July 25, 2016

Lawschool: what law are we under?

by Clint Archer

baconBefore I travel to a new country I investigate if there are any peculiar laws I need to observe. Luckily I have never had to verify any of these for myself – but they are on the internet so they must be true, right?

In Thailand it is illegal to leave your house without wearing any underwear. In Israel it is illegal to bring bears to the beach. Ireland has prohibited its citizens from pretending to perform any type of witchcraft, enchantment, or occultic practices. It’s not against the law to actually perform them, just to pretend to perform them.

In Canada you may not pay for an item that costs 50c using only 1c coins, you may not water your garden if it is raining, and citizens may not remove bandages in public.

The local law in Chelsea, UK prohibits impersonating an elderly person. (That’s not preventing rude youth from mocking old people, it’s because pensioners are entitled to a housing subsidy, so pretending to be one is considered fraud.)

There’s much confusion among Christians as to which laws in the Bible apply to us. When we decry homosexuality (which was condemned in the Mosaic Law) but still eat bacon (which was also condemned in the Mosaic Law), are we just being arbitrarily selective?



A biblical law code is a set of rules issued by God to a specific group of people, for a specific time, based on the character of God. To violate the law code that is currently in effect is to commit a sin. But it is not sin to violate a law in a previous (or future) law code.

So for example, Adam was not required to circumcise his sons, nor celebrate communion. Adam could wear mixed fabrics if he so chose (supposing there was some form of antediluvian polyester blend). Abraham did circumcise his sons, but could eat shrimp to his heart’s content. Moses did circumcise his sons, could not wear mixed fabrics, nor eat shellfish, but he could eat any fruit he wanted to, unlike Adam.

Why? Because they were all under different codes.school of law

Each new law code replaces the past one completely. There will be some similarities, because each code is still based on God’s character. But the reason you obey a law is because it is part of the code to which you are subject, not because it was part of a previous code.

So for example Noah and Adam both had a command to go forth and multiply.
Abraham and Moses both had a law to circumcise males. But when Christians have big families to obey the command to Adam and to Noah, they are making a mistake. Just like Christians who outlaw eating pork or tattoos.


Well the short answer is that he fulfilled the Law of Moses, but many Christians deal with this question by saying the Law of Moses can be divided into 3 parts: moral, ceremonial, and civil.

They say Christ fulfilled the ceremonial parts (sacrifices, feasts, dietary laws) and he fulfilled the civil parts (tithing, stoning your kids, eye for an eye). But they say the moral parts (like murder, adultery, homosexuality) are still binding.

You can see why this solution is so handy. It explains neatly why we can’t murder, but can eat bacon. That’s a helpful division to have. The problem is that…

1) The Bible doesn’t make that distinction at all, it mixes all the laws indiscriminately. They were all binding on Israel and considered to be sin if violated. So we end up deciding arbitrarily which category tattoos, Sabbath, and tithing fall into.

2) If we say that the moral law is still binding then that leaves a part of the Law unfulfilled by Christ’s death on the cross. But the New Testament explicitly says Jesus fulfilled the whole Law.

Galatians 3: 23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian [tutor] until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

You can’t say Jesus fulfilled some parts of the Law but not other parts. He either fulfilled it all, or we are still accountable to keep it all.

Thanks be to God that Jesus fulfilled it all, so we don’t have to keep any of it.

So is lobster back on the menu? Yes.
Is circumcision a thing of the past? Yes.
Can I get a tattoo? Yes!

Can I make my daughter a prostitute, can I commit adultery, can I murder? Nooooo.

But wait!? Aren’t we then arbitrarily selecting which laws to keep?

I never said we’re under no law. I said we are not under the Law of Moses. You see, Jesus gave us a new law code.


None of the Law of Moses is binding on New Testament believers. But… Christians are under a new law code, called the Law of Christ, (also termed the Law of Love).Law

1 Corinthians 9: 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.

Galatians 6: 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

There are a number of similarities between Moses’ Law and the Law of Christ. In fact nine of the Ten Commandments are repeated as binding on Christians in the New Testament. But the reason we don’t murder and don’t steal, and yet we can lawfully enjoy playing basketball on a Saturday, is because the New Testament is binding on us as our law code, not because of the Ten Commandments.

So homosexual practices are still offensive to God, not because Leviticus tell us that, but because Romans 1 says so. And that shouldn’t surprise us because both the laws in Leviticus and in Romans are based on God’s character.

Adultery is still wrong, not because of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, but because of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19. Again, this overlap shouldn’t surprise us.

And when in doubt the guiding law is “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

If your head is swimming, then at least take this away: Praise God that you are forgiven and get to go to heaven because of what Jesus did for you from start to finish. But now that we are saved, we are not lawless, but still obey God, by loving him and loving our neighbor. And in that we fulfill the law code we are under until glory: the Law of Christ.

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Very helpful, thanks, Clint!

    • As always, you’re most welcome, Michael!

  • Jon45Solas

    Interesting take. Probably just because I learned it the way I did, I’ve long used the tripartite division of the law to explain why parts of the OT aren’t binding on us today.

    You raise some interesting questions about the arbitrary nature of that division. Not sure if I’m ready to abandon it yet, but that’s some good food for thought!

    • I know, it was a mind-bender when I first discovered that the tri-partate division was arbitrary and not at all the the Jews or Jesus or NT writers treated the Law. I wrote about it some more here: http://thecripplegate.com/the-inevitable-messiness-of-being-human-pt-1/

      • Jon45Solas

        Great, and thanks! I’ll give it a read.

        I can see that the implications of this different approach to the Law are vast. As if I didn’t have enough on my plate already!

        Pass on my gratitude to all the fellas over there at the Cripplegate for giving me a lot to think about. Time and mental energy are not wasted over here.

      • Jon45Solas

        Hey, Clint. Took a few minutes to read the article to which you linked. Good read, but I came away a little confused as to how this directly pertains to the topic at hand. The only line I read in there that touches on the subject was provided as something of an aside:

        “And finally, application for today needs to be drawn from the Mosaic Law, which is fulfilled in Christ and no longer binding on Church-age believers.”

        • Mmm. Maybe it was part 2 that explained it more fully. I preached through Deuteronomy and Leviticus at my church and those blog posts came out of that series. But you seem to get the gist quiet well already. The Law of Christ is the one Paul, James, and Peter refer to as what NT believers need to fulfil and obey.

          • Jon45Solas

            Yeah, I get where you’re coming from. I might do some exploring on your older posts as time allows.

            Thanks for the interaction.

          • Also, my sermon called “lawschool” really fleshes the issue out. See the sermon tab at baptistchurchhillcrest.com

          • Jon45Solas

            Cool. I’m heading over there.

          • elainebitt

            Clint, would you be able to link directly to the sermon? I wasn’t able to find it on the website. Thanks!

          • Judy Parker

            Hi elainebitt – see if this works: http://baptistchurchhillcrest.com/sermons/?sermon_id=567

          • elainebitt

            Thanks Judy, it did work.

  • Pingback: Lawschool: what law are we under? | Talmidimblogging()

  • KPM

    I find it quite interesting that you call yourselves “Reformed” Baptists, when you not only neglect the Reformed position on the proper distinction between Law & Gospel (as Jesse Johnson has done elsewhere), but you also reject the Reformed position on three divisions of the Law. This seems like a strange and difficult place to be when it comes to expositing and applying the Law of God in pastoral ministry. Its certainly not where Calvin was at:


    Confusing Law & Gospel is the surest way to fall back into works-righteousness. Denying the three divisions of the law seems like it would naturally lead Christians back to Kosher dietary laws, building parapets on their roofs, and refusing to wear clothing made of blended fabrics.

    All of the Reformers agreed that the Law had three functions: pedagogical, civil, and normative. Pedagogical: we are led to repentance by the Law, we repent, and we are given the gospel freely without stipulation. Civil: the Law of God reveals His role for civil government to exercise the sword. Normative: after a believer is brought to repentance and freely forgiven, he is given a guide by which he lives his life.

    If the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament are still in effect, we would have the pedagogical function of the Law calling people to repentance for eating cheeseburgers (since they mix meat and milk). We would have the normative principle of the Law telling Christians that they should avoid eating cheeseburgers and must repent any time they fail.

    If we deny that the Law and Gospel are to be kept distinct, and that God’s promises are given without stipulation, and then we deny the three divisions of the Law, we’re back to Old Testament Judaism with a little bit of Jesus sprinkled on top. All of God’s Law is still binding, there are stipulations to receiving God’s promises (like making Jesus the Lord of your life), and there is no way you can ever be sure you’re saved, or that you’ve done enough.

    It seems like you guys need to start studying the Reformers again. Maybe they had some wisdom when they made these distinctions. Since they broke away from Roman Catholicism, maybe they understood that the proper distinction between Law and Gospel, the three functions of the Law, and the three divisions of the Law were the only theological distinctions capable of preventing the church from lapsing back into papism and monkery.

    • Jason

      Correction: A cheeseburger would be fine according to scripture. Rabbis later added dairy and meat. The original command was simply not to eat the meat of a kid (child animal, not slang for human children!) cooked in its mother’s milk.

      • Good point, but KPM’s point still stands. And yet I really don’t think his fear of antinomianism is justified. I’m not saying we are under no law or covenant…I’m saying we are under a new law and covenant law. Not Moses but Christ’s. The reason we eat cheesburgers and wear polyester is b/c the NT doesn’t forbid that, and Jesus fulfilled the Mosiac stipulations. But we don’t murder because the NT does forbid that. Etc.

        • g

          “The reason we eat cheesburgers and wear polyester is b/c the NT doesn’t
          forbid that…”

          No! The overarching reason we should be doing anything in the Christian life is not so we can gratify ourselves. It’s to fulfill what Paul commanded:

          “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col. 3:17)


          “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31)

          These are pretty well cut-and-dried, all-encompassing statements that cover any possible activity a Christian can possibly be engaged in.

          Everything I do as a Christian, “everything” and “all”, whether “word or deed”, even to the minutiae of what I “eat or drink”, is to be governed by a response to God’s grace in seeking to honor and glorify Him.

          How do I do that? By denying myself, taking up my cross daily, and following Christ.

          We can’t just trivialize it down to a matter of “the NT doesn’t forbid that”, so we are free to gratify ourselves. That’s far too short-sighted…

          • Ira Pistos

            Hi g, I believe the point of the comment was simply to state that those things are not forbidden and therefor the reason that we may engage in them.

            As Christians speaking to Christians it seems fair to say that we may safely assume among family that we live or should live lives in praise of God and to His glory.

            I mean no disrespect, it’s just that I’ve listened to and read Clint extensively and he lives and breathes what you called him on.

          • Jason

            I wouldn’t accuse Clint of living a life primarily to please himself. However, saying “The reason we eat cheeseburgers and wear polyester is b/c the NT doesn’t forbid that” doesn’t express the Biblical guidance in a believer’s life.

            There are many ways to live for ourselves regardless of how long the list of rules gets. Our lives are not guided by a set of boundaries, but rather by the Spirit of truth and the will of God.

            We’re not wandering a maze with a lot of walls that keep us contained but aimless. We are running a race and we’re being guided along the way. The reason we might eat cheeseburgers is to eat with thankfulness. However, someone else may not eat them for the same reason (Romans 14:6)!

          • Ira Pistos

            To any moderator. My post above was supposed to read in strong support of Clint. I fear that I worded it badly and it can be easily interpreted as opposed.
            In any case, I stepped in where I should have remained silent.
            I’d appreciate it if you would delete it.
            Sorry for the inconvenience.

            Thank you.

          • Kermos

            God bless you Ira,

            I perceived your strong support of Clint, yet you gently approached g. To any moderator: if you delete Ira’s post, then please delete mine too. I, too, apologize for any inconvenience.

    • Johnny

      I always figured the “reformed” part had more to do with the rejection of the papist tradition of sprinkling water on unrepentant babies…. 😉

      • KPM

        I appreciate the humor, Johnny, but I think you’re misinformed as to what Reformed theology has traditionally referred to. Up until like 20 years ago, Reformed always referred to those who held to Classic Covenantal Theology. Calvin, Hodge, BB Warfield, John Owens, J Gresham Mechan – they all baptized babies, as all of the Westminster Divines affirmed and set in stone as the official teaching of the Reformed and Presbyterian churches.

        When Particular Baptists started to pop up around the end of the 17th Century, they called themselves “Particular” Baptists, rather than Reformed Baptists, because they recognized that their theology was not actually Reformed. They were probably closer to Classic Reformed theology, however, because at least they held to a Covenantal framework.

        Dispensationalism developed around the 1830s and began spreading from Britain to the US in the late 1800s, early 1900s. Reformed theologians unanimously rejected dispensationalism at the time.

        Now, you have particular, dispensationalist baptists, who hold to a strictly memorialist view of the Lord’s Supper, reject the proper distinction between Law and Gospel, and call the three-fold division of the law arbitrary, but they call themselves “Reformed” Baptists. These are strange and confusing times in the history of the church. I’m curious how Luther and Calvin would have reacted to these developments.

        • elainebitt

          Luther and Calvin would probably say “semper reformanda”. =)

          • KPM

            Semper Reformanda does not mean that the truth of God’s Word changes. That’s why the Lutheran, Reformed, and Anglican churches all have confessional standards that do not change from one generation to another. Although we disagree on some important points, we agree that the truth of God’s Word does not change and is not open for debate. We define what we believe to be an accurate understanding of scripture in statements of faith called confessions, and we stick to those confessions as the proper understanding of the Word of God.

            Before his death, Luther reaffirmed his theological positions, and preemptively dealt with those who would say, “If Luther was alive today, he would agree with me.” Luther’s theology was fairly well crystalized by about 1530, and he strongly opposed the Zwinglians, Anabaptists, and Papists on all sides.

          • elainebitt

            Of course it doesn’t change, did I imply that? My point is simply that we must be faithful to Scripture as much as possible and always. I don’t believe that all that there is to know about Scriptures ended with the reformation (whatever point in time you want to place that in the past).

            Ultimately, it’s not about what Luther and Calvin would have to say (although I see how some would find that interesting and almost in a dogmatic way). Confessions are of course important and helpful, but they are not the last word either.

        • To be fair, I call myself a Christian. Others call me Reformed Baptist. In South Africa, where I minister, people in Baptist circles understand that Reformed Baptist means “not Arminian.” So I don’t mind having that label on my byline. But the one on my heart is “Christian.”

          • KPM

            That’s where we should all be. Luther never wanted the German Reformation churches to be called Lutheran. He preferred the terms Evangelical or Christian. Lutherans were called “Lutherans” as a deregatory term by the Roman Catholics, but the name stuck.

    • I know, right? I also reject the Reformer’s infant baptism, ecclesiology (membership and deaconate ideas), and their eschatology. I guess a Reformer would call me an Ana-baptist and have me drowned. Which is why I try avoid labelling myself. But the main reason I identify with the Reformers is their clear understanding of soteriology (salvation issues) and bibliology (mainly inherency and sufficiency of Scripture etc.) Thanks for your input.

  • There is nothing arbitrary about the divisions of the Law. The Ten Commandments are a clear statement of how God’s people (and arguably all people) are to behave based on his character (all of them including the Sabbath, though it is another discussion why the Church has observed it on Sunday for all or most of the Christian era). Since the Lord Jesus himself affirms several of the commandments directly (and all of them indirectly) he clearly considers them applicable. That is the Moral Law. If you want your conscience trained by God, study the Ten Commandments. They totally obligate us. There is no commandment there you can break with impunity. Their fulfilment is not the same thing as abrogation.

    Adultery is wrong, not because of the Ten Commandments, nor because of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19. They both tell us it is wrong, but it is wrong because of God’s character. Therefore both places are equally valid places to learn it.

    • I too am highly in favor of law-keeping. I think it is just helpful to explain to Christians why they need to give to their church, but not necessarily a tithe, and that they need to gather when their church meets, but not necessarily on a Saturday, and that they need to dress modestly, but not necessarily wearing unmixed fabrics. Thanks too for reiterating in your last paragraph a point I only made in passing, but is very central: all revealed law is based on God’s character.

  • Jason

    The 3 part understanding is arbitrary. The “law was nailed to the cross” understanding (while functionally equivalent in most cases) is technically not scriptural either.

    We know that the law given to Moses is binding until the end of the earth, and will be the criteria for entrance into the kingdom (Matthew 5:17-20, among other places).

    The importance is understanding the law in light of Christ. Do we offer constant sacrifice for sin? No, but not because sacrifice is not required, but rather because Christ is all the sacrifice we need. (That’s the one it seems everyone agrees upon.)

    However, it seems nobody considers the rest. The law says not to wear blended clothing. However, it ALSO tells us why. This command is found in connection to the holiness of God. This is the shadow of the purity of the garments we have in Christ (his righteousness, which is the fullness of this command). Attempting to mix our own works with it would be a violation of this law to this day.

    The Sabbath is another topic dividing the church, but even those who have a functional attitude that is proper can often offer an incomplete understanding. The question is: How is it fulfilled in Christ?

    We see that believers ought to offer their very lives in worship (Romans 12:1). If we’re seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness (even while picking the heads of grain[Mark 2:23]) we are performing a service that the priests(1 Peter 2:9) are commanded to perform and does not neglect the Sabbath. Jesus didn’t argue that the Sabbath wasn’t important, he argued that his disciples were not breaking it due to the nature of their service.

    If a believer is working (even in ministry) primarily because they are concerned with striving to earn or gain things for themselves, they violate the command to rest (even today). If a person labors unceasingly for God they are are not violating the law regardless of the date.

    How do we fulfill not murdering in Christ? Well, obviously we don’t commit murder, but the substance of this command is even more than that in light of Christ. We are not to even harbor hatred (1 John 3:15).


    We need to see everything in the Old Testament as a shadow (Hebrews 10:1, Colossians 2:16-17). The substance of the Old Testament is in Christ. It didn’t die with him on the cross, it is perfectly fulfilled in the work of Christ. Not just in his death, but in Christ living through us to this day.

    Much work still needs to be done to help believers (myself included) understanding how the Old Testament law applies to life in Christ. The Spirit seems to keep believers in this area regardless of our ignorance, but it seems unhealthy to neglect God’s word on this matter. There’s so much to be understood about the righteousness of God here.

    • Jane Hildebrand

      With respect to the Sabbath, I had always understood the honoring of the Sabbath as fulfilled through our faith in Christ as outlined in Hebrews 4:9 that says, “There remains then a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His.” And again, “We who have believed enter that rest.” (4:3)

      Perhaps that is too “symbolic” of a view, but that is how I had always understood it. For the weary and burdened to “come and find rest.” (Matt. 11:28)

      • Jason

        I don’t think it’s too symbolic at all. Through Christ every moment is a Sabbath (rest) for God’s people from our “own work”. That doesn’t mean there’s no work to be done. The apostles encouraged believers to do the good works God has prepared for those he saves for the building of the church, but even there it’s Christ’s work through us. We have to rest in God before we can even do any good works, because the rest is just striving and vanity.

        We can’t really be afraid to see the Old Testament law as both literal requirements at the time they were given and symbolic ordinances that were meant to prepare the minds of man for the revelation of Christ. The prophets AND the law point to Christ.

        • Jane Hildebrand

          Good points. I believe Col. 2:17 also speaks to that when Paul listed the Sabbath as a ‘shadow of the things that were to come’ and how the reality however is found in Christ.

          • Right Jane, Col 2 is a very significant text for the right understanding of the Sabbath, as are the others mentioned in the preceding comment. I think your understanding is the same as mine (note I didn’t say “correct” 😉

    • KPM

      In a sense, you actually make a case for a three fold understanding of the law. The ceremonial law is not binding on us (as you’ve noted), because it was pointing forward to Christ and was not, in and of itself, an expression of God’s moral law. Blended clothing points to the holiness (separation) that is required by God’s moral law. I think the Reformers most certainly would have recognized this. Luther was, basically, an Old Testament scholar at Wittenberg.

      The command, though shalt not kill, is still binding on us because it is an expression of God’s moral law. Yes, the moral law goes beyond that and drives at the heart, which is why Luther’s Small Catechism on the 10 Commandments expounds upon other practical implications of each command. Not bearing false testimony, according to Luther, also means assuming the best of people and giving them the benefit of the doubt. It also means not gossiping behind their backs, even when the gossip is true, because it is not your vocation to judge your neighbor.

      To say that the three-fold distinction somehow misses the point that the ceremonial laws were either a foreshadowing of Christ or were meant to point to something greater is to not give the Reformers enough credit for the brilliance that God blessed them with and the depth of their understanding of the scriptures. I’m certain they understood these things better than you or me.

      • Jason

        I don’t think that the three-fold distinction misses the point about the “ceremonial laws” being a shadow. In fact, I think that aspect was well understood. My point is there is no scriptural distinction that would indicate any other law should be viewed differently.

        If it takes wearing 100% cotton for a believer to remember that they’re clothed in the righteousness of Christ, they should do it even today. If they need to prevent themselves from committing murder in order to eventually find their way to not being malicious, than by all means save a life!

        However, it is always important to remember that every one of these laws are simply a shadow of the substance, which is Christ, and that no distinctions need to be arbitrarily made in order to make the case (which should be obvious) that murder and adultery are not signs of God’s character! In fact, a person can do neither and still live a very wicked life.

        There’s a lot of mysticism and indifference surrounding a misunderstanding of the importance of shadows. On one hand, we have people forsaking any shadow of the substance, and quickly losing sight of many matters of importance. On the other, we have people so obsessed with the shadow that they never see the substance.

        For instance, many shrug off marriage as an outdated model (ignoring even the shadow of godliness) and are completely given over to lust (the avoidance of which is the substance). On the other side, there are those who are so obsessed with the shadow of the Sabbath that they miss out on the actual rest, believing that the observance of a day is mysteriously significant in it’s own way.

        • KPM

          I think there’s a pretty good case to be made that the apostles and the Lord saw this differently. Peter was told that he should not call foods unclean which God has called clean. In the Old Covenant, they were clearly unclean. In the New Covenant, they are not.

          Same can be said of circumcision. Circumcision is the sign and seal of the Old Covenant. Colossians 2 tells us that baptism is the new circumcision, the circumcision of Christ.

          The very first church council, the Council of Jerusalem, is a discussion as to whether or not Christians need to obey the Jewish Law. The conclusion is no.

          Likewise, Paul abrogates the Sabbath observance when he tells us that some observe the Sabbath, others don’t, either is fine, so long as they observe or do not observe unto the Lord.

          All of these aspects of the Old Covenant are abrogated under the New Covenant. Thou shall not murder, however, is not. We still must not murder. We can certainly learn things from the ceremonial law regarding the character of God, but it is not in force under the New Covenant.

          The Bible might not explicitly say, “This law is ceremonial and that one is civil,” but we can see what God says about specific Old Covenant Laws no longer being in effect, and we can easily group them together by the fact that they are all ceremonial in some sense.

          Likewise, the New Covenant Kingdom is not a kingdom of this world. Christ makes that clear. The Church does not have the power of the sword. All laws associated with how the government is to function are clearly not applicable to the New Covenant Kingdom, because it is a spiritual kingdom which spreads by Word and Sacrament.

          • The tripartate distinction is one way to handle the difference, but in my experience there are places where it is unclear to some whether a law is ceremonial or moral or civil. Specifically some examples are: tithing (civil or moral?), tattoos (ceremonial or moral?), and of course Sabbath on a Saturday (civil, ceremonial, or moral?) These are all very divisive issues in churches where there is disagreement on their category. The Jews had no such categorical distinction whatsoever. That was made up later by people like us trying to make sense of why we keep some laws and not others.

            But the New CovenantLaw of Christ understanding makes this crystal clear: whatever the NT says is binding is binding, and NOTHING ELSE is.

          • Tyrell Haag

            So when are we going to talk about beasiality?

          • Jason

            Peter was told that he should not call unclean what God calls clean. However, Paul (who corrected Peter of the very same issue later) still told others that they should abstain from eating meats that were sacrificed to idols if it hindered their (or their brothers’) spiritual growth (though the meat was “clean”, it could be a shadow of idolatry for some). Similarly, he rebuked some for requiring circumcision while encouraging Timothy to be circumcised.

            My point is, don’t think of “thou shall not murder” as either being preserved from the law of Moses because we desire to keep that particular law while tossing out others, nor as being tossed out and then reinstated by Christ (and good thing to, because apparently some people need it spelled out!)

            We are not still under the law of “thou shall not murder” (neither from the tablets nor reinstated later). Instead, we are under grace (Romans 6:14) and are new creations who’s nature is opposed to malice. This places murder in a different direction than we are headed (unless we’re a born again ex-serial killer perhaps…) Note: The world’s direction is directly opposite (2 Timothy 3:13).

            Christ didn’t throw out the law, he fulfilled it. He didn’t make it pointless to us, he continues to fulfill it in the sanctification of his church to overflowing well beyond the requirements of the law (which, when compared to actual holiness, has obviously always been a shadow).

  • Johnny

    So, here’s one… are we still under the Gen.1:28 mandate to “be fruitful and multiply”?

    • Jason

      The context of Genesis 1:28 is a blessing. God was encouraging them to fill the earth and subdue it. It’s still in effect, as far as it goes. Man has filled the earth and we’ve subdued it. In some cases, I would go so far as to say we’ve abused the subduing part of the blessing.

      I do believe that it remains God’s will that we be blessed with dominion over creation. The new creation to come appears to be given to man as well (correct me if I’m wrong, I haven’t studied that topic explicitly at all) so it seems like a lasting blessing and not a temporary one.

    • I think there are great reasons to have kids and lots of them if you can, but no, I don’t believe the mandate to Adam and Even (and then Noah and Mrs Noah and their kids) is binding on new Covenant believers. Just like I don’t build an ark out of gopher wood. Context determines who the command was binding on (makes sense that in both those cases they were the only people on earth! Not a good time to practice celibacy!)

      • Johnny

        I see what you mean, but an ongoing struggle of mine has been how the church is vocal in its opposition to homosexuality and so on, but the married hetero couple in the church that deliberately chooses to remain childless is somehow not an issue. Sure were aren’t bound by Gen.1:28, yet it seems odd to me that for all of the OT text regarding God mandating procreation, this is one repeated mandate that we seem to let slip just because having children (biological/adoptive whatever) is frequently just too “inconvenient” for some couples in the church. Yet how is deliberately shutting off the blessing of the womb really any less of a violation of God’s design than homosexuality?

    • John Byde

      My wife asked me that this morning. I’ve been in hiding ever since.

      • Jane Hildebrand


  • Jeanie Jura

    Thank you for this timely article! I came out of a church that divides the Law as you listed, then hangs onto the 10 commandments – specifically so that they can hang onto the 4th. I have heard many explanations of the error of this but never have I seen it put so clearly as in the one line in your article: “You can’t say Jesus fulfilled some parts of the Law but not other parts. He either fulfilled it all, or we are still accountable to keep it all.”

    • It warms my heart when something I write makes sense to someone! Thanks for reading Jeanie.

  • Kermos

    God bless you Clint,

    It is refreshing to hear it said that Christ said so it, so it is so.

    I recall sharing with a group of youngsters (it was during children’s church). Our Lord Jesus said “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” and “it is finished”. God led me to share what was and what is, and it was along these lines

    WAS “You shall have no other gods before me” IS “I have one God”

    WAS “You shall not make for yourselves an idol” IS “all of my affection is God’s”

    WAS “You shall not take the name of Yahweh your God in vain” IS “I will worship and serve God only”

    WAS “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” IS “be God’s continually, every moment”

    WAS “Honor your father and your mother” IS “love the family of God” (this is God’s love in us)

    WAS “You shall not murder” IS “I tell others the Way of Life”

    WAS “You shall not commit adultery” IS “I will remain pure”

    WAS “You shall not steal.” IS “I will give” (such as in free Bibles)

    WAS “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” IS “I will tell my neighbor his/her condition before Almighty God” (with meekness)

    WAS “You shall not covet” IS “I desire to see people saved from the wrath of God, just as I am in Lord Jesus”

    This is a picture of the child of God conforming to the image of the Christ. The Lord Jesus in us makes us this way. These are fingerprints of God in us. This is fruit of the Spirit. We discussed Matthew 5-7 in an age appropriate way. Christ is without sin, so we should “want” to maintain the commandments, but we know that we fail, miserably, yet, Christ is victorious, and by His blood, so are we.

    We discussed how the unbeliever remains under the law.

    The children knew/know Gideon from Gehazi, and the difference between escape (wrong) and deliverance (right) respecting the Israelites leaving Egypt (as one teacher discovered when trying to convince the youngsters that the Israelites escaped, but the children would not relent in saying delivered by God).

    Due to time constraints, we were unable to cover the other 603 commands.

    When Lord Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law, He was referring back to the Torah (even the TaNaKah). Thus, the exclusivity of priesthood is no more, rather, all that are in Christ are in the royal priesthood. “Leadership” of men is no more, for me are led by the Spirit and walk in His steps. Lord Jesus said “Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, [that is], Christ” (Matthew 23:8).

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  • If the Mosaic law is all one unit and was all abolished at Christ’s Coming, and we are only under law that is expressly stated in the NT, then on what basis were the Canaanites (pre-Moses) judged for their numerous sexual sins – beastiality, homosexuality and all manner of sexual perversion?

    • Good question. Some answer this by calling the period between Adam and Abraham/Moses, the law of conscience. We see this hinted at in Romans 1:18ff where Paul says that God revealed enough about himself to all people throught their consciences that they are without excuse for violating even the little they knew. In other words, a Canaanite who was, for example, copulating with an anima or behaving in a homosexual way, would have known it was wrong, but suppressed that knowledge until their minds were so darkened that God gave them up to those lusts.

  • Nathan Barber
  • Still Waters

    I’ve always been uneasy with the tripartite division of the Mosaic law, mostly for the reason you give – after the Ten Commandments, most of the laws are randomly mixed together. However, I’m not convinced by the idea of separate laws given for each point in history either. I’ll explain why using a simple example.

    In Genesis 127:, we have an account of man – male and female – being created in the image of God. After the Fall and the Flood, God refers back to man’s creation in his covenant with Noah, when he tells Noah that whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed because man was made in the image of God (Genesis 9:6). Fast forward to Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, where He warns that calling one’s brother a fool is a murderous act which places the curser in danger of hellfire (Matthew 5:21-22). James take all three of the preceding passages and synthesizes them in his chapter on the dangerous tongue: “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:9-10) The Old Testament passages are enhanced by the New Testament passages. The law against murder of those created in the image of God, which was first given to Noah [The curse of Cain shows that this law, though not expressed in so many words, was always in effect.], is not only upheld, but it is extended even to verbal cursing of another human being.

    Another example of this is the letter sent to the Gentile churches by the Jerusalem elders in Acts 15, which forbids fornication, along with avoiding blood and animals killed by strangling or sacrificed to idols. Avoiding the blood was another command given to Noah in the Covenant of the Rainbow (Genesis 9:4), while the prohibition of fornication, a comprehensive word referring to any sexual perversion, is linked to the comprehensive chapter on forbidden sexual practices in Leviticus 18. Marriage is another law which extends from Genesis to the new covenant. The Old Testament always looks forward to the New, which is what makes me uneasy with any system of interpretation which either divides the law into portions that are or are not relevant now; or divides the Bible’s history into different epochs of law that are nullified and superseded. Both methods are in danger of losing sight of the unity of God’s revelation. We know that God does not change. We know that God’s intent was always for us to become righteous in Christ. Everything in scripture must point to that fact. The way that scripture builds on scripture in successive layers of reference and cross reference makes a strong argument that the laws of the Old Testament are not annulled in the New. Rather, they are fulfilled (Matthew 5:17).

    • Still Waters

      I say all the above as one who eats pork, wears clothes with mixed fibres, is not shocked at the idea of a Christian getting a tattoo, and is grateful that Christ’s healing of the woman with the issue of blood means that members of my sex no longer have to separate themselves from the congregation at certain times of the month.

    • But the NT is full of verses explaining that we are no longer under law (meaning the law of Moses) but under grace. And places where the dietary laws of Moses are clearly done away with (Acts 10 for one striking example, and Col 2). And yet there are new laws (communion & baptism) that were not part of the Mosaic law. So one needs to deal with that somehow.

      • Still Waters

        I am not proposing answers, but rather questions 🙂
        In the book of Galatians, Paul refers Christians worried about following the law back to the promise given to Abraham. That promise, he says, could not be disannulled by the Mosaic law given four hundred thirty years later. It is interesting to note that circumcision was not only a sign given in the Mosaic law, but also given to Abraham (John 7:22). Those who trust Christ are called children of Abraham, but we do not have to be circumcised outwardly, because the circumcision is in the heart (Romans 2:29). So, the necessity for physical circumcision is removed, but the covenant with Abraham is fulfilled. Even the Mosaic Law, in its promise of a prophet who would change the hearts of the people to obey God, was fulfilled in Christ. Hebrews talks about how Christ not only was a High Priest to enter the Holy of Holies, in fulfillment of the Mosaic priestly laws, but also was a High Priest after the order of Melchisedec. We are no longer debtors to the Law, because it was fulfilled in Christ. I guess that what I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t seem to be that the successive laws of the Old Testament are annulled and new laws reenacted, but rather the intent was always to reveal what Christ did for us in dying and rising again. Everything in the Old Testament points to Christ, even those pesky laws.

  • joh archer

    yes, this is good, but fail on the tattoo justification.

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  • George

    I agree with this article, but I don’t understand why a regenerate Christian would want to get tatts. I still believe its a very worldly practice. I got tattoos when I was lost in my sins and planned on getting more, but when I was saved by Christ Jesus, I just knew it was wrong to go ahead. That’s my thought on that matter anyways.