Is the Law of Moses (Torah) Still Binding?


by Wayne Jackson A Theonomic Rebuttal
Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.
Galatians 3:7

So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.
Galatians 3:9

. . . that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Galatians 3:14

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. {29} And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:28-29

Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.
Galatians 4:28

For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
Romans 4:16

Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.
Romans 4:13

That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.
Romans 9:8

. . . having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,
1 Peter 1:23

And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
Galatians 6:16

Bad theology is the mother of tyranny. The article at left is nine months pregnant. Although the article never uses the term, we assume it is an argument against the school of Christian Ethics known as "Theonomy," which means "God's Law." A Summary of this position is found below.

Let's start with the title: "Is the Law of Moses (Torah) Still Binding?" To equate "the Law of Moses" with "Torah" is the very first mistake this article makes. But "Torah" is a nice scary word, which prejudices God's Law in the eyes of most low-information church-goers. Obviously the Hebrew word "Torah" does not appear in the New Testament, so we can't get an explicit answer to the question posed by the article at left.

Abraham is our father in the faith. Christians are the seed of Abraham. [See sidebar] What did Abraham think about God's "Torah?" God says of Abraham:

And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;
Because that Abraham obeyed My Voice, and kept My Charge, My Commandments, My Statutes, and My Torah.
Genesis 26:4-5

Abraham lived centuries before God gave tablets of stone to Moses. So equating "Torah" with Moses is a mistake. But the Pharisees made the same mistake. They spoke of circumcision (which was given to Abraham) as being from Moses:

Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath.
John 7:22

But Abraham, the father of the faithful, seems to have had a pro-torah attitude. The word "torah" means "direction." Godly people follow God's directions. God's People apparently knew God's torah from the time of Abraham to the Exodus:

Exodus 12:49
One torah shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.
Exodus 13:9
And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the LORD'S torah may be in thy mouth: for with a strong hand hath the LORD brought thee out of Egypt.
Exodus 16:4
Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my torah, or no.
Exodus 16:28
And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my torot? [plural, "laws"]
Exodus 18:16
When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his torot.
Exodus 18:20
And thou shalt teach  them ordinances and torot, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.

We can assume that God gave "direction" to Man in the Garden of Eden other than the commands which are explicitly recorded in Scripture (exercise dominion [Genesis 1:26-28], dress and keep the garden [2:15], eat [2:16] and don't eat [2:17], name the animals [2:19], etc.). God apparently gave the command "Thou shalt not kill" before Moses (even though it's not recorded in the Scriptures) and Cain violated this command when he killed his brother Abel. Others at that time seemed to know that "capital punishment" was in order, but God issued a stay of execution. We can assume that Abraham obeyed commands like these. Are they still "binding?" Does God change His direction? If some modern-day Cain kills his brother, wouldn't we know from reading Genesis 4 that this was sinful?

  Of course God gave direction on how to restore fellowship after we sin (which 1 John 3:4 defines as transgressing the law: "for sin is the transgression of the law"). In the Old Covenant God ordained priests to act as mediators between God and sinners. Abraham had Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18). Moses was told to make priests from the tribe of Levi. Jesus is a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, superceding the Levitical priesthood, as predicted in the Old Testament. God gave direction (torah) to the priests:
Leviticus 6:9
Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the torah of the burnt offering: It is the burnt offering, because of the burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it.
Leviticus 6:14 
And this is the torah of the meat offering: the sons of Aaron shall offer it before the LORD, before the altar.
Leviticus 6:25 
Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, saying, This is the torah of the sin offering: In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the LORD: it is most holy.
Leviticus 7:1 
Likewise this is the torah of the trespass offering: it is most holy.
Leviticus 7:7 
As the sin offering is, so is the trespass offering: there is one torah for them: the priest that maketh atonement therewith shall have it.
Leviticus 7:11 
And this is the torah of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which he shall offer unto the LORD.
Leviticus 7:37 
This is the torah of the burnt offering, of the meat offering, and of the sin offering, and of the trespass offering, and of the consecrations, and of the sacrifice of the peace offerings;
Leviticus 11:46 
This is the torah of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moveth in the waters, and of every creature that creepeth upon the earth:
Leviticus 12:7 
Who shall offer it before the LORD, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the torah for her that hath born a male or a female.
Leviticus 13:59 
This is the torah of the plague of leprosy in a garment of woollen or linen, either in the warp, or woof, or any thing of skins, to pronounce it clean, or to pronounce it unclean.
Leviticus 14:2 
This shall be the torah of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest:
Leviticus 14:32 
This is the torah of him in whom is the plague of leprosy, whose hand is not able to get that which pertaineth to his cleansing.
Leviticus 14:54 
This is the torah for all manner of plague of leprosy, and scall,
Leviticus 14:57 
To teach when it is unclean, and when it is clean: this is the torah of leprosy.
Leviticus 15:32 
This is the torah of him that hath an issue, and of him whose seed ** goeth from him, and is defiled therewith;
Leviticus 26:46 
These are the statutes and judgments and torot, which the LORD made between him and the children of Israel in mount Sinai by the hand of Moses.

Notice that God gave "torah" ["direction"] for many different subjects. We are not obligated to obey the "torah" of burnt offerings in the same way Israel was under the Levitical priesthood. We obey that "torah" through Jesus. But God's "direction" for life, liberty, and property are the same as they were in the Garden of Eden, under Abraham, and in the Promised land.

In the book of Numbers we see a "torah" for Nazirites. But as far as life, liberty, and property is concerned, we see there is one "torah" shared by Israelites and strangers alike.

Numbers 5:29 
This is the torah of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled ;
Numbers 5:30 
Or when the spirit of jealousy cometh upon him, and he be jealous over his wife, and shall set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall execute upon her all this torah.
Numbers 6:13 
And this is the torah of the Nazarite, when the days of his separation are fulfilled : he shall be brought unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation:
Numbers 6:21 
This is the torah of the Nazarite who hath vowed, and of his offering unto the LORD for his separation, beside that that his hand shall get : according to the vow which he vowed, so he must do after the torah of his separation.
Numbers 15:16 
One torah and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you.
Numbers 15:29 
Ye shall have one torah for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them.
Numbers 19:2 
This is the ordinance of the torah which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke:
Numbers 19:14 
This is the torah, when a man dieth in a tent: all that come into the tent, and all that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days.
Numbers 31:21 
And Eleazar the priest said unto the men of war which went to the battle, This is the ordinance of the torah which the LORD commanded Moses;

Let's follow the advice Paul gave to Timothy. Let's follow the model of the Bereans. Let's search the Scriptures. Here are the remaining occurrences of the word "torah." If you don't want to read a lot of Bible verses, skip to here. Or check out

Any first-century student of the Scriptures who was familiar with all these verses would be very skeptical of any claim that under the reign of the Messiah, we would all ignore the Torah. There certainly is nothing in the pages of the New Testament to support such a claim. And quite a bit to oppose the idea.


Deuteronomy 1:5

On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this torah, saying,

Deuteronomy 4:8 

And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this torah, which I set before you this day?

Deuteronomy 4:44 

And this is the torah which Moses set before the children of Israel:

Deuteronomy 17:11 

According to the sentence of the torah which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do : thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left.

Deuteronomy 17:18 

And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this torah in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:

Deuteronomy 17:19 

And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this torah and these statutes, to do them:

Deuteronomy 27:3 

And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this torah, when thou art passed over, that thou mayest go in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, a land that floweth with milk and honey; as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee.

Deuteronomy 27:8 

And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this torah very plainly.

Deuteronomy 27:26 

Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this torah to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.

Deuteronomy 28:58 

If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this torah that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD;

Deuteronomy 28:61 

Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this torah, them will the LORD bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed.

Deuteronomy 29:21 

And the LORD shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the torah:

Deuteronomy 29:29 

The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this torah.

Deuteronomy 30:10 

If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the torah, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.

Deuteronomy 31:9 

And Moses wrote this torah, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and unto all the elders of Israel.

Deuteronomy 31:11 

When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this torah before all Israel in their hearing.

Deuteronomy 31:12 

Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law:

Deuteronomy 31:24 

And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this torah in a book, until they were finished,

Deuteronomy 31:26 

Take this book of the torah, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.

Deuteronomy 32:46 

And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law.

Deuteronomy 33:4 

Moses commanded us a torah, even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.

Deuteronomy 33:10 

They shall teach Jacob thy judgments, and Israel thy law: they shall put incense before thee, and whole burnt sacrifice upon thine altar.

Joshua 1:7 

Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the torah, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.

Joshua 1:8 

This book of the torah shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Joshua 8:31 

As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the torah of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings.

Joshua 8:32 

And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the torah of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel.

Joshua 8:34 

And afterward he read all the words of the torah, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law.

Joshua 22:5 

But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the torah, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Joshua 23:6 

Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the torah of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left;

Joshua 24:26 

And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the torah of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the LORD.

1 Kings 2:3 

And keep the charge of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the torah of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself:

2 Kings 10:31 

But Jehu took no heed to walk in the torah of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.

2 Kings 14:6 

But the children of the murderers he slew not: according unto that which is written in the book of the torah of Moses, wherein the LORD commanded, saying, The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children be put to death for the fathers; but every man shall be put to death for his own sin.

2 Kings 17:13 

Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the torah which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets.

2 Kings 17:34 

Unto this day they do after the former manners: they fear not the LORD, neither do they after their statutes, or after their ordinances, or after the torah and commandment which the LORD commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named * Israel;

2 Kings 17:37 

And the statutes, and the ordinances, and the torah, and the commandment, which he wrote for you, ye shall observe to do forevermore; and ye shall not fear other gods.

2 Kings 21:8 

Neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the torah that my servant Moses commanded them.

2 Kings 22:8 

And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the torah in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.

2 Kings 22:11 

And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the torah, that he rent his clothes.

2 Kings 23:24 

Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the torah which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD.

2 Kings 23:25 

And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the torah of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.

1 Chronicles 16:40 

To offer burnt offerings unto the LORD upon the altar of the burnt offering continually morning and evening, and to do according to all that is written in the torah of the LORD, which he commanded Israel;

1 Chronicles 22:12 

Only the LORD give thee wisdom and understanding, and give thee charge concerning Israel, that thou mayest keep the torah of the LORD thy God.

2 Chronicles 6:16 

Now therefore, O LORD God of Israel, keep with thy servant David my father that which thou hast promised him, saying, There shall not fail thee a man in my sight to sit upon the throne of Israel; yet so that thy children take heed to their way to walk in my torah, as thou hast walked before me.

2 Chronicles 12:1 

And it came to pass, when Rehoboam had established the kingdom, and had strengthened himself, he forsook the torah of the LORD, and all Israel with him.

2 Chronicles 14:4 

And commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to do the torah and the commandment.

2 Chronicles 15:3 

Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law.

2 Chronicles 17:9 

And they taught in Judah, and had the book of the torah of the LORD with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people.

2 Chronicles 19:10 

And what cause soever shall come to you of your brethren that dwell in their cities, between blood and blood, between torah and commandment, statutes and judgments, ye shall even warn them that they trespass not against the LORD, and so wrath come upon you, and upon your brethren: this do, and ye shall not trespass.

2 Chronicles 23:18 

Also Jehoiada appointed the offices of the house of the LORD by the hand of the priests the Levites, whom David had distributed in the house of the LORD, to offer the burnt offerings of the LORD, as it is written in the torah of Moses, with rejoicing and with singing, as it was ordained by David.

2 Chronicles 25:4 

But he slew not their children, but did as it is written in the torah in the book of Moses, where the LORD commanded, saying, The fathers shall not die for the children, neither shall the children die for the fathers, but every man shall die for his own sin.

2 Chronicles 30:16 

And they stood in their place after their manner, according to the torah of Moses the man of God: the priests sprinkled the blood, which they received of the hand of the Levites.

2 Chronicles 31:3 

He appointed also the king's portion of his substance for the burnt offerings, to wit, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the Sabbaths, and for the new moons, and for the set feasts, as it is written in the torah of the LORD.

2 Chronicles 31:4 

Moreover he commanded the people that dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might be encouraged in the torah of the LORD.

2 Chronicles 31:21 

And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the torah, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.

2 Chronicles 33:8 

Neither will I any more remove the foot of Israel from out of the land which I have appointed for your fathers; so that they will take heed to do all that I have commanded them, according to the whole torah and the statutes and the ordinances by the hand of Moses.

2 Chronicles 34:14 

And when they brought out the money that was brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found a book of the torah of the LORD given by Moses.

2 Chronicles 34:15 

And Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the torah in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah delivered the book to Shaphan.

2 Chronicles 34:19 

And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the torah, that he rent his clothes.

2 Chronicles 35:26 

Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, and his goodness, according to that which was written in the torah of the LORD,

Ezra 3:2 

Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the torah of Moses the man of God.

Ezra 7:6 

This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the torah of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given : and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him.

Ezra 7:10 

For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the torah of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

Ezra 10:3 

Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.

Nehemiah 8:1 

And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the torah of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel.

Nehemiah 8:2 

And Ezra the priest brought the torah before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.

Nehemiah 8:3 

And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday *, before the men and the women, and those that could understand ; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.

Nehemiah 8:7 

Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place.

Nehemiah 8:8 

So they read in the book in the torah of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.

Nehemiah 8:9 

And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.

Nehemiah 8:13 

And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law.

Nehemiah 8:14 

And they found written in the torah which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month:

Nehemiah 8:18 

Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the torah of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner.

Nehemiah 9:3 

And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the torah of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.

Nehemiah 9:13 

Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments:

Nehemiah 9:14

And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant:

Nehemiah 9:26 

Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy torah behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations.

Nehemiah 9:29 

And testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, if a man do, he shall live in them;) and withdrew * the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear.

Nehemiah 9:34 

Neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor our fathers, kept thy torah, nor hearkened unto thy commandments and thy testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against them.

Nehemiah 10:28 

And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinims, and all they that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the torah of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one having knowledge, and having understanding ;

Nehemiah 10:29 

They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God's torah, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes;

Nehemiah 10:34 

And we cast the lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, after the houses of our fathers, at times appointed year by year, to burn upon the altar of the LORD our God, as it is written in the law:

Nehemiah 10:36 

Also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the torah, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that minister in the house of our God:

Nehemiah 12:44 

And at that time were some appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the offerings, for the firstfruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them out of the fields of the cities the portions of the torah for the priests and Levites: for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites that waited.

Nehemiah 13:3 

Now it came to pass, when they had heard the torah, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude.

Job 22:22 

Receive, I pray thee, the torah from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart.

Psalm 1:2 

But his delight is in the torah of the LORD; and in his torah doth he meditate day and night.

Psalm 19:7 

The torah of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

Psalm 37:31 

The torah of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.

Psalm 40:8 

I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy torah is within my heart.

Psalm 78:1 

[ *Maschil of Asaph.] Give ear, O my people, to my torah: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

Psalm 78:5 

For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a torah in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:

Psalm 78:10 

They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his torah;

Psalm 89:30 

If his children forsake my torah, and walk not in my judgments;

Psalm 94:12 

Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy torah;

Psalm 105:45 

That they might observe his statutes, and keep his torot. Praise ye the LORD.

Psalm 119:1 

ALEPH. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the torah of the LORD.

Psalm 119:18 

Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy torah.

Psalm 119:29 

Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy torah graciously.

Psalm 119:34 

Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy torah; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.

Psalm 119:44 

So shall I keep thy torah continually for ever and ever.

Psalm 119:51 

The proud have had me greatly in derision : yet have I not declined from thy torah.

Psalm 119:53 

Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy torah.

Psalm 119:55 

I have remembered thy name, O LORD, in the night, and have kept thy torah.

Psalm 119:61 

The bands of the wicked have robbed me: but I have not forgotten thy torah.

Psalm 119:70 

Their heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy torah.

Psalm 119:72 

The torah of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.

Psalm 119:77 

Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live : for thy torah is my delight.

Psalm 119:85 

The proud have digged pits for me, which are not after thy torah.

Psalm 119:92 

Unless thy torah had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction.

Psalm 119:97 

MEM. O how love I thy torah! it is my meditation all the day.

Psalm 119:109 

My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy torah.

Psalm 119:113 

SAMECH. I hate vain thoughts: but thy torah do I love.

Psalm 119:126 

It is time for thee, LORD, to work : for they have made void thy torah.

Psalm 119:136 

Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy torah.

Psalm 119:142 

Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy torah is the truth.

Psalm 119:150 

They draw nigh that follow after mischief: they are far from thy torah.

Psalm 119:153 

RESH. Consider mine affliction, and deliver me: for I do not forget thy torah.

Psalm 119:163 

I hate and abhor lying: but thy torah do I love.

Psalm 119:165 

Great peace have they which love thy torah: and nothing shall offend them.

Psalm 119:174 

I have longed for thy salvation, O LORD; and thy torah is my delight.

Proverbs 1:8 

My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the torah of thy mother:

Proverbs 3:1 

My son, forget not my torah; but let thine heart keep my commandments:

Proverbs 4:2 

For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my torah.

Proverbs 6:20

My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the torah of thy mother:

Proverbs 6:23

For the commandment is a lamp; and the torah is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:

Proverbs 7:2 

Keep my commandments, and live ; and my torah as the apple of thine eye.

Proverbs 13:14

The torah of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.

Proverbs 28:4

They that forsake the torah praise the wicked: but such as keep the torah contend with them.

Proverbs 28:7

Whoso keepeth the torah is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father.

Proverbs 28:9

He that turneth away his ear from hearing the torah, even his prayer shall be abomination.

Proverbs 29:18

Where there is no vision, the people perish : but he that keepeth the torah, happy is he.

Proverbs 31:26

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the torah of kindness.

Isaiah 1:10 

Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the torah of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.

Isaiah 2:3 

And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the torah, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Isaiah 5:24  

Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the torah of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 8:16 

Bind up the testimony, seal the torah among my disciples.

Isaiah 8:20 

To the torah and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

Isaiah 24:5 

The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the torot, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.

Isaiah 30:9 

That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the torah of the LORD:

Isaiah 42:4 

He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his torah.

Isaiah 42:21 

The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the torah, and make it honourable.

Isaiah 42:24 

Who gave Jacob for a spoil *, and Israel to the robbers ? did not the LORD, he against whom we have sinned ? for they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient unto his torah.

Isaiah 51:4 

Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a torah shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.

Isaiah 51:7 

Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my torah; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings.

Jeremiah 2:8

The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the torah knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.

Jeremiah 6:19

Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my torah, but rejected it.

Jeremiah 8:8

How do ye say, We are wise, and the torah of the LORD is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain.

Jeremiah 9:13

And the LORD saith, Because they have forsaken my torah which I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, neither walked therein;

Jeremiah 16:11

Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the LORD, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my torah;

Jeremiah 18:18

Then said they, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the torah shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.

Jeremiah 26:4

And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD; If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my torah, which I have set before you,

Jeremiah 31:33

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 torah in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Jeremiah 32:23

And they came in, and possessed it; but they obeyed not thy voice, neither walked in thy torah; they have done nothing of all that thou commandedst them to do : therefore thou hast caused all this evil to come upon them:

Jeremiah 44:10

They are not humbled even unto this day, neither have they feared, nor walked in my torah, nor in my statutes, that I set before you and before your fathers.

Jeremiah 44:23

Because ye have burned incense, and because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, nor walked in his torah, nor in his statutes, nor in his testimonies; therefore this evil is happened unto you, as at this day.

Lamentations 2:9

Her gates are sunk into the ground; he hath destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes are among the Gentiles: the torah is no more; her prophets also find no vision from the LORD.

Ezekiel 7:26

Mischief shall come upon mischief, and rumour shall be upon rumour; then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the torah shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the ancients.

Ezekiel 22:26

Her priests have violated my torah, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.

Ezekiel 43:11

And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the torot thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them.

Ezekiel 43:12

This is the torah of the house; Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the torah of the house.

Ezekiel 44:5

And the LORD said unto me, Son of man, mark well, and behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears all that I say unto thee concerning all the ordinances of the house of the LORD, and all the torot thereof; and mark well the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the sanctuary.

Ezekiel 44:24

And in controversy they shall stand in judgment ; and they shall judge it according to my judgments: and they shall keep my torot and my statutes in all mine assemblies; and they shall hallow my sabbaths.

Daniel 9:10

Neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in his torot, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

Daniel 9:11

Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy torah, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the torah of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.

Daniel 9:13

As it is written in the torah of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.

Hosea 4:6

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou has forgotten the torah of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

Hosea 8:1

Set the trumpet to thy mouth. He shall come as an eagle against the house of the LORD, because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my torah.

Hosea 8:12

I have written to him the great things * of my torah, but they were counted as a strange thing.

Amos 2:4

Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have despised the torah of the LORD, and have not kept his commandments, and their lies caused them to err, after the which their fathers have walked :

Micah 4:2
But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.
2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the torah shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.
5 Although other nations may walk every one in the name of his god, we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.

Habakkuk 1:4

Therefore the torah is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth : for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.

Zephaniah 3:4

Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the torah.

Haggai 2:11

Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the torah, saying,

Zechariah 7:12

Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the torah, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts.

Malachi 2:6

The torah of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity.

Malachi 2:7

For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the torah at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.

Malachi 2:8

But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the torah; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.

Malachi 2:9

Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the torah.

Malachi 4:4

Remember ye the torah of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.

OK, That's quite a few verses. This is what faithful Old Testament saints thought about God's torah, because this is what God's Holy Spirit wrote about the torah.

  What can we learn?

Let's imagine that the New Testament revealed for the first time that there were really two Gods.

How would this have been revealed to Jews who passionately believed there was only one God?

It would have to have been revealed with astonishing clarity. There would have been a great debate, and arguments would have had to have been answered. There would have been great confusion and controversy.

(Need I prove that the Jews were intensely monotheistic? Start with Deuteronomy 6. I'll leave you with that auspicious start.)

What if it were God's will that under the reign of the Messiah, God's People were no longer obligated to follow God's Torah ("direction")? How would the writers of the New Testament set forth the strikingly new and unanticipated doctrine that the Law of God was terminated, ended, overturned, abolished? If you read all those verses that spoke of God's Torah, you would get the feeling that to the Jews of Jesus' day, this doctrine would be about as controversial and unforeseen as the revelation of another True God besides YHWH.

Let's review some of those verses to prove this last claim.

  • Abraham - Genesis 26:4-5
    • Abraham obeyed My Voice, and kept My Charge, My Commandments, My Statutes, and My Torah.
  • Leviticus 18:24-30 - God holds the Gentile nations accountable for violations of God's Law given to Moses (and Abraham)
    1. Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:
    2. And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.
    3. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you:
    4. (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;)
    5. That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.
    6. For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people.
    7. Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the Lord your God.
  • Psalm 119 - go back and read what a man after God's own heart thinks about God's Torah.
  • Jeremiah 31 - The Torah written on the heart of New Covenant believers
    • Jeremiah 31:33
      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 torah in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
    • Fulfilled: Hebrews 8:10; 10:16
    • Similarly: Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:27
      Ezekiel 11:19-20
      19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:
      20 That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
      Ezekiel 36:27
      27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
    • How can you claim to be a New Covenant Christian and not want God's Torah written on your heart? How would a student of the Scriptures, who engrafted God's Word onto his heart, react to a claim that we are not obligated to obey the laws that God wrote on our heart?
  • Jesus  - Matthew 5:17-20
    • This should pretty much wrap up the debate over whether we are obligated to obey God's Torah
      1. Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
      2. 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.
      3. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
      4. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
    • Isn't the article at left violating Jesus command, by teaching us that we are not obligated to do God's Law?
  • The Scriptures -- All of those verses above. Paul tells Timothy to continue following them as he had since he was an infant.
  • Pauline usage:
    • 1 Corinthians 9 - oxen
      • Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” [Deuteronomy 25:4] Is it oxen God is concerned about? 10 Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?
      • If God's People were no longer obligated to obey "the law of Moses," wouldn't Paul have taken this opportunity to strengthen that controversial claim, rather than obligate believers to continue following God's Law? If this was Paul's big chance to straighten people out on the non-obligatory character of the law of Moses, he blew it big-time.
    • Ephesians 6 -- children, commandments, and blessing
      • Ephesians 6:1-3
        1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
        2 Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment [Exodus 20:12] with promise;
        3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
      • Doesn't this make believers think they are still obligated to follow God's Law? Wouldn't believers like Timothy -- who had been committing God's Law [all those verses above] to their heart since childhood -- take this verse from the Apostle Paul to confirm the continuing obligation (and blessing) to obey God's Law?
      • Deuteronomy 4:5ff -- parallel to Ephesians 6
        5 Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.
        6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
        7 For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for?
        8 And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this torah, which I set before you this day?
        40 Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, for ever.
  • As we pointed out, the Hebrew word "torah" is not to be found directly in the Greek New Testament. But the New Testament writers (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) frequently quote Old Testament verses on the torah as though it were quite obvious that the torah was still obligatory (excluding, of course, "the torah" of the Levitical priesthood).
  Let's see if you think about God's Law the way Jesus thinks about it. Let's take a little quiz.

The table below has two columns: Column A is "the Law"; Column B is "the Gospel."

Column A
The Law
Column B
The Gospel

Place the following words in the correct column:

  • Justice
  • Mercy
  • Faith

If you're like most Christians, here is how you answered this quiz:

Column A
The Law
Column B
The Gospel
  • Justice
  • Mercy
  • Faith

So how do you think Jesus would have answered this quiz? The answer is found in Matthew 23:23:

Matthew 23:23
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Justice, mercy, and faith, are all matters of the Law, and the "weightier matters" at that. Here is the correct answer, as given by Jesus:

Column A
The Law
Column B
The Gospel
  • Justice
  • Mercy
  • Faith

Shouldn't a Christian answer in the same way as Jesus Christ?

We've been trained to believe the Law is against mercy and faith. This is not Christlike thinking.


The Greek word for "law" is nomos. A person who is against law is "anti-nomian." A follower of Jesus Christ should be pro-nomian.

Never has there been a period in my lifetime when there is as much doctrinal confusion in the body of Christ as there is at this time. Some of the most fundamental issues of biblical truth are being challenged.

So are we really confused on this issue? Yes. We don't have a Christlike view of the Torah.
But that's not what the writer of the article at left means when he talks about "confusion." He wants us to think there is a group of pastors who are dressing up like Levitical priests, advocating circumcision as a required religious ritual, especially for Gentiles. Most people who defend God's Law are not supporting a return to Levitical temple rituals, but are supporting family, marriage, work, and honesty, and opposing the opposite: adultery, theft, homosexuality, perjury, violence, murder, and covetousness. Jesus said the "weightier matters of the law" are "justice, mercy, and faith" (Matthew 23:23). The Apostle Paul said if you want to love your neighbor, don't steal from your neighbor, don't seduce your neighbor's wife, don't kill your neighbor -- in short, obey God's Law as the blueprint of love (Romans 13:8-10). Is this really all that "confusing?"

In the first century there was confusion. There were Jews who said Gentiles should be circumcised as Abraham was commanded. The Pharisees substituted their own human traditions for the Law God gave to Moses. There was a big discussion about this in Acts 15. James summarized the Council:

19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

So the Gentiles were told to go to synagogue to hear Moses and "the weightier matters of the law." I wonder if the author of the article at left believes that Gentiles are obligated to not eat blood.

So now you may be confused. One of the most dangerous theological practices is weighing in on a controversial subject that great theological minds have wrestled with and proclaiming that the issue is "obvious." Is it a sin for a Christian to eat blood? The vast majority of church-going Christians could not answer that question, and would be confused by the decree of the Jerusalem Council in the verses above.

That's because on a spectrum from "antinomian" to "pro-nomian," most Christians today are way over on the "antinomian" side of the spectrum, not on the pro-nomian side where Jesus and the Apostles were.

  Let's review what we learned about the word "Torah." It means "law," "direction," or "instruction." Sometimes it refers to the first five books of the Bible (Genesis through Deuteronomy).

Evidently God gave mankind much "direction" that is not directly recorded in the early books of the Bible. God must have told Adam and his sons that murder was a sin, even before Cain murdered Abel. God gave mankind "Torah" (direction, instruction, law) before he repeated it to Israel through Moses in Exodus 20 (see verses above).

Then, God once again gave Torah to Moses (after Moses broke the first set of stone tablets):

And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a Torah, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.

God also gave various torot (plural) for Levitical priests, Nazirites, and other torot that don't apply today because we are no longer under a Levitical priesthood.

The Old Covenant contains a promise of a New Covenant. Jeremiah  revealed God's plan:

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 Torah in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

This passage is quoted by the writer to the Hebrews:

Hebrews 8:8-12

For finding fault with them, He says,

Behold, days are coming, says the Lord,
When I will effect a new covenant
With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;
Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers
On the day when I took them by the hand
To lead them out of the land of Egypt;
For they did not continue in My covenant,
And I did not care for them, says the Lord.
10 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 into their minds,
And I will write them on their hearts.

And I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.
11 And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen,
And everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
For all will know Me,
From the least to the greatest of them.
12 For I will be merciful to their iniquities,
And I will remember their sins no more.”

When Jeremiah prophesied these words, he said God would write His TORAH on the hearts of Christians. Not just so that we would have them memorized, but that we would obey them.

19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in My statutes and keep Mine ordinances, and do them. And they shall be My people, and I will be their God.
27 And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments and do them.

This is why Jesus had a high view of God's Law:

Matthew 5:17-20
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18 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.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

The article at left is "least" in the Kingdom of Heaven.

One of the curious oddities that has made its appearance is the notion that the Torah (the law of Moses) was not abolished by Jesus’ death upon the cross. Rather, it continues on, its commands (at least some of them) being bound upon the church, and its obligatory force continuing until the return of Christ. This "curious oddity" is seen in 1 Corinthians 9, where Paul is talking about how congregations should support church-planters::

Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
My defense to those who examine me is this: Do we have no right to eat and drink? Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?
       Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” [Deuteronomy 25:4] Is it oxen God is concerned about? 10 Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?

The law of Moses is for us. Not the laws for the Levitical priesthood, but Paul told Timothy that the Old Testament ("the Scriptures" which Timothy learned as a child) is still binding, because it was "breathed-out" by God.

But if we sin, we have a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek to bring us back into fellowship with God. Note that God used a Levitical priesthood under Moses. But God prophesied a change in priesthood. Greg Bahnsen, in his book Theonomy in Christian Ethics, pp. 208-209, notes:

The Levitical priesthood, representing the Mosaic system of ceremonial redemption, could not bring perfection and so was intended to be superseded (Heb. 7:11f.,28) . . . . The former commandment with reference to ceremonial matters was set aside . . . in order that God's people might have a better hope, for the ceremony was imperfect and kept men at a distance from God (Heb. 7:18f.). [S]uch a change in stipulation is also a confirmation of the Older Testamental law as implied in Psalm 110:1,4.

Abraham was under the Melchizedek priesthood. It makes sense, therefore, that Christians, being the true spiritual descendants of Abraham, would have a pro-Torah, Theonomic outlook, like Abraham did, and like Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesied that members of the New Covenant would have.

A young professor in a Christian university has expressed the following thoughts.

If Jesus’ death on the cross really did do away with the Torah altogether, why does he affirm it so strongly in Matthew 5, and even enjoin those in his kingdom to fulfill its commands? Don’t forget how Jesus closes his teaching on the Law. He says: “Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven! But whoever keeps them and teaches others to do the same will be great in the kingdom of heaven.” Is the Kingdom of Heaven now? Are Jesus’ words for us? I strive to keep and teach the Torah because I want to be considered great in the Kingdom of Heaven. But I want you to know something. Unlike Israel of the OT, I study, keep, and teach a fulfilled Torah; a Torah redefined by Christ and his death. Many of the types and shadows of the Torah have been replaced by the realities to which they point in Christ. This fact, however, does not nullify the Torah; rather it makes the Torah even more beautiful and meaningful (emphasis original).

This "young professor" is quoting Jesus. The author of the article disagrees with the "young professor." Hmmm....
The error in this affirmation is egregious, not to mention contradictory. It concedes the Torah has been fulfilled, and yet contends it must be “kept” today—even the least of its obligations. This stands in sharp contrast to the teaching of Christ, as well as the writers of the New Testament. It really is most amazing that any mature Christian would advocate it—much less one who is in a position of responsibility, and exercises considerable influence over impressionable youth.

Not just a technical error, but an "egregious" one. Wow. Jesus made an "egregious" error.
The author says the Professor "concedes the Torah has been fulfilled," as if the Professor conceded the point the author is making. But the Professor makes no such concession. The Professor says the Torah has been "fulfilled" by being written on the hearts of believers so that they do and obey it (as the Prophet Jeremiah foretold), and teach others to obey it, and anyone who takes the position of the author is "least" in the Kingdom. Read Jesus' words again. This is a "prima facie" case for pro-nomian Theonomy. It is very clear, and a good rule for Bible interpretation is to interpret less-clear passages in light of the most clear.

The writer says that the Professor's pro-nomian position "stands in sharp contrast to the teaching of Christ, as well as the writers of the New Testament." But you may have noticed that so far in this debate, the left-hand side contains no verses from Christ, and no verses from "the writers of the New Testament." On the pro-nomian side of the debate, however, are tons of verses.

A Transitional Period

One must understand that the commencement of the New Testament record begins with what might be designated as a “transitional” period. In this era, instruction was given first by John the Baptizer; then by Jesus himself, which would accommodate a seamless passage from the old Mosaic regime to the glorious kingdom of Christ. There are many "transitions" we could speak of There is a transition from prophecy to reality:

Matthew 13:16-18

16 But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17 For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Ephesians 3:5

5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;

1 Peter 1:10-12

10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.

There is a transition from less obedience to more obedience. The writer to the Hebrews began quoting Jeremiah's prophecy with these words: "For finding fault with them...." The Old Covenant failed because the people did not have the Torah written on their hearts like believers in the New Covenant. Same Torah, better covenant. Read it again.

But there is no transition from Theonomy to Autonomy. There is no transition from obedience to disobedience. There is no transition from moral obligation to moral free-for-all.

This is the very point the Lord had in mind when he declared: “The law and the prophets were until John: from that time the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached” (Luke 16:16). In a manner of speaking, John’s ministry was a “bridge” between the old covenant era and the beginning of the reign of Christ. Christ reigns, indeed. The word "Christ" means "messiah," or "anointed king." No "king" "reigns" without giving his people "direction," "law," or "instruction" -- Torah.
Though the law of Moses was still operative until the death of Christ (and its civil aspects until the fall of the nation in A.D. 70), Jesus nonetheless taught many “kingdom” principles during his personal ministry.






He did this, for example, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7; cf. also Matthew 18:15-17), frequently highlighting some of the differences between the two covenants, especially in terms of the contrasting motivations that were internal to the respective systems.

Can you figure out the logic behind this statement? It takes the form "Although [X], nonetheless [Y]." We're led to believe there's some great contrast here, like in this statement: "Although [Smith had both arms amputated], nonetheless [Smith won the Cy Young Award]. So here's the statement:

"Although God gave the Scriptures, nonetheless Jesus taught other stuff."

But Jesus never taught that there was a contrast or a conflict between the Scriptures and His own teaching, as this author implies. The "difference" between the two covenants is not the standard of righteousness ("Torah"), but the means of grace when the Standard is not met (Levitical vs. Melchizedek priesthood; an ordinary lamb and an ordinary temple vs. the Lamb of God and the Temple made up of His People, etc.).

The "contrasting motivations" were not "internal" to the covenants. The Old Testament has the same "motivation" as the New. Both were equally concerned with a "circumcised heart" (Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4, 14; Romans 2:28,29; Colossians 2:11. The Old Testament was emphatically concerned with the heart. A quick glance at a concordance would reveal many more verses than the following: Deuteronomy 4:9,29; 5:29; 6:5f. + 30:14; 10:16, 11:18; 30:6-10; I Samuel 16:7; I Chronicles 28:9; 2 Chronicles 6:8; 12:14; 25:2; 31:21; Ezra 7:10,27; Nehemiah 9:8; Psalms 51:6,10,16-17; 37:31; 40:8; 119:11,32,34,36,69,80, 112; Proverbs 3:1-3,5; 4:4,21; 6:20-23; 7:3; 16:2; Isaiah 1:10-20; 51:7.

This is why Jesus can rebuke the Pharisees and hold them guilty for their hypocritical "legalism." If the Older Testamental Law is viewed (wrongly) as lacking the inward Spirituality provided by the "higher righteousness" of the New Testament, then Jesus is being terribly unfair in condemning the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees as being merely external (cf. Matthew 5:20, and throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7). After all, they would then be living up to the righteousness of God as far as it had been revealed to them.

But, of course, the Prophets had been condemning pharisaism for hundreds of years. The Israelites loved to claim full obedience to the Law by obeying only the most visible and easiest ("external") commands, such as the sacrificing of animals and acts of ritual cleansing. But they ignored the weightier matters of God's Law: Matthew 23:23 - Justice, Mercy, and Faith; 1 Samuel 15:22; 2 Chronicles 30:18-20 (cf. Mark 12:33); Psalm 40:6-8 (Hebrews 10:4-9); 51:16-17; Proverbs 15:8; 21:3; 28:9; Isaiah 1:11-17; 58:6-7; Jeremiah 7:22-23; Hosea 6:5-6 (Matthew 9:11-13; 12:6-7); Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8.

Jesus' message was thus very much that of the Old Covenant Prophets, only incomparably clearer and stronger. This is why He was put to death. Matthew 23:34-38; 21:33-46.

This is why His followers must obey the Law and the Prophets. 1 Thessalonians 2:15; Matthew 5:17-20.

What about Matthew 5:17-20?

One of the problems the Lord would encounter was a reaction from the Pharisees, who would charge that this Jesus of Nazareth was a revolutionary who had designs on “destroying” the Mosaic economy that had held sway over the Hebrew nation for fifteen centuries. It was imperative that this distortion be addressed and corrected. Hence, the Lord announced: Jesus did come to destroy "the Mosaic economy," if by that phrase is meant "the Levitical or temple economy." But in Matthew 5 Jesus isn't talking about the priesthood and atonement for sin, He's talking about morality and the standard by which sin is measured. He's talking about the torah for life, liberty and property, not the torah for burnt offerings.

Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-20).

The term “destroy” is a word that can connote the idea of some violence. It derives from the compound Greek term kataluo (17 times in the New Testament), literally to “loose down.” Christ employed the word prophetically concerning the destruction of the Jewish temple by the Romans in A.D. 70 (Matthew 24:2; Luke 21:6; cf. also Matthew 26:61; 27:40, etc.). It also is applied to the commencing corruption of the human body at the point of death (2 Corinthians 5:1). See? Jesus did come to violently destroy the temple, and with it the old world of the Mosaic priestly economy. But not God's unchanging standard of morality. There was a torah that defined sin, and there was a torah for temple rituals for forgiveness of sin.
In the context cited above, therefore, the Lord was contending that he did not come to violently “tear down” the law, as though he were its enemy. Never! Rather, he came to “fulfill” it. These terms stand in perfect contrasting balance. What does the phrase "perfect contrasting balance" mean? How did Jesus "fulfill" God's direction against murder, or having sex with animals?

Although Jesus came to destroy the temple (violently) and replace the Levitical path to forgiveness of sin, He did not come to change the standard of sin. He came to write the standard (torah) on His people's heart, so that they would keep that standard.

The Savior fulfilled the messianic prophecies (more than 300) of the law that heralded his coming (Luke 24:44). He fulfilled the demand of the law for perfect obedience—by his sinless life (Galatians 3:10; John 8:29, 46; 1 Peter 2:22). He fulfilled the purpose of the law, being the very object of its glorious, preparatory design (Galatians 3:24-25). "The" purpose of the law? There were many. The purpose spoken of in Galatians 3 is only one. Paul says another purpose of the law is a pattern for love (Romans 13:8-10).
The Mosaic regime was never intended to be a permanent institution. Or stated differently, the Mosaic (Levitical) regime was intended to be replaced. See above.
The notion that the Torah would continue in effect until the Second Coming of Christ—as some have alleged—is utterly without biblical support. The beneficial effects of the law, as designed by the Creator, will abide through the age; but not the law itself. "Utterly without Biblical support??" What about this? What about Jeremiah 31?

What are "the beneficial effects" of a law which no longer abides, and has been abolished?

But one might wonder: “Does not the passage affirm that the law would continue ‘until heaven and earth pass away’?” It absolutely does not. The text simply announces that the law would remain intact until such a time as it is fulfilled. Jesus said: "Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law." Someone asks, “Does not the passage affirm that the law would continue ‘until heaven and earth pass away’?”
Our author answers: It absolutely does not.

Go figure.

This fulfillment is the very thing Jesus declared he came to accomplish! If he did not fulfill the law, then the Savior did not do what he came to do, hence, failed in his mission. If he did do what he came to do, the law was fulfilled, hence, does not remain an obligatory system today. Jesus "fulfilled" the Torah by writing the Torah on our hearts so that we will do and obey and observe the Torah. Our author says, "The law was fulfilled, hence does not remain . . . obligatory." Our author is doing exactly what Jesus prohibited: telling people they are not obligated to obey God's Law.
Compare Luke’s parallel: “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tittle of the law to fall” (Luke 16:17). When the Son of God “fulfilled” the law, it had not failed, fallen, or been destroyed; it had been completed. Thus it no longer was a law to which the Jews, or anyone else, were obligated to obey as a legal system. To fail to recognize this truth is to overlook one of the most fundamental propositions of biblical literature. If we are no longer obligated to obey God's Law, then why would Jesus say this:

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

But our author teaches us we are not obligated to do them. He says we are not obligated to fulfill the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel that God's People (that's us) would obey God's Torah.

But what should be said about the connection of verses 19 and 20, to verses 27 [sic] and 18? Does this suggest that the commandments of the law would be binding upon those in the kingdom of Christ? This was the position argued by the young gentleman cited earlier. It absolutely does not. Such an interpretation would stand in radical contradiction to scores of passages in the New Testament letters. J.W. McGarvey explained the connection nicely: I'm still waiting to read "scores of passages in the New Testament" which say we're not obligated to obey the laws written on our hearts. Our author hasn't put many verses into the left-hand column.

The man who would break what he considered the small commandments of God, under one dispensation, would be proportionately disobedient under a better dispensation; for habits of disobedience once formed are not easily laid aside. For this reason obedience or disobedience while under the law was an index to what a man would be under Christ. The text shows that the relative greatness of persons in the kingdom of heaven is measured by their conscientiousness in reference to the least commandments. To the great commandments, as men classify them, even very small Christians may be obedient; but it requires the most tender conscience to be always scrupulous about the least commandments (53).

Do you see any "radical contradiction?" I don't.
The text most definitely is not teaching that the Torah will be a binding law throughout the Christian administration. In fact, in his “marriage” metaphor, designed to emphasize the changing of laws, Paul wrote: When phrases like most definitely and "clearly" are sprinkled throughout an argument that is debated by reasonable people, then you're being manipulated.

For the woman who has a husband, is bound by law [Torah?] to the husband while he is living; but if the husband dies, she is discharged from the law [Torah?] of the husband. So if then, while the husband lives, if she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if the husband dies, she is free from the law [Torah?], so that she is no adulteress, though she is joined to another man. Wherefore, my brothers, you also are made dead to the law [Torah] through the body of Christ; that you should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God (Romans 7:2-4).

The first three bracketed "Torah" are mine; the fourth is the author's, but not Paul's.

Notice that "the law" does not die, the old man dies. The Christian is then resurrected as a New Man, to "bring forth fruit." What is this "fruit?" I suggest the "fruit" we bring forth is obedience to the Torah, which is now written on our new heart.

The word "law" in Romans 7 has more than one meaning.

verse 12: "So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good."
verse 23: "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
verse 25: "So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."
Then in chapter 8,
verse 2:  "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
verse 4: "That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

Why are those who are "in the flesh" unable to please God? Because they are "not subject to the Law of God." But those who are "in the Spirit" have God's Law written on their hearts, as Jeremiah and Ezekiel foretold of the New Covenant, and they "do and teach" the Torah, as Jesus said.

If Christians are equally obligated to the Torah and the law of Christ, they are in a state of spiritual adultery! This is a most unenviable consequence of the doctrine under review. The Torah was written by Christ. The Torah is the Law of Christ. We did not divorce the Torah. We are no longer married to "the old man," the carnal nature. We have a new, obedient nature.
In an excellent discussion of this untenable theory, so common with various theologians, the scholarly R.C. Foster wrote: “The view that He [Christ] merely deepened and emphasized the law in the Sermon on the Mount will not bear investigation” (469). I would encourage those who have access to Foster’s tremendous work, Studies in the Life of Christ, to carefully study the material on the “Sermon on the Mount” (462-487). I've never heard of "R.C. Foster," nor his book "Studies in the Life of Christ." Have you? He was born in 1888, and his book was published back in 1938. He appears to endorse Alexander Campbell's "Restoration Movement." He says, "His [Jesus'] teaching on . . . hating enemies . . . does not deepen, but revokes the Old Testament. In the case of divorce, He absolutely sets aside the law." In other words, the Old Testament commanded hatred of enemies, and the god of the Old Testament approved of divorce. This is simply false. You follow such spiritual counsel at your own peril.
In concluding this section of our article, we are compelled to make this observation. Jesus emphatically affirmed that neither a “jot” nor a “tittle” (terms used to represent the minutest portions of the documents) would “pass away from the law” until “all things be accomplished” (v. 18b). If Christ did not fulfill the law, and it will remain until “heaven and earth pass away,” then all of the Torah—every jot and tittle—remains! Or, to say it in another way—all the commands, from the greatest to the least, still are in force. If "all things were accomplished" as our author suggests, then "Whosoever therefore shall ignore one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But this is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what Jesus said. Are you going to follow Jesus? Do you want to be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?

Garbled Language

It will not do to filter “the law,” so to speak, separating the “ceremonial” from the “moral,” rejecting the former while claiming to retain the latter—as attempted by the Seventh-day Adventists (though they cling to the Sabbath and the abstention from pork idea, both of which were in the “ceremonial” category). This is a false distinction. The distinction between the command to "Love your neighbor" (Leviticus 19:18) and the command to bring an animal to the altar for atonement is "a false distinction," the author says. Why? There is a claim here, but no supporting argument or evidence. Just a claim.
Nor will it work to claim that by practicing the teaching of Jesus we are “keeping the Torah.” For example when the Christian honors Christ as his “Passover” (1 Corinthians 5:7), or when one submits to the covenant of “circumcision” (in baptism – Colossians 2:11-12), he is not obeying the commandments of the Torah. The Old and New are two different systems. The “types” of the Old Testament foreshadowed the “anti-types” of the New, but one cannot claim he is “keeping the law of Moses” when he yields to New Testament ordinances. This is an irresponsible confusion of the two covenants, and a garbled use of language. Again, a naked claim. Why is someone who trusts in "the Lamb of God" (John 1:29) not keeping the law of Moses?
What would Moses say? What would Abraham say?

They would say the only way to truly obey the Torah is to obey Christ.

John 1:45

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
John 5:46
For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.
Acts 3:22
For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you.
Acts 26:22
Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come—
Hebrews 10:28-29
Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
Revelation 15:3
They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!
John 8:39
They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.
John 8:56
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
Luke 16:29
Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’
Neither is it valid to contend that while the law’s “curse” expired, the law itself remains. Paul stated that “as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse” (Galatians 3:10). The law and the curse were joined. A law, with no penalty, is no law at all! The fact is, the entire law, together with its demands and curse, passed away. Only fifteen verses later the apostle declared that: “we are no longer under a tutor [the law]” (24-25). How can that point possibly be ignored? The former covenant was replaced with a “better covenant” (cf. Hebrews 8:6ff)—unless, of course, one wishes to rip the entire book of Hebrews from the Bible. The book of Hebrews affirms the prophecy of Jeremiah, that the Torah would be written on our hearts, and we would obey it.
Does this mean that the Old Testament is of no value today? Of course not; far from it! The legacy of that body of literature is vast, wonderful, and abiding (cf. Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11). There is a divine link between the Old and the New Testaments. But does that mean that the Christian is under the former regime in this age, with its body of law to which he is obligated? It does not. Should one be teaching that Christians ought to be observing the commandments of the Torah today—from the greatest to the least? To so argue is to leave a distinctly erroneous impression. Where is the word "legacy" in the New Testament?


Jesus said we should be teaching others to obey the Torah -- unless for some strange reason we want to be "least" in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Though we do not have the inclination at this time to review the full range of arguments being advanced in support of the notion that the law of Moses was not abrogated by the death of Christ, we do wish to address one further aspect of it. The "full range of arguments" in favor of God's Law deserves your attention.

Nailed to the Cross

After not being "inclined" to answer other arguments, our author now dedicates a large section of his article -- with lots of impressive-looking footnotes and scholars -- to Colossians 2.

The debate over this passage (and there is a debate among Bible scholars) is over the meaning of the terms in verse 14, especially "the certificate of debt" (NASB) or "handwriting of ordinances" (KJV). One scholar points out that:

legal indebtedness in the Roman world was typically accompanied with a legal note detailing ones' obligations. source

So one side says that this "debt" or our sins (transgressions of the law) was nailed to the cross. The author of the article at left says not just the transgressions of the law, but the law itself was nailed to the cross.

Thus far, I think it's clear that the overwhelming preponderance of Scripture is on the side of Theonomy, and our continuing obligation to obey God's Word, inscriptured in both testaments. The change of priesthood was required by the Old Covenant itself, and Christ fulfilled this change, while writing the Torah on our hearts and commanding us to "do and teach" God's Law. So let's read Colossians 2 and see if it contradicts Jesus, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Abraham.

  Let's look at the passage:

Colossians 2:8-23

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the principalities and powers and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Jeremiah said that in the New Covenant believers would have God's ['moral'] Law written on their hearts. Do you think you could find references in God's ["moral"] Law to "new moons," "worship of angels," and "do not taste?" Paul is talking about "human traditions" more than God's Law, and the "ceremonial" aspects of God's Law [which the Pharisees emphasized over "the weightier matters" of God's Law,] not the "moral" aspects. When the prophets said New Covenant believers would have God's Law written on their hearts, they weren't talking about the laws Paul is talking about in Colossians 2. 
In his letter to the Colossian saints, Paul reminded these Christians that prior to their conversion to the Lord, they were “dead through [their] trespasses.” But they were made “alive” together with Christ, who forgave all their sins. The apostle then contends that Christ “blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). Connect this whole argument with Romans 7 and 8.  "The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good" (Romans 7:12). But it leaves a death sentence on the head of the descendants of the First Adam. The Second Adam took the guilt of the First Adam to the Cross, not that which was holy, righteous and good. Descendants of the First Adam are raised together with the Second Adam so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the First Adam but according to the Second Adam (see Romans 8:4).

The author at left jumps through all kinds of hoops to avoid the obvious: that God's Law is good, but our sinful nature had to die. The death sentence of condemnation was nailed to the cross, so that we could be resurrected to new life in Christ, which consists of obeying God's Law, as Abraham did, and as the prophets foretold.

There are plenty of Bible scholars, like Matthew Henry, who say that Colossians 2:14 is talking about the penalty, or debt, that sinners are subject to, and that Christ took away the penalty for violating God's commandments, but not God's commandments themselves.
This would involve “the legal bond of ordinances to which the Jew had agreed and to which even the Gentile’s conscience had in some degree given assent (Romans 2:14, 15)” (Ashby, 1533; see also: Abbott, 255; Eadie, 163-164; Vincent, 908, and many additional scholars). The reference to "the Gentile's conscience" is unnecessary. The Gentiles in Canaan were obligated to obey God's Law, and evicted from the Promised Land for failing to do so.
It has become fashionable in some quarters, however, to allege that this text has no reference to the abolition of the law of Moses. Rather, it is supposed to refer to the “note” of sin-debt that stood against the Christian prior to his conversion. In response to this theory we offer the following considerations.  

The Context

The immediate context argues otherwise. In the sentence that follows, Paul draws his conclusion: “Let no man, therefore, judge [condemn] you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a Sabbath day: which are a shadow of the things to come, but the body is Christ’s” (v. 16). Should we allow any man to condemn us if we do not love our neighbor, honor our mother and father, steal, kill, lie, covet, or commit idolatry? Why one ("new moons") and not the other? Could it be that there is in fact a distinction between the Levitical or "ceremonial" law and the Torah which Abraham obeyed and which Jeremiah prophesied would be written on the heart of New Covenant believers?

This conforms nicely to Matthew Henry's claim that the "handwriting of ordinances" referred to the "ceremonial" law.

Especially note the “therefore,” which connects certain elements of the law (the parts standing for the whole) with that “nailed to the cross.” This is too obvious to miss. Thayer identified the “handwriting” as a metaphorical reference to “the Mosaic law” (668). See also Vaughan (11.201) and Lenski (114). Peake states: “It is generally agreed that the reference here is to the Law [of Moses] (cf. Ephesians 2:15)” (4.527). It's not that "obvious." The verses found on this side of the debate -- from Jesus, Jeremiah, and the book of Hebrews -- are more "obvious" than a verse talking about "new moons."

Ephesians 2:15 does not prove the point. Ephesians 2 is talking about the separation between Jew and Gentile. What separated the two was the "ceremonial" laws of the Levitical priesthood, not the "moral law," which the Gentiles in Canaan violated and were punished out of the Promised Land.

The Grammar

Observe the double use of “was” (past tense verb) in verse 14, indicating that the system is operative no longer. A.T. Robertson commented that the verbal “has taken” is a perfect tense form which, “emphasizes the permanence of the removal of the bond” (which he identifies as “the Mosaic law”), “that has been paid and cancelled and cannot be presented again” (4.494). Whether it was our "record of debt" or "death certificate," the "ceremonial" law, or Jewish traditions that got nailed to the cross, all sides agree they were nailed to the cross permanently. The question is not the permanence, but what it was that was nailed to the cross. Was "Thou shalt not commit adultery" nailed to the cross? Is the command to be chaste and faithful to our spouse no longer "binding," as the title suggests?

The Parallelism

This text unquestionably is parallel in a number of aspects to Paul’s instruction to the Ephesians in chapter two of that letter (these two books have a number of striking parallels).  

For he [Christ] is our peace, who made both [Jew and Gentile] one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby (Ephesians 2:14-16).

Noted Bible scholar, David J. Williams, says that Paul’s reference to “the Jewish law in Ephesians 2:15” is “decisive for the interpretation of Colossians 2:14” (189). Both refer to the same situation. Exactly. Not God's Law. Not the "moral law." But the "ceremonial law," or extra-Biblical Jewish human traditions. Both Jew and Gentile were obligated not to murder or commit adultery. But the Gentiles did not have access to the temple and its ceremonies. And the Jews took pride in this fact, and did not have the evangelistic hospitality toward the Gentiles that the Bible commanded.
R.C. Fosters states:  

A great need of the Christian world today is the clear recognition that we are not under the law, but the gospel; that the law was nailed to the cross and passed out of force when the new will was probated at Pentecost (469).

He also pointed out that neither Catholicism nor Protestantism has entertained a clear perception regarding this matter.  
To dismiss the theme of the “law of Moses” from Colossians 2:14, because of a predisposition one entertains with reference to the perpetuity of the Torah, is both irresponsible and reprehensible. The "predisposition" is the clear teaching of Christ (Matthew 5:17-20)


There should be tremendous concern among the Lord’s people when a teaching this fundamental has become so terribly misconstrued, and is fed “intravenously” to sincere young men who are anxious to proclaim the gospel of Christ. The "irresponsible" and "reprehensible" teaching is the one that is contrary to what Christ taught (Matthew 5:17-20) and what the Prophets predicted: that God's Law would be written on our hearts and we would have a new nature which was committed to obeying God's Law.
*Note: The professor under review has been dismissed from the university with which he was associated at the time this article was published. He now is associated with another university.  
  • Abbott, T. K. (1897), The Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark).
  • Ashby, Ernest G. (1979), “The Letter to the Colossians,” The New Layman’s Bible Commentary, G.C.D. Howly, F.F. Bruce, H.L. Ellison, Eds. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan).
  • Eadie, John (1957), The Epistle of Paul to the Colossians (Grand Rapids: Zondervan).
  • Foster, R.C. (1971), Studies in the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker).
  • Lenski, R.C.H. (1961), Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (Minneapolis: Augsburg).
  • McGarvey, J.W. (1875, reprint), Commentary on Matthew and Mark (Des Moines, IA: Eugene Smith).
  • Peake, A.S. (1956), “The Epistle to the Colossians,” The Expositor’s Greek Testament, W. Robertson Nicoll, Ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).
  • Robertson, A.T. (1931), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman).
  • Thayer, J.H. (1958), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark).
  • Vaughan, Curtis (1978), “Colossians,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank Gaebelein, Ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan).
  • Vincent, M.R. (1972 Ed.), Word Studies in the New Testament (Wilmington, DE: Associated Publishers & Authors).
  • Williams, David J. (1999), Paul’s Metaphors (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).

Summary of "Theonomy"

  • The word "Theonomy" means "God's Law." It comes from two Greek words, theos, "God," and nomos, "law."
  • The Theonomic hermeneutic assumes that unless the Old Testament law in question has been specifically qualified by the New Testament, it remains in force. The Theonomic hermeneutic is one of continuity.
"Theonomy" is loosely equated with the "Christian Reconstruction" movement. Greg Bahnsen wrote a book entitled, Theonomy in Christian Ethics. He summarizes the book in this way:

God's will for our lives is found in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, with the Old Testament Law and Prophets carrying in our day the full authority of God's written Word unless specifically qualified in the New Testament.

The relationship between the two Testaments is not adversarial. Jesus did not come to abrogate the Old Testament; He came to purify it (in opposition to Pharisaical distortions) and put its intentions into force (Matthew 5, esp. vv. 17-20) by empowering His People to obediently fulfill its promises.

Bahnsen's thesis is pretty much the view of Reformed Theology in general and the Westminster Confession of Faith in particular. So it acknowledges that the New Testament has definitely qualified many Old Testament laws, most notably the laws concerning animal sacrifices.

There are no more temple sacrifices, no more Levitical priesthood (and there never will be again), and the New Testament explains why (e.g., the book of Hebrews). In some cases we don't even need the New Covenant to tell us that some Old Testament laws are no longer letter-applicable: the Old Testament itself tells us about the dramatic change of priesthood that was to occur with the coming of the Messiah; many laws would someday obligate no more. As Bahnsen puts it,

The Levitical priesthood, representing the Mosaic system of ceremonial redemption, could not bring perfection and so was intended to be superseded (Heb. 7:11f.,28) . . . . The former commandment with reference to ceremonial matters was set aside . . . in order that God's people might have a better hope, for the ceremony was imperfect and kept men at a distance from God (Heb. 7:18f.). [S]uch a change in stipulation is also a confirmation of the Older Testamental law as implied in Psalm 110:1,4. (Theonomy, pp. 208-209).

Of course, in a sense, all of the Old Testament Laws are still binding upon us. For example, we are still responsible to bring before God the blood of a sacrificial lamb. But we also know that that Lamb is Christ (John 1:29). It makes sense, then, to expect, for example, that most of the Old Testament laws concerning the shedding of blood find their satisfaction in Christ.

The difference between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant is not the Standard of Righteousness, but the priestly path to forgiveness of sins (violations of that Standard), and the Spiritual ability we have to obey it (Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:27; Jeremiah 31: 31-34 + Hebrews 8:8-13; Romans 8:3-5 + Ephesians 4:13).

Matthew 5:17-20
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18 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.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Bahnsen's exegesis is sound. And it establishes prima facie the Theonomic thesis. Here is how Bahnsen summarizes the Theonomic thesis in his book No Other Standard: Theonomy and Its Critics (another version of this summary is in the 2nd edition of Theonomy, and it has been published in numerous other works by Bahnsen):

  1. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are, in part and in whole, a verbal revelation from God through the words of men, being infallibly true regarding all that they teach on any subject.
  2. Since the Fall it has always been unlawful to use the law of God in hopes of establishing one's own personal merit and justification, in contrast or complement to salvation by way of promise and faith; commitment to obedience is but the lifestyle of faith, a token of gratitude for God's redeeming grace.
  3. The word of the Lord is the sole, supreme, and unchallengeable standard for the actions and attitudes of all men in all areas of life; this word naturally includes God's moral directives (law).
  4. Our obligation to keep the law of God cannot be judged by any extrascriptural standard, such as whether its specific requirements (when properly interpreted) are congenial to past traditions or modern feelings and practices.
  5. We should presume that Old Testament standing laws[note26] continue to be morally binding in the New Testament, unless they are rescinded or modified by further revelation.[note27]

26. Standing law" is used here for policy directives applicable over time to classes of individuals (e.g., do not kill; children, obey your parents; merchants, have equal measures; magistrates, execute rapists), in contrast to particular directions for an individual (e.g., the order for Samuel to anoint David at a particular time and place) or positive commands for distinct incidents (e.g., God's order for Israel to exterminate certain Canaanite tribes at a certain point in history).

27. By contrast, it is characteristic of dispensational theology to hold that Old Covenant commandments should be a priori deemed as abrogated - unless repeated in the New Testament (e.g., Charles Ryrie, "The End of the Law," Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 124 [1967], pp. 239-242).

  1. In regard to the Old Testament law, the New Covenant surpasses the Old Covenant in glory, power, and finality (thus reinforcing former duties). The New Covenant also supersedes the Old Covenant shadows, thereby changing the application of sacrificial, purity, and "separation" principles, redefining the people of God, and altering the significance of the promised land.
  2. God's revealed standing laws are a reflection of His immutable moral character and, as such, are absolute in the sense of being non-arbitrary, objective, universal, and established in advance of particular circumstances (thus applicable to general types of moral situations).
  3. Christian involvement in politics calls for recognition of God's transcendent, absolute, revealed law as a standard by which to judge all social codes.
  4. Civil magistrates in all ages and places are obligated to conduct their offices as ministers of God, avenging divine wrath against criminals and giving an account on the Final Day of their service before the King of kings, their Creator and Judge.
  5. The general continuity which we presume with respect to the moral standards of the Old Testament applies just as legitimately to matters of socio-political ethics as it does to personal, family, or ecclesiastical ethics.
  6. The civil precepts of the Old Testament (standing 'judicial" laws) are a model of perfect social justice for all cultures, even in the punishment of criminals. Outside of those areas where God's law prescribes their intervention and application of penal redress, civil rulers are not authorized to legislate or use coercion (e.g., the economic marketplace).
  7. The morally proper way for Christians to correct social evils which are not under the lawful jurisdiction of the state is by means of voluntary and charitable enterprises or the censures of the home, church, and marketplace - even as the appropriate method for changing the political order of civil law is not violent revolution, but dependence upon regeneration, re-education, and gradual legal reform.

Notice what these principles tell us about the theological and moral character of theonomic ethics. The foundational authority of scripture (#1) and the precious truth of salvation by grace alone (#2) provide the context within which every other theonomic thesis is developed and understood. "Theonomic" ethics is committed to developing an overall Christian world-and-life-view (#3) according to the regulating principle of sola Scriptura (#4) and the hermeneutic of covenant theology (#5). The new and better covenant established by Christ does offer Biblical warrant for recognizing changes in covenantal administration (#6), but not changes in moral standards, lest the divinely revealed ethic be reduced to situationism or relativism -- just one tribal perspective among many in the evolutionary history of ethics (#7). Righteousness and justice, according to Biblical teaching, have a universal character, precluding any double-standard of morality.

"Theonomic" ethics likewise rejects legal positivism and maintains that there is a "law above the (civil) law" to which appeal can be made against the tyranny of rulers and the anarchy of overzealous reformers alike (#9). Since Jesus Christ is Lord over all (cf. #3), civil magistrates are His servants and owe obedience to His revealed standards for them (#9). There is no Biblically based justification (cf. #5) for exempting civil authorities from responsibility to the universal standards of justice (cf. #7) found in God's Old Testament revelation (#10). Therefore, in the absence of Biblically grounded argumentation which releases the civil magistrate from Old Testament social norms (cf. #5, #6), it follows from our previous premises that in the exercise of their offices rulers are morally responsible to obey the revealed standards of social justice in the Old Testament law (#11). This does not mean, however, that civil rulers have unlimited authority to intrude just anywhere into the affairs of men and societies (# 11 #12); their legitimate sphere is restricted to what God's word has authorized them to do -- thus calling for a limited role for civil government. Finally, Christians are urged to use persuasive and "democratic" means of social reform - nothing like the strong-arm tactics slanderously attributed to the theonomic program (#12).[note28]

28. For example, the main thrust of a widely read article on theonomic ethics by Rodney Clapp in Christianity Today, vol. 31, no. 3 (Feb. 20, 1987), was captured in its title: "Democracy as Heresy." He recklessly accuses theonomists of seeking "the abolition of democracy" (p. 17), when surely Clapp is aware that the word 'democracy' is susceptible to an incredibly wide range of definitions and connotations (e.g., from an institution of direct rule by every citizen without mediating representatives to a governmental procedure where representatives are voted in and out of office by the people, to the simple concepts of majority vote or social equality, etc.). Theonomists are opposed to some of those ideas, but surely not to what is commonly understood by the word: namely, democratic procedures for choosing representatives to rule. Indeed, in reply to Mr. Clapp's inflammatory rhetoric, Dr. Gary North very appropriately pointed out as a historian the irony that it was precisely our Puritan (and theonomic) forefathers who fought for and established this kind of "democracy" in the Western world!

This is really pretty standard Bible-believing ethics. It should be surprising that "Theonomic ethics" should be at all controversial in evangelical circles.

The bulk of Bahnsen's lengthy treatise on Theonomy does not discuss politics, but only the basic concept of the abiding validity of the Old Testament generally. Indeed, the section which does address politics is called "Application of the Thesis to the State" (p. 315). Bahnsen's particular application of Theonomy to the State is not the Theonomic thesis itself, but only an "application of the thesis." Ditto for applications made by R.J. Rushdoony and Gary North.

Bahnsen writes in his summary volume, By This Standard: The Authority of God's Law Today,

[T]hose who agree with the foundational conclusion of [Theonomy] -- that God's Law is binding today unless Scripture reveals otherwise -- may very well disagree among themselves over particular matters in interpreting what God's law demands at this or that point, or ... may disagree over how these demands should be followed today (p. 9).

Leaders of the "Christian Reconstruction" movement have had their disagreements on the application of the Theonomic thesis. Rushdoony and North disagreed to such an extent that they weren't even talking to each other! Bahnsen disagreed with Rushdoony on several issues. Based on the Theonomic thesis, I personally do not believe in "capital punishment" for any crime. That might surprise many opponents of Theonomy, who assume that "Theonomy" means nothing if not the execution of homosexuals.

One critic of Theonomy says:

For theonomy rests on a further assumption that is not quite as ostensible. That assumption is that the civil law was given to Israel for the purpose of governing the societal and political dimensions of Israel’s life, and that as such it was to function as a universal standard for socio-political ethics. It was not given to Israel for Israel’s sake alone but to Israel for the sake of the nations, that they too might be governed by the same socio-political standards.

This is an easy assumption. Western Civilization is based on this assumption. Here is an example from the Supreme Court of Delaware, back in 1837:

Long before Lord Hale declared that Christianity was a part of the laws of England, the Court of Kings Bench, 34 Eliz. in Ratcliff's case, 3 Coke Rep. 40, b. had gone so far as to declare that "in almost all cases, the common law was grounded on the law of God, which it was said was causa causans," and the court cited the 27th chapter of Numbers, to show that their judgment on a common law principle in regard to the law of inheritance, was founded on God's revelation of that law to Moses.
State v. Chandler, 2 Harr. 553 at 561 (1837)

America was built on the assumption that the civil law was recorded in the Scripture and preserved for us so that statesmen and legislators would have a divine blueprint for the civil magistrate.

Where is "the civil law?" One component of Biblical "civil law" would surely be a prohibition of murder, and punishment by death. This is found in Genesis 9. (Actually, only the punishment for murder is found in Genesis 9. The actual prohibition against murder must have been "given" to man earlier; in fact, before the murder of Abel by Cain.)

Were the nations outside Israel in the Old Testament expected to prohibit murder and punish it by death? How about homosexuality? One critic says no. Leviticus 18:24-30 says that the nations (the people, collectively, the demos) in the Promised Land were to be executed (literally, "devoted" as a sacrifice -- "hormah") as a punishment (our modern word, not necessarily a Biblical word) for violating the laws "given" to Israel. So it seems rather obvious that God expected the laws relating to Israel as a society (not merely the laws governing individual Israelites personally) to be obeyed by Canaanite society, and all other societies as well (e.g., Jonah/Nineveh, and the prophets generally).

Deuteronomy 4:5 Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.
6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
7 For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for?
8 And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?
40 Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, for ever.
Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
2 Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;
3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

Bahnsen argues that the civil magistrate in Israel was obligated to obey "the civil law," as were all other nations, as are all nations in New Testament times. Bahnsen says the following propositions were true of

  • Israel in the Old Testament,
  • other nations in the Old Testament, and
  • all nations in the New Testament:
  1. God Sovereignly Appoints and Removes Rulers
  2. Rulers, as God's Appointees, are Not to be Resisted
  3. Rulers Bear Religious Titles (e.g., "minister")
  4. Hence Rulers are God's Vicegerents, Avengers of His Wrath
  5. The Magistrate Must Deter Evil but Honor the Good
  6. The Magistrate Must Rule, then, According to God's Law
  7. Therefore, the Magistrate is Subject to Criticism and Judgment for Lawlessness

Bahnsen's exposition of these seven propositions as they are found in Scripture relating to Israel, to the nations around Israel, and in the New Testament, is overwhelming. M.G. Kline spoke of Bahnsen's "over-heated typewriter." There is a bedrock of civil continuity throughout the Bible.

As a general rule, the Theonomic thesis is sound, and it applies to society, government, and individuals. There are many ways to apply the thesis, as Bahnsen admits, but all nations are obligated to obey God's Law in the Christian Scriptures. For centuries, this has been an operating assumption of legislators and courts. It has also been part of Christian missionary endeavors which have shaped civil law in formerly heathen nations. Yesterday's missionary efforts are today called "colonialism."

Go back, now, and re-read the paragraph at left. A prima facie case for that assumption has been made. Western civilization was built on that assumption.  Lee Irons has the massive burden to disprove it. Declaring that "the civil law" is "theocratic" or that it is "typological" (we encounter those two terms in Lee Irons) does not disprove the assumption that it is also a model for all other nations. There is no Biblical reason why a law cannot serve more than one purpose.

It is not a valid Biblical principle to say that the Scriptures should not be applied by today's governments because the Scriptures are "theocratic" or "typological." Don't be baffled by 50-cent theological terms.

  • A verse in the Bible can serve as law in a "theocracy," it can serve as a law in a "monarchy," it can serve as a law in a "democracy." 
  • A verse in the Bible can serve as law in any conceivable human social arrangement, and also tell us something about Christ's reign as King, or about our salvation, or about the next life ("typology").


We've all been trained by secular schools and liberal (big-government) media to react with unthinking horror at the word "theocracy." Let's think (for a change).

The word "theocracy" means "God governs." The Greek word theos means "god." If a nation says "We're a nation under God," and if a nation is committed to obeying God's Commandments, rather than the commandments and traditions of men, then that nation is committed to being a "Theocracy" (whether it claims to be or not).

Clearly, an Islamic theocracy, committed to obeying the Koran and Hadith, is a very different kind of theocracy from a Christian Theocracy committed to obeying the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Scriptures.

A Christian Theocracy is under God -- the God of the Bible. America used to claim to be "under God" -- the God of the Bible -- and every historian of any competence will admit that all the American colonies were "theocratic." Even today, America's official national motto is still "In God We Trust," a theocratic motto.

But there's really nothing special about being a "theocracy." Every government in the history of the human race has been a "theocracy," and it is not possible to avoid being a "theocracy."  The question is not whether a government is a theocracy or not, but WHO is the "theos?"

  • An Islamic theocracy is under Allah.
  • A Hindu theocracy is under Shiva.
  • A Secular Humanist theocracy is one where every man is his own god.

All these false theocracies under false gods should repent and become Christian Theocracies. Their governments should follow the model of the Christian Scriptures. (Whatever that is, whether you adopt the Rushdoony version, the North version, the Bahnsen version, or some other "application of the thesis to the state.") There is no Biblical or logical reason why a Christian Theocracy -- such as that found in the Bible -- cannot be a model for all other theocracies.

Proving that Israel was a "theocracy" does not prove that only Israel should be governed by God's Law. All nations, all societies, all institutions, all individuals should be "Theonomic." Or perhaps we should say, All nations, all societies, all institutions, all individuals should be committed to becoming more perfectly "Theonomic," eventually out-doing Rushdoony, North, and Bahnsen in their faithfulness to God's Theonomic blueprints.

Proving that a given statute in the Bible is "theocratic" therefore does not prove that governments today should not follow that law. Lee Irons has not met his burden of proof.


Let's begin by remembering that all Scripture is Law. All Scripture is breathed-out by our Divine Lawgiver (2 Timothy 3:16; Isaiah 33:22). Rushdoony spoke of "the Law-Word of God." In John 15:25 a Psalm fulfills a prophetic function but is still labeled "Law." The Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. 145, finds civil law in Psalm 119:69. Psalm 65:2 "is by God required of all men" (WCF 21:3). "The civil law" that Lee Irons writes against is not isolated in the books of the Torah, but is found throughout Scripture.

Some of these verses are also "typological." That doesn't mean they are no longer "law." They are still pronouncements of our Lawgiver. They command us and our institutions.

Psalm 72 was written about King Solomon of Israel (either by David or by Solomon), but is usually considered a "type" of the Messiah. Isaac Watts clearly thought this. The fact that Psalm 72 is a "type of Christ" does not preclude Solomon from being obligated to obey this Psalm as a model of Godly Government. That does not preclude any other king -- such as the kings mentioned in the Psalm ("Tarshish," "Sheba," "Seba"), or the nations mentioned by Watts ("Persia," "India") -- from using the Psalm as a model of Godly Government. No nation on earth in 1719, 1862 or in the 21st century is excused or precluded from using this Psalm as a model of just and righteous civil government -- just because the Psalm is labeled "typological" by some theologian. God put this song in the Bible to govern us, as well as to tell us something about Christ.

Don't be fooled by words like "theocracy" and "typology." Psalm 72 is clearly "theocratic," "typological," and authoritatively binding on all civil governments for all time, as long as they exist. If you are a king or other magistrate, God has legally obligated you to study and apply Psalm 72 to your civic responsibilities. This has been the common assumption of Christians for two thousand years.

Psalm 72

1 Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king's son.
2 He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.
3 The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.
4 He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.
5 They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.
6 He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.
7 In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.
8 He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.
9 They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.
10 The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.
11 Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.
12 For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper.
13 He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.
14 He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.
15 And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised.
16 There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.
17 His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed.
18 Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things.
19 And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.
20 The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.

“Jesus Shall Reign”
Isaac Watts, The Psalms of David, 1719.

  1. Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
    Does his successive journeys run;
    His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
    Till moons shall wax and wane no more.
  2. Behold the islands with their kings,
    And Europe her best tribute brings;
    From north to south the princes meet,
    To pay their homage at His feet.
  3. There Persia, glorious to behold,
    There India shines in eastern gold;
    And barb’rous nations at His word
    Submit, and bow, and own their Lord.
  4. To Him shall endless prayer be made,
    And praises throng to crown His head;
    His Name like sweet perfume shall rise
    With every morning sacrifice.
  5. People and realms of every tongue
    Dwell on His love with sweetest song;
    And infant voices shall proclaim
    Their early blessings on His Name.
  6. Blessings abound wherever He reigns;
    The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
    The weary find eternal rest,
    And all the sons of want are blessed.
  7. Where He displays His healing power,
    Death and the curse are known no more:
    In Him the tribes of Adam boast
    More blessings than their father lost.
  1. Let every creature rise and bring
    Peculiar honors to our King;
    Angels descend with songs again,
    And earth repeat the loud amen!
  2. Great God, whose universal sway
    The known and unknown worlds obey,
    Now give the kingdom to Thy Son,
    Extend His power, exalt His throne.
  3. The scepter well becomes His hands;
    All Heav’n submits to His commands;
    His justice shall avenge the poor,
    And pride and rage prevail no more.
  4. With power He vindicates the just,
    And treads th’oppressor in the dust:
    His worship and His fear shall last
    Till hours, and years, and time be past.
  5. As rain on meadows newly mown,
    So shall He send his influence down:
    His grace on fainting souls distills,
    Like heav’nly dew on thirsty hills.
  6. The heathen lands, that lie beneath
    The shades of overspreading death,
    Revive at His first dawning light;
    And deserts blossom at the sight.
  7. The saints shall flourish in His days,
    Dressed in the robes of joy and praise;
    Peace, like a river, from His throne
    Shall flow to nations yet unknown.

G. J. Stevenson’s Notes on the Methodist Hymn Book relates:

Perhaps one of the most in­ter­est­ing oc­ca­sions on which this hymn was used was that on which King George, the sa­ble, of the South Sea Is­lands, but of bless­ed mem­o­ry, gave a new con­sti­tu­tion to his peo­ple, ex­chang­ing a hea­then for a Christ­ian form of gov­ern­ment. Un­der the spread­ing branch­es of the ban­yan trees sat some thou­sand na­tives from Ton­ga, Fi­ji, and Sa­moa, on Whit­sun­day, 1862, as­sem­bled for Di­vine wor­ship. Fore­most amongst them all sat King George him­self. Around him were seat­ed old chiefs and war­ri­ors who had shared with him the dan­gers and for­tunes of ma­ny a battle—men whose eyes were dim, and whose pow­er­ful frames were bowed down with the weight of years. But old and young alike re­joiced to­ge­ther in the joys of that day, their fac­es most of them ra­di­ant with Christ­ian joy, love, and hope. It would be im­poss­i­ble to de­scribe the deep feel­ing man­i­fest­ed when the sol­emn serv­ice be­gan, by the en­tire au­di­ence sing­ing Dr. Watts’ hymn…

Who so much as they could real­ize the full mean­ing of the po­et’s words? For they had been res­cued from the dark­ness of hea­then­ism and can­ni­bal­ism and they were that day met for the first time un­der a Christ­ian con­sti­tu­tion, un­der a Christian king, and with Christ Him­self reign­ing in the hearts of most of those pre­sent. That was in­deed Christ’s king­dom set up in the earth.

This interpretation is "postmillennial" and "Theonomic."
King Jesus sits enthroned at the right hand of God and is extending His reign over all the earth.
The "premillennial" or "dispensational" interpretation is that
Psalm 72 does not commence fulfillment until after Christ returns and begins to sit upon a literal throne in Jerusalem for nine hundred years or more, after which Satan is loosed and causes so much trouble that a defeated Jesus grabs His football and goes home.

Just because you show that a passage of Scripture is "typological" or "theocratic" (as some try to do) does not mean that Persia and India should not hear the Word of God in that song, poem, exclamation, historical narrative, or question and obediently convert their Islamic and Hindu theocracies into Christian societies obedient to the Word of Christ our Lawgiver, Judge and King (Isaiah 33:22).

The idea that heathen governments should repent and become Christian governments -- obeying Genesis 9, Leviticus 18, Psalm 72, and the rest of the Scriptures -- minus the Levitical priestly requirements that foreshadowed Christ -- has been the mainstream understanding of Christendom for centuries. 

Whatever the phrase means, why is it mutually exclusive with the Theonomic conclusion of the Supreme Court of Delaware (above) or the Theonomic ideal of John Cotton's Abstract of the Laws of New England, in which the civil statutes were annotated with the appropriate verses from the Bible?

Here are some more arguments against Theonomy: and our response:
One piece of evidence that the civil laws of Israel were typological of the eternal kingdom is that they are inextricably bound up with the land. For example, the law of the parapet gives as its rationale the concern to avoid bringing blood-guilt upon one’s house (Deut. 22:8). This concern only makes sense on the assumption that the land itself is holy and must be carefully protected from blood-guilt which would defile it and result in the expulsion of its inhabitants (Nus. 35:33; Deut. 19:10). Of course the Promised Land was special, and shedding blood polluted the land. God wanted Israel to be concerned about the land. But was that the only reason God prohibited murder, or required safety precautions? Could it not be based on the fact that man is created in the Image of God? Is Lee Irons suggesting that murder is no longer wrong because there is no holy land to pollute?

In the New Covenant, is only the Promised Land holy? Christians are not to sanctify (make holy) the entire earth (Matthew 28:18-20)? If people are exposed to danger outside Palestine, there is no civil liability for the land owner for not installing railing around the danger? There is no longer any need to worry about innocent people shedding their blood because we're outside the Promised Land? Why would anyone reason in this way? Why is Lee Irons trying to move governments away from God's Law?

American juries have awarded verdicts in tort cases where safety rails were not in place, based on Deuteronomy 22:8. Were they wrong to do so?

Even theonomists would acknowledge that the land was a type of the eternal kingdom — the eternal inheritance we have in Christ and ultimately in the new heavens and new earth. But if the civil laws can all be shown to have this inextricable connection with the land, then it follows that they are likewise typological of the eternal kingdom and cannot be isolated arbitrarily from that typological function and applied to the non-typological nations of today, none of which are in redemptive covenant with Jehovah. Who says that the legal and civil functions of this verse were "arbitrarily" separated from typological functions?

Why is the land not typological of the entire world of which Christ is Lord and Savior (Matthew 28:18-20)? Why is it that if the Promised Land is adversely affected by disobeying God's Commandments, that every land (nation) should be concerned to apply God's Law?

Why are we not now in the New Heavens/New Earth? Why should we not be applying God's Law?

Now this leads to an interesting observation. If theonomy recognizes the typological nature of the land promise but insists that the civil law retains a non-typological validity, then theonomy and dispensationalism begin to display a surprising convergence — at least on the hermeneutical level. This is late-night college dorm theological banter. If you're a statesman or a missionary trying to Christianize pagan governments, you can safely ignore it and get back to the work God gave you.

The law of Circumcision is often equated with "the law of Moses." After Moses received commandments on Mt. Sinai, the word "circumcision" occurs only a handful of time in the Scriptures. But after the exile, the Jews turned circumcision into a humanistic tradition of man, way out of balance with the actual Word of God. The Jews called the Gentiles "the uncircumcision." The Jews were often called "the circumcision." When the Jews spoke of themselves as defenders of God's Law, all they really had in mind was circumcision. And often when Paul criticizes "the law," he's criticizing the Jewish concept of the law, which reduced it to the rituals, and especially the ritual of circumcision.

A designation of the Jews

  • Acts 10:45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
  • Acts 11:2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him,
  • Galatians 2:9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
  • Ephesians 2:11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
  • Colossians 4:11 And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.
  • Titus 1:10 For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:

But the true meaning and significance of the law of circumcision was not outward and bodily, but inward and a matter of faith:


  • Exodus 6:12 And Moses spake before the LORD, saying, Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips?
  • Deuteronomy 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.
  • Deuteronomy 30:6 And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.
  • Jeremiah 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.
  • Jeremiah 6:10 To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.
  • Jeremiah 9:26 Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.
  • Romans 2:28-29 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
  • Romans 15:8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:
  • Colossians 2:11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
  • Colossians 3:11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

So now Christians are the truly circumcised. Christians truly keep the law of Circumcision.

A designation of Christians

  • Philippians 3:3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.