What did Jesus teach about the law? In the last article I covered that the law was not ever intended to be a perfect black and white portrayal of absolute perfection for humanity. The truth is that it inherited within itself, from man, corrupted institutions like slavery, and men ruling over women, things which God never intended to be, but men themselves created.
What does Jesus have to say about the law as it pertains to women?
Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matt 19:7-9
And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” Mark 10:2-12
First off, Jesus confirms here that marriage in God’s eyes is between 1 man and 1 woman, whom God joins together. Men have no rule or authority over this. Men cannot make God join them to more than 1 wife, even if they say they have 2 or 3 or 300 wives. And men cannot get a divorce before God unless she has committed sexual immorality. God won’t do it, no matter what they pretend, or what rules they make up, God still rules sovereign. This also shows that when you add it all up, that God acknowledges that women can get a divorce by human law, but it can be taken that the same rules apply to her, that she cannot get a divorce before God except for sexual immorality committed by her husband. Which in truth, adultery is what men have done repeatedly to wives throughout history, but being ruled over by men, they had no recourse. Men with many wives, even David and Solomon, while they were under God’s Grace, they were still all adulterers. Their first wife God joined them to was the only wife they ever had in God’s eyes.
But more to the point: here Jesus says that Moses, not God, permitted divorce. Jesus Christ says that Moses permitted divorce and wrote this precept in the law, in the Bible. But Jesus makes clear that what was written in the law was not God’s ideal of what He wants of us. That would be what is written in Deut 24, and it is also referenced in Deut 22:19, 22:29, and even in the prior book of Lev 21:7.
And so we can see here that what Moses wrote in the law for Israel was NOT meant to be moral perfection. And it is true that the men refused to accept the truth, because their hearts were hard, so what Moses wrote and has been handed down to us as the law was not meant to be perfect. The law was therefore not ever a complete expression of God’s will.
And it really is true that the law was filtered to some extent through Moses, a man who was a product of the time he was living in, speaking to other people who were also in that culture. This is what Jesus makes clear! And these men Moses dealt with were men who already practiced divorce, as history shows the Egyptians did, and they were not willing to give it up.
That may mess up some people’s view of the Bible, but this is what the Bible itself teaches:
Either God allowed Moses to allow or not allow things into the Bible at his discretion, which cannot be true as all scripture is God-breathed,
or God compromised with man in what was to be written in the law, in that the law was what THEY could strive for and even attain, though it was still not perfect.
The latter is the truth, which Jesus Himself teaches, with 2 witnesses of this truth. And more witnesses actually, as where the law said not to murder, Jesus said not to be angry, where the law said not to commit adultery, Jesus said not to have adultery in your heart. (Matt 5) And so it is clear that the truth is God compromised with man in what was to be written in the law, even allowed Moses to compromise with men as well, and this means very clearly that the law was never meant to teach us God’s perfection and truth of morality.
Repeatedly Jesus and the writers of the New Testament choose to not call the law “the law of God” like it is some perfect portrayal of what God wants, but rather they call it “the law of Moses”, etc.
And he charged him to tell no man: but go, and shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. Luke 5:14
Did not Moses give you the law, and [yet] none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? John 7:19,22-23
And he said unto them, These [are] the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and [in] the prophets, and [in] the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. Luke 24:44-48
And here is a picture which well shows the law is a mixture of man’s will and God’s will,
And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him 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;) Luke 2:22-23
It is the Lord’s law, and it is Moses’ law, both. Which shows yet again, that a man between other people and God does not teach us God’s perfect will, but we each needed Jesus Christ directly.
Which is not to say the law is wrong, but merely to acknowledge it for what it is, and for what God intended it to be, which as Jesus makes clear, was not for it to be taken as a perfect expression of God’s truth. It was from the Lord, but it also was filtered through Moses.
For the law was given by Moses, [but] grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. John 1:17
In fact, here we can see the law is contrasted with the truth that came by Jesus Christ.
The law was not ever to make anyone sinless,
Be it known unto you therefore, men [and] brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Acts 13:38-39
In truth, the Bible teaches that no one could be justified by following the law of Moses, even if any of them could have followed it. It was their faith that they tried to follow it which made them counted as righteous, and faith in God shown in following the law of Moses, that justified them to God as Jews. It was not the Law itself, which would make nothing perfect, but their faith.
The Law was good, and beneficial, but the Law made nothing perfect.
How can I claim “the Law made nothing perfect”? I only am saying what the Bible says:
If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?
For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For He of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. Heb 7:11-19
Truly, the law made nothing perfect, but was a step in a process, of bringing in a better hope, who is Jesus Christ. Who is THE answer and was always intended to be, from the beginning and the fall.
The Bible also says:
For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Heb 10:1
And so this is a second witness and confirmation that the law makes nothing perfect, and cannot make perfect those who try to follow the law. Whereas Jesus Christ is the very form of the good things to come, the Law was only a shadow. How different can a shadow be from the thing it is the shadow of? Looking at a shadow by itself can greatly distort your understanding of what the actual object looks like, leaving out much information. A shadow of a tree, for example, cannot tell you about its leaves and trunk and fruit. And the shadow of a man, will tell you nothing of his eyes, or his hair, or many many things about him. And so also the Law was like the shadow of Jesus Christ, and in Him, the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, and the gifts and fruits of His Holy Spirit, and becoming adopted by God, which were all good things to come.
What else does the Bible says about the Law?
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, “That the man which doeth those things shall live by them”. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Rom 10:1-13
Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I [am] the LORD. Lev 18:5
The law was meant to lead people to Christ, as He is the end of the Law for all who believe, He is what was intending to be waiting at the end of the road, the goal to be reached, which the Law was to lead to. And truly, the Law of the Old Covenant was that if a person did these things, that person would live in them. This was Israel’s agreement and covenant with God, that they would do these things, and they would live, and God would bless them. If they did not do these things in the law, then God would punish them and they would die. But in all cases, following the law could not by works justify anyone, it could make no-one perfect, it was not enough. But those who had faith, who believed God, would try to follow the law, and in this, because of faith they would have salvation.
What, do you think that a man who missed his last guilt offering on his deathbed, but who had true faith and obedience for God, would not be saved? Do you think a man who found every loophole in the Law, without fear of God, but not technically breaking it for appearance’s sake, while keeping up perfectly with his offerings, that he would be righteous? It was not following of the Law which saved anyone, but rather their faith in God, by which God counted them as righteous, that they may live. And by live, I mean live eternally. For the just shall live by faith. Looking above, the righteousness of God, which is faith in God, is directly contrasted by men trying make their own righteousness, by the law and works.
The Bible teaches about this:
Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Gal 3:6-12
Doing the law showed one had faith, and believed God, which is accounted as righteousness, and this is how those in Israel were given life eternal who had faith and believed God, as Abraham was also, as we have covered in the last article. But in itself doing the law justified no man in God’s sight. The law made nothing and no one perfect.
The Apostle Paul understood this fact, and taught it.
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. Gal 3:13-18
Truly, Christ was Abraham’s seed through whom all nations would be blessed, and this was God’s original intent, and He freed people from the law, including all of its many spiritual curses for disobedience to any part of it. We can see Jesus Christ was God’s original intent because it was what God promised Abraham 430 years before the law was given. Jesus Christ was never an afterthought of the law, or an “oops, that law thing didn’t work, let’s think of something else…” No!
The truth is Jesus Christ was intended to come since the fall, the seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent. And Jesus Christ was intended to come since Abraham, the seed of Abraham.
Keeping that in mind, what was the ultimate purpose of the law?
Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Gal 3:19-29
The law was given to curtail sin, which is a good reason. It was also intended to be like a schoolmaster, teaching people about sin and showing people that they were sinners and could not attain righteousness by their own actions, so that they would realize their need for Jesus Christ to save them. And also to lessen the amount of sin taking place.
This is very important to understand:
Many people today act like the reason God had to send Jesus was because when God gave this perfect law of sinlessness, that no one could keep it perfectly without one mistake, and that the point of the law was to prove no one could keep God’s perfect law that would make a person righteous.
This is not true!
The law, even if followed perfectly, would still not make a person perfect. The law was a shadow, and did not justify anyone, because only faith in God can justify anyone! And this only by God’s Grace!
The law was only ever intended to teach people and to curtail sin, and to be a measuring line by which for people to see who was of faith in God, and tried to follow the law, and who was not of faith and God, and ignored the law, and to teach everyone that they could not reach any standard of perfection set in front of them on their own; but it also was closer to the truth, a shadow of the truth.
What commandments did Jesus teach over and over again? And Jesus answered him,
The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. Mark 12:29-31
And so the law did contain the first of all commandments and the second, of which there were none greater, and these commandments were the truth that God really wanted us and Israel to follow!
And so much of the rest of the law was just describing these commandments, as best as they could be understood at the time. And that included being understood in a culture that viewed women, and slaves, and foreigners as inferiors to men, and not truly a man’s neighbor. For if you truly loved your neighbor who was a slave, you would not rule over him but free him and pay him, and if you truly loved a woman, you would not rule over her but love her and free her to be able to submit herself to you, which she cannot do if you rule over her. (Which is what the rest of the new testament relating to marriage teaches.)
But the people then were not yet able to understand the truth, that there was no male nor female, nor Jew nor Gentile, nor free nor slave barrier that separated them from who was their neighbor. Everyone was their neighbor, but they could not see it. And so the law contains many descriptions of loving your neighbor as yourself, that were filtered through ignorance, and were incomplete, imperfect shadows, making the law not able to justify anyone, nor perfect, but a schoolteacher, a lesson, towards a better understanding, to lead to a better way, who was Jesus Christ who is the Truth.
He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it!
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. Matt 5:17
And the law could not be fulfilled until everyone understood that everyone was their neighbor, that they should love as themself, whether slave or free, Jew or Gentile, male or female. The first and second greatest commandments in the law could not be fulfilled in truth, until we all could see we were each equal and equally loved by God. And this is the understanding that Jesus taught, and made personally possible for each of us, in that we are all God’s children, receiving the same gift of forgiveness and life, and with the same Holy Spirit indwelling each of us, so we could see and learn we were all equal and equally loved by God.
It seems many Christians today, for some reason, look at the law in the same way that the Jews looked at it, misunderstanding it. And it seems many Christians today look at the Old Testament in the same way that the Jews looked at it, misunderstanding it. In fact, there seems to be a heavy emphasis in some Christian circles to look at the Old Testament by leaning on the understanding of either ancient Jews, or modern ones… who do not have the Spirit of Truth in their hearts unless they are in fact Christians. Paul repeatedly taught early Christians against trying to follow the law to be justified and made righteous, which is where many of the above verses come from. Reading with an eye for this truth, there is plenty in the Epistles about this problem, which you can read on your own.
Included in this, and a great summary of the problem in viewing the Old Testament in the way that the Jews did, is the underlined portions below from 2 Corinthians:
Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory. Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Cor 3:5-18
And so the Bible teaches us that as Christians, we are better equipped, by the Holy Spirit and Him alone, to understand the first 5 books of Moses, than the Jews were, or are. And so whatever Christians have accepted about the books of Moses that the Jews have handed to us ready-made, should be assumed to have been interpreted with a veil over the person’s heart. And the same is true of any non-Christian reading God’s Words, whether Jews or anyone else. The Bible can only be understood with the Holy Spirit, who lives in the unveiled heart of a Christian. So then, if the verses above are understood, is it any surprise that a Christian view might contain an interpretation of the books of Moses which is very different from the standard interpretation of the ancient Jews? For it is true that the Bible teaches that Christians were going to see things in the Bible, the Word of God, even that they should see things, which had not been realized by the ancient Jews…
Because in fact they are still in school, under a schoolmaster, the law, which was and still is meant to lead them to Jesus Christ. And in many cases, it still does, Praise God! But we are no longer under the law, the schoolmaster, the tutor.
Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. Gal 4:1-7
And so as adopted children of God, we are only to view the law as like our tutor, our schoolmaster, from a time when like a young child we were like a servant, but in Christ, we are no longer like a servant, like a child, under our schoolmaster, the law, but more like grown children of God and heirs. We have graduated, not to forget what we learned in primary school, but to move on to college, beyond the law, to its fulfillment who is Jesus Christ, who came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it.
As Christians we are not to see the law as Jews do, nor to try to be under it, as Paul said,
I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.
Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?
For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Hagar. For this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. [the law]
But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. [Jesus Christ the seed of Abraham]
But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture?
Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. Gal 4:20-31
In summary, the law could make no one perfect, as it was not meant to, even if a person followed it to the letter, and it could not work to fulfill the greatest commandments it contained, to love God with all of your being, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Only Jesus Christ was meant to and could serve to fulfill the law, and it was always God’s plan for Him to. The law is good, but it is just a school lesson compared to the greater understanding of truth that we have in The Truth and the Holy Spirit of Truth who is in each of us. And it was always God’s original plan to send Jesus Christ, and never for the law to justify anyone, as all are counted as righteous by their faith in God and because of His Grace and Mercy and Love and Goodness. Alleluia!
And so all that the law speaks about women, and slaves, and foreigners, which was not reflective of loving your neighbor as yourself, was made void as God gave His Holy Spirit to anyone who would believe on Jesus as Lord and Savior, so we could see the truth. And in the truth we can all see God loves us all equally, no matter of gender, race, class, or nationality. And so in every way the truth we learn in Christ Jesus to love our neighbor as ourself, and the truth we understand that our neighbor is every human there is, the law is shown and proven to be more and more just a shadow of the good things to come. And so everything in the New Testament about women supersedes the oppression of women found in the law, and the same for slaves, and the same for foreigners. The law was a step in the right direction, as it was able to be handled at the time, and was a lesson unto the people of the time, but we as Christians are to come to a much greater understanding of the truth, and love, and this was always God’s will and intention. And in this, Jesus and His Holy Spirit work to perfect us.
But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matt 5:48
To be perfect, we must do much better than the law describes.