HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
Division On The Application Of Law
It should be noted, that Christians are divided on the application of the Old Testament law to the Christian life. Some have divided the Old Testament law into ceremonial, civil, and moral. They would say only the ceremonial and civil law were fulfilled in Christ, but not the moral law. Others believe the whole Old Testament law was fulfilled in Christ. This is the view I tend to lean toward. Even the Ten Commandments (the moral law) were fulfilled in Christ. Let me give you one of the texts that supports this:
But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: 8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? 9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. 10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. 11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. (2 Corinthians 3:7–11).
What part of the law was carved in stone? That was the moral law, the Ten Commandments. Paul says it came to end, or as the NIV of the Bible says, it was transitory. Christ fulfilled the whole law, not only the civil and ceremonial aspects of it. It also should be noted that even though divisions such as civil, ceremonial, and moral may be helpful for us in understanding the law, for the Jew it was all the same. To break one part of the law was to break the whole law (James 2:10). They had no division. So when Scripture says Christ fulfilled the law in Matthew 5:17 and he abolished the law in Ephesians 2:15, it is referring to the whole law.
Does this mean Christians are not under any law or commands in Scripture and therefore are free to do what they want because they are saved?
Absolutely not. Listen to how Paul talked about the law:
“To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.” (1 Corinthians 9:21).
Paul declared that he was not under the Old Testament law, but was now under the law of Christ. This means his submission was to the teachings of Christ and his apostles as expressed in the New Testament. Some have dealt with it this way: if an Old Testament law is not repeated in the New Testament then we are not under it.
Even though we are not under the Ten Commandments, those truths are still operative under Christ because they are repeated in the New Testament with the exception of the Sabbath day. Here is a good picture of this: the U.S. and Korea have many of the same laws. Do not steal. Do not murder. However, if I steal something while I am in Korea, will I be prosecuted under American law or Korean law? I will be prosecuted under Korean law because I live in Korea.
It’s the same law, but I am under a different jurisdiction. When believers died in Christ, we died to the law as Christ did. He fulfilled it and delivered me from it by dying for me. Therefore, I am no longer under that law. What happened to Christ happened to me.
In Romans 7:1–4, Paul uses the illustration of marriage to explain this. If a woman is married to a man and he dies, she is free to marry another. Look at what Paul says:
“Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” (Romans 7:4).
We are now married to Christ and not the law. We are under another jurisdiction. As Paul said, we are now under the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21), which includes such things as “Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul.” It includes “love your neighbour as yourself.” It includes everything Christ taught and his apostles taught.
This is the very reason we are not under the Sabbath law. Christ died to the law, fulfilled it, and is no longer subject to it, as he is seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenlies (Ephesians 1:20). We died with him to the law because we are in him—married to him—and we are seated with Him in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6). Therefore in Christ, we are no longer under the law, which includes the Sabbath regulation. The Sabbath was simply a shadow of our husband—Christ—who has come. He is the eternal rest that the Sabbath always pictured (Matthew 11:28–29). To continue to submit to the pictures of Christ is like a wife being enamoured with her husband’s shadow while her husband is right next to her.
With all this said, many would still try to call us back to the shadows instead of focusing on Christ. Because practising the Sabbath day is still strongly advocated by some groups, we will look at further Scriptural support for why the believer is not under this law. Here are ten reasons for you to consider.
Contrary to the claims of some today, Christians are not required to worship on the Sabbath day. It, like the other Old Covenant holy days Paul mentions, is not binding under the New Covenant. There is convincing evidence for that in Scripture. First, the Sabbath was the sign to Israel of the Old Covenant (Exodus 31:16–17; Nehemiah 9:14; Ezekiel 20:12). Because we are now under the New Covenant (Hebrews 8), we are no longer required to keep the sign of the Old Covenant.
Second, the New Testament nowhere commands Christians to observe the Sabbath.
Third, in our only glimpse of an early church worship service in the New Testament, we find the church meeting on Sunday, the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).
Fourth, we find no hint in the Old Testament that God expected the Gentile nations to observe the Sabbath, nor are they ever condemned for failing to do so. That is certainly strange if He expected all peoples to observe the Sabbath.
Fifth, there is no evidence of anyone’s keeping the Sabbath before the time of Moses, nor are there any commands to keep the Sabbath before the giving of the law at Mount Sinai.
Sixth, the Jerusalem Council did not impose Sabbath keeping on the Gentile believers (Acts 15).
Seventh, Paul warned the Gentiles about many different sins in his epistles, but never about breaking the Sabbath.
Eighth, Paul rebuked the Galatians for thinking God expected them to observe special days (including the Sabbath) (Galatians 4:10–11).
Ninth, Paul taught that keeping the Sabbath was a matter of Christian liberty (Romans 14:5).
Tenth, the early church Fathers, from Ignatius to Augustine, taught that the Old Testament Sabbath had been abolished and that the first day of the week (Sunday) was the day when Christians should meet for worship. That disproves the claim of some that Sunday worship was not instituted until the fourth century.1
What are the purposes of the Old Testament law today?
Paul said, “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly” (1 Timothy 1:8). If it is still good, then how can we apply it? The Old Testament law applies in many ways to the church today. We will look at a few. As the time goes by