New International Version Matthew 5:18

For truly I tell you, 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.

Hebrews 8:13

By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.


This question is extremely contentious because various people want to support a pre-existing theological position. Let us observe the following facts:

1. The NT quotes the OT laws (from the Torah) frequently as authoritative

Eph 6:2, 3 quotes Deut 5:16, Ex 20:12; James 2:11 quotes Ex 20:13; Rom 13:9 quotes Ex 20:13-15, 17; Rom 7:7 quotes Ex 20:17; Acts 23:5 quotes Ex 22:28; Heb 9:20 quotes Ex 24:8; 1 Peter 1:16 quotes Lev 19:2; Matt 22:39, James 2:8, Gal 5:14 quotes Lev 19:18; 2 Tim 2:19 quotes Num 16:5; Matt 19:18, 19 quotes Deut 5:16-20; Mark 12:32 quotes Deut 6:4; 2 Cor 13:1 quotes Deut 19:15; Matt 5:31, 19:7 quotes Deut 24:1; 1 Cor 9:9  Deut 25:4; Rom 12:19 quotes Deut 32:35; Heb 10:30 quotes Deut 32:35, 36, etc, etc.

2. Heb 8:13 does NOT say that the Law was abolished but says the Covenant was abolished.

Heb 8:13 - By speaking of a new covenant He has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.

Now, notice why a new covenant was required:

Heb 8:8 - 12 - But God found fault with the people and said: " ... I will put My laws in their minds and inscribe them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will each one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their iniquities and will remember their sins no more." [Quoting Jer 31:31-34]

Note further that the covenant was cancelled because the people (the Jews) were not faithful. The NT's "new covenant" involves writing laws on the hearts of the people. This is consistent with Matt 5:17-19 -

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. For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. So then, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus then goes on the amplify the laws (mostly but not exclusively the 10 commandments and other moral requirements.)

3. The Law is praised in the NT frequently

“But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one jot of the Law to become void.” (Luke 16:17), the law is essential because “through the law we become conscious of sin” (Rom 3:21, 7:7, 13), “we uphold the law by faith” (Rom 3:31), “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good” (Rom 7:12), “the law is spiritual” (Rom 7:14), “the law is good” (1 Tim 1:8), keeping the law is to do right (James 2:8). “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Certainly not! Instead, we uphold the law.” (Rom 3:31). “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? Certainly not!” (Rom 6:15); “we are now slaves of righteousness” (Rom 6:16), or, “slaves to God” (Rom 6:22).

4. The NT contains many more "laws"

The NT contains more than 1000 laws that the Christian is bound by - more than the Torah. Some wit has even enumerated them in places such as https://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201407/r1308729_17984331.pdf and https://www.cai.org/bible-studies/1050-new-testament-commands and https://www.facebook.com/notes/the-real-truth-movement/the-1050-new-testament-commandmentslaws/690826194404882/ and http://www.wholebible.com/NT_commandments.htm and http://www.biblicalresearchreports.com/gods-commands-in-the-new-testament/

A careful examination of the NT laws shows that they are all based on the moral laws of the Torah.

5. The Levitical Covenant cannot be kept even if we wanted to

The Levitical Covenant (Lev 1-9, 16, 21-27 , Num 3, 4, 8, 18, 25:10-13, Deut 33:8-11, Neh 13:29, Mal 2:4-8) with its sacrifices, formal priesthood, Temple services, rites and ceremonies cannot be kept even if we wanted to - there is no priesthood, no temple and no sacrifices to offer. However, that was never part of the covenant with Israel (Ex 19-24) and was never part of the new covenant with Christians (Matt 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Cor 11:25, 2 Cor 3:6, Heb 8:6-13, 9:15, 10:16, 29, 12:24, Jer 31:31, 33). Jesus came to fulfill the Levitical covenant as our high priest in the heavenly temple (Heb 4:14-16, 7:23-28, 8:1, 2, 9:1-28, 10:1-18).

6. New Covenant

One of the best summaries of the New Covenant is found in 1 Peter 1, 2. Notice how often it alludes to the Torah and its moral laws:

  • Purpose: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may express the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light … Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 2:9, 12. (See also Matt 5:16.)
  • The promise: Salvation by grace through the promised Messiah, 1 Peter 1:3-12, 20, and freedom from slavery to sin, 1 Peter 2:16. (See also 2 Peter 2:19.)
  • Moral Requirements: holiness (1 Peter 1:15), Purity (v22), Obey the truth (v22), love (v22), “rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” (1 Peter 2:1), abstain from sinful desires (1 Peter 2:11), submit to civil authorities (v13-17), see also Rom 13:1-7, etc.
  • Sacrifice: Blood of Jesus, 1 Peter 1:18, 19
  • the covenant was cancelled because the people (the Jews) were not faithful.”. - opinion? – Dave Dec 25 '20 at 19:50
  • @Dave - Heb 8:8, "But God found fault with the people and said ..." and Heb 8:9, "... because they did not abide by My covenant ..." – Dottard Dec 25 '20 at 19:55
  • @Dave - actually I made the connection that "fault with the people" = UNfaithful; and "did not abide by My covenant" = unfaithful. The new covenant is equally problematic - who keeps the new covenant perfectly? That is the whole reason for grace of forgiveness as Paul is at pains to point out in Rom 3:10-18, Eph 2:8-10, etc. If we could keep the new covenant, there would be no need of grace. – Dottard Dec 25 '20 at 20:10
  • Since when does ‘fault with the people’ = ‘faithful’? The problem with the covenant was that it was impossible for anyone [people’] to keep. It is impossible for man (the flesh) to ‘keep’ the Law. Man is incapable. So a covenant based on the Law has fault. – Dave Dec 25 '20 at 20:11
  • @Dave - who is described as, "holiness (1 Peter 1:15), Purity (v22), Obey the truth (v22), love (v22), “rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” (1 Peter 2:1), abstain from sinful desires (1 Peter 2:11), submit to civil authorities (v13-17)" – Dottard Dec 25 '20 at 20:11

Is Moses' Law obsolete?

The answer is "yes"

Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice and “abolished . . . the Law

The apostle Paul explained that Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice and “abolished . . . the Law of commandments consisting in decrees” and " and taken it out of the way and nailed it to the cross." (Eph 2:15; Col. 2:14)

Ephesians 2:15 NASB

15 by abolishing [b]in His flesh the hostility, which is the Law composed of commandments expressed in ordinances, so that in Himself He might [c]make the two one new person, in this way establishing peace;

Colossians 2:14 NASB (Emphasis (LAW) mine

14 having canceled the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it (LAW) out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.


What was canceled and nailed to the cross?:The Law , this included the literal observance of the 24-hour Sabbath rest, for Paul wrote: "Therefore, no one is to act as your judge in regard to food and drink, or in respect to a festival or a new moon, or a Sabbath day." (Colossians 2:16 NASB)

  • "it" that was nailed to the cross is the handwriting of debt - our sin! – Dottard Dec 24 '20 at 19:59
  • Yes indeed. Agreed. Up-voted +1. – Nigel J Dec 24 '20 at 20:56
  • @Dottard χειρογραφον τοις δογμασιν 'handwriting in the dogmata . . . decrees/ordinances. It cannot possibly mean 'sins' or 'debts'. – Nigel J Dec 24 '20 at 20:59
  • @NigelJ - that is exactly what it means - look at Thayer and BDB and anything else. It is the debt of sin that is described in those ordinances – Dottard Dec 24 '20 at 21:01
  • @Dottard Nowhere - absolutely nowhere in scripture - does δογμασιν mean sin or debt. The word does not mean that. The fact that, traditionally, many wish to be 'teachers of the law' who 'know not what they say or affirm' does not change that fact. – Nigel J Dec 24 '20 at 21:04

This is intended to complement Dottard's answer, not to disagree with it.

As Jesus said, the Law will not change.

God made a covenent with Israel, a physical one based strictly on literal obedience to the Law:

  • When the nation (leaders and people) followed the Law, they prospered.
  • When they didn't follow the Law, they suffered.
  • Only one's actual behaviour mattered, not one's thoughts (e.g. homosexual desire was not a sin, but acting on that desire was).

Deuteronomy 28 is known as the blessings and curses chapter, linking behaviour to reward and punishment. This was the purpose of "the chosen people", to set an example to the world of what happens when a nation does or does not follow God's Law.

Even today, Jews believe in the very literal interpretation of that Law. Evil thoughts or intent do not matter, only physical deeds:

… But the Holy One, Blessed be He, does not link an evil thought to an action, as it is stated: “If I had regarded iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not hear” (Psalms 66:18). But how do I realize the meaning of the verse: “Behold I will bring upon these people evil, even the fruit of their thoughts” (Jeremiah 6:19)? In the case of an evil thought that produces fruit, i.e., that leads to an action, the Holy One, Blessed be He, links it to the action and one is punished for the thought as well. If it is a thought that does not produce fruit, the Holy One, Blessed be He, does not link it to the action. …
Talmud — Kiddushin 40a:13

Hebrews 8:7–13 describes a new covenant, for Christians:

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them [the Israelites], He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah — not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Under the old covenant, the physical Israelites had to obey the letter of the Law; it was what they did that counted, not their attitude. In Jesus's time, the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees made sure that everyone in society did obey the Law (and more).

Under the new covenant, the spiritual Israelites (Christians) must obey the spirit of the Law:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. — Matthew 5:27–28

People must be aware of the meaning and intent of the Law, and their minds must want to obey it. To help with this, God gives part of his spirit to converts when they are baptized, that holy spirit, combined with their own human spirit, providing guidance and help.

This is what James (and others) spoke of when they talked of "works":

Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. — James 2:17

If God's spirit guides one's thoughts, it also guides one's behaviour. If a convert's behaviour does not change, it means that their attitude has not changed, and no matter how much faith a person might think they have or appear to have, that person is not truly committed.

This is only a foretaste of what is to come though, with God's Laws hardwired into people's minds, so eventually it will be impossible for them to ever want to sin.

But there is no suggestion that the Law itself ever changed or was done away with.

Rather, it is a new covenant (agreement) that has been set up between God and Christians; a new way of thinking of and obeying that very same Law.

This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it. — 2John 1:6

  • Hebrews 8:7–13 describes a new covenant, for Christians’ - since when is ‘the house of Israel’, and/or ‘the house of Judah’ = ‘Christians’? – Dave Dec 25 '20 at 19:54
  • @Dave, "spiritual israel" googles more than a half million hits. The concept is based on such scriptures as Romans 9, 1Peter 2, and Galatians 3. — "They are not all Israel, which are of Israel" — "a holy nation, His own special people, … who once were not a people but are now the people of God" — "Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham." — "And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise." The non-biblical term "Spiritual Israel" means Christians, in the context of God's prophecies, promises, and blessings. – Ray Butterworth Dec 25 '20 at 20:30

Quite possibly the most important but most neglected aspect of the Mosaic Law is that the vast majority of the human race is not under the Mosaic law, and never was. The Mosaic Law was a covenant between God and the literal Israelite nation. As a body of teaching and commandment it applies only to those who are in the Israelite nation.

Becoming a Christian does not bring one under the old law. This is the whole point of the debate that is chronicled in Acts 15, and is the whole point of Paul's warnings in Galatians.

Compliance with the Law of Moses affects our salvation only if the specific commandment in question is also present in the new law of Christ; but in that case it is not the existence of that commandment in the old law which makes it required, but its presence in the new.

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