Are Christians Under Law?

Christians under Law? Is it necessary to keep all 613 commands of the Old Testament Law to be pleasing to God? Let's study that interesting question.

Moses presents
the Ten Commandments

The Bible gives a startlingly clear answer to our question, Are Christians under the law? No, Christians are not under the Law of Moses.

God gave His Law to Moses and the Jewish nation, on Mt. Sinai, in Arabia, after the children of Israel left Egypt, around 1450 BC. There were no Christians when God gave the Law to Moses and the nation of Israel. Prior to God giving His Law to Moses, sin existed in the world but God did not impute sin to humankind when there was no formal law.

"For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses." Romans 5:13-14.

Torah scroll, containing the Law of Moses. Note the sterling silver Torah Pointer.

In the years from Adam to Moses, people still died, proving that sin existed in the world. But the Covenant of the Law as given in the Law of Moses, was a new thing. God had not made the Covenant of the Law with Adam and the people who lived before the Law of Moses.

"The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, [Jews, the children of Israel] who are all of us here alive this day." [1450 BC] Deuteronomy 5:3.

Are Christians under law?

Some people believe that the Law is just the Ten Commandments. Actually, the Law of Moses, everything written in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, contains 613 commandments covering everything from blood sacrifices to men's haircuts to rape and murder to clothing restrictions to gardening to sexual worship of false gods to sewage disposal to charging interest on loans.

These 613 Commandments are found in the first five books of the Bible. Christians usually call the five books of Moses the Pentateuch. Jews refer to the five books of Moses as Torah.

Sterling silver Torah pointer

Torah scrolls were copied by hand and therefore were extremely valuable. To keep from wearing out the parchment or smudging the text, it became the custom to use a Torah pointer, often made of wood, sometimes of sterling silver, so the reader's hands did not touch and smudge the precious text.

Are Christians now under Law? I suspect no one alive today can name, from memory, all 613 of God’s commandments in the Law. If you are so unfamiliar with the commandments that you cannot even list them, how could you ever keep all 613? For two thousand years Christians have grappled with questions about Christians under Law.

Many Christians struggle with
these important questions.

  1. Are Christians under Law?

  2. How do we decide which commandments must still be obeyed?

  3. How do we decide which commandments in the Law are no longer applicable to us?

  4. How do we determine how the Law applies to us, since the Bible tells us Christians are not under the law but under grace, Romans 6:14?

    Christianity can be divided into two schools of thought about the Law of God.

1. Covenant Theology
In Covenant Theology, Continuity
is the important factor.

Because they see Continuity between all of God's covenants, Covenant believers view Old Testament Law as representing God's eternal standard, always in force and always reflecting the will of God. Folks who believe this way are often Calvinist, Monergist or Reformed in their theology or Lutheran or Presbyterian.

Are Christians under Law?
Covenant Theology says Yes.

2. Dispensational Theology
In Dispensational Theology, Discontinuity
is the important factor.

Because they see Discontinuity between God's covenants, Dispensational believers view Old Testament Law as temporary, not the standard under which Christians must now live. Folks who believe this way include Baptists, Bible churches, many evangelicals and some Reformed folks like John MacArthur.

Are Christians under Law?
Dispensational Theology says No.

Christians under law?
Both sides agree on some points

Covenant and Dispensational theology hold some views in common. Both believe that Christians are no longer obligated to offer the sacrifices commanded under Law because Jesus Christ was our Ultimate sacrifice.

Some Covenant theologians believe that Christians are under Law of Moses, which commands the death penalty for shrine prostitutes (not homosexuals), rebellious children, adulterers and witches. Covenant theologians attempt to convince gays that shrine prostitutes were all homosexuals and therefore, "homosexuals" should suffer the death penalty.

Most Covenant and all Dispensational theologians agree that Christians are not obligated to obey verses like Deuteronomy 7:25, which commands us to burn the idols of the heathen.

Are Christians Under Law?

Both Covenant and Dispensational believers understand that Old Testament law also contains eternal moral principles. These eternal moral principles include most of the Ten Commandments, but exclude the Sabbath Commandment, since the Sabbath Commandment is never enforced on Christians in the New Testament. That makes the Christians under law belief a bit of an oxymoron.

Are Christians under the Law? The point where they disagree is whether or not Christians must still keep the Law of Moses to get saved or to stay saved or to be right with God. Must Christians keep the all of the  commandments to be in right relationship with God? Or does the New Covenant offer a different, better, more glorious way for Christians to relate to God?

Covenant theology says Christians are under law, although they generally assert that the Law must be adapted for today's culture.

Dispensational theology says that while the law does contain moral principles, there is no command in the New Testament which obligates Christians to live under Old Testament Law. In fact, the New Testament clearly states that we are not under law but under grace, Romans 6:14 Galatians 3:24-25.

Does the Bible answer the question,
Are Christians Under Law?

The New Testament is very clear that Christians are not under the Old Testament Jewish Law or the law of Moses. How many times must God say it before you will believe it? Here is what God says in the Bible.

  1. "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." Romans 6:14.
  2. Christians are dead to the law." Romans 7:4.
  3. "If ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law" Galatians 5:18.
  4. Christians are "delivered from the law." Romans 7:6.
  5. "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster [the law]. Galatians 3:24-25.
  6. For Christians, the Law is "that which is done away." II Corinthians 3:11.
  7. For Christians, the Law is "that which is abolished." II Corinthians 3:13.
  8. For Christians, Jesus, on the Cross, was "blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us." Colossians 2:14.
  9. For Christians, the Law is taken "out of the way" and nailed "to his cross." Colossians 2:14.
  10. "When God speaks of a new [covenant or agreement], He makes the first one obsolete (out of use). And what is obsolete (out of use and annulled because of age) is ripe for disappearance and to be dispensed with altogether." Hebrews 8:13, The Amplified Version
  11. "And after that he said, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. Thus he put an end to the first in order to establish the second." Hebrews 10:9, Lamsa Translation

Do you agree with scripture
that Christians are NOT
under the Law?

The following Links explore
Christians under Law more fully.

Is Torah Observance For Christians?

Who keeps Torah?

Are Christians under Moses Law?

Who is Leviticus for?

What about the law of Moses?

Do Christians keep Sabbath?

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The material on this page is excerpted from the book Gay Christian 101: Spiritual Self-Defense For Gay Christians, by Rick Brentlinger.

This page revised May 30, 2018

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