The Mosaic Law was a tutor leading to Christ, Christ was the end of the Law, so said Paul, an inspired author. There is no contradiction. Jesus did not come to abolish the Law but rather to fulfill the Law. The Law as you know actually encompasses the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures, but the books of Moses are the foundation on which the other 34 books were penned. The Law, the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures pointed to Christ. Therefore, the Law, a tutor served its purpose. The first-century tutor that Paul used to make his point about the Law, not a teacher, it was a guardian that walked the student to school, protecting him along the way, passing on some pearls of wisdom.
Jesus said he came to fulfill the Law and he did. In fact, Jesus was the last opportunity for the Jewish people to be the major part of his Kingdom. However, their rejection of him was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Matthew 21:43 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
43 Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation, producing the fruit of it.
Matthew 23:37-39 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.
38 Look, your house is being left to you desolate!
39 For I say to you, from now on you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
It should be noted that the Law did not end until Jesus died at Golgotha, Jerusalem (c. 3:00 p.m., Friday, April 3, A.D. 33)
The Covenant for a Week in Daniel 9:27 is a Key Component
Daniel 9:27 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”
The covenant here is not the Mosaic Law covenant, but rather the Abrahamic covenant. The week is a day for a year, i.e., seven years. Jesus had a 3.5-year ministry which is at half of the week when the need to offer a sacrifice was put to an end with his sacrifice. What about the other 3.5 years of that seven years? It ran from 29 C.E. to 36 C.E. Peter visits Cornelius (Acts 10:1, 45), the first one of the uncircumcised people of the nations (Jesus’ words, “given to a people producing its fruits”) to enter the Christian congregation. In other words, during that seven-year covenant, only Jewish people came into the Christian congregation.
Bible Critic: “Paul’s teaching on the Law (that it is abolished)”
RESPONSE: It was abolished in that you no longer had to offer sacrifices or follow any of the ceremonial aspects of the Law. I was eliminated at Jesus sacrifice, not while he walked the earth because Jesus was under the Mosaic Law.
Bible Critic: and Jesus’ teaching (he had not come to abolish the law).”
RESPONSE: Jesus did not come to abolish the Law, he came to rescue Israel, to give them one last opportunity to be the members of his Kingdom. Jesus came to the earth for four PRIMARY reasons: (1) to save Israel, (2) to teach the truth about the Father (John 18:37), (3) to offer a perfect model for us to follow (1 Peter 2:21), and (4) to give his life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28).
Jesus did not need to abolish the law because it had run its course. Jesus comment was coming from one perspective, his trying to tell the Jews that he did not come to take their Law but rather to save them. Paul was talking to another audience, Jew, and Gentile to let them know that Jesus sacrifice brought the Law to the end, not that Jesus by his authority and power said the law is ended, which he could have done but that Jesus’ death brought an end to the Law, meaning no Jew could say to a Gentile has to follow the Mosaic law ceremonial aspects. HOWEVER, Jesus did say,
Matthew 9:14-17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of the bridal chamber are not able to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear becomes worse. 17 Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins. If they do, then the wineskins burst and the wine spills out and the wineskins are ruined. But they do put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
As Jesus said, Christianity was not going to be a new patch on an old garment or a new wine in an old wineskin. Any Christian or so-called Jewish Christian, who tries to suggest the mixing of the two are nothing more than false prophets.―Matthew 24:11.
Acts 21:20 why would Paul, and especially the elders of the Jerusalem church, who were supposed to be “exercising wise and judicious leadership over the mother-church,” as F.F. Bruce put it, be carrying out certain features of the Mosaic Law, when it was “set aside, nailing it to the cross”?
The account at Acts 18:18 shares that “at Cenchreae [Paul] had cut his hair, for he was under a vow.” One cannot be certain whether this was a Nazirite vow, or if the vow had been made before his becoming a Christian. However, the circumstances of Acts 21:20-24, has Paul taking action based on counsel from the elders in the Jerusalem church. It was for demonstrating “that there is nothing in what they have been told about [Paul], but that [he himself] also live in observance of the law.”
The question is, why would Paul, and especially the elders of the Jerusalem church, who were supposed to be “exercising wise and judicious leadership over the mother-church,” as Bruce put it, be carrying out certain features of the Mosaic Law, when it was “set aside, nailing it to the cross”? Let us consider Paul’s own words in the book of Romans.
Romans 7:12, 14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
The population of Christians in Jerusalem was mostly Jewish, and so the temple and the services performed there were not reviled. It was not as though they were viewed as being wrong. Definitely, they were not considered idolatrous. These were a way of life for these ones, and their forefathers for the past 1,500 years. These were practices that God commanded for centuries and was not something that he would despise. In addition, it was also not only a religious law but also the law of the land. Laws such as the Sabbath observance were actual laws, which were to be obeyed by anyone living in the land.
The most important point that needs to be kept in mind is this, while the Jewish Christians used to view the maintaining of a legalistic system as a way of maintaining salvation, this was no longer the case as Christians. While Jewish Christians found no problem in carrying out Jewish practices, which had before been commanded by God, it was not contingent on salvation. Paul made this all too clear when he wrote, “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” One does not maintain salvation by maintaining and law. (Romans 14:5, 6, 17, 22-23; 1 Corinthians 10:25-30)
Bile scholar Albert Barnes, in his Notes, Explanatory and Practical, on the Acts of the Apostles (1858), makes an insightful observation 155 years ago. His comments are in reference to Acts 21:20, which reads, “when they heard it [how God blessed Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles], they glorified God. And they said to him, ‘You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law.” Barnes goes on to say,
The reference here is, to the law respecting circumcision, sacrifices, distinctions of meats and days, festivals, &c. It may seem remarkable that they should still continue to observe those rites, since it was the manifest design of Christianity to abolish them. But we are to remember, (1.) That those rites had been appointed by God, and that they were trained to their observance. (2.) That the apostles conformed to them while they remained in Jerusalem, and did not deem it best to set themselves violently against them. [Ac 3:1; Lu 24:53] (3.) That the question about their observance had never been agitated at Jerusalem. It was only among the Gentile converts that the question had risen, and there it must arise, for if they were to be observed, they must have been imposed upon them by authority. (4.) The decision of the council (ch. xv.) related only to the Gentile converts. [Ac 15:23] . . . (5.) It was to be presumed, that as the Christian religion became better understood—that as its large, free, and [universal] nature became more and more developed, the peculiar institutions of Moses would be laid aside of course, without agitation, and without tumult. Had the question been agitated [publicly] at Jerusalem, it would have excited tenfold opposition to Christianity, and would have rent the Christian church into factions, and greatly retarded the advance of the Christian doctrine. We are to remember also, (6.) That, in the arrangement of Divine Providence, the time was drawing near which was to destroy the temple, the city, and the nation; which was to put an end to sacrifices, and effectually to close forever the observance of the Mosaic rites. As this destruction was so near, and as it would be so effectual an argument against the observance of the Mosaic rites, the Great Head of the church did not suffer the question of their obligation to be needlessly agitated among the disciples at Jerusalem.
Paul had argued within two of his letters that obedience to the Mosaic Law was not a requirement for salvation. However, if something is not contrary to God’s Word, he also considered the Christian conscience of his brothers and sisters. He wrote,
1 Corinthians 9:20-23 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
20 And so to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to those under the law I became as under the law, though I myself am not under the law, that I might gain those under the law. 21 To those without law I became as without law, although I am not without law toward God but under the law toward Christ, that I might gain those without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 But I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
However, the above is not a license to set aside biblical principles for the sake of winning someone to the faith, or not stumbling a fellow Christian. This is not what Paul meant by the above words. If something did not violate Scriptural principles, one can choose to go along with the hopes of saving or not stumbling others. It was not a violation of any Bible principles for Paul to go together with the four men to the temple and take care of their expenses. Jewish vows based on the Mosaic Law, which had been replaced by the Law of Christ, were not unscriptural. The Jerusalem temple had been a source of pure worship to God for centuries, not for idolatry. So as to not stumble this young Christian congregation, Paul did as he was asked. (1 Cor. 8:13) We might surmise that this is not something Paul would have wanted to do, since this very issue was causing confusion for some Jewish converts, but his humble Christlike spirit, moved him to carry out the request, so as not to stumble those, who thought Paul looked down on the former ways of his people.
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