Why Christians are Free from Old Testament Law
One of the main overarching themes of the New Testament is the Word, Christ’s instructions, fulfilling and thus superseding all Old Testament laws. There are many Christians who think the opposite due to out of context verses, however this truth is widely accepted by both the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches and every major Protestant denomination. Still, there appears to be a very large amount of laity who are confused on this topic.
When mentioning that Old Testament law is superseded, someone invariably mentions Matthew 5:18, which is usually enough to convince most individuals that the Old Law is still in full effect.
New King Jame’s Version:
For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
So as you can see, the verse itself is very clear. Yet if someone posts that verse with no context, they are lying. Here is that verse, with the verse before it included.
>“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
Jesus could not be more clear here. He is saying, in plain English, that he is not there to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. He then says, probably in the same sentence as well as the grammar and periods were added in relatively modern times, that the law will remain in effect until all is fulfilled. He is there to fulfill the law, and the law will remain in effect until all is fulfilled.
So what he is saying is very straightforward, yet well meaning Christians take his words out of context to make it seem like he is saying the opposite of what he is actually saying.
The question remains – when was the law fulfilled, if Christ was there to fulfill it?
The vast majority of Christians, myself included, almost without exception, believe this event was when Christ died for our sins. Therefore, the Old Testament laws remained in effect until Jesus Christ died on the cross.
To drive home this truth, here is analysis from the scriptures:
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law.
For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.
But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
For Christ is the end of the law, for righteousness to everyone who believes.
For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.
Why then the law? It was added on account of transgressions, until the descendant should come to whom it had been promised, having been ordered through angels by the hand of a mediator. Now the mediator is not for one, but God is one. Therefore is the law opposed to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given that was able to give life, certainly righteousness would have been from the law.
But the scripture imprisoned all under sin, in order that the promise could be given by faith in Jesus Christ to those who believe. But before faith came, we were detained under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed. So then, the law became our guardian until Christ, in order that we could be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
As Christ said:
But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
And as summed up beautifully by Paul, who I believe might be making a reference to “on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—
I am confident that anyone who has read the New Testament already knows this, but as we have to admit a large amount of Christians have not read it, so what seems obvious does need to be covered anyway, and I hope this text is of use to some Christians who were unsure about whether or not they had to follow Old Testament law. As it says in Galatians, Christ really did redeem us from “the curse of the Law” so now that you know this, don’t let anyone tell you that you have to take a violent action, or hate gays, or treat women as property, based on some Old Testament quote they themselves do not even understand the implications of.
So what’s a decent solution to fixing this misunderstanding? To begin with, why not put the New Testament first before the Old Testament in the Bible?
The New Testament is 184,600 words of enjoyable, easy to understand reading, all of which is directly essential to Christianity without exception. The Old Testament, although inspired and required, is 622,700 words of extremely dense material and requires even more context to understand than the New Testament does. So why in every Bible is the Old Testament put first, and the New Testament started after? Imagine if your history class was so inflexibly dedicated to chronological order, you would have been taught about the most relevant history as an afterthought.
Why is it some unspoken law that every single translation or version of the Bible puts 622,700 words of extremely dense and often hard to understand ancient Israeli genealogy and law, before the 184,000 words of Christian content that is contained in the New Testament?
How many Christians have started reading the Bible, only to give up without completing it?
I would wager that there are more Christians who have started reading the Bible without completing it, than Christians who have read it in full. Yet, if you were to read halfway into a modern Bible and stop, you would have a far more inaccurate idea of what Christianity is than if you had never picked up the book in the first place.
It stands to reason that anyone will be more likely to read the Old Testament, once they understood why they are reading it and what context they are looking for.
If the New Testament was before the Old Testament, any amount of reading of the Bible at all, regardless of if you read through all the way, would be to your enormous benefit and educate you further on Christianity. You’re also much more likely to read through the Old Testament if you have already read the New Testament, both because you will notice a lot more relevant connections and foreshadowing, and also because you will then be motivated to actually contextualize the NT after having read it, rather than trawling through 50 pages of:
“And in Gibeon dwelt hath the father of Gibeon, Jehiel, and the name of his wife [is] Maachah; and his son, the first-born, [is] Abdon, and Zur, and Kish, and Baal, and Ner, and Nadab, and Gedor, and Ahio, and Zechariah, and Mikloth. And Mikloth begat Shimeam, and they also, over-against their brethren, have dwelt in Jerusalem with their brethren. And Ner begat Kish, and Kish begat Saul, and Saul begat Jonathan, and Malchi-Shua, and Abinadab, and Esh-Baal. And a son of Jonathan [is] Merib-Baal, and Merib-Baal begat Micah. And sons of Micah: Pithon, and Melech, and Tahrea, and Ahaz — he begat Jaarah, and Jaarah begat Alemeth, and Azmaveth, and Zimri, and Zimri begat Moza, and Moza begat Binea, and Rephaiah [is] his son. Eleasah his son, Azel his son. And to Azel [are] six sons, and these their names: Azrikam…….”
And just giving up.
The lack of Biblical literacy is the #1 death threat to Christianity. There are Christians out there mistakenly following laws that nobody else on earth except for fringe Orthodox Jewish people are following. I’m a publisher, and perhaps being bound by the limitations of my kind, have always noticed small ways that the Bible, the book but not the text, could be improved.
The Old Testament starts off with extremely esoteric material and then quickly transitions into extremely dense material, and it all requires extra historical knowledge to contextualize, far more context than the New Testament requires. Those who would say the Old Testament context is required before reading the New Testament are forgetting the Old Testament requires even more context. The New Testament is easy to understand, in fact, Jesus himself provides most of the Old Testament context a first time reader requires in Matthew 22:40, when he is asked about the law. Torah being the Hebrew word for law, he is being asked about the Torah in this passage, not Roman law or any other contemporary law in the modern sense.
Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Now, someone more laissez-faire than me might say – why not have a New Testament by itself? You can buy a copy of the New Testament on Amazon. That defeats the purpose. The idea is to make the Bible itself more effective at imparting Christian thought and more fair, simply excluding the ‘hard to read’ parts would be simple laziness. The Old Testament should always be there for those who want to read the Bible in full, and it’s pure laziness to exclude the Old Testament. Instead of separating the books, or putting them together with the longer, harder and less relevant text at the beginning with the shorter, lighter and fully relevant text at the end, would it not be the most simple solution on earth to just put the New Testament in the front of the book? This is a win-win.
Clinging to chronological order is chronically inflexible, imagine if your history class insisted, without exception, of only teaching you about the furthest back societies we know of before preceding forward in chronological order? It doesn’t matter if you need to know British history to understand the origins of American history, in America you will get taught American history first, as British history is most relevant to an American insofar as British history is relevant to America, and context for a complete understanding of American history within the framework of world history is more likely if one knows the history being contextualized in the first place.
If you had to only read one, which one would you read? Hundreds of millions of people have, and hundreds of millions of people will, only read partially through the Bible, as it is 800k words. That results, in reality, to hundreds of millions of people reading partially through the Old Testament, never reading a word about Christ. That countless will not read through the entire Bible is a fact, and ignoring it is to everyone’s disadvantage.
It also stands to reason that if so many Christians cannot complete the Bible, what about those who are not Christian who try to read the Bible? Are we not doing the Bible a disservice by reducing it’s efficiency and making it less effective to any non-Christian trying to learn about Christianity? Before when illiteracy was widespread this was less important, now in an age where everyone is going to try before they buy, is it really surprising there are pretty much no new converts to Christianity? Other religious texts have no such barrier to entry. You do not need to read for a month to start learning about the main teachings of other religions.
The text of the New Testament is touching, heartwarming and motivating – but if you pick a Bible off the shelf, or pull up a Bible eBook, you’re not going to find out about Christianity until you’re about 622,700 words in.
I don’t think this somewhat confusing arrangement has been without impact. Christianity’s low conversion rate is a bit of an anomaly, and while perhaps much of that can be contributed to Christians acting anything but, the fact remains the most obvious path to Christianity is through the Bible, and the Bible has an enormous barrier to entry. I would imagine the amount of people who convert after picking up a Bible is quite low, and the vast majority of conversions would be done person to person. Far more important are the amount of Christians who become disillusioned with their faith, having never read the Bible and only relying on second hand interpretations of what their faith is, they think it is sexist, or homophobic, or racist – and being good people, they give up the faith. Unfortunately, those most willing to press their interpretations on others generally have the worst interpretations, because a bad person needs an excuse for their belief whereas a good person will relax in the knowledge that their religion is in tune with good morals and common sense.
Unfortunately the belief of those who have read the New Testament and found it faultless, that they are correct in objective reality and thus do not need to convince others, allows the unscrupulous to re-arrange others subjective realities uncontested. How many Christians do you know that quote Old Testament rules and regulations that none but a small segment of Jewish people, Orthodox Jewish people, follow yet Christ says the exact opposite? How many far right hyper-dynamic equivalent translations are made and quoted from, verse by verse out of context, with outright lies that could only be believed by one who has not read the rest of the New Testament, that contradicts the “translation?”
Putting the New Testament first makes sense, on every level.