The Nature and Role of Law – Part 13

The Nature and Role of Law – Part 13


Part 13

As is the case with all literature, there are certain rules that must be observed when reading the Bible. For example, you must interpret the meaning of words by the context in which they are used. “Don’t be cross with me as I pick up my cross and cross the street.” This sentence uses the word “cross” three times in three different ways. The context lets you know each of their meanings.

As you study Scripture keep three rules in mind. First, the believer is free to do whatever the Bible does not prohibit. Of course, the Holy Spirit may prohibit you from doing something not prohibited in the Bible, such as gambling, but you cannot make your convictions normative for others.

Second, positive biblical examples affirm personal practice, but they do not bind. For example, our Lord Jesus never married. If I feel led to live a life of celibacy, Jesus’ example affirms my right to do so. But I am not bound by His example to never marry.

Third, biblical example never negates a command. The Bible says, concerning Samson, “Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.”[53] This, however, does not mean that the believer can marry an unbeliever.


In part 12 of this series we looked briefly at some Old Testament laws that are not repealed in the New Testament and that most, if not all, New Testament believers believe are no longer binding. Let me elaborate on some of these commands:

“No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the Lord made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God.”[54] I remember communicating with a brother who believes in the continuity of the Mosaic Law, and he said this law applies to pastors in the New Testament, as affirmed by the Fathers of the early church. Most churches and denominations, however, do not disqualify a candidate for the ministry because of a blemish on his body.

“You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together.”[55] In this passage we note three prohibitions, not repealed in the New Testament, and considered by the all the churches of which I am aware, to be no longer binding.

“A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord.”[56] Once again, I am confident that few, if any, congregations check ten generations of the genealogy of their congregates for illegitimacy, and nothing in the New Testament indicates that this law of Moses is repealed.

“And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the Lord which sanctify you. For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.”[57] I know of no church (or group of believers) that advocate keeping this law of Moses (although I am sure there are some parents who are tempted).

Our Savior kept all of the Mosaic Law; He was the bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His fulfilling the Law qualified Him to be the perfect substitute for our sin. The people who lived during the earthly life of Christ were likewise obligated to keep the Law. Thus He says, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.”[58] Jesus charged the Pharisees with hypocrisy, not false teachings. He tells the people to obey all the Pharisees taught from Moses.

Even iff we ignore the numerous references in the Apostle Paul’s writings to the effect that we are no longer under the Law, we still have to conclude that none are consistent in keeping those laws not repealed in the New Testament. Therefore if we argue for the continuity of the Mosaic Law, we ought to be forthright in admitting that we don’t even try to keep them; like the Pharisees, we do not practice what we preach.


The church is motivated to argue for the continuity of the Mosaic Law, if for no other reason than to bring into the New Testament the Fourth Commandment:
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”[59]

In the Old Testament, the Sabbath was a day of rest, not of gathering. Israel gathered three times a year at the Tabernacle: Passover, Weeks, and Ingathering.[60] On the Sabbath, they refrained from work and travel.

During the Babylonian captivity, the Hebrews instituted two systems to ensure that they would not again become the objects of God’s chastisement. First they instituted the order of Scribes. These were learned men whose task it was to learn the Mosaic Law and teach it to the people. We don’t know for sure, but Ezra may have been the first scribe. Second, they instituted the synagogue and required the people to attend on the Sabbath to listen to the scribe teach the Law.

Jesus, during His earthly ministry, attended the synagogue “as was His custom.”[61] But He never commented on the importance of synagogue attendance. There is no command in either Testament to the effect that God’s people are to gather one day out of seven; it is a tradition (and a good one) instituted by man in his endeavor to please God.[62]

The author of Hebrews says, “There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God.”[63] The word used for “Sabbath rest” was coined by the author of Hebrews and is used only here in the New Testament. It is the only time “Sabbath” appears in Hebrews, and “Sabbath” done not appear in any New Testament literature after Acts, except Colossians 2:16 were Paul uses the word in a negative sense.

Gathering as the people of God on the Lord’s Day is a wonderful tradition, one that I believe should be encouraged. But we cannot compel believers to meet on Sunday simply because there is no command to that effect in the Bible.


In the Gospels our Lord rebuked the religious leaders:
“Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.”[64]

Jesus charged these religious leaders with two wrongs. First, they made the traditions of men equal in importance with the commandments of God, such as washing of hands. Second, they ignored the commandments of God. Generally, when you find a person doing one of these wrongs, they are guilty of both. The following are merely illustrative of this phenomenon.

Some Christian groups have a policy that its members cannot participate in the charismatic movement while at the same time allowing divorced men in positions of leadership.

The church sends women missionaries who on the mission field teach men while prohibiting polygamy.

We insist on regular church attendance while allowing our members to involve themselves in litigation with fellow Christians.

Women elders with short hair and uncovered heads serve grape juice for communion.

Let us resolve to be the obedient servants of Christ, keeping the commands of the New Testament rather than the traditions of men.

Yours for a life of obedience,


[53] Judges 14:3-4
[54] Leviticus 21:21
[55] Leviticus 19:19
[56] Deuteronomy 23:2
[57] Leviticus 20:8-9
[58] Matthew 23:2-3
[59] Exodus 20:8-11
[60] Cf. Deuteronomy 16:16ff.
[61] Cf. Luke 4:16
[62] Hebrews 10:25 admonishes, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” It is the only command in the New Testament, of which I am aware, to the effect that the people of God should gather. But no reference is made as to how often or where or under what conditions.
[63] Hebrews 4:9
[64] Mark 7:5-9