Matthew 5 – Part 7: Old Testament Authoritative for New Covenant

Speaker: Scott Jarrett | Nov 3, 2016

8. There are many today who think that the obligation to obey the Old Testament Scriptures has been removed (in part or whole) as essential to salvation for the New Covenant Christian[1]. What they fail to consider is not only the content, clarity and consequences of Jesus’ teaching in Mat 5:17-20, but also that:

8.1. God views His OT Scriptures as remaining in force forever since they are more perfect than creation, as precious as God’s name, the very keys to abundant life and salvation (Deu 4:2, 12:34, 30:11-20, 32:45-47; Isa 40:8 w/1Pe 1:23-25 w/2Ti 3:15-16; Psa 19:7-11, 119:24, 96, 160, 138:2; Jam 1:25; Rom 7:12; Many people treat God’s OT Scriptures – esp. His Law, as no longer serving the purpose of abundant life and salvation. They instead serve only to condemn. Paul’s stmts about the Law are often interpreted w/this exclusive purpose- e.g. Gal 3:10, 21; 1Ti 1:9-10[2]; the law is for our protection and prosperity not imprisonment)

8.2. The OT prophecies regarding the coming Messiah and New Covenant also speak about the Law as that which will be cherished by and taught to God’s people (Deu 18:15-18; Isa 2:1-5, 8:11-9:7; 42:1-4, 21; Jer 31:31-34; Eze 36:25-27; Mic 4:1-2; Mal 4:1-4)

8.3. The primary way the Bible teaches us to identify false teachers and gospels is by their rejection (in part or whole) of God’s OT Law/Scriptures as something we must observe in order to be saved (Deu 12:34-13:3 w/2Pe 2:1-3, 19-21; Jud 1:3-4; Eph 5:1-7; 1Jo 2:1-7, 2:24-3:8; Again, how most people interpret Paul, makes all FT’s in the OT the good guys – for preaching against obedience to the Law, and all God’s prophets – who preached faithfulness to the Law, the bad guys – e.g. Jer 5:4-7 w/12, 6:14-19, 7:1-23, 8:4-10, 9:1-14, 23-25, 11:1-16, 16:10-11. In this light consider then – Rom 9:30 – 10:4[3])

8.4. Rejection of (or disobedience to) God’s OT Law is the biggest reason people go to Hell (Isa 51:7-8 w/Mar 9:48 w/Luk 16:19-31; Pro 28:4 w/Rom 1:18, 31-32; Rev 21:8 – “faithless” = unfaithful to God’s OT commands/law – see Psa 119:158; Today, we are made to believe that the biggest reason people go to hell is b/c they are trying to earn their salvation[4].

8.5. Those in the first century (i.e. the time of Jesus and the Apostles) viewed as apostasy the act of covenant members becoming convinced that the OT Law was no longer necessary to salvation (Act 21:21, 28; This was true in the OT as well – Deu 29:18-20; In this light consider – Heb 10:26-29 = “dies” – Present tense = The author is assuming that the disobedience previously mentioned, is the result of deciding to “set aside the Law of Moses” by individuals in the NC. IOW: this is the “sinning deliberately” of v26. According to the author, the penalty for committing such a crime is still in force just as the Law remains in force – i.e. death. However, the deathly consequences associated w/this crime wb worse since the “witnesses” requiring such Law-abiding compliance – as well as those offended, are greater. They are “the Son of God”, “the blood of the covenant” and “the Spirit of grace”.)

8.6. Jesus and the apostles worked very hard to prove that Christianity was in compliance to the Law and the OT Scriptures (i.e. Christianity is not a new religion, but Judaism under a new covenant – Jer 31:31; Act 3:17-26. As such, nothing the NT author’s say is novel/original – Joh 7:16. If it was, then they would have rightly been rejected. The Jews rejected Jesus and Christianity, b/c they incorrectly thought it violated the OT Scriptures – especially its teaching regarding observance of the Law – e.g. Mat 12:1-2; Luk 5:21; Joh 7:25-27, 40-52, 9:16, 10:30-36; Act 6:11-13, 13:27, 21:28, 23:29, 24:5-9. In reality however, Jesus and the Apostles were always in compliance w/the Law. They spent a lot of energy and ink attempting to make that clear –  Mat 12:3-8; Joh 5:37-47, 7:16-19, 18:19-23; Act 24:10-16, 25:8; Rom 3:30-31).

8.7. A maxim of contractual law (the kind of law found in Scripture) is that the entire body of laws included in the former contract (or covenant) remain in force in the renewed contract/covenant unless it explicitly states that such body of laws have not been incorporated. As such, any mention of repeal in the renewed contract or covenant must be viewed as the modification of a specific law’s application/remedy and not the obviation of that law (or entire body of laws) (Jer 31:31 = The NC is simply a renewal of the previous covenant made w/Israel and Judah – i.e. OC; How we know this to be true: 1. Both Jesus and Paul confirm that the entirety of the Law remains in force in the renewed covenant/contract – Mat 5:17-19; Rom 3:31; 2. They each make appeals to it under the NC – e.g. Mat 19:16-19; 1Co 9:8-10; Eph 6:1-3; What then Paul is repealing elsewhere is not an attempt to remove/replace the original Law corpus, but rather modify the application/remedy of certain laws – 1Co 1:30, 6:11 w/7:19 and Rom 3:28 w/10:4; consider also – 1Co 5:1-2, 11-13 w/Lev 20:11; This is how Jer 31:32-34 is also to be understood)[5].



[1] As discussed this is the majority position today. It has many supporting scholars/theologians including some from the Reformation: “The Law and the Decalogue has no right to accuse and terrify the conscience in which Christ reigns through grace, for Christ has made this right obsolete.” -Martin Luther; “In the new era the…good news of salvation/restoration in Christ has displaced the …law as the foundational guide to community life.” – Roy Ciampa; “Believers in Christ do not find God’s will through the law; are not instructed through the law; and are not obliged to obey the law” – Brian Rosner. It is relevant to note that Dr. Rosner’s very recent work on the Law (Paul and the Law, 2013) also makes no mention of Mat 5:17-20.

[2] John MacArthur writes, “What was the purpose of the law? Paul’s answer is that the law reveals man’s utter sinfulness, inability to save himself, and desperate need of a Savior. It was never intended to be a way of salvation (emphasis mine).” If what MacArthur says is true (the Law’s sole function is condemnation and contributes nothing to salvation) then Paul stands in direct contradiction not only to God – Who states the Law is essential to life/salvation (again Deu 30:11-20), but also himself (e.g. Gal 5:19-21; Eph 6:1-2).

[3] Consider John MacArthur’s notes on Rom 9:30-10:4: “’law of righteousness’ – Righteousness earned by keeping the Law… ‘works of the law’ – By doing everything the law prescribed… ‘their own righteousness’ – Based on their conformity to God’s law… ‘Christ is the end of the law’ – Paul means that belief in Christ ends the sinner’s futile quest for righteousness through his imperfect attempts to save himself by efforts to obey the law.” Notice, all actions of obedience to the law are viewed as a negative, as attempts to merit/earn salvation. No doubt, MacArthur would agree that whatever view the Jews possessed regarding the Law in Jesus’ day emanated from their ancestors – which is the same as saying, this too was their view of the Law. But if that is the case, then the prophets of the OT – who clearly preached strict adherence to the Law, were indeed the bad guys. Could it be that MacArthur (and those who view obedience to the Law as promoting works-based salvation) are instead completely misinterpreting the role/place obedience to the Law plays in salvation? Is it possible, that obedience to the Law can be both essential to salvation and at the same time never establishing merit?

[4] Nicholas Batzig states that the desire to earn/merit our acceptance before God is inherent to all of us as part of our sin nature: “There is another kind of legalism we must be on guard against—the practical legalism that can imperceptibly take control of our hearts. By nature, our consciences are hardwired to the covenant of works. While believers have become new creatures in Christ, they still carry around with them an old man—an old Adamic sin nature. The default mode of the old nature is mentally to slide back under the covenant of works. We are ever in danger of becoming practical legalists by nurturing or overlooking a legalistic spirit.” (Legalism Defined, Batzig’s words create problems on many levels. Not only did the covenant of which Batzig speaks (Covenant of Works) never exist, but such an assumption also implies that God established a salvific framework for man which was inherently sinful (i.e. one that encouraged man to think he could earn His way to heaven)! However, possibly more ridiculous, is the faulty idea that such merit motivation is the boogey man Christians need to be most vigilant against. In the twenty years I have been a Christian, I have never experienced – nor met another Protestant, with such inclinations or silly notions.

[5] “May biblical laws can be understood to have functioned in biblical time, in ways remarkably similar to various laws characterized in modern Anglo-American jurisprudence as contract and tort law. When modern jurisprudential concepts are applied, the laws found in Exodus…appear to have been organized along the lines that correspond closely to contemporary legal categories. It is clear that these laws were not recorded in random order, but rather organized on the basis of principles that correspond to distinctions found in modern…law classifications. Biblical laws and narratives clearly indicate that in order to form a contract, both parties must agree to its terms. This pattern of offer and acceptance, constituting an agreement as to the considerations to be exchanged, is a standard feature of modern contract law. Biblical scholars generally assume that the laws found in the Covenant Code were set down at random rather than in accordance with any recognizable pattern or structure based on content (e.g. Exo 21:1-22:17). When, however, contemporary legal categories are used to describe the laws…, it turns out that these laws appear to have been organized in a coherent structure after all. This structure…show(s) how it parallels-though of course it was not based upon – modern Anglo-American jurisprudence.” – Richard Hiers (Ancient Laws, Yet Strangely Modern: Biblical Contract and Tort Jurisprudence, 2009)