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Lesson 2: Christ and the Law of Moses *

Introduction: Last week we discussed natural law, the moral law, civil law, and ceremonial law. Which one is the "Law of Moses?" Moses delivered both the moral law and the ceremonial law in written form to God's people when they journeyed to Canaan. However, did they exist prior to Moses writing them down? Do they apply today? Let's plunge into our Bibles and see what we can learn!

  1. Dedicated to God

    1. Read Luke 2:21. What happened on the eighth day to new born boys? (They were circumcised and given a name.)

      1. Why? (Read Genesis 17:12. This was part of the law.)

      2. Whose law? What did circumcision represent? (Read Genesis 17:9-11. It was God's command to Abraham. It represented the fact that Abraham's descendants had a special relationship with God. However, we find in Leviticus 12:3 and John 7:22 that this is later included as part of the Mosaic law.)

      3. In Genesis 17:9-10, circumcision is called a "covenant" (contract) between humans and God. Why would it take place on the eighth day, before the boy had any ability to understand what was taking place or consent to this contract with God?

    2. Read Galatians 5:2-4 and Galatians 5:6. Recall last week that we discussed natural law, civil law, moral law and ceremonial law. What type of law does circumcision represent? (Paul suggests that the law of circumcision was fulfilled in Jesus, therefore it must be a ceremonial law.)

      1. Read Genesis 17:13. How can Paul tell us this law has no value when God clearly called it "an everlasting covenant?"

    3. Read Colossians 2:9-12. How do these verses help us to better understand this everlasting covenant? (This tells us that the moral law of God is involved. The covenant (contract) between God and Abraham's descendants (the Jewish people) was that they would promote His moral law. As we discussed last week, this helped them avoid the problems presented by natural law.)

      1. How do we, who are not Jewish, keep the everlasting covenant with God? (Through acceptance, by baptism, of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.)

    4. Read Romans 2:29. How else can we participate in the everlasting covenant? (The Holy Spirit living in us "circumcises" our heart, so that we want to obey God's will.)

    5. Read Luke 2:22-24. What else happened to Jesus in accord with the ceremonial law? (He was presented to God and a sacrifice offered on His behalf.)

    6. How would you apply these principles to a new-born baby today? (A dedication to God. If circumcision is replaced by baptism, grace and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, then it seems reasonable to invoke all three.)

  2. Relating to the Law

    1. Read Matthew 17:24. This was a tax to support the temple. What kind of law requires this tax? (Read Exodus 30:13-16. This tax began as part of the law of Moses!)

    2. If you were Peter, how would you answer this question? (Moses commanded it! The temple was the central religious site. Paying that tax might be a test of religious faith. Paying your taxes shows honesty. The obvious answer is "Yes, Jesus pays the temple tax!")

    3. Read Matthew 17:25. What issue had Peter failed to consider? (Kings don't tax their sons. If Jesus is the Son of God, He should not pay the tax.)

    4. Read Matthew 17:26. What is the central religious issue involved in paying this tax? (The most important question for every age: who is Jesus? Is He God or is He merely a man?)

      1. If Jesus paid the temple tax, what would He be saying about whether He is God? (It would be a denial of who He is.)

    5. Let's put you in Peter's shoes again, should Jesus pay the temple tax?

    6. Read Matthew 17:27. Does Jesus pay the temple tax?

      1. My bet is that the drachma collectors followed Peter to the water so that they could collect. What do you think about the way that the coin was obtained by Peter? (This, of course, is a miracle. How many fish are in the sea? Jesus says go fishing, the first fish will have exact change in its mouth!)

        1. What does the method of obtaining the coin say about the divinity of Jesus? (It attests to His divinity.)

      2. Why not just say "No?" (Jesus says "so that we may not offend them.")

        1. In Matthew 12:34 Jesus calls some religious leaders a "brood of vipers." Can we conclude that Jesus is concerned about insulting people? (If you look at the entire conversation in Matthew 12, the religious leaders said Jesus was in league with demons. The temple tax collectors seem to be simply doing a good thing - following the law of Moses.)

    7. What lesson in the temple tax story is Jesus teaching us about the law? (The temple system and its support were about to end because of Jesus' mission on earth. Nevertheless, Jesus goes as far as He can to avoid giving offense, without compromising the central moral principle.)

      1. Does the temple tax lesson have anything to do with Paul's teaching on circumcision? (Paul tries to avoid "offending" new believers by telling them that they have to be circumcised.)

      2. Do we take seriously the lesson of avoiding giving offense to others who seek God? (We cannot compromise central principles, but we should do all in our power to avoid offending those who think they are doing God's will.)

  3. Festivals

    1. New Unger's Bible Dictionary points out that every festival was "connected in some way with the number seven." There is the weekly Sabbath ( Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 20:8-11), the Sabbatical Year ( Exodus 23:10-11), the Seventh New Moon (Feast of Trumpets - Numbers 29:1), Year of Jubilee ("seven times seven years - Leviticus 25:8-12). Then there are the "three great annual festivals of Israel," Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread ( Leviticus 23:5-6; Exodus 12:1-28), Pentecost (Feast of Weeks - Leviticus 23:15-16), Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:33-34).

      1. What lessons can we learn from these festivals which are part of the law of Moses?

      2. Should we observe these festivals today? (Those that pointed to Jesus, like Passover and the Day of Atonement, are clearly fulfilled by Jesus. Pentecost marks the new age of the Holy Spirit.)

        1. What about the rest? (Many Christians observe to some degree a weekly Sabbath, in a few jobs a "Sabbatical" of some sort is provided, but it is generally not a year of rest. My thought is that I like God's vacation schedule!)

          1. Is this really about vacation? (In part, but consider the religious nature of the festivals. We need to spend more time resting and contemplating God. How about Campmeeting?)

  4. Looking Deeper

    1. Read Mark 3:1-4. When Jesus asks about the law, which law is he talking about? (Both the moral law ( Exodus 20:8-11) and the law of Moses ( Leviticus 23:3) prohibited Sabbath work.)

      1. What is the purpose of Jesus' question? (He asks the religious leaders to look at the reason why the law exists. It exists to promote the good of humans.)

    2. Read Mark 3:5. Why was Jesus angry? (The religious leaders refused to look deeper into the reason for the law.)

    3. Consider the Mosaic laws we have studied in this lesson: circumcision, temple tax, and festivals. What common thread of logic runs through the Bible teaching on each? (Look for the reason for the law. Don't offend others who seek God because you are fixated on the terms of the law rather than the reason for the law.)

    4. Friend, will commit today to look deeper when it comes to God's law?

  5. Next week: Christ and Religious Tradition.

* Copr. 2014, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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