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Christians And The Law Of Moses

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Part 2: Freedom from the Law Code

(Content of this section: Defining what the term Law of Moses refers to by finding an example of its use in the Gospels)


The message from the Jerusalem council addressed two matters, namely, circumcision and the law of Moses. We all know what circumcision is but do we know what was being referred to by "the law of Moses"? In order to find out let's look back through the Story, the line of Holy Scripture in the Bible that comes before the Acts of the Apostles.

In the Gospel of St John we read in chapter 8 that the scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery. They declared the case and then said,

Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?

John 8:5 - NKJV

(Content of this section: The Law of Moses is the Law Code that came by Moses)


The scribes and Pharisees here point to the Law of Moses in regard to what should be done with her. This specific command of the Law that they cite is recorded in the Book of Leviticus. The Book of Leviticus is written by Moses and records what is commanded as Law for the children of Israel along with the punishments for failure to keep the command.

This is the Law of Moses that is referred to by the Jerusalem Council. It is the Law Code written down by Moses as a type of legal code for the children of Israel. This Law that came by Moses is referred to in the first chapter of the Gospel of St John,

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 1:17 - NKJV

(Content of this section: Christ repelled the Law Code that hindered more than it helped)


It is this Law Code that Christ has made us free from. In Ephesians Paul writes,

The Messiah has made things up between us so that we're now together on this...He repealed the law code that had become so clogged with fine print and footnotes that it hindered more than it helped.

Ephesians 2:14 - 15 - The Message Translation


The apostle Paul reiterates this liberty from the Law Code by the Cross of Christ in his letter to the Colossians,

He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Colossians 2:14 - 15 - NKJV

(Content of this section: A fresh look at what the Ten Commandments are)


Where does this leave us with regard to the Ten Commandments? It means we need to take a fresh look at what the Ten Commandments are. You will find them written down in full in two places in the Old Testament. They are in Exodus 20:1 - 17 and Deuteronomy 5:1 - 22.

About them Moses tells us in the Book of Deuteronomy,

He (God) wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me.

Deuteronomy 5:22 - NKJV


In Exodus we read,

Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets.

Exodus 32:16 - NKJV


Again in Exodus we read,

He (God) wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

Exodus 34:28 - NKJV

(Content of this section: Defining the Ten Commandments as the Decalogue or Ten Words)


If your Bible has side or foot notes, look at them and you'll see "Ten Commandments" should have been translated "Ten Words". For this reason students of the Old Testament refer to them as the Decalogue. This is comparable to the words "dialogue" which means two voices and "monologue" which means one voice. Decalogue means ten voices, - "voices" being in the sense of communicating words - directed towards us.

The Ten Words are in the indicative. The Ten Words are not in the imperative mode as in "Do this" and "Don't do this". They are in the indicative present as in "You will..." and the negation as in "You will not". This is a designation of how things are to be or are not to be. Frank Michaeli writes, "We could almost translate by formulas such as 'You could not any longer [have any other god before me]...'"

(Content of this section: The Decalogue is not a part of the Law Code but rather it is Ten Words from God to us)


What is the conclusion to be taken from this? The conclusion is that the Ten Words are not a Law Code or part of a Law Code. They are Ten Words from God to man.

Werner Schmidt writes, "Being for the most part negatively formulated [the Ten Words] cannot even describe the relationship of humanity with God but can only assert the boundaries whose transgression breaks the relationship." I would state the latter part of this a bit differently. The Ten Words assert the boundaries whose transgression breaks down the working and therefore the benefit of the relationship.

(Content of this section: Heeding the Ten Words ensures the benefit of our covenant relationship with God can be received unhindered)


Heeding the Ten Words is not about attaining to righteousness. Our faith in Christ has granted us that. It is also not about ensuring an unbroken relationship with God. Christ's redemptive act has ensured that for us. Heeding the Ten Words - to use Andre LaCocque words - sees to it that "the divine gracious design is unthwarted, so to speak, and succeeds".

(Content of this section: An example in the New Testament of Decalogue defined behaviour seeing to the divine gracious design being unthwarted)


We see an example of this at work within New Testament counsel in James 5:15 - 16. In that counsel those seeking healing are exhorted to go to the elders so they can pray over them the prayer of faith for their healing. If those seeking healing have trespassed against others in the Christian community by such things as bearing false witness or stealing from them or coveting their wife or goods then they are to confess this and pray for one another.

In other words, those who have trespassed are to return themselves back from the wrong side of the boundary of Decalogue-defined behaviour to where they can again experience the benefit of their covenant relationship with God and "the divine gracious design is unthwarted, so to speak, and succeeds".

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