Is the Law Dead for Christians?

Introduction

Christians claim that with the death of Jesus they are no longer under the law of the Old Testament, because the law is dead to those who put their faith in Jesus, his death and resurrection. But if you actually read the gospels which supposedly are a historical narrative of the life of Jesus, you’ll quickly see that Jesus did not once condemn the law in fact he expected his followers to follow the law. Not only did Jesus expect his followers to do the law he expected them to perform it at as higher level than the Pharisee’s.

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:20)

The Pharisee’s were highly religious men and were held in high esteem in the time of Jesus as men who faithfully kept the law of God. Jesus told his followers that they had to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisee’s or they would by no means enter the kingdom of God. This statement alone should scare the Christian who believes that Jesus put the law to death with his sacrificial death on the cross.

A question Christians need to ask themselves is this, if Jesus wanted us to not only keep the law but perform it at a higher level than the Pharisee’s then why are their no accounts of Jesus or his followers in the gospels where they go to the Jewish temple to sacrifice animals and why was this similar to the Essene’s who also did not go to Jerusalem to perform sacrifices or worship God at the temple in Jerusalem. (See: Jesus was an Essene and Nazareth did not exist).

Another question Christians need to answer is this, if Jesus in the Gospels made it clear that we must observe the law of Moses then why in the Epistles of Paul does he seem to be against keeping the law of Moses? Is Paul therefore contradicting Jesus?

Jesus told the religious leaders in this day,

“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” (Luke 11:52)

Question, how could it be said that the Jewish experts in the Law who Jesus condemned, possessed the Key of Knowledge? What does it mean that they failed to enter? And what was it they were supposed to enter?

Paul and the Law

That Jesus expected us to fulfill the law is seen in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus says,

“For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called greate in the Kingdom of heaven.  For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:18-20)

In his Epistle to the Galatians Paul says,

“…if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21)

Is Paul contradicting Jesus? I don’t think he is, there are other places where Paul affirms that the law is good, holy, spiritual and righteous.

So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good… We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin…And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good…For in my inner being I delight in God’s law.” (Romans 7:12,14,16,22)

Theologian C.E.B. Cronfield pointed out in his commentary on the book of Romans that Paul seems to be negative of the law because in the Greek language there is no word for “legalism” or “legalist” so Paul’s negative attitude towards the law most likely has to do with the misuse of the Law and not the law itself.

That this assessment is indeed correct is found in Paul’s letter to the Hebrews where he writes,

Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being. Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer.  If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain. (Hebrews 8:1-5)

Notice in verse 5 Paul says that the priest here on Earth serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. On this verse the Barnes’ Notes Commentary writes,

“The reference is to the tabernacle, which was a mere example or copy of heaven. The word here rendered example upodeigma means a copy, likeness, or imitation. The tabernacle was made after a pattern which was shown to Moses; it was made so as to have some faint resemblance to the reality in heaven, and in that “copy,” or “example,” they were appointed to officiate. Their service, therefore, had some resemblance to that in heaven.” (Barnes’ Notes Commentary

On the word shadow in verse 5 the Barnes’ Notes Commentary says,

“That is, in the tabernacle where they served there was a mere shadow of that which was real and substantial. Compared with what is in heaven, it was what the shadow is compared with the substance. A shadow—as of a man, a house, a tree—will indicate the form, the outline, the size of the object; but it has no substance or reality. So it was with the rites of the Jewish religion. They were designed merely as a shadow of the substantial realities of the true religion, or to present the dim outlines of what is true and real in heaven.” (Barnes’ Notes Commentary)

On the phrase ‘of heavenly things’ found in verse 5 the Barnes’ Notes Commentary says,

Of the heavenly sanctuary; of what is real and substantial in heaven. That is, there exists in heaven a reality of which the service in the Jewish sanctuary was but the outline. The reference is, undoubtedly, to the service which the Lord Jesus performs there as the great High Priest of his people. (Barnes’ Notes Commentary)

So Paul did not have a negative view of the law he just realized the law, the Jewish temple and all the rituals that come along with the earthly Jewish religion were just symbols that are an imitation of the true spiritual temple.

Your Body is the Temple

You’ll never be able to fulfill Jesus’ demand to be more righteous than the Pharisee’s if you don’t come to grips with the fact that all the rituals that took place at the Jewish temple in Jerusalem are nothing but an imitation of the true spiritual temple that is not of this world. Jesus and his disciples knew this, so did the Essene’s and the Apostle Paul which is why none of these holy men went to Jerusalem to take part in the ritualistic religion of the carnal Jews. This is why Paul can say the works of the law are death, it’s not that the law is bad it’s just the outward expression of the law lead to spiritual death. Let me put it another way, it is because the law as practiced by the Pharisee’s is nothing but an imitation of the spiritual, this is why the law cannot save you, not because the law in and of itself is bad. You must make the law spiritual and personal to your very being, not practice it outwardly and literally like the Pharisee’s in Jesus’ time did.

In the Epistle to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul puts forth an important concept, Paul says,

 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? (1st Cor 6:19)

Question, if the temple in Jerusalem was a shadow temple and it is our bodies which are the true temples of God then does this not make the outward expression of the Jewish religion obsolete? Now you can hopefully perceive why Jesus condemned the Pharisee’s.

How to do the Law

Ironically the true practice of the law is found on a Jewish website. Under the heading: “What is the holy temple?” the website askmoses had this to say about the holy temple.

“With the destruction, G-d destroyed the physical Temple and made it a spiritual place. He took that window and placed it within us. Instead of traveling to Jerusalem, G-d wanted us to find Him in our inner Jerusalem. Now, our bodies are our Temples, our souls are our windows, our minds are our Kohanim and our animal instincts are our sacrifices. We cannot offer physical sacrifices three times a day, but we can pray three times a day. We cannot attend Temple services three times a day, but we can tap into our souls three times a day. We cannot atone for our shortcomings by sacrificing animals, but we can sacrifice our inner animals—our hormones, our lusts, our desires, our beastly compulsions. We cannot find G-d in Jerusalem; we must find Him in us.” (Askmoses.com, What is the Holy Temple?)

How is what is said here any different from what Paul said in his letter to the Colossians?

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

In the book of Romans Paul says,

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:12-13)

Christians believe that because they have asked Jesus into their hearts that they have overcome spiritual death but that is not what Paul says here. He makes it clear that if you do not put to death your sinful urges you will die but if you put to death your sinful urges you will live.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. (Galatians 5:24)

Paul never taught that once you come to Jesus you can live any way you want and still enter the kingdom of heaven. Coming to Jesus is the first step towards becoming spiritual, you still must fulfill the law. In the words of Jesus,

For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matthew 5:18)

Therefore we can rightly conclude from the Bible itself that it is our bodies that is the temple not the temple which once stood in Jerusalem which was merely a shadow and imitation of the true temple. Our sinful carnal nature is actually the animal we must slain within the temple of our bodies, not in a temple in Jerusalem.

“For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself” (Heb 9:24)

Sacrificing animals in a temple made with human hands can never save you because in practicing the law this way your sinful nature never gets crucified. Sacrificing your animal instincts within your temple-body is how the law should be fulfilled, it should not be fulfilled literally as the Pharisee’s did.

This also answers another question I asked earlier pertaining to Luke 11:52.

“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” (Luke 11:52)

I asked, “how could it be said that the Jewish experts in the Law who Jesus condemned, possessed the Key of Knowledge?  What does it mean that they failed to enter?  What was it they were supposed to enter?

The key to knowledge that Jesus condemned the Pharisee’s of throwing away, is the knowledge that the law must not be practiced literally. What they were suppose to enter was their very own bodies which is the real temple and fulfill the law there but they failed to do so and thus never entered the kingdom of heaven.

Summary

We have learned that there is nothing wrong with the law it’s the outward physical expression of the law that is frowned upon by Jesus and the Apostle Paul. The reason it is frowned upon is because the temple in Jerusalem is nothing but an imitation of the real genuine temple which is the body.

 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? (1st Cor 6:19)

Jesus commanded his followers to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisee’s if they ever wanted to enter the kingdom of heaven. The problem with the Pharisee’s is that they practiced the law literally instead of spiritually, they sacrificed physical offerings, physical animals, in a physical temple in order to atone for their spiritual shortcomings. But as the askmoses website says,

“we cannot offer physical sacrifices three times a day, but we can pray three times a day. We cannot attend Temple services three times a day, but we can tap into our souls three times a day. We cannot atone for our shortcomings by sacrificing animals, but we can sacrifice our inner animals—our hormones, our lusts, our desires, our beastly compulsions. We cannot find G-d in Jerusalem; we must find Him in us.” (Askmoses.com, What is the Holy Temple?)

This is no different than what the New Testament says when it tells us,

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature…” (Col 3:5)

And it is our carnal sinful nature that we must sacrifice in the temple of our bodies, this is why the physical ritualistic expression of the law as practiced by the Pharisee’s lead to sin and spiritual death. It is fulfilling the law spiritually how one exceed the righteousness of the Pharisee’s, crucify their sinful nature and enter the kingdom of heaven. This is why the Essene’s, Jesus, and the Apostle Paul did not take part in temple activities, they knew that the law of Moses had to be fulfilled within their very own bodies.