The Apple Of God's Eye

March 17, 2009

Is The Law Of God Abolished In The New Testament?

Do the scriptures of Col. 2:14 and Eph. 2:15 describe the law of God being done away with, as so many believe?

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:14)

“Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace (Eph. 2:15).

First, it should be understood that the word “ordinances” in these passages does not refer to God’s laws. It is translated from the Greek word “dogma” and refers to HUMAN LAWS AND DECREES — the “commandments and doctrines of men” (Col. 2:22).

These human ordinances included both the restrictive pharisaical decrees burdening the Jews and the ascetic, oppressive ordinances of “touch not, taste not” bound on the gentiles of Colossae.

Both sets of human ordinances contributed to feelings of prejudice, animosity, suspicion, and separation between the Jews and gentiles who were being called into God’s Church. These ordinances acted as a “middle wall of partition.” But, Jesus abolished that barrier through His supreme sacrifice: “For he [Christ] is our peace, who hath made both [Jew and gentile] one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Eph. 2:14).

In Paul’s day, many newly-begotten Christians continued to suffer from the burden of their former teachings. For example, at the Temple there was a literal wall which separated the court of the gentiles from that of the Jews. Death was the penalty for any gentile who dared pass it. Some converted Jews found it difficult to forget and change that deeply-ingrained part of their lives. It affected even Peter. See Galatians 2:11-12.

On the other hand, the gentiles were under the sway and influence of pagan philosophers, with their restrictive rules. Colossae was known for its ascetic society. The pagans judged their Christian neighbors for their freedom in eating the various meats ordained by God, for drinking wine, and for keeping the weekly and annual Sabbaths in the joyous manner prescribed by God. Ascetics were taught that they could receive release from their guilt by doing penance — through abstinence, fasting, and even self-inflicted punishment.

All such practices had no spiritual power or benefit, and Paul spoke out against these human standards and judgments: “Beware lest any man spoil you through [human] philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8). Christ came to pay the penalty for all our sins — to release us from the penalty of death incurred through sin and to cleanse our conscience from all guilt.

Christ abolished the ascetic ordinances of the gentile philosophers as well as the Talmudic traditions, which all were yokes of bondage. He did not do away with any part of God’s law. In fact, He made it possible for both Jew and gentile to become spiritual Israelites, the children of God (Gal. 3:26-29), so they might live together in freedom WITHIN His perfect law (Jas. 1:25). He said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17).

Yes, to fulfill, to observe, to keep — to set us a perfect example as to how we ought to live. We are to “walk, even as he [Jesus] walked” (I John 2:6). The apostle Peter wrote that Christ left “an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Pet. 2:21).

God’s law is good and for our benefit: “Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, for ever” (Deut. 4:40).

Jesus Christ did indeed do away with the ordinances of men, but the law of God is binding on us more than ever. We are to keep it in the spirit as well as the letter. Jesus said, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17).

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