By Ron Courter (Excerpt from Article Originally Printed May 20,1976)
One subject that never seems to grow old is the relation of the Old Law or the Old Testament to the Christian today. Anyone who discusses the Bible for even a short time with another person will soon be faced with the question of the use of the Old Testament in establishing spiritual beliefs for today. The subject is indeed broad, but it is of interest to note Jesus’ approach to the problem.
The church of Christ teaches one prohibition in relation to the use of the Old Testament today. The Old Testament is not authoritative in the establishing of Christian belief and practice today. The preceding statement implicitly states that the Old Testament is no longer effective in establishing what overt actions constitute obedience found pleasing unto God. WHY? Jesus is in authority (Matthew 28:18). The liveliness of his authority rested upon Jesus fulfilling the Law of Moses, his death, and resurrection. All of these things have come to pass and Jesus now reigns. When the first covenant was fulfilled, its liveliness passed. Its fulfillment ended its strength to hold authority (Matthew 5:17,18; Luke 16:16, 17;24:44).
The preceding verses declare it would be easier to move heaven and earth than change one aspect of the Old Law until it was fulfilled. Jesus said, “You can’t change the Law of Moses, but remember it is dated and passing.” The Old Law would not and could not be replaced, until it did the task God gave it. Otherwise, one could say you can make void the will of heaven.
People make the common mistake of overlooking Jesus’ emphasis that the Old Law will not be done away. But rather the Old Law would not lose its strength until it served its ordained purpose. Therefore, the question becomes one of determining if the Old Law has been fulfilled. If so, then no one has the right to use the words of Jesus in Matthew 5 to say, Jesus claimed he would never take away the strength of the Old Law. The reason being, Jesus said, “It will all remain, until fulfilled.”
Luke is helpful in clarifying the issue by recording, “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.” (Luke 16:17). The Law of Moses stood as a whole throughout its time of service under God’s stewardship. Jesus after his resurrection said, “…These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.” (Luke 24;44). Jesus viewed the Law as being fulfilled and certainly no one knew the will of heaven better than he.
The Apostles Preached It Was Fulfilled
Peter evidently recognized a change, even though he was slow to perceive the full effects of the change. When he addressed the multitude on the day of Pentecost he said, “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh…” (Acts 2:17). The oracles of God were no longer going to be committed to the Jews only, but now “…whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21).
Paul left no doubt in Antioch of Pisida about the fact that the Law had been fulfilled and that forgiveness of sins was preached through Jesus and not the Law. He told the audience how the rulers in Jerusalem did not know the prophets’ voice and fulfilled the voice of the prophets by condemning Jesus (Acts 13:27). The discourse relates that they took him down from a tree after they had fulfilled all that was written of him. The promise made unto the fathers was fulfilled to the children in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Therefore, in verse 39 he says, “And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the Law of Moses.”
Yes, the Bible is quick to point out the fulfillment of the Law of Moses and meets Jesus’ requirement for the abrogation of the Law of Moses. We rejoice in this because otherwise we are still under a Law meant for someone else and a Law that could not even justify those for whom it was meant.
We are a people no longer locked in bondage. We have been freed, turned lose from heavy traditions, and a law that locked men up until faith came. “But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterward be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith (Galatians 3:23,24).” Faith has arrived and forgiveness by faith, so the schoolmaster is no longer alive and binding in obedience. Paul saw the righteousness of the law being experienced in the Christian under Christ, not in the Jew under Moses (Romans 8:4).
The Law lived a full life and then was ready to vanish away. Jesus’ life fulfilled the purpose of the law and everything outlined by the mouths of the prophets. No aspect of the law was overlooked or torn-down. It was fulfilled and not destroyed. It went according to the eternal counsel of God, otherwise, it would be in effect today.
A Better Covenant
The fulfillment of the Law opened the way for a better covenant founded upon better promises. Hebrews 8:6,7 tells how the first was to give place to the second, because the first was not without fault. The fault of the first covenant was not in the principles of the covenant, but in the flesh (Romans 8:3). Jesus proved this by living a life without sin under the instruction of the Law of Moses.
Perfect laws do not always beget perfect people. The psalmist said, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul…(Psalms19:7).” Hebrews 7:19 says, “For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.” The Bible is not talking of two different laws here. The insufficiency of the law was when broken; the blood of animals could not take away sin and satisfy the cry of justice (Hebrews 10:1-4).
We do not doubt the inherent principles of the law were adequate to save the obedient, because Galatians 3:21 says, “Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the Law.” He that did the whole Law lived (Galatians 2:12), but Paul concludes none kept the whole Law in Romans 3. Therefore, to claim salvation through the Law is to frustrate the grace of God.
Paul adamantly states if righteousness comes by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain (Galatians 2:2l). The word “frustrate” in verse 21 may be better understood by looking at the following scriptures. They are Mark 6:26; 7:29; Galatians 3:15; 1 Timothy 5:12; and Hebrews 10:28. The words reject, disannulled, have cast off, and despised are from the same word translated frustrated in Ga.2:21.
It is evident that God knew the first covenant would be fulfilled because he declared by Jeremiah that a new covenant would be made. The new covenant would allow for all to know God. And the new citizens of the kingdom would need to know the covenant to become a citizen. A citizen of the kingdom of God did not need to know God to become a citizen under the Law of Moses.
Israel was God’s people by physical birth not because of the law written in their hearts. Hence, they were citizens of the kingdom, but thereafter needed one to teach them to know God. Converted souls are the only ones added to the kingdom under the new covenant. This is the teaching of Hebrew 8:10,11. This is one reason why the sprinkling of infants is obviously of no meaning spiritually in the eyes of God today. Such action on the behalf of an infant by another does not do one thing to that infant’s relationship to God. Otherwise, you would have like in the days of the first covenant, children in the kingdom and thereafter someone would need to teach them to know the Lord. Calling on the name of the Lord necessitates knowing the Lord’s will, this is why the Bible teaches to baptize believers. Let me add a believer is more than a person who knows Acts 2:38. He understands how his salvation is dependent upon the blood of Jesus and not his own goodness.
We have not left the infant unsaved. Why? You do not need to save what was never lost. The doctrine of original sin led men to teach infants should be baptized and this led men to teach sprinkling instead of immersion.
The fact that under the new covenant men shall know the Lord opens unto us many activities. We must use reason in our spiritual life. This mystical, just have faith words of the modern world is untrue to the scriptural meaning of the word faith. Man’s ability to reason is the product of God, i.e.,; the capacity to reason (Romans12:1). We are to be diligent in our service (2 Timothy 2:15). The words of the New Testament are life, not a few words about life. When digested they give nourishment beyond anything of this earth. (See John 4:32-34;6:63).
The Old Law has been fulfilled and therefore rightly removed from expressing the necessary obedience to reveal belief of God’s eternal principles. A new and better Covenant has taken its place. To be in harmony with the eternal principles of God, we now obey the teaching contained in the New Testament.
Hebrews 8:13 says, “…A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” Thank God for his care, because we are able to be justified from all things. Let us never return to that which vanisheth away, for to return to it would be to frustrate the grace of God. The Old Law has been fulfilled and has now passed. Now I can pass through life and death and be fulfilled.