|Dr. Couch, I believe the Bible is clear that the Mosaic Law ended with Christ's death, but Matthew 5:17-18 troubles me. Is the Law still in force?|
ANSWER: In these verses Christ said that He did not come to "abolish" the Law but instead, to fulfill it. He said not one part of it would pass away "until all is accomplished." "Abolish" is the Greek word "to destroy, to pull or tear down." It is an Aorist Infinitive and could be translated "to reach a point to tear [the Law] down." The word "fulfill" is "plaraoo" and it is also an Aorist Infinitive. "I came to complete the Law." He then adds that not one small part of the Law will pass away until "all of it should come about" (an Aorist Subjunctive).
Many believe that the Lord was indicating that He, by His life, would fulfill or keep the Law. What part of the Law? Probably not the Civil or Ceremonial part of it but the moral principles of the Law. Christ lived a perfect and complete life, with no sin, because He is the holy Son of God!
The NT says two things: (1) the Law would someday cease and be replaced by the New Covenant, and, (2) we would no longer be under the Law. That (1) the New Covenant would replace the Mosaic Law was stated in Jeremiah 31:31-32. "I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel (Northern Kingdom) and with the house of Judah (Southern Kingdom), not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, …" With the new covenant the Jews will receive permanent forgiveness of sin (not so under the Mosaic covenant), and "their sins I will remember no more" (v. 34). Hebrews 8:6-13 picks up on this and says that the new covenant will replace the Law. "When God said 'A new covenant,' He had made the first covenant (the Law) obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear" (v. 13).
Paul then adds that (2) we are no longer under the Law which was a tutor to us to bring us to Christ. "We are no longer under a tutor" (Gal. 3:25). He also says: "You are no longer under law, but under grace" (Rom. 6:14). "We have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit (the new covenant) and not in oldness of the letter (of the Law)" (7:6).
We are now justified not by law-keeping but by faith. "We maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law" (3:28), thus we do not nullify the Law through our faith but instead "we establish the Law" (v. 31). Finally, "by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in God's sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin" (3:20). In place of law, we are "being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (v. 24).
I hope this helps. Thanks for asking.
Dr. Mal Couch