"...to set oppressed people free." Isaiah 61:1
Are The Law and the Prophets still in effect today?
In His sermon on the mount, Jesus provided the greatest teaching on Jewish law, exposing both the heresy and heartlessness of the Pharisees (those who interpreted and taught the law). After describing the cost of discipleship in the beatitudes, Jesus began His discourse with the phrase, "You have heard it said..." (translation: 'you've been taught...'), and then follows it with His own commentary and clarification. In so doing, He not only was pronouncing His expertise on the Law, but also His authority over it. Of course, the apostle John's beautiful description of Jesus being the Word that became flesh reveals Jesus as the author and finisher of the written Word of God. (Jn. 1:1)
The Law and the Prophets were written with the explicit purpose of pointing God's chosen people and the world to Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the law. When Philip found Nathaniel (English spelling) under the fig tree to tell him of Jesus, he described Jesus in this way: "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote..." (Jn. 1:45) Jesus even described Himself by referring to those same inspired historical documents when He said, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law and the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill." (Mt. 5:17) With just those two passages, the Believer can hang his/her spiritual hat on the declaration that The Law is still in effect and that Christ has fulfilled every requirement of it. Jesus has now provided the Believer with his/her responsibility today as it pertains to working out one's faith within the context of The Law. It is found in Matthew 22:40, and reads: "Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great(est) commandment. And the second (is) like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On (these) two commandments hang all The Law and the Prophets.'" (v.'s 37-40, NKJV)
Some scholars/theologians interpret Luke 16:16, stating Jesus explicitly said The Law and the Prophets "were until John (the Baptist)...” They maintain that Jesus directly stated The Law was no longer in effect, but that would not line-up with His statement found in Mt.5:17. The Law and the Prophets pointed to Christ, and then John the Baptist was Christ's forerunner who 'made a way' in his university of the desert. (Is. 43:19) God was beginning the transition of making all things new, a transition which is continuing until Christ returns as a victorious King to reign 1000 years. But then there is the conundrum presented by the writer of Hebrews 8:7-13: of the covenant (and The Law that came with it) becoming obsolete. Was it inspired? I have to believe it was. How are we to understand it? In my limited understanding, it is to be understood in the light of the eternal heaven, not the present earth. The old law, just as the present earth, is merely a foretaste of the eternal law, Christ's eternal Kingdom (Isaiah 9:6&7).
Of course, the above referenced passage lead us to another Biblical precept supporting the veracity of The Law: its eternal purpose. Yes, the Lawgiver established His word for eternity. Without The Law, there would be no need for a Savior. Through God’s loving gift of the Law, we are pointed to a higher walk (see last week’s blog); our sin is exposed; and the Believer is directed to the safety of right living. The Law renders every man, woman, and child as one in need of a Savior to redeem, a Lord to restore, and a Love to reconcile us to God.
(Colossians 2:14) In Jesus' first sermon, He quoted from Isaiah 61:1 and revealed His life's mission statement, ending with the phrase: "...to set oppressed people free." Freedom is only realized under the obligation of the law which requires an accounting of wrong doing, an accounting for which our Savior paid the price - His priceless life on a cruel cross. I thank God for His unbounded love and the power of the cross over sin and death!
So, in this short discourse, I hope my thoughts made sense to you. Other scriptures for support and clarification that you may want to consider are: Luke 24:44; Acts 24:14; Acts 28:23; Romans 3:21.