20. What do Jewish people believe about the Law of Moses, or the Ten Commandments? And what is the true purpose of the Law?
There is no set answer to this question, because it really depends upon the background and how religious the Jewish person is. An Orthodox Jew has a different understanding about the Law than a Reform Jew, even though there may be some similar thinking on the subject. However, it is safe to say that the Law holds a very important place in the mind and hearts of most Jewish people. But, when you listen to what they believe about it, there is one major flaw in their thinking. Bottom line, most Jewish people believe that the way to get to heaven, (if they believe in a literal heaven) is by keeping the Law. Judaism at it’s core is really a works oriented belief. You get to heaven by doing good deeds, or Mitzvahs as we call them. If you think about it, unsaved Jewish people and unsaved Gentiles believe you get to heaven the same way, by doing good works. Religious Jewish people go to great lengths to keep the Law. This was also true in Jesus’ day. The leaders sought to bind the people with heavy burdens that were not even a part of the Law of God, yet they were very relaxed about keeping them themselves.
Matt. 23:1-4 – Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say and do not do “And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with a finger.
Before giving some of the specific purposes for the Law, I first want to make some general remarks about it.
A. The Law was not given to save anybody.
Hypothetically, the Law could give life if it was kept perfectly, but no one could keep it. Except Jesus.
Gal. 3:10 – For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, ” Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.”
James 2:10 – For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one he has become guilty of all.
The Law simply doesn’t have the ability to save anybody.
Gal. 3:11 – Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.”
Gal. 2:21 – “I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
Gal. 2:16 – nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.
This does not mean that God didn’t have a very important function for the Law, or that the Law was evil in some way. Romans 7:12 makes it clear that the Law is Holy.
B. The Law was given to the people of Israel.
Rom. 9:3-4 – For I could wish that I myself were accursed, from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the service and the promises
See Deut. 4:7-8, Ps. 147:19-20. It is important to remember this. Binding the Mosaic Law upon the Church has caused a multitude of confusion and false teaching within the Body of Christ.
C. The Nature of the Law. Biblically speaking, the Law was one of the Covenants that God entered into with the people of Israel.
Ex. 34:27-28 – Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.
Some covenants are unconditional, some are conditional. In a conditional covenant, that which was covenanted depended on the recipient of the covenant for its fulfillment, not on the one making the covenant. This type of covenant has an “if” attached to it. The Mosaic Covenant made by God to Israel is one such covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional. It will be fulfilled regardless of the behavior of Israel. The Mosaic Covenant is conditional. It is also the only covenant that is not called eternal, it was to continue only until the coming of the seed. There is a very close relationship between the Abrahamic and the Mosaic Covenants. The Abrahamic Covenant is an unconditional covenant, it has conditional blessings attached to it. Those blessings would be obtained by obedience. But obedience to what? Obedience to the Mosaic Covenant. In other words the Mosaic Covenant was added alongside the Abrahamic Covenant in order to define the obedience that was required in order to obtain the blessings promised by the Abrahamic Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant provided the blessing, not the Mosaic Covenant. To continue, what are some of the purposes of the Mosaic Law?
PURPOSES OF THE LAW
A. To reveal the holiness of God – 1Pet. 1:15-16
1 Pet. 1:15-16 – but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
This is a quote from the Law that is found in Leviticus 19:2 and it’s in the Law that we discover the holy character of God. We see what God accepts and doesn’t accept as far as behavior is concerned. When one reads the Law, they discover that God is a very Holy God.
B. To reveal and expose the sinfulness of man and the sinfulness of sin – Rom. 7:7, Rom 3:20.
Rom. 7:7 – What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ” You shall not covet.”
Rom. 3:20 – because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
The Law is like a mirror. It will reveal dirt on someone’s face when they look into it, but it doesn’t have the ability to cleanse it. As we read the Law, we see our sin and how dreadful it is in the sight of God. But we are left without a means of cleansing except for the fact of what God did through His Son the Messiah.
C. To reveal the standards of holiness required of those who desire fellowship with a holy God. The Law sets down the standards and principles for those who desire to walk in fellowship with God. Israel was a nation uniquely called by God. In order for them to walk in fellowship with God they needed to walk in a way that was pleasing to Him. The Law lays down many of the standards that would aid them in this. David, in one of his Psalms realized the importance of this aspect of the Law and reiterates some of its principles and asks some very important questions about walking with God.
Ps. 24:3-5 – Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood, And has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the Lord And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
However, it must be realized, that sanctification itself does not come by keeping the Law. Paul speaks of this issue in Galatians.
Gal. 3:3-5 – Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain– if indeed it was in vain? Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
The Law does not save, nor does it sanctify. The Law simply sets down some of the standards that are necessary for fellowship with God. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can the requirements of the Law be fulfilled which brings fellowship.
Rom. 8:4 – in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
D. To make provision for the covering of sin and to make restoration back to fellowship possible. In Leviticus chapters 1-7 there are five offerings described. They are: the burnt offering, the meal offering, the peace offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering. One of the major things the Law did was to prove to Israel that they sinned and fell short of God’s standards. God provided a way for their sins to be covered. It is true, the offerings did not take away sin, but they manifested that the person offering them looked forward by faith to a time when one would come and take away their sin. This of course is what the Messiah Jesus did. All of the offerings pointed to Christ and what He would do on the cross. His offering of Himself didn’t simply provide a covering, it provides the way for sin to be totally taken away. When one understands this, it shows how wrong it is to think that the Law could possibly save someone. This is what we need to tell our Jewish friends. Yes, the Law is important, but it cannot save anyone.
E. To make a distinction between Israel and all other nations in order that they might become a kingdom of priests.
Esth. 3:8 – Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of all other people, and they do not observe the king’s laws, so it is not in the king’s interest to let them remain.
Haman was exactly right in his conclusions about Israel’s laws. They were different. This was really one of the specific reasons for many of their commandments. Their dietary laws, their clothing laws, their laws about worship, just to name a few, were given to keep them distinct and separate from the other nations. This was God’s desire for Israel. One of the places that Israel ran into trouble was when they became relaxed in this and they became like the other nations that were around them.
F. To help a person understand that they need to be saved. Saul of Tarsus came to understand that he was a sinner by reading the Law.
Rom. 7:7-9 – What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. And I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died;
It was through his reading of the Law that he discovered his problem with coveting. Before this information, Saul of Tarsus didn’t see this major flaw in himself. It’s like driving a car in a new town. You are driving down the street and you don’t know how fast you should be going. Then all of a sudden you see a speed limit sign and you discover that you are breaking the law. God can still use His Law in this way. When unsaved people read the Word of God, they will come across verses that will manifest their sinfulness. Many people are depending upon their own righteousness to gain approval before God. This is true for Jewish people and Gentiles. However, Paul states that one’s own righteousness is not sufficient.
Rom. 10:3-4 – For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
As we’ve emphasized over and over, the Law can’t save, but it plays a very important role in God’s program.
G. The Law was to be a unifying principle for the nation of Israel. The Law was designed to bring the people of Israel together under the same umbrella of standards, rules and regulations. When Israel was presented with this, they agreed to do them.
Ex. 19:7-8 – “So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the Lord had commanded him. And all the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” And Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord.
This is not unlike what the Word of God should be for the believer. That which is in the Bible is our standard for belief and behavior. It separates us from the world but, unites us with all other true believers. The Law had that effect upon Israel.
H. The Law was given to make provision and give direction for Israel to worship God. In the Law we find all that Israel needed to know to worship God. The Holy Feast Days were laid out for them in Leviticus 23. Directions for the tabernacle, the priesthood, and the sacrifices were clearly given. Israel was not allowed to worship God as they thought best. It was made known to them by God as to how they were to worship Him and much of that information is contained in the Law.
I. The Law was designed to lead one to Jesus the Messiah.
Gal. 3:24-25 – Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
Paul explains that the Law was a “tutor.” In ancient cultures a tutor was usually a slave who was responsible for watching over a child. He would take them to and from school and check their behavior. They would seek to teach the child right from wrong. In Paul’s analogy, the Law did that. It taught the Jewish people about themselves. When the Law is properly used, it will lead a person to the Messiah Jesus. He will understand that his standing before God is not what it needs to be. He will understand that he needs a Savior and that the Law cannot save. The Law is like a mirror. It will show the dirt on someone’s face, but it doesn’t have the power to clean it off. It showed the person that they needed to be justified by faith. Once that took place, they were no longer under the “tutor.” As believers today, we’re not under the Law. We can learn much from it, but it cannot save anyone.