Changing God’s Law: Part 1

Reading Time: 12 minutesDoes God change His law from time to time if the situation warrants it?

Some people think so, and they even have scripture to back it up.

“For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” (Heb 7:12)

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Light In Clouds
I have always thought of God, and what He says in His Word, as not ever being a source of confusion, or of being “contradictory,” so does it really make sense for Christians to suppose, by one isolated text, such as (Heb 7:12) that another text, [as in Mat 5:17] is “really” saying the opposite thing, without trying to explain it? “We can change God’s Law because God did,” they say.

I have a lot of trouble picturing God saying in one verse “the law will always be” and then suddenly and arbitrarily, a few chapters later, saying “lets change the law,” in another verse.

There is nothing wrong with a good “proof-text” as long as its not being used in a confusing way, or to make God’s Word contradict itself; because then, it would be a pretext. This is why CONTEXT is so essential when looking at this subject. A quick view of Heb 7:12 and its context shows quite another story about “the law,” and when we look at the context, and what that context means about”the law;”

Heb 7:12  For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. 

Was Paul here trying to say that the “law” that Jesus referred to in Mat 5:17 was “changed?” I don’t see how that could be the case; unless we are going to say Jesus contradicted His own express Word. Since some here appear to disagree with terms like “moral law” “ceremonial law” etc, I will simply use the same terms as scripture.

“There is made of necessity a change also of the law – The very essence of the Levitical Law consisting in its sacrificial offerings; and as these could not confer perfection, could not reconcile God to man, purify the unholy heart, nor open the kingdom of heaven to the souls of men, consequently it must be abolished, according to the order of God himself; for he said, Sacrifice and offering, and burnt-offering, and sacrifice for sin, he would not;

So going just by the context, and the author’s intentions here, I think people could agree that Paul is talking about “the law” in the context of “sacrifice,” “offering,” “burnt offering,” “sacrifice for sin,” as we see  in “The Levitical Law;” that were used by the Levitical Priests of the day in the Temple.

The “Levitical Law” was simply referring to laws that The Levites had to go by in their Temple ministrations. There is no need to worry about calling it “ceremonial” or other such terms today, it can just be thought of in it’s Scripture context of “Levitical Law.” IF someone wants to say well “I dont see the phrase Levitical Law in scripture,” it means the context is being ignored, because the Levitical Priesthood had a whole slew of “laws” that certainly were in a different category than “the ten commandments,” or “words” as some would prefer to say.

People can call it what they want; but this writer calls it “Levitical Law” simply because its what scripture tells us that the Levites used in their Temple ministry. When Paul was talking in Heb 7:12 about “a change made also of the law,” he was referring only to the ton of “laws” that the Levitical Priesthood had for their Temple ministry, and saying that since the “new Priesthood” is Jesus, then those old “laws” that the Levitical Priests always argued about would also have to change; and “a new commandment of love” was that change. And even that was not technically a literal change; it was just called “new” because its something the disciples had never done before. THAT law is the same law Jesus referred to in Mat 5:17, and we can find in scripture that same law all the way back to the beginning.

With that being said; Lets have a brief look at Mat 5:17; and yes, I am aware that some prefer to lump in the Levitical Laws with “the ten commandments;” I think their magic number is 613 laws, but lets look at this and see from scripture the context of what Jesus was saying here, in Mat 5:17:

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” (Mat 5:17)

I remember some time ago, when I was Elder in a church back in eastern Canada, a young man came up to me after church and asked if we could “talk.” So I invited him over for lunch, and when we were finished, we decided to go for a walk in a nearby forested area. As we walked, he talked, and he said that he was struggling with “the law” and wondering how some people, (I guess in his family) could say that “the law was done away with” “on the cross,” when Jesus died for that very law on Calvary. I thought that was a pretty good question; but I wasn’t sure about the best way to answer it, so I said, “Let me think about it…”

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After we talked some more, I could see that this was very important to him, and then it hit me – Mat 5:17-18.

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Mat 5:17-18).

I had learned by this time in my evangelism work to be careful about “scripture whipping” or just doing a QQ, (quick quote) and expecting people to “understand,” so I said to my friend: “Jake, stop for a minute. There is a really good way to figure this out. If you’ll bear with me, Ill try to explain. I want you to give this dirt we are standing on a good kick. Like this,” and then I kicked up a small cloud of dirt. He thought I was losing my marbles, but he went along with it anyways. After he gave it a kick; he looked at me waiting for an explanation. I started chuckling and I quoted Mat 5:17-18 and I said, “when you kicked that earth like that; it meant that the earth was still here. Jesus said that as long as the earth is here, then so would the law STILL be here.” So if anyone has any doubts about the law being “done away with,” just go out to the backyard and give the ground a kick. If it’s still there; then so is the law. Jesus always means what He says and He does not go back on His Word, ever.

As I will briefly show, the “law” that was “changed” re Heb 7:12 is ONLY the Levitical Laws which the Temple Priesthood had to use; but when that Priesthood ended, and Jesus was the “better Priesthood,” then so did those Levitical laws. Nothing is said to indicate that the “ten commandments” have been or ever will be “done away with; in fact in scripture, Jesus seems to reflect often on the importance, and the permanence of the ten commandments.

Conversely, Jesus often reflected on the impermanence of the Levitical Laws used in the Old Temple Priesthood:

If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? (Heb 7:11). So there is the context for Heb 7:12.

The Psalmist often stated thoughts on the permanent nature of the ten commandments:

I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. (Psalms 40:8)

And thats all “the new covenant” was and is. There are just a couple of texts that some use to try to say the covenant “is the law;” But in context; the covenant; either Old or New, are just agreements about that law.

“The Jews” worried a lot about some things they didnt have to; and they clearly had a different “law” than Jesus because they often would say in conversations: “our law:”

“The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” (John 19:7) and “Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law.” (Acts 24:6). The Jews clearly were not talking about the same “law” that Jesus died for.

This is the very point upon which the dividing line is to be drawn: “the blood of Christ.” Jesus died for the law that we keep breaking, so that we could live by the law he died keeping. Jesus came to “fulfil” the law, meaning to demonstrate how to live our lives in the keeping of His law. Why would Jesus die for all of those Levitical “laws” in the Temple? That doesnt make sense.

Now, going back to Mat 5:17, Jesus gives us a very clear context of which law He was referring to by the preceding verses:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Salt and LightYe are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither doen light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Mat 5:3-16)

Mat 5:3-6 is the context here; and comprises the basics of God’s Ten Commandments. Jesus was talking about these verses preceding verse 17, when He made the statement of Mat 5:17-18. verse 16, in particular seems to indicate the fact that the “law” Jesus was talking about was not always thought of as something to “obey,’ but something to become. (2 Cor 5:17, etc).

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In Mat 5; verses 17-18 Jesus was saying that verses 3-16 were the things that would NEVER be done away with by His shed blood. Its our sins that get done away with; not God’s ten Commandments. So the Bible shows us The Jews who kept saying in various ways and actions “we have a Law,” and that Jesus, throughout both Old and New Testament saying AND demonstrating that “I have a law.” When Jesus said in mat 5:17 “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil,” thats exactly what He intended.

Certainly, no one could possibly say that Jesus died for all that stuff the Jews kept attacking Him about when they said: “we have a law.”

Jesus died for all those things mentioned before Mat 5:17-18, because what we are inside is and He lived all those things so that we would have The Pattern to live life today as a Christian.

“Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets.” I have come not to abolish but to complete, to make their meaning full. The Hebrew word “Torah,” literally “teaching, doctrine,” is rendered in both the Septuagint and the New Testament by the Greek word “nomos,” which means “law.” Greek has had a more direct and pervasive influence on English and other modern languages than Hebrew has, and this is why in most languages one speaks of the “Law” of Moses rather than the “Teaching” of Moses. It is also part of the reason why the Torah has mistakenly come to be thought of by Christians as legalistic in character (see Rom 3:20, Gal 3:23). [taken from Jewish New Testament Commentary]

In closing, perhaps it would be best to briefly clarify a very common difficulty that is encountered by many Christians who are trying to understand the confusion about the two covenants. Common idea about The Old Covenant, and The New Covenant have made understanding God’s Law, very challenging.

Both the Old Covenant and The New Covenant were simply agreements about the Law of God. Two separate agreements about God’s Law, with two, very different approaches.

Soon after the encampment at Sinai, Moses was called up into the mountain to meet with God. Israel was now to be taken into a close and peculiar relation to the Most High–to be officially incorporated as a church and a nation under the government of God. The message to Moses for the people was:

“if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exodus 19:4-6).And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.(Exodus 19:7-8, KJV)

Now, The New Covenant was about the same law of the Ten commandments. Jeremiah first said it in these words:

“But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer 31:33)

The difference between these two covenants/agreements about God’s Law is clear. In the Old Covenant, when God first spoke The Ten Commandments for Moses to pass on; the people were so high-minded and self-confident that they all said in one, loud voice: “all that you have said, we will do.” They had the audacity to put forward the idea that they could keep that law by themselves, in and of their own power and spiritual prowess. “We will do, was the watchword of The Old Covenant. God gave them their desire, and as we now know; it failed miserably, and it wasn’t lonf before His people were worshipping the golden calf, instead of The Lord.

The New Covenant was the complete opposite. It was a promise by God, to His people. And for today’s Christians who aspire unto this New Covenant, by accepting God’s promise to write His law on their hearts. And God never fails to keep His promise. All we have to do is to get rid of the idea of us being able to “be good” all on our own, and let The Savior in to the inner chamber of our hearts:

When the law of God is written in the heart it will be exhibited in a pure and holy life. The commandments of God are no dead letter. They are spirit and life, bringing the imaginations and even the thoughts into subjection to the will of Christ. The heart in which they are written will be kept with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. All who love Jesus and keep the commandments will seek to avoid the very appearance of evil; not because they are constrained thus to do, but because they are copying a pure model, and feel averse to everything contrary to the law written in their hearts. They will not feel self-sufficient, but their trust will be in God, who alone is able to keep them from sin and impurity. The atmosphere surrounding them is pure; they will not corrupt their own souls or the souls of others. It is their pleasure to deal justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God. {TDG 146.2}

The danger that lies before those living in these last days, is the absence of pure religion, the absence of heart holiness. The converting power of God has not wrought in transforming their characters. They profess to believe sacred truths as did the Jewish nation; but in their failing to practice the truth, they are ignorant both of the Scriptures and the power of God. The power and influence of God’s law are all around us, but not written by God within the soul, renewing it in true holiness; and writing His law upon our hearts.

“May grace and peace be yours in full measure through your knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. God’s divine power has given us everything we need to live a truly religious life through our knowledge of the one who called us to share in his own glory and goodness. In this way he has given us the very great and precious gifts he promised, so that by means of these gifts you may escape from the destructive lust that is in the world, and may come to share the divine nature. (2 Pet 1:2-4).

We do not have to try to “obey” God all on our own. He has promised to do that part. God keeps His promises; we do not keep our promises very well.

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I like to think of Enoch when it comes to this subject:

It was no easier for Enoch to live a righteous life in his day than it is for us at the present time. The world in Enoch’s time was no more favorable to a growth in grace and holiness than it is now, but Enoch devoted time to prayer and communion with God, and this enabled him to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. It was his devotion to God that fitted him for translation.

We are living amid the perils of the last days, and we must receive our strength from the same source as did Enoch. We must walk with God. A separation from the world is required of us. We cannot remain free from this pollution unless we follow the example of faithful Enoch and walk with God. But how many are slaves to the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. This is the reason they are not partakers of the divine nature, and do not escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. They are serving and honoring self. Their constant study is: What shall I eat, what shall I drink, and wherewithal shall I be clothed?

Many talk of sacrifice, when they do not know what sacrifice is. They have not tasted its first draught. They talk of the cross of Christ, they profess the faith, but they have no experience in self-denial, lifting the cross and bearing it after their Lord.

If they were partakers of the divine nature, the same spirit that dwelt in their Lord would dwell in them. The same tenderness and love, the same pity and compassion, would be manifested in their lives. They would not then wait to have the needy and unfortunate come to them, and be entreated to feel their woes. It would be as natural for them to aid the needy and minister to their wants as it was for Christ to go about doing good.

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