The Law of Moses

statue of Moses holding stone tablets
by guest author Lawrence “Buddy” Martin

From time to time we get questions about how we are to view to the Old Testament law and if we are still bound by the laws of cleanliness. The following study by Buddy Martin addressed these issues far better than we ever could. We also highly recommend the study list offered by Buddy.  ><> Paul & Lori <><

I want to share a bit on how the new covenant differs from the covenant of Moses, or what is commonly called “the Law of Moses.” I’ll assume that you understand the spiritual dynamics of the new covenant, such as being born again, being in Christ, and such like. So I’ll simply share on areas that are sometimes confusing to believers.

The question that often concerns Christians is, “What place does the Law of Moses have in our life?” The answer is simply, as an instrument of covenant, the Law of Moses has no place at all. For one thing the Gentiles were never under the Law of Moses at any time. But not even Jews are under the Law of Moses. (I’ll explain as we go along.)

The second question would be, “If we are not under the Law of Moses, then what place do the laws of God have in our life?” They have a great place if you understand the difference between the Law of Moses and the eternal Laws of God. (Also explain as we go along.)

The third question might be, “If the Law of Moses is abrogated, where does that leave the Jew? Does not the Law of Moses make a Jew a Jew?” No. The Law of Moses does not make a Jew a Jew. A Jew is a natural descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But it is important to distinguish between the Jews and the Law of Moses. The Jews have yet an important part on the story of redemption. The Law of Moses is not in effect. It was replaced by the new covenant.

First to distinguish between the Law of Moses and the eternal Laws of God. The eternal laws of God have always been in place. They govern all created things. These laws are both moral and spiritual. But while the Law of Moses incorporated the eternal Laws of God, the Law of Moses also had laws that were not eternal. This is because the Law of Moses served a particular function that was completed in the coming of Messiah.

The Law of Moses (Torah) was a ketubah, or a marriage contract between Israel and God Himself. The marriage contract did not change who the people were. They were descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, regardless of the Law of Moses. What the Law of Moses did was give the people of Israel a special status before the nations. Not only did they become a “nation”, but they also became God’s bride.

Being married to Yhwh was the way the ancient Hebrews understood the covenant of Moses. The Sabbath was considered Israel’s wedding ring. It was to be a special sign of the covenant of Moses. And Sinai was the wedding ceremony. At Sinai God gave the laws for the marriage, and Israel had a choice of saying, “I do.” But in the law of the Lord’s marriage to Israel, God placed a curse. The curse had to do with fidelity to the marriage Laws.

The prophets understood this relationship. This is why you hear them use marriage language when they spoke of Israel and Her God. And this is also why you hear wedding language so much in the gospels. The first miracle of Jesus was at a wedding. Then when He gathered the disciples together in the upper room, the Lord again uses the language of the Jewish wedding, when He says, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2.)

Now comes the interesting part. It begins to come together when we understand who Jesus really is. Jesus is God, the marriage partner of Israel, manifest in the flesh. Jesus is the one who appeared at various times in the former testament. He fully represented the Father in everything. Paul later explains that the fullness of God dwells bodily in Jesus Christ. (Set aside questions about deity for now. Just follow how the covenants differ.)

Now let me paint a picture that will help bring this home. My wife and I have been married 39 years. If I were to pass on to be with the Lord, our marriage contract is no longer in force. She is now a widow, and she is free to marry whomever she wishes. (Course I’ll be haunting her on a regular basis. : ) )

My point is this – If Betty were to marry again, it would not change who she was. But neither could she say to her new marriage partner, “Let’s just use my old marriage license with Buddy. We don’t need to get a new one.” Sounds ridiculous does it not? Well that is exactly what happened at the cross. The marriage partner of Israel died. And the law of marriage between God and Israel was nailed to the cross.

Is there Scripture for this? Most certainly. Paul had to spend time explaining this to the Jewish Christians. The new covenant did not change who they were. Nor did it change any of the promises made to Abraham concerning his descendants. What changed was the need for a new covenant (marriage contract) between the “risen” Lord, and His new bride.

The explanation for all this is found in Romans 7:1-4. Listen carefully and you’ll see the picture: (By the way this portion of Scripture is sometimes used to beat people over the head who have been through a divorce. That is not the issue. It was never designed to be a whipping post. God Himself was a divorcee.)

“Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? 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. 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.” (Rom7:1-4)

Did you see it? The new covenant is entirely new. It is designed for a new people, made up of both Jew and Gentile.

I realize I am taking considerable time in explaining this, but failure to understand what the new covenant is about, can be the cause of confusion. So the answer to the question about what place the Law of Moses has in our life is simply, none whatsoever.

Now we have a problem. Oh boy — No laws! No laws! Quite the contrary. The new covenant has its own laws of marriage. And this brings us back to the eternal laws of God. In the new covenant we are under the “law of Christ”, and not the “law of Moses.” Is there Scripture for this? Yes. (Glad you asked.)

When Paul spoke of his burden to reach all peoples with the gospel of Jesus Christ, he very carefully spelled out which law he was under. Listen:

“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law THOUGH NOT BEING UNDER THE LAW MYSELF, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though NOT BEING WITHOUT THE LAW OF GOD BUT UNDER THE LAW OF CHRIST, so that I might win those who are without law.” (1Co 9:19-21. Caps for emphasis only.)

Did you catch it? The moral and spiritual laws of God are found in both the Law of Moses and in the Law of Christ, but the law of Moses and the Law of Christ are not one and the same. The Law of Moses was designed for a different people; those before the cross. The Law of Christ is designed for those who come to the cross and take to themselves Jesus as their Lord.

Think about it.

Shalom in Christ,

Lawrence E. (Buddy) Martin is the host of Hebraic Foundations, an e-mail list that provides Bible studies as well as offering open discussion on Biblical Christianity, with a special view on the Hebraic roots of the Christian faith. Buddy is also pastor emaritus of Christian Challenge.


image credit
Moses and stone tablets © GoranH /

%d bloggers like this: