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Law and Grace

Law and Grace

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Published by Christopher Skinner
The Christian and The Law of Moses.
The Christian and The Law of Moses.

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Published by: Christopher Skinner on Oct 19, 2008
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12/16/2012

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 Law and Grace
The law of Moses and The MessianicCovenant
Christopher Skinner 
 
Law and Grace
The status of the Law of Moses today is one of the most discussed and debated issues within theMessianic Movement and the wider Christian church. These disagreements are not merelyacademic but also have practical implications. What one believes in this area will affect his viewsabout the Sabbath, the Kosher food laws and many other issues. The aim of this paper is to clear up some confusion on this issue. The position of the writer is that we are no longer under the Lawof Moses as a rule of life, but as part of Gods word it is there for our instruction.In the Western church, there are many views on this issue but there are two major ones. They may be classed as the
Covenant Theology
view and the
 Dispensational view
. The former sees the Law of Moses as divided into three parts:
civil 
,
ceremonial 
and
moral 
. According to this, a believer is freefrom the civil and ceremonial aspects of the Law but is still bound to the moral law. Thedispensational position, on the other hand, views the entire Mosaic law as one indivisible unit.Therefore, a believer is freed from obligation to the Law of Moses and is now under “The Law of Messiah” in the New Covenant. It is important to state that the dispensational view is held by manywho are are not dispensationalists. They would concur with dispensationalism on this point whilstdisagreeing with the system overall. For the sake of simplicity, I shall refer to this position as “thedispensational view” as it involves a change of dispensation.The division of the law into three parts, as maintained by Covenant Theology, is helpful for theological study but lacks Biblical basis. The Bible regards the entire Law as a singular,indivisible unit. Moses warned the Israelites in this way:
Cursed be he who doesn't confirm thewords of this law to do them
1
. 
The law is used here in the singular. James reminds his readers that
whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he has become guilty of 
all
2
. Thelaw demands that it be kept in it's entirety and to fall in one place means that the Law has been broken. The same principle works in our legal system. One may be honest in financial dealings butif that person parks on double yellow lines he has broken the law. Some Covenant theologiansassume that James was referring to “the moral law” and not the civil and ceremonial law but theyare simply reading their preconceived theology into the text. Paul's warning to the Galatianscompletely destroys this argument:
 I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that heis a debtor to do the whole law
3
.
Circumcision is dismissed by Covenant theologians as“ceremonial” and yet here it is demonstrated to be part of “the whole law” with the “moral”commandments. Covenant theologians arrive at their position with good motives – they are awarethat it is impractical to observe the civil and ceremonial parts of the law today but have a highreverence for Gods moral absolutes. In order to preserve Gods moral standards in their teaching,they find it necessary to divide the law into these three parts. The Scripture does not do this and a better way can be found to apply Gods moral law today.The dispensational position, in my opinion, is fundamentally correct but falls short of saying all thatneeds to be said. It correctly regards the Mosaic Law as one unit. However, if we are no longer under the Law of Moses and have been placed under “The Law of Messiah” then it leaves thequestion of how relevant large portions of the Tanakh are to us. Thankfully, most dispensationalists,to my knowledge, revere the Tanakh and do not fall into the error of dismissing it. Nevertheless, the potential for that error is there unless we explore further and add those things that need to be said.Like the Church, the Messianic Movement has a similar variety of views. Many American
1Deut 27:26, HNV2James 2:10, HNV3Galatians 5:3, HNV
Page 2 of 13
 
Law and Grace
Messianic groups, such as the
 Association of Messianic Congregations
and
 Ariel Ministries
, adoptdispensationalism. Others, like David Stern, teach that a Jewish believer is still obligated to theLaw of Moses. There are others who teach that Gentile believers must also observe the MosaicLaw.The word translated “law” in our English translations is the Hebrew word “Torah” in the OldTestament and the Greek word “nomos” in the New Testament.
Torah
means teaching or instruction. Traditionally, the phrase “The Torah” means the first five books of the Bible butamongst many Jewish people it has a wider meaning incorporating the entire Tanakh (OldTestament). Both views have validity. The Mosaic Covenant is a Gods Torah given to Israel, butTorah existed before Moses and continues until today. The book of Proverbs in particular, whilstnot part of the law of Moses, is “instruction” or “Torah”. To be without
Torah
is to be withoutinstruction and without law. Whilst we are not under the Torah as given to Moses, we are given
Torah
.The Mosaic Law has been made voidThe Mosaic Law operated under the Mosaic Covenant which was ratified at Mount Sinai and sealedwith the blood of the Covenant (Exodus 24:1-8). It was a conditional covenant and only given tothe nation Israel. It was not given to Gentile nations. If a Gentile wanted to enter into theseCovenant blessings, he had to enter into the covenant by means of circumcision. Those of us whoare Gentiles have received Gods general revelation of creation and conscience and their ignoranceof God is without excuse. The Jewish people had greater revelation and have sinned not onlyagainst conscience but against their law.Romans 10:4 teaches that the Mosaic Law was rendered inoperative at at Messiahs death:
 Messiahis the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Messiah brought the Law to anend. Some Messianic teachers will object that this is not the correct interpretation of this verse.Their argument is that the Greek word translated “end” (telos) actually means “goal” and thereforethe Law has not ended. However, both are correct: Messiah is the goal and the end of the law. InRomans 1-9 Paul has been dealing with the proper and improper use of the Law so to bring out themeaning that “Messiah is the goal of the law” fits well into the context. Once you have reached thegoal to which you are aiming you have reached the
termination point 
. The definitions for the Greek word
telos
here are:τελλω; point aimed at as a limit, that is, (by implication) the conclusion of an act or state(termination [literally, figuratively or indefinitely], result [immediate, ultimate or  prophetic], purpose).
4
Signifies (a) "the limit," either at which a person or thing ceases to be what he or it wasup to that point, or at which previous activities were ceased, 2Co. 3:13 1Pe. 4:7 (b)"the final issue or result" of a state or process, e.g., Lu. 1:33 in Ro. 10:4, Christ isdescribed as "the end of the Law unto righteousness to everyone that believeth"
5
4Strong's Hebrew and Greek Dictionary, James Strong, Public Domain5W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, p198
Page 3 of 13

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