The Christian’s Obligation to the Old Testament Law

OT Law

The theme of the Bible is Jesus Christ; the need humanity has for Him, His incarnation, and how, as new creatures, Christians are able to be like Him. The meaning of the word testament is covenant and the meaning for covenant is agreement. The “Old Testament” is the old covenant that God made with Abraham is that God promised him land, blessings and descendants. The Old Testament- the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings- all points to Jesus the Promised One (or Messiah). The “New Testament” or new covenant is Jesus fulfilling the Law; the gospels give the life and work of Him and the rest of the New Testament give Christians instructions on how we can grow in our new relationship as God’s children. In Romans, Paul does deal with the Mosaic Law. The Law may not play a role of justification; however, it has a role in God’s plan of salvation.[1] Based on Romans 8:4 (. . . so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.), the Christian’s obligation to the Old Testament Law is seeing it as a standard of God’s holiness which is now fulfilled in Christ.[2]

Jesus mentions “Law and the Prophets” in Luke 16:16 (The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John [the Baptist] . . .) which is a reference to the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament. During the rest of the Luke 16, Jesus indicates that the Mosaic Law was about to conclude the purpose which God had intended it to serve and it would soon no longer be effective. After the cross, the message of the Law and Prophets would no longer hold center stage since it would be replaced by a greater revelation; the New Covenant. Jesus also stresses (in verse 17) that the Old Testament would always remain inspired.[3] Jesus saw that the Law and the Prophets (or Old Testament) as divine revelation from God (cf. Matt. 15:3-6; Jn. 7:23; Acts 7:53), and He recognized its permanence (Matt. 5:18; Psa. 119:144,152,160; 111:7-8).[4]

Jesus’ view of the Old Testament or the Law is that He came to fulfill the Law; Matthew 5:17. The word “fulfill” (pleroo) occurs numerous times in Matthew, and it normally means “to bring to its intended meaning.” Fulfill does not mean “to bring to an end,” but rather, it means, “to fill out, expand, or complete.” Concerning the Old Testament, Jesus “filled it up” or “filled it full” with meaning; whether we study the furnishings of the temple, probe the messianic passages in the Psalms, or delve into the details of Isaiah 53, we see Jesus Christ. We could go so far as to say that the primary purpose of the Old Testament is to point to Christ. Therefore, Jesus does not contradict the Old Testament; He’s the culmination of it. The entire Old Testament points to Jesus and will be fulfilled in Him, down to the smallest detail.[5]

Does the Old Testament Law have a place for Christians? Are Christians required to follow the Law today? One of the profound emphases of the New Testament, especially the epistles of Paul, is that Christians are no longer under the rule of the Mosaic Law (see Rom. 6:14; 7:1-14; Gal. 3:10-13, 24-25; 4:21; 5:1, 13; 2 Cor. 3:7-18).[6] The idea of “grace” comes into play with the regards of a Christian’s relationship with God. Christians are justified by means of God’s grace and on the basis of His redemptive work in Jesus Christ.[7] Grace becomes an absolutely inseparable part of the believer’s life in Christ. In the coming of Christ and His death on the cross, the Mosaic Law as a rule of life was terminated. The believer is now to live in the liberty and power of God’s grace by the Spirit, not the rule of law. This new liberty must never be used as an occasion to indulge the flesh or sinful appetites (Gal. 5:13) nor does it mean the Christian has no moral law or imperatives on his life, but simply that he or she is to live righteously by a new source of life as asserted in Romans 8.[8]






[1] Douglas J. Moo, The New Application Commentary: Romans. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 139.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Robin A. Brace, “The Law and Prophets Were Until John,”, 2006.

[4] Mike Willis, “Jesus Fulfilled the Law,”, October, 20, 1988.

[5] Keith Krell, “Above and Beyond (Matthew 5:17–20), “, March 23, 2010.

[6] J. Hampton Keathley III, “The Mosaic Law: Its Function and Purpose in the New Testament,” Bible. org, June 10, 2004.

[7] Douglas J. Moo, The New Application Commentary: Romans. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 128.

[8] J. Hampton Keathley III, “The Mosaic Law: Its Function and Purpose in the New Testament,” Bible. org, June 10, 2004.


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