Some people feel the Law can never be changed, even to the crossing of a “t” or the dotting of an “i.” Those who believe this will be shocked at what the Bible says. The Law of God can be changed and parts abolished if God so desires. This is Progressive Revelation
The Law of God Starts in Genesis
To understand this matter clearly, we need to be reminded that when the apostle Paul talked about the Law of God, he plainly stated that Christians were no longer “under the law.” He then gave an illustration from that Law, of Sarah and Hagar recorded in Genesis (Galatians 4:21–31). This reference of Paul to the Law was long before Moses established the Old Covenant at Mount Sinai. The Book of Genesis itself was reckoned by Jews and by biblical authorities as the first book of the Law. The Law of God, commands of God given to man, begins with the first chapters of Genesis, not with the twentieth chapter of the Book of Exodus where the Ten Commandments and subsidiary laws were given for the nation of Israel.
What is the very first Law of God found in Holy Scriptures? The first Law is found in Genesis 2:16–17, with both a positive and a negative command. It is,
“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
[bad], you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.’”
In the period from Adam to Noah, there were a few other laws of God recorded in the Holy Scriptures. There were laws against
murder (Genesis 4:15, 23; 9:6),
immodesty (Genesis 9:23),
wrong marriages (Genesis 6:1–4), and
wickedness in general (Genesis 6:5).
The Vast Differences between the Patriarchal and Mosaic Legal Systems
Under the Abrahamic covenant, God allowed his people to offer sacrifices anywhere they pleased (Genesis 12:7, 35:1; Job 1:5). Moses changed this law by commanding only the family of Aaron to attend to the sacred rites (Exodus 40:1–16) and those sacrifices could only be offered on the altar in the Sanctuary (Deuteronomy 12:13–14).
Abraham planted a grove (or sacred tree) in Beersheba (Genesis 21:33), but under Moses the use of groves became prohibited (Exodus 34:14; 2 Chronicles 14:3; Isaiah 17:8).
Jacob set up a pillar (Genesis 28:18), but this was later forbidden by Moses (Deuteronomy 16:22, margin).
God said in the time of Noah: “Every moving thing
all animals] that lives shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things”
(Genesis 9:3), but with Moses only the beasts mentioned in Leviticus chapter 11 were allowed or disallowed.
There were no official feast days commanded in the time of Abraham, but with Moses, ordained festivals became required periods for attendance by all Israelite males (Leviticus 23).
There was no commanded Tithing at first. Tithing was not a law in the patriarchal period
None of the patriarchs wore phylacteries
(at least we have no record of such), but with Moses their use was commanded (Numbers 15:37–41).
The land did not have to rest every 7th year under the patriarchs
(Genesis 41:34–35), but with Moses, the land rest was commanded (Leviticus 25:1–7).
Abraham married his half-sister with God’s full approval
(Genesis 20:12), but this became illegal in the time of Moses (Leviticus 20:17).
Abraham was confederate with his Canaanite neighbors
(Genesis 14:13), but no leagues with the Canaanites were allowed in the dispensation of Moses. Indeed, the Canaanites were to be exterminated (Deuteronomy 20:17–18).
There was also no commanded Sabbath law in the patriarchal period. However, in the time of Moses the Sabbath was first introduced as a law for Israelites to obey (Exodus 20:8; Nehemiah 9:14; Ezekiel 20:12) with stringent requirements that changed the very character of the 7th day of the week. Moses had now emerged on the scene and a profound change in religious essentials had come into existence for Israel.
The differences between the religious system of the patriarchs and that of Moses were dramatic. If a religious Israelite after the time of Moses could have been transported back to Abraham’s time and witnessed Abraham (not knowing who he was) performing his religious duties, he would have called him an unconverted heathen
. And though it is made clear in the Scriptures that God knew Abraham “obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Genesis 26:5), those laws (the Law of God in Abraham’s time) were very different
from those later laws commanded to Moses and to the Israelites at Mount Sinai.
Indeed, for Abraham’s first 99 years of life he was not circumcised, later
he built altars anywhere he pleased,
he raised up groves,
he offered no lamb at Passover,
he kept no weekly Sabbath,
he attended no holy feasts,
he wore no phylacteries,
he married his half-sister,
kept no land sabbath [that is, no Sabbatical Years], and of all things
he was allied with the Canaanites.
What God did in the time of Moses was to rescind the religious requirements of the Patriarchal period in favor of stricter laws ordained in the time of Moses. The two religious systems were so completely different that if one were to mix the teachings together, utter contradiction and confusion would result.
There is no compatibility at all between the two systems.
However, some people today are so conservative in their views that they will not allow God to establish new religious systems different from previous ones. They cannot believe God would ever change ritualistic or ceremonial teachings that He once gave to His people. In no way is this true biblical teaching.
Certainly God does not change His mind in overall philosophical matters that dominate His character and personality (Malachi 3:6), but He most decidedly changed His own religious systems in the past when He saw fit.
The Law of God Versus the Law of Moses
There is a clever device many “Law-keepers” use to show distinction between other biblical laws and the Ten Commandments — which they feel are the basic constitution of God, and can never be changed or altered in any way. They differentiate some biblical laws into a category of being subsidiary laws, given to Moses as ritualistic actions to govern ancient Israel in their infancy. True, just after God gave the Ten Commandments to Israel, Moses recorded a number of other laws at the same time that directed the religious observances of Israel.
These other laws were given the title by some as the “Law of Moses.” Some separate them from the “Law of God” that the Ten Commandments is supposed to represent in an exclusive sense. They, by their own authority and without sanction from God, arrogantly state that some laws are superior to others.
Here again, people who assume such an interpretation are very wrong. Remember, the Holy Scriptures themselves tell us what represents the “Law of the Lord” (that is, “God’s Law”). The “Law of Moses” is called nothing less than the “Law of the Lord” in the New Testament itself, and this designation included the sacrifice of animals at the Temple in Jerusalem.
“And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him
[Christ Jesus] to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord; And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
And to make sure that people did not distinguish between the Law of Moses and the Law of the Lord, Luke finally states:
“And when they
[Joseph and Mary] had performed all things
[animal sacrifices, etc.] according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.”
It is time to get rid of the absurd interpretation of the Law of Moses and the Law of the Lord are two different laws. Indeed, even the laws that governed Adam, Noah, and also the Patriarchs were the “Law of the Lord.” All these were “God’s Law” and to break even a minor law was equal in God’s eyes to breaking all the Law (James 2:10).
The whole ministry of Christ while He was in the flesh was not the new Christian message finally taught by Peter, John, and Paul. Christ’s earthly ministry and teachings were nothing more than the final application of the Law of God that existed from Adam to Moses, and then from the time of Christ before His crucifixion. It is most important that all who love the teachings of the Holy Scriptures understand this fact.
What we find in the Bible is precisely what the apostle Paul taught — that the Bible is partitioned into various sections of doctrines and laws, and that some of those teachings and codes apply only to certain people and not to others. To appreciate and understand the Holy Scriptures properly, the apostle Paul said that we should be “rightly dividing the word of truth”
(2 Timothy 2:15). Yes, the Bible teachings should be “divided” (or partitioned) to know what parts pertain to us,
and what parts are intended for others on the earth and not to us. Remember, in “dividing” the word of truth, one must do it “rightly” and not in a wrong way.
While every bit of the Bible is holy and inspired, some parts of Scripture no longer apply for those mature Christians who have advanced into spiritual adulthood in Christ. This is the simple teaching of the apostle Paul.