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Formerly New Heart, New Spirit

Who Gave the Law?

Discussing the Law of God, the Law of Moses, and the Law of Christ

There is a belief among many Christians that the "Law of God" and the "Law of Moses" are two different things. Many believe that the "Law of God" only includes the Ten Commandments. On top of this, many people believe that the "Law of Christ" is something different from these. The purpose of this article is to prove that these three Laws are all actually one and the same legal code.

Ezra 7:6

"Ezra came up from Babylon; and he was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given...  For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel."
Not only do learn that "the Law of Moses" was the law "which the LORD God of Israel had given" but we are also told that "the Law of the LORD" includes "statutes and ordinances." According to Ten-Commandment-Onlyists, God only gave the Ten Commandments and Moses invented the rest. However, the Bible says that "statutes and ordinances" are part of the Law which God Himself personally gave Israel. In other words, their origin is from heaven.

Nehemiah 8:1-8

"Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. 2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law4 So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose... 5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. 8 So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading."

So, Ezra brought out "the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel." Here, it is very clear that the Law of Moses and the Law of God are the same thing. In fact, it says that Moses received the Law from God. In verse 2 it refers to it simply as "the Law". In verse 3 it says that Ezra read the Law in public all day long - "from morning until midday." It takes literally maybe 60 seconds to read the Ten Commandments. However, it takes several hours to read the entire Torah (Law of Moses). Thus, we know that Ezra was reading from the "the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel." Later in verse 3, it refers to the Law as "the Book of the Law." in verse 5 it calls it simply "the book." Lastly, in verse 8, it is referred to as "the book, in the Law of God."

Mark 12:28-34

"One of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions."

A scribe approaches Jesus and asks him a legal question: what's the most important commandment? Jesus says the Shema is the most important commandment. The Shema is a creed, similar to later Catholic creeds like the Nicene Creed, that declare a fact about one's faith. The Shema is the foundational creed of both ancient and modern Judaism. When the scribe asks Jesus what the most important commandment is, Jesus says that the most important commandment can be found in the Shema creed. Interestingly, the Shema is not found within the Ten Commandments - yet Jesus calls it the most important commandment! Obviously Jesus had a different definition of "commandments" than many today do. The Shema is mentioned in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 but the Ten Commandments are mentioned in Exodus 20:1-17. Jesus says that the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. This is not part of the Ten Commandments either! It is found in Leviticus 19:18. If Jesus only wanted us to obey the Ten Commandments, why didn't he say so? Why did he say the two most important commandments are "commandments" not found among the Ten Commandments? Jesus, just like Ezra and Nehemiah, understood the entire Law of Moses as "the commandments" - the same commandments (Law) which God gave to Moses.

Matthew 5:15-19

"Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. 17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 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.19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

Here, Jesus speaks a metaphor. He says to "let your light shine" - to do good works in public to inspire people to worship God. Did Jesus invent this metaphor? Actually, no he didn't. Jesus knew the scriptures and it says in Proverbs 6:23 " For the commandment is a lamp and the law a light." The Law shines forth from the commandments. Can the light of a fire be separated from its flame? No. The two are actually one. Likewise, the "commandment," the "Law," and the "good works" are one in the same. Jesus instructs us to let our light (good works, the commandments, the Law) to shine forth. We know this is true because he then goes on to say that the Law is not abolished. Did Jesus contradict Ezra and Nehemiah? Of course not. Jesus himself said "My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me" (John 7:16, NLT). If Jesus' message came from God, and if the Law of Moses is called the Law of God, and if Jesus told us to do the Law, then we can easily and naturally conclude that Jesus is speaking of the Law of Moses in Matthew 5:15-19.

Matthew 8:4 and Luke 5:14

"And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”"

This is a difficult verse for many Christians to understand because it seems odd that Jesus would command a man to offer sacrifices. Not only this but Jesus says "offer the gift that Moses commanded." In other words, Jesus is commanding observance of a commandment that is not found in the Ten Commandments. As we have already shown, the Law of God and the Law of Moses are one and the same. So in other words, Jesus affirms that the sacrifices that "Moses commanded" are sacrifices prescribed in the Law of God. However, was the offering merely a testimony? What it all just for show? Is Jesus that shallow? Jesus commands the man to observe the Mosaic Law. In addition to this commandment, he explains the outcome of his obedience to the Mosaic Law. Jesus said in Matthew 5:15-16 that when people obey the Law, their light (good works) will shine forth (be visible) to people and cause them to glorify God. The healed man's recovery would be a testimony to the priests and, logically, it would cause the priests to glorify God.

What is doctrine?

" I give you good doctrineDo not forsake my law" (Proverbs 4:2)

"Jesus answered them and said, My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority" (John 7:16-17).

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

All scripture is given by inspiration of God and all scripture is profitable for doctrine. When it says "all scripture," this includes the Law of Moses. Solomon said that the Law was "good doctrine" and Jesus said that his doctrine came straight from the Father Himself. Perhaps we're beating a dead horse at this point. The Law of God = Law of Moses = Law of Christ.

Addressing Objections

But the "Law of Christ" is just to love each other, right? Well, actually that's not correct. Similar to the phrase "lord's day," the phrase "law of Christ" only appears once in the bible (Galatians 6:2). However, in some bibles it also appears in 1 Corinthians 9:21. We will be addressing both passages.

"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2)

Is the only commandment that Jesus expects us to fulfill the command to "bear one another's burdens"? If this is the case, then much of the world would be saved because "bearing one another's burdens" is a generally accepted moral principle in most modern societies. However, Jesus himself said that few would be saved, not many (Matthew 7:13-14). Also, Jesus gives us other commands such as to love God, to love our neighbor, to repent, to give to the poor, to forgive people of their sins against you, etc. When Jesus was asked what the most important commandments were, he never said anything about bearing one another's burdens. So what does Paul mean? He means that it is a commandment in the Torah (Law) to bear one another's burdens and thus, when we obey this commandment, we fulfill the Law in the way Christ desires. So then what about 1 Corinthians 9:21?

"To those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law" The NKJV translates "under law toward Christ" while other translations say something along the lines of "under the law of Christ." We believe that the NKJV translation here is more accurate, although we will discuss being "under the law of Christ." as well.

Paul seems to contradict himself here. He says that he is like those who are without law but, simultaneously, he is not lawless in God's eyes because he is law-abiding toward Christ. What does this mean? Perhaps it means that while he is OK with breaking human laws, he would never break God's Law. According to Christ's Law, it is OK to transgress human rules for the sake of upholding God's rules (see Matthew 15:9, Acts 4:19, Acts 5:29). This is possibly why Paul feels emboldened because although he obeys God's Law (Acts 21:24, Romans 3:31, Romans 7:25), he is freed from the bonds of human laws (see 2 Corinthians 3:12, Ephesians 6:19). This doesn't mean that we are free to disobey every law we don't like, but it does mean that we are permitted by God to break certain human rules when they hinder or interfere with serving Him. If there is a ban on owning bibles, for example, we are allowed to break this human law so that we can read the bible and study God's Law.