Which Laws/Regulations Are Superceded/Done Away? Which Remain? What About the 613 Mitzvot?

By COGwriter

A reader of the COGwriter.com website asked me which laws were "nailed to the cross." I presume that the questioner had felt that the Bible in some places teaches that certain laws were nailed to the cross. But is that what the Bible teaches?

Do Christians need to observe laws like the ten commandments? Were they "nailed to the cross"? Are the laws of God a burden or righteousness?

What were the laws or regulations of the Levitical priesthood and the old covenant? What is the new covenant? Doesn't Colossians 2:17 apply?

What about the supposed 613 regulations and statutes in the Old Testament? (Here is a link to all 613 of them according to one list http://www.jewfaq.org/613.htm, which are sometimes called the 613 Mitzvot/Mitzvoth {commandments}; some lists have suggested 603 as opposed to 613). Some on these lists seem to be more of an interpretation of what the Torah teaches as opposed to what it literally states. The 613 mitzvot (commandments) are based primarily on the list compiled by Rambam in the Mishneh Torah (http://www.jewfaq.org/613.htm viewed 09/07/14):

Who came up with this "613 Mitzvot"?

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, other wise known as "The Rambam" was born on the 14th of Nisan 4895 (30th March 1135) and he died on the 20th of Tevet of 4965 (Dec. 13 1204). The Rambam was one of the most saught after individuals of his time. Not only as a Halachic authority, but also within the secular world of kings and sultans, for his vast knowledge of secular medecines was outstanding. When writting the Mishna Torah, Ramban reviewed the Torah's Mitzvot, and he itemized them. He seperated the positive and negative mitzvot, listed them, all 613, and discussed them. As well, the Rambam added to his work of Talmud Torah (a guide on learning) a nice section of Mussar. The book of Da'ot and the Talmud Torah. (613 Torah commands - TARYAG MITZVOT (Perintah Taurat). http://messianic-torah-truth-seeker.org/Torah/613-Mitzvot-IDX/613-Mitzvot-idx.html viewed 09/08/14)

This article will briefly attempt to answer questions many have about the actual commandments, the law, and the 613 mitzvot. (At the end of this article, there is a 1957 article from Dr. Hoeh that some may also find helpful.)

What Was "Nailed to the Cross"?

Since all scripture is given by the inspiration of God so that Christians should be complete (2 Timothy 3:16-17), it is wise to look at more than one verse to determine what, for example, was nailed to the stake (for details, see What is the Origin of the Cross as a 'Christian' Symbol?), which many believe was a cross.

There is only one only scripture that uses the "nailed it to the cross" expression (AV/NKJ), it is Colossians 2:13-14, in which Paul states,

"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross".

We will look at what it does and does not say.

First though, let's look at what the last chapter of the last book of the Bible teaches:

"Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city" (Revelation 22:14, NKJV throughout unless otherwise noted).

Since it is only "those who do His commandments...{who} have the right to enter...the city" (Revelation 22:14), the ten commandments could not be "contrary to us". Actually, it is only those who will not keep the ten commandments that are denied access. Revelation specifically shows that those who break one of at least four of the ten commandments will be outside God's city (Revelation 22:15).

So then, if the ten commandments were not "nailed to the cross," what was?

Look again at what the Bible actually says (two translations):

14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:14, NKJV)

14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.. (Colossians 2:14, NASB)

The handwriting of requirements (often also called the hand-writing of ordinances) or certificate of debt was wiped away and nailed to the stake, which some call a cross (see also What is the Origin of the Cross as a 'Christian' Symbol?).

Which requirements were wiped out?

Please understand that the expression "the handwriting of requirements" (cheirógrafon  toís  dógmasin) is a Greek legal expression that signifies the penalty which a lawbreaker had to pay--it does not signify the laws that are to be obeyed--only the penalty. It is only through the acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that the penalty was wiped out ("the handwriting of requirements"). But only the penalty, not the law!

Even some Protestant commentators realize this is so. Notice what Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible states about Colossians 2:14:

Whatever was in force against us is taken out of the way. He has obtained for us a legal discharge from the hand-writing of ordinances, which was against us (v. 14), which may be understood,

1. Of that obligation to punishment in which consists the guilt of sin. The curse of the law is the hand-writing against us, like the hand-writing on Belshazzar's wall. Cursed is every one who continues not in every thing. This was a hand-writing which was against us, and contrary to us; for it threatened our eternal ruin. This was removed when he redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, Gal 3:13. (from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.).

In addition, let us look at the Greek term exaleipho translated as "wiped out" in Colossians 2:14:

NT:1813
exaleipho (ex-al-i'-fo); from NT:1537 and NT:218; to smear out, i.e. obliterate (erase tears, figuratively, pardon sin) (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

In other words, exaleipho has to do with wiping out sin. This is also confirmed in Acts 3:19 where Peter also uses the term exaleipho, which is translated as "blotted out" below:

19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.

Hence, it is sin and the related penalties that are to be blotted or wiped out. And the penalties could vary from "being unclean to the evening" (Leviticus 11:24-28) to making an offering (Leviticus 5:5-6) to being "cut off from his people" (Leviticus 7:27) to the death penalty (Exodus 31:14).

This is also confirmed elsewhere in the New Testament:

13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (Galatians 3:13).

The curse of the law is related to the penalty. And Jesus paid it.

But what about the law of God? Was the law of God to be wiped out? No:

17 "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17)

While some erroneously think that Jesus, for example, did away with the Ten Commandments by how He led His life, that most certainly was not the view of the early Christians who continued to keep them (see also The Ten Commandments and the Early Church).

Furthermore, remember that the Bible clearly teaches that sin is lawlessness:

Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. (I John 3:4-5).

Notice that Paul wrote:

Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Romans 6:1-2).

Thus the New Testament makes clear that the law of God continues, thus it was not nailed to the cross or somehow wiped out.

The Bible, however, also shows that the requirements of the Levitical priesthood (Hebrews 9:1,6-10) sometimes called the law, which were part of the penalty of sin, were blotted out.

And why?

"For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins...By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all" (Hebrews 10:4,10).

Jesus' one sacrifice was and is sufficient--we do not have to sacrifice animals any more!

Another requirement (which is related) would be the death penalty of sin, as "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23) or other specific ceremonial penalties associated with the Old Testament statutes (such as making a sin offering, being put outside the camp, or washing).

For those who wish to look them up, perhaps most of the statutes in the Old Testament are listed in the following chapters: Exodus 20-24; Leviticus 16-27; Numbers 18-19, 27-30, 35-36; and Deuteronomy 12-18.

The Levitical Priesthood Was Changed

Notice that Paul wrote that it was necessary for the Levitical priesthood to change:

11 Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? 12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar (Hebrews 7:11-13).

But some will argue that the above also talks about the law that people received.

That is true.

But what law?

Certainly not the ten commandments because they were given before the Levitical priesthood came into existence.

Not only were the ten commandments in affect before they were given at Mount Sinai (this is documented in the articles Were the Ten Commandments in Effect Before Mount Sinai? and Job and the Ten Commandments), the Levitical priesthood did not even come into being until after Moses came down from Mount Sinai. And because of this, the Levitical laws were later given.

The Bible shows that because the Levites decided to be on God's side, that God made them His priests. Notice the following accounts which are in your own Bible if you have one:

25 Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, "Whoever is on the LORD's side, come to me." And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. 27 And he said to them, "Thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.' " 28 So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day. 29 Then Moses said, "Consecrate yourselves today to the LORD, that He may bestow on you a blessing this day, for every man has opposed his son and his brother." (Exodus 32:25-29).

49 "Only the tribe of Levi you shall not number, nor take a census of them among the children of Israel; 50 but you shall appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the Testimony, over all its furnishings, and over all things that belong to it; they shall carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they shall attend to it and camp around the tabernacle. 51 And when the tabernacle is to go forward, the Levites shall take it down; and when the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall set it up. The outsider who comes near shall be put to death. 52 The children of Israel shall pitch their tents, everyone by his own camp, everyone by his own standard, according to their armies; 53 but the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the Testimony, that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the children of Israel; and the Levites shall keep charge of the tabernacle of the Testimony." (Numbers 1:49-53).

5 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 6 "Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may serve him. 7 And they shall attend to his needs and the needs of the whole congregation before the tabernacle of meeting, to do the work of the tabernacle. 8 Also they shall attend to all the furnishings of the tabernacle of meeting, and to the needs of the children of Israel, to do the work of the tabernacle. 9 And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are given entirely to him from among the children of Israel. 10 So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall attend to their priesthood; but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death." 11 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 12 "Now behold, I Myself have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the children of Israel. Therefore the Levites shall be Mine, 13 because all the firstborn are Mine. On the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast. They shall be Mine: I am the LORD." (Numbers 3:5-13).

Later, the ordinances and laws of the Levitical priesthood were given.

Please understand that the Bible makes it clear that the sacrifices were not part of the original law that God wanted obeyed. And that the Levitical sacrifices were added because of the sins of the people:

22 For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. 23 But this is what I commanded them, saying, 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.'

24 "Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.

25 Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have even sent to you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them. 26 Yet they did not obey Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers (Jeremiah 7:22-26).

God always wanted to be obeyed.

Yet the truth is that since the Israelites never would obey God, He implemented the sacrifices, even though His plan was always that they would obey Him. That is why the Bible speaks of a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-33).

Perhaps I should add here that even the Pharisees did not properly obey God's law. An article of related interest may be Were the Pharisees Condemned for Keeping the Law or Reasoning Around it?

The Old Covenant and the New Covenant

The Levitical sacrifices were done away for this age as they were superceded by Christ's sacrifice:

26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. (Hebrews 7:26-28)

Many seem to misunderstand the difference between the old and new covenants.

Paul wrote:

13 In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away (Hebrews 8:13).

Some (like the Jehovah's Witnesses and many Protestants) teach that the old covenant was the ten commandments, while the new covenant means that those same commandments are done away. Yet look at the verses that immediately follow Hebrews 8:13 as they show what the Bible states was the first (the old) covenant:

1 Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. 2 For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; 3 and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, 4 which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; 5 and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. 6 Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. 7 But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people's sins committed in ignorance; 8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. 9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience-- 10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation (Hebrews 9:1-10).

The old covenant, then, consisted of the ordinances of the Levitical priesthood, washings, and fleshly ordinances like animal sacrifices.

Paul wrote what the new covenant was:

"This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them" (Hebrews 10:16).

Notice that he did not write that the ten commandments were to be done away and that in the new covenant it was acceptable to kill, steal, bear false witness, covet, or break any of the ten commandments (more information can be found in the article Were the Ten Commandments "Nailed to the Cross"? Because of the writing of the law on our hearts, this no longer requires that followers of God need to wear external signs of the law, hence this is why people in the Churches of God do not tend to wear tzitzits (specially knotted ritual fringes worn by observant Jews); they are also calleds tassells in NKJV English in Deuteronomy 22:12; Numbers 15:38.

The New Testament demonstrates the apostles did not appear to look like Jewish rabbis. When, for one example, the Apostle Paul was arrested, the authorities thought he was an Egyptian (Acts 21:37-38)--Paul had to tell the military commander he was a Jew (Acts 27:39). Thus, Paul did not look like a Jewish rabbi, nor was he apparently wearing distinguishing phylacteries or tzitzits. While Messianic Jews do not go into the same ditch of lawlessness that some Protestant leaders advocate, they tend to insist on regulations that the Bible does not (see also Messianic Judaism Beliefs Differ from the Continuing Church of God).

The laws, statutes, and regulations of the Old Testament always need to be understood through the light of the New Testament.

Notice that those with a new heart and a new spirit will walk in God's statutes:

Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts follow the desire for their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their deeds on their own heads," says the Lord GOD (Ezekiel 11:19-21).

This covenant in Hebrews is the same new covenant that the Prophet Jeremiah foretold:

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-- 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Jeremiah 31:31-33).

Jesus and the New Testament writers made it clear that the ten commandments are still to be kept. But they are kept in the spirit of the law, which does not mean (as Jehovah's Witnesses and many Protestants teach) that you do not literally have to obey the ten commandments. The spirit of the law as Jesus and others expounded means to go beyond the literal requirements and keep the intent--that is why Jesus taught that hate was like murder and lust like adultery. He absolutely did not teach that one spiritually can keep the ten commandments while literally breaking them.

Although this new covenant was made with spiritual Israel (which does not mean it includes all the physical descendants of Jacob), it should be clear that God had intended for physical Israel to keep it, but they did not have a heart to obey (see also Deuteronomy 5:29).

Below are several articles, which are mainly quotes for the New Testament, about the Ten Commandments (and the last article shows that essentially all early Church leaders who wrote on the commandments stated that Christians needed to keep them):

What Did Jesus Teach About the Ten Commandments? This article quotes what Jesus actually said about them (His words are in red).
Were the Ten Commandments Nailed to the Cross? Some have said so. This article provides some biblical quotes to answer this important question.
What Did Paul Actually Teach About the Ten Commandments? Many say Paul taught against the ten commandments. Is this true? This article quotes Paul with his words in green.
Are the Ten Commandment Still in Effect? This article quotes the ten commandments and combines some of the previous articles into one article about the ten commandments. The commandments are shown at Mount Sinai, before Mount Sinai, in the teachings of Jesus, after the crucifixion, and in the teachings of Paul. It addresses the most common "traditions of men" regarding them as well.
Were the Pharisees Condemned for Keeping the Law or Reasoning Around it? Many believe that the Pharisees were condemned for keeping the law, but what does your Bible say? If they were not condemned for that, what were they condemned for?
The Ten Commandments Reflect Love, Breaking them is Evil Some feel that the ten commandments are a burden. Is that what Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, and John taught?
Was the Commandment to Love the Only Command? Some have stated that John's writings teach this, but is that what the Bible really says?
The Ten Commandments and the Early Church Did Jesus and the Early Church keep the ten commandments? What order were they in? Here are quotes from the Bible and early writings.

Why would anyone want to be part of a church that ignores the Bible and the teachings and practices of the early church?

What About Colossians 2:16-17?

The most common portion of the Bible that I have heard cited as "proof" that the sabbath and the biblical holy days are done away with is Colossians 2:16-17. So, let's examine one slight mistranslation of it:

16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ (Col 2:16-17,KJV).

The above translation is close, however, it added a word that is not in the original Greek.

The word added is "is". Truly literal translation leave it out as it is not in there. Notice the Strong's words for verse 17:

3739. 2076 4639... 3588....... 3195...... 3588 1161 4983 9999 3588 5547
Which are a shadow of things to come; the.. but.. body ....is.... of... Christ.
(Interlinear Transliterated Bible. Copyright (c) 1994 by Biblesoft).

It should be noted that 9999 means that there was no word in the biblical text. It should also be noted that #3588 is often translated as "the"other.

Because the same three Strong's words (#4983, 3588, & 5547) are used four other times in the New Testament and in those times the KJV translates it as "body of Christ" (Romans 7:4; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12)--as does the NKJV.

Therefore, if all the translators were simply consistent with themselves, they would have translated Colossians 2:16-17 to state (and included parantheses):

16 Therefore let no man judge YOU in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath 17 (for those things are a shadow of the things to come), but the body of Christ.

Or in other word, do not let those outside the body of Christ (the church, Colossians 1:18) judge you regarding holy days, but only the church itself. Colossians 2:16-17 is not saying that the sabbath and holy days are done away. It is poor exegesis (biblical interpretation) to rely on a mistranslation to claim that the holy days are done away with.

Even the early Orthodox bishop Ambrose of Milan recognized that Colossians 2:17 was referring to the "body of Christ" as he wrote the following commenting on it:

Let us, then, seek the body of Christ...where the body of Christ is, there is the truth.
(Ambrose of Milan. Book II. On the Belief in the Resurrection, section 107. A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: Socrates, Sozomenus: Church histories. Schaff P, Wace H, editors. Christian literature Company, 1896 Original from the University of Virginia Digitized Nov 11, 2008, p. 192).

It is sad that modern translators of the Greek have often ignored what the expression really meant.

Furthermore, when the Apostle Paul wrote, in 1 Corinthians 5:8, "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth," this was likely properly believed to show additional scriptural support that the Holy Days were still enjoined upon Christians.

And the Sabbath?

Now some have claimed that since the Sabbath command is not listed after Jesus died, that it is not in effect. The problem with this is that it was listed at least twice as a command as well as many times it was shown to be observed by early New Testament Christians.

Here are two times after Jesus died that the Sabbath command is listed:

And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment (Luke 23:56, NKJV).

Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "And on the seventh day God rested from all his work." And again in the passage above he says, "They shall never enter my rest." It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience...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. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience (Hebrews 4:3-6,9-11, NIV).

This clearly shows that the command to keep the seventh day Sabbath is in the New Testament. It also shows that only those who will not observe it because of their disobedience argue otherwise. And that is why Paul observed it. Even Origen understood some of what Paul wrote above as he wrote:

But what is the feast of the Sabbath except that which the apostle speaks, "There remaineth therefore a Sabbatism," that is, the observance of the Sabbath, by the people of God...let us see how the Sabbath ought to be observed by a Christian. On the Sabbath-day all worldly labors ought to be abstained from...give yourselves up to spiritual exercises, repairing to church, attending to sacred reading and instruction...this is the observance of the Christian Sabbath (Translated from Origen's Opera 2, Paris, 1733, Andrews J.N. in History of the Sabbath, 3rd edition, 1887. Reprint Teach Services, Brushton (NY), 1998, pp. 324-325).

Acts 13:42-44 shows what Paul did,

...the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.

Also Acts 18:4 states,

And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.

Hence the New Testament is clear that Paul kept the Sabbath, regularly preached on the Sabbath, and that he wrote that there remains "a Sabbath-rest for the people of God".

Hopefully, that includes you. (For more information, please read the article The Sabbath in the Early Church and Abroad.)

Which of the 613 Rules in the Old Testament Still Apply?

If you are supposed to keep the ten commandments, which laws are done away? Are you to keep all 603/613 of the ordinances and other regulations in the Old Testament.

This is a question that surfaces from time to time. What do those of us in the Churches of God (COGs) tend to think?

I was asked about this in an email.

Notice the following from a reader of the COGwriter.com page:

Dear COgwriter

You say the Ten Commandments are still in effect today and are mentioned
throgh out the New Testament which I partly agreee with however how about
the other laws friend, such as the, various washings, non cutting of the
beard and head hairs, not mixing certain materials together, not having any
physical contact at all with your wife during her {menstrual period}...

The problem is how can I find out which laws are done away with I mean
aside from the Ten Commandments there's around 603 laws (Old Covenant laws)
How do can I find out which 1's were specifically abolished on the cross
this is the main problem I have because when Paul talks about us being dead
to the law (Book of Romans, Hebrews, Galatians etc etc) through christ etc
etc he makes no distinction.

thnx and i eagerly wait your reply.

So I basically responded with:

The book of Hebrews makes it clear that various washings and physical sacrifices were done away.

However, all the principles of the laws still apply. We in the COGs do not knowingly wear clothes made from specifically prohibited combinations, nor do we have intercourse when our wives are menstruating.

Some statutes were superceded. For example, the OT says that in the new covenant the law would be in our hearts. While this does not mean that we do away with the law, it does mean that we do not have to wear little scrolls or have wide blue marks to show that we keep the law. 

Those 603 rules have many that have to do with washings and sacrifices, and we do not do them literally. Most of the others we do.

(I meant "done away" at this time--many that are not improper traditions will be temporarily reimplemented during the millennium to help teach unconverted people the ways of God.)

The same writer responded to me with:

the only problem is you've just said all principles of the law still stand but doesn't the bible state that Sacrificial Laws and Diver washings (just a few examples) are not to continue under the new covenant?

And I basically responded with:

Yes, but notice that the principle that the shedding of blood is needed for the remission of sins was and is shown in Christ.

Furthermore, the Bible says that we are to be living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). We are to repent and confess our sins and be washed through baptism (1 Corinthians 6:11; Hebrews 10:22). In addition, we will be washed in the blood of Jesus (Revelation 1:5).

The Book of Hebrews probably gives the most details, or at least principles, to determine what is or is not literally still applicable.

Matthew Henry's Commentary states that not only the penalty of the law was nailed to the cross, but that according to Ephesians' 2:15 Jesus also eliminated the obligation to keep various regulations, called ordinances, or the ceremonial aspects, of the law.

That is somewhat consistent with Hebrews 9:6-15 which discusses that washings and sacrifices and related regulations are no longer needed for Christians in this age because of Christ:

6 Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. 7 But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people's sins committed in ignorance; 8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. 9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience-- 10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.

11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:6-15).

Jesus paid the penalty, thus while various statutes are in place for our good, the ceremonial aspects have changed.

For example, while sexual intercourse with wives during their menstrual period (Leviticus 18:17; Ezekiel 36:17) or right after childbirth (Leviticus 12:2,5) is biblically prohibited, women in such circumstances are not prohibited from attending church services (cf. Hebrews 10:25) or otherwise functioning in society. And the same holds to males and females who become ceremonially unclean--the "penalty" of isolation is no longer applicable. Perhaps I should add that I have read documents that show that early professors of Christ did believe that they needed to abstain from sexual relations during menstrual periods, I have seen no evidence that the rules associated with being isolated or "unclean until the evening" were observed (though it is always possible that someone on their own could have done that).

Did you know that it is claimed that pomegranates teach the 613 mitzvot?

The pomegranate – one of the seven species blessing the Land of Israel – features during Rosh Hashanah meals and in a key blessing on Rosh Hashanah: “May you be credited with as many rewards as the seeds of the pomegranate.” The pomegranate becomes ripe on time for Rosh Hashanah and contains – genetically - 613 seeds, which is the number of Jewish statutes (of Moses). (The Rosh Hashanah Guide for the Perplexed, 2014 (September 24, 2014. http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/09/24/the-rosh-hashanah-guide-for-the-perplexed-2014/)

But that is a false tradition. Notice what one Jewish rabbi wrote:

Misconception: According to rabbinic tradition, a pomegranate (rimon) has 613 seeds.

Fact: The pomegranate is used in rabbinic tradition as an example of a fruit that contains many seeds, but not necessarily 613. …

The misconception about the pomegranate having 613 seeds is widespread, but its source is readily apparent. In a discussion on the meaning of seeing the fruit in a dream, the gemara in Berachot4 explains that “seeing small ones portends business being as fruitful as a pomegranate, while seeing large ones means that business will multiply like pomegranates. If, in the dream, the pomegranates are split open, if the dreamer is a scholar he may hope to learn more Torah … while if he is unlearned, he can hope to perform mitzvot ….” Drawing upon a verse in Shir HaShirim (4:3; 6:7), the gemara concludes by stating that even “the empty ones among the Jews are full of mitzvot like a pomegranate [is full of seeds].”5 Many misread this gemara to mean that there are precisely 613 seeds in a pomegranate, as there are 613 mitzvot. It should be clear, however, that the gemara uses pomegranates to imply an abundance. In fact, the very name “pomegranate” is derived from Latin’s “pomum” (apple) and “granatus” (seeded), alluding to the fruit’s many seeds. (Zivotofsky A. What’s the Truth about … Pomegranate Seeds? Jewish Action, September 20, 2008.  http://www.ou.org/jewish_action/09/2008/whats_the_truth_about_pomegranate_seeds/

So, there are not normally 613 seeds in a pomegranate.

What about the so-called 613 Jewish statutes of Moses?

Many of them are NOT statutes that God inspired Moses to write.

Here is information on a few of the 613 mitzvot:

16

That every person shall write a scroll of the Torah for himself.
(Deut. 31:19) (CCA15). See Torah. 

Deut. 31:19 mentions a song to learn, but not to write the Torah. Deut. 17:18-20 mentions that kings should write the law.

覧覧

24

To recite grace after meals.
(Deut. 8:10) (CCA13) See Birkat Ha-Mazon: Grace After Meals

Deut. 8:6-10 explains that you should thank God for all the blessings that He gives you (1 Thessalonians 5:18). There isn't a requirement to recite a specific prayer after each meal (Matthew 6:7). You are to have thanksgiving when you pray (Philippians 4:6).

覧覧

63

To be fruitful and multiply.
(Gen. 1:28) (CCA43). 

Told to Adam and Eve, not necessarily commanded to every married couple. Additionally, Matthew 24:19 cautions mothers near the end of the age.

覧覧

106

Not to castrate the male of any species; neither a man, nor a domestic or wild beast, nor a fowl.
(Lev. 22:24) (CCN143). 

Lev. 22:24 refers to only when an animal is going to be part of an offering.

覧覧

107

That the new month shall be solemnly proclaimed as holy, and the months and years shall be calculated by the Supreme Court only.
(Ex. 12:2) (affirmative) (the authority to declare months is inferred from the use of the word "unto you"). 

Ex. 12:2 does not say only the Court rules on the month. As we know, Jesus Christ kept Passover one day earlier than the Jewish leaders did because the Jewish leaders may be in error in many of their decisions. God declares these days and months (Ex. 12:1).

覧覧

126

Not to eat chametz after mid-day on the fourteenth of Nissan.
(Deut. 16:3) (CCN104). 

There aren't any conditions regarding mid-day in Deut. 16:3.

覧覧

165

Not to eat the of the thigh-vein which shrank.
(Gen. 32:32) (CCN1).

In Gen. 32:32, God does not explicitly say the people are not eat this, but it is shown as a tradition.
覧覧

 

Some day, I hope to have detailed information on all of them. But as the above shows, they are not all laws, often simply Jewish added traditions.

 

Now to get to one specific subject that was an issue in the New Testament, we will briefly cover circumcision.

The Bible does show that physical circumcision is not required (Acts 15; 1 Corinthians 7:18). Why? As that has been changed to a circumcision essentially through baptism and Christians show their faith, not through circumcision, but through love:

In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead (Colossians 2:11-12).

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6)

The New Testament itself teaches that circumcision is not required as it is now of the heart (Romans 2:28-29)--however, we in the COGs normally do circumcise our sons, but we simply do not require it of male converts as Paul made that clear in 1 Corinthians 7:18. Why do it? Well, God gave "just ordinances and true laws"(Nehemiah 9:13) so there is nothing wrong with it, early Christians still did (and Paul even circumsized Timothy after the ruling in Acts 15 as Acts 16:3 shows), plus there is scientific evidence that it can be helpful for the future mate of the circumcised male (see Male Circumcision Down, STI’s Up).

But various requirements and practices should also be understood in the light of when and why they were given.

For example, while the kingdom of Israel had a physical government whose king was supposed to study the laws and statutes in the Hebrew scriptures (Deuteronomy 17:14-20), notice what Jesus said:

My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here (John 18:36).

Jesus made it clear that since His kingdom was not of this world, that His servants would not fight in the military (hence the military statutes essentially do not apply for the Christian Church age) and that His servants (generally speaking) would not normally be enforcing the penalties of the laws and statutes. (An article of possibly related interest may include Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare?)

The Apostle Paul essentially confirmed this when he explained that physical governmental authorities were given that responsibility:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing (Romans 13:1-6).

That being said, the so-called 613 commandments are not all actually from the Bible. Many are interpretations and Jewish traditions. Jesus warned that the Jews added a lot of traditions that He stated got in the way of them following the real commandments:

5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?"

6 He answered and said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:

'This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
7 And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'

8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men — the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do."

9 He said to them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' 11 But you say, 'If a man says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban" — ' (that is, a gift to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, 13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do." (Mark 7:5-13)

Thus, since all of those 613 mitzvots are NOT actually in the Bible, but are added Jewish traditions, not all need to be followed. Because various ones, such as various (though not all) of those called Messianic Jews try to follow the 613, they misunderstand many other parts of the Bible and God's purpose (see also Messianic Judaism Beliefs Differ from the Continuing Church of God).

Which Laws Matter? Which Laws Remain?

Jesus made it clear that certain statutes in the OT were secondary to principles related to love and that outward focus was not what God wanted:

38 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:38-48)

1 "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)

27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:27-28)

Notice that the Apostle Paul wrote that while physical circumcision is not required any more, keeping the commandments still do:

Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters (1 Corinthians 7:19).

Other than the ten commandments that the Bible and early church writings clearly show are still applicable, which laws remain?

Notice that the Apostle Paul encouraged the Thessalonians for following the practices of the church in Judea:

For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

Jesus and Paul both kept the biblical Holy Days (please see the article Is There "An Annual Worship Calendar" In the Bible?) and the Sabbath (please see the article The Sabbath in the Early Church and Abroad). But Paul observed them without the sacrifices.

He also taught to imitate him as he imitated Christ:

Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

So, this then is the clue. Christians should look to the Bible and those who knew the disciples and follow their practices as they followed Christ's! And in cases where matters are unclear, we should look to the Bible, for Paul also wrote:

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

This is why we know that the sacrifices and Levitical practices were done away--the Bible in the New Testament clearly tells us so. The Bible, however, does not tell us that God's laws are done away. Nor did early Christians think they were. There were likely various meetings (Acts 15 provides some support for this) where the Apostles, by using scriptures, expounded principles and probably specifics to help their early followers understand which laws were still enjoined on Christians.

Furthermore, for another example, no one called of God is ever shown in the Bible or in early church history to have eaten unclean meats (this is documented in the article The New Testament Church and Unclean Meats). Nor did Jesus or Paul. So this, combined with other scriptures are why those in the Church of God avoid unclean meats.

Since the Sabbath seems to be a major point for many, notice that Jesus (in Matthew) taught that it would be observed at the end-time and Paul (in Hebrews) taught that its observance remained for Christians:

20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. (Matthew 24:20-21, NKJV)

Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "And on the seventh day God rested from all his work." And again in the passage above he says, "They shall never enter my rest." It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience...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. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience (Hebrews 4:3-6,9-11, NIV).

Tithing was practiced by Christians (this is documented in the article Tithing Questions and Some Answers) and endorsed by Jesus.

A more complete listing of the doctrines and practices of the early Christian Church can be found at the History of Early Christianity page. The beliefs documented there may better assist you in understanding what God expects of His people.

12 of the 613 Regulations

Now here is how one Jewish source lists the first 10 of the 613 regulations that many who claim to be "Torah observant" strive to obey:

  1. To know that G-d exists (Ex. 20:2; Deut. 5:6) (CCA1).
  2. Not to entertain the idea that there is any god but the Eternal (Ex. 20:3) (CCN8).
  3. Not to blaspheme (Ex. 22:27; in Christian texts, Ex. 22:28), the penalty for which is death (Lev. 24:16) (negative).
  4. To hallow G-d's name (Lev. 22:32) (CCA5).
  5. Not to profane G-d's name (Lev . 22:32) (CCN155).
  6. To know that G-d is One, a complete Unity (Deut. 6:4) (CCA2).
  7. To love G-d (Deut. 6:5) (CCA3).
  8. To fear Him reverently (Deut. 6:13; 10:20) (CCA4).
  9. Not to put the word of G-d to the test (Deut. 6:16) (negative).
  10. To imitate His good and upright ways (Deut. 28:9) (CCA6).

And yes, all of those are applicable. Yet, Christians do not run physical governments in the world and do not administer the death penalty in this age as regulation 3 indicates would be done.

Many of the 613 regulations had to do with how a physical nation would be governed, and since Christians are more of a "royal nation" (1 Peter 2:9) as opposed to being a physical one with physical governmental authority, many simply are not possible to administer in today's society.

Not that God's laws are to be disobeyed (though some were modified, superseded, or otherwise changed through New Testament teachings), but some of the regulation were more of a matter of the administration of a physical governmental system.

Furthermore, some of the 613 are interpretations and not literal commands. For example, notice the following:

23. To read the Shema in the morning and at night (Deut. 6:7) (CCA11).

Now notice what the Bible actually teaches:

7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. (Deuteronomy 6:7)

While this is teaching that God's people are to know and teach His laws, it does not state that reading the Shema each morning and evening is required.

Notice also the next Mitzvot in the list:

To recite grace after meals (Deut. 8:10) (CCA13).

But again, that is an interpretation. Notice what the Bible actually teaches:

7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.

11 "Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, 12 lest — when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; 14 when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; 15 who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end — 17 then you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.' (Deuteronomy 8:7-17)

While there is nothing wrong with thanking God for a meal, to claim that Deuteronomy 8:10 mandates that as opposed to being mainly being part of a statement about being grateful seems to be a stretch.

It should be obvious that some of the 613 (and there are others) are not laws of the Bible, but rather rabbinical interpretations of the Torah (and again, they all should be understood in the light of the New Testament)

Were the Laws a Burden? What is Righteousness?

Many who profess Christ, especially amongst the Protestants, claim that the law of God is a burden that Christians should be freed from.

But they seem not to understand that the laws were given to be helpful, nor do many Protestants understand what the Bible calls righteousness. Notice the following from the Bible:

24 And the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. 25 Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.' (Deuteronomy 6:24-25)

12 "And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good? (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)

172 My tongue shall speak of Your word, For all Your commandments are righteousness. (Psalm 119:172)

Hence, the Bible is clear that the laws and statutes were given to help preserve the lives of the people of Israel, that they were good for them, and that the commandments of God are righteous.

Is God's righteous standard a terrible burden?

Certain Protestants tend to say so.

Conclusion

At some point in time, perhaps I will go into each of the 613 regulations one by one, but hopefully I have covered enough of the principles behind which laws and statutes should and should not be kept by Christians in this article.

The Bible and early church history show that the new covenant involved more fully keeping God's law of love as expressed in the ten commandments (cf. Matthew 5; James 2:8-11). All the ten commandments are to be kept today.

It should be noticed that not only did Jesus prophecy that the Sabbath would still be observed by His end-time followers (Matthew 24:20-21), the Prophet Malachi was inspired to write the following:

4"Remember the Law of Moses, My servant,
Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel,
With the statutes and judgments.
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. (Malachi 4:4-5)

This is an end-time prophecy, and there would be no reason to write the above if the law was "done away" or "nailed to the cross."

Many practices based upon laws and statutes in the Old Testament were observed by early Christians and still are observed by true Christians today.

However as the New Testament clearly states, Jesus' sacrifice does atone for our sins, hence we no longer need animal sacrifices nor the Levitical priesthood nor its related practices or physical governmental matters. And that, the penalty for violating the law, was what was "done away." The Levitical priesthood has been changed. And Jesus' kingdom is not of this world.

Christians truly are under the new covenant.

But we still show the love of God by keeping His commandments (more information on that can be found in the article The Ten Commandments Reflect Love, Breaking them is Evil).

Back to home page

COGwriter 2007/2009/ 2010 / 2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014 0925

Years after originally writing the above article in 2007, in October 2011, I ran in to an old article in the November 1957 Good News magazine (pp. 9-12) which dealt with the same subject. So, here it is for those who would like more details from a similar perspective and who sometimes addresses other points than I have:

Which Old Testament LAWS should we keep today?

Again we find it necessary to publish the basic principles explaining which laws are still in force. Here is how you can know which laws in the Old Testament were changed or abolished, and which we are commanded to observe today!

by Herman L. Hoeh

Letters from new members often ask us, “How can I know the difference between the added ceremonial laws and the spiritual laws which we are to observe today?”

This question is absolutely BASIC.

Everyone of you needs to understand in detail the answer to this question. Your Christian growth-your very character- depends on your knowledge of this question.

The entire Bible was written to illustrate the lives of individuals who have kept the spiritual laws God set in motion. We need to study their example.

New Testament Teaching

Notice, first of all, the New Testament teaching.

Jesus-the living Head of our Church ---told the disciples: “Whoso therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoso shall Do and TEACH them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5 : 19).

How important it is that we-the disciples of Jesus today-become familiar with the least commandments-that we live by every word of God.

Bible Is Final AUTHORITY God’s Church differs from all others in that it takes the Bible as ABSOLUTE and FINAL AUTHORITY.

No one can gain entrance into God’s Kingdom unless that individual first recognizes the authority and rule of God.

We are not to argue with God or use human reason to evade the plain commands of Scripture. God is Supreme Lawgiver. He knows what is best for us. He has perfect wisdom and understanding. We can place our confidence in Him and rely on His judgment which He committed to writing for us-in the Bible.

The tendency is to use human reason to side-step what seems of lesser importance to us. It is so very easy for us to say: “I don’t see why God would want us to keep this. It seems so impractical in this modern age. Now here is the way I see it.”

This attitude is exactly what makes other churches carnal and worldly-of the devil. They use their human reason instead of accepting the Bible as final AUTHORITY.

Some of you brethren have been negligent in your study of God’s laws. You have forgotten the admonition: “Lay up these My words in your heart and in your soul. . . . And ye shall teach them [to] your children, talking of them, when you sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 11: 18-19).

This is for us today!

It does us good, however, when so many of you ask us questions about the Way that God reveals you should live. We know that when you write us you are in earnest to understand the laws of God. So let us all open our minds and come to a new understanding of pure, true Christianity.

Ten Commandments Binding at Creation

God’s Church recognizes the eternal binding authority of the Ten Commandments. David was inspired to say: “All His commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness” (Ps. 110:7-8). Jesus didn’t abolish the Ten Commandments. “Think not,” He said, “that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfill.”

We must follow His example today and fulfill the law. We must believe the prophets, too-and obey God as they commanded us.

The Ten Commandments constitute the basic spiritual law which regulates human life. It is “holy, just and good,” said Paul in Romans 7: 12 and 14.

First, remember that God’s basic spiritual laws existed from the beginning. When speaking of divorce, Jesus said that “from the beginning it was not so” (Matt. 19: 8). It was a sin at the beginning of this present creation to commit adultery!

The world strayed so far from the truth that, by the days of Moses, God had to reveal His law anew to the Israelites. Israel had lost a knowledge of God’s ways while in Egyptian bondage. Let us notice, however, that God was merely revealing the laws which were already in force. The old covenant did not establish the spiritual laws.

In Exodus 16:28 we read that the Eternal, when speaking about Israel to Moses, said: “How long do you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?”

Israel could not refuse what did not exist! Now turn to Exodus 18:16. Moses told his father-in-law that when the people have a dispute, “I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.”

Other Laws Based on Ten Commandments

Notice! Here are the statutes and laws of God existing BEFORE the old covenant. As they existed before the old covenant, they could not be abolished when it ceased to exist. The old covenant could not destroy what it did not bring into force. The old covenant was merely an AGREEMENT to keep these laws which were already in force!

Notice how the statutes and laws of God magnify the Ten Commandments: God forbids us to eat unclean meats. To lust after what He forbids is to covet. One of the Ten Commandments says: “Thou shalt NOT covet.”

Notice also that God’s law made provision for judgments to be established over the centuries. (See Numbers 27: 11 for example.) The judgments are binding decisions based on God’s previously revealed law, The Church of God today from time to time may issue judgments- as in the case of “make-up.”

But when did the carnal ceremonies and sacrifices of the Levitical priesthood begin? And how can we distinguish them from the statutes and laws that existed prior to the old covenant?

When Did Sacrificial Laws Begin?

When God brought Israel to the foot of Mt. Sinai, He gave the Ten Commandments to them. He allowed Moses to declare all the statutes and judgments to Israel (Exodus, chapters 20-24). These statutes and judgments MAGNIFY the Ten Commandments.

Now notice carefully. There is only one sacrifice mentioned in the book of the law-the passover sacrifice (Exodus 23 : 18). God called it “MY sacrifice.” Next, turn to Jeremiah 7:22-23. Listen to what the Eternal inspired Jeremiah to write: “For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I DID NOT SPEAK . . . OR COMMAND them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this COMMAND I GAVE THEM: ‘Obey my voice . . . and walk in ALL THAT WAY THAT I COMMAND YOU, that it may be well with you.’ ”

God did not command these sacrifices to be offered originally. This explains why none of those temporary sacrifices were perpetuated by different symbols in the New Testament Church. ONLY THE SYMBOLS TODAY-because it began before the old covenant was made. (See its institution in Exodus 12 before the Israelites left Egypt.)

The very fact that Jesus substituted unleavened bread and wine for the passover lamb only, and not for the temporary offerings, is absolute proof that the ceremonial old testament offerings are not binding today!-but that the passover is binding! Paul says (Gal. 3: 19) these temporary rituals and sacrifices were “added because of transgression”-because God’s spiritual law was being broken-until Christ should come. They foreshadowed the sacrifices of Christ and were a “reminder of sin” to teach thc people the need of the Messiah who would pay the penalty of human transgression (Hebrews 10:3).

Notice that these temporary laws did not define sin. They were reminders of sin. God’s spiritual laws define sin. The laws which define sin-which explain what sin is-these laws we are to keep today.

Sacrifices FOREVER?

Consider for a moment the New Testament instructions about sacrifices.

Today we have spiritual offerings and sacrifices: “Ye . . . are being built unto a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” wrote Peter. (See I Peter 2:5 and 9.) We are to “present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, well-pleasing to God, your spiritual service” (Romans 12:1).

It is a spiritual principle to offer oneself in living obedience-to sacrifice the self-to God. God Almighty is worthy to receive such service from us.

The principle of offering sacrifices existed before Moses. Christ volunteered to offer Himself from the beginning to pay for the sins of mankind. In the period from Moses to Christ the practice of giving offerings was reduced to a physical plane. The children of Israel were a physical, carnal people without the promise of the Holy Spirit. They could not offer themselves in spiritual obedience to God (Deut. 29:4), so they performed ritualistic washings and offered animals and other physical types instead.

They also needed to be reminded of Jesus’ sacrifice, so God gave them physical types in the “law of Moses,” “until PASSOVER IS PRESERVED BY DIFFERENT the seed should come.” But remember, the spiritual sacrifices of which those in the law of Moses were merely temporary types-are still to be offered up by us today!

“But,” many ask, “weren’t the Levitical sacrifices ordained forever?” Yes, the Bible does say that the Levitical priesthood and its sacrifices were to be perpetual or forever. But let us understand the real significance of the Hebrew word translated “forever.” It means continuous, so long as the factors involved exist.

Notice three scriptures where this meaning is made plain. Men could be the slaves of a master forever-meaning till the death of one of the parties. (See Exodus 21:6; Lev. 25:46; Deut. 15:17.)

What are the factors which may limit the offering of sacrifices? One, the need of a physical, human priesthood. Two, the need for sacrifices.

Now consider the following:

What is the purpose of a priesthood? To offer sacrifices and to act on behalf of men in relation to God (Hebrews 5:1 and 8:3). But how long do offerings as reminders of sin need to be made? Paul tells us: “Now where remission of [sins) is, there is no more offering for sin” (Hebrews 10: 18).

To offer sacrifices as reminders of sins already paid for by Jesus, who gave His life in full payment for all sins, is needless. Moreover, SINCE THE HOLY SPIRIT HAS ALSO BEEN MADE AVAILABLE, PHYSICAL OFFERINGS AND VARIOUS WASHINGS WHICH ARE TYPES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT ARE NO LONGER NEEDED. HENCE THE PHYSICAL LEVITICAL PRIESTHOOD IS NO LONGER NECESSARY- the old testament washings and offerings are no longer binding. The factors involved in the law of Moses ceased to exist.

God ALONE Changes Laws

Perhaps we have failed to realize that God ALONE has the right to add and change or alter carnal or fleshly laws.

The carnal laws were subject to change because they were only types of the promised seed, Christ, who should take upon Himself the sins of the world. When the circumstances were altered, the obligation to practice the carnal laws ceased.

But what about the spiritual laws?

GOD WILL NOT ALTER HIS SPIRITUAL LAWS. The spiritual laws describe the very character of God. They enable us to know what God is like. Since the character of God remains unchanging-“I change not, saith the Eternal” (Mal. 3:6 ) and “Jesus, the same yesterday, today, and forever” ( Heb. 13 : 8) -the spiritual laws could not change.

Now let us notice where we can find exactly what constituted the temporary laws. Turn with me to Hebrews 9:9-10.

Carnal Laws Distinguished from Others

In these two verses we read of the material gifts and sacrifices which included “ONLY meats and drinks and diverse washings-carnal ordinances, imposed until the time of reformation.”

Notice that the temporary laws did not pertain to murder or theft or sabbath- breaking, but were ONLY those ordinances regulating meat and drink offerings and different washings or ablutions of the unclean. These external washings were a type of the Holy Spirit cleaning us up within.

ANY OTHER LAWS NOT INCLUDED IN HEBREWS 9:10 WERE NOT PART OF THE RITUALS ADDED BECAUSE OF SIN!

Remember this point!

It will help you to know which rites in the old testament were added to the statutes and judgments already in existence.

What Is the Law of Moses?

Some people are easily confused by the trick statement that the Ten Commandments are the law of Moses. They turn to Luke 2:22-24 in which the ceremonies of the “law of Moses” are also called part of the “law of the Lord.”

Why is the “law of Moses” also called the “law of the Lord”?

Because all law comes from God! Moses is not the lawmaker! He merely told the people the laws that God set in motion (John 1: 17).

The law of Moses is NEVER called the Ten Commandments. It comprises only statutes and judgments which God gave him to communicate to the people. The difference between the law of Moses and the Ten Commandments is that God spoke the ten words, but Moses delivered the statutes and judgments.

Now, let us recall that when Moses first delivered the statutes and judgments, the law of Moses had no sacrifices connected with it. Jeremiah said so! (Jer. 7:22).

The law of Moses was originally the civil law, based on the principles of the Ten Commandments. These civil statutes and judgments are right and good (Psalm 119:7,8).

But after the close of the old covenant (Ex. 24) , the Levitical priesthood was established and the laws regulating offerings were added (Exodus 28: 1 ). (Prior to this time offerings were voluntary and young men were priests-Exodus 24: 5.)

Therefore the law of Moses has more than one part! Notice God’s definition of the original part of that law in Malachi 4:4: “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and judgments that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.”

This law we are not to forget. We are to keep it!

BUT ADDED TO THIS LAW LATER WERE OTHER STATUTES REGULATING MATERIAL RITUALS, SUCH AS SACRIFICES, CENSE, AND VARIOUS WASHINGS FOR THE UNCLEAN.

This almost unnoticed fact is what causes so much difficulty in understanding that the LAW OF MOSES WAS COMPOSED OF two DISTINCT PARTS: THE CIVIL AND THE RITUALISTIC!

Part of Law of Moses Still in Force!

Jesus said the two great commandments were love to God and love to neighbor. Do you know from where He quoted these laws?

Out of the book of the law!-the laws that Moses spoke to the people. Read it in Leviticus 19:18: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And Deuteronomy 6.4. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

In II John 5 and 6, God commands Christians to obey these two basic laws which He communicated to the people by Moses! In I1 Kings 23:25, Josiah is praised because he “turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, ACCORDING TO THE LAW OF MOSES!

Notice how plain it is. The civil law of Moses expounds the Ten Commandments by revealing how the ten basic principles are to be applied. We are to keep this part of the law, not in the strictness of the letter, but according to its spirit and intent.

Added Part NO LONGER in Force

Then why do we read in Acts that Gentile converts do not have to observe the “law of Moses,” except for four points? (Acts 15.) The answer is made plain in Acts 21:21.

The laws of Moses called in question involved “customs.” Read it for yourself. The Jews were falsely accusing Paul, saying that he taught Jews living abroad “not to circumcise their children or observe the CUSTOMS!” (Acts 21:21.)

The controversy in the early Church did not involve the civil law of Moses. It involved only the ceremonial additions to the original civil law of Moses -only customs-ADDED ceremonies or rituals.

This is further proven by noticing the four points, included in the law added by Moses, which are binding on all Christians everywhere. We are not to eat blood, animals which are strangled, meats offered to idols or to practice fornication. These four points were originally part of the civil law of Moses.

They were also included later with the added ceremonies to regulate the typical sacrifices. The Gentiles ate their sacrifices with the blood, often strangled their animals, and presented them to idols. They also committed fornication in their religious ceremonies. To prevent these pagan customs being practised by Israel, God included the four civil laws along with the rituals. (See Lev. 17:7 and 10; Numbers 2 5 : 1- 3 . )

When the ceremonies were declared no longer binding (in Acts 15), these four points had to be declared binding because some would have thought they were abolished along with the temporary rituals. But since these four points were part of the civil law before the addition of the rituals, they remained binding after the abolition of the physical sacrifices and washings!

How plain! Only the ceremonial customs of the law of Moses have passed away.

The civil law of Moses which defined sin was not called in question, was not involved.

The many civil laws regulating tithing, clean and unclean meats, the annual sabbaths, and many others are still for the New Testament Church because they explain what sin is. They were not part of the ceremonial law of Moses mentioned in Hebrews 9:10 and abolished in Acts 15. The civil principles of the law of Moses were a separate law and not part of the added “law of Moses” which is no longer in force.

Ministration of Death

Now let us consider the use of the death penalty in old testament times.

A common question often asked is this: Why do we not enforce the death penalty for sabbath-breakers or for any other violation of the Ten Commandments?

The answer to this question is found in Matthew 5. Let us turn to this important chapter again. Jesus was anticipating doubts in the minds of the disciples. He commences by saying He came to keep the law, not to destroy it. Then He proceeds to CHANGE the APPLICATION of the civil laws as they were given to ancient Israel. He magnifies them and makes them honorable. He raises them from narrow, national laws -given to a carnal nation to be administered according to the strict letter to a spiritual plane regulating the whole of human society. Six times Jesus says: “You have heard it said in olden times. . , . But I say to you. . . .” and He then proceeds to expound the spiritual principles underlying the civil laws of Moses.

In particular, notice Matthew 5 : 38; “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. . . .”

Civil Law Restored to Perfection

Jesus RESTORED THESE SPIRITUAL LAWS as they were from the beginning. But why was Moses commanded to give them only in the letter to ancient Israel?

Ancient Israel was not like the Church of God today. It was a national church--a carnal nation organized into the congregation of Israel. They did not have the promise of the Holy Spirit; they were a nation of this world. Moses said that they did not even have the power or strength of will to keep what little he commanded them (Deut. 5 : 29).

And neither do human beings today! People don’t want to obey the commandments. “The carnal mind is enmity against God: fur it is not subject to the law of God’ (Rom. 8:7). Israel needed punishments for lawbreakers to keep peace and security in the land. Therefore God allowed human judges to take His divine prerogatives and to execute punishments on their fellow men.

Jesus gave the civil law to Moses in the strict letter at Mount Sinai for a physical church. Fifteen centuries later Jesus restored the spirit of the law for thc spiritual Church of God.

Jesus came to make it possible for us to be forgiven and to have the very nature of God acting in us. Therefore He restored the civil law to its original spiritual perfection.

Back to home page