The Law of Christ
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2, NKJV)
Many who read and profess to believe in the Bible take the above-quoted verse to mean that, for Christians, only “the law of Christ” needs to be observed — as against the “law of Moses” (the Old Testament). In fact, for a long time it had been the practice of many evangelical organizations to issue in their mission fields only the New Testament (with perhaps the Old Testament books of The Psalms and The Proverbs added at the end of the New Testament copies). [See: Moses and Jesus -- Are They Contraries?].
Now, of course, most in the evangelical circles understand that many New Testament scriptures quote or somehow derive from the Old Testament. And so, evangelical mission workers now use the entire Holy Bible — both the Old Testament and the New — in disseminating the gospel of Jesus Christ. This enables people to check the Old Testament context of scriptures found in the New Testament — something that is to be lauded and encouraged.
Nevertheless, the thrust in the teaching of evangelicals is that “the law of Christ” includes only those commandments, instructions, ordinances, etc. that Jesus Christ Himself directly and personally instituted while He walked this earth some 2,000 years ago. These teachings are found in the “gospels” (or the “good news”) about Christ’s life, teachings and works as recorded in the first four books of the New Testament — “The Gospels” according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Since Christ’s earthly “mission” included training and deploying disciples who could and would teach all nations “to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20), the rest of the New Testament books (letters mostly written by the apostle Paul, others by the apostles John, Peter, James, Jude, the Book of Acts by the physician Luke, and the book of Revelation by John) also teach “the law of Christ.”
The assumption seems to be that the Old Testament does not teach “the law of Christ” or that “the law of Christ” has superseded the “law of Moses” (that is, the Old Testament).
Stereotypes of the Old and New Testaments
The Old Testament has been perceived by many, if not most, evangelicals (or “Protestants”) as bearing the obsolete message (bad news!) of a wrathful, hateful and vengeful God who brought harsh judgment and condemnation upon sinful mankind — not a God of love.
In contrast, the New Testament has been perceived as bearing the message (good news!) of Christ as the God-Man who brought grace, mercy, gentleness, forgiveness — in a word, love — to sinful mankind.
Now, there are quite a number of issues that can be raised with these simple stereotypes of the Old and the New Testaments. I trust that many sincere Bible students can see these issues and want sincerely to have them cleared up by harmonizing the intents of both Testaments.
Just who was Jesus?
First, I believe, we need to ascertain what the Bible (especially the New Testament) reveals about who, really, Jesus was — and is. What is Jesus’ connection with the Old Testament: the “LORD” (and various other names of the Divine Being) and everything that book says about Him and His works?
Any honest student of the Bible — both the Old Testament and the New — can easily find scriptures in the New Testament that clearly and plainly point to Christ’s true identity as our Creator God. Let me point out a few of those scriptures and refer you to an article that elaborates more on who The True Christ is. [See also: Peter Knew "The Holy One."]
- John 1:1-3, 10, 14 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made….He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him….And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The “Word” (from the Greek logos) refers here to the Creator God who made all things, by simply commanding them into existence (Psalm 148:5). He is the God (translated from the Hebrew Elohim) who created all things detailed in Genesis 1 and 2. The “Word” who “became flesh and dwelt among us” [the theological term is "incarnation"] refers to none other than Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1:2; Colossians 1:15-17; Ephesians 3:9 corroborate this connection between Jesus Christ and the Creator — the God or LORD of the Old Testament.
- 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 – “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of the spiritual Rock that followed, and that Rock was Christ.”
The “Rock” was the Spirit behind the physical “rock” which Moses struck when the children of Israel complained about the lack of water in two places — Massah and Meribah (Exodus 17:17; Numbers 20:2-13). As Paul explains, that spiritual Rock — the God of the Old Testament — was Christ, or that God who became the Man Jesus Christ in the New Testament! The book of The Psalms extols and praises God abundantly as the “Rock” of Israel (Psalm 18:2, 31, 46; 28:1; 31:3, etc., etc.).
Interestingly, Hebrews 11:24-26 says this about Moses: “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the Son of Pharoah’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God [the Israelites] than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.” Moses knew the God of the Old Testament who would later become the Christ, and whom he chose instead of the glory of Egypt that he could have enjoyed, in sin.
The apostle Peter declared that the prophets of the Old Testament (Moses being one of them) had “…the Spirit of Christ …in them” (1 Peter 1:10-11). Moses, in fact, prophesied before the children of Israel that at later times “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear…” (Deuteronomy 18:15). God had told Moses about that Prophet, that the LORD would put His words in that Prophet’s mouth, and He would speak to the people of Israel all that the LORD commanded Him (verse 18). The LORD also said that He would require it from [that is, call to accounting] whoever would not hear [or obey] the LORD’s words which that Prophet speaks in the LORD’s name (verse 19). That “Prophet” was — and is — Jesus Christ!
Jesus fulfilled that prophecy when He cried out to the Jews: “…if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world [see John 3:17]. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken on My own authority but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak” (John 12:47-50). And the Jews, in general, acknowledged Jesus as a “prophet” (Matthew 21:46; John 7:40; 9:17; Luke 7:11-17, 39).
Who, then, gave the Ten Commandments to Israel?
With these scriptures just quoted, how can anyone argue that the God who gave the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai could not be that same God who later — by some mysterious, divine power which man cannot fully comprehend — became the Jesus Christ of the New Testament?
Not only did that God who later became Jesus Christ give the Ten Commandments to Israel. That God also gave, through Moses, the statutes, ordinances and testimonies to Israel — the law that defines what sin is and what righteousness is [see: Transgressions Under the First Covenant].
The “dichotomy” [sharp division into two] that many Bible students have made between the “law of Christ” and the “law” of the Old Testament is uncalled for! Why? Because it was — and is — the same Jesus Christ who gave the Old Testament law and who gave “new commandments” as elaborated in the New Testament (for example, John 13:34). Thus, the “law of Christ” includes — and not excludes — the Ten Commandments and other Old Testament laws that elaborate on them concerning specific aspects of life.
During His temptation by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus answered: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God ” (Matthew 4:4, quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3). The “every word” of God that man is to live by (to observe as a way of life) was everything that was contained in the existing Scriptures then — the Old Testament. Jesus said that man is to live by that word — as well as the word that has come to us through Jesus Christ of Nazareth and His apostles in the New Testament.
How Jesus “fulfilled” the law
Jesus definitely 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).
Firstly, He fulfilled the Law (concerning animal, cereal and drink offerings) as well as the prophecies about His taking mankind’s sin upon Himself, through the sacrifice of Himself on the cross at Calvary [see: Law Added to Law Transgressed and Freed From Bondage].
Secondly, Jesus fulfilled the Law when He filled the Law to the full. How? By requiring obedience not merely to the letter of the law (that is, outwardly), but more especially in the spirit or inner intents of the heart. A prime example of this is His words in Matthew 5:27-28 — “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Instead of minimizing the original commandment against actually committing adultery, Jesus made the commandment more weighty and binding by applying it to the heart and intents — what only God can see!
Christ’s “fulfilling” the Law does not mean that Jesus fulfilled — obeyed or kept — the Law for mankind in such a way that, as some understand it wrongly, man does not need to keep the Law himself (“Christ did it for us!”). Christ telling sinners to “go and sin no more” (John 5:14; 8:11) means that there’s still God’s law for us to obey and not transgress (or sin). The rest of the New Testament teaches obedience to God, living pure, holy lives [see: Transgressions Under the First Covenant, God's Spirit and Obedience, and Saved for Good Works].
Is the Old Testament Law all harsh?
Because there are indeed laws in the Old Testament (particularly the “judgments”) that command putting to death the persons who commit capital sins (see Exodus 21-22, for examples), the impression of many is that the “Law” (often known as the “law of Moses”) is harsh, unmerciful and unloving. Many think that the God of the Old Testament was — or is — nothing but a vengeful and wrathful God. After all, didn’t Paul say that Moses’ ministry was “the ministry of death” (2 Corinthians 3:7)?
In contrast, Jesus came with gentleness, meekness and lowliness of heart (Matthew 11:29). He “…went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38). He died on the cross and rose again to ransom mankind from sin and death (1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 9:26-28; 1 Corinthians 15:17). And He ascended to heaven, there to intercede as High Priest with God the Father on our behalf as sinners (Hebrews 2:17-18; 7:24-25). The impression of many is that Jesus was so gentle that He “couldn’t hurt a fly.”
Both impressions are true, of course — but only partly so! If we compare the Old and the New Testaments to two separate coins, the above impressions are seeing but one side of each coin!
There is also a “softer” side to the Old Testament. And there is also a “harsher” side to the New Testament. In the final analysis, we will find complete harmony and continuity between the two!
The softer side of the Old Testament
If we look objectively at the commandments which God gave to Israel, we will find that love is their motive force: love for God and love for neighbor (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18). Just as Jesus said, in Matthew 22:37-40, all the Law and the Prophets hang upon (or are connected to) the two “great commandments” — love for God and love for neighbor. They are like branches and twigs arising from the main trunk of the tree. There are what we may call major and minor commandments — some weightier, some less so (Matthew 23:23). Jesus talked about “the least of these commandments” (Matthew 5:19).
Let’s take, for example, what seems like one the the “least” of God’s commandments, in Deuteronomy 23:12-14 — “Also you shall have a place outside the camp, where you may go out; and you shall have an implement [apparently a kind of shovel or trowel] among your equipment, and when you sit down outside [that is, to relieve yourself -- "Asian-style," as some call it!], you shall dig with it and turn and cover your refuse. For the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you.”
This simple rule of sanitation has not been observed in the less developed nations, and that’s where we see a high incidence of E.-coli related and other diseases, often resulting in epidemics and early deaths. This rule applies not only to personal bodily wastes, but also to wastes improperly disposed of from kitchens, from factories, from offices and from hospitals everywhere on earth. Not only are personal lives degraded; the environment also suffers severely. Ever-worsening global pollution has become a more horrible nightmare than ever before — with little hope in sight! [See: "The Next Chapter of History."]
Not doing as God commands in this seemingly simple rule shows a lack of love and respect for oneself, for fellow human beings, for the community, for the environment. It definitely shows a lack of love and respect for our God who has generously given us this “good earth!”
As I might paraphrase the late American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s famous words when he made the first human step on the moon in 1969: One small misstep of many a man, a giant leap for mankind’s polluting of the earth! Is it any wonder that, for most people, God seems to be so far away and they don’t seem to be making much headway in solving their environmental and other problems?
Here are other seemingly “minor” commandments of God that show love for neighbor:
- Deuteronomy 22:1-3 — Returning lost and found property to its owner. This has become such a rarity in our society today that one who returns lost money or lost property often makes news headlines!
- Deuteronomy 22:4 – Helping to lift up another person’s fallen animal. The more should this apply to a helping a person who figures in an accident.
- Deuteronomy 22:8 – Securing a roof [flat top as in many Middle Eastern houses] with a “parapet” or some kind of railing around the roof’s perimeter for people’s safety. The many devices that people have made, and measures taken, to ensure safety certainly show love and concern for others. A similar principle of safety is found in Exodus 21:33, about not leaving an open pit uncovered — a danger to both human and animal life.
- Deuteronomy 24:19-22 – Leaving a portion of one’s harvest for the poorest in the neighborhood. If people today would take it upon themselves to do this kind and selfless act of love, how much faster the alleviation of poverty would happen than through community or national channels!
There are many more such laws in the Old Testament, but I trust that those cited here give us a good sampling.
Besides showing His wrath for evil deeds, the God of the Old Testament declares Himself to be “…the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” (Exodus 34:6-7).
Israel’s great King David (“a man after God’s own heart,” Acts 13:22) also declared about God: “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:8-10; compare with Ezra 9:13). Psalm 136 is a profuse acknowledgment of God’s mercy, which “endures forever.”
From the beginning, God has always shown mercy to those He has appointed to salvation, according to His perfect will. [See: Predestination.] And now that we have established Jesus Christ to be the God of the Old Testament as well as the New, we will understand better the often-quoted passage, Hebrews 13:8 — “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Jesus was the merciful God, quoted in Malachi 3:6, who said: “For I am the LORD, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” [See: Of Dungeons and Prisons and Just What Does God Mean -- "I Do Not Change?"]
The harsher side of the New Testament
A person who sees only the “gentle, meek and mild” side of Jesus Christ must be wearing some blinders! The popular American religious writer Phillip Yancey wrote a book titled The Jesus I Never Knew. There’s the other side of Christ that, it seems, many Bible readers don’t want to acknowledge. They only see Jesus Christ as a “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). They seem to overlook such scriptures as Revelation 5:5, in which John refers to Jesus also as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.”
Jesus certainly showed this “Lion” side of His person when He overturned the money-changers’ tables and loosed the merchants’ sacrificial animals for sale at an area in the temple at Jerusalem [what was known as "the court of the Gentiles," a place of "prayer for all nations"] — not once but twice (John 1:13-17; Matthew 21:12-13, etc.). Jesus also did not mince words in confronting the hypocrisy of the religious leaders and hardhearted sinners in His time. Matthew 23 especially records His tirade against those leaders (see also Mark 12:38-40; Luke 20:45-47). He reproved even His own disciples often for their wrong thoughts and attitudes (Matthew 16:22-23; 17:14-20; 20:20-28; Mark 16:9-14, etc.).
True, when Jesus first came as the God-Man for the purpose of death so sinful mankind can be forgiven of sin, He said that God (the Father) did not send His Son (Jesus) “…into the world to condemn [or judge] the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). But when He returns – perhaps in our lifetime! — Jesus will come to judge the earth (John 5:24-30). (David, in Psalm 96:13, prophesied about this soon-coming event — “For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with His wrath.”)
Interestingly, Revelation 17:14 shows Jesus as “the Lamb” who will overcome all human opposition when He returns to take power over the nations. What a “Lamb”! Jesus embodies both the gentleness of a lamb and the fury and power of a lion! Revelation 15 through 19 details how the soon-returning Christ will pour out God’s “seven last plagues” — completing God’s wrath upon wicked mankind. He is going to “destroy those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18). This is going to be the fulfillment of Old Testament, as well as New Testament, prophecies about Christ’s return to judge the earth (Isaiah 66:15-16; 24:1-23; Joel 2:1-11; Zephaniah 1:14-18; Zechariah 14:1-7; Malachi 4:1, 2; Thessalonians 1:7-9; 2:8-12, etc.).
In the final judgment, God will lock up Satan (the”father” of all liars and other sinners, John 8:44) in a place of restraint (called “the abyss” or “bottomless pit,” Revelation 20:1-4), where he and his demons can no longer influence mankind. At the end of the ages — after all of mankind will have had their chance to receive salvation, or reject it — those who choose to remain wicked will be thrown into a “lake of fire,” to suffer the “second death” (Revelation 20:13-15; 21:8), from which there is no hope of ever being made alive again. [See: Predestination.]
Paul harmonizes the old and the new
The apostle Paul had a unique mission from Christ. He was called to minister not only to the Gentiles but also to kings and the children of Israel (Acts 9:15). He learned all that he taught, not from “flesh and blood” but directly from the resurrected Christ Himself (Galatians 1:11-12, 15-17). He could not have learned such a whole gamut of teachings as we find in his epistles in just one cursory encounter with Christ on the Road to Damascus, nor in the few days he spent with the disciples in that city (Acts 9:19; 22:10)!
Paul said that he “went to Arabia” before he returned again to Damascus (Galatians 1:17) — where we find him preaching Christ in the synagogues (Acts 9:20). It’s quite possible that Paul was with Christ in Mount Sinai (or Mount Horeb), which Paul says is in Arabia (Galatians 4:25). This is the same mountain where the LORD of the Old Testament (who later became Jesus Christ; see: The True Christ) had met with Moses (Exodus 3; 19-31, etc.) and Elijah (1 Kings 19). [This could possibly also have been the same "holy mountain" to which Jesus took Peter, James and John and where they saw a vision of Jesus transfigured with Moses and Elijah appearing with Him (Matthew 17:1-9, etc.; 2 Peter 1:16-18).] Perhaps this is where Paul received “the abundance of the revelations” as Jesus promised him (2 Corinthians 12:7; Acts 9:16; 26:16).
As explained earlier, Paul understood well that the God of the Old Testament was — and is — the same God who, by God’s unfathomable power, became the God-Man Jesus. As such, Paul also understood how the “law of God” that defines sin and righteous conduct is “holy and just and good…is spiritual” (Romans 7:12, 14), and is something that Jesus had not come to abolish, nor does faith make void or annul (Matthew 5:17; Romans 3:31). Paul understood that Christ was the “Rock” that provided for the children of Israel in their wilderness sojourn (1 Corinthians 10:1-4) — and who gave Israel the Ten Commandments and other laws of God.
Therefore, Paul did not mean to limit the “law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2) to only his (Paul’s) teachings about that law through his letters and personal preaching, and whatever preaching was available from the other apostles then. Paul understood the intent of the Old Testament law as “love” for one’s neighbor (Romans 13:8-10) and for God (1 Corinthians 2:9; 16:22; 10:14; 1 Timothy 1:20). He understood that the “law of Christ” also includes the “law” of God in the Old Testament.
What Paul understood clearly — and what we all should understand clearly as well — was that Jesus came to offer the only way out of sin (which is disobedience to God’s law as instituted in the Old Testament) and its consequence, death (Romans 6:23; 7:24-15; 8:12-4). [See: Freed From Bondage, Transgressions Under the First Covenant, Law Added to Law Transgressed, and No Walls, No Ceiling?]
Paul harmonized the Old Testament and the New Testament teachings well when he wrote that “the gospel” had been preached to Abraham (Galatians 3:8) as well as to Israel of old (Hebrews 3:16-4:2; compare with 1 Peter 4:6). [See: Who Wrote the Letter to the Hebrews?]
It is indeed a false “gospel” which presents Jesus as a harmless God-Man who dispensed only grace and mercy. This is presenting a false “Christ” — and Jesus said many such “Christs” will proliferate in these our “end times” (Matthew 24:23-25). [See: Beware of False Prophets and The True Christ.]
It is also a false “gospel” (if we can call that “good news”) which presents Jesus only as a merciless “God of War” who is bent on destroying evil mankind with “fire and brimstone” out of great wrath and hatred. [See: Can We Love and Fear God at the Same Time? and The Four Dimensions of Christ's Love.]
As theologians would put it, it’s not a case of “either/or” but of “both/and.” Paul understood this well — and he preached it in his “gospel.” This is what we might call the truly “full gospel.” [See: A Great Omission in Doing the "Great Commission."]
Notice what Paul wrote, in Romans 1:18 — “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” To many who may have stereotyped Paul’s message as that only of God’s love, grace and kindness, this comes as a surprise!
Paul continues, in Romans 2:2-3, 5-6, 8-9 — “But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth [God's Word is truth, said Jesus in John 17:17] against those who practice such things [things listed in Romans 1:28-32]. And do you think this, O man [Paul meant this message for all men, Jew or Gentile, as we will see], you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God…But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’…to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness [not keeping God's commandments, Psalm 119:172] — indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek [Gentile]…”
In contrast, Paul says this about those who acknowledge the goodness of God and thus repent — “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance…[God] who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality … glory, honor and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek [Gentile]. For there is no partiality with God…in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel” (Romans 2:4, 6-7, 10-11, 16).
Analogy of the olive tree
Addressing both Jewish and Gentile Christians, Paul compared the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16) to a God-cultivated olive tree (Romans 11:16-36). He talked about Israel as a holy “firstfruit,” being the product of that tree, whose roots and branches are holy [see: Predestination]. But, as their nation’s history shows, most of the children of Israel were disobedient and turned out “unholy” and thus were like branches of that tree which were lopped off by God — at least, for a time. In their place, “branches” of a “wild olive tree” [referring to Greeks or Gentiles] were “grafted” into the olive tree of God’s planting — Israel — thereby making them able to partake of God’s spiritual riches which God gave Israel [see: No Walls, No Ceiling?].
Paul then admonished these Gentiles: “You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’ Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches [Israelites], He may not spare you either. Therefore, consider the goodness and severity of God : on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?” (verses 19-24).
Paul here shows clearly that God judges both Israelite and Gentile on the same basis: obedience or disobedience to God’s law as God gave it to Israel! [See: Transgressions Under the First Covenant and God's Kingdom and Israel.]
Old Testament laws fulfilled
Paul thus understood which laws or ordinances of the Old Testament have been fulfilled by Christ and are no longer required of Christians to the strict letter of the law. These include circumcision, the various ordinances of animal, cereal and drink offerings for sin, the ordinances of washings, temple worship, etc. (Hebrews 9:8-10). [See: Freed From Bondage and Law Added to Law Transgressed].
Thus, Christians have their true “circumcision” (that of the heart) in Christ — the cleansing of their “uncircumcision” or sin, through His death and resurrection (Colossians 2:11-15; 1 Corinthians 15:17). Unlike the Jews of old, Christians are now justified from sin (forgiven) not through observing the various ordinances of animal and cereal sacrifices and washings, but through the body and blood of Jesus Christ, His resurrection and the Holy Spirit that He imparts to those who truly believe in Him. [See: Two Goats Two Together.]
The Spirit of Christ in Christians helps them in their weaknesses — helps them to obey “the law of Christ,” which is but a continuation of the law which He, after all, had given to Israel in the Old Testament. [See: God's Spirit and Obedience and The Higher Law of the Spirit.]
Truly, Paul fitly filled Jesus’ description of a “scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven” — “like a householder who brings out of his treasure things old and new” (Matthew 13:52). Paul blended well the teachings of both the Old Testament and the New into a meaningful, harmonious revelation from God that the Bible is.
What about “tassels”?
Some have made fun of Numbers 15:37-40 as an “odd” instruction were Christians to obey it literally today. Here God told Moses: “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels ["fringes," KJV] on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God.”
How can this possibly be a part of “the law of Christ”?
As a people whom God had not given the heart to fear Him and obey His commandments (Deuteronomy 5:29), the children of Israel needed some “visual aid” to remind them about God’s commandments , and to do them. God even commanded them to write God’s words “on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” as a visual reminder when teaching their children about God’s ways (Deuteronomy 11:18-21).
Would Christians need the same reminders today?
God has given Christians a better, more effective and more durable reminder about God’s commandments and words than tassels and writings on doorposts and gates! What is it? The gift of God’s Holy Spirit! As Jesus promised, God has sent the Spirit of His Son (Jesus) to His true believers. That Spirit, Jesus said, “will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). The apostles knew that Jesus was the “Holy One of Israel” whose words are in the Old Testament. [See: Peter Knew "The Holy One" and God's Spirit and Obedience.]
What need is there for Christians to write God’s commandments on their doorposts and gates when God has promised to put His laws in their minds and write them on their hearts (Hebrews 8:10; 10:16)? And at no other time in man’s history than today has the Holy Bible become easily available to everyone — whether in print or in electronic form (sound and text).
At any rate, what’s so bad or funny about a Christian opting to wear tassels or fringes at the edges of his or her clothing — even merely as a fashion statement? To be honest, a lot of other “fashion statements” are weirder and more out of this world than these tassels!
It’s like the issue of circumcision — which is now a non-issue with God. God looks on the inside – the heart — not on the outside. God is more concerned about us being “circumcised in the heart,” not in the mere flesh (Romans 2:39; Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6).
While circumcision is now no longer, through Christ, a requirement or a “status symbol” for acceptance by God, it is not a sin to be circumcised for perhaps hygienic or other reasons.
Right on the heels of the watermark conference of church leaders which decided that circumcision of Gentile converts to the Christian faith is no longer necessary (Acts 15), Paul circumcised the half-Greek, half-Jew Timothy (Acts 16:1-3). Why? “…because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his [Timothy's] father was Greek.” These Jews had not fully understood the truth of the matter and, under the circumstances, Paul became “a Jew to the Jews” in order to win them to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:20).
However, when it came to Titus, who was 100% Gentile, Paul would not give an inch to some Jews’ pressure to circumcise Titus. [See: Freed From Bondage.]
Peace to the obedient
Jesus said that He did not come to bring peace on earth — or to the world (Matthew 10:34). [See: World Peace -- At Last!] But to His “elect” [see: Predestination] He has promised: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
As the God of the Old Testament and the Maker and Holy One of Israel who does not change, Jesus tells us who are part of “the Israel of God”: “Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea [that is, endless]” (Isaiah 48:18; 45:11).
Do you want that kind of peace? Then keep “the law of Christ” — that found not only in the New Testament but in the Old Testament as well!
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.