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In the Gates

The Scope of God’s Law

Jesus instituted a better covenant with better promises.


Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rules that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you…” Deuteronomy 6.1

Before launching into a more detailed consideration of the benefits that come to those who submit to God’s Law as the rule of their lives, we should explain what we mean by this term. In the Old Testament, God’s Law consists of three parts: the Ten Commandments; the civil laws; and the religious and ceremonial laws, which outline the duties of priests in relationship to the spiritual wellbeing of the community.

Following the argument of Hebrews 7-10, we understand that the religious and ceremonial laws, while valid for their particular time and place, do not contain the means for removing sin. Instead, they provided for the people of Israel temporary measures of restoration and spiritual refreshment, administered for the people by the work of priests. The writer of Hebrews insists that, for the purposes of the Gospel, those laws were primarily to be understood as foreshadowing the coming of another Priest, not one from the tribe of Levi, but from Judah, and of the order of Melchizedek, who had his priesthood not by physical descent, but by virtue of an indestructible life.

Jesus Christ has fulfilled all the types and prophesies embedded in the religious and ceremonial laws. He has become a priest forever, above the Old Testament Law, and now intercedes for His people, not by elaborate rituals and sacrifices, but through His own blood. He has instituted new ceremonial laws – baptism, the Lord’s Supper, corporate worship, and the like – which look back to His work in the same way that the Old Testament religious and ceremonial laws looked forward to it.

Jesus instituted a better covenant with better promises, and He rendered null and void the old priestly laws and regulations associated with the Levitical priesthood. There is still much to learn by reading and studying those laws – about the character of God, the heinousness of sin, the necessity of sacrifice, and so forth – but believers in Jesus Christ are not bound to keep those laws in the way that Old Testament saints were so obliged.

Thus, the benefit we seek from God’s Law will come from being ruled, not by the Levitical code, but by the Ten Commandments and the attending civil statutes, precepts, and rules. As we understand and submit to these, according to the teaching of the Prophets, Christ, and the Apostles, we find the truth of God that sets us free from sin and its consequences so that we may enjoy, in the power of God’s Spirit, the blessings He has in store for us through His precious and very great promises.

The psalmist says that the righteous person meditates day and night in God’s Law (Ps. 1). Would like to get started in this discipline? Order a copy of The Ground for Christian Ethics and The Law of God. The first will explain the importance3 of God’s Law, and guide you in taking up the practice of daily reading and meditation. The second provides all the statutes, precepts, and rules of God’s Law organized under their proper number of the Ten Commandments.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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