This sermon is number 2 in a series of 3
Covenants - Part 2
"The Mosaic Covenant"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2010 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Well, good evening to you all, it's good to be back with you. Last week we began in the evening looking at 'Covenants', and we began with a general introduction into the theme of covenants, and then homed in on 'The Abrahamic Covenant' in Genesis chapter 15. This evening we're going to look at 'The Mosaic Covenant', which is called 'The Old Covenant'. We need the Lord's help before we come to the scriptures, so let us pray just for a moment.
Abba Father, we thank You for Your faithfulness. We thank You that You have revealed Your character through Your word, and Your faithfulness in particular through Your promise. We pray, Lord, that whilst we have an awful lot of subject matter tonight, and an awful lot for our minds to grapple with, we pray that our hearts would not be disengaged. We pray that, Lord, our spirits would touch the very personality of God, and we know that that is only possible through the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit. So we ask, Abba Father, that the Holy Spirit would be our help, and that the Lord Jesus would be glorified. Amen.
Now, I'm not going to be able to go over all the ground that we covered last week - you'll be glad of that, perhaps! But save to say a couple of things: there are eight major covenants in the Bible. We defined last week a covenant as simply being an agreement. It might be, some might think, crude to call it a contract, but that's essentially what a covenant is. The only difference with a mundane covenant and the covenants of God is obviously that this is an agreement, a contract that God is making. The first three covenants in the Bible are what we call 'general covenants' - that simply means that these covenants were made by God with mankind in general, they are universal in that sense. We looked at them briefly last week: there is the 'Edenic Covenant', the 'Adamic Covenant', and the 'Noahic Covenant'. We'll not say any more about those tonight.
Then, after those first three initial covenants, we're confronted with what we know as 'theocratic covenants'. Now 'democratic', as we said, is the rule of the people, and 'theocratic' is the rule of God. So these covenants were the means by which God was going to bring His influence upon humankind. They pertain to the rule of God on earth. They started with the 'Abrahamic Covenant' that we looked at last week. Essentially all the other covenants come out of the Abrahamic Covenant. This week we're going to look at 'The Mosaic Covenant'. There is also the 'Palestinian', or better put 'The Land Covenant', 'The Davidic Covenant' that relates to the throne in Jerusalem, and 'The New Covenant' - and we'll be looking at that, God willing, next week.
But I want you to remember - and this is vital - that the first three covenants were made with all of mankind, but all five of the last covenants, the theocratic covenants, were made specifically with the nation of Israel. I did touch upon last week a vital rule of biblical interpretation, and that is to - whenever we read something in Scripture - to ascertain who is being addressed, the addressees of any given promise in particular. It's like any contract: you need to know who it's made out to, not only who made it but who it's made out to, who can make legal claim upon it. All these five theocratic covenants, including the one tonight, were made specifically with Israel. Now, as we will find out next week in 'The New Covenant' (it was made to Israel by the way), we become the beneficiaries of that, and we will see how that transpires - but all of them were made with Israel.
Now also please remember from last week's introduction that there are two types of covenant in the Bible. There is the conditional covenant and the unconditional covenant. The unconditional covenant was the one we looked at last week, the Abrahamic Covenant, is a unilateral covenant. That simply means that the emphasis in this is with God, who is making the covenant. The covenant that is unconditional is a sovereign act of God, and is characterised by the formula: 'I will'. God says: 'I will do something' - so there is no responsibility on the recipient of the covenant, the responsibility is on the one who is promising, and that is God. Therefore the blessings of an unconditional covenant are secured by grace, a free gift. Now, six out of the eight, in total, biblical covenants are unconditional: the Adamic, the Noahic, the Abrahamic, the Land Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant - but there are also the conditional covenants. If the unconditional covenants are unilateral, the conditional covenants are bilateral, simply meaning: there is responsibility on both partners in the covenant to fulfil.
So a bilateral, conditional covenant is where God proposes to man: 'If you will, then I will'. Do you understand? So the blessing is not secured upon grace, it's not a free gift, but it's secured upon obedience. Before God will meet His conditions - and that's important - before He meets His side of the bargain, if you like, man must first meet his own responsibility. Now, two of the total eight covenants of the Bible, only two, are conditional: the Edenic, which has been broken, hence we have the fall of man and sin upon all mankind with the result of death; and the Mosaic - that's the one we're looking at tonight. Therefore it is worthy of note that only one out of the five theocratic covenants that were made with Israel, only one is conditional - that means that the rest of the four must come to pass. We might spend a bit more time on that next week.
Now, Scrabo really love to be nice to me - last week I had Romans 9, and this week I'm covering a covenant that extends from Exodus chapter 20 to the end of Deuteronomy! So, if your watches are set, we will commence! God cut this covenant with Israel, not just Moses. We use these names like 'Adamic' and 'Mosaic', to just help us differentiate - but it's important to note that it wasn't just made with Moses the patriarch, but with Israel as the nation. Now let's look at where this all took place, Exodus chapter 19 please, and we will begin reading at verse 3.
Exodus 19 and verse 3: "And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, 'Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed", there it is, "if you will indeed obey My voice", conditional, "and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation'. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel'. So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the LORD commanded him. Then all the people answered together", this is their response, "'All that the LORD has spoken we will do'. So Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD".
Now this covenant, as I've already said, was made with Israel. It was not made with any Gentile nation or people, neither was it made with the church. Deuteronomy chapter 4 reiterates who it was made with, when Moses says: 'For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us', Israel, 'for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?'. Even the Psalmist in Psalm 147 says: 'He declares', God declares, 'His word to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any nation; And as for His judgments, they have not known them'.
Now the reason why I'm emphasising this is that 'Covenant Theology' and 'Replacement Theology' confound these biblical distinctions. Therefore their teaching, as a result, is confused and contradictory - that's why we have to be very careful and clear who these covenants are made to, and who they apply to. This Mosaic Covenant was not made with Gentile nations nor the church, and we'll see why that is relevant as we go through. The first thing I want to do, and I am indebted to Dr Arnold Fruchtenbaum for his great study and summary of all these matters, but the first thing I want to do is to very quickly summarise the provision that was made to Israel in the Mosaic Covenant.
The main provision that was the Mosaic Covenant is what we call the law of Moses. There are 613 commands in the law of Moses, and those commandments contain both blessings and cursings - the blessings for obedience, and the cursings for disobedience. This covenant was signed and sealed by the Shekinah glory of God in Exodus 24. Now you remember last week we looked at the Abrahamic Covenant, and how Abraham was commanded by God to slay certain animals, cut them in two, and this was for the signing of a contract - but Abraham was put to sleep, and it was God whose Shekinah glory (that is simply a manifestation of the presence of God), His Shekinah glory passed through the pieces. In other words, indicating that this was an unconditional covenant, that God was going to fulfil this covenant for Abraham and the people of Israel, and even Gentile people who would believe in Messiah. But what we have here is: God's Shekinah glory signed and sealed this covenant, but it was a bilateral covenant. In Exodus 24, we'll not turn to it, Moses is asked by God to come along with his brother Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and the seventy elders of Israel, and they have to give their agreement to this covenant. So in verse 3 of that chapter we read: 'So Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, 'All the words which the LORD has said we will do''.
Now, do you see the difference? This Mosaic Covenant was signed in such a way that rendered the covenant conditional: there was a responsibility upon the Israelites to fulfil something if God was going to honour His promise. Now let's make some observations about the law of Moses. The law of Moses is a unity, it is complete. Now what I mean by that is: it comprises of those scriptures, as I said already, from Exodus 20 right through to Deuteronomy chapter 28 - but what a lot of people (mainly Christians it has to be said) do is, they understand the Ten Commandments to be the law of Moses, just the Ten Commandments. But as I've already alluded to, there are 613 commandments in the law of Moses, 365 of them are negative - that is, they are prohibitions, things that are forbidden - and 248 of them are things that are prescribed, things that are commanded to be done.
Now there is great confusion about how the law of Moses relates to us today, even as God's believing people. There are two errors, I believe, that have contributed to false applications of the law of Moses to believers today. The first is: a dividing of the law of Moses. Now stay with me, this will help you if you listen. Often the law of Moses is divided in three ways. People will say there is the ceremonial law, there is the legal law, and then there is the moral law. Many understand the moral law to be the Ten Commandments. So many think: 'Well, the believer is obviously free from the ceremonial law and the legal law, but the moral law, it's incumbent upon him to keep that, we're still under the moral commandments'. Now that division might be helpful in studying the scriptures, but Scripture itself never makes such a division. Scripture always views the law as a totality, as a unity with no division at all.
So, in other words, you cannot just say: 'Well, we are to keep the Ten Commandments today, but not the other laws'. That's the second reason for my perceived misunderstanding among some: this idea that the Ten Commandments are still valid today, while the other 603 commands are not. The Mosaic law is viewed in the Bible as a unit. Now, that is the principle behind the apostle James' statement in James 2 verse 10: 'For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all'. You only have to stumble in one of these 613 commandments of Moses to break the whole law, seen as a unity. Let me illustrate it like this: if a Jew eats ham, according to the law of Moses he is guilty of not just breaking that one command not to eat pig, but he is actually guilty of breaking the Ten Commandments - even though the Ten Commandments say nothing about eating ham. Do you understand what I'm saying? If you offend in one point of the 613, you offend in them all. The law is a totality, the law is a unity - therefore you cannot just segregate ten of them, even if they be the Ten Commandments, and say: 'They only apply'. The whole of the law of Moses, as given in Scripture, was to apply in entirety.
That's the first thing to note, the unity of the law. The second thing is how blood sacrifice is added in this covenant. The key element of the Mosaic law was the blood sacrifice. You remember in Leviticus 17 and verse 11, we read: 'The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul'. Of course, in Leviticus 1 through to 7, there are five offerings detailed there for sacrifice. Now the Hebrew word for 'atonement' does not mean 'removal of sin', it simply means 'a covering over'. It did not provide cleansing, completely, for sin - all it did was cover over sin in order to allow a grounds for fellowship, a grounds for the Jews to come to God in some form.
The unity of the law, blood sacrifice is added, and then also one of the provisions of the Mosaic law were the diet restrictions. This was a restriction in the Noahic Covenant: beasts were only allowed to be eaten if they had cloven hooves and chewed the cud; fish could only be eaten if they had both fins and scales; fouls could be eaten, but no birds of prey were allowed; insects, all of them were forbidden except one type of locust was permitted to eat. There was a unity of the law, the blood sacrifice is added, the diet restrictions, and then the death penalty also was expanded in the law of Moses. You see, according to the Noahic covenant, if you shed man's blood your own blood would be shed. But now in the Mosaic Law, there is a death penalty for sins such as idolatry, adultery, cursing God, cursing parents, breaking the Sabbath day, practising witchcraft, among many other misdemeanours.
A fifth provision was a sign, the sign of circumcision. Now, if you were here last week, you might say: 'Well, circumcision, was that not part of the Abrahamic Covenant?'. Well, it was, but not for the same reasons. Under the Abrahamic Covenant circumcision came in because you were a child of Abraham and in the line of blessing, but in the Mosaic Law to be circumcised was an act of submission to the Mosaic Covenant. Because of that, even Gentiles who wanted to proselytise and become part of the Commonwealth of Israel, it didn't matter that they weren't genetic sons of Abraham, they could, by circumcision, submit to the Mosaic Covenant. By the way, that's why Paul warned Gentile Galatian believers in the book of Galatians that, if they submitted to circumcision, they were obliged to keep the whole law - not just one commandment.
The sign of the Mosaic covenant was circumcision, and one other sign - or we might call it the token of the covenant - was the Sabbath. Now a number of things, please, to note about the Sabbath. First of all, the Sabbath day was a sign between God and Israel. The Mosaic Covenant was between God and Israel, it was not between God and Gentiles, and it certainly was not between God and the church. The Sabbath day was a sign for the covenant people Israel. Secondly, the Sabbath day was not a creation ordinance - and this is a misconception that many believers have. The Sabbath day began with Moses, not at creation. If you look at Genesis chapter 2, you will see there that it only states what God did on the seventh day: He rested - but there is no command there to any human to observe that day in any way. Indeed, the word 'Sabbath' is not used in the Genesis account, it's just called 'the seventh day'. From Adam right to Moses, there is not one record of anyone keeping the Sabbath day. God listed a number of obligations upon humanity in previous covenants, but keeping the Sabbath day was not one of them. Sabbath Day observance begins with Moses in Exodus 16 and Exodus 20, it is part of the Mosaic Covenant.
The third thing about the Sabbath: the Sabbath was not a day of corporate worship as many assume it was. The Sabbath day was a day of rest. It was largely a thing of prohibitions - what I mean is: you're not allowed to travel, you're not allowed to collect wood, and so on and so forth. Now, when we come to the Gospels, you will see that there were synagogue services on the Sabbath day - but that was actually originated in Babylonian captivity, it didn't start with the law of Moses. Now, of course, the rest on the Sabbath day in itself was an act of worship - but what I'm getting at is: this was not a corporate worship that was prescribed, like we meet together on the Lord's Day. It wasn't anything like that. Now, some will come back and say: 'Well, does it not mention that on the Sabbath day there was to be a holy convocation' - that's a term used of the Sabbath day in the Old Testament. But when you find that used, it's always in reference to the priesthood, not the whole congregation of Israel - and it's particularly in reference to the priesthood performing special sacrifices for the Sabbath day, not the whole people of God meeting for corporate worship. A fourth thing to note about the Sabbath is that it was a sign only in force as long as the Mosaic Covenant was in force. In other words, if the Mosaic Covenant comes to an end, so does mandatory Sabbath keeping.
Now those are the provisions of the Old Covenant. Now, what are the purposes of it? Well, there are several. In relation to God, this covenant reveals God's holiness and God's righteous standards. In other words, it shows us something about God - it shows us the demands that God has upon humanity in order to be satisfied, and to be enabled to have a relationship with man. So in everything I'm saying tonight, and what the Scripture is saying, we are not saying that there is anything wrong with the law of God - there is not! Even Paul in Romans 7 says that the law of God is holy, righteous and good, there is no problem with God's law! It declares His holiness and righteous standards.
Another purpose is to keep Israel distinct from all other peoples, and that's exactly what happened - because, as Israel took the covenant of Moses as a rule of life, the Old Testament saints of God were inevitably separated from the rest of Gentile humanity. Also it provided for individual and corporate worship. In Leviticus 23 we have the seven feasts of Jehovah, and that was the corporate worship of the congregation of Israel. But for an everyday ordinary Jew, the law of Moses was the centre of their devotional life. You know what your devotional life is: reading the Bible, praying, and so on and so forth, meeting together as God's people - well, the Mosaic Covenant, the law of Moses, was the centre of their spiritual existence. As you read this Psalms in particular you will see that this wasn't just a thing of the flesh, the law of God was their delight. How many times do you read that?
A third purpose of the Mosaic Law was in relation to Gentiles. The law of Moses was like a middle wall of partition, a division wall, a Berlin Wall if you like, that made sure that only proselytes, only converts to the Mosaic Judaism could come to God as Gentiles. In other words, you had to submit to this covenant if you wanted to come to God as a Gentile. It served to separate the Jews in entirety from all other people. Their worship habits were separate. Their eating habits became separate. Their sexual habits were different. Their clothing, and even how the men cut their beards, was different than all other nations of the world.
So the purpose was to reveal God's holiness and His righteous standards, it was to make Israel a distinct people, to put a wall of division between they and all other peoples - but a fourth (and this is perhaps the most important) purpose of the Mosaic Covenant was in relation to sin. This covenant was given, first of all, to reveal what sin is. The New Testament gives us the best commentary on all this, so please turn with me to Romans chapter 3 - this is ground that you have already covered on Sunday mornings of course. The covenant of Moses was given to reveal what sin is, verse 19 of Romans 3: 'Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin'.
So banish the thought that many have, that the Ten Commandments or, indeed, as Jews thought, the whole 613 commandments were like a runged ladder that we might climb to heaven via - far from it! The law of Moses was not given to justify, in fact it was given to reveal sin. If you look at chapter 5 of Romans verse 20, we find this again: 'Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more'. Chapter 7 then, verse 7 - the law entered that the offence might abound, it's there to magnify sin, to show it up - chapter 7 verse 7: 'What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, 'You shall not covet''. So the law of God was never given as a means of salvation - and please remember that the children of Israel, when they received the Mosaic Law, they had already been delivered from Egypt, they had already come via Passover through the Red Sea, they are a redeemed people!
Salvation always is by grace through faith. It never has been any other way, nor will be any other way. The law was given to reveal sin, but this is going a bit further, and it's fascinating to realise that the law was also given to make one sin more. Look at chapter 4 of Romans now, chapter 4 verse 15 - not just to reveal the sin that is already there, but to make one sin more, verse 15 of chapter 4: 'because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression'. Now that word 'transgression' is a technical term, and it means more than simply 'sin' - 'transgression' literally means to break a law, to cross over a line. Now what this means here in verse 15, 'for where there is no law there is no transgression', it does not mean that before the law of God was given that there was no such a thing as sin. No, men were sinners before the law was given, but they were not transgressors until the law came. Do you understand?
Let me show you how this works from chapter 7 of Romans, Paul explains how this works in chapter 7 and verse 7, how the law makes one sin more. Verse 7 of chapter 7: 'What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, 'You shall not covet'. But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good'. Verse 13: 'Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful'.
So sin is already in us from birth, before the law was ever given - but what the law served to do was, if you like, inflame sin in me. You know when you tell a child not to do a thing, there is a marker for them to aim at to do it! It's inherently in us as sinners to do the same: when a demarcation line is drawn, we have a natural bent to transgress, more than before the line was drawn. The law becomes the base of operations for sin, if you like. Now that the law has been given, sin lives around the law, and it becomes magnified and multiplied. As Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 15: 'The power of sin is the law'.
So the purpose of the law was to reveal what sin is, to make one sin more, and thirdly: to show that a man cannot attain the righteousness of the law on his own. Staying in chapter 7 of Romans, see verse 14 where we finished: 'For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal', fleshly, 'sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God; through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin'. In other words, he's admitting defeat: this law is good, but all this law of Moses serves to do is reveal sin in me, multiply sin for me, and there is no hope at all - if I'm living in this body that is prone to sin and fallen - of me ever attaining to righteousness, living by it.
Then a fourth purpose of the law - not just to reveal sin, and to make one sin more, and to show one cannot have righteousness through the law of Moses: the Mosaic law was given that it might drive us to faith in Christ. Look at chapter 8 of Romans, please, verse 1: 'There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus', that's following on from chapter 7. In other words, there is great condemnation for us if we hold on like grim death to this law - all we will get is death and curse, because we cannot live up to it. But there's no condemnation to those who are in Christ, 'Who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law', of Moses, 'could not do in that it was weak through the flesh', the problem was not with the law but with us, 'God did', what we could not do, God did, 'by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh' - He condemned our broken law in His own flesh - 'that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit'.
The law of God was given to reveal our sin, to multiply our sin, to show us that we couldn't live the righteousness of God by it - all in order, with the ultimate purpose, to drive us to faith in Christ as broken sinners without hope. Paul says as much in Galatians 3, verses 24 and 25 say: 'Therefore the law was our tutor', our pedagogue, 'to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under the tutor'. The law was the tutor to show us our brokenness and our sinfulness, but ultimately to point us in the direction of a Saviour who could help.
Now, what is the status of this Mosaic law now? Well, please remember all of it is a unit, and the New Testament clearly teaches that all of the Mosaic law has been rendered inoperative. It's clear in the New Testament, look at Romans 7 verses 5 and 6: 'For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter'. Literally that reads, Paul is saying that the law has been rendered inoperative. In other words, as the rule of life of God's believing people, it's no use any more. It has served its purpose.
Romans 10 verse 4, we were there this morning, let's remind ourselves of it, verse 4, very clearly Paul says, Romans 10: 'For Christ is the end of the law' - and the word there for 'end' literally means 'the termination', for righteousness' sake, of the law. The law has come to an end in Messiah. Galatians 3 and verse 19, if you will turn to it please, Galatians 3 and 19, it teaches us that the law of Moses was in addition to the Abrahamic Covenant for the purpose of making sin clear. It had a temporary function, look at verse 19 of Galatians 3: 'What purpose then does the law', of Moses, 'serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed', that is, Messiah, 'should come to whom the promise', that's the promise of Abraham, 'was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator'. Now that the Messiah has come, He has finished any need for the law of Moses.
Now, also please note another indication that the status of the Mosaic Covenant is now inoperative. It is simply this: with Messiah coming, Jesus Christ, a new order of priesthood has been established - and it is the order, as the book of Hebrews teaches us, of Melchizedek, and not the Aaronic priesthood. Now listen carefully: the law of Moses is inseparable from the Levitical priesthood, in other words, the Aaronic priesthood. The two go together. So, therefore, if there is a new order of priesthood which Hebrews clearly testifies, the order of Melchizedek, there must then be, of necessity, a new law under which that priesthood, the Melchizedek priesthood operates. Let me show you this, Hebrews 7 says exactly that, turn with me to Hebrews chapter 7 please, verse 11: 'Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood', if the old covenant could bring perfection, which it can't, '(for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise', that is, Jesus, 'according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?' - and He was not of the order of Aaron - 'For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law'.
So, if the priesthood changes, there has to be a change of law - has there been? Yes, look at verse 18 of the same chapter: 'For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness'. The writer to the Hebrews is clear: the old covenant has been annulled! Now, also look at chapter 8 of Hebrews please, verse 8 - we'll not read it all - down to verse 13 what we have is a reiteration of the New Covenant that we will look at next week, God willing. The writer to the Hebrews quotes the New Covenant from Jeremiah 31, but he concludes in chapter 8 verse 13: 'In that He says, 'A new covenant'', in that there is a new covenant, 'He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away'.
So the law of Moses, even in Jeremiah's day - his quotation is from Jeremiah - was becoming old with Jeremiah and now, after Messiah, it is vanishing away because of Messiah's death and resurrection. Now some might say: 'Oh, what about what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5, 'I have not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil it'?'. Well, you've got to understand the word 'fulfil' in Matthew's gospel in particular has got to do with the fulfilment of biblical prophecy. Over and over again that's the way it's used. What He is talking about is how He has come to fulfil everything that the law was a tutor to bring us to. He, of course, in His life did fulfil the law of Moses in absolute completeness - but we know now that He has come and He has died, and dying, Galatians says, has taken the curse of the broken law for us, now we have a different High Priest and a different law. The middle wall of partition, as Ephesians 2 says, is now broken down so the Gentiles don't have to be circumcised and become Jews in order to know God. We can all know God by grace through faith, and the law has been the tutor to show us this.
Now let's try and tie all this together. You might be thinking: 'Well, what about the moral law? You're saying this old Mosaic Covenant is finished, what about the Ten Commandments? Surely are we not supposed to keep those?'. Now, please remember the law is a unity. You can't cherry pick the Mosaic Law. If you offend in one point, you've broken them all. So if you had ham today, and I'm sure it was lovely with honey all over it, you've broken the law. Forget about 'Thou shalt not commit adultery, and lie, and steal', and all the rest - you keep those, but you've broken the law. If you're wearing a particular garment, you've probably broken the law, if there's mixed textile in it. The moral law did not originate with Moses, that's the first thing to note. The moral law is not identical to the Mosaic Law - Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden broke the moral law long before Moses. Satan broke the moral law before Adam. Now the law of Moses, it is true, embodied the moral law, but the law of Moses did not originate the moral law. Now the moral law of God is embodied in the law of Messiah.
What is the law of Messiah? Have you ever heard of the law of Messiah? I bet there's a lot of Christians - maybe a wrong expression! - I'm sure there's a lot of Christians who have never heard of the law of Messiah. Well, here's a verse, Galatians chapter 6 and verse 2: 'Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ', Christos, Messiah. Another, Romans 8 and verse 2, we read it already: 'the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus', in Messiah Jesus, 'has made me free from the law of sin and death'. The law of sin and death is not just that law of nature that drives us to sin, it's also speaking of the Mosaic Law, the law that reveals sin, magnifies sin, and increases sin in our lives. So there is a brand-new law separate from the law of Moses, it is the law of Christ. 'What is in it?', you say. Well, it contains all the commandments from our Lord Jesus, it contains all the commandments from the apostles inspired by the Holy Spirit, all those things that are applicable to New Testament believers.
I haven't time to go over everything that I have already gone over, but you can understand the things that don't apply in the law of Moses to a New Testament Christian. But here's the point: believers today are free from the law of Moses, and don't let anybody drag you back into it! You were never in it in the beginning, unless you're a Jew! We are not lawless, we are not as some call 'antinomians', no law - we have the law of Christ. The difference between the law of Christ and the law of Moses (and this is maybe a contradiction in terms), is that the law of Christ is not a legalism, it is a freedom! Freedom from the necessity of keeping a law in order to be acceptable with God! That is done and finished forever!
Are you free in Christ? Free from keeping laws? They mightn't be Moses' laws, they might be a little list that you've made up for yourself, or that someone else - and that often is the case - has made up for you. We are free in Christ, not lawless, but under His law - and, by the way, the principle of freedom means that (and I'll throw this one in to make you think, and maybe keep you awake tonight!) you've got to allow certain people to be free to keep the law if they desire. Hold on now! Well, I could show you from the Acts of the Apostles that Paul, on various occasions, did certain things according to Old Testament law for particular reasons, but he was free to do it. You see that's what Christian freedom is.
Let me illustrate it to you, so that you're not confused. If a Jewish believer feels that they need to refrain from eating pork, they are free to refrain from eating pork - but what they are not allowed to do is to expect others not to eat pork. They are certainly not allowed to think that they are superior spiritually for not eating pork, and they're certainly not allowed to separate on the grounds that they don't eat pork and you do, so they're not fellowshipping with you. Do you understand the principle of freedom?
Now, let me finish by asking you this - and you can ask me more about that afterwards if you want - do you live your Christian life on the level of the law of Moses, or some other law of someone else, or do you live your Christian life according to the law of Jesus, the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus? Someone has said: 'The Christian under law is a miserable parody of the real thing'. You know, there's a great problem: in 2002 George Barna research group was asked to poll Christians nationwide in the United States to find out how widespread this idea of legalism, obeying laws, was in the American church. One of the six survey statements was this question: 'Do you believe the Christian life is well summed up as 'trying to do what God commands'?'. How would you respond to this statement? Is that what the Christian life is all about? Trying to do what God commands, doing your best, trying hard to keep God's laws and rules, dos and don'ts? Well, if you say 'Yes' to that question, you're in the majority, because 57% of those polled strongly agreed that that's what the Christian life is all about, 25% somewhat agreed, and that means a total of 82% were in general agreement. The only problem is: that statement, as a summary of the Christian life, is completely and utterly wrong. You see, that's a performance-based relationship with God. It's more about doing than being, and the emphasis is on avoiding sin and doing good things, rather than pursuing an intimate relationship, a personal relationship with God. The emphasis where that is concerned is rules rather than relationship.
This is a better definition of the Christian life that we have now inherited: it is a personal faith-based relationship with God. Not a works-based relationship, a faith-based relationship - taking God at His word. It's a relationship with God the Father, through abiding by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ; and walking in loving obedience, not dutiful obedience, but loving obedience to His word. Here's the necessary crux and punchline of that whole statement: through the power and person of the Holy Spirit. Now, we might touch on this more next week, a faith-based relationship with God the Father, through abiding through the Son, Jesus Christ, walking in loving obedience - and how does that happen? It can only happen through the person and power of the Holy Spirit - and I don't think I'm far off the mark in saying that most evangelical Christians don't know 'that' about the power of the Holy Spirit, Pentecostals and all. Yet the tragedy is: if you don't, more than likely you're living your life by law.
In the US civil war over the issue of slavery, Charles Sumner, on November 5, 1864, drew the battle lines between two warring sides and declared: 'Where slavery is, there liberty cannot be. Where liberty is, there slavery cannot be'. It's an old hymn, but it's a good one:
'Free from the law - oh, happy condition!
Jesus has bled, and there is remission;
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Christ has redeemed us once for all.
Once for all - oh, sinner, believe it' - have you? Are you still striving? Christian, are you still striving?
'Once for all - oh, doubter, receive it;
Cling to the cross, your burden will fall,
Christ has redeemed us once and for all'.
Let us pray. Now, as our heads are bowed, I know this hasn't been light in any respect as subject matter, but I hope that you can see how necessary it is to truly understand the immensity of what the Lord Jesus has done for us. You didn't come into the Mosaic law, you were condemned just for being a Gentile, unless you want to join the Commonwealth of Israel - which we are free to do - but you were still under the curse of not being able to keep these laws. But imagine what it is for all of us, and for all the world potentially, any who will embrace Christ by faith, to be free from the condemnation of the law of God. Can I ask you, believer: have you lost the thrill of it, the wonder of it all? I know, I'm sure some of you are going through very hard times at the moment, but this is the good news - there's not a lot of good news in life, but there is no news like this!
Believer, maybe you are living on the level of law? Do you see if you are, do you know what will happen? Sin will be inflamed in you - things get worse. That's why very religious people can be very miserable, because they have a constant cycle of defeat and success, up and down, rollercoaster. Now listen carefully: you need to recognise that you're dead with Christ and alive through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, but you need to be filled, controlled, by the Holy Spirit. I don't care what anyone says - people have been telling me, especially these Sunday mornings, that I'm sound in theology - thank you for that, you don't know all my theology by the way! I'll tell you this much: it is not sound theology to tell believers that at the moment they're saved, they're home on a boat, and they've got everything that they ever need. Potentially that may be true, but we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. I want to ask you to ask yourself: are you filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit? For only then will you know the joy of the law of life in Christ Jesus that sets free. Jesus said to ask the Father for the Holy Spirit.
Father, we thank You for all that our Lord Jesus is and all that He has accomplished. It saddens our hearts to think of the Jews, generally speaking, as we've been thinking about these mornings, who are blind in unbelief. We thank You for the remnant who are being saved but, Lord, we pray for this people here tonight, that they will not be blind to the wonder of it all, and that believers may afresh realise the thrill of being free in Christ - as Paul said to the Galatians: 'To be no more entangled with the yoke of bondage'. But Lord, we know that we're not free from any law, we are compelled by the love of God to fulfil the law of Christ: to love our neighbour, our enemy, to bear one another's burdens. Lord, it is harder, indeed it's impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit. Lord, may the Holy Spirit's ministry be real in the life of Your people tonight, for Jesus' glory, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered in Scrabo Hall in Newtownards, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the second recording in his 'Covenants' series, entitled "The Mosaic Covenant" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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