The Old Law
Questions About The Old Law
1. Weren’t the 10 commandments as well as the Sabbath command given to Adam and Eve in the Garden (Genesis 2:2-3; 26:5)?
There is absolutely no evidence that this is the case. In Genesis 2:2-3, God sanctified or set apart and made holy the seventh day, but there is no evidence that He actually commanded that the day be kept by man. It was not until Exodus 16:23 and the giving of Manna that the Lord commanded anyone to keep the Sabbath. Further, the purpose for keeping the Sabbath was so that Israel would remember that they were slaves in the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15). Therefore the purpose for keeping the Sabbath could not have been fulfilled by anyone else but Israel, and certainly not by anyone prior to Israel. Further, Deuteronomy 5:1-3 says that the covenant (the ten commandments–Deuteronomy 4:13) was not given to their fathers but only those alive that day and Mount Horeb. Genesis 26:5 begs the question. That Abraham kept God’s commands, statutes and ordinances, does not imply that these were the same commands that were later given to Israel. In fact, Deuteronomy 5:1-3 says that they were not the same because that which had been given to Israel had not been given before.
2. Everyone is supposed to keep the Sabbath Day because the Lord worked six days and rested the seventh (Exodus 20:11).
As noted above, the reason for keeping the Sabbath was so that Israel would remember that they were slaves in Egypt. Exodus 20:11 tells us why God chose the seventh day as opposed to one of the other days of the week. The Sabbath was never commanded to everyone. Only Israel received this command and only Israel was amenable to keeping the command (See Exodus 31:13-17).
3. I understand that the New Testament tells us that the Law was done away, but the Law refers only to the ceremonial laws, not the ten commandments.
Even if “the Law” referred only to the ceremonial laws and not to the ten commandments that would not mean that the ten commandments were not done away. Hebrews 8:6-13 states that the covenant that God made with Israel when they came out of Egypt was obsolete and ready to vanish away. Hebrews 10:9 states that Christ in doing God’s will took away the first covenant in order to establish the second. What is the covenant God made with Israel when they came out of Egypt? Deuteronomy 4:13 clearly states that it was the ten commandments. Further, I Kings 8:9, 21 states that the covenant is the ten commandments. This being so, the Lord took away the ten commandments in order to establish a second covenant.
4. Even Jesus and Paul kept the Sabbath (Mark 2:28; Acts 18:4).
There is no doubt that Jesus kept the Sabbath since He was a Jew and lived under the Law. To do otherwise would have meant that He sinned and we know that He was without sin. That Jesus kept the Sabbath would not mean that we should keep the Sabbath since we are under a different covenant than Jesus was. In fact, there are many things that Jesus did as was required by the Law that we would not be required to do today such as paying the temple tax or offering animal sacrifices.
However, there is no evidence that Paul kept the Sabbath after he became a Christian. Acts 18:4 tells of Paul teaching the Jews in the synagogue every Sabbath. Since the Jews were altogether every Sabbath, Paul used that opportunity to teach them. In fact, Paul in Romans 14 stated that it was perfectly acceptable for a Christian to esteem every day alike and not esteem one day above another. Further, in Colossians 2:16 Paul stated that no one had a right to judge another in respect to the keeping of Sabbath days. Paul did not teach the keeping of the Sabbath and he would not have taught one thing and practiced another.
When the Bible says “law” or “law of Moses” it is referring to the ceremonial laws. When the Bible says “law of God” or “law of the Lord” it is referring to the ten commandments. Making this argument is another attempt at maintaining the Sabbath command for Christian to keep today. The Bible makes no such differentiation in terms. Luke 2:22-24 uses the phrase “law of the Lord” to refer to the “ceremonial laws” of offering sacrifices following the birth of a child. Nehemiah 8:1,8 not only uses the phrases law of Moses and law of the Lord interchangeably, but also refers to the book of the law (which contains what is considered to be the ceremonial laws) as being the “law of the Lord.” In Romans 7:4, Paul refers to the “law” as being done away with and then defines this “law” in verse 7 as that which states, “Thou shalt not covet.” This command is found in the ten commandments, not among the “ceremonial laws.” Therefore, it is the ten commandments that have been done away as well as all the other laws given through Moses.
5. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-19 that He did not come to destroy the law. In fact, He said that anyone who broke the least of these commandments would be called least in the kingdom of heaven.
This text is often used to attempt to prove that the ten commandments are still in force today. But actually the text “proves too much.” If it proves that the ten commandments are still in force, it also proves that the “law and prophets” are still in force today. In fact, the text proves neither. Of the word “destroy” Thayer says it means, to overthrow i.e. render vain, deprive of success, bring to naught, to deprive of force, annul, abrogate, discard. Jesus did not come to destroy the impact and purpose of the Law and the prophets, but to fulfill their purpose. Notice that Jesus does say that once the Law and prophets were fulfilled, they would pass away. Even the passing away of the heaven and earth would not stop the fulfilling of every part of the law. In Luke 24:44, Jesus said that all things written of Him in the Law of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled. Once fulfilled, the Law and the prophets were no longer in force. Romans 10:4 states the same principle when it says, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Christ has brought the law to its natural completion by bringing all men to righteousness.
6.Jesus even told His disciples to pray that the siege of Jerusalem did not come on the Sabbath making it impossible to flee without breaking the Sabbath command (Matthew 24:20).
Jesus certainly was not implying to his disciples that they would be breaking the Sabbath by fleeing Jerusalem if the siege came on that day. We know this from Mark 2:23-28. Jesus justified the disciples picking grain on the Sabbath as well as David eating the showbread when he was fleeing from Saul on the basis of the principle that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made to provide for man’s needs, not make a hardship on man. This is why Jesus could heal on the Sabbath and the man healed could carry his bed on the Sabbath (John 5:8). The reason Jesus told his disciples to pray that the siege did not come on the Sabbath day was because the city would be locked up on that day with guards hindering anyone from coming or going making it much more difficult to flee. Jesus was not concerned with the Sabbath command but with how the Jews would restrict the escape from the city because of the command.
7. From Jeremiah 31:34, what is meant by, ‘No more shall every man teach is neighbor, and every man his brother, saying ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me…’?
Sometimes this verse is misunderstood to mean that one day everyone will be converted in some millennial kingdom. Instead, the verse is teaching that under the new covenant there will not be anyone who does not know the Lord as there was under the old covenant. Under the Mosaical system, one came into the covenant when circumcised at eight days old. But it would be years later until this person actually knew the Lord. Many times, even though under the covenant to God, an Israelite would know the gods of the nations around him before he would know the Lord. It would then be necessary for a fellow Israelite to teach him about the Lord. Under the new covenant such ignorance of God by those in His covenant could not take place. Under Christ, in order to enter the covenant a person must know the Lord. He cannot enter the covenant as a baby or enter ignorantly and then later learn about the Lord. John 6:44-45 states that those who come to Christ must be taught of God and must learn from the Father.
8. From Hebrews 8:7, what was the fault with the first covenant? How could God make a “faulty” covenant?
There certainly was fault with the first covenant, but the fault was not with God or in the way He made the covenant, but with us. Hebrews 8:8 states that He found fault “with them.” The Law showed the way to righteousness (Romans 8:3-4), but righteousness could only be obtained if the Law were kept perfectly (Galatians 3:10). The fault then with the Law was that man could not keep it perfectly in order to obtain righteousness. And since the Law made no provision for the permanent forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 10:1), another covenant had to be brought, sanctified by the blood of Christ, that could provide for our salvation.
9. From Hebrews 8:13, what is meant by the statement that the first covenant ‘is ready to vanish away’?
Hebrews was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem when the temple was destroyed and the entire Jewish system came to an abrupt and permanent end. The Law was done away legally when Christ died on the cross (Colossians 2:14), but the practice of the system did not end until Jerusalem was destroyed. The Hebrew writer refers to the vanishing away of the Law when Jerusalem was destroyed (70 AD).
10. How could God say, “Thou shalt not kill,” but then command the Israelites to kill those who did?
The word “kill” is actually the Hebrew word for “murder.” The command is, “Thou shalt do no murder.” Killing of any kind is not what is forbidden, only actual murder. For example, Genesis 9:6 states, “Whosoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” The same principle for today is given in Romans 13:1-4. In John 19:10-11 when Pilate told Jesus that he had the power to put him to death, Jesus responded that he would not have this power if it were not given him by God. Man, by some governing authority, is under the responsibility to put to death the murderer. Therefore, God is not forbidding the taking of a life under all circumstances, but in unauthorized circumstances. When God commanded Israel to destroy all in the land of Canaan, He was pronouncing the death penalty on a nation that had practiced things worthy of death under God’s law. Israel, was God’s authorized instrument to carry out the death penalty. Thus, there is no contradiction.
11. How could God be so cruel as to have all the children in the land of Canaan killed?
Children often suffer the consequences of their parents sins whether God directly intervenes or not. Think of what these children would have suffered if God had not intervened and taken their lives. They would have grown up in abusive sinful circumstances that allowed both child sacrifice and all manner of abusive sexual sins. In most cases, when these children became adults they would have repeated the same sins on the generation to follow. Look at this from God’s point of view. To Him, death for these children was merely a transition from miserable earthly existence to a heavenly presence with Him. Further, He has spared them from an eternity in hell if they continued in the sins of their parents. Consider also the condition of these children if God had only commanded that their parents be put to death. Now he would have left a nation full of embittered orphans. These children would not understand why their parents were taken from them and would grow up to hate Israel and God. Many of these children would have already learned the ways of their parents and would pollute Israel with their ways once they were grown.
12. How can a perfect God allow all the suffering that goes on in the world?
It is in God’s design of things to allow (not cause) the various injustices that take place in this world. He uses these injustices as tests which prove the faith of man and discern those who are worthy of heaven. This same question was also a problem to the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 3:16-17. His answer was that the day will come when all of these injustices will be rectified. God has a time and a purpose for every work, and there is a time when God will judge the righteous as well as the wicked. Ecclesiastes 7:13-14 states that God has allowed both good days and bad days to come so that man will not be able to find out what will happen after him. If man cannot know his own future, he cannot determine his own destiny and must, if he will be wise, put his faith in God instead of himself. This is in God’s purpose and causes man to desire all the more the heavenly realm (Romans 8:18-25). James states in James 1:2-5 that the various trials that come upon us actually improve our character. And Peter states in I Peter 1:6-7 that these trials will refine us so that we are like pure gold on the day in which Jesus is revealed.
13. The Catholic Bible adds books to the Old Testament that they claim are also inspired. There are also books that are referred to in the Old Testament that have been lost (Joshua 10:13). How do we know if our Bible is complete and which books are inspired and which are not?
The books that are added by the Catholic Bible are called the Apocrypha (hidden or concealed) and were written 100 to 200 years before Christ. These writings contain twelve additions, of which some are separate books while others are additions made to books such as Daniel, Jeremiah, and Esther. These books have never been generally accepted as part of the Old Testament canon, and were not accepted by the Catholic Church until the Council of Trent in 1546. There are numerous reasons to reject these books as canonical, the most important of which is that none of these writings are either quoted or referenced by Jesus or any of the New Testament writers. On the other hand, Jesus and the New Testament in general refers to or makes quotations from all the rest of the Old Testament. Unger’s Bible Dictionary gives the following reasons for excluding these writings:
1. They abound in historical and geographical inaccuracies and anachronisms.
2. They teach doctrines which are false and foster practices which are at variance with inspired Scripture.
3. They resort to literary types and display an artificiality of subject matter and styling out of keeping with inspired Scripture.
4. They lack the distinctive elements which give genuine Scripture their divine character, such as prophetic power and poetic and religious feeling.
As for other “lost” books or books that are referred to by inspired writings, it is important to understand that inspired writers often referred to secular writings in order to further verify their point. In so doing there is no suggestion that the writings they have referenced are inspired. On the other hand, Jesus and the apostles repeatedly verified the canon of the Old Testament. See Luke 24:44; John 10:34-35; Matthew 19:4-5 along with a host of other passages that are referred to beginning with the words, “It is written…”
Finally, it is important to note that Jesus promised that His words would never pass away (Matthew 24:35). Jesus promised the apostles that when the Holy Spirit came upon them, He would guide them into “all truth.” Nothing would be left out. Though Paul and others wrote epistles that we do not have today, these epistles were not necessary in delivering “all truth.” Further, Peter stated that the word of God would live and abide forever (I Peter 1:23-24).
A final thought that pertains to this general category
In connection with the questions concerning the end of the Old Covenant, it is important to bring into consideration II Corinthians 3:4-14. This passage clearly identifies the Ten Commandments as being part of a covenant that was “passing away” and eventually “abolished.” It did not have the glory of the covenant brought in by the “Spirit.”
Paul proves his point by referring to the fading brilliance of Moses’ face after he had gone in before the Lord. The rebuttal by those who adhere to the Sabbath command is to deny that “the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones” is the Ten Commandments. Instead, it is affirmed that this refers to the stones of blessing and cursing that was erected on Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim after the Israelites entered the land of Canaan.
This, however, cannot be since Moses was dead by the time Israel entered Canaan and set these stone up on these mountains. The stones referred to by Paul can only be the Ten Commandments because this is what is referred to when Moses’ face shone after coming down from the mountain (See Exodus 34:27-29).