There is an unfortunate misunderstanding of the relationship of the New Testament to the Old Testament that has caused much erroneous teaching and wrong conclusions. I will attempt to walk you through the Scriptural view of this situation, and then share some important areas that are affected by this.
First, we want to lay some foundation stones:
· Hebrews 8:6-13 6 ¶ But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
The New Covenant (New Testament) was made with Israel, and then twelve years after Pentecost the Gentiles were grafted into the vine without having to become proselytes to Judaism first. In bringing in the New Covenant, some things were changed, and some things were preserved. Notice in this verse God plans to preserve His Laws by writing them on the hearts of New Covenant believers. In fact, the very essence of the New Covenant is the writing of God’s Laws on our hearts. Now, how do we know what part of the Law was changed, and what part was written on our hearts? In Hebrews 8:13 Paul states: “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” This vanishing away was completed when God destroyed the city and temple in AD 70.
What vanished away and what is written and preserved on our hearts? This is very important to know, and the Bible tells us clearly. You see, there are two parts to God’s Law. One part is God’s object lessons — the types and shadows which were to teach us about important aspects of living in Christ’s Kingdom. This was called the ceremonial or ritual law, and included the precepts concerning diet, washings, priesthood, sacrifice, temple service, holy days, feasts, circumcision, etc. These things had no moral value in themselves, except in what they foreshadowed and taught us. They were a school master to show us what Christ would do as “the Lamb of God” and our “High Priest”; and our responsibilities in response to Christ. In these we learned about what a priest does; about atonement and sacrifices; about cleanliness and separation from defilement; about a proper reverence for God, etc. They were physical and material rituals that taught principles of spiritual life in Christ’s Kingdom.
There was another part of God’s Law, which we call the moral law. This part dealt with eternal principles of right and wrong. This part of the Law was for fallen men to know what to do when sin happened or was happening, as well as teaching proper relationships toward God and man. This was God’s morality manifested to men in many statutes and judgments. These laws represent God’s ”ways”; and these ways or judgments of God are to be written on our hearts so we have the mind of Christ. This law is what the writer of Psalms 119 is speaking of, and this is what the writer is speaking of in Psalms 19:7 ¶ The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. 8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. 9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
Romans chapter 3 tells us that the Law is not made void by faith, but established.
· Ro 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
In Romans 8 we find that those who walk in the Spirit fulfill the righteousness of the Law. Then, we see in verse 7 that the carnal mind is enmity against God because it is not subject to the Law of God — Not the ceremonies, but the righteousness of the Law.
· Romans 8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
We find in Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians that Paul directly instructs the Gentile believers not to worry about those judging them for not observing the ceremonial law and circumcision. In Ephesians chapter two we see Paul calling the ceremonial law a middle wall of partition that was broken down between Jew and Gentile allowing them to be fellow-citizens in Christ’s Kingdom. It was not God’s “ways” (The righteousness of the Law) that was done away, but the law of commandments concerning ordinances — the ceremonial or ritual law. This is what God was making clear to Peter in the vision of Acts 10 concerning receiving Gentiles. This is what the Apostles were establishing and defending in Acts 15 concerning Gentile believers. This is what Paul and James are speaking of 29 years after Pentecost in Acts 21.
· Ephesians 2:14 ¶ For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
Colossians is more specific in its description of the ceremonial law that was done away and fulfilled in Christ.
· Colossians 2:13 ¶ And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. 16 ¶ Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
What part of the Law was done away and fulfilled? The part that was only the shadow, not God’s righteous ways. Jesus preached the righteousness of God’s Law. God’s Law is the Law of Christ’s Kingdom. Jesus came as the “Word made flesh”. He is the one who inspired God’s Law through Moses and others. Jesus is the ultimate interpreter of God’s Law. Jesus did not come to change the righteousness of the Law, but to empower us to live it through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:4). Jesus came preaching the spirit and righteousness of God’s Law.
· Matt 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 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. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
After saying this, Jesus proceeds to refute Jewish misconceptions about God’s Law, and teach us how to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees, which was based on their false interpretations. Everything Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount is to clear up misconceptions and defend God’s Word against false interpretations. Who better to do this than the one who inspired the Old Testament Scriptures? Who better to do this than the Word of God made flesh? When you fulfill a type or shadow it is done away; but in order to fulfill a moral precept, you must teach, implement and enforce it. This is how Jesus went about fulfilling the Law of God.
Jesus didn’t see the Old Testament Scriptures as something to correct and change. But actually said they cannot be broken — dissolved or set aside.
· John 10:35 “ …the scripture cannot be broken;”
Jesus often reproved the Jews for making the Word of God (Old Testament Law) of none affect through their own tradition. This was a serious crime, and Jesus wasn’t planning on doing it himself.
· Mark 7:13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered:
In Luke 4:4 Jesus said that man could not live by bread alone, but by “every Word of God” -- which is speaking of the Old Testament at that time. Notice in Mark 7:8-13 how Jesus equates what “Moses said” with the commandment of God, and Word of God.
· Mark7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. 10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: 11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. 12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; 13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
This same Jesus didn’t come to correct Moses. Once you understand this, and realize that the apostles also looked at the Old Testament Scriptures as authoritative in matters of morality, then you will not be following the erroneous teachings about marriage and pacifism that are so prevalent among Mennonites, Amish, etc.
· 2 Tim. 3:14 -17 14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
What Scriptures did Timothy know from a child? These same Scripture were authoritative for instruction in righteousness so the man of God could be completely furnished unto all good works. Do you believe this?
You will find with unbiased study that every passage in the New Testament concerning marriage, divorce, and remarriage is in perfect harmony with Moses’ Law. What Jesus states in Matt 5 & 19 is simply the proper interpretation of God’s Law. Jesus is answering questions about God’s Law, and giving the true interpretation of what Moses said in Deut. 24. This was a controversy, and Jesus is authoritatively settling it — not by correcting Moses’ mistake, but by giving the true meaning of the words Jesus inspired Moses to write, and thus telling us what “some uncleanness” meant. In Luke 16 Jesus’ statement about marriage and divorce in verse 18 is in the same context with vs. 17 and Abraham telling the rich man in hell that his brothers must hear Moses and the prophets to be saved. Romans 7 is an illustration based on Moses’ Law — “I speak to them that know the Law”. I Cor. 7:39 says that the New Testament wife is bound by the Law. What Law is he talking about? He is speaking of Moses Law! Yes, Moses’ Law is what regulated the New Testament marriage covenant. I have written a book to show in more detail how this is so concerning Marriage, and also another book concerning pacifism. I have also a sermon entitled “Mistaken Mennonite Zeal” that presents this in more depth — this is #379 on our Sermon Index page. All these materials can be found on our website.
When you understand that Jesus is not contradicting his own inspired Word; that what the New Testament teaches is consistent with the Law; and that Jesus is primarily rebuking those who divorced for the express reason of marrying someone else; you will see things differently. Tertullian believed and taught this:
Tertullian (160-230 AD), a Gentile Christian, who is faulted with being radically strict in the area of marriage and self discipline, said this of the words of Christ when contending with Marcion (a Gnostic heretic who taught the creator was an evil God, and not the Father of Jesus):
"But, observe, if this Christ be yours when he teaches contrary to Moses and the Creator, on the same principle must He be mine if I can show that His teaching is not contrary to them. I maintain, then, that there was a condition in the prohibition which he now made of divorce; the case supposed being, that a man put away his wife for the express purpose of marrying another. His words are: "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery; and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband, also committeth adultery," -- "put away," that is, for the reason wherefore a woman ought not to be dismissed, that another wife may be obtained. For he who marries a woman who is unlawfully put away is as much of an adulterer as the man who marries one who is undivorced. Permanent is the marriage which is not rightly dissolved; to marry, therefore, whilst matrimony is undissolved, is to commit adultery. Since, therefore, His prohibition of divorce was a conditional one, He did not prohibit absolutely; and what He did not absolutely forbid, that He permitted on some occasions, when there is an absence of the cause why He gave the prohibition. In very deed His teaching is not contrary to Moses, whose precept he partially defends, I will not say confirms. If, however, you deny that divorce is in any way permitted by Christ, how is it that you on your side destroy marriage, not uniting man and woman, nor admitting to the sacrament of baptism and of the eucharist those who have been united in marriage anywhere else, unless they should agree together to repudiate the fruit of their marriage, and so the very Creator Himself? Well, then, what is a husband to do in your sect, if his wife commit adultery? Shall he keep her? But your own apostle, you know, does not permit "the members of Christ to be joined to a harlot." Divorce, therefore, when justly deserved, has even in Christ a defender. So that Moses for the future must be considered as being confirmed by Him, since he allows divorce in the same sense as Christ does, if any unchastity should occur in the wife. For in the Gospel of Matthew he says, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery." ...The Creator, however, except on account of adultery, does not put asunder what He Himself joined together....He prohibits divorce when He will have the marriage inviolable; he permits divorce when the marriage is spotted with unfaithfulness." Tertullian 3.404,405
One of the tenets of Gnosticism was that Jesus taught contrary to Moses and the Creator of the earth. This same foundation must be maintained for the “no divorce, no remarriage ever” position. The Anabaptists of the reformation time believed the same or very similar to us on this matter of divorce and remarriage, not like the modern Mennonite, Amish, etc.
"We acknowledge, teach, and assent to no other marriage than that which Christ and His apostles publicly and plainly taught in the New Testament, namely, of one man and one woman (Matt. 19:4), and that they may not be divorced except in case of adultery (Matt. 5:32); for the two are one flesh, but if the unbelieving one depart, a sister or brother is not under bondage in that case. I Cor. 7:15." pg. 200
"For divorce is not allowed by the Scriptures except for adultery." pg.479
"These two, one husband and one wife, are one flesh and can not be separated from each other to marry again otherwise than for adultery, as the Lord says. Matt. 5:19; Mark 10; Luke 16." pg. 561
"We know too that the bond of undefiled, honorable matrimony is so firm and fast in the kingdom and government of Christ, that no man may leave his wife, nor a wife her husband, and marry another (understand rightly what Christ says), except it be for adultery. Paul also holds the same doctrine that they shall be so bound to each other that the man has not power over his own body, nor the woman over hers." pg.970
Notice that Menno is not sheepishly defending what he considers the liberal view, but speaking with earnest about the strength of the marriage bond.
Menno Simons, Dirk Philips, Leonard Bouwens, Gillis of Aachen, and three other Anabaptist leaders made this statement in 1554:
"If an unbeliever wishes to separate for reasons of the faith, then the believer shall conduct himself honestly. He shall not marry again as long as the unbeliever remains unmarried. But if the unbeliever marries or commits adultery, then the believing mate may also marry, subject to the advice of the elders of the congregation..."
In 1571, Anabaptist leader, Rauff Bisch said:
"We believe that nothing may terminate a marriage except adultery. But if the unbelieving wants to divorce because of the faith, we would let him go as Paul says in I Cor. 7. We believe that the cause for divorce should never be found in the believer."
On page 401 in the Martyr's Mirror we find in an early Anabaptist confession of faith these words:
"...Christ the perfect Lawgiver...referring all that heard and believed him to the original ordinance of his heavenly Father...and thus re-establishing marriage between one man and one woman, and so inseparably and firmly binding the bond of matrimony, that they might not, on any account, separate and marry another, except in case of adultery or death."
Understanding properly the relationship between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant affects many other doctrines. Those who are modern day Judaizers like to speak of the verses where God’s Law is written on our hearts to push Sabbath keeping, Jewish feasts, etc. Antinomians on the other hand like to look at the verses that say God’s Law is done away to push their “no need for obedience and holiness” view of grace and liberty. Both are wrong and misled.
· I John 3:4 ¶ Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
· Re 12:17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
· Re 14:12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
· Re 22:14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
In the final analysis, only those in the New Covenant times who followed Jesus with God’s Law written on their hearts and fulfilling the righteousness of God’s Law through the Spirit will be saved. Jesus inspired the Word of the Old Testament, and Jesus never changes. The types and shadows that are fulfilled and completed are no longer relevant and in affect; but the moral precepts, statutes and judgments that are so highly praised and loved by the writer of Psalms 119 are written on the hearts of true believers and are part of the light we must walk in. Abraham, in his walk of faith, obeyed God’s statutes and precepts as they were related to him.
· Genesis 26:5 “Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”
If Abraham had not obeyed, he would not have been faithful — he would have been faithless. Salvation is by grace through faith from Genesis to Revelation, and those who live in God’s kingdom obey and love his laws, which are written in their hearts by the Holy Spirit.
· Ps 40:8 I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.
· Ps. 119: 1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD. 2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. 3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways. 4 ¶ Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. 5 O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes. 6 Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. 7 ¶ I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. 8 I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly 9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word 10 ¶ With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments 11 ¶ Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. 12 ¶ Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes. 13 ¶ With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. 14 I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. 16 I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.