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Has the Law Changed?

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Has the Law Changed?

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When God gave His law to the ancient Israelites, He told them to observe the Ten Commandments as well as certain additional ordinances and rituals. To ancient Israel and to first century Jews this was the Law, the Torah. To them, the Bible consisted of three parts: The Law, the Prophets and the Psalms. When Jews talked about the Law, they were referring not only to the Ten Commandments, but to that section of the Scriptures we call the Pentateuch-Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Regarding the precepts found in those books, Jesus Christ said, "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (Matthew 5:18 Matthew 5:18For truly I say to you, Till heaven and earth pass, one stroke or one pronunciation mark shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
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). When He uttered these words, the Jews of His day took Him to mean the whole section they called the Torah. How Can We Know What Applies? Since Christ has not returned, and we do not have the promised new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21:1 Revelation 21:1And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
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), we know that all has not yet been fulfilled. Therefore, the Law—the Torah—remains in effect, although today we do not observe everything listed in the five books of the Law. However, should contemporary Christians be responsible for observing every ordinance and ritual in the Torah? If not, how can we know what applies and what does not? There is a logical and simple way to address this issue, for while nothing has passed from the law, there have been three critical changes in the law, and those changes all have to do with the way the law is administered. Once we thoroughly understand these changes, we gain a better grasp of how God intended to magnify His law and make it more honorable (Isaiah 42:21 Isaiah 42:21The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable.
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). Christ kept that promise. He said, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17 Matthew 5:17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
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). That is, through His life and teachings, He filled the law full, clarifying its original spiritual intent and magnifying it. Circumcision In the early years of the Church, people from every walk of life came into fellowship with the brethren, and the apostles had to define the Christian approach to the law for them. Acts 15 tells us that some believing Pharisees saw the strong scriptural admonitions regarding circumcision, and claimed that in order to be a Christian a male had to be circumcised (verse 5). That was the law. But the apostles discovered that God had decided otherwise. We see this starting in Acts 10 when Cornelius received the Holy Spirit. In time the apostles accepted what God had done and administered God's decision. They saw more clearly Christ's spiritual intent in the regulation regarding circumcision. They realized that God wanted more than a mere physical act to be performed. In that regard, Moses had told the ancient Israelites, "Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer" (Deuteronomy 10:16 Deuteronomy 10:16Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff necked.
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). In addition, God inspired Ezekiel to write, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26 Ezekiel 36:26A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
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). God wants willing obedience. To achieve that in His people, He promised, "this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people" (Jeremiah 31:33 Jeremiah 31:33But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, said the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
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). Having Christ's magnification of the law in view and understanding that circumcision merely pointed to God's spiritual intent of circumcising the hearts of His people, the apostles administered God's ruling that physical circumcision was no longer necessary. Peter summarized this decision when he said, "So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them [the gentiles] by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they" (Acts 15:8-11 Acts 15:8-11 [8] And God, which knows the hearts, bore them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did to us; [9] And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. [10] Now therefore why tempt you God, to put a yoke on the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? [11] But we believe that through the grace of the LORD Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
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). Our hearts are purified by repentance, submission to God and the receipt of His Holy Spirit. This is the circumcision that defines and identifies a Christian. His Word tells us, "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His" (Romans 8:9 Romans 8:9But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
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). No longer would physical circumcision be required, but rather a spiritual circumcision of the heart through repentance and living the way of loving obedience and submission to God. The first change, then, was to change the administration of circumcision of the flesh to circumcision of the heart. Civil Regulations The second change involves the civil commands God gave the Israelites. We cannot administer these regulations since the civil government of God no longer exists and these laws can only be administered within the civil government whose head is God. Christ made it clear that His followers were not to be a part of this world when He prayed in the garden just before His crucifixion, "I have given them [His followers] Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world" (John 17:14 John 17:14I have given them your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
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). Christ's Kingdom—the Kingdom we must prepare for—is of the world tomorrow, not of this present world. He told Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36 John 18:36Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
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), most certainly because the world is evil (Galatians 1:4 Galatians 1:4Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
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). Since God has called us out of this evil world and has not given us civil authority today, we don't have the responsibility of enforcing civil regulations. That duty now goes to worldly rulers, as Paul wrote, "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil" (Romans 13:1-4 Romans 13:1-4 [1] Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. [2] Whoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. [3] For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Will you then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and you shall have praise of the same: [4] For he is the minister of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid; for he bears not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath on him that does evil.
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). God has given limited authority to the rulers of this world. When He gave the Israelites that responsibility, they failed to enforce it properly, and those in authority today are failing. That's one reason Christ is returning to implement His Father's rules correctly. One aspect of the civil law was the administration of the death penalty (2 Corinthians 3:9-11 2 Corinthians 3:9-11 [9] For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more does the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. [10] For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excels. [11] For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remains is glorious.
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). The Church does not condemn, but administers the righteousness of God. And godly righteousness leads to eternal life. Sacrifices and Rituals One final area of change in the law involves the sacrificial and ritualistic regulations associated with the temple service. When Titus destroyed the temple in A.D. 70, Jews and Christians alike had to adjust to the changes in their lives this tragic event caused. Christ said it would happen: "Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, 'Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down'" (Matthew 24:1-2 Matthew 24:1-2 [1] And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple. [2] And Jesus said to them, See you not all these things? truly I say to you, There shall not be left here one stone on another, that shall not be thrown down.
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). When that happened, it necessitated a change in the way Christians worshiped their Creator. Prior to its destruction, Christians frequented the temple and even participated in many, if not all, of its services. They continued "daily with one accord in the temple" (Acts 2:46 Acts 2:46And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
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). Paul prayed in the temple (Acts 22:1-17 Acts 22:1-17 [1] Men, brothers, and fathers, hear you my defense which I make now to you. [2] (And when they heard that he spoke in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he said,) [3] I am truly a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as you all are this day. [4] And I persecuted this way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. [5] As also the high priest does bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters to the brothers, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound to Jerusalem, for to be punished. [6] And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come near to Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. [7] And I fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to me, Saul, Saul, why persecute you me? [8] And I answered, Who are you, Lord? And he said to me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute. [9] And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spoke to me. [10] And I said, What shall I do, LORD? And the Lord said to me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told you of all things which are appointed for you to do. [11] And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. [12] And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelled there, [13] Came to me, and stood, and said to me, Brother Saul, receive your sight. And the same hour I looked up on him. [14] And he said, The God of our fathers has chosen you, that you should know his will, and see that Just One, and should hear the voice of his mouth. [15] For you shall be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. [16] And now why tarry you? arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord. [17] And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance;
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). At one time he even went there with four men who were under a Nazarite vow (which called for an animal sacrifice, Numbers 6:2-11 Numbers 6:2-11 [2] Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves to the LORD: [3] He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. [4] All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk. [5] All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come on his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separates himself to the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. [6] All the days that he separates himself to the LORD he shall come at no dead body. [7] He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die: because the consecration of his God is on his head. [8] All the days of his separation he is holy to the LORD. [9] And if any man die very suddenly by him, and he has defiled the head of his consecration; then he shall shave his head in the day of his cleansing, on the seventh day shall he shave it. [10] And on the eighth day he shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons, to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: [11] And the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, and make an atonement for him, for that he sinned by the dead, and shall hallow his head that same day.
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) and who had to fulfill the requirements of their pledge, for the brethren of that day were zealous for the law (Acts 21:21-24 Acts 21:21-24 [21] And they are informed of you, that you teach all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. [22] What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that you are come. [23] Do therefore this that we say to you: We have four men which have a vow on them; [24] Them take, and purify yourself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning you, are nothing; but that you yourself also walk orderly, and keep the law.
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). These early Christians cherished the temple and their relationship with it. But now it was gone. This problem is addressed in Hebrews. The sacrifices and rituals of the temple are no longer necessary because they all pointed to Christ, "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4 Hebrews 10:4For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
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). Christ's blood, however, could because He was God in the flesh and lived a sinless life, "For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another—He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Hebrews 9:24-26 Hebrews 9:24-26 [24] For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: [25] Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest enters into the holy place every year with blood of others; [26] For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world has he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
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). Christ's priesthood now supercedes that of the Levites (Hebrews 7:11-28 Hebrews 7:11-28 [11] If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? [12] For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. [13] For he of whom these things are spoken pertains to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. [14] For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. [15] And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there rises another priest, [16] Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. [17] For he testifies, You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. [18] For there is truly a cancellation of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. [19] For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw near to God. [20] And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: [21] (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said to him, The Lord swore and will not repent, You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) [22] By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. [23] And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: [24] But this man, because he continues ever, has an unchangeable priesthood. [25] Why he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them. [26] For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; [27] Who needs not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. [28] For the law makes men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, makes the Son, who is consecrated for ever more.
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). Everything that pertained to them foreshadowed Christ, which required a change in the law (verse 12). This portion of the law is now administered by Christ instead of the Levites. Notice, however, that there has been no change regarding the observance of the annual Holy Days and the Sabbath, for example. Paul wrote that we should "let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ" (Colossians 2:16-17 Colossians 2:16-17 [16] Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: [17] Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
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, King James Version). No man should judge us, Paul contends, because God is our Judge and He has ordained that we keep the Sabbath and the Holy Days. Why? Because these things are (not were) a shadow of things to come. They can only foreshadow future events if they exist in the present, so God established these requirements apart from the regulations modified as a result of Christ's life and sacrifice. Christ's words, that nothing would pass from the law until all has been fulfilled, remain intact, although the application (administration) of that law has been changed because God has given His Holy Spirit so His people can have a greater spiritual understanding. But those changes have been limited to only three: circumcision, civil regulations and the temple services. When we keep these facts in mind, understanding what part of the law we must follow and what part of it is no longer binding becomes easier. We can, then, return to "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3) and keep the whole law as magnified and fulfilled by Jesus Christ. UN