First, more correctly would be for us to refer to the two covenants as the “Earthly/Fleshly/Temporary OLD COVENANT” and the “Spiritual/Better/Eternal NEW COVENANT.” Hebrews 8:6-13.
Let us now turn to look at some clear Scriptures which testify how “The Law” had a definite beginning at a point in time, and also a definite termination. (By “LAW” we mean the Mosaic system of statutes, ordinances, and commandments)
The Law, which was designated as the Mosaic code, came into being with Moses. Let’s turn to John 1: 17: For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.“
Of course, this verse does not imply that law never existed before Moses, any more than it implies that grace and truth were not in the world before the manifestation in the flesh of the blessed eternal God the Son. Every person born after Adam (Jew or Gentile) has been under the “Law of Sin and Death” (when a person sins they bring upon him/her self condemnation under sin to eternal death)
The Law of the Jewish commonwealth did begin with Moses, and the specific display of grace and truth as seen in the New Testament did come by Jesus Christ. The Law as an active force has ceased to exist, because the physical death and literal shed blood of Christ on the cross fulfilled all the requirements of the law.
Romans 10:4, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes!”
2 Cor. 3:1-13 Paul says the letter/law [Ten Commandments] kills – it applies comprehensive death (Sin-Death: defiled conscience, guilt, shame, broken relationship, condemnation; and Eternal Death: eternal conscious separation from God after physical death in the Lake of Fire), but he says that they were “…ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter [Ten Commandments]…for the letter kills…the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones…” Man could never keep the Law. It could only increase and magnify the condemnation under sin to eternal death.
Rom. 7:9-11, “…sin became revealed and clear to me (revived) and I realized how condemned to eternal death I was (died)…the commandment…I found to bring more clarity to realize my condemnation(death)…sin…by the commandment…condemned me to eternal death(killed me).” The law magnified the condemnation to eternal death. It was as if looking in a mirror to see how as our sin increases so does our condemnation to eternal death.
Gal. 3:19 Paul tells us that the law, “…was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made…”
Gal. 3:24-27 The Law was to be a tutor to magnify man’s sinfulness and to bring him to Christ, where in “faith” he would “put on” Christ’s righteous fulfillment of all of the law on his behalf. Christ would be the “end of the law” to all who would believe (as we saw above in Rom. 10:4).
THE LAW FOR ISRAEL:
The Old Covenant Law was “addressed to and given to” one people, and only one – “Israel.”
Deut. 4:1, 7-8 Moses asked Israel: “And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?”
Deut. 4:44-45 He specified further that “Now this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel. These are the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which Moses spoke to the children of Israel after they came out of Egypt”
John 15:24-25 The Lord Jesus in His upper-room discourse with His disciples, said, “But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, …”
Rom. 9:3-5 Paul, listing the advantages of Israel before Christ’s ministry, declares: “…my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.”
Tit. 2:11 The law was shown that it was not given to all men, however, to whom is grace offered? “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,”
This may come as a difficult saying for some, but the Bible clearly states that the Ten Commandments were not given for all mankind, but for Israel alone. One proof of this fact is seen in the salutation, or heading, in the very scriptures of the Ten Commandments themselves:
Exod. 20:1-2: “And God spoke all these words, saying: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.’”
Then after the commandments were written and given to Moses:
Exod. 20:20 says, “Moses said to the people(Israel), ‘Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.’”
How this Old Covenant was not meant for the Gentiles is further seen from the study of the following passages:
Eph 2:11-12: “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh – who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands – that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”
Deut. 4:12-14, “And the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; you only heard a voice. So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone. And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might observe them in the land which you cross over to possess.”
Deut. 9:9-11 “…I went up into the mountains to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the Lord made with you…the Lord gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant.”
Exod. 34:1; 27-28 “Then the Lord said to Moses,…I have made a covenant with you and with Israel…He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.”
Deut 5:1-5; 15 & 22; 1 Kings 8:9 The Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel of that time, and not with their fathers. This covenant was not in existence before that time, for anyone, including the Patriarchs.
- We could go through verse upon verse in the next many chapters which all say “You – referring to Israel alone.”
**Psa. 147:19-20 is one of the clearest and direct passages in the Bible explaining how it was “only” OC Israel who were given the law, “He declares his word to Jacob, His statutes and rules to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know His rules.”
Exod. 31:12-18, “Speak to the children of Israel…my Sabbaths you shall keep…sign between Me and you…holy to you…the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath…sign between Me and the children of Israel…”
Ezek. 20:5-20, “I chose Israel…to bring them out of the land of Egypt…and gave them my statutes and showed them My judgments…I gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me…”
So, the Sabbath, as we just saw, was a special sign of the Old Covenant between God and Israel. Let’s keep all of this in context and understand the importance of how we need to read the Bible with the audience being spoken to in mind, and their culture/mindset, and the purpose of what is being spoken, and by whom.
The New Testament and Christ referencing the Law (remember “Audience Relevance”):
Matt. 12:1-2; 6-8 Jesus, a Jew, was speaking to the Jews about their covenant between God and them, and He is showing that within Him is the fulfillment of all law requirements, and He is the Lord of “even” this strictly enforced sign of their covenant, AND He is confirming that all those who are His true followers, are not under any of the law. Jesus was a Jew teaching the Jews.
Matt 5:17 notice it says “Christ” came to fulfill the law – NOT us – as this is NOT possible. He was a Jew speaking to Jews, under the Jewish Old Covenant, and saying He would fulfill the earthly requirements they could not. So then the New Covenant, written upon the hearts of God’s children – Jew/Gentile, would be the Forever/Eternal “better promises” covenant.
Look how in the New Testament every one of the 10 commandments, except the Sabbath, are re-stated, and affirmed for the New Covenant believer – but also notice how they are re-stated to a far deeper level internalized now, and written upon our hearts, and not Tablets of Stone. The Sabbath, as we saw was a special sign of the Old Covenant between God and the physical earthly nation of Israel.
** Let us now look in context and the audience relevance for the teachings on all of the law, including the Sabbaths, to the Gentiles (which in the New Covenant will now be for the entire world, as there is neither Jew nor Gentile anymore):
Let’s read again Rom. 9:3-5, “…my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.”
Rom 2:12-15, “…sinned without The Law (The Tablets of Stone) will also perish without law…sinned in the law will be judged by the law…for when Gentiles, who do not have the law,…” (Think of the heathen in the jungle tribes that have come and gone in history already – how will they be judged – not by the Old Covenant 10 commandments given to Israel – vs. 14 is clear that they did not have The Law (Mosaic Law). (Man was created in the image of God. He ate of the tree of the knowledge of Good/Evil and right and wrong was impressed in his conscience…varying degrees in different cultures. Embedded into his conscience was the Law of Sin and Death (you sin, you are condemned to eternal death). (That being true, it is also an important fact to know that of all the nations and peoples ever discovered throughout history – not a single one of them ever practiced a Sabbath, or even had a concept of one. This was never impressed upon the conscience of man, and we understand this now with the scriptures we have studied of how the Sabbath was given by God to only Israel at Mt. Sinai as a unique sign (seal) between Him and them of their Old Covenant)).
Eph. 2:8-22 recall that before Christ the Gentiles were strangers from the covenants of promise…no hope and without God.
Gal. 3:7-8, 13-14, 16-19, 24-25, 28-29 (The Jews (Judiazers) were trying to bring in the Law to this Gentile church, and Paul was telling these Gentile Christians – NO! Our “better promises” covenant was in existence before the Jewish covenant, and we New Covenant Christians are not under any of that earthly system)
Heb. 10:1 “The law…shadow…” (Mosaic Law)
Col. 2:16-17 “Festival, New Moon, Sabbaths…shadow…the substance/reality/completion is Christ” (Written to the Jew/Gentile Christians in the church in Colosse regarding the entire Mosaic Law)
Acts 15:4-10, 19-20 The Old Covenant (OC) Law was a burden that even their OC Hebrew fathers could not bear. Gentile New Covenant believers were never, ever, put under the “Law.”
See also related “Topic Studies & Terms”:
For a more in-depth study see the related full “Study Series” (available upon request if not hyperlinked):