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The Christmas Conspiracy




"'. . . that He may teach us about His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.'
For from Zion will go forth the Law
Even the Word of God from Jerusalem
Micah 4:2

Varieties of "Law"

The Bible uses the word "law" in many different ways. Paul speaks of "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:2). He says "the law is holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good" (Romans 7:12). There is, he says, "another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Romans 7:23). Jesus speaks of "the Law and the prophets" (Matthew 5:17-20). Quick conclusions about the meaning of the word "law" in Scripture cannot be made; the word is clearly used in many different ways. Let's look at a few of the uses.

Law and Liturgy

Often the word "law" speaks of the ceremonial or "pedagogical law" of the Old Testament. In the New Covenant, we recognize that many laws in the Old Testament were given as teaching devices which would give instruction in the form of pictures, telling people about the work of the Savior and His relationship to His people in the latter days. Although we do not obey the laws of the Israelite church-state in the same way they were obeyed in the Old Covenant, we nevertheless obey them! For example, we are obligated to obey many commandments concerning the temple,[26] and the shedding of the blood of the sacrificial lamb.[27] Even in the New Covenant, the believer is required to bring sweet-smelling sacrifices before God.[28]

All of these good works were pictured by the Old Testament ceremonies, and the Old Testament saints knew that they were only instructional, or illustrative laws.[29] The differences between the two covenants can hardly be overestimated,[30] but the differences are not really in the requirements of the Law.

As Jesus uses the word "law" (Matthew 5:17-20) we understand two things: the first five books of the Bible, as they are commonly called "the law," and a body of laws that have bound men since the Garden of Eden. When God's people disobeyed these laws, God sent Covenant Messengers (prophets) to warn the people of the consequences of their disobedience to God's covenant. The prophets gave inSpired applications of the Law of God and these applications are also given for our obedience. We are to recognize "the law and the prophets" as the abiding Word of God.

The most tempting thing for people to do has always been to focus in on the ceremonial teaching laws and ignore the practical moral laws. The prophets continually had to warn the Israelites that they were focusing on the pedagogical laws and ignoring both their meaning and the weightier matters of the Law (cf. Matthew 23:23). Christ's teachings were not replacements of the Law, but were designed to purify the Law from the distortions of sinful men,[31] and were often simply summaries of all that was said by the Law and the Prophets.[32] Thus when Micah says that "He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths" and that "the Law shall go forth out of Zion, and the Word of the LORD from Jerusalem,"[33] we know that he is speaking of the abiding "moral law," not the "ceremonial" or "pedagogical law."[34]

Our basic approach to the Old Testament should be that if the New Testament does not specifically alter it, as it does the pedagogical law, it stands as written[35] and we are to continue obeying it.[36]

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(26) 1 Corinthians 3:16ff.; 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 6:16-19.

(27) Hebrews 9:22; John 1: 36.

(28) Romans 12:1; Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 13:15-16; 1 Peter 2:5.

(29) Psalm 51:16; Hosea 6:6; Hebrews 10:4-9; 2 Chronicles 30:18-20.

(30) Galatians 3:23-26; 2 Corinthians 3:11ff.

(31) cf. Matthew 15:1-9.

(32) Matthew 7:16; 22:40.

(33) Micah 4:2; John 4:20-26.

(34) see Micah 6:7-8.

(35) John 10:35.

(36) 2 Timothy 3:14-17, speaking at this time of the Old Testament.