How to Study the Bible (Law and Covenants)

by Sean Perron

by Sean Perron

How to Study the Law and Covenants – audio mp3.

What is the Law?

  • The Law could be the first five books of the Bible (Genesis – Deuteronomy)
  • Sometimes the Law is a term used as simple a reference to the Old Testament. John 10:34
  • The Law can also be the commands given to the people of Israel during the life of Moses – Exodus – Deuteronomy
  • Robert Stein notes that there are over 600 commands found in the first five books of the Old Testament.

Are we under the Old Testament Law?

  • The Law is always attached to a Covenant.
  • A covenant is the way God relates to his people.

The Law was tied to a Covenant. Moses ascended on the Mountain and received the Law of God for his people. The mountain trembled, quaked and shook. The people were terrified as God descended upon the Mountain and lightning flashed.  If any animals touched the mountain of God, they would die. God related to them through a cloud of fire and through communicating with Moses. They were given very detailed instructions about the tent of meeting and the ark. They were told how to carry the ark and how they should trim their beards.

  • Hebrews 8:1-13
  • The Old Covenant was able to condemn but unable to change the heart
  • The New Covenant is able to save and able to change the heart.
  • With a new covenant comes a new law. Romans 7:1-6

Old Testament believers did not have the Holy Spirit living inside of them. They could be given new hearts to love God, but the Holy Spirit did not dwell within them. The Holy Spirit is always accessible for the believer to obey.

Jesus comes onto the scene of redemptive history and a lot changes. Jesus fulfills the Law. John 1:17 – “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Where does this event fall in the story of redemption?

Where does it happen in the movie? Lets say you are watching a murder mystery. You have all the clues but you reach a different conclusion 20 min into the movie than you do 1 hour and 20 minutes into the movie. You know the rest of the story. You have different insight and you cannot watch the first 20 minutes the same way.


Matthew 5:17-20 – remaining, but fulfilled.

Ephesians 2:11-17 – Fulfilled but removed authority.

The context makes it clear that he abolishes in Eph 2 in a different sense than he does not abolish in Matthew 5.  In Matthew 5 not abolishing is contrasted with fulfilling.  He makes clear that with regard to the law he fulfilling it rather than getting rid of it. In Ephesians 2 there is an abolishment of the law, but it is specifically the “law of commandments as expressed in ordinances.  We are not under the OT law as a code. [The Law was given to the people of Israel when they were removed from slavery in Egypt.] The relevancy of the OT is not found in its law as expressed in ordinances (that has been abolished per Eph 2).  The OT is relevant as it points to Jesus Christ (as he has fulfilled it per Matt 5). Ephesians 2 makes it clear that we can feel comfortable talking about the law being abolished, we just need to be clear how we describe the sense in which it is abolished and the sense in which it is upheld.” – Heath Lambert

Should we obey the commands the commands of the Bible?

Main Point: We obey an Old Testament command if it is carried over by Christ and His apostles into the New Testament.

This is different than saying we obey an Old testament command unless it is forbidden or replaced by the New Testament. We obey an Old Testament command only if Jesus and his apostles say it continues. We are under the Law of Christ and not under the Law of Moses. Read the Law through the lens of Christ. Jesus obeyed the law perfectly and fulfilled it completely.

1) Animal Sacrifices:

  • Exodus 30:7-10
  • Hebrews 9:1-15

2) Food Laws:

  • Leviticus 11:9-10
  • Mark 7:14-23

3) Honoring Parents:

  • Exodus 20:12
  • Ephesians 6:1-3

4) Homosexuality:

  • Leviticus 20:13
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
  • It is important to read the Old Testament law because we better understand God and character.
  • It is important to read the Old Testament law because we better understand Christ and new covenant.

Application 1: We must take sin very seriously

It might serve us well to ponder the weight of the beams that Jesus took upon his back. The slightest arrogant thought, the faintest lustful fantasy, or the quietest judging critique, all scream “Crucify Him!”  Even the smallest sin demanded that Jesus be pinned to the wood. We need to be staggered by this truth. Yet, it is gloriously true that even the smallest drop of Jesus’ blood can cover the most hideous act.  The most grievous crime is not too much for the blood of God. Perhaps too strong for the blood of bulls and goats, but not too strong for the veins of Christ.

Application 2: We are free to trust and obey.

The Lord has freed us from sin and any restraints for us to plunge headlong into humble service of love for Himself and for others. If the people of Israel died by even touching the mountain in the Old Testament, how much more will we perish if we trample through the blood of Christ who has purchased us. We must obey our sovereign king. He has saved us. His mercy has triumphed over judgment and now we can show mercy to others. But for now, we can say, let us act and speak as those who are going to be judged according to the Law of Christ and not according to the Old Mosaic Law. We have a Savior who triumphs over judgment and sets us free to serve him with hearts full of faith. Are you relying upon Christ alone for salvation? If so, are you taking seriously his commandments?

Are we lawless? No.

  • Galatians 6:1-2
  • John 14:15
  • Matthew 22:40

Small Group Questions:

  1. Was there anything new or interesting that you learned tonight?
  2. Have you given much thought to the reality that every sin demands eternal death?
  3. How does this reminder affect your view of sin and your view of grace?
  4. Would you say that you are truly relying upon Jesus alone for salvation? Or would you say that you are counting on other things (works, status, intellect, family) to get you into heaven? (Assure them there is safety to answer this question honestly)
  5. Are you ever tempted to think that obedience is optional in the Christian life?
  6. If you are a believer, how does it change things to know the Holy Spirit dwells within you?
  7. Do you have any questions about the Old Testament law that are still lingering in your mind?

One thought on “How to Study the Bible (Law and Covenants)

  1. Pingback: How to Study the Bible « Unspoken

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