If you’re like us, you probably consider yourself a Christian and go to church on a fairly regular basis. Some of us have even been to seminary or served in full-time ministry. And what we were taught is that the Old Testament ‘Law’ (Torah in the original Hebrew language) was done away with, nailed to the cross. I’m sure most of us in the church have never even given it a second thought–we certainly never did until a few years ago.

But what does Jesus have to say about the Law?

 

After all, He is our Lord and Savior, the Word made flesh–right?  Here’s what Jesus says in Matthew 5:

17 Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

 

We know, we know–we’ve been to seminary and have been in church for 20+ years–“Jesus fulfilled the Law so we don’t have to.”  But is that what Jesus himself says in this passage?  Here’s some questions we have after reading it:

  • Has heaven and earth passed away?
  • Did Jesus accomplish all at His first coming, or is there more to be fulfilled at His second coming?
  • Why is there a second coming if there’s nothing left to fulfill / accomplish?
  • If ‘fulfill’ means to do away with, what does ‘abolish’ mean?
  • Why would those who keep the Law and teach others to do so be called “great in the kingdom of heaven” if the Law is bad and has been done away with?
  • What does Jesus mean when he says that our righteousness has to surpass that of the religious leaders of His day in order for us to enter the kingdom of heaven?

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After further study, we were confused.  We thought Jesus came to do away with the Law.  After all,

 

The Law was only for the Jews, right?

 

That’s certainly what we learned in church.  The Law, or ‘Torah’ in Hebrew, was given to the Jews by Moses, right?  But that’s not what the Scriptures say.  The Bible shows us that it was God Himself who gave His commandments to all of His people, and that He simply used Moses as the way of giving it to them.

22 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘You yourselves have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven.  Exodus 20

 

In other words, it’s not Moses’ Law, it’s God’s Law given through Moses.  And to whom was it given?

To all 12 tribes of Israel and the mixed multitude that came out of Egypt with them.

33 The Egyptians urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, “We will all be dead.”… 37 Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock.  Exodus 12

 

So we can clearly see that is was God Himself who gave the Law (Torah) to all 12 tribes of Israel and the mixed multitude that came out of Egypt with them.  The ‘Jews’ are simply those of the tribe of Judah and are but one of the twelve tribes.  The mixed multitude are those who were not of the 12 tribes of Israel by bloodline–in other words, Gentiles.  (Wait a second…didn’t Paul say something about Jews and Gentiles?  More on that later.)  If that’s not what your were taught in church or seminary, maybe you should keep reading.

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But I’m not Israel, am I?

Well, that’s a great question!  Only God knows for sure who is a physical descendent of one of the 12 tribes of Israel–including the tribe of Judah better known as the Jews.  We certainly don’t know.  But we don’t have to either, because the Scriptures don’t teach that Israel has ever been or will ever be made up only of those of the physical bloodline of the sons of Jacob (Israel).  The bigger and better question we should be asking is why does it matter who Israel is?  Here’s a good reason to want to know…

But Jesus answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  Matthew 15:24

“These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”  Matthew 10:5-7

“So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”  Acts 1:6

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But doesn’t the Apostle Paul teach that the Law was done away with?

That’s certainly what we were taught in church.  The problem is that Paul frequently contradicts himself, at least he seems to.  Sometimes he seems to be saying that the Law is good and still applies, sometimes he seems to be saying it’s bondage and has been done away with.  So which Paul do we listen to and why would he contradict himself?

“For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.”  Romans 2:13

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.”  Romans 3:20

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