What The Bible Says About Trying To Become Right With God By Obeying The Law Of Moses



This article is part of a sub-series: Should We Obey The Entire Law Of Moses? - What The Old And New Testaments Say, which is about Old Testament laws on morality and tithing, customs like animal sacrifice and the celebration of the Passover Festival, and what the New Testament says about them.
This is Part 6 (of 13) in Section 5: "Should We Obey The Entire Law Of Moses? - What The Old And New Testaments Say".

To read an overview of the way Christians should regard the Law of Moses, visit: Bible Quotations on Whether Christians Should Obey the Law of Moses.


Some parts of the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation are very unpleasant. If you become offended by anything, please read An Attempt to Explain Gruesome Bible Passages.


There are some extremely nasty-sounding verses in the Law of Moses. Some people believe that Christians should follow them today. But the New Testament makes it clear that this is certainly not true.

First, this web page quotes some of the nasty-sounding Old Testament laws, and then it quotes many New Testament verses about how the old Law has now been superceded by New Testament guidelines and the era of Christ's favour. It says the Old Testament Law was like a jailer, keeping people in protective custody in prison until the era of Christ came, and like a guide to how seriously sin should be taken and what it is. A lot of the harsh commands were symbolic of how seriously sin should be taken, as well as being a means of bringing discipline through harsh deterrent to people who were disinclined towards obedience, in an age where without a welfare state or modern medical expertise, crime and carelessness could far more easily have devastating effects on people's lives that weren't reversible.

The reason there is such a contrast between the nasty-sounding Old testament laws and New Testament Christian teaching is because Christian teaching was meant to be taught to people who actually wanted to obey it, whereas the Old Testament law was taught to people who would have been a cross-section, ranging from people who would have wanted to obey it, to people who were out-and-out criminals.

There was also a lot of symbolism in the Old Testament Law, which the New Testament says was picture language, symbolising in external ways the relationship God wanted his people to have with him and other spiritual truths.

The Old Testament verses I quote at the beginning of these quotes are ones that contain commands specifically referred to in the New Testament verses I quote on how it's no longer necessary to obey the Old Testament Law of Moses.

In the Old Testament, the Bible says:

Deuteronomy chapter 21 (CEV)

22 If a criminal is put to death, and you hang the dead body on a tree, 23 you must not let it hang there overnight. Bury it the same day, because the dead body of a criminal will bring God's curse on the land. The LORD your God is giving this land to you, so don't make it unclean by leaving the bodies of executed criminals on display.

Deuteronomy chapter 27 (TEV)

26 "God's curse on anyone who does not obey all of God's laws and teachings.'


Elsewhere in the Law of Moses, the Bible says:

Exodus chapter 34 (TEV)

10 The Lord said to Moses,
23 "Three times a year all of your men must come to worship me, the Lord, the God of Israel. 24 After I have driven out the nations before you and extended your territory, no one will try to conquer your country during the three festivals.

Exodus chapter 23 (NLT)

12 "Work for six days, and rest on the seventh. This will give your ox and your donkey a chance to rest. It will also allow the people of your household, including your slaves and visitors, to be refreshed.
13 "Be sure to obey all my instructions.

14 "Each year you must celebrate three festivals in my honor.
15 The first is the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast, just as I commanded you before. This festival will be an annual event at the appointed time in early spring, for that is the anniversary of your exodus from Egypt. Everyone must bring me a sacrifice at that time.
16 You must also celebrate the Festival of Harvest, when you bring me the first crops of your harvest.
Finally, you are to celebrate the Festival of the Final Harvest at the end of the harvest season.
17 At these three times each year, every man in Israel must appear before the Sovereign LORD.

Leviticus chapter 12 (GWT)

1 The LORD spoke to Moses, 2 "Tell the Israelites: When a woman gives birth to a boy, she will be unclean for seven days. This is the same number of days she is unclean for her monthly period. 3 The boy must be circumcised when he is eight days old. 4 Then she must stay at home for 33 days in order to be made clean from her bleeding.


In the letter that The apostle Paul wrote to the Colossian Christians, which is in the New Testament, the Bible says:

Colossians chapter 2 (NLT)

11 When you came to Christ, you were "circumcised," but not by a physical procedure. It was a spiritual procedure - the cutting away of your sinful nature.

13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins.

16 So don't let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new-moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. 17 For these rules were only shadows of the real thing, Christ himself.


In Paul's letter to the Philippian Christians, he wrote:

Philippians chapter 3 (TEV)

1 In conclusion, my friends, be joyful in your union with the Lord. I don't mind repeating what I have written before, and you will be safer if I do so. 2 Watch out for those who do evil things, those dogs, those who insist on cutting the body. 3 It is we, not they, who have received the true circumcision, for we worship God by means of his Spirit and rejoice in our life in union with Christ Jesus. We do not put any trust in external ceremonies.

4 I could, of course, put my trust in such things. If any of you think you can trust in external ceremonies, I have even more reason to feel that way.
5 I was circumcised when I was a week old.
I am an Israelite by birth, of the tribe of Benjamin, a pure-blooded Hebrew.
As far as keeping the Jewish Law is concerned, I was a Pharisee, 6 and I was so zealous that I persecuted the church.
As far as a person can be righteous by obeying the commands of the Law, I was without fault.
7 But all those things that I might count as profit I now reckon as loss for Christ's sake. 8 Not only those things; I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have thrown everything away; I consider it all as mere garbage, so that I may gain Christ 9 and be completely united with him. I no longer have a righteousness of my own, the kind that is gained by obeying the Law. I now have the righteousness that is given through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and is based on faith.

10 All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death, 11 in the hope that I myself will be raised from death to life. 12 I do not claim that I have already succeeded or have already become perfect. I keep striving to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has already won me to himself. 13 Of course, my friends, I really do not think that I have already won it; the one thing I do, however, is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead. 14 So I run straight toward the goal in order to win the prize, which is God's call through Christ Jesus to the life above.


In another of his letters which was put in the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians who lived in the region of Galatia:

Galatians chapter 2 (NLT)

16 We Jewish Christians know that we become right with God, not by doing what the law commands, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be accepted by God because of our faith in Christ - and not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be saved by obeying the law. 18 ... I make myself guilty if I rebuild the old system I already tore down. 19 For when I tried to keep the law, I realized I could never earn God's approval. So I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ. 20 I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I am not one of those who treats the grace of God as meaningless. For if we could be saved by keeping the law, then there was no need for Christ to die.

Galatians chapter 3 (NLT)

19 Well then, why was the law given? It was given to show people how guilty they are.

21 If the law could have given us new life, we could have been made right with God by obeying it. 22 But the Scriptures have declared that we are all prisoners of sin, ... 23 Until faith in Christ was shown to us as the way of becoming right with God, we were guarded by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until we could put our faith in the coming Savior. 24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian and teacher to lead us until Christ came. ... 25 But now that faith in Christ has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. 26 So you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have been made like him. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians - you are one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians chapter 4 (NLT)

4 When the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because you Gentiles have become his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, and now you can call God your dear Father. 7 ... And since you are his child, everything he has belongs to you.


In the Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament, the Bible says:

Hebrews chapter 13 (NLT)

8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9 So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your spiritual strength comes from God's special favor, not from ceremonial rules about food, which don't help those who follow them.


In Paul's Letter to the Galatian Christians, he wrote:

Galatians chapter 1 (NRSV)

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospeló 7 not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!

Galatians chapter 3 (NLT)

1 Oh, foolish Galatians! What magician has cast an evil spell on you? For you used to see the meaning of Jesus Christ's death as clearly as though I had shown you a signboard with a picture of Christ dying on the cross. 2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the law? Of course not, for the Holy Spirit came upon you only after you believed the message you heard about Christ. 3 Have you lost your senses? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? 4 You have suffered so much for the Good News. Surely it was not in vain, was it? Are you now going to just throw it all away? 5 I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law of Moses? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.

6 In the same way, "Abraham believed God, so God declared him righteous because of his faith." 7 The real children of Abraham, then, are all those who put their faith in God. 10 But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, "Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all these commands that are written in God's Book of the Law." 11 Consequently, it is clear that no one can ever be right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, "It is through faith that a righteous person has life." 12 How different from this way of faith is the way of law, which says, "If you wish to find life by obeying the law, you must obey all of its commands." 13 But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." 14 Through the work of Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles ... and we Christians receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith.


In Paul's letter to the Christians in Rome which is in the New Testament, he wrote:

Romans chapter 9 (TEV)

30 So we say that the Gentiles, who were not trying to put themselves right with God, were put right with him through faith; 31 while God's people, who were seeking a law that would put them right with God, did not find it. 32 And why not? Because they did not depend on faith but on what they did. And so they stumbled over the "stumbling stone" 33 that the scripture speaks of:

"Look, I place in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall. But whoever believes in him will not be disappointed."

1 I am speaking the truth; I belong to Christ and I do not lie. My conscience, ruled by the Holy Spirit, also assures me that I am not lying 2 when I say how great is my sorrow, how endless the pain in my heart 3 for my people, my own flesh and blood! For their sake I could wish that I myself were under God's curse and separated from Christ. 4 They are God's people; he made them his children and revealed his glory to them; he made his covenants with them and gave them the Law; they have the true worship; they have received God's promises; 5 they are descended from the famous Hebrew ancestors; and Christ, as a human being, belongs to their race.


In the Old Testament Book of Exodus, the Bible says:

Exodus chapter 34 (TEV)

29 When Moses went down from Mount Sinai carrying the Ten Commandments, his face was shining because he had been speaking with the Lord; but he did not know it. 30 Aaron and all the people looked at Moses and saw that his face was shining, and they were afraid to go near him. 31 But Moses called them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the community went to him, and Moses spoke with them. 32 After that, all the people of Israel gathered around him, and Moses gave them all the laws that the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses had finished speaking with them, he covered his face with a veil. 34 Whenever Moses went into the Tent of the Lord's presence to speak to the Lord, he would take the veil off. When he came out, he would tell the people of Israel everything that he had been commanded to say, 35 and they would see that his face was shining. Then he would put the veil back on until the next time he went to speak with the Lord.


In the New Testament, in the apostle Paul's letters to the Christians in Corinth, the Bible says:

2 Corinthians chapter 3 (TEV)

6 ... the new covenant ... consists not of a written law but of the Spirit. The written law brings death, but the Spirit gives life. 7 The Law was carved in letters on stone tablets, and God's glory appeared when it was given. Even though the brightness on Moses' face was fading, it was so strong that the people of Israel could not keep their eyes fixed on him. If the Law, which brings death when it is in force, came with such glory, 8 how much greater is the glory that belongs to the activity of the Spirit! 9 The system which brings condemnation was glorious; how much more glorious is the activity which brings salvation! 10 We may say that because of the far brighter glory now the glory that was so bright in the past is gone. 11 For if there was glory in that which lasted for a while, how much more glory is there in that which lasts forever!

1 Corinthians chapter 9 (TEV)

21 This does not mean that I don't obey God's law; I am really under Christ's law.


In another of Paul's letters in the New Testament, that was written to the Ephesian Christians, he wrote:

Ephesians chapter 2 (TEV)

1 In the past you were spiritually dead because of your disobedience and sins. 2 At that time you followed the world's evil way; you obeyed the ruler of the spiritual powers in space, the spirit who now controls the people who disobey God. 3 Actually all of us were like them and lived according to our natural desires, doing whatever suited the wishes of our own bodies and minds. In our natural condition we, like everyone else, were destined to suffer God's anger.

4 But God's mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, 5 that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God's grace that you have been saved. 6 In our union with Christ Jesus he raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world. 7 He did this to demonstrate for all time to come the extraordinary greatness of his grace in the love he showed us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by God's grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, 9 but God's gift, so no one can boast about it. 10 God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.


In Paul's letter to the Christians in Galatia, which is in the New Testament, he wrote:

Galatians chapter 4 (NLT)

8 Before you Gentiles knew God, you were slaves to so-called gods that do not even exist. 9 And now that you have found God (or should I say, now that God has found you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual powers of this world? 10 You are trying to find favor with God by what you do or don't do on certain days or months or seasons or years. 11 I fear for you. I am afraid that all my hard work for you was worth nothing.

12 Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things, for I have become like you Gentiles were - free from the law.


In Paul's first letter to the Corinthian Christians in the New Testament, he wrote:

1 Corinthians chapter 7 (NLT)

19 It makes no difference whether or not a man has been circumcised. The important thing is to keep God's commandments.


Paul wrote to the Christians in Galatia:

Galatians chapter 5 (NLT)

1 So Christ has really set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don't get tied up again in slavery to the law. 2 Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ cannot help you. 3 I'll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey all of the regulations in the whole law of Moses. 4 For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God's grace. 5 But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive everything promised to us who are right with God through faith. 6 For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, it makes no difference to God whether we are circumcised or not circumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.

Galatians chapter 6 (NLT)

11 Notice what large letters I use as I write these closing words in my own handwriting. 12 Those who are trying to force you to be circumcised are doing it for just one reason. They don't want to be persecuted for teaching that the cross of Christ alone can save. 13 And even those who advocate circumcision don't really keep the whole law. They only want you to be circumcised so they can brag about it and claim you as their disciples. 14 As for me, God forbid that I should boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world died long ago, and the world's interest in me is also long dead. 15 It doesn't make any difference now whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we really have been changed into new and different people. 16 May God's mercy and peace be upon all those who live by this principle. They are the new people of God.


In Paul's letter to the Christians in Rome, he wrote:

Romans chapter 11 (NLT)

1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people, the Jews? Of course not! Remember that I myself am a Jew, a descendant of Abraham and a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 No, God has not rejected his own people, whom he chose from the very beginning. Do you remember what the Scriptures say about this? Elijah the prophet complained to God about the people of Israel and said, 3 "Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars. I alone am left, and now they are trying to kill me, too."

Romans chapter 11 (TEV)

4 What answer did God give him? "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not worshiped the false god Baal."

Romans chapter 11 (NLT)

5 It is the same today, for not all the Jews have turned away from God. A few are being saved as a result of God's kindness in choosing them. 6 And if they are saved by God's kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God's wonderful kindness would not be what it really is - free and undeserved. 7 So this is the situation: Most of the Jews have not found the favor of God they are looking for so earnestly. A few have - the ones God has chosen - but the rest were made unresponsive. 8 As the Scriptures say, "God has put them into a deep sleep. To this very day he has shut their eyes so they do not see, and closed their ears so they do not hear." 11 Did God's people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! His purpose was to make his salvation available to the Gentiles, and then the Jews would be jealous and want it for themselves.

12 Now if the Gentiles were enriched because the Jews turned down God's offer of salvation, think how much greater a blessing the world will share when the Jews finally accept it.

16 And since Abraham and the other patriarchs were holy, their children will also be holy. For if the roots of the tree are holy, the branches will be, too. 17 But some of these branches from Abraham's tree, some of the Jews, have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, were grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in God's rich nourishment of his special olive tree.

18 But you must be careful not to brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. Remember, you are just a branch, not the root. 19 "Well," you may say, "those branches were broken off to make room for me." 20 Yes, but remember - those branches, the Jews, were broken off because they didn't believe God, and you are there because you do believe. Don't think highly of yourself, but fear what could happen. 21 For if God did not spare the branches he put there in the first place, he won't spare you either. 22 Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe to those who disobeyed, but kind to you as you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off. 23 And if the Jews turn from their unbelief, God will graft them back into the tree again. He has the power to do it. 24 For if God was willing to take you who were, by nature, branches from a wild olive tree and graft you into his own good tree - a very unusual thing to do - he will be far more eager to graft the Jews back into the tree where they belong. 25 I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud and start bragging. Some of the Jews have hard hearts, but this will last only until the complete number of Gentiles comes to Christ. 26 And so all Israel will be saved. Do you remember what the prophets said about this?
"A Deliverer will come from Jerusalem, and he will turn Israel from all ungodliness. 27 And then I will keep my covenant with them and take away their sins."

28 Many of the Jews are now enemies of the Good News. But this has been to your benefit, for God has given his gifts to you Gentiles. Yet the Jews are still his chosen people because of his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 29 For God's gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. 30 Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the Jews refused his mercy, God was merciful to you instead. 31 And now, in the same way, the Jews are the rebels, and God's mercy has come to you. But someday they, too, will share in God's mercy.


In Paul's letter to the Galatian Christians, he wrote:

Galatians chapter 5 (NLT)

13 You have been called to live in freedom - not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command:

"Love your neighbor as yourself."

15 But if instead of showing love among yourselves you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. 16 So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict. 18 But when you are directed by the Holy Spirit, you are no longer subject to the law.

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, 20 idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

22 But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us:

Here there is no conflict with the law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit's leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or irritate one another, or be jealous of one another.



The next file in this section (Part 7), is entitled: "What The Bible Says About The Full Significance Of The Celebration Of The Passover Festival".
Bible

The main Bible pages on this site:

Bible Bible Part 1: Bible Quotations, The Holy Spirit, People And Their Stories
Bible Part 2: The Lives and Suffering of the Ancient Israelites
Bible Part 3: The Bible, Articles About Alleged Inaccuracies in it, And Stories of People who Became Christians.
If you have found parts of the Old Testament or the Book of Revelation offensive, please read An Attempt to Explain Gruesome Bible Passages.

The selections of Bible quotations have been put together by Diana Holbourn.

Throughout this series, wherever the initials TEV appear, they stand for Today's English Version (The Good News Bible).

Other initials:

Warning Against Believing Everything you Hear or Read

Don't be afraid to question the truth of what a religious authority figure tells you, or even the Bible or other holy books themselves, or certain people's interpretation of them. Nothing to do with religion or the supernatural is so well established in fact it shouldn't be questioned. To find out why caution is a good idea, visit:

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There are a lot of pages on this website with quotations from the Old Testament on them. Many of these are unfortunately rather gruesome, since the main theme of the Old Testament is warnings and stories about how it says societies were punished for mass lawless and hurtful behaviour, even to the extent of having war brought on them by God, that seem to have been designed to scare societies where crime and violence were rampant into behaving more ethically. In case there is any misunderstanding, it should be understood that this website does not endorse war as anything other than a last resort. The position of the website owner can be gleaned from the articles:


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