Do Not Go Back to the Old Law

Many professed Christians try to go back to the old law to determine what God requires of them today or to justify practices for which they can find no authority in the New Testament. Despite the fact that the Old Testament contains prophecy telling of a “new covenant” (Jeremiah 31:31-34) and the New Testament tells us the old law was “nailed…to the cross” (Colossians 2:14), many will blur the lines between the two laws; but this is dangerous. Let us notice a few reasons why.

Jesus cannot be our high priest under the old law – We are greatly blessed under the new law to have Jesus as our high priest (Hebrews 4:14). Unlike the priests under the old law, Jesus “holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:24-25). The writer continued, “For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26).

Yet under the old law, Jesus would be disqualified from the priesthood. Therefore, “a change of law” was necessary (Hebrews 7:12). Under the old law, priests served from the tribe of Levi; but Jesus “was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests” (Hebrews 7:14). Because Jesus was not of the specified tribe (Levi), He could not be priest.

Without Jesus as our high priest, we have no forgiveness of sins. The Hebrew writer plainly said, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Instead, we have been “sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). If we go back to the old law, we are going back to a system without the sacrifice of Christ in which there is no forgiveness.

We commit spiritual adultery by trying to submit to both laws – In writing to the saints in Rome, Paul made an important point about the marriage bond: “For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man” (Romans 7:2-3).

Paul’s point was simple: When God joins two in marriage, only death releases them (barring the exception for fornication given by Jesus in Matthew 19:9). While this passage is important in understanding the truth behind certain divorce and remarriage controversies, Paul used this as an illustration to make a spiritual point: “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4).

For a Jew that was under the Law, only death freed him from that bond. He would “die to the Law through the body of Christ” (Romans 7:4) when he was “baptized into Christ Jesus,” thus being “baptized into His death” (Romans 6:3). But just as in marriage a woman commits adultery when she joins herself to another man, spiritual adultery occurs when one tries to join himself to both laws. If we wish to be faithful to Christ, we cannot submit ourselves to the old law.

Keeping part of the Old Law obligates us to keep all of it – Many people do not want to go back to the Law of Moses as a whole, but they do want to take some things (such as keeping the Sabbath and using instrumental music in worship as is mentioned in the Psalms) and carry them over into the church. The reason why they must do this is because the New Testament does not command or authorize the things they wish to practice, so they go to the old law for their justification.

Paul warned the Galatians that keeping part of the old law put one under obligation to keep the whole law. In refuting the doctrine that circumcision was a spiritual requirement for Christians, Paul wrote, “And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:3-4).

Are we prepared to keep the whole law? Peter, in discussing this same issue of circumcision, questioned the proponents of it: “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). Man would not keep God’s law perfectly. That is why we need God’s grace (Acts 15:11). Yet Paul said that by going back to part of the old law, we have “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).

Conclusion

The New Testament is the better covenant (Hebrews 8:6). The old law was “our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:24-25). In other words, since Christ has come with His new law, we are no longer under the Law of Moses. Therefore, we must be content to keep the Old Testament in its proper place (we may learn from it, but we are not bound to submit to its laws), and follow Christ and His new law.


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