Are Christians supposed to keep the Ten Commandments? Are Christians supposed to keep the Sabbath? Are Christians supposed to have a distinction between God’s moral law, God’s ceremonial law and God’s legal law in the Old Testament? And what, anyhow, was the old law for?
This three part series will address these and other questions. I feel that this is the best argument concerning how we interact with the Ten Commandments in light of Scripture.
The following is taken from Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s study at Ariel Ministries. Please see my note at the end of this post for more information and disclaimer.
If there is one immediate problem that seems to face the new Jewish believer in the Messiah, it is this relationship to the Law of Moses. The dilemma is: to what extent is the Messianic Jew to keep the Law of Moses?
Two factors have developed in the minds and teachings of many Christians that have contributed to the creation of this problem. One is the practice of dividing the Law into ceremonial, legal, and moral commandments. On the basis of this division, many have come to think that the believer is free from the ceremonial and legal commandments but is still under the moral commandments. The second factor is the belief that the Ten Commandments are still valid today, while the other 603 commandments are not. When confronted by a Seventh Day Adventist, for example, an individual taking such an approach runs into problems concerning the fourth commandment on keeping the Sabbath. At that point, the believer begins fudging or hedging around the issue, and inconsistency results. While many different groups – both Jewish and Gentile, Messianic and non-Messianic – claim that we are still under the Law, none who say so actually believe it! Everyone who makes this claim then proceeds to make major adjustments to it, so many changes, in fact, that Moses himself would not recognize his own Law. No one who claims such today truly follows it as it is written.
The solution to this problem lies in discovering what the Bible says about the Messianic believer’s relationship to the Law, especially the Ten Commandments.
The Purpose of the Law of Moses
It is important to note that the Scriptures clearly state that the Law was given to Israel and not to the Gentiles or the Church (Deut. 4:7-8; Ps. 147:19-20; Mal. 4:4). Another thing to point out is the means by which the Mosaic Law was given. Most know that Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai from the Hand of God. Ten of those commandments, written on tablets of stone, were written with the Finger of God. The Old Testament indicates that the other 603 were written down as Moses was commanded by God.
Let’s move on to another area to answer the question, “What was the purpose of the Mosaic Law?” The Bible gives us several reasons for the purpose of the Mosaic Law. The first purpose was to reveal the holiness of God, to reveal the standard of righteousness that God demanded for a proper relationship with Him. Let me emphasize that at no time is it taught in Scripture that the Mosaic Law was the means of salvation. Such a concept would make salvation by means of works. We know, instead, that salvation was always by grace through faith. The content of faith has changed from age to age; exactly what one had to believe to be saved differed from age to age, depending on progressive revelation (that which God has revealed over time). But the means of salvation never changes, and the Mosaic Law was never intended to give the Jew a way of salvation. It was given to a people already redeemed from Egypt, not in order to redeem them.
A second purpose of the Law was to provide the means or the rule of conduct for the Old Testament saints. We find this in Romans 3:20 and 28, where Paul makes clear that no man was justified by the works of the Law. The Law was never, ever a means of salvation. Rather, the Law always had other purposes, and, in this case, it provided the rule of life for the Old Testament believer.
Two more purposes were: to keep the Jews a distinct people (Lev. 11:44-45; Deut. 7:6; 14:1-2); and, to provide Israel with occasions for individual and corporate worship.
A fifth purpose for the Mosaic Law was to reveal sin. Three passages in Romans point this out. In Romans 3:19-20, Paul emphasizes that there is no justification through the Law. By means of the Law no Jewish person will be justified. So what is the Law if not a way of justification, a way of salvation? The Law is there to give us the knowledge of sin, to reveal exactly what sin is, as Paul repeats in Romans 5:20 and 7:7. Paul became aware of his own sinful state by searching the Law and realizing that he fell short of the righteous standards of God (an example of the first and third purposes of the Law at work together).
Another purpose – this one is strange but true nevertheless – is to make a person sin more (Rom. 4:15; 5:20). Paul explains what he means by this in Romans 7:7-13 and again in I Corinthians 15:56, where we read that the power of sin is the Law.
Basically, Paul is saying here that a sin nature needs a base of operation; furthermore, the sin nature uses the Law as a base of operation. Paul notes that where there is no Law, there is no transgression. He did not mean, of course, that there was no sin before the Law was given. Rather, the term “transgression” is a specific type of sin violating a specific commandment. Men were sinners before the Law was given, but they were not transgressors of the Law until the Law was given. Once the Law was given, the sin nature had a base of operation, causing the individual to violate these commandments and sin all the more.
This last purpose led to a seventh purpose, which is to lead us to absolute faith, specifically faith in Jesus the Messiah (Gal. 3:24). As hard as we may try to keep the Law perfectly, our sin nature prevents us from doing so, as Paul describes in the seventh chapter of Romans. There is yet another purpose, but this will be covered more appropriately later in this study.
Did you want to hear the conclusion? Don’t miss the next two posts in this series (click here to get the next posts to your inbox)! They are going to cover the following:
- The Unity of the Law of Moses
- The Law of Moses Rendered Inoperative
- The Law the Jewish Believer Is Under
- The Principle of Freedom
You will not want to miss the next posts. If you found this one helpful, you will want to keep an eye open for others. The best way is to click here, because you can get them straight to your inbox so you don’t miss out! (Click here.)
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Now it should go without saying that just because I “quote”, “reference” or even “recommend” a book, article, lecture or a person, does not mean I agree with everything he/she says or writes. However, sources I quote, reference and recommend sometimes makes great arguments that I would like to share with my readers. If you are “offended”, sorry. Please make your voice known below if you disagree with anything presented here.
This article is from Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, the founder of Ariel Ministries and he is a Jewish believer and teaches the Bible from a Jewish perspective. Read more at “The Law of Moses and the Law of Messiah” or here. Copyright © 2005, Ariel Ministries. All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Image Source: Public domain | Moses with the Tablets of the Law