:29); no
kindling of fire (Ex. 35:3); and no gathering of wood (Num. 15:32).
Outside the Law, other prohibitions for the Sabbath included: no burden
bearing (Jer. 17:21); no trading (Amos 8:5); and no marketing (Neh.
10:31; 13:15, 19). Nothing was said about corporate worship. In the Law
of Moses, the Sabbath was a day of rest and cessation of labor, not a
day of corporate worship. The Sabbath synagogue services found in the
New Testament originated with the Babylonian Captivity, not with the
Law of Moses.
While it was not a day of total inactivity, it was to be a day of rest
and refreshment from the regular work of the other six days. While the
rest itself may have been an act of worship, corporate worship on the
Sabbath was not a factor in the Old Testament.
In connection with the Sabbath, the phrase a holy convocation is often
found. This phrase is sometimes used as the basis for teaching that the
Sabbath was a day of corporate worship for all.
However, it is used only in conjunction with the priesthood and
sacrifices. The corporate connotation is for the priests only and the
place of this corporate worship is in the Tabernacle or Temple for the
purpose of sacrifices. Since only the priesthood could do the work of
sacrificing, the holy convocation applied only to them. This phrase is
found a total of nineteen times, all in three of the books of Moses:
Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. Eleven of the nineteen are found in one
chapter: Leviticus 23. Six others are found in the two chapters of
Numbers 28-29. In all cases, the phrase holy convocation refers to a
convocation of priests for the purpose of performing special sacrifices
and the Sabbath was one of those occasions. It was not a time of
corporate worship for all Israel. So the one passage that is used to
try to substantiate corporate worship on
the Sabbath, Leviticus 23:3, refers to the Sabbath as a holy
convocation and has to do with priestly corporate sacrifices. While it
has relevance to family gatherings, these were not acts of corporate
worship. As Dr. Louis Goldberg of Moody Bible Institute states: “On the
Sabbath there was to be complete rest (physical) and holy
convocation (spiritual refreshing) before the Lord.” Even Leviticus
23:3 states concerning the Sabbath it is a sabbath unto Jehovah in all
your dwellings. Again, the emphasis has to do with staying at home (Ex.
16:29) and resting as a family, rather than getting together in
corporate worship. As Dr. Goldberg also points
out, the rest “was also to include spiritual renewal.” The expression
holy convocation emphasized that on such occasions the priests were to
over special sacrifices. In reality, the Mosaic Law mandated corporate
worship only on three occasions: the Feast of Passover, the Feast of
Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles. On these
occasions when they were to migrate to wherever the Tabernacle or later
the Temple stood, either at Shiloh or Jerusalem. Corporate worship by
non-Levites was mandated only three times a year, but not on a weekly
Sabbath. This would have been physically impossible in light of the
time it took to travel during biblical times.
The penalty for profaning the Sabbath was death; to profane the Sabbath
was to consider it like any other day. Therefore, on the Sabbath, they
were to do no labor and they were to stay home and rest.
Fourth: the Sabbath as the token or sign of the Mosaic Covenant is that it was intended only for Israel and not the Church.
Fifth: as a sign of the Mosaic Covenant, it is in force as long as the
Mosaic Covenant is in force. If the Mosaic Covenant comes to an end, so
would mandatory Sabbath keeping.
D. The Purposes of the Law
It should be stated categorically that the Law of Moses was not a means
of salvation. This concept is rejected because that would make
salvation by means of works. Salvation was and always is by grace
through faith. While the content of faith has changed from age to age
depending on progressive revelation, the means of
salvation never changes. The Law was not given to serve as a means of
salvation (Rom. 3:20, 28; Gal. 2:16; 3:11, 21). It was given to a
people already redeemed from Egypt, not in order to redeem them.
However, there were several purposes for the giving of the Law. As
found in both testaments, there were at least nine purposes for the Law
The first purpose was to reveal the holiness of God and to reveal the
standard of righteousness that God demanded for a proper relationship
with Him (Lev. 11:44; 19:1-2, 37; I Pet. 1:15-16). The Law
itself was holy, and righteous, and good (Rom. 7:12).
The second purpose of the Law was to provide the rule of conduct for
the Old Testament saints. For example, Romans 3:28 makes it clear that
no man was justified by the works of the Law. The Law always had
purposes other than being a means of salvation. In this case, it
provided the rule of life for the Old Testament believer (Lev.
11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7-8, 26). For the Old Testament believer, the Law
was the center of his spiritual life and his delight, as stated in
Psalm 119, especially verses 77, 97, 103, 104, and 159.
The third purpose was to provide occasions for individual and corporate
worship for Israel. The seven holy seasons of Israel (Lev. 23) is one
example of this.
The fourth purpose was to keep the Jews a distinct people (Lev.
11:44-45; Deut. 7:6; 14:1-2). This was the specific reason for many of
the laws, such as the dietary laws and the clothing laws. The Jews were
to be distinct from all other people in a variety of ways, such as
their worship habits (Lev. 1, 7, 16, 23), their eating habits (Lev.
11:1-47), their sexual habits (Lev. 12), their clothing habits (Lev.
19:19), and even the way they cut their beards (Lev. 19:27). Other
passages for this point include Exodus 19:5-8 and 31:13.
The fifth purpose is that the Law of Moses served as the middle wall of
partition as stated in Ephesians 2:11-16. The four unconditional
covenants are Jewish covenants and God’s blessings, both physical
and spiritual, are mediated through the four covenants, the covenants
of the promise mentioned in verse 12. Because of the Jewish nature of
these unconditional covenants, a conditional covenant was also added,
the Mosaic Covenant, containing the Law of Moses, the law of
commandments contained in ordinances of
verse 15. The purpose of the Law, then, was to become the middle wall
of partition to keep Gentiles, as Gentiles, from enjoying the Jewish
spiritual blessings of the unconditional covenants. Because
of this purpose, Gentiles were both alienated from the commonwealth of
Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise. The only way
Gentiles could enjoy the spiritual blessings of the Jewish covenants
during the period of the Law was to take upon themselves the obligation
of the Law, undergo the rite of
circumcision, and then live like every Jew had to live. Gentiles, as
Gentiles, could not enjoy the Jewish spiritual blessings, only Gentiles
as proselytes to Mosaic Judaism.
The sixth purpose for the Mosaic Law was to reveal sin. Three passages
in the Book of Romans point this out. The first passage is Romans
3:19-20, where Paul emphasized that there is no justification through
the Law; by means of the Law no Jewish person will be justified. What
is the Law then, if not a way of justification, a way of salvation? The
Law was given to provide the knowledge of sin, to reveal exactly what
sin is. The second passage is Romans 5:20, where the Law was given so
that trespasses might be made very clear. How does one know he has
sinned? He knows because the Law spelled out in detail what was
permitted and what was not
permitted. The Law with 613 commandments revealed sin. The third
passage is Romans 7:7. Paul again emphasized the fact that the Law was
given so that sin might be made known. Paul became aware of
his sinful state by looking into the Law and knowing that, on the basis of the Law, he fell short.
The seventh purpose was to make one sin more. Romans 4:15 states: for
the law works wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there
transgression. Paul adds in Romans 5:20: And the law came in besides,
that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace did
abound more exceedingly.
The picture Paul gives is that the Law came in to cause more sin, to actually make one sin more.
How this works is explained by Paul in Romans 7:7-13 and I Corinthians
15:56. I Corinthians 15:56 reads: The sting of death is sin; and the
power of sin is the law.
Basically, what Paul taught is that the sin nature needs a base of
operation. Furthermore, the sin nature uses the Law as a base of
operation. When Paul said: where there is no law, neither is there
transgression he did not mean, of course, that there was no sin before
the Law was given. The termtransgression is a specific type of sin: it
is the violation of a specific commandment. Men were sinners before the
Law was given, but they were not transgressors of the Law until the Law
was given. Once the Law was given, the sin nature had a base of
operation, causing the individual to violate these commandments and sin
all the more.
The eighth purpose was to show the sinner that there was nothing he
could do on his own to please God; he had no ability to keep the Law
perfectly or to attain the righteousness of the Law (Rom. 7:14-25).
This led to the ninth purpose, which was to drive one to faith
according to Romans 8:1-4 and Galatians 3:24-25. The final purpose of
the Law was to bring one to saving faith in the Messiah.
The purposes of the Law of Moses can be categorized in four aspects.
First, in relation to God, to reveal His holiness and to reveal His
righteous standards. Second: in relation to Israel, to keep Israel a
distinct people, to provide a rule of life for the Old Testament saint,
and to provide for individual and corporate worship. Third: in relation
to Gentiles, to serve as a middle wall of partition and thus keep them
strangers to the unconditional Jewish covenants so as not to partake of
Jewish spiritual blessings as Gentiles, but only as proselytes to
Mosaic Judaism. Fourth: in relation to sin, to reveal and show what sin
is, to make one sin more, to show that a man cannot attain the
righteousness of the Law on his own, and to drive one to faith.
E. The Status of the Covenant
The Mosaic Covenant was the basis for the Dispensation of Law. It was
the one Jewish covenant that was conditional and ultimately came to an
end with the death of the Messiah (Rom. 10:4; II Cor. 3:3-11; Gal.
3:19-29; Eph. 2:11-18; Heb. 7:11-12, 18). Hence, the Mosaic Law is no
longer in effect. Prophetically, it was already considered broken even
before the Messiah died to free the Jew from the penalty of the Law
(Jer. 31:32). The status of the Mosaic Covenant will be discussed on
1. The Unity of the Law of Moses
Two factors have developed in the minds and teachings of many believers
which have contributed to the confusion over the Law of Moses. One is
the practice of dividing the Law into “ceremonial,” “legal,” and
“moral” commandments. On the basis of this division, many have come to
think that the believer is free from the ceremonial and legal
commandments, but is still under the moral commandments. The second
factor is the belief that the Ten Commandments are still valid today
while the other 603 commandments are not. When confronted by a Seventh
Day Adventist, the individual taking this approach runs into problems
concerning the fourth commandment on keeping the Sabbath. At that
point, fudging begins that results in inconsistency. It must be
understood that the Mosaic Law is viewed by the Scriptures as a unit.
The word Torah, meaning “law,” is always singular when applied to the
Law of Moses, even though it contains 613 commandments. The same is
true of the Greek word nomos in the New Testament. The division of the
Law of Moses into ceremonial, legal, and moral parts is convenient for
the study of the different types of commandments contained within it,
but it is never divided in this way by the Scriptures themselves.
Neither is there any scriptural basis for separating the Ten
Commandments from the whole 613 and making only the Ten Commandments
perpetual. All 613 commandments are a single unit comprising the Law of
It is the principle of the unity of the Law of Moses that lies behind
the statement found in James 2:10: For whosoever shall keep the whole
law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all.
The point is clear. A person needs only to break one of the 613
commandments to be guilty of breaking all of the Law of Moses. This can
only be true if the Mosaic Law is a unit. If it is not, the
guilt lies only in the particular commandment violated, not in the
whole Law. In other words, if one breaks a legal commandment, he is
guilty of breaking the ceremonial and moral laws as well. The same is
true of breaking a moral or ceremonial commandment. To bring the point
closer to home, if a person eats ham, according to the Law of Moses, he
is guilty of breaking the Ten Commandments, although none of them says
anything about ham. The Law is a unit, and to break one of the 613
commandments is to break them all. In order to have a clear
understanding of the Law of Moses and its
relationship to the believer, Jewish or Gentile, it is necessary to
view it as the Scriptures view it: a unit that cannot be divided into
parts that have been done away with and parts that have not. Nor can
certain commandments be separated in such a way as to give them a
different status from other commandments.
2. The Law of Moses Has Been Rendered Inoperative
The clear cut teaching of the New Testament is that the Law of Moses
has been rendered inoperative with the death of the Messiah; in other
words, the Law in its totality no longer has authority over any
individual. This is evident from a number of passages.
The first passage is Romans 7:5-6: For when we were in the flesh, the
sinful passions, which were through the law, wrought in our members to
bring forth fruit unto death. But now we have been discharged from the
law, having died to that wherein we were held; so that we serve in
newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the
letter. Paul declares that the believer has been discharged from the
law. The Greek word used is katargeo, which means “to render
inoperative.” The Law has been rendered inoperative insofar as
being the rule of life over the believer.
The second passage is Romans 10:4: For Christ is the end of the law
unto righteousness to every one that believes. The Greek word for end
is "telos" and can mean either “termination” or “goal.” However, the
evidence clearly favors the meaning of end as “termination.” For
example, Thayer gives the primary meaning of telos as: “end, i.e. a.
termination, the limit at which a thing ceases to be, . . . in the
Scriptures also of a temporal end; . . . Christ has brought the law to
and end . . .” Not only does Thayer give “termination” as the primary
meaning of telos, he also includes Romans 10:4 as belonging to that
category of usage. Nor is “goal” listed as secondary meaning or even a third meaning in priority of usage; it is
fourth on the list. Arndt and Gingrich give the primary meaning of the
verbal form as bring to an end, finish, complete. The nominal telos is
given the primary meaning of: “end . . . in the sense of termination,
cessation.” They, too, list Romans 10:4 as being in this category and
list the meaning of “goal” as being third on the list.
Furthermore, the meaning of cessation is more consistent with the wide
context of Romans and in keeping with what he said in Romans 7:5-6. In
the final analysis, it does not matter since other Scriptures teach
both truths: the Messiah is the goal of the Law, but He is also the
termination of the Law. Since the Messiah is the end
of the Law, this means that there is no justification through it (Gal.
2:16). This, of course, was always true but, furthermore, there is no
sanctification or perfection through the Law (Heb. 7:19). Thus it
should be very evident that the Law has come to an end in the Messiah
and cannot function in justification or sanctification. For the
believer especially, it has be rendered inoperative.
Third: the Law was never meant to be a permanent administration but a
temporary one. This is stated in Galatians 3:19: What then is the law?
It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to
whom the promise has been made. In this context, Paul stated that the
Law of Moses was an addition to
the Abrahamic Covenant (vv. 15-18). It was added for the purpose of
making sin very clear so that all will know that they have fallen short
of God’s standard of righteousness. It was a temporary addition until
the seed, the Messiah would come; now that He has come, the Law is finished. The addition has ceased to function with the cross.
Fourth: with the Messiah, there is a new priesthood according to the
Order of Melchizedek, not according to the Order of Aaron. The Law of
Moses provided the basis for the Levitical Priesthood and there was an
inseparable connection between the Law of Moses and the Levitical
Priesthood. Thus, a new priesthood required a new Law under which it
could operate according to Hebrews 7:11-18. The point made in Hebrews
7:11-12 is that, under the Law, only one type of priesthood was
permitted, the Levitical Priesthood. The Levitical Priesthood could not
bring perfection. This is explained in Hebrews 9:11-10:18 that states
rather clearly that animal blood could not bring perfection; only the
Messiah’s blood could do that. The Mosaic Law
was the basis for the Levitical Priesthood. For the Levitical
Priesthood to be done away with and to be replaced by a new priesthood,
the Priesthood of Melchizedek, required a change of the Law. As long as
the Law of Moses was in effect, no other priesthood was valid except
the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood (Heb. 7:13-17).
Was there a change of the Law? Hebrews 7:18 states that the Mosaic Law
was “disannulled.” Because it is no longer in effect, there is now a
new priesthood after the Order of Melchizedek. If the Mosaic Law were
still in effect, Jesus could not function as a priest. Because the
Mosaic Law is no longer in effect, Jesus can be a priest
after the Order of Melchizedek. Consequently, the Law of Moses has been
“disannulled” in favor of a new Law, which is the basis for the priest
according to the Order of Melchizedek.
Fifth: the writer of Hebrews goes on to say that the above truth was
already anticipated by the prophets in 8:8-13. In verses 8-12, he
quotes the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34 and then concludes in
verse 13: In that he says, A new covenant he has made the first old.
But that which is becoming old and waxed aged is nigh unto vanishing
away. Thus the Law of Moses became old with Jeremiah and vanished away with the Messiah’s death.
Sixth: the Law was the middle wall of partition that was now broken
down according to Ephesians 2:14-15: For he is our peace, who made both
one, and broke down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in
his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in
ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so
As noted earlier, God made four unconditional eternal covenants with
Israel. All of God’s blessings, both material and spiritual, are
mediated by means of these four Jewish covenants. God also had a fifth
covenant which was temporary and conditional, the Mosaic Covenant that
contained the Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law served as the middle wall of
partition to keep Gentiles, as Gentiles, away from enjoying Jewish
spiritual blessings. If the Mosaic Law were still in effect, it would
still be a wall of partition to keep the Gentiles away;
but this wall of partition was broken down with the death of the
Messiah. Since the wall of partition was the Mosaic Law, this meant the
Law of Moses was done away with. Gentiles, as Gentiles, on the basis of
faith can and do enjoy Jewish spiritual blessings by becoming fellow
partakers of the promise in the Messiah.
The seventh line of evidence for the annulment of the Mosaic Law is
based on Galatians 3:23-4:7. In this passage, the Law is looked upon as
a pedagogue or a tutor over a minor to bring him to mature faith in the
Messiah (v. 24). Having become a believer, he is no longer under this
tutor, which is the Law of Moses (v. 25). As clearly as it could be
stated, this passage teaches that with the Messiah’s coming, the Law is
no longer in effect.
The eighth line of evidence for the annulment of the Mosaic Law is II
Corinthians 3:2-11 that zeros right in on the part of the Law that most
people want to retain, the Ten Commandments. First of all, one needs to
see what Paul is saying concerning the Law of Moses. In verses 3 and 7,
the spotlight is on the Ten Commandments, since it is these that were
engraven on stones. In verse 7, it is called the ministration of death.
In verse 9, it is called the ministration of condemnation. These are
negative, but valid, descriptions. The main
point, then, is that the Law of Moses, especially represented by the
Ten Commandments, is a ministration of death and a ministration of
condemnation. If the Ten Commandments were still in force today, this
would still be true. However, they are no longer in force, for it
states in verses 7 and 11 that the Law has “passed away.” The Greek
word used is katargeo, which means, “to render inoperative.” Since the
emphasis in this passage is on the Ten Commandments, this means that
the Ten Commandments have passed away. The thrust is very clear. The
Law of Moses, and especially the Ten Commandments, is no longer in
effect. In fact, the superiority of the Law of the Messiah is seen by
the fact that it will never be rendered inoperative. Unlike Covenant
Theology, Dispensationalism does not insist that the Ten Commandments
are still in force and do exegetical gymnastics to avoid observing the
Sabbath, the very way the Ten Commandments actually require.
To summarize this section, the Law is a unit comprised of 613
commandments, and all of it has been rendered inoperative. There is no
commandment that has continued beyond the cross of the Messiah. The Law
is there and can be used as a teaching tool to show God’s standard of
righteousness, as well as man’s sinfulness and need of a
substitutionary atonement. It can be used to teach many spiritual
truths about God as a man. It can be used to point one to the Messiah
(Gal. 3:23-25). However, it has completely ceased to function as an
authority over the individual. It is no longer the rule of life for
3. The Moral Law
The third point in the status of the Mosaic Covenant deals with the
question, “What about the moral law?” It is this part of the Law of
Moses that many generally try to retain and, therefore, conclude that
the Law of Moses is still in effect. However, the moral law preceded
the Law of Moses. The moral law is not identical to the Law of Moses.
Adam and Eve broke the moral law long before Moses. Satan broke the
moral law even before Adam. The Law of Moses embodied the moral law,
but it did not originate the moral law. Now the moral law is embodied
in the Law of the Messiah.
4. Matthew 5:17-18
The fourth point in the status of the Mosaic Covenant concerns a
favorite objection to the teaching of the termination of the Law of
Moses, which is the Messiah’s statement in Matthew 5:17-18: Think not
that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy,
but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass
away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law,
till all things be accomplished. Those who cite this passage are seldom
consistent with it. It is obvious that Yeshua was speaking of the Law
of Moses. Yet those who use this passage never accept their own thesis
since they must believe in the doing away in some form of many of the
commandments of the Law of Moses, if not most. The commandments
concerning priesthood and sacrifice are only one example; other
examples including the food laws and clothing laws can be cited.
Regardless of what semantics such as “supersede,” “brought to greater
fulfillment,” “bringing out its true meaning,” among others, may be
used to describe this change, it is clear that a great many of the 613
commandments no longer apply as they were written. If, by the Law of
Moses, they mean only the moral commandments, then their citation of
Matthew 5:17-18 does not prove their point.
Verse 19 adds these least commandments, which includes more than merely
the moral commandments and the emphasis is on the entire Law, all 613
commandments. Verse 19 reads: Whosoever therefore shall break one of
these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least
in the kingdom of heaven; but
whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the
kingdom of heaven. Verse 19 must not be ignored. True, Jesus did come
to fulfill the Law, but the Law of Moses did not end with the coming of
Messiah or by His life, but by His death. As long as He was alive, He
was under the Mosaic Law and had to fulll and obey every commandment
applicable to Him, not in the way that the rabbis had reinterpreted it.
The statement of Matthew 5:17-19 was made while He was living. Even
while He was living, He already implied the
doing away with the Law. One example is Mark 7:19: This he said, making
all meats clean. Can it be any clearer than this that at least the
dietary commandments have been done away with? Again, all must admit
that great parts of the Law no longer apply in the manner prescribed by
Moses. Have they been done away with or not? To constantly claim that
the Law of Moses is still in effect or that it is the same as the Law
of the Messiah, while ignoring the details of that same Law, is
inconsistent and a theological fallacy.
As for the meaning of the word fulfill, the Greek term is consistently
used by Matthew in reference to fulfilling prophecy and so bringing it
to an end. Matthew 1:22-23 states that the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 was
fulfilled, that this brought the prophecy to an end and so nothing in
the future will fulll it. To “fulll” meant to accomplish what
prophecy demanded while to “abolish” meant to fail to accomplish it.
5. The Law of Christ
The fifth point in the status of the Mosaic Covenant is that the Law of
Moses has been disannulled and believers are now under a new Law. This
new Law is called the law of Christ in Galatians 6:2 and the
law of the Spirit of life in Romans 8:2. This is a brand new Law,
totally separate from the Law of Moses. The Law of the Messiah contains
all the individual commandments from the Messiah and the apostles that
are applicable to a New Testament believer. The details on this period
will be discussed under the New Covenant.
6. The Principle of Freedom
The sixth point in the status of the Mosaic covenant is that the
believer in the Messiah is free from the Law of Moses. This means that
he is free from the necessity of keeping any commandment of that
system. On the other hand, he is also free to keep parts of the Law of
Moses if he so desires. The biblical basis for this freedom to
keep the Law can be seen in the actions of Paul, who was the greatest
exponent of freedom from the Law. His vow in Acts 18:18 is based on
Numbers 6:2, 5, 9, and 18. His desire to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost
in Acts 20:16 is based on Deuteronomy 16:16. The strongest passage is
Acts 21:17-26, where we see Paul himself, the
apostle of freedom from the Law, keeping the Law. The believer is free
from the Law, but he is also free to keep parts of it. Thus, if a
Jewish believer feels the need to refrain from eating pork, he is free
to do so. The same is true for all the other commandments.
However, there are two dangers that must be avoided by any believer who
volunteers to keep commandments of the Law of Moses. One danger is the
idea that by doing so he is contributing to his own justification and
sanctification. This is false. The second danger is in one’s expecting
others to keep the same commandments he has decided to keep. This is
equally wrong and borders on legalism. The one who exercises his
freedom to keep
the Law must recognize and respect another’s freedom not to keep it.
7. The Sabbath
And the seventh point in the status of the Mosaic Covenant is that the
Sabbath was the sign, seal, and token of the Mosaic Covenant. As long
as that covenant was in effect, the Sabbath law was mandatory. Since
the Law of Moses has been rendered inoperative, then the Sabbath
command no longer applies. Those with their
inconsistent insistence that the Law of Moses is still in effect, also
insist that the Sabbath law applies. However, they totally ignore what
Moses wrote about how to keep the Sabbath and they even change the day
of the week, something that the Law of Moses does not allow. Many
Jewish believers also insist on mandatory Sabbath
keeping. Though they inconsistently base it on the Law of Moses, at
least they retain it with the seventh day of the week. The apologetics
used for mandatory Sabbath keeping are almost exclusively based upon
the Old Testament for obvious reasons: there is no New Testament
commandment for believers in general
or Jewish believers in particular to keep the Sabbath. The claim that
Sabbath observance is part of the New Covenant is nowhere supported by
the New Covenant Scriptures themselves. In fact, if anything, they
would teach the opposite.