The Cessation of the Mosaic Covenant -- By: Hal Harless

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 160:639 (Jul 2003)
Article: The Cessation of the Mosaic Covenant
Author: Hal Harless


The Cessation of the Mosaic Covenant

Hal Harlessa

Is the Mosaic Law the standard for Christians to follow today? Many Christians answer this in the affirmative. For example Berkhof wrote,

It is equally contrary to Scripture to say … that the law does not apply in the New Testament dispensation. Jesus taught the permanent validity of the law, Matt. 5:17–19. Paul holds his readers responsible for keeping the law, Rom. 13:9 .

There is another sense, however, in which the Christian is not free from the law. It is pure Antinomianism to maintain that Christ kept the law as a rule of life for His people, so that they need not worry about this any more. The law lays claim, and justly so, on the entire life of man in all its aspects, including his relation to the gospel of Jesus Christ…. The law not only demands that we accept the gospel and believe in Jesus Christ, but also that we lead a life of gratitude in harmony with its requirements… .

The Reformed do full justice to the second use of the law [as a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ] … but they devote even more attention to the law in connection with the doctrine of sanctification. They stand strong in the conviction that believers are still under the law as a rule of life and gratitude.1

Berkhof’s reference to Romans 13:9 is strange because in this verse and its context Paul argued that love, which was Jesus’ new commandment (John 13:34), replaced the need for the Mosaic Law.

However, some writers say that the ethic of love is insufficient for Christian living. Bloesch wrote, “Reformed theology takes strong exception to grounding ethics simply in the spirit of love. With the Reformed fathers ethics was grounded not upon love but upon obeying the commandments as God’s commandments.”2 Aware of

such thinking, Chafer complained that the

notion that people will not live righteous lives unless placed upon a works basis of relationship to God has permeated the church to a large degree. This ignorance is manifest in the church by the fact that the greatest incentive to holy living that the human heart can know is ignored, which is, to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called” (Eph 4:1). The individual who c...

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