Has The Law Been Abolished?
Before answering this question, it is necessary to first of all clarify what we mean when we say, “the law.”
1. The most general view of the law is that it consists of all the instructions that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai.
2. Some go further and include the first five books of the Bible, written by Moses (referred to as “the Torah).
3. Bible writers often referred to the entire writings of the Old Testament as “the law,” or as “the law and the prophets.”
In this case, when we ask, “has the law been abolished?” we are referring to all the instructions given by God on Mount Sinai because the question does not make much sense when applied to the first five books of the Bible (the Torah) or to the entire Old Testament.
But even then, When we refer to the instructions given by Moses on Mount Sinai, there are different views of the law, as given in those instructions.
1. Some view all those instructions as one single law with all the commands being of equal force.
2. Others divide those laws into two divisions called the “ceremonial laws,” and the “moral laws.”
3. Others go into still greater detail and divide the law into moral laws, ceremonial laws, civil laws and health laws.
Those who say that all the law is one law and all of it of equal importance believe that all of it is still in force and no part of it has been abolished. The main group which holds to that point of view is the Jews, but there are also professing Christians who believe almost the same thing with the exception that they say animal sacrifices have been abolished, and some will concede that circumcision is also abolished. But they will insist that all the rest of the law still is in force and still to be observed.
Most Adventists hold to the second and the third views where they divide the law into sections. They say that the ceremonial part of the law is abolished, but the moral part continues forever. Many pick and choose among the other laws, jumping back and forth without any consistent pattern, abolishing some and keeping some. For example they say that the laws concerning health are still in force, but they do not apply them exactly as required by the law. They also say that tithing is still in force, but many of the other similar laws they see as abolished such as the offering of firstfruits etc.
The problem with these two views is that none of them is in harmony with what the Bible teaches. There is no verse in the Bible which says that the entire law has been abolished, but there are verses which show that something relating to the law has been abolished and done away, and that God’s people are no longer under the law. Likewise there are no verses which speak of “ceremonial laws,” versus “moral laws.” These are phrases which have been coined to meet a particular view but unfortunately they are not found in the Bible.
There is another perspective which is completely biblical and uses biblical terminology. Accepting it will clear up all the confusion about what has been and has not been abolished. This other view has to do with the “LETTER versus the SPIRIT.” The Bible speaks of these two aspects of the law very clearly and declares that one has been abolished while the other remains. This is the Biblical view, it is not a matter of ceremonial vs moral, it is a matter of the letter vs the spirit.
There are two passages which use the terms:
“But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” (Rom 7:6)
“Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?” (2Cor 3:6-8)
We should read those passages carefully and in context. Paul is telling us that there is an aspect of the law from which we have been delivered and that we do not serve God in that way. We who are ministers of Christ do not serve in that way, that is, the way of the letter. In other words, the letter of the law has been ABOLISHED as far as God’s people are concerned.
In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul says that Moses face shone with glory when the written law (the letter) was given, but that there is a greater glory associated with the spirit which is the way in which we serve God in the New Testament. He says very clearly that the letter is “DONE AWAY.”
“For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.” (2Cor 3:11)
Notice carefully, he does not say that the LAW is done away, he says that the LETTER has been done away with. This is the critical difference that many people seem to have difficulty in understanding. Some people who are either ignorant or dishonest have accused us at Restoration Ministries of teachng that the “law is done away.” That is definitely not what we teach. The law of God is the very nature and character of God, how can it be done away? What we do teach is what the Bible teaches: The LETTER OF THE LAW, the written rules which were given on Mount Sinai have been done away as a system of government for God’s people. That is what we teach, according to the Scriptures.
The letter of the law was NEVER a transcript of God’s character, it was only a limited EXPRESSION of that character, designed for a carnal, rebellious, immature, carnal group of people. All it gave them was a very basic concept of morality and it also helped them to realize that they were full of sin and in need of divine help. The letter of the law was given through Moses and it never made anyone perfect, it never produced the holy people God wanted, it never made people see the true character of God as He is.
Therefore God sent the law to man in living color when He sent His own Son to reveal the truth about His character. Jesus MAGNIFIED the law and made it honorable. He showed that it was far more than the limited ten statements or even the limited Torah which so many are worshiping today! But God did more than simply SHOW what the true law was like; here is the wonder and beauty of what God did in Jesus: God not only sent the law to earth, God sent the living law INTO THE HEARTS OF HIS PEOPLE!!! Wonder of wonders!! This is the truth about the law. This is the New Covenant. The old, dead letter no longer governs God’s people, that system of government was abolished when the reality came. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Paul says of him,
“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:” (Col 2:9-10)
How wonderful! We now possess in Christ the FULLNESS of the godhead, the LIVING LAW!! What a tragedy that so many are still obsessed with the letter when the living reality has come. This is why it becomes very clear that those who are focused on the letter do not possess the spirit in reality. No way! We no longer deal with the letter unless we are still carnal, unconverted people who have not been born of the spirit.
Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; (1Tim 1:9-10)
This is not speaking of the spirit, the true law of God. Of course not, absolutely not. It is speaking of the LETTER OF THE LAW, the thing which was designed for the carnal people who do not know God. So this is the truth about whether or not the law has been abolished. In every single aspect of the law, whether moral or ceremonial, whether civil, or health, we serve in newness of spirit, we deal with the spiritual reality, not the legal letter. The government of the letter has been abolished for God’s people.
So it is not moral rules which we observe, it is the morality which arises from Christ’s spirit dwelling within and directing us in the behavior of love, it is this which rules in our lives. It is not about rigid rules of what to eat and what not to eat, it is the principle that my body is the temple of God and I must keep it holy and healthy for His glory. I am bound by the principle, directed by the Lord dwelling in my spirit, not the rule.
It is not about observing feast days – God forbid, it is participating in the spiritual realities which the feast days illustrated, not the forms but the real things. The true Passover, escape from sin, the true Pentecost, baptized by the holy spirit, the true day of Atonement, Christ cleansing the soul temple of sin. Not trivial, earthly ritualistic ceremonials and observance of times every year. It is the spirit, the meaning, the principle, not the letter, the form or the shadow.
May God help all of us to be honest and to accept what the Bible says.
(Source: Restoration Ministry)