Did the New Testament abolish the Old Testament Law?
Jesus made it very clear that he did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. How do you fulfill the Law? By keeping it perfectly!
Jesus said, “It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law” (Luke 16:17). The law is not going away. The next verse of that quote says, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” This is not a teaching about divorce per se, but a reinforcement that the Law is binding and you can’t just divorce yourself from it! That is equivalent to committing adultery.
So, if the Law still stands, should we follow it?
“What?? How can you say that?!”
The Law stands, but you don’t. This is part of the mystery of the gospel that Paul revealed to us, and it’s brilliant!
In Romans 7 Paul explains that the law has authority over a man or woman only as long as they are alive. But when Christ was crucified, somehow, in some spiritual way, according to God, “you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another” (7:4).
The first part of the good news is that we died! Stop and ponder that. Oh, the relief! Because if we didn’t, we would still be bound to a Law that we could never fulfill. But we were crucified with Christ, and “the one who has died has been set free from sin” (Rom 6:7). Then we were raised a ‘new person’, which was “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24).
Obviously these things are not true about our physical bodies – we’re still mostly alive and kicking. But we are not just flesh and blood, but spirit, and this is true of us in spirit. This is why “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:8), because they are still ‘alive’ and in bondage to the Law. If you’re hanging onto the physical realm and are convinced that that’s all there is, then you will eventually die, and that’s it. If you, through faith, have God’s Spirit dwelling in you, then you are a new creation, freed from the law by death, and are now living in the spirit. Oh the depths of his wisdom and knowledge!
In short, the Law still stands. You died and were freed from the Law and are now ‘married’ to another.
But some will ask, “If we’re not under the Law anymore, can we just do our own thing and keep sinning?” That’s exactly what Paul was asked (Rom 6:15), so if the gospel that we proclaim raises the same difficult questions, it means we’re on the right track. The short answer to that is that if you sin, you will be enslaved to sin. Who wants to be enslaved to sin?
“But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter” (Rom 7:6).
Remember, God is not withholding this from us until we do something – he already did this for us! That’s the good news! But if you are ignorant of it, you will just continue in your flesh, guilty of sin because the law stands, and you haven’t fulfilled it. By believing in God’s work through his son, you cross from flesh to spirit, from death to life, and in spirit you are perfect, holy and righteous. Praise God! The good news is that good.