The Law of Moses and the Law of Christ

If a person comes to faith in the Messiah today, how should this believer now live, under the Law of Moses or under the Law of Christ? What is the relation, if any, between the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ? This question is especially important to Jews.

God gave Moses the 10 commandments on tablets of stone, but from Exodus until the end of Deuteronomy, God gave Moses another 603 commandments. The Old Testament does not say it, but the New Testament confirms that God gave these additional 603 commandments via angels (Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2). The Law of Moses therefore consisted of 613 commandments, not just 10.

The Mosaic Covenant with its Law of Moses was a unit. Some people want to divide this Law into ceremonial, legal and moral commandments, but Scripture always refers to this Law in the singular — it is one Law of Moses given to the nation Israel —and James confirms the principle of the unity of the Law of Moses: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all”. If you broke one of the Mosaic Law’s 613 commandments, you broke them all, because the Law of Moses was a unit and one cannot divide them into parts and then do away with some and not also with other parts.

Five purposes of the Law of Moses can be mentioned:

1. It revealed the holiness of God, the standard of righteousness which God commanded for a proper relationship with Him.

2. It provided the rule of conduct for Jews as well as Gentile proselytes during the time that the Law of Moses was in force (cf. Romans 3:20, 28).

3. The Law of Moses revealed sin (Romans 3:19-20; 5:20; 7:7).

4. Another purpose, somewhat strange, was to make sin abound even more (Romans 5:20; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:56). This is due to the sin-nature that all human beings have after the fall (except Jesus in his humanity). When the Law of Moses said to the Jews, “you shall not”, the sin-nature said “oh yes I will”; when the Mosaic Law said “you must do this”, the sin-nature said “oh no I won’t”. For this reason, sin increased even though the Law of Moses was given.

5. The Law of Moses was to drive a person to faith in the Messiah, as Galatians 3:24 teaches: “So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor”.

Now that Christ has already come and died on the cross for the sins of the whole world, are believers still obligated to keep the Law of Moses? The clear-cut teaching of the New Testament is that the Law of Moses has been rendered inoperative with the death of Christ. This is firstly evident from Romans 10:4: “For Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to everyone who believes”. Galatians 3:19 says that the Law of Moses was an addition to the Abrahamic Covenant, added for the purpose of making sin very clear so that all will know they have fallen short of God’s standard for righteousness: “What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise has been made”. The Law of Moses was temporarily added until the Seed, that is the Messiah, would come; now that He has come, the Law has been rendered inoperative at the cross of Christ, because through his death Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses.

With Christ’s death on the cross, a new priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek came into being, not according to the Levitical priesthood and Aaronic high priesthood (Hebrews 7:11-12, 18). The Law of Moses provided the basis for the Levitical priesthood, but since a new priesthood is in existence since the cross of Christ, a new law is required. This new law is the New Covenant with its Law of Christ.

Believers today are under the Law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), also described as the “Law of the Spirit of life” (Romans 8:2). The reason why there is so much confusion over the relationship of the Law of Moses to the Law of Christ is because many commandments of the Law of Christ are similar to the commandments of the Law of Moses. For example, nine of the 10 commandments of the Law of Moses are found in the Law of Christ. But this does not mean the Law of Moses is still in effect. It is not. If a believer steals today, you have broken the Law of Christ, not the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses has been rendered inoperative at the cross of Christ; it has been nullified and passed away.

Lastly, don’t think the Law of Christ allows you license to sin (it assuredly does not) or the luxury not to act. The Law of Christ impacts our lives to the nth degree. For example, under the Law of Moses the command was to love your neighbour as you love yourself, but under the Law of Christ we are to love our neighbour as Christ loves us (John 13:34).


This article partially summarises Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s The Law of Moses and the Law of Christ.

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