About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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The Law Of Moses and Christians

Matt. 5:17 -18 is often quoted to prove that the Law of Moses still exists and should be obeyed by both Jews and Christians today.  Because it’s impossible to obey the Law in today’s society as it was originally written many people Christianize parts of it and rationalize the rest away. There’s no Biblical or hermeneutical support for this practice.  This demonstrates a lack of understanding concerning how the New Testament relates to the Old Testament, how Jesus relates to the Law of Moses, and how Christians should relate to the Law.    


Matt. 5:17-18 says, "think not that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of the pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished" (NIV)  Note the NIV uses the word “abolish”.  The KJV uses the word “destroy”, as in, “think not that I have come to destroy the Law…”

Understanding what Jesus says here will put tithing into it’s proper New Testament perspective. Misunderstanding what Jesus says here will throw everything out of whack as a Christian attempting to understand the Old Testament. Some tithers suggest that the Law is not yet abolished because Jesus says so here, and so we should tithe, but that’s not what Jesus was really saying.  A brief reading of the New Testament should tell you that the Law means something different to Christians than what it meant to the Jews of old.   

So what’s Matt. 5:17 - 18 all about?  Jesus says that the Law and Prophets will be abolished when heaven and earth disappear, which we know will happen when this present heaven and earth is replaced by the new heaven and earth as seen in Revelation.  Until that day comes, how do Christians relate to the Law and Prophets, meaning the Old Testament?       


To begin to answer this we note that Jesus said that He didn’t come to abolish the Law or the Prophets until all things written in them are fulfilled and completed.  Jesus isn’t just speaking about the Law here.  He’s speaking about the Prophets as well, meaning He‘s speaking about  the entire Old Testament.  We’ll major on Jesus’ words in relation to the Law because that’s where most of the misunderstanding lies.     


Jesus’ words tell me that the Law, like the Prophets is prophetic. It’s not just a list of rules.  It’s just as prophetic as the book of Isaiah. For example the blood sacrifices foretell the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. So the Law needs to be fulfilled as well as obeyed. I will show you that Jesus did both.  

Here’s the question, “since the Law will not be destroyed until it’s fulfilled, when was, or when will it be fulfilled”?  To help answer this question we’ll look at Col. 2:13 - 14.  Paul says, "...God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations. He took it away, nailing it to the cross." (NIV)  Paul tells us that when Jesus died on the cross, the Law died as well. We need to understand Paul’s words here in relation to Jesus’ words in Matt. 5:17 concerning the Law not being destroyed.  The Law was cancelled and taken away because Jesus Himself was the fulfillment of the Law.   In a secondary way He also fulfilled the Law by obeying it.  So the Law has been laid aside, but not destroyed. The reason for this is because it still has a purpose, but its purpose completely changed at the cross. 

Heb. 8:13 says, "by calling this covenant new, He has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear". This verse tells us that the Old Covenant is obsolete or outdated, and that includes the Law, which  also includes tithing laws. In today’s computer world you could say there’s a new version of the Old Covenant.  It’s the New Covenant.  The old version  “will soon disappear”, meaning, it hasn’t disappeared yet.  This is where some confusion sets in. How can the Law be cancelled and nailed to the cross as stated in Col. 2:13 - 14, while at the same time disappear at some later date as stated in Heb. 8:13?  It’s simple. The Law still exists as Jesus said in Matt 5:17, but for different reasons.  It no longer has any purpose in regards to finding salvation and righteousness, or obeying its rules.


The main reason why the Law isn’t abolished is because parts of it are yet to be fulfilled which will happen at the end of this age.  Certain feasts are examples of this future fulfillment. Yet for those parts that have been fulfilled, they have been laid aside, nailed to the cross until the end comes when its total destruction occurs.  


Another verse to consider is found in Gal. 3:24 – 25 where Paul says that the Law was our teacher that led us to Christ. Yet as Paul says,  “…after faith has come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster”.  (KJV)  It’s clear, the Law was our schoolmaster. It has shown us our sin and has led us to faith.  That part of the Law’s job is finished for good. 


Notice the word “under” in Gal. 3:24 - 25.  The Jews of old were “under” the Law of Moses.  Once faith in Jesus came they were no longer “under” the Law.  This means that even though the Law has not been destroyed because it still has a prophetic purpose, Jews or Christians are not under any obligation to obey it.  We are obligated to Jesus.    


Another thought to consider concerning Gal. 3:24-25 is that Paul was speaking to Christian Jews.  They were being taught   by false teachers that they needed to obey the Law of Moses as Christians.  Paul called this thinking demonic in Gal. 3:1.  He said, “you foolish Galatians, who has ‘bewitched’ you…”  From the Greek, “bewitched” means “demonized”.  Paul taught that living under the Law as New Testament Christians was demonic.  You might want to think about that for a bit.    


We should also remember that Gentiles were never under the Law in the first place unless they became Jews.  The Law was given to Jews, not Gentiles, or Christians, and it is clear from Paul’s writings that Gentiles don’t have to become Jews in order to be Christians.  I’ll comment on this later.     

If these verses aren’t convincing enough, read Rom. 10:4.  Paul says, "Christ is the end of the Law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes". You can’t get it much clearer.  Righteousness comes through Jesus, and not by  obeying any part of the Law of Moses.  Jesus ended the Law.   


One cannot say that Christians must tithe because Jesus said the Law still exists in Matt.5:17.  Think of it this way.  List every aspect of the Law in point form on a very long sheet of paper.  Now check off each point of the Law that Jesus has fulfilled.  Very few points will be left unchecked.  Most lines will have a check mark, including the tithing lines.  All these points have been nailed to the cross because Jesus is the Law’s fulfillment.  The entire Law of Moses as given to Israel to obey simply does not apply to Christians, and that certainly includes the tithing laws.     


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