04/16/2018 in: Educationalon
It’s a question we all ask ourselves at some point: does the Old Testament law still apply? Read the passage below along with the notes taken from the Chronological Life Application Study Bible to help you explore this question.
“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” — MATTHEW 5:17-20
DOES THE OLD TESTAMENT LAW STILL APPLY?
If Jesus did not come to abolish the law, does that mean all the Old Testament laws still apply to us today? In the Old Testament, the law can be understood to have three dimensions: ceremonial, civil, and moral.
The ceremonial law related specifically to Israel’s worship (see Lev 1:2-3, for example). Its primary purpose was to point forward to Jesus Christ; these laws, therefore, were no longer necessary after Jesus’ death and resurrection. While we are no longer bound by ceremonial law, the principles behind them—to worship and love a holy God—still apply. Jesus was often accused by the Pharisees of violating ceremonial law.
The civil law applied to daily living in Israel (see Deut 24:10-11, for example). Because modern society and culture are so radically different from that time and setting, all of these guidelines cannot be followed specifically. But the principles behind the commands are timeless and should guide our conduct. Jesus demonstrated these principles by example.
The moral law (such as the Ten Commandments) is the direct command of God, and it requires strict obedience (see Exod 20:13, for example). The moral law reveals the nature and will of God, and it still applies today. Jesus obeyed the moral law completely.
THE ULTIMATE GOAL
God’s laws were given to help people love God with all their hearts and minds. Throughout Israel’s history, however, these laws had often been misquoted and misapplied. By Jesus’ time, religious leaders had turned the laws into a confusing mass of rules. When Jesus talked about a new way to understand God’s law, he was actually trying to bring people back to its original purpose. Jesus did not speak against the law itself but against the abuses and excesses to which it had been subjected (see John 1:17).
OBEYING > EXPLAINING
Some of those in the crowd were experts at telling others what to do, but they themselves missed the central point of God’s laws. Jesus made it clear that obeying God’s laws is more important than explaining them. It’s much easier to study God’s laws and tell others to obey them than to put them into practice. How are you doing at obeying God yourself?
HEART CHANGE > OBEYING
The Pharisees were exacting and scrupulous in their attempts to follow their laws. So how could Jesus reasonably call us to greater righteousness than theirs? The Pharisees’ weakness was that they were content to obey the laws outwardly without allowing God to change their hearts (or attitudes). They looked pious, but they were far from the Kingdom of Heaven. God judges our hearts as well as our deeds, for it is in the heart that our real allegiance lies.
Jesus was saying that his listeners needed a different kind of righteousness altogether (out of love for God), not just a more intense version of the Pharisees’ obedience (which was mere legal compliance). Our righteousness must
(1) come from what God does in us, not what we can do by ourselves,
(2) be God-centered, not self-centered,
(3) be based on reverence for God, not approval from people, and
(4) go beyond keeping the law to living by the principles behind the law. We should be just as concerned about our attitudes that people don’t see as about our actions that they do see.
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This content came directly from the Chronological Life Application Study Bible! Get this resource today to read through the Bible in chronological order, giving you a fresh take on your Bible study. Plus, you’ll receive thousands of notes just like these to enhance your understanding of God’s Word. Buy it today!