Author: Ron Graham
The Law and the Gospel
—Did Jesus Preach the Law of Moses?
This lesson briefly examines two doctrines taught about the gospel, and observes that they do not match with the New Testament's own teaching about the gospel as Christ's new law and covenant for all mankind.
- Gospel different to Covenant. Some people think that the gospel is only for the lost, and having become a Christian, one leaves the gospel and enters a "covenant relationship". That is to say, one is not subject to the law of Christ until one has obeyed the gospel of Christ.
- Christ taught Law not Gospel. Some teach that Jesus, in his ministry, interpreted the Law of Moses to the Jews and did not preach the gospel. That is to say, the gospel was not preached publicly until the apostles obeyed the great commission.
1 The Gospel is for the Church
Some people think that the gospel is only for the lost, and having become a Christian, one leaves the gospel and enters a "covenant relationship". That expression is not found in scripture. Unscriptural terms often indicate unscriptural teachings. Note the following terms in Romans...
- Gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16)
- The truth (Romans 1:18)
- Form of doctrine (Romans 6:17)
- Law of the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2)
- Word of faith (Romans 10:8)
- God’s covenant (Romans 11:27)
- Perfect will of God (Romans 12:2)
- Revelation of the mystery (Romans 16:25)
These are surely all ways of describing one and the same thing, namely the doctrine that Paul and his fellow apostles were teaching to the world.
There is no evidence at all in Romans that Paul had a gospel he preached to the lost that was different to the doctrine he taught the church. In fact he clearly says to the church in Rome. "I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome" (Romans 1:13-18).
The gospel in Paul's mind not only saves the lost from the wrath of God, but bears fruit in the believers, revealing the righteousness of God from faith to faith, whether that be the faith of the lost sinner coming to Christ, or the faith of the members of the church who have been saved.
Everyone, whether lost or saved, has a "covenant relationship" with God under the gospel...
- For some, it is a relationship of wrath because they neglect and reject the gospel (2Thessalonians 1:8-12).
- For others it is a relationship of grace, faith, and hope, because they receive and believe the gospel (Colossians 1:18-23).
We observe the same thing in Paul's other letters. Take for example his letter to the Galatians. Paul says, "It was because of an illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time" (Galatians 4:12-16).
This clearly implies that he preached the gospel to them at subsequent times, yet they were already Christians. In the first chapter Paul tells the Galatian disciples to stick with the gospel he preached to them and not let anyone preach another gospel to them.
This clearly implies that Paul's gospel should be preached to them though they be Christians (Galatians 1:6-11). We also observe in Galatians that Paul refers to the gospel as "the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).
2 Jesus Preached the Gospel
Some teach that Jesus, in his ministry, interpreted the Law of Moses to the Jews and did not preach the gospel.
When introducing the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew says, "Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom" (Matthew 4:23).
In Matthew chapter five Jesus repeatedly refers to portions of the Law of Moses, then says, "But I say to you..." He contrasts his teaching with that of Moses. And in certain cases he flatly contradicts Moses.
Other scriptures show that Jesus preached the gospel...
- "The law and the prophets were until John. Since then the gospel of the kingdom is being preached" (Luke l6:16).
- "The Counsellor, the Holy Spirit," said Jesus to his disciples, "will remind you of everything I have said to you" (John 14:26).
- The great commission, you will recall, was "Teach them to obey all things I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:18-20).
- There is no evidence that Jesus taught his disciples a different message than what he taught the multitudes (Matthew 5:1-2).
- The writer to the Hebrews says that we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, and goes on to say, "It was first spoken by the Lord and confirmed to us by those who heard him" (Hebrews 2:1-4).
3 Jesus Died to Ratify the Gospel
Although Jesus preached the gospel, not the law, this does not mean that the Law had passed away and the gospel was in force during Jesus' ministry. He said clearly that the Law would not pass in any detail until all of it was fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-19).
At the same time as the Law was fulfilled, and by the same act, the gospel would be ratified and come into force in place of Moses’s law.
The Law was fulfilled and abrogated at the cross (Colossians 2:14). The gospel declared that the time for the law of Moses to cease was the crucifixion of Christ.
In the meantime, people could practise what Jesus taught without conflict with the law of Moses, and even as an enlightened way to keep the law of Moses. The sermon on the mount is an excellent example of this (Matthew 5-7).
After our Lord’s death, people could practise what he taught in place of the law of Moses because Christ had become their high priest in heaven and his gospel was now their new covenant which he had mediated to them (Hebrews 9:11-17).