The law of God as revealed in the Bible is a good,
right and perfect system of eternal directives and principles which
reflects God's character and serves as a means of expressing His love
toward man. God's law teaches man how to properly worship God, how to
love his fellowman, how to live life abundantly, and, at the same time,
how to prepare for an eternal spiritual life in the family of God. The
law of God is represented in both the Old and the New Testaments and is
expressed by both physical actions and spiritual motivations.
The Church of God looks to the whole Bible, both Old
and New Testaments, as its fundamental source of doctrine and teachings.
We accept Christ's statement that "Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Mt. 4:4).
Jesus plainly accepted the authenticity and inspiration of the entire
Old Testament with its three major divisions-the Law, the Prophets and
the Writings (Lk. 24:44)-as being relevant for the New Testament
ministry of the Church of God. In support of this, the apostle Paul
wrote: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable
for doctrine" (2 Tim. 3:16). Therefore, the character, personality and
specific teachings of Jesus Christ-both as the Rock that went with
Israel in the Old Testament (I Cor. 10:4; Deut. 32:15, 18) and as the
son of man and the son of God in the New Testament-are the foundations
of our biblical understanding of man's relationship to the law of God.
God's law in its fullest, most complete sense is
spiritual and could not be discovered or discerned by man without direct
revelation from God. The fullness of God's law involves every facet of
personal and collective human existence. Though its expression may
change as the circumstances change, the eternal spiritual law of God is
unchanging and is always the ultimate object of any biblical law code or
instruction expressed in human language. God's laws are all designed to
lead to a consummate knowledge and understanding of God and of the
ultimate purpose of life, and to supreme godly love and character.
Divine law is the totality of the means whereby God
instructs man how to live most abundantly in this present physical life,
and how to most effectively prepare for the future spiritual life in the
Kingdom of God.
The New Testament writers clearly express a positive
attitude towards God's law as magnified and given spiritual impact and
import by Jesus Christ. Jesus stated that "all the law and the
prophets"-the entire Old Testament-were based on the overall principles
of love toward God and love toward one's fellow man (Mt. 22:36-40).
Furthermore, Christ made it very clear that He did not come to destroy
the law or the prophets (Mt. 5:17). John tells us that sin is the
transgression of the law (I John. 3:4); and Paul says that the law is
holy and just and good (Rom. 7:12).
The overall approach to God's law in the New
Testament is summed up in the statement, "He that saith, I know Him, and
keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (I
John. 2:4). However, in fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy of magnifying the
law and making it honorable (Is. 42:21), Christ instituted certain
changes. Christ Himself specifically abrogated certain statements in the
law, in relation to swearing and to marriage, for example, to bring the
laws given at Sinai more into conformity with the original intent of the
commandments upon which they were based. Moreover, Acts 15 makes clear
that the law in regard to circumcision-which had antedated the covenant
at Sinai was not binding upon Gentile Christians. Therefore, based upon
this example of God's Church using the power entrusted to it by Christ
to make binding decisions (Mt. 16:19), the Church of God recognizes the
same administrative responsibilities-based upon New Testament principles
and examples-to determine the application of Old Testament laws today.
The term "law" is intrinsic to any systematic study
of theology. Yet the English word "law" carries a narrow, legal
connotation which may cause a misunderstanding of the biblical terms. A
number of words in both the Old and the New Testaments are commonly
translated "law" in the major English versions. These words, however,
often admit of broader meaning than the normal English usage and do not
necessarily have legalistic overtones of their English counterparts (or
are otherwise unequivalent).
A thorough study of the Hebrew and Greek terminology
in the Bible would be out of place here because of length and
technicality, though some of the major terms are briefly discussed later
on in this paper. But it might be helpful to illustrate why "law" may
not always be a suitable equivalent of the original. An important term
in the Old Testament and later Judaism is the well-known Hebrew word
torah. It may refer to law as a legal system; it may refer to
specific regulations and statutes. Yet torah is often used in the
broad sense of anything considered traditional, customary and
authoritative. Perhaps the best English equivalent is "teachings" though
even that may not be broad enough in meaning.
One needs to be careful that he does not assume laws
are necessarily categorized by the Hebrew (or English) terms used. There
is no consistent terminology for the various types of laws. For example,
one might assume a distinction between "statute" and "ordinance" as
found in certain translations. However, neither term consistently
translates the same Hebrew word. Thus, the Hebrew hoq is
variously translated as "law...... statute," "ordinance," and
"commandment" in the major English versions. The Ten Commandments are
never called by the Hebrew term usually translated "commandment" (miswah)-they
are simply referred to as the ten "words" (devarim). As mentioned
above, the word torah means much more than just the English word
It is also important to note that the term "law of
Moses" is itself used interchangeably with the term "law of God."
Thus, in Nehemiah 8, the expression alternates
between "law of Moses" in verse 1 and "law of God" in verses 8 and 18.
The term "law of Moses" is generally used as a designation for the
Pentateauch or "Torah." The term "law of Moses" would thus apply to
anything in those five books, whether it be the Ten Commandments or the
sacrificial laws or circumcision. Such usage is confirmed in the New
Testament as, for example, in Luke 24:44.
Thus, the occurrence of "law" in an English
translation may imply-depending on the original Hebrew or Greek and the
context-"legal system," "regulation," "sacrificial ritual," "Ten
Commandments," "principle," "natural law" " the Pentateuch," "customary
tradition," "belief," etc. It is therefore impossible to give a simple
definition of "law." The concept of "law" in the Bible is complex and
cannot be defined or summarized in any brief way without danger of
oversimplification. The very complexity of the subject requires that the
many aspects of the biblical concept of law be discussed. No adequate
understanding of the teaching of God's Church on law can be gained
without a thorough and careful reading of the entire overview given
here. Seldom is an "either/or" position taken. The Church believes in
freedom and law, faith and works, love and law, forgiveness and
justice, reward and selfless service, grace and law, to name only
a few of the traditional dichotomies found in treatments of the subject.
The Bible itself sets the tone for the use of the
term "law. Sometimes law is viewed as the only important thing,
sometimes as a good thing; at other times it is considered something
obsolete, inadequate or incomplete. Perhaps the epitome of biblical
discussion on the subject is found in Paul's writings, yet it is obvious
that Paul has been frequently misunderstood.
Love is the Fulfillment of the Law
God is love. That is His nature and essence (I John.
4:8). It is only from God that we can learn what real and perfect love
is. A great deal depends on the guidance of His Holy Spirit, but God's
love is essentially expressed and taught through His law (Rom. 13:10; I
John. 5:3). It is the major vehicle by which His love has been made
known to mankind.
If we human beings had the love that God has-perfect,
complete and limitless love-we would have no need of any external moral
law (though we should still need God to reveal to us His Sabbath, holy
days spiritual meanings, ceremonial laws, etc.). If human beings had the
full knowledge of love plus the full power to express that love that God
has, there should be no need of external guidelines or codified
statements or definitions or examples of any kind: we would always
express love to its full extent. But we are not God, and we do not have
the perfect love which is exemplified in Him. Human beings must learn
love. Christians must grow toward that absolute embodiment of love
of which all fall so short. This is the purpose of God's law.
How can one know love unless he is taught what it is
and how it works? Ultimately, it is learned by practice. Yet before one
can practice it, there must be some sort of beginning. The various
aspects of God's law in the Bible are designed to give a start to
the individual. These aspects then lead him to greater and greater
understanding of this concept until he learns to live by internalized
spiritual motivations which, while no longer adequately expressible in
human words, impel him to continue to fulfill the objective of God's law
which is love at the highest plane.
The concept of love can be epitomized, albeit
inadequately, in the following statement: Love is both wholehearted
worship toward God and outgoing concern for one's fellow man equal to
the natural concern for self. This is seen in Matthew 22, where Jesus
says that the great commandment in the law is to:
"...love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with
all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great
commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy
neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the
prophets" (vv. 36-40).
Here, Jesus states that our love must be first toward
God with full fervency, and then toward our neighbor in a manner equal
to our love for ourselves. In fact, these two great commandments of God
are the very foundation of God's law on which all the law and all
the prophets hang. All the biblical books on the law and the prophets
teach one, by example as well as by command, how to show love toward his
neighbor. Many of the basic principles of loving one's fellow man are
well known; the basic principles of love of neighbor have appeared in
almost every culture, age and religion (cf. ROM. 2:14-15).
Yet love of God is a point about which there is
considerable difference of opinion. For that reason God gave four basic
commands or principles that are the first four of the great Ten
Commandments (Ex. 20:3-11). The last six proceed to give basic
principles of love of fellow human beings (Ex. 20:12-17). Thus, the two
"great commandments" of love of God and love of man are made more
specific in the broad precepts of the Ten Commandments (cf. Deut.
Limited as they are, however, human beings find it
difficult to translate broad principles into practical application.
Therefore, when God gave the Ten Commandments to
ancient Israel-though it is clear they had already been known for
thousands of years-He did not stop there. He went on to give them more
detailed instructions, some of them rather broad, others very minute and
detailed, applicable only to a specific situation in a specific time or
culture. (These will be discussed later at length.)
It is in the detailed physical regulations that man
first finds himself able to grasp what God's law is all about
(cf. Jas. 1:22-25). Almost everyone understands the need today for a
speed limit or a no-parking sign. Likewise, in ancient Israel, there was
little chance for dispute about the need for a parapet surrounding one's
roof (Deut. 22:8). These are very tangible regulations which anyone can
come to grips with. It is these detailed instructions-often time or
culturally bound-which begin to lead one toward the higher concepts of
God's law and hence "love." This is assuming that one obeys them and
reflects on their purpose: to teach one how to love God and how to love
his fellow man.
The command to build a guard rail around one's roof
has variable application in societies today. It would only serve as a
bird perch in some areas of the world. Yet in the society of ancient
Israel, as also in certain modern forms of architecture, it was, and is,
common to use the roof as living quarters or for other similar purposes.
One who did not protect the users of his roof with a guarding parapet
was guilty of negligence and, consequently, of not loving his neighbor.
One cannot love his neighbor, after all, if he does not correct a
potential hazard to life and limb.
As the individual regulates his life by these. more
narrow ordinances, he starts to perceive what it means to think of
others. He begins to grasp the meaning of living a life which shows
concern for others and is not just purely egocentric. Suddenly, the
minor regulations have a significance greater than their specific object
or immediate concern. The man who would never think of killing a
neighbor in cold blood might accomplish the same act-through unthinking
carelessness-by not penning up his berserk bull. The one who caused an
innocent person to be condemned by his false testimony would be as
guilty of his blood as if he had struck him with a meat cleaver.
The detailed regulations, whether statute, ordinance
or judgment (the terminology is of little significance, as already
discussed, since the Hebrew terms do not correspond exactly with the
English ones) lead to more general precepts. As the individual attempts
to apply the more minute instructions and in so doing considers their
purpose, he comes to see how they relate to one another and how they
incorporate broader concepts. These broader concepts themselves cohere
to form the basic structure of love embodied in the Ten Commandments.
Through these two major facets unfold love of God and love of
man-neither of which can be omitted from the total meaning of love.
At this point, the artificial dilemma regarding the
spirit of the law and the letter of the law takes on a different
perspective. Ultimately, the love of God can be discerned only through
His Spirit. It cannot be expressed in human language in other than
inadequate form. This is why knowledge of God's love is conveyed through
legal, ethical and moral regulations. These instructions are not ends in
themselves. They point to the true end and provide a means of reaching
it. They were not, in their deepest significance, set up as a code by
which a person could be adjudged innocent or guilty. They were designed
to show the way to love of God and love of man.
Naturally, in any human society which does not
understand God's perfect love, some sort of administrative system of
reward and punishment is necessary. In the same way, the concept of sin
as the breaking of God's law is a New Testament concept, and sin plays
an important part in New Testament theology. Yet it is due to the
failings of human nature, not because God is simply interested in the
law as a means of judging sin. Ultimately, the law points beyond the
level of sin, transgression and living by the letter to the love of God.
To fulfill the law to its greatest extent is to have perfect love.
Conversely, to have perfect love means to fulfill the law in its most
Law in the Old Testament
The Old Testament is a collection of diverse types of
literature. The first five books, which compose the Pentateuch, are
often called the "Torah" or "Law." However, the Hebrew term torah,
as mentioned earlier, means "teachings" rather than just "law" in
the legal, codified sense. Further, even though detailed regulations
tend to be centered in the Pentateuch, they are not limited to that
section of the Old Testament, nor is the Pentateuch simply a law code in
the strictest sense.
Some laws in the Old Testament clearly encompass
broad principles while others are quite specific, minute regulations.
The biblical text does not itself always clearly distinguish between the
more important and the less important. That is why one finds many
admonitions to meditate on the law (e.g. Ps. 119:97,99). Thus, even
though these were all laws originating with God, some are more permanent
and spiritual in nature than are others. (For example, the whole
sacrificial system of the tabernacle and temple were important-even
vital-for a certain period of time, but the New Testament shows that
these regulations are not for all men at all times.
They served a specific function for a certain time
and in a particular place while always symbolically pointing to deeper
Old Testament laws can be broken down to various
1) Broad spiritual principles which cover various
lesser laws and regulations. The Ten Commandments are the primary
example, as is clearly recognized by Old Testament scholars. For
example, the seventh commandment--specifically against adultery-is a
broad principle regulating human sexual relations. Detailed instructions
concerning the types of sexual practices to be avoided are found in
Leviticus 18. These latter fall under the category of "civil
regulations" (category no. 2 below) but are summarized by the board
principle of the seventh commandment.
2) Civil regulations for the Israelite theocracy.
These cover a number of different types of regulations. The laws about
building a parapet around one's roof, cutting down fruit trees while
besieging a city, taking the mother bird with her young, inheritance,
cities of refuge, covering an open pit, penning up a dangerous bull,
leaving the corners and the forgotten sheaf for the poor, and many other
instructions had to do with the proper conduct of a physical society
within national state. Since Israel was a theocracy, many of these
regulations had religious overtones, even while being primarily civil in
function, and often pointed toward the broad principle of the law. To
these were added the various decisions made by the judges.
3) Laws of cleanliness and ritual purity.
These are hard to separate since both are often included under the same
instructions. For example, one who touched a dead body had to wash
himself. This is the cleanliness part of the instructions. Yet he also
remained "unclean" (Hebrew tame) for a certain length of
time (Lev. 11:39-40). Thus, both physical cleanliness and ritual
cleanliness are included in the same instructions.
4) Laws relating to the sacrificial system and
other regulations having to do with the religious liturgy or serving a
symbolic or disciplinary function. For example, individuals were to
sew blue fringes on their garments as a physical ritual to remind them
of God's commandments (Num. 15:37-40). Circumcision was also a religious
ceremony of great importance. Whole sections of the Pentateuch (e.g.
Lev. 1-10) give detailed instructions about the conduct of the
sacrificial system. The sacrifices were, of course, religious in purpose
since they had to do with worship and expiation of sin (Lev. 4: 26,35;
One can use the analogy of a modern free country to
better understand the various levels of Old Testament law. All
instructions were part of that law. None were to be slighted or ignored.
The breaking of any law brought some sort of penalty on the violator,
though the penalties varied in severity. The same is true with the laws
within, for example, the United States. The Constitution says nothing
about speed limits, property taxes, zoning, or sexual conduct. Rather,
laws are broadly laid out and worded to serve as an overall guide for
all generations. All other laws-whether national, regional or local-must
conform to the principles laid down in the Constitution. These laws
themselves vary in importance. Some cover only a certain state or
region or city. They may need to be changed according to the time and
circumstances. In addition, a certain body of common law has grown up
through individual court decisions (cf. the "judgments" of the Old
Category no. 1 might correspond to a national
constitution-such as that of the United States-and cover all men at all
times. Category no. 2 might be analogous to national laws passed by
national legislators. That is, they may incorporate regulations which
have permanent value for various human societies. On the other hand,
some of the regulations may be culturally bound and require modification
or replacement to remain relevant in a changing society. For
example, the laws of inheritance were very important for ancient Israel
but are less useful today. The seventh-year, land Sabbath could be
applied in a nation under God's government but is difficult for all
Christians everywhere to apply in today's society. Thus, the specific
law sometimes does not fit the changed situation brought about by the
vicissitudes of time and circumstance.
Yet, one should not allow the concept of broad
principles to devalue minute and detailed regulations. It would be
impossible to run a country only on the broad principles of a
constitution. Other laws, statutes and ordinances are also required.
Speed limits and obedience to traffic lights may not be the most
spiritual or "moral" of laws, but they are nonetheless essential for man
in a mechanized society. Such ordinances are the result of applying
moral and ethical principles (not running into another automobile does,
after all, have ethical consequences); chaos would ensue if they were
suddenly stricken from the books. To say that a law is of lesser value
or more narrow in application than another is not to say that it is of
no concern or that it can be ignored. The same applies to the detailed
laws of the Old Testament.
No survey, even a lengthy one, can begin to cover all
the examples or details of law in the Old Testament. The basic types of
law and their function have been outlined above. Following is a brief
historical survey, given to illustrate that outline and to show that law
was by no means static during Old Testament times, even during the
history of Israel.
The Old Testament, especially the book of Genesis,
records the existence of extensive legal principles and legal codes long
before the foundation of the nation of Israel. The last hundred years of
archaeological discoveries have seen the discovery of legal codes and
regulations from various parts of the ancient Near East. Thus, the
particular codification given under the Sinai covenant was hardly the
giving of law where none had previously existed. In fact, many of the
regulations found in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers were
only a reaffirmation of accepted regulations which had been known for
The account of the Garden of Eden is the first
reference on instructions to human beings. Adam and Eve were instructed
in the proper use and enjoyment of their idyllic physical surroundings;
the one thing expressly forbidden was partaking of the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil. This first simple instruction was given for
the good of Adam and Eve, yet they disobeyed and reaped the
Their sons, Cain and Abel, knew of God and worshipped
Him by means of a burnt offering. For a reason not fully specified in
the Genesis account, Cain's offering was not acceptable. His jealousy of
Abel, whose sacrifice was accepted, produced the first murder. This
brief episode shows several important points: worship was permitted
through certain ritualistic ceremonies; this worship was regulated by
some sort of unwritten code which Cain violated; Cain knew he was wrong
to slay his brother and tried to cover it up; two sins-violations of
law-are pointed out: murder and lying. It is therefore impossible to
refer to the period before Sinai as a time of no law.
Similarly, the flood of Noah came because "God saw
that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every
imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually"
(Gen. 6:5). Wickedness and evil are capable of existence only when there
is a standard against which they can be judged. That standard does not
have to be written down or externally codified; it can be a common
understanding to which the term "natural law" or perhaps even "common
law" could be applied. The point is that law had to exist before
actions could be pronounced good or evil.
Throughout the patriarchal period, various statements
are made which evidence at least an implicit code or system of law with
grave results for violation and great blessings for obedience. Perhaps
the classic capsule statement of the situation is contained in Genesis
26 in a reference to Abraham: "Sojourn in this land, and I will be with
you, and will bless you; . . . and I will fulfill the oath which I swore
to Abraham your father. . . because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my
charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws" (vv. 3-5).
Abraham, Isaac and their descendants were blessed for
obedience to well-known laws and commandments. The fact that these are
not specifically enumerated does not mean that they did not exist. On
the contrary, many of them can be known by the specific examples
which presuppose them. The following are examples of implicit laws in
Genesis. Adultery being punishable: "What is this you have done to us?
One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would
have brought guilt upon us" (26:10); homosexuality being drastically
punished (chapter 19); circumcision being a requirement for descendants
of Abraham as a sign of God's covenant with him (chapter 17); private
property being respected (chapter 23); standard weights being used in
business dealings (23:16); theft being wrong (31:19,30,32). Many other
examples could be cited.
Therefore, when God brought Israel out of Egypt, it
was no new thing for Him to lay down regulations for them. The first
command concerned the institution of the Passover and Days of Unleavened
Bread. Between Rameses and Sinai, a number of different commands were
given to the Israelites. On Mount Sinai God spoke the Ten Commandments
Himself and wrote them on two tables of stone. These two symbolic acts
showed that the Ten Commandments were to be considered more fundamental
than the other laws. (The Sinaitic covenant included a number of laws
besides the Decalogue, Ex. 20-24).
Later, other regulations were added. A significant
number of these centered on the sacrificial system at the altar.
Sacrifices were not new; they had been offered at least since the time
of Cain and Abel. What were new were many of the specific laws about the
conduct of the ritual worship. Yet we find that, with the introduction
of the temple at Jerusalem centuries later, many of these rules were
modified. In fact the rules about building altars in Exodus 20:24-26
were soon changed and no altars except the one associated with the
Tabernacle were allowed (Deut. 12). Deuteronomy covers many of the same
basic regulations found in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers but often
modifies them or adapts them to new situations. So it is that in the
Pentateuch itself we see a development of the legal code. A change in
the administration or the environment often changes the interpretation
and application of the law without altering the underlying principle.
Rules given at one time for one situation were already being modified
because of new situations (such as the change from nomadic
desert-dwelling, in Exodus, to agricultural living in the land of
Canaan, in Deuteronomy). Thus, God's Word establishes from its
beginning, the responsibility of God's people to apply His laws
changing contemporary situations.
Some of the laws arising with Israel were already
known in the same or a similar form elsewhere in the ancient Near East,
as the book of Genesis and the literature of other ancient peoples show.
A code of law was accepted as in any functioning national state today.
Even where the word of the monarch was law, a common system of conduct
for the average citizen was still very much in evidence. After all, the
king could not judge every single case or decide every little matter in
the day-to-day life of even a small city-state, much less a huge empire.
It is true that a number of the laws of the Old
Testament can seem somewhat less than ideal from our
modern viewpoint. They sound strange, indeed "primitive," to our modem
ears. For example, slavery is only regulated, polygamy is allowed and
women have decidedly inferior position. However, when the instructions
dealing with these subjects are viewed against their background in the
ancient Near East, many of them are remarkably progressive. That is,
they would have been considered extremely liberal, even radical, for
that time. These laws appear to have been instituted for the regulation
and mollification of previously existing customs. Whether the customs
themselves were good or bad was not the point. Rather, since eradication
of the bad was impossible, God gave laws to ameliorate the existing
Such accepted institutions as slavery were regulated
to help protect the indentured servant and the bondslave.
Polygamy was normal for the time, yet the laws of the Pentateuch saw to
it that at least inheritance should be conducted fairly. A rapist
normally had to marry his victim, if unmarried, to protect her
since she would have had a hard time finding a husband. Of course, if
the character of the rapist was clearly depraved-that is, if his crime
was not an isolated example of lust getting the better of him but
evidence of a basic flaw of character-the father of the victim could
still disallow it. From our modern point of view, the law may look
peculiar. For the society at the time, it was a means designed to make
the best of a bad situation. Similarly, just because God gave specific
laws regarding divorce, it did not mean that He approved the practice
(cf. Mt. 19:8). God was simply eliminating the possibility of continuous
wife swapping (Deut. 24:1-4).
These examples are again evidence of a progression in
the revelation and the understanding of God's ultimate spiritual law.
Even in the New Testament the institution of slavery is nowhere
condemned outright. Yet the Church today, from its perspective of two
thousand more years of history and guided by God's Spirit, clearly
recognizes that slavery is contrary to God's purpose for man.
A look at law in the Old Testament would not be
complete without examining certain prophetic Old Testament passages
which indicate the reinstitution of a temple and regular sacrificial
system during the Messiah's-Christ's-reign in the millennium (Is.
66:20-23; Ezek. 40-48; Zech. 14:20-21; Mal. 3:1-4; etc.). Why should
such physical rituals have a place when Christ Himself is ruling?
There seem to be three interdependent reasons for a
temple and sacrificial system. First is because, in addition to allowing
Jerusalem to serve as a religious center, such a system shall enable a
restored Israel to serve as an example to the world. The priesthood,
which in times past did not consistently execute its duties with the
proper care and willingness, shall now show the world how those duties
should be carried out (Ezek. 44:5 ff). Israel as a model physical nation
shall also have an important part in setting the social, ethical and
The second reason is somewhat similar. Christ shall
have established His rule over physical, unconverted nations. They must
be led gradually to the place of repenting, being converted and
receiving the Holy Spirit. Just as the temple ritual was important to
the ancient Israelites without God's Spirit, so the reestablished ritual
of sacrifices shall give them a physical means of growing towards a
spiritual understanding of God. The necessary education shall
take a good deal of time. The temple shall serve as an important
part-the center-of religious education.
Thirdly and finally, just as the sacrifices of
ancient Israel pointed forward to a coming Savior who was to pay
the supreme sacrifice for the sins of the world, so in the millennium
the sacrifices will point back to that sacrifice and give people
a greater understanding of Christ our Savior (in much the same way as
the Passover service does today), the consequences of sin, and the
meaning of salvation.
Law in the New Testament
The importance of law in the Old Testament is easily
accepted even though its exact implications may be debated. It is the
subject of God's law in the New Testament that has been much
misunderstood. The question affects not only the totality of the
Christian life but also how the New Testament-and its relationship with
the Old Testament-is understood. It would be out of place in this
section to attempt to take up the entire New Testament teachings on
conversion, salvation, morality, conduct and so on. (Many of these
points are discussed in detail under other major headings.) Here we will
therefore concentrate on the background situation in New Testament
times, the reason why certain new approaches to law are emphasized, and
why some contrasts are made with the Old Testament position.
The New Testament is very much
rooted in the Judaism of the time. The picture of Judaism in the first century is only
now becoming clear as a result of recent scholarship, while many old
assumptions (unfortunately widespread in many of the major reference
works) are no longer tenable. The reconstruction of early first-century
Judaism that emerges from new methods and documents is quite different
from that of Judaism after the period 70-135 A.D.
The Judaism of New Testament times was rooted in the
Old Testament. The Hebrew Bible was the major traditional literature
(even if read only in Greek translation as it was by many in the
Diaspora). The religious center was the Temple and its sacrificial
system. There were also many different popular preachers and religious
sects of diverse persuasions. However, actual membership in the sects
was quite small. The vast majority of Jews were not members of any sect
and were not overly scrupulous or religious in conduct. That is, despite
a general piety which undoubtedly characterized most of them, they were
too busy making a living to devote their time to sectarian taboos,
religious harangues or denominational disputes.
This does not mean that certain of the sectarian
leaders and teachers were not looked upon with a certain respect or that
the temple worship was neglected. But the picture of a populace
dominated by strictly observed Pharisaic rules of purity and halakah
is not accurate. This is not to say that the Pharisees did not have
considerable prestige or that they were without influence. On the other
hand, there were only a few thousand Pharisees, and their rules and
opinions were not dutifully followed by the people and were emphatically
not followed by most of the temple priests.
Yet we must also keep in mind the previous centuries
of Jewish history. The destruction of Jerusalem and the exile in 587
B.C. were very traumatic experiences. With the return of the exiles,
there was a determination not to repeat the original causes of that
exile. One of the major causes was considered to be Sabbath-breaking (Neh.
13:16-18; Ezek. 20:24). In the centuries that followed, the Jewish faith
had its ups and downs. The one episode which threatened to submerge
Judaism entirely came in the middle of the second century B.C. The
Seleucid king, Athiochus IV Epiphanes, waged war against Judea, allying
with the renegade Jews, defiling the temple and stopping the temple
At this time the Jews waged a long war to preserve
their religion and autonomy. Although Jerusalem was retaken and the
temple services restored after three years, the Maccabean state
continued to fight with the Syrians for decades. The priesthood was
combined with the political leadership in the Hasmonean (Maccabean)
dynasty which ruled Judea for the next century. This autonomy came to an
end in 63 B.C. when Rome intervened in civil strife resulting from rival
claims to the high priesthood.
Nevertheless, under Roman rule, with the Herodian
family as the major figure of political control, the Jewish state still
maintained a considerable amount of freedom. Not only was worship not
restricted but Herod the Great even began a lengthy process of
beautification and restoration of the Temple. Objections to Rome were
primarily of a political and not of a religious nature. The Jewish
religion was a thriving concern. The main thing to remember is that
Judaism was a pluralistic phenomenon of many differing aspects with the
Temple as its focus; it was not a
Pharisaic or rabbinic monopoly.
It was onto this stage that Jesus stepped-the stage
on which He began His teachings. It was on this same stage that the
early Church began. The apostle Paul concentrated his efforts in the
Diaspora. The Jews in the Diaspora, despite some differences, seemed to
cover the same basic religious spectrum as the Jews in Palestine. As a
people and as a religion, the Jews and Judaism were very well known in
the first century throughout the Roman Empire. This is borne out by many
historians of the period. Preaching the gospel in the
meant building upon a Jewish-and hence Old Testament-foundation.
The New Testament teachings presume the Old Testament
and the Judaism of that time. This is clear to anyone who studies the
historical and cultural background as well as the New Testament itself.
Thus, what sometimes appears to be a radical statement about Judaism or
the law or the Old Testament, is really either a spiritual modification
or an amplification or both, rather than a rejection or repudiation of
it. In other words, the New Testament writers-including Paul-did not
reject the Old Testament or the law or even their Jewish background.
They rejected a few things, they modified or changed the emphasis of
many things, and they especially taught the newly revealed spiritual
meanings involved. It is critical for a full understanding of God's
law in the New Testament to realize that the apostles assumed a great
deal as intuitively and publicly obvious, without seeing any need to
discuss it specifically.
To take one example-perhaps the heart of the New
Testament-we can look at the "Sermon on the Mount." Much within this
vital section is not new; that is, it can be paralleled with sections in
the Old Testament. The Old Testament law is presupposed: "Think not that
I have come to abolish them but to fulfill them . . . Whoever then
relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall
be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and
teaches them shall be called great" (Mt. 5:17-20).
What is revolutionary about the "Sermon on the Mount"
is its complete emphasis on matters of the heart rather than just on
external practice. Here is the ultimate in the complete rejection of
egotism-the highest form of absolute concern for others and for God.
Many Old Testament commands are made more strict by becoming matters of
the spirit: sexual desire, divorce, repayment for wrongs, swearing,
murder and hate, to name some of the major ones. Jesus was making things
harder, not easier. As the disciples said about the subject of
divorce in another context, "If such is the case of a man with his wife,
it is not expedient to marry." Jesus' answer was that "Not all men can
receive this precept, but only those to whom it is given" (Mt.
Jesus was not doing away with the law; He was,
rather, magnifying and lifting it to a spiritual plane, revealing its
full spiritual intent. He was making it a matter of the spirit rather
than only of the letter. He was showing the law's intent and purpose as
opposed to its bare physical statement. The basic overall result was the
introduction of a system of law which could be kept only by means of the
Holy Spirit. Old Testament law could be kept in the letter by any
ordinary physical individual with character and self-discipline. New
Testament law in its spiritual form could in no way be kept without
In the Old Testament, righteousness was primarily
judged by what one did, by external conformity to the laws. This does
not mean that there are not many statements about the attitude and
intent of the heart and its importance-there are. But the emphasis is
nonetheless on adherence to the letter of the law, something that was
possible for the ordinary person. The New Testament goes much further,
stating that external obedience is not enough. Despite all one's
attempts, full service to the spiritual demands of the law is
unattainable in the flesh. No one can be completely righteous without
perfect obedience. Since this is impossible, no one is, by himself,
This view was, of course, quite contrary to the then
current view of things. To persons such as the Pharisees who put great
emphasis on their scrupulous observance of their own ritual laws of
purity, it was rather galling to be told that their faithful practice
was so much dung (cf Phil. 3:8). Paul is not castigating obedience; he
is not denigrating the Old Testament law. Rather, he is showing that the
real source of forgiveness and salvation is Jesus Christ-that His
sacrifice for our sins and His resurrection are the really important
things as opposed to the less important do's and don'ts of the law.
Paul is often misunderstood in this regard simply because
his teachings are not understood against their background. He himself
strictly conformed even to what were considered ritual observances (Acts
16:3; 18:18; 21:17-26). On the other hand, some things which are often
relegated to the level of ritual were not ritual but essential parts of
worship which Paul observed and taught. (For examples, see Sabbath and
Annual Holy Days.)
Furthermore, Paul was teaching not just Jews but
Gentiles. The Old Testament promises were purely physical, made to a
physical Israel that did not understand the spiritual intent of
circumcision, even though Old Testament writings speak of an inward
circumcision not of the flesh (Jer. 4:4; Deut. 30:6; Joel 2:13). The
requirement of physical circumcision for males was a major problem in
the early Church, with the decision being made that such circumcision
was not for the Gentiles. The message Paul took to the Gentiles was that
they no longer needed to become Jews outwardly, in the flesh through
circumcision, to gain salvation. Membership in the Israel of God was a
matter of the heart.
Paul's epistle to the Romans is replete with vigorous
statements in full support of the law. The law is not void by faith, but
fully established (Rom. 3:31). Christians are admonished not to continue
in sin (Rom. 6:1-2), but to become "servants of righteousness" (Rom.
6:18). The law is good, (Rom. 7:7); it is spiritual (Rom. 7:14) and
"holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good" (Rom. 12:7). The
carnal mind that leads to death (Rom. 6:23; 8:6) is defined as being
"enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God" (Rom.
Paul's statements in Romans 2:25-27, while often
quoted, have been somewhat neglected as a powerful affirmation of the
fact that Gentiles need to be lawkeepers. In this passage Paul is
showing that the issue of circumcision is irrelevant for the Christian,
in contradistinction to the issue of keeping "the righteousness of the
law" which is extremely relevant. If the uncircumcised Gentiles fulfill
the law, they are immeasurably superior to circumcised Jews who
transgress the law. So a Gentile in the Church who keeps the law becomes
a true Jew inwardly, because he is fulfilling what God wanted all along.
The condition is to keep God's law. Paul's use of the term "law"
cannot mean the entire Sinaitic covenant, since circumcision itself was
a part of that covenant and therefore it would be logically impossible
for an uncircumcised person to keep the "whole" law. Paul must be
referring to the moral law, the Ten Commandments, in Romans 2:25-27.
Paul knew that some would conclude that, because he
continually stressed that salvation cannot be earned by law-keeping, the
law was annulled or worthless. "Do we then void the law through faith?
God forbid: yea, we establish the law" (Rom. 3:31). This is important
because, if the law were done away or became invalid, then sin would be
dead (Rom. 7:8), no transgression would exist (Rom. 4:15), and God could
not impute sin to make the sacrifice of Christ meaningful. "The strength
of sin is the law" (I Cor. 15:56): the law is the standard of what sin
and what righteousness are. If that standard is removed, there is no
need for Christ. So by accepting Jesus, the true Christian is indeed
establishing the law, by admitting its full empowerment in condemning
him (Rom. 6:23). As a result, the true Christian, with the help of the
Holy Spirit, can fulfill the righteousness of the law (Rom. 8:4) and
with Paul shall "delight in the law of God after the inward man"
The book of Galatians is often used as support in an
attempt to do away with God's law. This is not the issue dealt with in
the epistle at all. The focal point of Paul's letter to the Galatians
does not deal with the abrogation of the law but rather with the
question of how one is justified. Justification means forgiveness for
past sins-being counted as just and pure through Jesus' blood. That is
what Paul is dealing with. In other words, there are two systems. One
began with the covenant at Sinai. The other is the system of faith in
Christ. The one system, of relying on the fact that you are circumcised,
etc. for justification does not lead to eternal life. Paul shows that
this only condemns-brings bondage-because no provision exists for real
forgiveness and pardon for sin. So the system of the first covenant will
not save anyone. Some were denying that to the Galatian Church. They
were looking to their physical adherence to the way of life of the
Sinaitic covenant, especially to circumcision, to earn them salvation.
But the question was not whether Gentiles could
covet, or kill, or steal, or break the Sabbath. Rather, the question was
whether a Gentile had to be physically circumcised (Gal. 2:3-4). Paul
categorically denied this. Galatians 2:14 portrays the problem further:
the Jews were even practicing racial discrimination for religious
reasons. They felt superior to their Gentile brethren because they were
physically a part of the heritage of Israel. But Paul showed in Romans
that this should only have made them see their sins more, since they
knew God's law so well. So the question has to do with circumcision and
the manner or customs that one follows. Why, then, is Paul so upset over
this? Because carried to their logical conclusion these requirements
would mean that Jesus' death was not necessary. If being a Jew could
save a man, if being physically circumcised could bring favor with God,
then Christ died in vain. It would mean that just having the law would
be enough. But having the law-having the whole system of the Sinaitic
covenant--was not enough to attain eternal life; in fact, it only pointed
out sin more and more. To rely fully on the law, one would have to keep
all of it perfectly, which is impossible. So when Paul uses "law" in
Galatians he means all that is involved in being a Jew-the whole system
of the Sinaitic covenant, especially the ceremonies and rituals which
were "added because of transgressions" until Christ should come (Gal.
3:19) -and he specifically singles out circumcision as an issue.
Justification must be by faith (Gal. 3:11) and the
law of the Sinaitic covenant was given not to save us, but as a
schoolmaster or "pedagogue," to teach us the meaning of obedience, to
bring us to Christ.
This, then, is the core of Galatians. Much of Paul's
reasoning is the same in Romans as in Galatians. But in Romans, Paul is
dealing with moral law-sin and grace-whereas in Galatians, the problem
is circumcision and understanding the place of the Sinaitic covenant,
the whole system called "law." But the same conclusions are arrived at
by complementary arguments.
In Romans, Paul uses as an example the law of God
concerning coveting (Rom. 7:7ff). Why cannot that law save us? Because
it only emphasizes the sin. If we rely on works of the law-our keeping
of this law-we will fail. We are sinners and have all coveted. The only
solution is justification by faith. But after justification we must keep
the law through God's Spirit. The law is holy, just and good; it is
spiritual and eternal.
In Galatians, Paul deals with the law of
circumcision. We cannot be saved by being circumcised, because if we go
to that whole system of which circumcision is a part for
salvation we receive no grace or pardon, only condemnation. We cannot,
with our natural human strength, keep the law (i.e. the Ten
Commandments; we can keep circumcision-it is painful, but easy). So the
only solution is again Jesus and justification by faith. What about
after justification? Are we then to follow circumcision and the system
of the Sinaitic covenant? No, that would be to deny Jesus and our need
Once again, the reasoning in Romans and Galatians is
basically the same, but the issues are different. The first is
universal-the question of sin and morality. The second is the question
of the historical place of the Sinai covenant in God's plan. Remember
that the Ten Commandments did not originate with the Sinaitic covenant
but with God at Creation and since. So they are not affected when the
covenant is changed. They are universal and tell us what sin is.
Ephesians 6:1-3 is a very significant statement
concerning the position of the Ten Commandments in the Gentile churches.
Here the fifth one is cited. Notice the comment in verse 2. It is
"the first commandment with promise." Not just that it was-it still is.
And what does Paul mean by "the first"? He is obviously referring to a
set of commandments-a group of them. And they still apply. This
simple statement by Paul gives us an important insight into the attitude
of the Gentile churches towards the Ten Commandments. He does not have
to introduce them or say that "Honor your father and mother" was
once a commandment with promise-for it is a commandment at this time.
If Gentile Christians were indeed taught to honor and
keep the Ten Commandments, why, then, does Paul make certain mitigating
comments about "law"? The answer is rooted in the historical reality
that Christianity at this time was viewed as a Jewish sect in the
general public opinion. And therefore, much of what has been taken as
a castigation of the Old Testament law in the New Testament is actually
an antidote to the idea that Gentiles had to become Jewish Proselytes
before they could become Christians. This idea probably gained
credence simply because Gentile Christians were taught and read their
Old Testament, and various proselytizing Jewish groups were spreading
the message that Gentiles had to follow the whole system of
first-century Judaism in order to partake of the salvation offered by
the God of Israel. Certainly to Gentiles who had never heretofore been
taught the Holy Scriptures, apostolic Christianity and contemporary
Judaism must have seemed extremely similar (much as Methodism and
Seventh-Day Adventism might seem similar to a Buddhist today). Paul
therefore had to take great pains to show how Christianity differed from
Judaism. He had to do this because the two religions clearly had so
much in common.
Nearly everybody knew what Judaism and the Old
Testament taught. The Sabbath and annual Holy Days, for example, were
commonly known. What Paul had to do was not reemphasize the Old
Testament laws already known, but rather teach the new revelations about
Jesus Christ and His spiritual magnification of the law that nobody
No attempt was made by the New Testament writers to
repeat everything of relevance in the Old Testament. To have done so
would have made the Old Testament redundant It would also have been
utterly ridiculous, since the Old Testament was commonly presupposed to
be inspired Scripture, the Word of God. It was the only Scripture then
Converts from paganism were, of course, tempted to
revert to the religious culture from which they had come. They were
influenced by various popular religions, syncretistic cults and
astrological clans. But the contrast between Christianity and paganism
was fairly clear. What was not so clear was the difference between
Judaism and Christianity. Thus, even though Paul has to fight the
influences of paganism and the contemporary culture, he seems to have
found many problems from the Jewish side as well. In some cases, this
problem may have been instigated by some sort of Jewish syncretistic
group. (For example, a Jewish syncretistic astrological group may have
been behind the problem in Colossae. In other cases, it was
probably the basic Hellenistic Jewish mission to the Gentiles which
upset the various churches.)
When this is understood, most of the presumed
antinomian, anti-Jewish and anti-Old Testament sentiment in Paul's
writings evaporates. Despite some differences because of his specific mission to
the Gentiles, Paul suddenly looks a great deal like James and Peter and
John in teaching what Jesus taught. Paul was no longer a Pharisee, but
he remained a faithful Jew as well as becoming a Christian.
The book of James has been a perennial problem for
those who would have the New Testament discard God's law. James calls
the law of God "the royal law" in 2:8. He quotes Leviticus 19:18: "Thou
shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," which is the epitome of the last
six of the Ten Commandments (Rom. 13:9-10). James goes on to show that
if you break one point of the law-any one of the Ten Commandments-you
are guilty of all (Jas. 2:10-11). God's law is at the same time the "law
of liberty" (2:12), since it frees man from the bondage of sin.
But it is the last half of the second chapter of
James, verses 14 to 26, that gives antinomian Christians their biggest
problem. James repeatedly emphasizes that "faith without works is dead"
(vv. 17, 20, 26), that the best way to show real faith is by works (v.
18), that by works faith is made perfect (v. 22) and "that by works a
man is justified, and not by faith only" (v. 24). James 4:11-12 is a
proper conclusion to this theme, putting the question directly to any
who would do away with God's law: "if thou judge the law, thou art not a
doer of the law, but a judge."
In the epistles of John, the subject of keeping the
commandments comes up several times. I John 2:4 is direct: "He that
saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments is a liar, and the
truth is not in him." I John 3:4 is powerful in its blunt assertion that
"Whosoever committeth sin trangresseth also the law: for sin is the
transgression of the law." Likewise, John 15:10 (cf. I John. 3:22-24),
where Jesus tells His disciples before His death to keep His
commandments as He had kept His Father's commandments.
Certainly these commandments included all of Christ's
commandments, but the expression clearly includes the only set of
commandments, the Ten Commandments. Compare Matthew 19:16-19 in this
context. Here Jesus tells a rich young man, "if thou wilt enter into
life, keep the commandments." The young man asks, "Which?" And Jesus
responds by enumerating five of the Ten Commandments.
The necessity to keep God's commandments is
reemphasized in the book of Revelation. The Church-"the rest of [the
woman's] offspring"-is identified as keeping the commandments of
God in 12:17. The saints are defined as those "who keep the commandments
of God and the faith of Jesus" in 14:12. And finally, those who shall be
in the incomprehensibly awesome new heaven and new earth of chapter 2l
shall be only those who "do His commandments."
All the New Testament writers presuppose the Old
Testament and often quote or allude to it. It was decades after the
founding of the Church before Holy Scripture comprised more than the Old
Testament. Furthermore, since Jesus Christ was the very personality who
had given His law to humanity in general- and to Israel in particular at
Sinai (see Jesus Christ), He would scarcely have discarded-and He did
not discard-in the New Testament the very law He had established in the
The Old Testament is an essential part of the
biblical canon. It is as much the Word of God as the New Testament.
However, to New Testament Christians, the Old Testament has a special
status in that it is not to be taken alone: it must be read in the light
of the New Testament.
Law and Grace
Much of the misunderstanding regarding whether a
Christian must keep the biblical law (i.e. the Ten Commandments)
revolves around the term "grace." Those who do not think a Christian
"must" obey the law conclude that since we are under grace" (Rom. 6:15),
we no longer "must" keep the law. Those who follow this line of
reasoning point to various scriptures-especially those in the book of
Galatians (some of which have already been mentioned)-to support their
case. They maintain that Christ came to free us from "the curse of the
law," or that "Christ is the end of the law" (Rom. 7:4). But Jude
describes this line of reasoning as "turning the grace of our God into
lasciviousness (lawlessness)" (Jude 4).
This approach also illustrates a basic lack of
understanding of the word "grace." "Grace," in its biblical meaning and
intent, means "the favor, forgiveness, beneficence, generosity, mercy,
kindness and compassion of God. " Therefore, to be "under grace" means
to live within this whole sphere of God's favor and compassion. The two
greatest acts of grace are: 1) forgiveness of past sins, which
God grants upon true repentance, faith and baptism; and, 2) the
unmerited freely-given gift of eternal life, which God grants upon the
condition of faith. Hence, to be "under grace" means that one's sins
have been forgiven, that he is in a favored position with God, and that
he is an heir of salvation.
But the Bible nowhere equates "grace" with freedom to
disobey God. On the contrary, the exact opposite is stated: "Do we then
make void the law through faith? [i.e. do we negate the necessity of
keeping the law because we are under grace as a result of faith?] God
forbid: yea, we establish the law" (Rom. 3:31). We, as Christians,
"establish the law" because when we accept God's grace through baptism
we are acknowledging the existence of law against which we have sinned.
The true relationship between law and grace may be
simply stated. Law defines sin because sin is the transgression of the
law (I John. 3:4). God's forgiveness of our sins is an act of grace. But
this act of grace-this act of unmerited pardon and favor in God's eyes,
along with the eventual entrance into God's Kingdom which shall follow
if we are faithful-in no way grants us a license or permission to
continue to sin. In like manner, a convicted criminal who has been
pardoned or has had his sentence commuted by a judge is shown an act of
grace, but is not permitted to go out and repeat his crime. Again, far
from doing away with the law, grace establishes the law, because one who
accepts grace acknowledges that the law has been broken. Without Law
there can be no grace therefore grace can never do away with law.
The purpose of the law is not to provide a means of
earning forgiveness and salvation. Salvation cannot be earned. It comes
by God's free gift-salvation is by grace alone (Rom. 3:21-24; 5:15-16).
Faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the only requirement for this
gift of grace. Keeping the law even in the most spiritual manner cannot
and does not earn salvation. The central message of the New Testament is
that salvation is a gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
Yet this by no means negates the importance of law in
the process of salvation. While salvation is in the final analysis a
free gift, God will not give that gift to one who is not willing to
submit to Him. Gifts are not given to the unappreciative, and lack of
appreciation is indicated in many ways, including a basic contempt for
God's laws or a lack of any enthusiasm in trying to see how God's laws
reflect His mind (I John. 2:4). Note again the well-known case of the
young rich man who approached Jesus about the very subject of salvation
in Matthew 19, as quoted above. When Jesus replied, "If thou wilt enter
into life, keep the commandments" (v. 17), He was not describing the
method of salvation, but rather the prerequisite for His free gift.
The Jews in the time of the New Testament understood
the importance of the law and the many promises about blessings for
observing it. The problem was that many went on to assume that
salvation came by observing it. When Paul and other writers showed them
that this assumption was incorrect, it became a major stumbling block.
Even after the Church had been in existence for almost 20 years, it was
still necessary to call a conference over the question of circumcision,
since some still believed salvation was impossible without it (Acts 15).
Paul had a deep and abiding appreciation for the law (Rom. 6; 7:12; I
Cor. 7:19), yet he also understood that salvation was not earned by
The New Testament makes it clear that sin brings on
the death penalty (Rom. 6:23). And "sin is the transgression of the law"
(I John. 3:4). Since all have sinned and thus failed to keep the law
perfectly (Rom. 3:23), all have brought the death penalty upon
themselves. Only the giving up of human life will satisfy this penalty.
Thus, the sacrifice of the Creator-of God Himself, in the person of
Jesus Christ-is the only means by which that penalty can be paid and
thereby removed from all humanity. No one (apart from Jesus) has kept
the law perfectly; all have incurred the death penalty. This made the
death of sinless Jesus, the Son of God, a necessity. Recognition of
Christ's freely given sacrifice not only brings home the sober reality
of sin but also enables us to see what true love is at first hand (John.
The enormous importance of the law of God and man's
living within it can be measured by considering this immeasurable
price that God has put on the conditions for the forgiveness of
sins-repentance and recognition and acceptance of Jesus Christ's death
as payment for our transgressions of His laws. This certainly reflects
God's love towards mankind, and can begin to motivate man to express his
love back to God by wanting to live within God's laws.
God expects Christians to repent of sin (Acts
2:38). But repentance alone does not remove the death penalty. Once one
turns from his sinful way of life in wholehearted repentance, God
accepts his repentance and Christ offers His own sacrifice on the cross
as payment for the death penalty previously incurred by that repentant
sinner. The Holy Spirit is promised to the repentant individual as a
free gift which makes possible salvation and eternal life. Even one who
is converted will still sin out of weakness. However, he can call on the
sacrifice of Christ and gain forgiveness. It is the direction of his
life that God is concerned with; God does not keep a tally, as it were,
ready to send the individual straight to eternal death if he dies with a
single sin he not repented of on his record. Far from being some sort of
"Almighty Bookkeeper," God wants to see His children receive
salvation. He is very happy to forgive His begotten children who
continually find themselves in trouble, so long as their hearts and
attitudes are right-so long as they are wholeheartedly sincere and
making progress despite weaknesses and setbacks.
Thus, the fight against sin is a very important
component of the plan of salvation. Sin is horrible and heinous. Yet one
can become so preoccupied with sin as to miss the point of the law in
the first place. He can be so concerned about making a mistake that he
never steps out and does good. Some, people so concentrate on their
"sinful wretchedness" that they never climb out of the mire and exercise
their positive spiritual talents as they should. Sin is important, but
recognition of our sinful natures should not discourage or cow us to the
point of not making positive progress through faith.
New Testament Application of Old Testament Laws
Both the Old and New Testaments form the written Word
of God. The Old Testament is no less the Word of God than is the New. It
would completely miss the point of the relationship between the Old and
New Testaments to require everything from the former to be repeated in
the latter in order to be considered as relevant for Christians
behavior. (Bestiality can be used as an extreme and ludicrous example to
make the point.) Conversely, it would be equally illogical to attempt to
enforce in the secular states of the twentieth century every exact
regulation given to the theocracy of Israel over 3,000 years ago.
Christians read the Old Testament in the light of the
New, and the New Testament does make some changes. The teachings of the
Old Testament may also be understood in the light of the changed
circumstances of the Church in the modern world. The Hebrew Bible was
written initially to a congregation or church organized as a special
nation in the culture and society of the ancient Near East. By the time
of the first century, circumstances had changed to some extent.
Furthermore, the full revelation of God's plan with the concept of a
spiritual Israel required the modification of certain Old Testament
teachings in their implementation within a physical nation. This
modification process continues today.
The Church, as ordained of God and authorized by
Jesus Christ, has the power of binding and loosing-of making judgments
on the basis of biblical principles (Mt. 16:18-19). New situations
arise not directly addressed in the pages of the Bible. The modern world
is not the ancient world. Without the flexibility of making judgments
and applying earlier laws to fit newer situations, the Church would
become anachronistic and ineffectual. It may be necessary to look at the
environment in which the Old Testament laws were given-the society,
culture, national situation, contemporary legal attitudes, literary
influences and so forth-in order to understand the reason why a law was
initially given to Israel. But to understand the intent behind the law,
we must examine the lives and teachings of Jesus, the apostles and the
prophets. Once the purpose and intent of each law is discerned,
its application to 21st century life becomes much more clear and
obvious. (It is interesting and instructive to realize that though the
principles underlying God's laws are immutable and unchangeable, the
specific applications of the laws have changed in every period of
The following sections examine certain laws of the
Old Testament and show how the Church has applied these today. It has
not been possible to cover all the individual laws by any means, but the
general principles used should be basically clear. Of course, some of
these laws have been clearly modified in the New Testament. In other
cases, the New Testament is silent on the subject, and the Church has
made decisions based on the Old Testament alone. (Note that Sabbath,
Annual Holy Days and Tithing and Giving are covered under those titles.)
Circumcision: One of the laws regarding which
the Old Testament is very clear is that of circumcision. Circumcision
was instituted as a sign of the covenant with Abraham (Gen. 17). It was
a sign of the covenant with God and of the Israelites' national
identity. It made the newborn boy a part of the community. It was, in a
sense, an initiation rite since any male of whatever age was required to
undergo it to become a part of Israel. Therefore, it is not surprising
that circumcision became an important issue in the early Church (Acts
Christians do not consider physical circumcision as a
requirement for entry into the spiritual community of Israel, the
Church. The reason is that the New Testament makes it clear that the
only circumcision that is required is spiritual circumcision of the
heart and mind. The question had already been debated and settled in the
early Church (Acts 10-11; 15; Gal. 5:2-12). While one could voluntarily
undergo circumcision, it was not a requirement for membership in the
body of Christ. To reiterate, the only required circumcision is
spiritual circumcision-circumcision of the heart and mind.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that the Church
rejected all physical rituals. Baptism was taught as a physical
ceremony. The symbolism of baptism is that of death followed by
resurrection to a new life. It is a voluntary act requiring active,
conscious repentance on the part of the mature individual, whereas
circumcision is an involuntary act carried out on the unknowing babe in
The Sacrificial System and Temple Ritual: The
New Testament has a clear teaching about the temple ritual, just as it
does about circumcision. As long as the temple was standing, it was
certainly not deprecated. On occasion Christians actually offered up
sacrifices (Acts 18:18; 21:23-26). However, the death of Christ was the
supreme sacrifice, of which animal sacrifices were only a type (Heb.
10:1-18). The Old Testament system was rendered unnecessary by Christ's
sacrifice. Christians look to this rather than merely to the "shadow"
which represented it. Furthermore, Christians offer up, not only their
possessions (livestock and grain stuffs), but their very selves to God
by presenting themselves as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1-2).
Many of the laws in the Old Testament were
specifically designed for a physical people who did not have the help of
God's Holy Spirit and who lived in a national state. The whole
sacrificial system was an extremely regulated and detailed physical
ritual. It required a great many on a continual basis to keep it going.
With many sacrifices, the person offering the animal was actually able
to eat most of it along with his family. Only certain parts were burned
on the altar and certain pieces went to the priest. But sin offerings
were burned whole and neither the offerer nor the priest realized
anything from them. It effectively hurt one's pocketbook to sin!
The principle of sacrifice has certainly not been
eliminated for New Testament Christians. However, the sin offering we
look to is not an animal offered at the temple altar: it is the
sacrifice of Jesus Christ. His death rendered the physical sacrificial
system unnecessary for converted Christians. This system had pointed to
Christ. Christians can now view the sacrificial system with greater
understanding than could the ancient Israelites who participated in it
This does not mean that the temple worship was wrong
or even bad. The book of Acts shows that the apostle Paul himself
participated in the sacrificial system on at least two occasions. He
took certain vows which could be completed only by offering an offering
in the temple (Acts 18:18; 21:20-26 and cf. Num. 6:18). It was not wrong
for Israelite Christians to continue to participate in the sacrificial
system; it was simply unnecessary. Of course, once the temple and
Jerusalem were destroyed, it became impossible for them just as for all
Clean and Unclean Animals: Many regulations
in Leviticus have to do with being "clean" (Hebrew tahor) or
"unclean" (Hebrew tame). These regulations had two functions: (1) They
usually required washing which served as a physical cleansing agent and
helped prevent the contraction or spread of disease; (2) they served a
ritual purpose in that anyone "unclean" could not participate in the
sacrificial service. Ritual purity was a major emphasis in conducting
any of the temple activities. Included in this regulation was the
prohibition against eating all but certain types of animals (Lev. 11:
Deut. 14) and such things as the blood and the bodily fat of
Nowhere in all these regulations is anything stated
specifically about physical health. Yet physical health seems clearly to
be one aspect of these regulations. The continual requirement of washing
after touching dead bodies or engaging in certain activities has the
concept of hygiene behind it. Modem science has also discovered the
dangers of consuming animal fats (they are high in cholesterol among
other things). Public health doctors are also acutely aware of the
importance of quarantine in avoiding the spread of disease, another
requirement for various types of disease in ancient Israel (e.g. Lev.
Modern science has also found that certain of the
biblically proscribed animals present potential health hazards. For
example, the danger of contracting trichinosis from pork is one known by
almost every housewife. Such scavengers as crabs are also among the most
affected by conditions of pollution since they tend to feed in
contaminated areas and thus concentrate the dangerous substances in
their bodies. Granted, these are only potential hazards. However, there
is always the question of whether there may be other, as yet unknown,
dangers to be discovered by science in the future-dangers known and
forestalled by the Creator of all.
True Christians, however, obey these Old Testament
directions because God says to do so. God stated that certain
foods should be avoided by man, and He, as Creator of both man and
animals, knows best. The laws of clean and unclean meats clearly
transcend any ritualistic system given to Moses and Israel, since Noah
obviously had known about clean and unclean animals generations before
(Gen. 7:2; 9:4). It is recognized that total avoidance of these and
other potential hazards in our environment is well nigh impossible. They
are physical matters to be kept in balance and perspective. The Church
does not have a rigid, ultraorthodox-type ruling which forbids eating
out in restaurants or buying packaged foods. One simply exercises a
reasonable amount of care, yet does not make a fetish of the
regulations. Though the Church continues to abide by the prohibitions
against blood, animal fat and certain animal foods, these laws are not
considered to be of overriding spiritual importance since food does not
constitute the Kingdom of God (Rom. 14:17). (The Church does not see any
direct biblical support for the orthodox Jewish of not eating
meat and milk together and thus does not have any such regulations, even
though some of its food practices may otherwise resemble those of
The year of Release and the Jubilee:
According to Leviticus 25, every seventh year was to be set aside to
allow the land to rest (no crops were to be planted and the permanent
orchards and vineyards were to be left unattended) and for the releasing
of all debts and of all fellow countrymen kept as slaves. Every fiftieth
year was also to serve as such a year (thus making two in a row) but
additionally as a time when land should revert to its original owner.
The seventh year and jubilee were major events in the society of ancient
Israel and required the cooperation of the entire community to be
Today's society is not geared to such an institution.
(Even the jubilee was evidently never observed after the return of the
Jews from Babylon.) Farmers may not always own their own land. Those who
do are often not in a financial position to allow their entire land to
rest for a full year; their creditors would not allow them to do that.
Debts are considered owed until paid, regardless of the year. (In fact,
as discussed in the next section under "Monetary Interest," to release
debts incurred voluntarily rather than from necessity was not part of
the original intent of the law.) Fortunately, slavery is no longer
practiced either, in most areas of the world, rendering that aspect of
the law inapplicable.
It is recognized that allowing one's land to lie
fallow every so many years is a good agricultural procedure. Thus, the
seventh year land rest teaches a principle from which farmers can indeed
learn. Yet the same result can be accomplished by letting a portion of
the land lie fallow each year rather than the whole land every seventh
year. The Church recognizes the agricultural and other principles in the
laws about the year of release and the jubilee. But, because of our
differently constituted modem societies, the Church teaches that each
person should observe them as best he or she is able according to his or
her circumstances and according to the spirit of the law. Farmers are
not required to let all their land lie fallow each seventh year, nor
should they feel a moral obligation to do so. The important thing is
that they respect their heritage-the land and its environment-and do
their best to protect it according to the ability and the means God has
given them. In this way, the intent of the Old Testament laws (Lev. 25;
Deut 15:1-8) is achieved even though the exact means of application may
not be the same as in ancient Israel.
Monetary Interest: A number of passages
forbade charging interest on loans to the poor (Ex. 22:25-27; Deut.
23:19-20). The Church considers that this principle still applies today:
one should not lend money at interest to anyone in genuine need. Yet
most contractual loans today are not for the purpose of assistance to
those in absolute need but instead are a means of obtaining capital
for an immediate project (rather than saving up the capital over
a period of time). In other words, a person has an amount sufficient to
maintain his life and well-being but wants an additional investment or
luxury. He could save his money over a long period of time to obtain the
particular item. Or he could be enjoying it now while turning the
savings payment into repayment for a loan. It is perfectly legitimate to
consider interest in such a case as simply payment for services
rendered. Likewise, for corporations and institutions to be able to
borrow money from banks is essential for economic growth.
Our modern society runs on credit. To require members
of the Church to avoid all borrowing or lending at interest would be
asking them to live outside society. The original intent of the law was
simply to avoid adding an additional burden on the poor man who had to
borrow because of his financial straits in the first place. Only in such
cases of dire emergency does the Church consider it wrong to charge
Summary: Many other examples could be given,
but the major ones, listed above should be sufficient to illustrate how
the Church applies the Old Testament laws. It considers the Hebrew Bible
very much a part of God's Word. It is not considered secondary to the
New Testament nor in any way inferior to it. Yet it is superseded in the
sense that the New Testament has made some specific changes to deal with
spiritual Israel, which nation has replaced the physical nation of
In a number of cases on which the New Testament
throws little direct light, the Church has had to make decisions on the
basis of the Old Testament. Time may yet show the need for modification
or change of some of these decisions. Nevertheless, the Church of God is
exercising the power and authority given to it by God. If such decisions
could not be made, each person would drift into doing what seemed right
in his or her own eyes and confusion would quickly result. Therefore,
the Church assumes its God-ordained prerogatives to step in and make
decisions where it deems them necessary and helpful, always remaining
aware that each individual has to serve God according to the best of his
own knowledge and conscience. The purpose of giving regulations is to
achieve unity of thought and practice in major areas without trying to
take away from the direct, personal relationship each person should have
By making decisions, the Church is attempting to stay
true to, and consistent with, the Bible. In some cases, to attempt to
apply the exact Old Testament practice today would actually violate the
intent of the law rather than observe it. Changes have to be made as
society and culture both change. Sometimes the Bible is not perfectly
understood and mistakes are made. But this is inevitable as long as the
Church is made up of human beings and as long as God continues to work
through human instruments. The important thing is that there always be
the proper respect for the Bible, and the desire to understand God's
mind and to fulfill His wishes. This requires a continual searching for
the mind of God and a continual making of decisions to keep the Church
in line with that mind. Since the Old Testament also represents the mind
of God, it cannot be neglected in this process. Progressive revelation
of God's will cannot be logically inconsistent with previous revelation.
Conclusion: Law in the Life of a Christian
The law is very important in the life of a Christian.
Of course, he knows that he cannot earn salvation by it. He knows it is
not an end in itself but only the road by which he draws closer and
closer to the mind of God and hence to God Himself. The law leads him to
godly love. No written law can fully or completely express the depths of
love. The "letter of the law" is always an inadequate means of
expressing what love is. This is why Christians must keep the law in the
spirit. Keeping the letter of the law alone may not be a complete
expression of love; it is only when one looks behind the letter to the
spirit, the true understanding that he can see how to correctly apply
the letter to show godly love.
For example, a Christian recognizes that killing
another individual is hardly likely to be showing love for him. But just
keeping the literal letter of the law which says, "Thou shalt not kill,"
is still not sufficient. One must also not hate the other individual,
and go yet further and demonstrate a positive outgoing concern for that
individual. Yet true concern for another person's welfare does not
usually come naturally (cf. Rom. 8:7), it has to be learned. It is a
concept which must be captured and internalized. No amount of
explanation can force a person to capture the true spirit of love; no
amount of legal wording in a decree can bypass human nature. One can
only grasp the concept when guided by the Holy Spirit.
The law of God, properly understood in its spiritual
intent, enables one to express both love toward God and love toward
one's fellow human beings. It defines the relationship with God which
shall encourage and stimulate one's spiritual growth. Furthermore, the
law of God defines relationships between human beings that foster the
development of genuine concern for one's neighbor. In so doing, the law
of God also defines the spiritual parameters which, if observed, would
maximize the genuine welfare of both individuals within a society and of
society as a whole.
The law of God, properly conceived of in its
spiritual intent, in no way restricts the flow of godly love. On the
contrary, the law instructs man how to love. The law is inherently a law
On the other hand, it is the love of God that enables
a Christian to fulfill the law (Rom. 13:10). It is through godly love
that the full meaning and intent of the law is expressed.
Hence, God's love and God's law mutually envelop one
another in a symbiotic relationship, with the one supporting the other.
The eternal and holy law of God kept in its spiritual
intent provides the essential instructional framework that a Christian
needs for his godly life. As one grows in understanding and in personal
application of God's law, he nurtures within himself the qualities of
holiness, justice and goodness (Rom. 7:12).
A Christian will make mistakes. If he is wholehearted
and desirous of doing all he can to serve God, he may end up making more
mistakes-sinning more-than the one who concentrates on his inward state
and holds back from positive action for fear of error. God is concerned
about the mind and attitude. He does not need us, and in that sense, our
service to God is really no service, since He could do it all much
better without us. But our service is a means of building character and
proving our devotion to God. It is that devotion and that love towards
Him that He most wants for our ultimate good. Mistakes can be
corrected and sins can be forgiven, but character is either present or
Therefore, the Christian learns to put his life in
There are sins which weigh one down and continually
dog one's steps so that little can be accomplished. These sins must be
overcome. But there are also the inevitable sins which occur as a
consequence of the frailties of our human nature. These are also
important, but one should not allow them to so dominate his thoughts
that he turns away from life. There is more to a Christian life than
just avoiding trouble.
The one who has been forgiven much is also the one
who is grateful for much. He may not be as likely to take God's mercy
for granted as the one who thinks that he has never really sinned all
that much. The one who has been close to death appreciates life more
than the one who has always had health and safety. Self-righteousness is
perhaps the worst spiritual malady, and it tends to be bred in an
environment of constant attention to outward forms of righteousness.
The true Christian knows that the law is good, not
solely because biblical writers say it is, but because he has
experienced its blessings in his own life. This does not mean that
conforming to this spiritual guide is necessarily easy. On the contrary,
it can be very difficult, even with the help of the Holy Spirit. Yet the
end result is worth the toil, because God's law produces spiritual
character and the natural blessings which result from expressing godly
Neither is it always easy to know what to do in any
given situation. Comprehension of God's law is something which requires
effort, study, time and practice. However, when the law is understood,
the reasons for it become obvious and the beneficial results that accrue
from following it stand out. Ultimately, the law can be understood, as
well as followed, only by the aid of the Holy Spirit. Those who have
made the effort to understand and to obey can testify that it makes
perfect sense. The Christian grows, develops and builds character as he
contemplates the law, meditates on it and sees its purpose and judgment.
A Christian realizes his need to live by faith. Faith
is directed toward the future. It aims at a promise which has only been
fulfilled in part by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Yet faith is not just
a passive state or a vague form of wishful thinking. Faith implies
action; faith requires works (Jas. 2:14-26). Works can never earn
salvation but works are necessary for the Christian life. A person who
is following God will produce good works-fulfillment of the law-as a
natural consequence of his conversion and his possession of the Holy
Spirit. These works are not an end in themselves. The ultimate goal is
the Kingdom and family of God. But even though keeping the law does not
produce the Kingdom, one shall never reach God's Kingdom without them.
For one who does not have good works also does not have the Holy Spirit,
the sine que non of salvation. Love-fulfilling the law-is the
natural product of the Holy Spirit.
Ultimately, the goal of the Christian is to attain
the mind of God. When that perfection comes, at the resurrection, there
shall be no further need for guidelines. Perfect love shall have become
internalized, fully expressible without external law, with the result
that the need for law codes shall be no more. But love cannot be
comprehended without the law. It requires an understanding of love to
truly appreciate the law. But one cannot come to that understanding
unless he first starts to obey the law. That is the beginning, and love
is its end.
To the Christian, God's law is the way to happiness,
peace of mind and, ultimately, salvation. To follow God's law is the way
one can become more like God, indeed, he can practice being God, so that
God can give him eternal spiritual life in His family.
True freedom comes only under perfect law. Human
government recognizes that freedom does not encroach upon the freedom of
his fellow citizens. There are limits to freedom in order for freedom to
exist; the greatest enslaver is anarchy. Perfect freedom comes from the
perfect law of God, which is the law of love. When perfect love is
expressed, perfect freedom exists. The law, therefore, is a summary of
what constitutes love and how it is best expressed.
James was inspired to call God's law "the perfect law
of liberty" and the "royal law" (Jas. 1:25; 2:8). It is indeed a perfect
and royal law, because it was given by a perfect and royal King-our
Savior, Jesus Christ.
Read these scriptures from your own Bible.
1 Corinthians 15:56
- The strength of sin is the law.
1 John 2:4
- He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments is a
liar and the truth is not in him.
1 John 3:4
- Sin is the transgression of the law.
1 John 4:8
- God is love
2 Timothy 3:16
- All scripture is given by inspiration of God.
- Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus
Christ for the remission of sins.
- Paul tells the Gentiles to keep the commandments.
- The 10 commandments.
- Christ was the supreme sacrifice for which the animal sacrifices
were only a type.
- ...the Lord will magnify the law and make it honorable.
- Reinstitution of Temple and regular sacrificial system in
millennium. (See also Ezekiel 40-48;
Zechariah 14:20-21 and Malachi
- Break one point of the law and you are guilty of all.
- The law of liberty.
- Faith without works is dead.
- Law of God called the "royal law".
- Jesus tells disciples to keep the commandments as He did.
- Clean and unclean meats (See Deuteronomy
- Jesus accepts the authenticity and inspiration of the entire Old
Testament including the Law.
- Concept of "binding and loosing".
Matthew 19:16-19 -
Jesus tells rich man to keep commandments.
- The two commandments on which all the law and prophets hang.
- Man shall live by every word of God.
- Think not that I (Jesus) came to destroy the law.
- Meditate on the law.
- Church identified as keeping commandments.
- Saints defined as those keeping commandments.
- Those in new heaven and new earth will be those who keep the
- Love taught through law (also 1 John 5:3)
- Paul referring to the moral law, the 10 commandments.
- Salvation is by grace alone (see also
- All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
- The law is fully established by faith.
- Do not continue in sin.
- The wages of sin is death.
- The law is good.
- Without law, sin is dead.
- Law is Holy, just and good.
- The law is spiritual.
- The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us.
-The carnal mind is enmity against God.
1) God's law teaches man how to:
a) properly love God
b) love his fellowman
c) Live life abundantly
d) prepare for eternal spiritual life in the Family of God
e) all of the above
2) The law of God is only found in the Old Testament. True or
3) What does our church use as the foundation of its doctrines and
a) Old Testament
b) New Testament
4) God's laws are all designed to lead to knowledge and understanding a)
of God, b) of the purpose of life, and c) of godly love and character.
True or False?
5) Divine law is the totality of the means or way by which God instructs
man on how to live most abundantly in this physical life. True or
6) New Testament writers express a [positive, neutral, negative]
attitude towards God's law.
7) According to 1 John 2:4 a person who keeps not His commandments is
8) The English term "law" and the biblical term "law" have the same
definition and meaning. True or False?
9) The term "Law of Moses" and "Law of God" are used interchangeably in
the Bible. (True or False)
10) The term "law" in the English translation may imply...depending on
the original Hebrew and Greek and the context...which of the following:
a) legal system
c) sacrificial ritual
d) ten commandments
f) natural law
g) the Pentateuch
h) customary tradition
j) all of the above
11) God is love (1 John 4:8). God's love is essentially taught
through His law. True or False?
12) The first time man knew of God's law was when the commandments were
given to Moses at Mt. Sinai. True or False?
13) Ultimately, the love of God can only be discerned through His
Spirit. True or False?
14) Which of the following statements is false?
a) the knowledge of love is conveyed through legal, ethical and moral
b) the laws in their deepest significance are set up as a code by which
a person could be adjudged innocent or guilty.
c) the laws point to the true end and provide a means of reaching it.
d) laws were designed to show the way of love of God and love of man.
15) To fulfill the law to its greatest extent is to have perfect love.
True or False?
16) Law in the Old Testament is limited to the Pentateuch, also know as
the "Torah". True or False?
17) All of the laws of the Old Testament are permanent laws. True
18) Which of the following laws are shown to be in effect in Genesis by
direct scripture examples?
a) law against adultery
b) law against homosexuality
c) circumcision being a requirement for the descendants of Abraham
d) private property to be respected
e) standard weights to be used in business
f) law against theft
g) all the above
19) A change in the administration or the environment often changes the
interpretation and application of the law without altering the
underlying principle. True or False?
20) During the millennial reign of Christ which of the following will be
b) sacrificial system
21) The New Testament teaching presume the Old Testament and the Judaism
of the time. True or False?
22) It is critical for a full understanding of God's law in the New
Testament to realize that the apostles assumed that a great deal of the
law and the Old Testament was publicly obvious, and therefore saw no
need to repeat it all in the New Testament. True or False?
23) Jesus was...
a) not doing away with the law
b) was magnifying and lifting it to a spiritual plane
c) making it a matter of the spirit rather than just the letter
d) was showing the law's intent and purpose
e) introducing a system of law which could be kept only by the Holy
f) all of the above
24) Old Testament law only focused on what one did, by external
conformity to law. It never addressed attitude and intent of the
heart. True or False?
25) No one can be completely righteous without perfect obedience.
Since this is impossible, no one is, by himself, righteous. True
a) never spoke of the law
b) was in full support of keeping the law
c) preached the law done away
27) If there is no law, there is no need of Christ. True or False?
28) According to Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is _____ [what?]
29) Can the law, in and of itself save someone? Yes or No?
30) According to Galatians 3:11, justification must be by _____ [what?]
31) The Law is...
f) all of the above
32) If we rely on the works of the law-the keeping of the law we...
a) will fail
b) are justified
c) are saved
d) all of the above
33) Justification is only by faith [the Salvation Process]. Do we
keep the law in the Salvation Process? Yes or No?
34) The 10 Commandments originated with the Sinaitic covenant.
True or False?
35) In Ephesians 6, Paul tells the Gentiles to keep the 10 commandments.
True or False?
36) Faith without works (of faith) is dead. True or False?
37) The book of Revelation never mentions the keeping of the 10
Commandments. True or False?
38) Since it was Jesus Christ who established the law in the Old
Testament, He would never have discarded it in the New Testament church.
True or False?
39) The Old Testament is an essential part of the biblical canon.
True or False?
40) Grace means...
a) forgiveness of past sins
b) release from having to keep the commandments
c) the unmerited freely-given gift of eternal life.
41) Which of the following are true statements?
a) law defines sin
b) God's forgiveness of our sins is grace
c) grace establishes the law
d) without law there can be no grace
42) Which of the following statements is false?
a) the purpose of law is to provide a means of earning forgiveness and
b) salvation cannot be earned
c) salvation is by grace alone
d) salvation is a gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ
43) Salvation is a free gift of God, but comes with a prerequisite, that
of keeping the commandments. True or False?
44) God expects Christians to repent of their sins but repentance alone
does not remove the death penalty. True or False?
45) A chief element of the Salvation Process is to invoke the power of
the Holy Spirit in the form of Godly principles [doing good]. The
best way to fight sin is to displace it by doing good. True or
46) The church, as ordained of God and authorized by Jesus Christ, has
the power of binding and losing-of making judgments on the basis of
biblical principles. True or False?
47) What is true about circumcision?
a) circumcision was instituted as a sign of the covenant of Abraham
b) it is not voluntary, but carried out on newborn infants
c) whether it was required of Gentiles was debated in the early church
d) today the only requirement for membership in the Body of Christ is
circumcision of the heart and mind
e) all are true.
48) Which statement is false regarding animal sacrifices:
a) they pictured and looked forward to the sacrifice of Christ
b) required the temple
c) are required today.
49) The principle of sacrifice has not been eliminated for New Testament
Christians. However the sin offering we look to is not an animal
sacrifice but the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. True or False?
50) Clean and unclean meats was part of the sacrificial system and down
away with the sacrifice of Christ. True or False?
51) Which of the following is true regarding clean and unclean meats?
a) true Christians avoid unclean meats, blood, and animal fat because
God says so
b) the church maintains rigid rules on this subject and monitors it's
c) the church forbids members to eat in restaurants or to buy packaged
d) the church sees these laws of overriding spiritual importance.
52) One should not lend money at interest to anyone in genuine need.
True or False?
53) In New Testament times we have essentially replaced physical Israel
with spiritual Israel. True or False?
54) Regarding the principle of loosing and binding the church is
authorized to make decisions...
a) based on the basis of the Old Testament
b) using proper respect of the Bible
c) while seeking the mind of God
d) all of the above
55) In keeping the law a Christian must...
a) keep the letter of the law
b) discover, acknowledge and keep the spirit of the law
c) apply the spirit of the law in godly love
d) all of the above
56) The law of God, properly understood in its spiritual intent...
a) enables one to express love toward God
b) enables one to express love toward fellow human beings
c) in no way restricts the flow of godly love
d) enables a Christian to fulfill the law
e) instructs man on how to love
f) is the framework of a godly life
g) nurtures the qualities of holiness, justice and goodness
h) defines our relationship with God
i) all of the above
57) Doing service [invoking the power of the Holy Spirit in the form of
godly principles] is how a Christian builds character. True or
58) In doing service, a Christian will never make any mistakes.
True or False?
59) Self righteousness is perhaps the worst spiritual malady. True
60) Comprehension of God's law requires...
e) all the above
61) Which apply: The Christian grows, develops and builds
character as he or she...
a) contemplates the law
b) meditates on the law
c) sees its purpose and judgment
62) Which of the following is false?
a) faith is directed at the future
b) faith requires no action on your part
c) faith implies action and requires works
d) good works are fulfillment of law
e) good works are an end in themselves
f) the ultimate goal of faith is the Kingdom of God
g) love is the natural product of the Holy Spirit
63) If one does not have good works he does not have the Holy Spirit.
True or False?
64) When it comes to the law, obedience to it is the beginning and love
is its end. True and False
65) The law of God is...
a) the perfect law of liberty
b) the royal law
c) the mind of God
d) all of the above