God's Laws today


by James Johnson


No human government can allow citizens to pick and choose what laws they will obey.

At the best it would cause confusion, and at the worst, anarchy. So it is strange that some people should think that God's laws would be any different.

Why would anyone think that we can pick and choose which of God's laws we should obey? It is vitally important to know the truth about God's laws because otherwise we will have a false understanding of what God is doing with mankind.

God's laws in the first 5 books of the Hebrew Scriptures have been the subject of much controversy and confusion.

Even sincere believers have found it necessary to categorize the laws given by God through Moses at Mount Sinai. For the simple reason that they do not want to face the only alternative - either ALL the laws are in force today or NONE of the laws are.

There is no tabernacle or temple in Jerusalem, no animal sacrifices, no Levitical priesthood. So clearly, that part of God's laws cannot be obeyed.

But surely, the Ten Commandments are sacrosanct? Surely they are moral laws and are universal and eternal?

Having categories of the laws solves this dilemma. The animal sacrifices are ceremonial and temporary. They point to the sacrifice of the Christ and are not needed today. But the Ten Commandments must still apply today and so must be in a different category.

Or so the human reasoning goes.

There is one glaring problem with that idea though.

Nowhere in Scripture are the laws listed in named categories, so it is open to human interpretation to decide which category to place them in.

Christ was asked by an expert in the law (in Luke 10:25-27 KJV):

"What must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Christ replied: "What is written in the law?"
The lawyer replied: "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. Love your neighbour as yourself."

The expert in the law had quoted Leviticus 19:18.
But verse 18 is followed by verse 19:
"Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material."

There is no break between the two verses, no indication that they are in two different categories. If there are no categories, then either ALL the laws are in force or NONE of them is in force today.

But to many people the idea that the Ten Commandments are not in force today would be almost blasphemous. So let us look at the facts, as revealed in Scripture.

FACT 1 - THE LAWS OF MOSES ARE THE LAWS OF GOD

There are not TWO laws - the Laws of Moses for the ceremonial or civil laws and the laws of God which are universal and eternal. All are the laws of God. There are many Scriptures to prove this, but two verses in chapter 8 of the Book of Nehemiah (in the KJV) will suffice.

Verse 1:

"All the people gathered themselves together as one man in the street that was before the water gate and asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel."

Verse 8:

"So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly and caused them to understand the reading."

FACT 2 - THE LAWS WERE NOT GIVEN TO THE WORLD

Deuteronomy 4:1-2 is just one Scripture telling us who were given the laws:

"Now, Israel, hearken to the statutes and to the ordinances that I am teaching you today, to obey them, that you may live and may enter and tenant the land that Yahweh Elohim of your fathers is giving to you. You shall neither ADD to the word that I am enjoining on you neither shall you SUBTRACT from it, but observe the instructions of Yahweh our Elohim that I am enjoining on you."

FACT 3 - THE LAWS WERE GIVEN TO ISRAEL JUST BEFORE THEY ENTERED THE PROMISED LAND

Deuteronomy 5:5-8 records what Moses told the people:

"See! I have taught you statutes and ordinances just as Yahweh had instructed me, for you to do thus within the land where you are entering to tenant it."

Most of the heathen practised idolatry and adultery so God knew Israel would be tempted to follow the practices of the peoples they were replacing. For that reason, Leviticus 18:3-4 warns the people to keep the law:

"According to the deeds of the land of Egypt in which you dwelt, you shall not behave. And according to the deeds of the land of Canaan where I am bringing you, you shall not behave; and by their statutes you shall not walk. My ordinances shall you keep, and My statutes shall you observe to walk by them; I, Yahweh, am your Elohim."

If they did not keep these laws they would be cast out of the land, just as the heathen had been before them.

FACT 4 - WE ARE NOT REQUIRED TO KEEP LAWS GIVEN BY GOD TO OTHERS

Imagine someone tells you they are going to obey ALL God's commands in the Pentateuch. They are planning to sacrifice their young son and build an ark. You might well say, "You can't be serious. Those commands were only given to Abraham and Noah for them to obey at that time."

The laws given on Mount Sinai to Israel are no different.

It is commendable to want to obey God, but if we obey laws limited to other people at other times and places, we do not demonstrate faithfulness to God. Rather we are perverting His will.

FACT 5 - THE LAWS GIVEN TO ISRAEL WERE A COVENANT

Deuteronomy 5:2-3

"Yahweh our Elohim, He contracted a covenant with us at Horeb. Not with our fathers did Yahweh contract this covenant, but with us, US, these here today, all of us who are alive."

A covenant is where two parties say, "You do this and I will do that." Once all parties have done what they have agreed, the covenant has been fulfilled. That covenant or agreement with Israel is now known as the old covenant.

"Ah", some might say, "that was the OLD covenant, now we live under the NEW covenant, and all those ceremonial laws are done away with." But this is what Jeremiah 31:31-32 says:

"Behold, the days are coming, averring is Yahweh, when I will contract a new covenant with the HOUSE OF ISRAEL and the HOUSE OF JUDAH. Not like the covenant which I contracted with their fathers in the day I held fast onto their hand to bring them forth from the land of Egypt ..."

So the NEW covenant is ALSO between God and ISRAEL.

FACT 6 - THE OLD COVENANT IS NOW OBSOLETE

What was wrong with the old covenant that a NEW covenant was needed? Deuteronomy 4:6-8 records how good the old covenant laws were:

"And you must observe and obey them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of all the people who shall hear of all these statutes and will say: 'Surely this great nation is a people wise and understanding. For what great nation is there which has elohim so near to it as Yahweh our Elohim is in all that we call to Him?' And what great nation is there which has statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law that I am putting before you today."

There was nothing wrong with the Law. No, the fault lay with the people. Continue in Jeremiah 31, verse 32:

" ... which covenant of Mine they themselves annulled while I was Possessor over them, averring is Yahweh."

They hadn't kept their side of the agreement. Hebrews 8:7-8 agrees with this:

"For if that first one was unblamable, no place would have been sought for a second. For, blaming THEM, He is saying ..."

Then the writer quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34.

Yes, God found fault with His people. Israel failed because God allowed them to choose for themselves.

Ephesians 2:3 explains what happens when God's spirit is not leading people:

"we also all behaved ourselves once in the lusts of our flesh, doing the will of the flesh ..."

According to popular philosophy, though, man must be allowed to CHOOSE to obey God.

Not only the Scriptures but human history shows that left to themselves, human beings do NOT obey God under any circumstances.

That is why it is necessary under the NEW covenant for God to put His laws in the minds of the House of Israel. Without this inner compulsion, history would just repeat itself.Hence the need for the NEW covenant to be changed from the OLD. Verse 33 of Jeremiah 31:

"For this is the covenant which I shall contract with the house of Israel after those days, averring is Yahweh: I will put My law within them, And I shall write it on their heart; I will become their Elohim, And they shall become My people."

Even when this prophecy is fulfilled in the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth, the covenant is still with Israel.

The proof is that at the end of the 1000 years, the kings of the whole inhabited earth, are mobilized for the battle of the great day of God Almighty. If everybody had God's spirit then, this wouldn't happen. This is despite the fact that Satan will be bound for the Thousand Years. At that time no-one will be able to say, "The devil made me do it." This will reveal to the whole world the true nature of human flesh.

Those who believe the Ten Commandments are still in force today, need to know that they formed part of the Old Covenant. Deuteronomy 4:13 makes this clear:

"He declared to you His covenant, the Ten Commandments, which He commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets."

Hebrews 8:13 says that the new covenant makes the old one DECREPIT, and obsolete. Consequently, the Ten Commandments are also obsolete.

But does that mean that they are in force today as part of the New Covenant?

FACT 7 - THE NEW COVENANT IS YET FUTURE

How do we know? Ezekiel 36:26-27 records a future event :

"I will give you a new heart, And a new spirit will I bestow within you, And I will take away the heart of stone from your flesh, And I will give you a heart of flesh. ... And I will make it that you shall walk in My statutes and observe My ordinances, And you will obey them."

Verse 23 tells us that

"..... the nations will know that I am Yahweh, averring is my Lord Yahweh, when I am hallowed among you before their eyes."

This is definitely not happening now, so it must be future.

Even those Gentiles who claim that we are under the New Covenant today, show by their actions that they do not believe Jeremiah 31:34:

"No longer shall they teach, each man his associate, And each man his brother, Saying, 'Know Yahweh!' For they all shall know Me, From the smallest of them to the greatest of them, averring is Yahweh; For I shall pardon their depravity, And I shall not remember their sin any longer."

If they believed, "No longer shall they teach, each man his associate, And each man his brother, Saying, 'Know Yahweh!' For they all shall know Me, From the smallest of them to the greatest of them ...", they would not do missionary work.

The prophecy entails universal knowledge of God and missionary work is not necessary.

FACT 8 - GOD'S LAWS HAVE A DIFFERENT PURPOSE TO MAN'S LAWS

The business of human governments is to maintain law and order. Therefore there are laws against murder and theft. In modern society we believe that the penalty for the MURDER of a greengrocer should be greater than for the theft of his apples.

And that is right for the regulation of a nation by human government.

But "Thou shalt not murder" is the same as "Thou shalt not steal" - they both break the same law.

When Adam and Eve ate the fruit that God commanded them not to, they weren't let off with a caution. The penalty was death. On the surface, it seems God was too harsh. After all, they had just eaten a piece of fruit. No human government has a law which prohibits eating an apple or any other fruit. And even if they did have such a law, the punishment would be on that individual, not on the whole human race.

It was not just a sin, a mistake to eat the fruit, nor just a transgression to disobey God's command. It was an offence. God had provided every good thing for Adam. He had shown Adam love and affection. In effect, Adam had spat in God's face. God was offended by Adam's reaction.

We need to understand that God's laws, God's covenant with Israel, aren't a list of crimes; they are a list of sins against God. This fact helps us to better understand one law which to our Western world seems excessively harsh.

If a husband has intercourse with his own wife during her menstrual period they are both to receive the death penalty. Leviticus 18:19:

"To a woman in the period of her uncleanness, you shall not approach to expose her nakedness."

Then follows a list of sexual perversions. The penalty is in Leviticus 18:29:

"For anyone who shall do any of these abhorrences, the souls doing them will be cut off from their people."

"Cutting off from their people" is not exiling or ostracizing them, it is stoning to death, as we can see in Leviticus 20:1 and 5.

"Anyone who sacrifices any of his children to Molech must be put to death by stoning."

"I will set my face against that man and his family and will cut them off from their people."

All sins are equal. Humans say that murder is worse than theft. Hence we can say that I may not be completely honest with my tax return, but I am not like Genghis Khan or Saddam Hussein. But that is not what GOD says. God's ways do not allow anyone to be self-righteous.

James, writing to the twelve tribes scattered abroad, wrote in chapter 2:10:

"For He Who is saying, You should not be committing adultery, said, You should not be murdering, also. Now if you are not committing adultery, yet are murdering, you have become a transgressor of the law."

Why is this?

The laws were intended to reveal God as a holy God, and His people were to be holy also. Just because they did not murder did not mean they were holy, if they were also adulterers, thieves or liars. That is the standard required under the law.

The law was never intended to bring salvation or justify anyone. Its purpose was not to save, but show how futile it was to do good works without God's mercy.

God's law reveals sin. Romans 3:20:

" .... for through law is the recognition of sin."

The laws are also a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ, as Galatians 3:24 explains.

There is another big difference between God's laws and man's laws.

No human government makes it a crime to THINK.

Obviously if thinking leads to murder, theft or any other crime, then it does become a crime. But just thinking about it is not. But God's laws are different. An example is in the Ten Commandments. "Thou shalt not covet." Romans 7:7-8:

"What, then, shall we declare? That the law is sin? May it not be coming to that! But sin I knew not except through law. For besides, I had not been aware of coveting except the law said, 'You shall not be coveting.'"

How would any witness prove that a person is coveting? Only if that person does something about what they were thinking. That was the law given to Moses on the mountain. That was the OLD covenant. But if that was not difficult enough to accept, we have to consider what Christ said to His people on the mountain. The NEW covenant.

Matthew 5:27-28:

"You hear that it was declared, 'You shall not be committing adultery'. Yet I am saying to you that every man looking at a woman to lust for her already commits adultery with her in his heart."

Christ said in Matthew 5: 17-18:

"You should not infer that I came to demolish the law or the prophets. I came not to demolish, but to fulfil. For verily, I am saying to you, Till heaven and earth shall be passing by, one iota or one serif may by no means be passing by from the LAW till all should be occurring."

So far from being abolished, Christ was telling His disciples the law would be reinforced. Not only was it wrong to murder, it was wrong to be angry with your brother. Christ extended murder to include hate and anger, adultery to include lust.

Moses, because of the weakness of ancient Israel allowed divorce as a concession, but Christ allowed divorce only in the case of prostitution.

Moses allowed oaths, but Christ repealed that concession.

Perhaps the most radical change was changing "Love your associate and hate your enemy" to "Love your enemy". The reason: "You, then, shall be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."

It all comes back to the same thing. God is holy, righteous, and His people must be too. Just as the old covenant was to be admired by foreigners who would give glory to God, the new covenant was the same. Matthew 5:16:

"Thus let shine your light in front of men, so that they may perceive your ideal acts and should glorify your Father Who is in the heavens."

So if people think they are under the new covenant today, they have a super-human task! Only one person has ever kept the law perfectly, and He was killed for it.

FACT 9 - CHRIST HAS THE AUTHORITY TO CHANGE THE LAW

Moses prophesied, in Deuteronomy 18:15:

"The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to HIM."

There are many parallels in the life of Moses and the life of Jesus.

They both had narrow escapes as children, Moses from Pharaoh, Jesus from King Herod. They both left Egypt. They both gave the law from a mountain to Israel, both gave bread to the people in a desert place, both fasted 40 days.

When Jesus spoke to Satan in the wilderness, He responded with Scripture - the words of Moses.

Matthew 4:4:

"Yet He answering said, "It is written: 'Not on bread alone shall a man be living, but on every declaration going out through the mouth of God.'"
(Compare Deuteronomy 8:3.)

Matthew 4:7:

"Jesus averred to him, "Again, it is written; 'You shall not be putting on trial the LORD your God.'"
(Compare Deuteronomy 6:16.)

Matthew 4:10:

Then Jesus is saying to him, "Go away, Satan, for it is written, 'The LORD your God, shall you be worshipping, and to Him only shall you be offering divine service.'"
(Compare Deuteronomy 10:20.)

On the mountain, Christ with Peter, James and John heard a voice from the clouds, saying, 'This is My Son, Whom I love, with Him I am well pleased. Listen to HIM!'

Jesus is not just the new Moses, David's greater Son, greater than Solomon or Jonah, He is the Messiah, the Son of God.

Matthew 28:18 records what Jesus said after His resurrection:

"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth."

We have already seen that He did NOT come to demolish the law or the prophets, that is, all the Hebrew Scriptures. He did not come to clarify the law or to abolish it, or to correct human traditions. He came to FULFIL the law in every detail including "even the least of these commandments". How did Christ fulfil the law?

God's purposes have been fulfilled in Christ.

Jesus' teaching brings about that for which Moses' law was ultimately intended. He expresses fully and ideally the 'righteousness' anticipated at Sinai. The old covenant had a forward look. It anticipated a 'fulfilling' which in Christ's teaching finally came to perfect realization.

So what laws should we keep today?

Yes, the old covenant is obsolete. The new covenant is yet future, and both were given to the House of Israel and the House of Judah. But should we choose the good bits, modify some other bits and forget about the rest?

For example, I don't want to eat rat, camel, vulture or bat, so I will keep that law. But I do like the occasional bacon sandwich so I will make an exception there. I don't wear clothes with 50% cotton and 50% polyester, anyway, so I will keep that law. I will tithe on the fruit and vegetables I grow on my allotment, but don't ask me to tithe on my weekly wages. I will keep the weekly Sabbath, but it has been changed to going to church on Sunday.

I speak as a fool.

The only reason we would think like that is so we might gain favour in God's eyes, and possibly in the eyes of other people.

There is a problem with pick and mix, though.

First, we don't have the authority to change the law, only Christ does.

Second, Paul says in Galatians 5:2-4:

"Lo, I, Paul am saying to you that if you should be circumcising, Christ will benefit you nothing. Now I am attesting again to every man who is circumcising that he is debtor to do the whole law. Exempted from Christ were you who are justified in law. You fall out of grace."

Personally, I would be worried sick I had unknowingly broken one of the 613 laws. I certainly wouldn't have peace of mind.

So I will let you into a secret. Dead people can't break the law, any law.

This is stated in Romans 7: 4-6:

"So that, my brethren, you also were put to death in the law through the body of Christ, for you to become Another's, who is roused from among the dead, that we should be bearing fruit of God."

"For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins which were through the law, operated in our members to be bearing fruit to Death, yet now we are exempted from the law, dying in that in which we were retained, so that it is for us to be slaving in newness of spirit, and not in oldness of letter."

Paul repeats the same theme in Colossians 3:2:

"Be disposed to that which is above, not to that on the earth, for you died, and your life is hid together with Christ in God."

It is not a new problem as to which laws, if any, we should obey. It goes back to the days of Paul and the early disciples. Some were criticising others who did not keep the Jewish laws.

The particular laws which seem to have caused the early believers the most problems were: Circumcision, unclean foods, meats sacrificed to idols, holy days including the Sabbath and tithing.

Paul has the answer: Colossians 2:16 and 20:

"Let no one, then, be judging you in food or in drink or in the particulars of a festival, or in a new moon, or of sabbaths, which are a SHADOW of those things which are impending - yet the body is the Christ's ..."

"If, then, you died together with Christ from the elements of the world, why, as living in the world, are you subject to decrees ..."

Paul was accused of teaching that if we were not under the law we could do what we want. Galatians 5:13 puts us right on this as well:

"For you were called for freedom, brethren, only use not the freedom for an incentive to the flesh, but through LOVE be slaving for one another. For the entire law is fulfilled in one word, in this: 'You shall be loving your associate as yourself.'"

He elaborates on this in Romans 13:8-10:

"To no-one owe anything, except to be loving one another, for he who is loving another has fulfilled law. For this: 'You shall not commit adultery', 'you shall not murder', 'you shall not steal, 'you shall not testify falsely', 'you shall not covet', and if there be any other precept, it is summed up in this saying, in this: 'You shall love your associate as yourself.' Loving is not working evil to an associate. The complement, then, of law, is love."

If we are dead to sin but alive in Christ, what did we do to deserve this?

NOTHING, as Paul explains in Ephesians 2:8-9:

"For in GRACE, through faith, are you saved, and this is not out of you: it is God's approach present, not of works lest anyone should be boasting."

So what do we do now?

Verse 10:

"For His achievement are we, being created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God makes ready beforehand, that we should be walking in them."

There are good works to do, but Paul, the apostle of GRACE, doesn't command, he entreats.

Ephesians 4:1-3:

"I am ENTREATING you, then, I, the prisoner in the Lord, to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, with all humility and meekness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit with the tie of peace: ..."

So, we don't have to pick and choose which laws we should obey, we just need to follow the leading of God's spirit to do the good works God has prepared for us to walk in.

There will come a time when there will be NO laws. No laws will be needed when God is ALL IN ALL. Only love will remain.

Finally, I repeat Romans 13:9, this time in the KJV:

"... If there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.'"


If you found this talk helpful, please tell others.
You may use this copyrighted material for unlimited personal use.
Any other uses require written permission.
© James Johnson

[Return to main indexpage]