More thinking about the Law

My previous post doesn’t tell the whole story - of course - how could it? Following a conversation with a friend, I’ve decided to expand on it a little. This expansion is a bit ‘rough and ready’ - it hasn’t been subject to my usual level of diligence, so it may have even more lacunae than usual. Bearing that in mind, here goes.

Many Christians treat the following part of the Gospel of Matthew as ‘doubling down’ on the need to obey the commandments.

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister, will be subject to judgment…” Matthew 5:20-22

I have my doubts though, especially given that (a) the commandments were never aimed at Gentiles and (b) Jesus fulfilled, completed, accomplished, all of the requirements of the Law of Moses - so that we aren’t bound by it - see my previous post.

The Ten Commandments

So, what’s the deal with the Ten Commandments (and the Law of Moses in general)?

What we’ve been taught to think, is that they were given as a set of rules which God expected humans to obey in order to live righteously and to 'stay on God’s good side’. Whether, with the institution of the New Covenant, we’re still supposed to obey them is a knotty problem which has caused a good deal of argument. Effectively:

Some hold to the view that the New Covenant sort of ‘supplements’ the old, and that we still have to obey all the laws or we won’t be ‘saved’ (but God has given us the Holy Spirit to give us the strength to do so?).

Others hold that the New Covenant entirely replaces the Old; and that, therefore, we are not bound to obey them, because we gain our righteousness from Christ’s death on the cross. The Apostle Paul seems to be in this camp - he makes it quite clear that the Mosaic Law never applied to Gentiles before, and so it absolutely couldn’t now.

Paul supported this idea by pointing out that the Gentiles were being filled with the Holy Spirit when they first believed in Christ, not after they had become Torah observant:

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2022