Category Archives: Covenant and Law

Part 1–New Covenant Theology–The New Covenant and the Decalogue

by Peter Ditzel

I want to set the record straight concerning the New Covenant and the law, both Old Covenant law and New Covenant law. Several times, in just the past couple of weeks alone, I have had it made clear to me that many people simply do not grasp the relationship of the New Covenant to the laws of the Old Covenant, specifically the Ten Commandments. Even prominent theologians, who should know the distinctions of each system of theology, get this relationship wrong. Additionally, many even misunderstand the Christian’s relationship to the law of Christ. Possibly because of this weak understanding, there has now been a move to try to reach a compromise between New Covenant Theology and Reformed Theology.

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New Covenant Theology–Must We Obey a New Law?

by Peter Ditzel

New Covenant Theology teaches that Jesus Christ fulfilled the law, and that by fulfilling it, He ended it. But Jesus also said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also love one another” (John 13:34). Jesus also gave us a new standard of righteousness in the Sermon on the Mount, and the Bible also speaks of the “law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2), the “law of faith” (Romans 3:27), the “royal law” (James 2:8), and the “perfect law of freedom” (James 1:25; 2:12). Is there a new law with new commands that Jesus has given us under the New Covenant? If so, must we obey these commands?

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Law Is Not For the Righteous

by Peter Ditzel

The following is excerpted largely from my response to a reader who took me to task for my saying that the fourth commandment is not for Christians. A bit of it is also from an email to a brother who asked about 1 Timothy 1:8. The difficulty with the first reader goes beyond Sabbath keeping. It is the error of believing that we must keep the law to obtain or maintain justification. It is a leaven that has spread throughout Christianity (Galatians 5:9). These people ignore the Bible's plain words, such as these penned by Paul: "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace" (Galatians 5:4).

Dear Mr. Sabbathkeeper,

You have written to me asking me whether, since I say that Christians are not obligated to keep the fourth commandment (“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy”), do I then believe that it is okay to murder, commit adultery, steal, lie, and covet, prohibitions against these also being found in the Ten Commandments.

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If the Law Has Been Abolished, What Condemns People Today?

by Peter Ditzel

In response to the question posed in the title, I will ask four more questions, and then I will answer all of the questions: In the judgment, what will condemn people who lived after Adam and before Abraham? In the judgment, what will condemn Jews who lived before Moses? In the judgment, what will condemn a person who lived in eastern Asia at the time of Moses? In the judgment, what will condemn a person who lives in a remote part of Mongolia today?

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Q. If Jesus’ fulfilling of the law was His completing and ending the Law of the Old Testament (see “In what way did Jesus fulfill the law?”), why did He say, “Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:19)?

A. Let’s look at what Jesus said in context:

Don’t think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfill. For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished. Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Matthew 5:17-20

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Q. If, as you say, the law was given only to Israel, why does Romans 3:19 imply that all the world is under the law and judged guilty by it?

A. The first Christians in Rome appear to have been Jewish. It is quite possible that they were among the Jews from various parts of the empire who heard Peter speak on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. When they returned to Rome, they brought Christianity with them and spread it to other Jews there. Thus, the Christian community in Rome had a distinctly Jewish character. Apparently some Gentiles also became Christians in Rome, but they were a minority. As we know from Acts and Paul’s epistles, some Jewish Christians not only kept many Jewish traditions but they also had a difficult time understanding the fulfilling and ending of the law. Sometime around A.D. 49, the Roman emperor, Claudius, issued an edict expelling Jews from the city of Rome. The edict would have included even those Jews who had converted to Christianity. But it did not include the Gentile Christians, who stayed behind in Rome. This expulsion of the Jews is mentioned in Acts 18:2. Some years later, the edict was either withdrawn or allowed to lapse with the death of Claudius in A.D. 54.

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Q. Exodus 12:49 says that there is one law for Israel and the stranger. Exodus 20:10 also says that the stranger is to keep the Sabbath. Doesn’t this prove you wrong when you say that the law, including the Sabbath, was given only to Israel?

A. In Exodus 12:49, we read, “One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.” As with any Scripture, to understand this verse, we must look at the context and know how its terms are defined. The terms that we should pay particular attention to here are “homeborn” and “stranger.” Now, let’s look at the context by reading Exodus 12:43 through 48:

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Q. If we are no longer under the law, why did Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, raise the standard of the law?

A. It’s pretty common for preachers to say that Jesus raised the standard of the law or amplified or magnified it. This question is based on this belief that Jesus came to magnify the law. Those who teach that Jesus magnified the law usually cite Isaiah 42:21 and tie it to Matthew 5.

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