Jesus and the Law of Moses


     There is much confusion rampant today regarding Christ and the Law of Moses. The expression "law of Moses" is found in the scriptures (Lk. 24: 44). Smith's Bible Dictionary makes the following observation relative to law (nomos):

     "The word is properly used, in Scripture as elsewhere, to express a definite commandment laid down by any recognized authority; but when the word is used with the article, and without any words of limitation, it refers to the expressed will to God, and in nine cases out of ten to the Mosaic law, or to the Pentateuch of which it forms the chief portion….The sense of the word, however, extends its scope and assumes a more abstracts character in the writings of St. Paul. Nomos , when used by him with the article, still refers in general to the law of Moses; but when used without the article, so as to embrace any manifestation of 'law,' it includes all powers which act on the will of man by compulsion, or by the pressure of external motives, whether their commands be or be not expressed in definite forms…. It should also be noticed that the title 'the Law' is occasionally used loosely to refer to the whole of the Old Testament, as in John 10: 34 referring to Psalms 82: 6 in John 15: 25 referring to Psalms 35: 17 and in I Corinthians 14: 21 referring to Isaiah 28: 11, 12."

     Hence, the expression "the law" or "the law of Moses" is used in the New Testament in keeping with Jewish use to denote the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible), but also to include the Psalms and the books of prophecy (Lk. 24: 44; Jn. 10: 34; I Cor. 14: 21).

     Christ was prophesied in the law. Moses prophesied of a "prophet from among their brethren" being raised up and that he would be like unto Moses (Deut. 18: 18). The apostle Peter showed this prophecy was fulfilled in Christ (Acts 3: 22, 23). The Hebrew scriptures prophesied of Jesus' birth, life, and death (Micah 5: 2; Isa. 53: 1-12). Jesus said of the Hebrew scriptures, "…they are they which testify of me" (Jn. 5: 39).

    Christ lived and died under the law. "But when the fullness of the time was come," Paul wrote, "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law…" (Gal. 4: 4, 5). The fact Jesus was born when he was did not accidentally happen. God had planned Jesus' birth and introduction to the world (Dan. 2).

     Christ recognized the authority of the law. Jesus respected the Law of Moses. Why one asked Jesus "what shall I do to inherit eternal life" Jesus replied, "What is written in the law? How readest thou?" (Lk. 10: 25, 26). When the man correctly answered by alluding to the Ten Commandments, Jesus said "Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live" (vs. 27, 28). Jesus recognized the resident authority of the Hebrew scriptures when he quoted them to defeat the Tempter (Matt. 4, 7, 10, Deut. 8: 3; Ps. 91: 11, 12; Deut. 6: 16).

     Christ perfectly kept the Law of Moses. Jesus himself claimed to have been obedient to the law under which he lived, the Law of Moses (Jn. 8: 29, 55). In fact, the Jews were unable to convict Jesus of any transgression of the law (Jn. 8: 46). It is affirmed in the New Testament that Jesus "did no sin" and "was without sin" (I Pet. 2: 22; Heb. 4: 15). Jesus is the only "man" who ever sinlessly kept the law.

     Christ taught others to keep the law. As seen, Jesus recognized the authority of the law in his life and taught others to keep the law (Lk. 10: 25-28). Jesus instructed his disciples to obey the law (Matt. 23: 2, 3). Christ defended the law and severely condemned those who perverted the Hebrew scripture (Mk. 7: 7-13; Matt. 23: 16-22).

     Christ is the end of the law. Paul wrote thus of Christ and the law: "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Rom. 10: 4). The word "end" is from the Greek telos. Vine remarks on telos in this fashion,

     "Noun, telos: signifies (a) "the limit," either at which a person or thing ceases to be what he or it was up to that point, or at which previous activities were ceased, 2 Cor. 3:13; 1 Pet. 4:7; (b) "the final issue or result" of a state or process, e.g., Luke 1:33; in Rom. 10:4, Christ is described as "the end of the Law unto righteousness to everyone that believeth;" this is best explained by Gal. 3:23-26; cp. Jas. 5: 11…" (W. E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).

     Christ did not simply do away with the law, he ended or fulfilled it. Jesus is the substance of the shadows, the antitype of the types, and the very epitome of all the moral enunciations of the law. Jesus said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (Matt. 5: 17). Notice the next verse, "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (vs. 18). Jesus fulfilled the law and inaugurated his system or testament (Lk. 24: 44, 47). Christ's system is not without law, but the onerous system of Moses was nailed to Jesus' cross (Gal. 6: 2, Col. 2: 14, see addendum). Jesus' apostles are "able ministers of the new testament" (2 Cor. 3: 6). The Law of Moses could not impart life (2 Cor. 3: 7-18). The law was only a "schoolmaster to bring us (Jew, dm) unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Gal. 3: 24). "But after that faith is come," Paul continued, "we are no longer under a schoolmaster" (vs. 25). Paul warned regarding any who would attempt justification by the Law of Moses. Hear him: "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace" (Gal. 5: 4). One cannot be saved by a system of meritorious works that seek to earn salvation and by grace at the same time (Rom. 11: 6). John said, "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (Jn. 1: 17).

     In conclusion, Christ sustained a unique position to the Law of Moses. He promoted it and flawlessly kept its precepts. Of greater importance: Christ was the end of the law in that he fulfilled it. Jesus became the ultimate and perpetual sacrifice for the sins of the world (Heb. 7-9). Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth and we are to hear him (Matt. 28: 18; 17: 5). Jesus is to be heard over Moses and Elias (law and prophets, Matt. 17: 4, 5). "For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses…And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant…But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we…," argued the writer of Hebrews (Heb. 3: 3, 5, 6).




Addendum: Paul wrote, "Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6: 2). Indeed, Christ has a law (cf. I Cor. 9: 21). Moses gave the Ten Commandment law to Israel (Deut. 5). The people had to obey Moses (Deut. 18: 18, 19; Acts 3: 22, 23). The same passages point to a greater prophet, Jesus, and declare: "...Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people." Beloved, "he shall say unto you" constitutes Jesus’ law.

The presence of God’s grace today has been perverted by many to mean the absence of law. However, if there is no law, there is no sin. Hear Paul, "Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression" (Rom. 4: 15). Sin is lawlessness or the breaking of law (I Jn. 3: 4). Since we are all declared sinners by God, there must be law in this dispensation (Rom. 3: 23). The unique truth about Jesus’ law is that it is a "perfect law of liberty." "But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty..." (Jas. 1: 25). Jesus’ law is a perfect law of liberty because it offers the perfect motivation and example for obedience, the freedom of onerous commandments, and grace as opposed to the sinlessness required for justification under Moses’ Law (I Pet. 2: 21; Jn. 13: 34; I Jn. 5: 3; Eph. 2: 8-10).