Today I want to investigate one of the cornerstone teachings of Protestantism, namely that Christ died to do away with the law (Torah or Old Testament laws). This is taught by mainstream Protestant theologians, pastors and teachers and has wide ranging implications for all of us.
There are only three possible options regarding the law (Torah):
1. The law is completely done away with and now none of it applies;
2. Some of the law still applies e.g. Thou shalt not kill;
3. All of the law still applies.
One of these statements has to be correct and by the rules of logic the other two must be wrong.
Option 1: The law is completely done away with and now none of it applies
Where does Protestantism get this idea from?
Rom 6:14 states
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
We have used this verse as a sort of get out of jail free card when it comes to following the law, we claim that because we are not under the law, it doesn’t apply to us and we don’t have to follow it. But does this align with the rest of scripture? If we combine the very next verse (Rom 6:15) which says we are not to sin with 1 John 3:4 which defines sin as breaking God’s law (Torah), then we have options 1 and 2 contradicting scripture.
Getting back to option 1, if this is correct and Torah no longer applies, then we are free to break God’s laws because we are no longer bound by them. Murder, adultery, lying, stealing… the list goes on are now permissible and we can do these things without consequence. This thinking has spawned entire bodies of errant theology, the current one in vogue is “Hyper-grace.” Fortunately scripture does not allow this and has a stern warning against it and its teachers:
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
We tend to think that this verse applies to unsaved sinners and yet if we teach and do such things doesn’t it apply to us as well? Let’s check 3 verses on:
And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
So we don’t get out of jail on this idea that none of the law applies. In fact in Rom 1 Paul refers to some Torah laws and says we should obey them e.g. don’t kill. Therefore at least some of the laws still apply and so Hyper-grace must be rejected along with option 1 as scripturally incorrect.
Option 2: Some of the law still applies e.g. Thou shalt not kill
Because a lot of Protestants are uncomfortable with the implications of hyper-grace type theologies and recognise the New Testament establishes some laws we should obey eg don’t kill, they adopt Option 2 as their theological position.
Using Rom 6:14 and other similar verses, they teach Christ did away with the law (which they mistakenly call the Old Covenant) and that He replaced it with a New Covenant. They then search the New Testament trying to figure out what the New Covenant laws are. They are confusing the law with the covenants made about the law. The prophets did say the old covenant would be replaced but that followers of the new covenant could be recognised because they would have the law written on their hearts. This is not about doing away with the law, but about following it wholeheartedly!
Hebrews 8:8-10 quotes Jeremiah 31:31-33 directly on this:
Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them,” says the Lord. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days,” says the Lord, “I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
Hebrews 8:8 says God found fault with them (Israel) not with His law. God is not replacing His laws, He is writing it on their hearts.
So in trying to figure out what the New Covenant laws are, Protestants scour the New Testament to see whether a particular sin is mentioned there or not. Whether it somehow became ok because Christ died for it on the cross – or it’s not ok because either Christ somehow missed it, or for some other reason it is still not ok! Starting to sound a bit ridiculous?
For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all;
Christ died once for all sins, He didn’t pick and choose.
Protestants holding to option 2 tie themselves into theological knots, because on the one hand they quote Rom 6:14 to show they are not under the law then proceed to replace these with other laws – including some which are found in “the law.” So Paul was incorrect when he said we are not under the law, he should have said we are not under “some” laws. We end up with Paul saying we’re not under the law and then he goes and slips some of those laws back in again scattering them across his (and the apostle’s) letters in no particular order so it’s really hard to find them.
So under option 2, because some laws e.g. observing Sabbath are not specifically mentioned in the New Testament they no longer apply, but if they happen to get an honourable mention, then we should obey those ones. This is a pick n’ mix theology where we get to say which laws we do and don’t want to observe. The criteria we have chosen is an arbitrary one which says that if it’s not mentioned in the New Testament we can ignore it. Yet we have no scriptures to point to to justify this.
This is arbitrary man-made theology trying to force the rest of scripture to fit our interpretation of Rom 6:14. Maybe we just need to re-examine our interpretation of Rom 6:14?
Another issue for option 2 is that if God went to such lengths to spell out the law at Sinai (ie Torah was clearly defined and delivered through Moses), why has He left His new replacement laws (which He still requires us to obey) scattered throughout the New Testament, in no particular order with sometimes not much more than a vague reference about them? It makes more sense to say the New Testament only vaguely references the laws because they are already well defined in Tanakh (Old Testament) and don’t need long explanations again. Why would God allow His Son to be cruelly killed on a Roman cross to then leave our salvation dependent on following a bunch of vaguely defined rules that are hard to find?
The biggest problem for option 2 is that Yeshua Himself does not allow it. He says in:
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Heaven and earth haven’t yet passed away, therefore the law has not passed, not even a jot of it. Therefore the whole law still applies.
If option 3 is correct and the whole law still applies as Yeshua said it does then we have some rethinking to do. A key place to start is getting our heads around repentance and grace. I highly recommend the book “The Tanakh – Dictionary of the New Testament” by Bradford Scott. In it he teaches what repentance is, how grace operates through faith and how it all fits in with the law. He also unpacks many of the other New Testament verses we have interpreted to mean that the law no longer applies. You can purchase it here:
For further issues facing options 1 and 2 watch the following 4 minute videos:
For more on this subject please read my other article “Are you under the law?”
Shalom and God Bless as you walk in His ways,