ThE LAW OF MOSES
AND THE LAW OF Messiah
Dr. Alan Poyner-Levison
Law has been a major stumbling stone to many in the Messianic Movement,
even to many who have come from a Gentile background. They are mainly prone to error because they will not accept that the
Law has been fulfilled by Yeshua; otherwise why would He have come to die if
it wasnít to fulfill Scripture? God sent Yeshua to confirm Scripture and
to be the ultimate sacrifice, something that only the Son of God could
ever fulfill, since nobody was ever found to be good enough (Revelation
5:4). This is why we see in the Book of Revelation that the four and
twenty elders fall down and worship Him, because he alone was worthy to
open the seals of the Book of Life (Revelation 5:5). He was able because
He achieved the perfection of the Law through His death and resurrection.
So letís discuss this fulfillment.
The Law of Moses consists of 613 commandments, not merely ten. They
consist of ceremonial, legal, and moral commandments, and on the basis of
this division many have come to think that the believer is free from the
ceremonial and legal commandments and need only be committed to the moral
commandments. Similarly, many believe that the Ten Commandments alone
are valid for today, and not the other 603. However, if Yeshua fulfilled
the Law, He fulfilled all of it, not just part of it.
What was the Purpose of the Law?
The first purpose was to reveal the
holiness of God and the standard of His righteousness, the requirements to
have a relationship with Him. There is nowhere in Scripture where it says
that the Law was given as a means for salvation, for that would mean that
salvation was by works, and salvation can only be achieved by grace since no one
on the planet has ever been capable of achieving the standard of
righteousness required by God in order to have a relationship with Him. So
it must be by grace through faith. Now this content of faith may have
changed through the ages, but the Mosaic Law was never given as a means
for salvation. It was given as a rule of conduct or the Jew. Thatís why it says,
Because by the works of the Law shall no flesh be
justified in His sight, for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin
(Romans 3:20), and We reckon that a man is justified by
faith, apart from the works of the Law (Romans 3:28).
Now itís clear that both of these points make it evident that nobody can
be justified by keeping the Law. The Law was never ever given as a means
of salvation; it merely provided a rule of conduct for the Old Testament
saints until the promise came about.
The next point I want to address is that the Mosaic Law was given so that
sin could be seen as sin, and there are three passages in Romans where
Paul explains this.
Romans 3:19-20: Now we know that whatsoever the Law saith, it speaks to
them that are under the Law; that every mouth may be stopped, and the
entire world may be brought under the judgment of God; Because by the
works of the Law shall no flesh be justified in His sight, for through the
Law comes the knowledge of sin.
Paul, who was one of the greatest scholars of his day, here emphasizes that
it is not possible to have justification through trying to keep the Law.
So what is the Law for? If not for salvation and not for justification,
what is it for? It is to see sin as sin!
Romans 5:20: The Law came in besides, that the
trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound
The Law came so that trespasses may be seen to be known as openly wrong in
the sight of a Holy God. How does a person know this? Because the Law says
ĎDo not do it.'
There is a further reason for the Law, and that is to actually sin more! So
how would that work? Paul explains in Romans 7:7-13,
What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? God
forbid!! How be it, I had not known sin except through the Law; for I had
not known coveting except the law had said, ĎThou shalt not covetí but sin finding occasion, wrought
in me through the commandment all manner of coveting; for apart from the
law sin is dead; and I was alive apart from the Law once; but when the
commandment came, sin revived, and I died; and the commandment, which was
unto life, this I found to be unto death; for sin finding occasion through
the commandment beguiled me and through it, slew me. So that the Law is
holy, and the commandment holy and righteous and good. Did then that which
is good become death unto me? God forbid! But sin, that it might be shown
to be sin, by working death to me through that which is good; that through
the Commandment, sin might become exceeding sinful.
1 Corinthians 15:56: The sting of death is sin; and
the power of sin is the Law.
Now we see that what Paul is trying to get at is that our sin nature needs
a base of operations. It needs to function from somewhere, something has
to kick in that makes it alive in us, and that is the Law. But Paul
informs us, that where there is no Law, there is no sin. Now that does not
mean that the people who lived before the Law were not sinners, it simply
means that it was because God gave the Law sin is now seen as sinful,
and our sinful nature said, "No! We will not do it!" So there was now an
enmity between us and God, because he had made a Law and we, in our sinful
nature, refused to keep it!
But there is a more interesting reason for the Law, and we can find it in
Galatians 3:24: So that the Law has become our
tutor to bring us unto Messiah that we might be justified by faith. But now
that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor.
The final purpose of the Law is to lead us to faith. You see, as much as we
may try to keep the Law by ourselves, however perfectly, we simply
cannot, because our sin nature will immediately kick in and we are back to
square one! So we then find ourselves helpless and crying to God, who has
made provision for this problem in Jesus. Thus we have to lean on Him to
set us free from the bondage of sin and death so that when we call on Him
we can be assured that He hears us, and if we confess our sin He is
faithful and just to forgive us. Now this is wonderful!! Because then we
are born again as we receive His sacrifice.
The Unity of the Law of Moses
We must understand that the Law of
Moses is one unit; that is,
Torah, or Law, is always seen as singular even though it
contains 613 commandments. Although it has these three subdivisions, ceremonial,
legal, and moral, it is never divided; neither is there any scriptural
basis for separating the Ten Commandments (sayag) from the other
we have to realize that to break one law in any category is to break the
whole Law. That is why we read in James 2:10, For whosoever
shall keep the whole Law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of
Therefore, we cannot divide Scripture into segments we keep and segments
we donít keep. The Law is a whole unit and we must keep it all, or none of
it. We are either under grace or Law. We have to choose! This is the
stumbling stone that many fall on when beginning a Messianic
fellowship. You simply cannot have one foot in each camp, one in Law and
one in grace. Now they fall because they view Messianic Judaism as if it
were rabbinic Judaism; but we have nothing to do with rabbinics, which
is a set of laws made by men, not God. It was written by rabbis and Jewish
sages, but it is an addition to Scripture
which is man made and a continual stumbling block. This is why we read in
Titus 3:8-11: This is a faithful saying and these
things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in
God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and
profitable to men. But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions
and strivings about the Law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject
a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a
person is warped and
sinning being self condemned.
People trying to identify with Jews, but are not born Jewish, but Gentile, perhaps feel a lot more comfortable and accepted by wearing
and tallits (prayer shawls) and tzitzis (fringes), but these are not biblical requirements.
are all of the outer man; but we have come to Jesus the Messiah who has
prepared the inner man of the heart. In fact, it says in Titus that such people that
do such things are Ďwarpedí. Thatís pretty emotive language to be using,
but it goes on to say that they are sinning, because they are self-condemned. That is, they want to be Jews, but condemn themselves because
they are not. But they have not understood the Scriptures and are trying
to justify their existence.
The Biblical Position
The clear teaching of Scripture is that the Law of Moses has been
fulfilled by the death of Messiah, which means that the Law has no
authority over anyone; that is, a believer has had that all dealt with at
the cross. However, that did not annul the Law or in anyway take it away.
For the believer it fulfilled the Law, but the Law remains in place to
declare sin as sin, and therefore it declares sinners and unbelievers
guilty as charged if they sin. But the believer has been buried with Him (Yeshua)
in baptism and as such he is dead and lost with Messiah in God. Now where
there is no Law, there is no sin, and therefore no charges.
But does this mean the believer is lawless? NO! He is now under the Law of
Messiah according to Galatians 6:2. In Romans 8:2 it is called
The Law of the
Spirit of life. Now the reason there is so much confusion over this Law of
Messiah and the Mosaic Law is because many of those new laws in the Law of
Messiah are the same or similar. "Why is that?" you may ask! Well, over time
God has made eight covenants with men and each time He has transcended
some things from one covenant into the next so that those things
remain current and functional, even to the modern day. However, the eighth
and final covenant, the New Covenant, was the fulfillment of all things
for all time. Therefore,
the New Covenant has elements of the old one, but its provisions are more practical. For instance, the Mosaic Law forbade eating pork, but under the Law of
Messiah you can eat what you like. Why is this? Because the New Covenant
allowed for the entrance of the Gentiles who had
never been brought up to keep such laws (Acts 15:19-29). Having said that,
common sense must prevail. In the Mosaic Law women canít wear trousers,
but in the Law of Messiah, this is now possible. If they so desire, they do
not sin. In the Mosaic Law we are commanded to tithe, but in the Law of
Messiah we are not. Why? Because all we have is Messiahís. Nothing we have is
our own. In the Law of Moses we have to keep Sabbath, but in the Law of
Messiah we donít. Why? Because it's just a day without work. We can go to shul
(church) anytime. All these things under the Mosaic Covenant were meant to
protect those under it till the promise of the Father had arrived,
which was Messiah; and now that that has happened we have been given the Holy
Spirit of God to comfort and instruct us on what we shall do. In fact the
Bible states we are sealed in His Spirit for our protection if we live in
the truth. You shall know the Truth, and the
truth shall set you free (John 8:32).
Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is important for you that I go
away; for if I do not go away the Helper will not come to you; but if I
depart I will send Him to you. And when He has come He will convict the
world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Of sin, because they
do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see
me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John
The Apostle Paul says in this regard, So let no
one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival, or a new moon
or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance
is of Messiah (Colossians 2:16).
The believer is free to keep certain laws if he wishes to,
but he must not force others to do the same. Why? Because Yeshua took the
laws of Moses out of the way to allow people the freedom to worship
willingly as we read in Colossians 2:14: Having wiped
out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was
contrary to us, And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to
Messiah has died to give us this freedom and we should first receive it,
and then use it responsibly to build the Kingdom of God, not destroy it
Dr. Alan Poyner-Levison is a
Messianic Jewish Author,
and Director and Messianic Teacher of Beit Shalom Ministries,
which conducts seminars and prayer groups throughout the UK.
He may be contacted via his website: