Someone asked me a question this weekend that I really thought I had a better answer for, but I didn’t.   With God’s new covenant, what parts of the law are abrogated and which do we still follow (if any)?   I know Hebrews 8 says the first covenant is obsolete with the bringing of the new one, and that the new has replaced the old (Hebrews 10). I read Galations 3-5 too, and that helped some. What does he mean in Galations 3:17? “”The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise”   Thanks for the help!


Good question.  Two points.  In Christ we are both  1. Not under law     and     2. Not under the Law (of Moses).  These may sound the same, but they are definitely distinct things.   In Colossians 2:13-15 we are told that when we were baptized into Christ, we were made alive with Christ and that through his work, he “cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness. He canceled the Law that was opposed to us, nailing it to the Cross.  I used to think that this was teaching us that we are no longer under the Law of Moses (especially because the applications he makes in Colossians 2:16-17 are from the Law of Moses), but that is not true.  This passage is telling us that we are not under law in general. We are no longer obligated to obey law in the most general sense. Both Jew and Gentile, equally are not under law.  We have grace.  In Galatians 4:21-5:6 there is an extensive treatment of this idea.  We are children of the free woman–Sarah.  We are no longer slaves.  We were set free (Gal 5:1).  Free from what?  From obligation.  We were freed from have to and are in a covenant of want to.  The only thing that matters is faith, expressing itself in love.  So we are not under law but grace.  This is point 1. above.  We are not under law.

But we are also not under the Law of Moses.  Jesus fulfilled the Law, which includes the Law of Moses.  Jesus did not abolish the Law of Moses (in context it is this specific law), but he did fulfill all of its requirements, and he also took the penalty for not following it perfectly.  The Law was not abolished, but we are not under it.  When Jesus died, the curtain was torn in two.  The blood of bulls and goats which never removed sin anyway is no longer required.  It no longer has any value.  Like the Hebrew writer said, the entire Mosaic system was “old and fading and will soon disappear” (Hebrews 8:13).  In fact, it disappeared finally in AD 70.

We are not obligated to following any of the Mosaic law.  It is all abrogated.  Of course, there were things which were commanded in the Law of Moses which are also commanded to us who are in Christ.  We still must love God with all of our heart soul mind and strength.  We still should not covet our neighbor’s wife or husband or stuff.  We still should not kill.  However, the reason we should not do these things is not because they are found in the Law of Moses, but because they are part of the Law of Christ.  They are things that Jesus obligated us to do.  A lot of Christians put the Ten Commandments up on their wall.  That is fine, I suppose, but it is a bit odd in a sense.  We do not post the laws about wearing clothing of more than two materials or the obligation to observe the Feast of Tabernacles.  The Ten Commandments express the heart of God, and we can argue that as a Christian we are obligated to nine of the ten, but this is not because these things were on the tablets given to Moses, it is because we are following Christ.

Galatians 3:17 is applied to the two different covenants–the one with Abraham and the one with Moses.  We can defend the idea that the covenant with Abraham is still in effect.  Romans chapter 4 is an argument that God’s promise to Abraham is still in effect.  The promise to Abraham is that the righteous will live by faith (Romans 1:17, Romans 4:3) and all nations would be blessed through the seed of Abraham–Jesus.  Paul is arguing that the promise to Abraham supersedes the covenant with Moses. This is what is being argued in Galatians 4:21-31.  The Law of Moses led to slavery, but the promise to Abraham leads even today to freedom.

So, if we are obligated to obey any of the laws found in Leviticus, it is a “coincidence” and it is not because it is found in Leviticus.  We can learn a lot about God from these laws, but we are not obligated to obey these laws.

John Oakes

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