While explaining Davids prophecy that the Messiah would not only be a great king but also a great high priest, superior to all the priests of Israel (Psa 110:1-4), the author of Hebrews makes this statement: For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also (He 7:12). What hes talking about is the law of Moses, and over the course of four chapters (7-10) he shows over and over how Gods new covenant has transformed our relationship to the law of Moses and has made the old covenant obsolete.
As a Christian I have always struggled to understand my relationship to the Old Testament in general. If I listen to some teachers I get the impression the first 39 books of the
Bible have nothing meaningful to say to me. However, there are other teachers who treat the Old Testament like nothings changed at all. Clearly neither extreme is correct, but if Im going to fully walk in the new covenant I need to understand whats changed and what hasnt. The very fact that God made two covenants (actually several more) can imply that He tried one and when it didnt work He had to come up with plan B. Surely God didnt blunder in sending the law and surely the new covenant isnt plan B. So before we go any further into these chapters lets clarify our understanding of Gods purpose for sending the law and how Jesus Christ has changed our relationship to it because the truth we discover will protect us from returning to legalism, but it will also protect us from becoming lawless.
1. Read: Hebrews 7:11-12, 18-19; 8:5-8, 13; 9:8-10; 10:1
2. What is the Law?
The law is a complex set of instructions God gave the nation of Israel through Moses (Torah)
A call to relationship with God: love Me, belong to Me
Religious rituals: heres how you are to worship Me
Distinctions between clean and unclean: heres how to stay healthy
Behavioral standards: heres whats right and wrong
Judicial process: heres how to handle disputes and criminal activity
3. What is the Old Covenant?
The promise made at Sinai to obey the law (Ex 24:1-7)
The people invoked a curse upon themselves if they broke the Law (Ex 24:8; Dt 28)
4. Did God give the Law as a path to salvation?
No, no one has ever been saved by keeping the Law (He 7:19; Ro 9:30-10:4)
Then how were people saved during the old covenant?
- The same way we are saved today: repentance and faith
- (Gal 3:6-24) Righteousness earned by keeping the Law vs. righteousness given as a gift to those with faith (Php 3:9)
5. If the Law couldnt save people why did God send it at all?
Gal 3:19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions
until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.
- (v 7) It exposes sin: whats right and wrong (Ro 7:7)
- (vs 9-11) It provokes sin: it actually awakens rebellion and causes me to sin more
- (v 8) It condemns sin: it pronounces judgment on me when I sin
- (vs 21-23) It exposes my rebellious nature (Adamic nature)
- (v 24) It leaves me desperately crying to God for mercy
- (Gal 3:24) In this way it leads me (tutor) to Christ (even before Christ came it prophetically pointed to the substitutionary atonement and the mercy of God).
6. Has all of the Law passed away?
No, major parts of it are eternal
What has passed away? (fulfilled in Christ)
- Heb 9:10; Col 2:16, 17
- Religious rituals (Sabbath, calendar, Kosher food, feasts, animal sacrifice, washings, tabernacle, circumcision)
- Distinction of clean and unclean
- Judicial processes
What parts are eternal?
- Moral/behavioral standards
- The call to relationship with God
- The call to love my neighbor as myself
7. Do those parts of the Law which have passed away still provide any value for those in the new covenant?
2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness
It teaches us about Gods power and character
We learn from the example of peoples lives
It contains prophetic revelation about Jesus Christ
It contains prophetic revelation about the future.
8. How it is possible for Christians to be free from the Law and not become lawless?
The first step in becoming born-again is repentance
- What is repentance? A changed attitude toward God and myself
- I turn from doing whats right in my own eyes to submitting to a holy God (the God of the Bible).
- Proverbs 3:5, 6
- I have a new attitude: now I want to please God.
- Luke 6:43
there is no good tree which produces bad fruit
The indwelling Holy Spirit guides me through my conscience and prophetically
- Ro 2:11-16 Gentiles who do not have the law
- Heb 8:10 I will put my laws into their minds
- Conviction and repentance become a way of life
The Holy Spirit frees me from bondage and strengthens me so I am miraculously able to obey.
My mind and heart are continually transformed by reading (and hearing) the Word and by worship.
- Ro 12:1, 2 Transformed by the renewing of your mind
- 2Co 3:18 Transformed into the same image (I become like the one I worship).
9. Will I ever become perfectly holy in this life?
Not if measured by a standard of flawless perfection, but you will move in that direction
You will have seasons where you make no rebellious choices against God
- Unintentional sin may be present, but intentional defiance is not
- Remember: temptation will not cease entirely in this life
- Carnal tempers and passions may flare up when youre stressed
- The pressures of life and conditions of our bodies still affect us
- But these sins of weakness (caught off guard, not knowing how to stop) rather than rebellion.
- The heart loves Him and wants to please Him so the overall course of life moves toward being like Him.
10. What should I do when I know Ive sinned?
Remember your high priest
- Heb 7:25 He has already interceded
- Ro 8:1 No condemnation
Confess freely and completely your sin
- This prevents deception
- It causes you to listen to the Holy Spirit
Confess serious and personal sin to other believers who can be trusted with such information (Jas 5:16; this lifts condemnation and helps prevent further sin).
Confess that you have been forgiven completely and thank the Lord for His love and mercy (Lk 17:11-19 cleansing ten lepers)
Ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide you so you wont commit that sin anymore.
Which is a greater temptation to you personally: legalism or lawlessness? How does God protect you from this?
Using your own words and saying it as simply as possible: Why did God send the Law of Moses? How should a Christian today relate to the Law of Moses?