DID JESUS DO AWAY WITH GOD'S LAW?

By

Robert Phillips U.K.

 

C. H. SPURGEON - ON THE NECESSITY OF THE LAW

Now, extremes are the error of ignorance. Generally, when men believe one truth, they carry it so far as to deny another; and, very frequently, the assertion of a cardinal truth leads men to generalise on other particulars, and so to make falsehoods out of truth. The objection supposed may be worded thus: "You say, 0 Paul, that the law cannot justify; surely then the law is good for nothing at all; 'Wherefore then serveth the law?' If it will not save a man, what is the good of it? If of itself it will never take a man to heaven, why was it written? Is it not a useless thing?" The apostle might have replied to his opponent with a sneer - he must have said to him, "Oh, fool, and slow of heart to understand... because I have said the law cannot save, you have foolishly asked me what is the use of it? and you foolishly suppose God's law is good for nothing, and can be of no value whatever." This objection is, generally, brought forward by two sorts of people. First, by mere cavillers who do not like the gospel, and wish to pick all sorts of holes in it. They can tell us what they do not believe; but they do not tell us what they do believe. They would fight with everybody's doctrines and sentiments, but they would be at a loss if they were asked to sit down and write their own opinions. They do not seem to have got much further than the genius of the monkey, which can pull everything to pieces, but can put nothing together. Then, on the other hand, there is the Antinomian, who says, "Yes, I know I am saved by grace alone;" and then breaks the law - says, it is not binding on him, even as a rule of life; and asks, "Wherefore then serveth the law?" throwing it out of his door as an old piece of furniture only fit for the fire, because, forsooth, it is not adapted to save his soul. ..It is true that the law cannot save; and yet it is equally true that the law is one of the highest works of God, and is deserving of all reverence, and extremely useful when applied by God to the purposes for which it was intended.

IT IS evident from the teaching of the New Testament that God's Law,as revealed in the Old Testament, was still recognised as the Divine Standard for Morality and Conduct. This recognition was carried forward by the Reformers, and was incorporated in the Westminster Confession of Faith.

THE LAW - ACCORDING TO THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION

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VI. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it ...a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God's approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof: although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works. So as, a man's doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and, not under grace.

VII. Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it; the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely, and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.

Sadly, many Christians today have rejected this principle of Biblical Truth and Reformed Theology, and have followed "the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication" (Revelation 2:14).

Those who take the Antinomian position - that the Law is abrogated by the Gospel - wilfully refuse to acknowledge that there is a complete difference between a futile attempt to fulfil God's Law in order to attain righteousness and salvation, and fulfilling "that freely, and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done". Those who believe they can establish their righteousness by the works of the Law, are truly deceived, but those who believe the
"righteousness which is by faith" is consistent with flagrant disregard for the righteous principles of God's Law are equally deluded!

If the Law is "done away", then the question of whether we are "under law" or "under grace", is irrelevant, since where there is no law there is no sin, and therefore no necessity for grace (Romans 4:15, 5:13). "Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound"(Romans 5:20). Clearly, the statement that "we are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6: 14,15) affirms that the Law is still in force!

IS THE LAW PASSING AWAY?

Some see the reference to "what was passing away" (II Corinthians 3:11) as proof that the Law itself is "passing away". Yet, the statement itself makes it clear that a process is involved. Certainly, the system of administration of the Law "contained in ordinances" under the Levitical priesthood, now referred to as the OLD COVENANT, is superseded by that of the NEW COVENANT! However, under the NEW COVENANT, the Law itself is not. done away, but is established! The PASSOVER has been fulfilled in Christ! PENTECOST has been fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit! However, the DAY OF ATONEMENT and FEAST OF TABERNACLES are yet to have a greater degree of fulfilment. We await the glorious day when God's restored Israel, and the entire world, is made subject to the righteous Law of God, which shall not pass away, till ALL IS FULFILLED!

"Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law" (Romans 3:31).

The contrast Paul makes, in II Corinthians 3:1, 2 between the writing of the Law on Tablets of Stone, and the Gospel inscribed by the Spirit of God in the lives of believers, is highly significant. The Gospel is not written with ink, but in lives transformed by the life-giving Spirit of God! The Christian Gospel is emphatically not of the letter that kills, but of the Spirit that gives life! The tragedy is that in all too many places, the "Gospel" is merely written with ink! It is, all too often, the LETTER THAT KILLS, that predominates in religious rituals, rather than the SPIRIT THAT GIVES LIFE! We see from comparison with the Law, that the letter kills, not because it does not contain the Word of Life, but because it fails to impart the SPIRIT of LIFE!

Israel were incapable of keeping the Law, not because it could not be kept, but because they did not have the Spirit! As the glory of the Law - in its WRITTEN
form - was as durable only as the Tablets of Stone on which it was written, so the glory of the Gospel can only endure through the LIFE-GIVING SPIRIT! The
WRITTEN LETTER, though GLORIOUS, will ultimately pass away! Yet it will remain by being engrafted in the heart by the LIFE-GIVING SPIRIT!

It is, however, as ludicrous to say that the LAW should not be WRITTEN, as it is to suggest that the GOSPEL should not be WRITTEN because it is not of the
letter but of the Spirit.
The WRITTEN WORD is, in every dispensation, God's way of communicating HisWill to mankind. The Law of God is the basis of civil Law, the only foundation of a morally healthy society. As Paul clearly states: "Is the law sin? God forbid! Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, 'Thou shalt not covet'" (Romans 7:7).

Paul was saying, in II Corinthians 3, that just as the Law of God had been relegated to a powerless ritual, ministering DEATH rather than LIFE - because of the
absence of faith, and of the Spirit - THIS IS EQUALLY TRUE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOSPEL, IN THE ABSENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT!

ERRONEOUS "NEW COVENANT THEOLOGY"

We should be aware that the teaching of the Reformers has subtly been changed by the introduction of so-called "New Covenant Theology". Contrary to Reformed Covenant Theology, which recognised the CONTINUITY and FULFILMENT of The "old covenant" in the "new covenant", "New Covenant Theology" (so-called) teaches a supposed separation of the Covenants, in which the Old Covenant is REPLACED by the New, the Law REPLACED by Grace, Israel REPLACED by the Church etc.

Many people who profess to be evangelical, claiming to espouse the doctrines of Grace, are oblivious of the fact that they have accepted a falsified version of the Gospel which, far from following in the footsteps of the Reformers, has in fact corrupted the Gospel, relegating the Old Testament, the Law and Israel to virtual irrelevance.

This theology, by its relegation of the Law, opens the door to liberal reinterpretations of moral and social issues. It is essentially REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY, and is totally at variance with BIBLICAL KINGDOM THEOLOGY! It never ceases to amaze me however, that some professing "Kingdom" believers actually give credence to such an unscriptural concept!

In what sense are we "not under Law but under Grace"? As sinners guilty under law, we are under its condemnation. But under grace there is "no condemnation" since our penalty has been paid in full by the Lord Jesus Christ. The expression "not under law but under grace" means that we are no longer under the condemnation of the law, but under the dispensation of grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us suppose a man is guilty of heinous crimes, but is granted a Royal Pardon. This does not mean the law itself has been abrogated! It means the law cannot
touch that man in respect of the charges against him. The charges against him under law have been cleared by an act of grace. He is no longer under law in respect
of the charges against him, but he is released under Royal Pardon - i.e. under grace. In these circumstances, the grace extended in the Royal Pardon takes precedence over the charges under the law. However, the fact that the man has received a pardon does not give him license to go out and re-offend against the Lawl The very thought would cause us to throw up our hands in horror and cry with Paul - "GOD FORBID!"

Now that is precisely what has happened to us.We have broken God's Law, and are guilty in respect of the entire Law. The wages of sin is death. However, God
provided a temporary means of "atonement" under the Old Covenant, whereby, through a system of Ordinances - observances, offerings, sacrifices, washings and penalties etc. - personal and national sin could be dealt with, and Israel remain in Covenant relationship with God.

THE HANDWRITING OF ORDINANCES

Some have stated that the "handwriting of ordinances" which has been nailed to Christ's cross, refers to the Law itself! This is a gross misunderstanding of the term. Commentators and Translators widely agree that this is a legal term, whereby a person guilty of a crime was issued with a handwritten writ of chargescontaining both the laws violated and the penalties incurred. The term "handwriting of ordinances" relates to the Law only in the sense that the "law contained in ordinances" forms the basis of the writ of charges against us under a system of law regulated by the ordinances of the Levitical administration of the Law.

By definition, "handwriting of ordinances" is a legal term referring, not to the Law itself, but the legal charges against us under the "law contained in ordinances" - i.e. the Law, as regulated by the ordinances required under the Levitical system of administration of the Law. lt is the handwriting or writ of charges of violations of God's Law,coupled with the regulations "contained in ordinances" - i.e. the ordinances required to satisfy the terms under which the Law was administered under the Old Covenant dispensation.

There was no adequate offering, sacrifice, cleansing or penalty that could ever atone or pay for our sins, other than the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God!

By this means, the "handwriting of ordinances" that was irrevocably against us, Jesus - by becoming the perfect fulfilment of all the requirements of the Law and ordinances, in every respect - has "blotted out" or eradicated, by "nailing it to His cross":

By taking our sins, Jesus embodied in Himself the charges against us, both in respect of our transgression of the Law, and of the requirements "contained in ordinances" under which the Law was administered, so that when He died, they were nailed - in and with Him - to the Cross! The handwriting, both of the charges against us and of the ordinances that were contrary to us, has thus been abolished, having been transferred to Jesus Christ and NAILED WITH HIM TO HIS CROSS!

Consequently both the charges ("handwriting" of transgressions of God's Law recorded against us, and the regulatory "ordinances" of the Old Covenant Levitical Legal System have been done away through the death of Jesus Christ.

It was not the Law itself, but the condemnation and ordinances of the Law that were done away in Christ! (Colossians 2:14) It is therefore vital that we distinguish
between the ORDINANCES which have been done away in Christ, and the LAW itself, which still stands, not under the terms of the Old, but of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34 with Hebrews 8:8-12).

By definition, "SIN IS THE TRANSGRESSION OF THE LAW" (I John 3:4) Paul says "I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet" (Romans 7:7). The response to the view that because "we are not under law but under grace" we are no longer subject to the law, is clearly given by Paul in Romans 6:15 "What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? GOD FORBID!"

THE LAW AND THE ORDINANCES

It is vital that we distinguish two primary elements:-

(I) THE LAW itself, consisting of the Commandments, Statutes and Judgments. Although God gave the Law in written form by Moses, God's COMMANDMENTS, STATUTES and LAWS were observed by Abraham and the other patriarchs, long before. Thus we see that the LAW predated the Covenant established by Moses - FOOD-CLEANLINESS LAW (Genesis 7:2), TITHING LAW, COMMANDMENTS, STATUTES AND LAWS (Genesis 14:20, 26:5). We are clearly told "Abraham OBEYED MY VOICE AND KEPT MY CHARGE, MY COMMANDMENTS, MY STATUTES, AND MY LAWS" (Genesis 26:5). That LAW supersedes the Old Covenant, and "the righteousness of the LAW is FULFILLED by those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit"(Romans 8:4).

(2) THE ORDINANCES, incorporating the old, now obsoleteLevitical, sacrificial and ceremonial system of ordinances under which the Law was administered
before the coming of Jesus. That system of Law "contained in ordinances" was certainly 'done away' in Christ! (Ephesians 2:15.) In writing to the Galatians, Paul dealt specifically with the fact that they were continuing to follow not only unnecessary ordinances of the Old Covenant - now obsolete - but also Judaistic traditions that were never part of the Law in the first place!

DID JESUS AND THE APOSTLES DO AWAY WITH GOD'S LAW?

We now come to the essential question - Did Jesus do away with God's Law? Let's consider what Jesus Himself,and the Apostles, had to say on this vital issue! In Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus stated:-

"Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfil. For verily I say to you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven".

This was part of Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" in which He taught the importance not only of obeying the Commandments in actions but also in attitudes, which
is only possible under the New Covenant! The reference to every "jot and tittle" is a specific reference to GOD'S WRITTEN LAW, which will NOT PASS AWAY TILL IT IS FULFILLED IN ENTIRETY! The purpose of the New Covenant was to put God's Law - the same Law given by God on Sinai, but under different terms and conditions - in their minds, and write it in their hearts. The same Law written on Tables of Stone is now being "written on the fleshly tables of the heart" (II Corinthians 3:3).

The statement of Jesus "Till all is fulfilled", indicates a process of fulfilment. Blood sacrifices and other ceremonial ORDINANCES of the Law have already been
FULFILLED IN CHRIST, and as such, are no longer necessary. Nothing can pass away from the Law except on the basis of FULFILMENT! Those Laws which remain unfulfilled, especially by God's Israel people, such as observance of the moral law, the monetary law, the agricultural and dietary health-laws etc. which are so much a part of God's Kingdom life-style, far from having passed away, are to be the very hallmark of the fully-established NEW COVENANT!

To the sinner, the Law is a schoolmaster to bring him to Christ, in conviction and repentance of sin! (Galatians 3:24.) To those who are truly in Christ, the Law is no longer a schoolmaster, but the constant reminder of that which, once learned, is now planted in the heart to be applied and outworked by the Holy Spirit, no longer on the basis of the law of a carnal {physically-observed} commandment, but as the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, the Christ-life,by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Hebrews 7:16, Romans 8:2). To a society that has known God's Law, it is the standard by which we will be judged!

As Israel were required to display God's Law on their homes and prominent places as a constant way-mark to blessing, and warning against judgment, so should God's Law be displayed and taught, as a warning against disaster, and as a beacon to light the way.

THE FOUNDATION OF THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS

"We are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief comer stone".

Peter reminds us to "be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Saviour".

The view that the Law is done away is however, TOTALLY CONTRARY TO THE TEACHING OF THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS (Galatians 1:6-9, Ephesians 2:20, II Peter 3:2).

The Prophets clearly taught that God's Laws and Statutes would be proclaimed, observed and fulfilled, under the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31- 34 with Hebrews 8:7-13, Isaiah 2:2-3, Ezekiel 36:26-27, Micah 4:2).

Jesus stated:

"THINK NOT THAT I AM COME TO DESTROY THE LAW OR THE PROPHETS: I AM NOT COME TO DESTROY, BUT TO FULFIL FOR VERILY I SAY UNTO YOU, TILL HEAVEN AND EARTH PASS, ONE JOT OR ONE TITTLE SHALL IN NO WISE PASS FROM THE LAW, TILL ALL BE FULFILLED." (Matthew 5:17-20).

James says:

"all who break the Law are transgressors" (James 2:8-12).

Peter warns against turning away from the holy COMMANDMENTS, also warning against those who misinterpret scripture in this way, especially the writings of the apostle Paul (II Peter 2:21, 3:2,16).

John writing to CHRISTIANS affirms:

"SIN IS THE TRANSGRESSION OF THE LAW", insisting they KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS! (see I John 2: 4, 3: 4, 22, 24.)

Paul states that faith ESTABLISHES THE LAW. The Law is good, holy, spiritual and has not become death, as some erroneously teach! (Romans 3:31,7:12-14.)

In writing to the Galatians and Colossians, Paul dealt specifically with the fact that they were continuing to follow not only unnecessary ordinances and observances
of the Old Covenant - which were fulfilled in Christ -but also Judaistic traditions that were never part of the Law in the first place! It was these unnecessary rituals, not the Law itself, that were done away!

Paul taught that THE LAW IS FULFILLED BY THOSE WHO WALK NOT ACCORDING TO THE INCLINATIONS OF THE FLESH BUT ACCORDING TO THE LEADING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (Romans 8:4).

Clearly there was complete agreement between the Apostles and the Prophets. Consistent with the Prophets who foresaw the NEW COVENANT establishing OBEDIENCE to GOD'S Law, Jesus, Peter, James and John specifically taught the necessity of OBEDIENCE TO TIiE COMMANDMENTS!

Did the Apostle Paul teach anything different? On the contrary, in answer to the very question "Shall we continue in sin [the transgression of the Law] that grace may abound?" Paul said "GOD FORBID!"(Romans 6:1-2,15).

SIN IS THE TRANSGRESSION OF GOD'S LAW (I John 3:4) HAVE YOU TRULY REPENTED OF TRANSGRFSSING GOD'S LAW! The command of God to all transgressors is to REPENT! (Acts 17:30).

God's provision of SALVATION, through the LORD JESUS CHRIST, is by GRACE through FAITH (Ephesians 2:8).

True FAITH however, is accompanied by true REPENTANCE and REMISSION OF SINS - i.e. literally, TURNING AWAY FROM and BEING RELEASED from SINS WHICH TRANSGRESS GOD'S LAWS, in accordance with the clear command given in Acts 2:38:-

(1) REPENT and ...

(2) BE BAPTISED in the name of JESUS CHRIST for the REMISSION OF SINS and you shall...

(3) RECEIVE THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

The Biblical reply to the question "Did Jesus do away with God's Law?" is - to use the repeated expression of the Apostle Paul - "GOD FORBID"!

References taken from the King James A.V. Bible and emphasis added throughout
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