"Not Subject to the Law of God?"

Part 1. The Christian View of the "Law"

The contemporary Christian mindset regarding what it calls "the Law," evolved from a Greek/Roman or "westernized" worldview and approach to studying the Bible. This was shaped by the early church fathers of the second to sixth centuries, and has been steadily reinforced since those times. When Christians hear or use the term "Law" in spiritual discussions, sermons, etc., they are thinking in a very "legal" sense, similar to how one would regard the laws we have in our secular society.

Three particular ideas found in Christianity regarding "the Law," pertinent to this discussion, are:

  1. Those under the Law of Moses were "under bondage," which ended with Jesus, who has set us free
  2. "No one could ever do everything the law requires" -- that's why we needed Jesus
  3. The law was "a curse" that Jesus came to do away with.

These three ideas may not be expressed in exactly the same words in every denomination, but the concepts are clear and present in the teachings of Protestant denominations and Catholicism.

For instance, Dr. Charles Ryrie's classic book on Christian theology makes it clear that "the Law" is terminated with Jesus:

"Another important benefit of the death of Christ was the inauguration of the faith-righteousness principle to replace the law-works principle. However, Paul's statement in Romans 10:4, that Christ is the end of the Law, might be understood as either signifying termination or purpose. In other words, either Christ terminated the Law, or the purpose of Christ's coming was to fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17). However, the termination seems clearly to be the meaning in this context because of the contrast (beginning in Rom. 9:30) between the Law and God's righteousness. Paul's argument that follows is not that the Jew was incomplete and needed the coming of Christ to perfect his position before God, but that his position under the law-works principle was absolutely wrong because it sought to establish righteousness by human effort rather than by accepting God's gift of righteousness. Though it is true that our Lord fulfilled the Law, this passage is not teaching that, but rather that He terminated the Law and provided a new and living way to God. (1)

Another example showing the difference between what "the Law" and Jesus could do for us, may be found in the popular Christian book, When Skeptics Ask, by Norman L. Geisler:

While Moses set up the moral and social structures that guided the nation, the Law could not save anyone from the penalty of their sins, which is death. As Paul says, 'By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin' (Rom 3:20). The revelation which came through Jesus, though, was one in which the sins which the Law made known are forgiven, 'being justified as a gift by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus' (v. 24). Christ's revelation builds on the foundation of Moses by solving the problem of which the Law made us aware. (2)

Beyond the inability of anyone to be saved by "the Law," Christianity also says that those who taught people to continue in "the Law," after coming to believe in the Messiah, were heretics.

Christian author William Barclay states the following in his Bible study series:

"In the New Testament itself we get glimpses of teachers who failed in their responsibility and became false teachers. There were teachers who tried to turn Christianity into another kind of Judaism and tried to introduce circumcision and the keeping of the law." (3)

The Christian view of "the Law" is also conveyed in "headings" found at the beginning of sections throughout Christian Bibles. These captions are placed there by the editors to help direct the reader as to what the next group of verses is concerned with.

For instance, at the beginning of the following sections in the "New Testament," of a popular New King James version of the Bible, (4) we find the following phrases:

Christianity's View of Judaism

Christianity distinguishes itself from Judaism (the "religion of Law") with the idea that the former is a religion of faith and love, whereas Judaism, is one of works. To quote William Barclay again;

"The Christian lives under the law of liberty, and it is by the law of liberty he will be judged. What he means is this. Unlike the Pharisee and the orthodox Jew, the Christian is not a man whose life is governed by the external pressure of a whole series of rules and regulations imposed on him from without. He is governed by the inner compulsion of love. He follows the right way, the way of love to God and love to men, not because any external law compels him to do so nor because any threat of punishment frightens him into doing so, but because the love of Christ within his heart makes him desire to do so." (5)

Christian Bible footnotes, commentary books and sermons from the pulpits have expressed this thought for centuries, maintaining that Christianity is God's true religion. For example, in a commentary appendix to one version of the King James Bible, regarding the book of Hebrews, it says:

"With carefully reasoned arguments the author showed that Christianity is superior to Judaism," ... "Christianity is the perfect religion."(6)

The same commentary regarding the book of Galatians states:

"Galatians has been called the Christian declaration of independence. It is Paul's answer to those who challenged his authority as an apostle and who urged Christians in Galatia to live according to the Law of Moses. Adoption of the Jewish Law by Gentile Christians would have made Christianity merely a sect within Judaism. Paul taught that bondage to the Law ended when Christ made all men free." (7)

Renowned Christian author, J. Vernon McGee, makes the following statement about the apostle Paul and the Jewish religion in his Bible commentary:

"Paul now calls the religion in which he was brought up the 'Jews' religion.' Paul was saved, not in Judaism, but from Judaism." (Emphasized words are McGee's) (8)

Christianity's View of the "New Testament's" Teachings on "the Law"

Christianity holds that those who come to "faith in Jesus," (Jew or Gentile) no longer need be concerned with "the Law" as they now have "liberty in their faith." Christianity gives most of the credit for this teaching to Paul, who is traditionally said to have taught against "the Law," and showed in his own life that "the Law" no longer had any practical meaning for him.

Frequently cited verses in supporting this are;

For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4)

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them." (Galatians 3:10)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us -- for it is written, "Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree." (Galatians 3:13)

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)

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)

Christianity's Relationship to the Jews

Christianity teaches that Jesus indeed came to the Jewish people, but they rejected him. The Jewish leadership (the Pharisees) were so "caught up in the Law," that they missed their own Messiah. The Church was created and given the job of spreading the Gospel of Jesus to the unsaved. (Matthew 16:18,19; Acts chapter 2)

The Church teaches that even thought the Jews failed in their calling, 2000 years ago, it has an obligation today to bring the Gospel to the Jewish people. Many Christian churches have created specific ministries, or launched campaigns, to evangelize the Jews.

In recent years, denominations such as the Baptists, and Assemblies of God, have stated that they have not been as successful as they had wished in the area of Jewish evangelism, and have rededicated themselves to this effort. Some are now making efforts to take a more "Jewish approach" in their "witnessing," by training their people to use "Jewish terminology" when talking to Jews. (i.e., to say "Yeshua," rather than "Jesus," or "Messiah" rather than "Christ.")

CONTINUE TO PART 2


Part 1 - The Christian View of "the Law"
Part 2 - The Hebrew View of the Law/Torah and Salvation
Part 3 - What does the "New Testament" Teach About the Torah and Salvation?
Part 4 - Christianity's Difficulty with "the Law"
Part 5 - The Confusing Christian view of the Believer's Relationship to Torah
Part 6 - How Did the Christian View of the Torah Originate?
Part 7 - Historical Reality Concerning What Yeshua and His Followers Believed
Part 8 - Clarifying the Believer's Relationship to Torah
Part 9 - Is This All Really That Big a Deal?
Part 10 - Concluding Thoughts & Footnotes


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