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Deuteronomy 13:1-4 states:

  1. All this word which I command you, that shall ye observe to do; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

  2. If there arise in the midst of thee a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams--and he give thee a sign or a wonder,

  3. and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spoke unto thee--saying: 'Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them';

  4. thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or unto that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God putteth you to proof, to know whether ye do love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

My understanding is that Christians believe that Jesus abrogated the Mosaic law (e.g. keeping the Sabbath, dietary restrictions, etc.) and they no longer feel bound by them. How, then, do they understand the above passage, which states that one may not subtract commandments from the Law, and which seems to imply that a true prophet will not do so?

  • Note that a minority of Christians (e.g., conservative Presbyterians those following the Westminster Confession of Faith and Seventh Day Adventists) do keep the Sabbath as a standing moral law, though most of them argue that it was moved to Sunday in the New Covenant. See also "Which laws are in effect today?" – metal Jan 31 '14 at 14:22
  • There are many sabbaths in the Mosaic law but there is one Sabbath in God's Law. – One Face Aug 23 '15 at 14:55
  • I would argue that the idea of abrogation of the law of Moses is a serious misunderstanding of Christianity. And rather the fulfillment of the Law of Moses through Christ. Individuals are bound by the law, fall short of the law, are condemned by the law, and that condemnation of the flesh was paid for by the Christ, in his flesh. – L1R Sep 25 at 21:03

12 Answers 12

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The historical answer for this, as it applies to Gentiles, was recorded on the book of Acts.

Mosaic Law was given to the nation of Israel (the Jews), not the Church.

Early on in Church history, the question of whether adherence to Mosaic Law was to be applied to Gentile believers.

Acts 15

New International Version (NIV) The Council at Jerusalem

15 Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. 3 The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.

5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”

6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon[a] has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

16 “‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’[b]— 18 things known from long ago.[c]

19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

More is available at Grace Communion International.

Why, then, these four rules? Some scholars say the Jews believed that these laws dated back to the time of Noah, and therefore applied to all nations. Others say that all four rules were associated with idolatry. Some say that these four rules were laws of Moses, and were given so Gentiles and Jews could eat together. None of these suggestions is fully convincing. (See later for more details.)

However, the decree makes it clear that Gentiles do not have to be circumcised, nor do they have to obey the laws of Moses. They are circumcised spiritually, not physically. God never gave those commands to the Gentiles.

...

To summarize: Some men said that Gentiles should be circumcised and obey the laws of Moses or else they could not be saved. Not so, said the apostles. Gentiles are saved by grace and faith. God is pleased to dwell in people who aren’t circumcised and who don’t keep the rituals. But since Moses is widely preached, we need to give a decree that clearly distinguishes the Christian faith from the Law of Moses. This pleased the entire church, so they wrote it in a letter and sent it to Antioch, where they “were glad for its encouraging message”

  • The history is interesting, but this doesn't really answer my question, namely how Christians interpret Deuteronomy 13:1-4. – Malper Dec 9 '13 at 1:27
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    The first paragraph answers exactly that. It's interpreted as being applicable to the nation of Israel, not the Church. The rest shows the basis of that interpretation. – David Stratton Dec 9 '13 at 1:29
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    But didn't Jesus break the Mosaic law on occasion? I seem to remember that he, for example, broke the Sabbath at some point in the Christian Bible. – Malper Dec 9 '13 at 1:31
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    Malper, I think you should ask another question "Did Jesus break the Sabbath?" or similar. – Matt Dec 9 '13 at 2:33
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    @David Stratton - No, the Jewish Christians are no longer bound by mosaic law. That's what Galatians is all about! :) The mosaic law was a shadow of the victory we have in Jesus. But the law couldn't save, it pointed out our need for a saviour. – Matt Dec 9 '13 at 20:23
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Moses is saying that the covenant must be kept intact - today we'd say that if they change the terms of the contract they break the contract!

Gentile Christians however were never part of the Old Mosaic covenant, and so they are not bound by it. To use the analogy of an employment contract, imagine there are two workers at a company. One has a contract, and another is casually employed. (I'm not a lawyer, I don't know how realistic this is!) The one who has the contract may not change it, and the one who is casually employed is not bound by the other one's contract. The casually employed one may decide they like what the other one's contract says and work as if they were bound by it, but that won't make them part of the contract.

To give another analogy, residents of one country are not required to obey the laws of another country, though they may take inspiration from the laws of other countries. So Christians are not required to obey the Old Testament Law, but there is much in the Law which Christians will want to pay strong attention to.

  • I thought that Jesus himself broke the Mosaic laws on occasion, despite being Jewish himself... – Malper Dec 9 '13 at 1:34
  • You may like to see this question – curiousdannii Dec 9 '13 at 1:36
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    What about the Jewish Christians? None of the answers seem to address whether Jews who accept Jesus should continue to follow the Law. – Gregory Magarshak Jun 8 '14 at 8:06
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Jesus himself said he came to fulfill the law not to change it.

The Gentile Christians were not supposed to follow Mosaic Law, but Noahic Law, per the Jews. As was pointed out above, this was approved by the early counsel in Jerusalem when Paul put the question before them. This was already part of Jewish tradition, for Gentiles. The main question, really, was do Christians have to become Jews before they can be Christians. That Counsel made it clear they do not.

  • This is a good answer, Mary, but the part about being required to follow to Noahide laws and reference to an early counsel really requires a source. As it sits, we just have to take your word for it that you are representing what happened accurately. – fredsbend Jan 31 '14 at 16:40
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Let's assume that Law, an agreement, is meant for all God's people, the Covenanted, whether Jew or Christian.

Let's also understand that the Law was given only on Israel's request:

Deuteronomy 5:25 But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer. 26 For what mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? 27 Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey.”

Although God did not want the law, He allowed it to be given, because it helped His future followers to identify Messiah.

Romans 3:1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2 Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.

*

Jeremiah 7:22 “For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. 23 “But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.’

It also would be used to make Israel a vessel of dishonour, so that Gentiles could be included in the Covenant:

Galatians 3: For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM."

Circumcision, symbolizing the cut animal that Abraham walked through, was followed to teach that the penalty for non performance of the Old Contract would be paid by Messiah:

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE "--

Thereby ending the Old Contract. Fulfilment of contracts can be either by delivering the promised service or by paying the penalty for non performance. The Covenanted People of God could now receive a new contract, with new terms and conditions.

There was no curse, because instead of Wrath, which the Old Covenant Law brought, there was Grace.

The Old Covenant requirement meant being oracle bearers, hired hands employed to pre-pubilicise the identity of Messiah, with obligations and receiving wages, protection from God's wrath. Law also meant non performance of ALL terms and conditions resulted in curse, penalty.

Grace only required faith, loyal response, from family members, in relationship. There was no letter of a contract, only the spirit of the relationship, to be followed. If we confessed non performance we could escape judgment. Confession, admission of guilt, was a loyal response:

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

In fact it was required, demonstrating honesty, humility and our constant need for God:

1 John 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

Confession made us recipients of Grace, which made us compliant, and qualified to be blessings to the world:

2 Corinthians 12:9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

Christians trying to observe the Old Covenant are saying with their actions that the Messiah has not been sent. Circumcision means the Redemption has not occurred, Sabbath keeping means our Rest is not available for entering, observing dietary restrictions meaning God's People are identified by what goes into the mouth, when Messiah proclaimed it was what came out of the mouth, and the heart, that separated them from unbelievers.

Abrogation was not new or exclusive to Jesus. He was only quoting a predecessor, who had long ago identified what summarized Law:

http://www.jewfaq.org/brother.htm

QUOTE

Hillel said to him, “What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary; go and learn it.”

Leviticus 19:18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

All Scripture from the NASB

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I think this verse speaks it plainly.

Romans 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:

The verses you quote is not for Christians and never was meant to be. It was specifically given to the Hebrew people.

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Taking things in context helps clear up a lot of problems. When Moses says "All this I command you" - who was the "you" he was talking to? The answer is - the people of the 12 tribes of Israel. It was not addressed to the entire human race down through history.

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first off messiah broke no laws of the Father- he was sinless- if he broke the traditions of men -- that is why he was killed. The verse in Deut is about false prophets which abound today. Look at the verse like this- the true messiah and His followers will drawn you into the Word and false teachers and prophets will draw you away to another god or gospel. So the false teachers and prophets will say things like this-- sin is breaking the law but that law was for the Isrealites and does not apply to us- we follow other eternal, holy, just and good laws that are not written in the Word. Or they will say ""do by nature the things contained in the law"" You must ask them what law are they stating the gentile was following? Or they will say you can not be saved by following the Law-- this the law also states -- so they say you do not need to follow the law but a true prophet would ask if you break any part of the law is that not sin. Yes we can not do works of the law salvation- salvation is by faith in messiah- but after receiving messiah do we not desire to follow the law and move away from sin. Look if sin is breaking the law then following the law moving toward righteousness. The deceiver has maligned the whole story- the Jews were to be priests to the entire world- priests are there to show the way- they messed it up but the church got on the bandwagon also-- Be ye Holy for I am Holy---by faith not works-- works is the outward manifestation of an inward change- we desire to follow the commands- all of them. Mary

The church can only see what the Jews did wrong with the Law and say "yeah - do not do that" or you can not do the law- well just who is inside you - a mutant messiah with no power to transform.

  • Please see How we are different than other sites? and then the help page. This answer would be a lot better if you could add references showing that this is a common understanding, and who teaches/believes it. On this site, we're not looking for personal interpretation, but rather focusing on what various Christian groups teach. – David Stratton Jan 26 '14 at 16:19
  • In short, the answer needs a citation. – Double U Jan 26 '14 at 20:30
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The Tanakh itself shows that Moses' law would be changed to a new covenant due to Israel's failure to keep the old law (Jeremiah 31, KJV):

31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:

33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

While the interpretation is debatable, it gives Christians a foundation for this doctrine in the old testament.

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"All this word which I command you, that shall ye observe to do; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it."

That command was addressed to the people of Israel, meaning that no member of the people was allowed to add to or substract from the Law out of his own accord. God Himself always had the right to do it!

0

Because the Law of Moses is essentially a bilateral covenant,1 and a covenant requires two parties to agree to its terms in order to be bound by the covenant, only He by Whom it was given (i.e., God) and those to whom it was given can be bound by the Law of Moses. According to the Torah, the Law (Torah) of Moses was given to the children of Israel.

In Deut. 4:44–45, it is written,

44 Now this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel. 45 These are the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which Moses spoke to the children of Israel after they came out of Egypt, NKJV, ©1982

Moses was the mediator between God and the children of Israel; therefore, the two parties bound by the Law of Moses are God and the children of Israel.

That being said, the earliest Christians were predominately Jewish (i.e., Israelites), so in theory, the Law of Moses should still apply to them. Why, then, does it not? The reason is because a man is only “under the Law” (i.e., bound to the Law) as long as he lives, just as a married woman is only bound to her husband as long as her husband lives.2 The death of one party to a covenant effectively releases the remaining (surviving) party from being bound to the covenant.

Regarding Psa. 88:5, the rabbis wrote,3

“Free among the dead” — as soon as a man dies, he is made free from the commandments.

במתים חפשי כיון שמת אדם נעשה חפשי מן המצות

You might then assert: an Israelite who believes in Christ (i.e., a Christian) must still be bound to the Law of Moses while they live. This is true, except that anyone who believes in Christ dies with Christ once they receive the Holy Spirit and are spiritually united with the Lord Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul wrote,4

4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. NKJV, ©1982

And also,5

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, NKJV, ©1982

Once an individual receives the Holy Spirit, they die with Christ and become a new man,6 a new creation,7 in Christ Jesus.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. NKJV, ©1982

For that reason, they are dead to the Law, and the Law is dead to them. They are no longer “under the Law.” They are married to Christ, and he is now their lord (master).


Footnotes

1 cf. 1 Chr. 16:17; Psa. 78:10, 105:10; Hos. 8:1
2 cf. Rom. 7:1–6 and see this answer.
3 Babylonian Talmud, Seder Toharot, Tractate Nidda, Chapter 9, Folio 61b, Gemara
4 Rom. 7:4
5 Rom. 6:8
6 Eph. 2:15, 4:24
7 2 Cor. 5:17

-1

There is no reconciliation needed.

In Matthew chapter 5 Jesus tells us that not even an accent mark will disappear from the law till Heaven and Earth pass away.

Mat 5:18 KJV

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

So the law is still just as in force today as it was in the days of Moses. What has changed is that Jesus fulfilled the Law.

Mat 5:17 KJV

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.

So exactly how did he fulfill the part of the Law about not being deceived by false teachers? you ask.

Well that's a good question, and I'm glad you asked.

This how he fulfilled all of the law and not just the little part about being deceived by false teachers.

He gave the indisputable answer to all questions about not only who was the true God, but who and where and how, and any other question you might have.

He died on the cross and arose from the dead on the third day following, just as he had told people he would do before it took place.

With this indisputable truth, anyone who desires to Spend eternity with God can do so.

There is no other plan, program or theory that can come near competing with that answer.

-1

One cannot say that Jesus was a 'false' prophet because he emphasized that nothing can be added to nor subtracted from the law. Matthew 5: 19. He then goes further, Matthew 5: 20 - 48 and says that the 'Christians' must be even better than the Pharisees and to do that he puts a 'fence' around the law. Not only are Christians bound by the law, they have to make sure they do not even come close to breaking it.

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