David Ettinger

Jesus, the Mosaic Law, and the Christian

Discussion in 'Blogs & Columns' started by David Ettinger, Mar 13, 2017.

  1. David Ettinger

    Dec 4, 2015
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    By David Ettinger

    In my previous blog, I looked at the relationship between the Christian and the Old Testament Sabbath. This blog looks at the relationship between the Christian and the Mosaic Law.

    The Christian ministry at which I work received a letter from a frustrated believer regarding his church. He wrote of how his once-solid congregational leaders had fallen into legalistic error over matters of the Mosaic Law. These well-meaning men erred by getting it into their heads that in order to be “accepted” by God, they were required to follow (sans animal sacrifices) the Mosaic Law as prescribed in the first five books of the Bible (referred to as the Pentateuch).

    This problem is more widespread than you may think, and perhaps you know someone who is convinced that observing the Mosaic Law is a Christian requirement. Let’s get some clarity on this issue by looking at Jesus’ relationship with the Law.

    Jesus the “Fulfillment”
    As Jesus was traveling through towns and villages in the Galilee region of Israel, He came to a mountainside, ascended a ways, and sat. It was customary for rabbis to sit elevated from their students, and in so doing, Jesus was following Jewish custom. Perhaps His disciples stood a few feet below him as “bodyguards,” or maybe they took their places among the teeming crowds of Galileans who flocked to hear Jesus’ teaching. Whatever the scenario, Jesus had the rapt attention of humble Jewish fisherman, silversmiths, farmers, bakers, shopkeepers, brickmakers, carpenters, housewives, and no doubt a generous convergence of Roman soldiers bent on keeping the peace.

    Once the crowd settled, Jesus taught. He told the Galileans that those “poor in spirit” were blessed for “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). He addressed those who mourned and assured them of comfort (v. 4); promised the meek they would “inherit the earth” (v. 5); instructed those seeking righteousness they would indeed find it (v. 6); told the merciful they would receive mercy in return (v. 7); and guaranteed those who followed Him and would suffer for in that though the world would hate them, heaven eagerly awaited them (vv. 10-12).

    Such comfort! Such wisdom! Such insight into the hearts of men and women! The Galilean multitudes must have wondered, Who is this man, this teacher? Jesus knew their thoughts and replied: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).

    This may not have explained the entire truth to the people – that this Man was Israel’s Messiah, even God Himself – but at least it did tell them something of the great Teacher’s purpose, to fulfill the Mosaic Law. In stating such, Jesus made clear that He was not abolishing or destroying the Mosaic Law. He was not establishing a rival system to the Law. He was not even attempting to contradict, alter, or change it.

    The Heart of the Matter
    Specifically, what Jesus did not eradicate was the moral content – the heart – of the Mosaic Law. What was this moral content? Jesus had just stated it in the Beatitudes. The heart of the Mosaic Law – that which the Law was to produce in the hearts of the Israelites – was humility, comfort, meekness, righteousness, mercy, purity, peace, and love. This was the heart of the Mosaic Law. In Jesus, these moral essentials would see their fruition.

    However, the Mosaic Law was more than morality; it involved a system of works, most notable of them the somber sacrificial system. In short, God required the blood of slaughtered animals to temporarily cover over the sins of the Hebrews. Because people always sinned, the sacrificial system was to continue until a permanent solution was made available. Jesus would be that “permanent solution.” Humanity no longer had to offer temporary sacrifices for sin. God Himself provided a permanent provision through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. Because He lived a flawless, sinless existence (Hebrews 4:15), Jesus met all the necessary criteria to be humanity’s permanent sacrifice for sin. Therefore, to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is to have your sins pardoned and the assurance of eternal life.

    Hence, from the time Jesus was resurrected, the sacrificial system was at once rendered useless (Hebrews 10:1-18). Note that God never declared blood sacrifices no longer necessary, they most certainly are! God always – from the Garden of Eden until this moment – requires shed blood to atone for humanity’s sin. Before Christ, that blood came through slaughtered animals. Following Christ’s sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection, the shed-blood requirement is met when individuals accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Romans 10:9).

    A Proper View of the Mosaic Law
    So, how should you regard the Mosaic Law? First, you should look favorably upon it for its moral intent. That which the Mosaic Law was designed to accomplish in you – as so beautifully articulated by Jesus – should be taken to heart, cherished, and lived by. Second – and here is a big HOWEVER – you are not to return to its practices as was required of the ancient Israelites. In other words, what Jesus fulfilled and caused to cease is the practice of the Mosaic Law. The practice of the Mosaic Law involves the sacrificial system, dietary laws, keeping of Jewish holidays, and male circumcision on the eighth day of life. It is also crucial to note that even the practicing of the Mosaic Law devoid of love for God was inadequate for salvation (Isaiah 1:11-20). The Mosaic Law was to be a “schoolmaster,” or tutor, that led the Jewish people to Christ that they might be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24).

    In fulfilling the Mosaic Law, Jesus freed humanity from the practices of the Law, though the moral principles continue. Another way to look at it is that everything the sacrifices, dietary laws, holiday observances, and male circumcision on the eighth day were intended to do has been accomplished in the life, sacrifice, and resurrection of Christ. Accepting Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord, and final sacrifice for sin takes the place of practicing the Mosaic Law.

    Paul makes this clear when he writes, “Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4, emphasis added). In other words, the Mosaic Law was never the means by which you were declared “righteous” in God’s eyes; it is through Christ, and Christ alone, that you are declared righteous (Romans 3:21-26). Paul further states that at Christ’s death, He set “aside … the law with its commands and regulations” (Ephesians 2:15). Paul minces no words; the practice of the Mosaic Law is abolished for both Jew and Gentile. There are no Mosaic “commandments” or “ordinances” needed to be observed or fulfilled in order to be declared righteous (“saved”); all has been fulfilled in Christ.
    Read more by David Ettinger: https://ettingerwriting.wordpress.com/
  2. Bevaleigh
    Thank you for sharing this very thoughtful, well written article. "Through grace we are saved, not by works, lest any man should boast." However, the love of God compels, us to live lives that would glorify His name and please him. https://beverleyrayner.blogspot.ca
    David Ettinger likes this.