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  • Writer's pictureBrian O'Kelly

52 - Should Christians Keep the Law?


1. Are Christians to keep the law or not?

a. Why this subject?

i. There is a distinct movement today to encourage Christians to follow Jewish laws and to behave as Jews under the law behaved.

ii. These teachers are almost universally Dispensationalists and have a heavy focus on the end times and what they see as Israel’s role in the end times. Israel and Jews worldwide are seen as having a superior status in the eyes of God.

iii. Some believe that Jews can be saved without Jesus if they will follow the law to the letter.

iv. Distinct Characteristics


1. People in this movement often use the name Yeshua in preference to Jesus.

2. There is a heavy focus on Jewishness and on Jewish practice and the Jewish Festivals.

v. Often they will dress in Jewish fashion and have large symbols of Judaism like Hebrew Texts in Hebrew letters on the wall behind the preacher/pastor.

vi. The churches are decorated as they would see a synagogue. Blue and white are prominent.

vii. Some Examples:


1. Welcome to Founded in Truth – Founded in Truth

2. Messiah never ever broke Torah – Messianic Torah Observant Israel

3. Kippur Means to Atone for Sin – Jonathan Cahn

b. The Torah was given distinctively to Israel, not the Gentiles.

i. Circumcision was a sign of the covenant with Abraham

1. Gen.17:10-11 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.

ii. Sabbath was a sign of the covenant made at Sinai with Israel

1. Ex.31:13 “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.

2. Ex 31:16-17 Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’ ”

iii. Laws of clean and unclean were marks of Israel’s “holiness”

1. Set Apart

2. Lev.11:44-45 For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. 45 For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

iv. Torah was never imposed upon Gentiles, unless they wished to become Old Covenant Jews.

v. Even the Torah-observant Jerusalem Church did not believe Gentiles must be Torah observant

1. Acts 21:25 But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.”

c. The difference between ritual and moral commandments

i. Moral laws, reflecting God’s character, are binding on all men, and are acknowledged by many Gentile legal and cultural norms

1. Rom.2:14for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves,

2. 1 Cor.5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!

ii. “Ritual” or “ceremonial” laws were those given to Israel alone, which pertained to the tabernacle/temple system of worship—e.g., circumcision, holy days, festivals, priests, sacrifices, ritual cleanness.

iii. Ceremonial laws were types and shadows, anticipating spiritual realities fulfilled in Christ

1. Heb.8:4-5 For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; 5 who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”

2. Heb 9:6-11Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. 7 But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; 8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. 9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience— 10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various [b]washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. 11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things [c]to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.

3. Heb 10:1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.

4. Col.2:16-17 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

iv. “Clean” and “unclean” animals and ritual conditions were symbolic of moral cleanness and uncleanness

1. Deut.22:10 You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together

2. 2 Cor.6:14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

3. Acts 10:11-15 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance 11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”

14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”

15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” 16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.

4. Acts 10:28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

5. 1 Cor.5:7-8 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

v. Distinction between ceremonial and moral duties noted in both testaments.

1. Hos.6:6For I desire mercy and not sacrifice,

And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

2. Matt.9:13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, [b]to repentance.”

3. Matt 12:3-7 But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple [a]profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? 6 Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. 7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.

4. Matt 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

5. 1 Cor.6:12-13 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of [f]any. 13 Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

d. “New” vs. “Old” Covenants

i. Christ inaugurated the New Covenant

1. Luke 22:20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

ii. The New is “not like” the Old

1. Jer.31:31-34 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, [h]though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

iii. The New renders the Old “obsolete”

1. Heb.8:13 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

iv. Like the remarriage of a widow

1. Rom.7:1-4 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law [a]has dominion over a man as long as he lives? 2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.

v. There has been a “change of the law”

1. Heb.7:12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.

vi. What has been “abolished” is the “law of commandments contained in ordinances,” which Paul viewed as a “wall of division” between Jews and Gentiles

1. Eph.2:14-15 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,

2. What does “abolish” mean, in Eph.2:15? Jesus did not “destroy” the law (kataluo), but he did “abolish” (katargeo) the law (Eph.2:15)

a. the same word used for “putting away” childish things

b. 1 Cor.13:11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

c. to “make void” Gal.3:17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect.

d. and to “abolish” death 2 Tim.1:10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel

e. The message of the transfiguration

i. Mark 9:4-8 And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”— 6 because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid.

7 And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” 8 Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves.

ii. Christ’s authority eclipses that of Law and Prophets

1. Heb.1:1-3 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

iii. Christ is the ultimate Head over all things to the church

1. Eph.1:22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church,

2. 2 Cor.10:4-5 For the weapons of our warfare are not [a]carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,

iv. Christians must obey His commands

1. John 8:31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.

2. Matt.28:18-20 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

3. 1 Tim.6:3-4 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions,

v. Imposition of Torah observance is a denial of the Lordship of Christ

1. Matt.12:8 For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

f. All necessary commands are summed up in “love your neighbor as yourself”

i. Matt.22:37-40 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

ii. John13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

iii. Gal.5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

iv. James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well;

v. Rom.13:8-10 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

vi. 1 John 3:23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.

vii. The “law of Christ” is fulfilled when we bear one another’s burdens

1. Gal.6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

viii. Summarized in doing to others what one wishes to have done to oneself

1. Matt.7:12 Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

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