Tuesday, February 26, 2008

No Longer Under the Law-Continued

By Nathan Busenitz @http://www.sfpulpit.com

No Longer Under the Law (Part 2)In today’s post, we will continue to discuss our first proposition: That in the New Testament era, believers are no longer under any part of the Mosaic Law.

This proposition is based on four premises, the first of which we considered yesterday (that the biblical saints regarded the Mosaic Law as a solitary unit, such that to be under part of it is to be under the whole, and vice versa).

Today we will consider a second premise: New Testament believers are no longer under the Mosaic Law because Jesus Christ fulfilled that Law perfectly and completely.

Not only was Jesus born under the Mosaic Law (Luke 2:21-24; Rom. 15:8; Gal. 4:4); He obeyed the Mosaic Law (Matt. 3:15; Luke 22:8; 1 John 3:4-5); and He commanded the Jews of His day to obey it also (Matt. 5-7; 8:4; 19:17-19). In fact, Christ says in Matthew 5:17-18 that He came to “fulfill” the Law – a promise He kept in every way possible.

First, He fulfilled all of the moral requirements of the Law, keeping every one of the commandments perfectly (Rom. 5:19) and taking away the curse of the Law for those who trust in Him (Rom. 10:4; Gal. 3:13; cf. Matt. 27:51). Second, He fulfilled the civil requirements of the Law, replacing the old constitution (the Mosaic Covenant) with a new constitution (the New Covenant — 2 Cor. 3:4-6; Heb. 8:7-13; 9:15; 10:14-17; 12:24; 13:20).

Third, He fulfilled the ceremonial requirements of the Law, as the ultimate and perfect sacrifice (Heb. 7:27; 9:12). And fourth, He perfectly and completely fulfilled all of the messianic prophecies given in the Old Testament (both those found in the Pentateuch and those found in the rest of the OT — Matt. 1:22).

Of course, these divisions (moral, civil, ceremonial) are artificial. Yet, they help show the completeness with which Christ fulfilled every aspect of the Old Testament Law.

As the Spotless Lamb (1 Pet. 1:19), Christ fulfilled the Law’s moral requirements; as the King of Kings (Rev. 17:14), Christ fulfilled the Law’s civil requirements; as the great High Priest (Heb. 4:14), Christ fulfilled the Law’s ceremonial requirements; and as the Coming One (Matt. 11:13), Christ fulfilled God’s messianic promises (as delineated in all of Old Testament prophecy).

Moreover, what the Law could not do (namely, save), God did through Christ (Romans 8:3). Those who are in Christ are no longer under the Law of Moses, but are under the Law of Christ — since they are in Him who perfectly fulfilled the Law of God in every respect.

We will consider more of what it means to be under the Law of Christ in tomorrow’s post.

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For those interested, here are several lists showing additional aspects of the Mosaic Law that Christ perfectly fulfilled:

Christ’s Fulfillment of the Mosaic Offerings

1. Burnt Offering (Lev. 1:3-17; 6:8-13) — purpose was atonement — Christ’s sinless nature allowed Him to atone for our sins.

2. Grain Offering (Lev. 2:1-16; 6:14-23) — purpose was dedication/consecration — Christ was wholly devoted to the Father’s purposes.

3. Peace Offering (Lev. 3:1-17; 7:11-36) — purpose was reconciliation/fellowship — Christ made it possible for us to have everlasting peace with God.

4. Sin Offering (Lev. 4:1-5:13; 6:24-30) — purpose was propitiation — Christ took our place on the cross in order to save us.

5. Trespass Offering (Lev. 5:14-6:7; 7:1-10) — purpose was repentance — Christ paid it all for redemption.

Christ’s Fulfillment of Old Testament Feasts (Lev. 23)

1. Passover (March/April) — Death of Christ (1 Cor. 5:7)

2. Unleavened Bread (March/April) – Sinlessness of Christ (1 Cor. 5:8)

3. Firstfruits (March/April) — Resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:23)

4. Pentecost (May/June) — Outpouring of Spirit of Christ (Acts 1:5; 2:4)

5. Trumpets (Sept/Oct) — Israel’s Regathering by Christ (Matt. 24:31)

6. Atonement (Sept/Oct) — Substitutionary Sacrifice by Christ (Rom. 11:26)

7. Tabernacles (Sept/Oct) — 7. Rest and Reunion with Christ (Zech. 14:16-19)

OT Sacrifices Compared to Christ’s Sacrifice in Hebrews

1. Old Covenant (temporary) — New covenant (forever) Heb. 7:22; 8:6,13; 10:20

2. Obsolete promises — Better promises Heb. 8:6-13

3. A shadow — The reality Heb. 8:5; 9:23,24; 10:1

4. Aaronic priesthood (many) — Melchizedekian (one) Heb. 6:19-7:25

5. Sinful priesthood — Sinless Priest Heb. 7:26,27; 9:7

6. Limited-by-death priesthood — Forever priesthood Heb. 7:16,17,23,24

7. Daily sacrifices — Once-for-all sacrifice Heb. 7:27; 9:12,25,26; 10:9,10,12

8. Animal sacrifices — Sacrifice of God’s Son Heb. 9:11-15,26; 10:4-10,19

9. Ongoing sacrifices — Sacrifices unnecessary Heb. 10:11-14,18

10. One year atonement — Eternal propitiation Heb. 7:25; 9:12,15; 10:1-4,12

NOTE: These lists are adapted from The MacArthur Study Bible (pp. 158, 160, 186).

No Longer Under the Law (Part 3)

No Longer Under the Law (Part 3)(By Nathan Busenitz)

Today we will continue looking at our first proposition: That New Testament believers are no longer under (or bound to) the Mosaic Law.

As we’ve noted previously, this proposition is based on for premises, two of which we have already considered: (1) That the biblical saints saw the Mosaic law as a solitary unit, and (2) That Christ fulfilled the law perfectly and completely.

Today we will consider the third: (3) That Christians are under a new law, the Law of Christ.

Based on the fact that Christ fulfilled the Mosaic Law completely, those who are “in Christ” (a phrase often used by Paul to speak of Christians) are no longer subject to the Mosaic Law. What Christ fulfilled, the Christian no longer needs to fulfill. [1] Instead, New Testament believers are subject to the Law of Christ (also called the Law of the Spirit—Romans 8:1).

With this in mind, Robert Lightner identifies six passages that discuss the New Testament believer’s relationship to the Old Testament Law. [2] We will consider each of these passages briefly:

Acts 15:1-29. The fifteenth chapter of Acts details the decision of the Jerusalem council regarding what parts of the Mosaic Law Gentile Christians were required to observe. In verse 29, the apostles determine that Gentile Christians are not required to keep the whole Mosaic Law, but rather to avoid only a few things (including eating food offered to idols, eating blood, eating animals that were strangled, and practicing sexual immorality). But do these few restrictions indicate that the Jerusalem council thought that all Christians were still subject to some of the Mosaic restrictions?

In light of Paul’s later teaching (in 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14), the answer is clearly no. Instead, they placed these restrictions (specifically the first three) on the Gentiles so as not to be a stumbling block for their Jewish brothers and sisters in Christ (1 Cor. 8:7-13). Thus, the teachings of the apostles in Acts 15 (where Paul was present) and the teachings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 8 do not conflict. While the apostles understood dietary restrictions to have been ended (cf. Acts 10-11), they nevertheless encouraged Gentile Christians to be considerate of their Jewish counterparts.

(It is significant to note that the Jerusalem Council makes no mention of the Ten Commandments in this passage.)

Romans 6:14. In this passage, Paul is specifically discussing the process of sanctification in the Christian life. After all, those who have been buried with Christ (vv. 1-10) are also dead to sin (vv. 11-23). Verse 14, then, contends that sanctification cannot come from following the Mosaic Law, but rather by grace through Christ. The fact that Paul is speaking of the Mosaic Law in verse 14 is evidenced in 7:4-7. As Lightner points out, “Rather than basing progressive sanctification on the deeds of the Law, Paul stressed that believers are not under the Law. For him the Law was not a means of sanctification any more than it was a means of justification.” [3]

2 Corinthians 3:6–13. Paul spends significant time in these verses contrasting the Mosaic Covenant with the New Covenant found in Christ (see v. 5). In fact, the Law of Moses is that which “kills” (v. 6), a “ministry of death” (v. 7), a “ministry of condemnation” (v. 9), and that which is “passing away” (v. 11). Clearly, the apostle leaves no room for even partial adherence to the old legal system. Thus, Gleason argues:

The use of this passage to advocate the end of the Mosaic Law for Christians fits well with Paul’s argument against the Judaizers. They were attempting to place the Corinthians under bondage to the covenantal stipulations of the Mosaic Covenant. Paul’s discussion of the fading glory of the Old Covenant was designed to show that those stipulations were temporary and were replaced by the New Covenant. To ignore this fact as some do is to assume erroneously like the Judaizers that Gentiles need to observe part or all of the Law. Such an assumption violates the temporary function of the Mosaic Law within the framework of a covenant established between God and the nation Israel. [4]

Galatians 3:17–25. As in 2 Corinthians, Paul (in this passage) is arguing against the teachings of the legalistic Judaizers. Again, the apostle condemns those who would seek some sort of heavenly merit through their strict adherence to the Mosaic Law. In verse 24, Paul makes it clear that the Law was only temporary, serving as a tutor that pointed to Christ. When He came, the Law’s tutorial purpose was completed. Furthermore, because Paul references the entire Sinaitic event (v. 17), he must have the entire Sinaitic Law in view. Thus, the entire Mosaic Law passed off the scene with the death of Christ.

Galatians 5:18. Not only is the Law unable to save (as seen in Gal. 3), it is also unable to sanctify (as was also evidenced in Rom. 6). Thus, Paul argues that those who are living in accordance with the Spirit are no longer bound by the Mosaic Law. The fruit of the Spirit (listed in vv. 22-23) is not the by-product of the Old Testament Law. Rather, for the Christian, it is the by-product of the Law of Christ (Gal. 6:1-2).

Hebrews 7:11-12. In discussing the superiority of Christ’s priesthood over that of the Levitical system, the author of Hebrews also implies that Christ’s Law is superior to that of Moses. In fact, the writer directly says that if “the priesthood [is] changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law” (v. 12). After all, “the Law of Moses and the Levitical priesthood were inseparable. The one without the other would have been meaningless.” [5]

Charles Ryrie takes this passage to its logical conclusion:

If the law has not been done away today, then neither has the Levitical priesthood; but if Christ is our high priest, we cannot be under the law. Every prayer offered in the name of Christ is an affirmation of the end of the law. . . . [Thus] the evidence of the New Testament forces to the conclusion that the law—all of it, including the Ten Commandments—has been done away.” [6]

Tomorrow we will conclude this first proposition, by looking at a fourth premise and then by summarizing the discussion up to this point. Again, for those who feel the series has been lopsided so far (leaning in an antinomian direction), please remember that our second proposition is coming—and that it will bring some balance to the discussion. We will introduce that second proposition at the end of our article tomorrow.

* * * *


[1] This contrast is made especially clear in Galatians 3:19-4:7 and 6:1-2. In denouncing those who cling to the Mosaic Law, Paul upholds those who live by the Law of Christ. Clearly, the latter has replaced the former. See, Richard N. Longenecker, “The Pedagogical Nature of the Law in Galatians 3:19-4:7,” JETS 25:1 (Mar. 1982): 71.

[2] Robert P. Lightner, “Theological Perspectives on Theonomy—Part 3: A Dispensational Response to Theonomy,” BSac 143:571 (July 1986): 241-43.

[3] Ibid., 242.

[4] Randall Gleason, “Paul’s Covenantal Contrasts in 1 Corinthians 3:1-11,” BSac 154/613 (Jan. 1997): 79.

[5] Lightner, “Part 3,” 243.

[6] Charles C. Ryrie, “The End of the Law,” BSac 124/495 (July 1967): 244.

No Longer Under the Law (Part 4)

(By Nathan Busenitz)

No Longer Under the Law (Part 4)This will conclude our discusion of our first proposition: That New Testament Believers Are Not Under the Mosaic Law.

This proposition is based on four premises: (1) the Mosaic Law is viewed by the New Testament authors as a solitary unit; (2) Jesus Christ fulfilled the Mosaic Law such that those who are in Christ are no longer under the Law; and (3) Christians are under the Law of Christ which is distinct from the Law of Moses.

A fourth premise is (4) that the Mosaic Law was specifically given to Old Testament Israel and therefore does not directly apply to the New Testament Church.

Due to the numerous arguments involved, a detailed discussion concerning the distinction between Israel and the Church is outside of the limits of this study. In our view, the mystery nature of the church (Eph 3:4-6), the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5; 1 Cor 12:13), Christ’s promise to build (future tense) His church (Matt 18:17), Paul’s teaching concerning the beginning of the church (Eph 1:20; 4:7-12), and the New Testament’s references to Israel as a separate entity during the church age (1 Cor 10:32; Rom 9:3-4; 11:26) distinguish it from Old Testament Israel.

Because the Mosaic Law was Israel’s constitution—it was intended for them, not the Church.


Before moving on to our second proposition, we believe it would be beneficial to summarize our first: That New Testament believers are not under the Mosaic Law. We have several reasons for holding this view. First, the Bible does not present the Mosaic Law in parts or categories—but rather as a unified whole. Thus, it follows that if part of the Law has passed away, the whole Law has passed away. Second, the Bible indicates that Jesus Christ fulfilled the entire Mosaic Law perfectly. What He has fulfilled, believers no longer need to fulfill.

Third, the New Testament teaches that, for the Christian, the Law of Moses has been replaced with the Law of Christ (and the Law of the Spirit). The apostles indicate that the Law of Moses was only temporary and that it has passed away. Finally, because the Law of Moses was for Israel (and not the Church) it is no longer binding during the Church age.

In light of these contentions, we have concluded that believers during the church age are no longer under the Mosaic Law.

Coming Up Next:

At the beginning of this series, I noted that my view is based on two propositions, of which we have only considered the first. Beginning Monday, we will consider the second, which might be stated as follows:

Proposition 2: The New Testament writers repeatedly appealed to the Mosaic Law, basing much of their own teaching on the Law and expressing their personal appreciation for it.

Though this proposition initially sounds contradictory to our first proposition, my goal in this series is to show how the two can be harmonized.

A Few Clarifications:

Before going on, I’d like to note a few clarifications based on some of the feedback I’ve gotten this week:

1. I am not advocating New Covenant Theology. It is true that I do see a distinction between the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ. But even Calvin, commenting on Galatians 6:2 noted a “contrast between the law of Christ and the law of Moses.” I believe we are no longer under the Mosaic Law, but that we are now under the Law of Christ. However, I am quite sure that does not make me a New Covenant Theologian.

2. I am not advocating antinomianism. I do believe that Christians are under God’s Law – even if the expression of that law for the church is the Law of Christ, and not the Law of Moses (which was given to Old Testament Israel). A thorough explanation of this will be given next week.

(By the way, for those who want to know where this series is ultimately going, please see my comment to David McCrory following yesterday’s article.)

3. I am not saying that there is no place for a three-fold division of the Mosaic Law. In fact, it can be helpful for our understanding of the Law’s contents to explain it in those terms (which is something I said on both Monday and Tuesday). My point is that such divisions are external additions which have been placed on the Mosaic Law, and which are not explicitly found in the Old Testament, the New Testament, or Old Testament Judaism.

I also believe that, when the apostles speak about the Law in the New Testament, they are usually referring to it as a solitary whole. Thus, when they teach that we are no longer under the Law, they mean the Law in its entirety.

4. Along those lines, I should note that my series is not the final or official word on this issue from Grace Community Church. Phil Johnson did an excellent series on the Law several years back (found here) which approaches the issue differently (though we ultimately end up in a similar place).

As I continue to study this issue myself, I recognize the need to grow in my own understanding of God’s Word. Posting articles like this helps sharpen my own thinking as I interact with our readers in the comments section. Even if someone does not fully agree with my position, I hope the process is helpful in causing us to think deeply about the things of God. I know its been good for me.

5. Finally, I would again ask for patience as the series unfolds. I made the mistake of drawing this series out over two weeks of time. In retrospect, I probably should have summarized my conclusions and done it all in one post. Alas, hindsight is 20/20.

As I’ve stated several times throughout this series, next week will bring the much-needed balance.

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