Are Christians under the Old Covenant?

I recently engaged in a brief (thankfully) dialogue with yet another advocate of the Hebrew Roots Movement. It continues to amaze and dismay me how so many people can misunderstand the relationship between the Christian and the Old Covenant Law.

This was the first major doctrinal controversy the early church dealt with (see Acts 15). Almost an entire book of the New Testament was written to deal with this issue (see Galatians). Much of the book of Hebrews addresses the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant. Yet, we still deal with the same arguments.

For me, it is simple. I will even use a verse Hebrew Roots Movement advocates often turn to in order to argue that Christians have to obey the Old Covenant Law:

“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. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

It could not be any more clear. Absolutely nothing in the Law will disappear until everything is accomplished. In order to demonstrate that “everything is accomplished,” all we need to do is demonstrate that something from the Law has disappeared. Is there something that has disappeared? Yes! What? The sacrificial system!

The Old Covenant sacrificial system is no longer in effect, and it was a major aspect of the Old Covenant Law. Not even the most ardent defender of the Hebrew Roots Movement will argue that God still wants us to be offering animal sacrifices today. So, if the Old Covenant sacrificial system has “disappeared,” what does that mean? It means, according to Matthew 5:17-18, that “everything is accomplished.”

If “everything is accomplished,” what does that mean? It means that the Old Covenant Law has been fulfilled. How was it fulfilled? It was fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ lived a life of perfect obedience to both the letter and the spirit of the Old Covenant Law. Jesus Christ died to fulfill the Old Covenant sacrificial system. Jesus fulfilled/completed the entirety of the Old Covenant Law. Therefore, followers of Jesus Christ, those who have accepted by grace through faith His death and resurrection as the atoning sacrifice for their sins, are not under the authority of the Old Covenant Law.

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4)

“So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.” (Galatians 3:24-25)

“…by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances…” (Ephesians 2:15)

It is not complicated. Jesus fulfilled all of the Law. The Old Covenant has been fulfilled. Observance of the Old Covenant Law is not a requirement, or even a recommendation, for New Covenant believers.

Now, if you want to observe the Old Covenant feasts and festivals in remembrance of the fact that Christ perfectly fulfilled them, wonderful! If you even want to attempt to live under the Old Covenant Law, there is nothing in the New Covenant that would prevent you from doing so. It would be part of your freedom in Christ.

But, I still have no idea why anyone would want to exchange what is described in Hebrews 8—10 as “more excellent,” “with better promises,” and “greater and more perfect,” in order to live under what is described as “a shadow,” and “obsolete.”

S. Michael Houdmann

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Are Christians under the Old Covenant?