Last week we studied how Jesus Christ has ushered us into a new covenant with better promises. However even though this is absolutely true and a wonderful reality for us in Christ, there are still many believers who have an inward unrest within themselves – a doubt and a seed of confusion regarding whether they should still keep the Law of Moses. They know the scriptures, they know what we studied last week about not mixing the two covenants, but they still have some questions.
In the past when I have taught on the covenants, I always had questions arise about the Law, and indeed the same questions still come up today. So we will be addressing these same questions today in this study. Questions such as: Jesus said He didn’t abolish the Law, so does it still apply to believers? And also: Even in the New Covenant God says that He will put His laws in our minds and write them on our hearts, is this the Ten Commandments?
These questions have stumbled many believers over the years and kept alive this uncertainty and fear regarding the Old Covenant, and therefore they have not been able to fully embrace grace. So if this describes you, then the truth of Jesus in this study will set you free today.
So let’s begin by reading Matthew 5:17-18:
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
For truly I say to you, Till heaven and earth pass, one stroke or one pronunciation mark shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”
These verses are commonly used to support the continuation of the Mosaic Law and the Ten Commandments. And most people incorrectly quote verse 17 as Jesus saying that He did not come to abolish the law. However the only English translations of the verse to use the word “abolish” here, are the NIV and similar translations based off of the Alexandrian texts.
Most other translations, such as the King James Version, use the word “destroy” in verse 17, which while a bit closer, still does not fully convey the meaning of the original Greek.
You see, the Greek word used here for “destroy” is kataluō which actually means to dissolve or throw down prematurely; or in other words, to bring something to its end unnaturally. And we know for a fact that Jesus surely did not unnaturally end the Law or the prophesies, instead He fulfilled them completely as He came to do. He brought the Law to its perfectly natural completion by fulfilling it.
In Galatians 4:4, it is said that Christ was born under the Law. And obviously we know that while Jesus walked on the earth, the Old Covenant was still in effect. Jesus was subject to the Old Covenant, and He fulfilled it completely with His perfect life. Now the Greek word for “fulfill” used in verse 17 is plēroō, which means to fulfill completely, which Jesus did. He fulfilled the Old Covenant Law and Prophets in all three ways:
– He lived a life of complete obedience to the Law of Moses.
– He fulfilled all of the Law’s demands on our behalf including a sacrifice for sins.
– He was the prophetic fulfillment of what the Law foreshadowed.
Next, we have verse 18, which has also confused many believers into thinking that the Law is still in effect because they read the words Till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or mark shall pass from the Law till all be fulfilled, and then they are confused because they do not understand the phrase “heaven and earth” in it’s proper Jewish context. I know what you are probably thinking “But wait! Heaven and earth are still here!”, but in-fact they are actually gone. We must understand the Jewish terminology used here, and the Bible does define it for us. Turn to Matthew 9:1-8:
“And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city.
And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said to the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; your sins be forgiven you.
And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemes.
And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Why think you evil in your hearts?
For whether is easier, to say, Your sins be forgiven you; or to say, Arise, and walk?
But that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins, (then said he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.
And he arose, and departed to his house.
But when the multitudes saw it, they marveled, and glorified God, which had given such power to men.”
Now this is another one of my favorite accounts of Jesus healing, a man being healed of palsy! Yet for the purposes of our study today, these verses also define the Jewish meaning of the terms heaven and earth for us.
You see, the Pharisees believed that according to Jewish Law, forgiveness was only able to be obtained for the Jews at the temple. The Pharisees understood the Law, and the process of bringing a lamb or bull to carry out the appropriate temple sacrifice.
So to the Jewish mind, the term heaven was often used to describe the Jewish temple, where God dwelled among His people. This is a perfectly reasonable thing, and Isaiah often uses the phrase “the heavens shall pass away” to prophecy the destruction of the Jewish temple. (Isaiah 51:5-6)
Likewise the term earth to a Jewish person, often meant the land of Israel.
When Jesus said that He had power on earth to forgive sins, He was saying in-essence that God does not dwell in that temple anymore and that He was in the person of Jesus Christ. That’s also what Jesus meant when He said “destroy this temple (His body) and He would rebuild it in three days” in John 2:19.
So Jesus here was saying that He has the power to forgive sins, and He was now on earth which the Pharisees understood as Israel, but they called it blasphemy because Jesus was outside of the temple. Jesus was speaking of spiritual things, but their mind was clouded with carnal things.
However for the purpose of our study and without going on too much of a rabbit-trail here, suffice it to say that the phrase “heaven and earth” in Jewish context refers to the temple and Israel, and it was destroyed in AD 70 by Nero as foretold by Jesus in Matthew 24. So heaven and earth have passed away, and all was fulfilled in the Old Covenant Laws and Prophets by Jesus.
Another question which commonly arises regarding the Ten Commandments relates to a verse in the New Covenant, found in Hebrews 8:10:
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, said the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:”
The problem arises because we are conditioned to immediately think of the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses whenever we see any reference to laws or commandments… it’s just the way we have become due to years upon years of legalism and the demand-mentality that is part of our human nature.
Yet if we just think about this logically, we will soon see that this cannot possibly be the Laws of Moses or the Ten Commandments here. God has just finished saying in this previous verse of Hebrews 8:9 that this New Covenant is not according to the Old Covenant – so for God to say that and then say in the next verse that He would put those same laws into our minds and write them on our hearts would be double-talk! Furthermore in verse 12 God continues on to say that He will be merciful to our unrighteousness, and our sins and iniquities He will remember no more. The Greek word for “merciful” used in verse 12, is hilesterion which means “mercy seat” And as we know from Hebrews 9:4, the Ark of the Covenant contained the Golden Pot of Manna, Arron’s Rod which Budded, and the Ten Commandments, which were then covered by the Mercy Seat and the Blood.
So the Laws which God puts in our mind and writes on our heart cannot be the Ten Commandments because those are covered by the Mercy Seat and the blood of Christ. In-fact, there is only one set of Laws that the LORD spoke from above the Mercy Seat, and they can be found in Numbers 7:89-8:4:
“And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak with him, then he heard the voice of one speaking to him from off the mercy seat that was on the ark of testimony, from between the two cherubim: and he spoke to him.
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
Speak to Aaron and say to him, When you light the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light over against the candlestick.
And Aaron did so; he lighted the lamps thereof over against the candlestick, as the LORD commanded Moses.
And this work of the candlestick was of beaten gold, to the shaft thereof, to the flowers thereof, was beaten work: according to the pattern which the LORD had showed Moses, so he made the candlestick.”
Now at first glance, to our natural human brain, these verses don’t seem to correlate or make much sense. Most people read it and say “Who cares?”, and I can totally understand that reaction. However on closer inspection we can see with the eyes of our spirit that these laws which God spoke here from above the Mercy Seat, all refer to total faith in Christ.
The lamps of the menorah are all to be perfectly aligned so that they are always pointing to and facing the servant lamp (which represents Christ). Furthermore, we see that the menorah is made of beaten gold, which is another representation of Jesus and Him being beaten for our righteousness and our shining light from Him.
The menorah as a whole was to be fashioned as a tree with the base and center shaft representing the trunk and with three “branches” on each side. The top of the shaft and of each branch was to be made like an open almond flower; each flower held an oil lamp (Exodus 25:32, 37). There are several passages in the Bible that speak about the almond tree, which was always the first tree to blossom and bear fruit in the spring, as early as February. The apostle Paul calls Christ the “firstfruits” because Jesus was the first to rise from the dead to everlasting life, and because of His resurrection all believers will also be raised (1 Corinthians 15:20–23; Romans 8:23).
So we see from this that these laws are not the typical laws that we think of. They are not about our doing or our performance in any way, but instead, Christ is the focus; Jesus is in the midst. It is the law of faith in Christ Jesus and Him constantly supplying you (Romans 3:27)
My dear friend and beloved of God, it would greatly benefit us to get rid of this Old Covenant mindset that we tend to have and to fully embrace the New Covenant which Jesus has paid such a high price for us to be entered into.
Colossians 2:14 states that God the Father blotted out the Old Covenant with it’s laws and nailed it to the cross with Christ.
Ephesians 2:15 states that Our enmity between us and God is the commandments of the Law and they have been rendered ineffective.
Hebrews 10:9 says that the will of God was to take away (Greek: anaireō: meaning to do away with) the Old Covenant to establish the New Covenant based on Jesus Christ.
And this theme of the Old Covenant being finished and replaced by the New and Better Covenant of Christ is repeated many times throughout the scriptures. It is time for us to receive this truth and live the life which God wants us to live. One that truly honors His beloved One and Only Son, Jesus, by fully embracing and thanking Him for the New Covenant and His finished work on the cross for us.
The inescapable truth of scripture is that the Old Covenant is done away, and the New Covenant is upon us. This was what Jesus came to do, and He did it completely. There was a reason that He cried out on the cross that it was finished / accomplished. Now it’s time to believe it and receive it with a spirit of thankfulness, confidence and boldness in Christ.