Mosaic Law: Repentance Leading to Salvation

Gospel Appears to Replace Mosaic Law
When in fact Christ Fulfilled the Law

If there is one issue that appears to cause much confusion to Christians it is the relationship of the Gospel of Grace to God’s Law given through Moses. Many Christians believe that Christianity is a new religion that replaced the Law which is not taught in Scripture.

When God spoke His Ten Words to His people at Mount Horeb they were terrified and did not want to hear His voice again (Ex 20:18-19). Their Wilderness experience showed that they did not understand the concept of or the purpose of the Law {hereafter referred to as the Mosaic Law}. At the end of their Wilderness wanderings {40 years} Moses repeated the Law to the new generation that had arisen from the old who refused to trust God and enter the Promised Land just after receiving the Mosaic Law; this became known as the book of Deuteronomy {Second Law}. Moses prophesied that since the people did not want to hear from God again then God would raise up a Prophet from among them to speak God’s words to them (De 18:15-19).

The Jews understood this as a foretelling of the coming Messiah. This was made evident in John’s Gospel (Jo 1:19-21). An envoy from the Sanhedrin, civil and religious ruling body of the Jews, asked John the Baptist who he was. John had gained a rather substantial following during his brief ministry in the wilderness of Judah near the Jordan River. Any person who proved popular with the people during this time had to be investigated to determine if there was going to be trouble from the Romans who occupied and administered swift and exacting punishments, including crucifixion. This envoy of priests and Levites were seeking to determine if John the Baptist was claiming to be the Messiah. John plainly stated that he was not the Messiah. Not really believing him, the envoy restated the question, “Are you the Prophet?” This demonstrates that the Jews of John’s day believed that this reference to “The Prophet” was a title for the Messiah.

This reason this concerned them: the Messiah was supposed to lead his people in glorious battle to overthrow all Gentile rule until only the Hebrews were ruling the world. Therefore, this mighty, but human, Messiah would hand the world over to the Hebrews who would determine who was worthy to be associated with them as proselytes, Gentile believers, and who would be completely dominated by the Hebrews, slavery. Of course, Rome would move quickly to quash any hint of rebellion to include anyone who would claim to be Messiah. The Sanhedrin needed to ascertain John’s intentions and work to keep damage to the people of Judah to a minimum.

If John was claiming to teach a message different from the current Judaism then they needed to know on what basis he was doing this, what was his authority, so they could judge his claims and refute him. Thus, when the envoy asked John if he was Elijah, referencing Malachi (4:5), they were as much as laying a trap as seeking his credentials. John denied being Elijah also. Since he had denied their selections, they demanded that he tell them who he was and what was his authority to teach. John said he was, “…one crying out in the wilderness…” quoting Isaiah (40:3-5). Thus, in effect John was saying that he is not anyone but himself but that his message was directly inspired by God as foretold by Isaiah. This meant that if they disagreed with his message then they were disagreeing with God for they believed Isaiah was a true prophet of God. So, what was John’s message?

John was teaching not another gospel nor a new cult of Judaism. He plainly said he was the “mouth of God”, the voice crying out preparing the people to receive the Messiah who is coming. How was he to prepare the people for the Messiah? He taught them repentance (Lk 3:3-6). Repentance was in the Old Testament though it was not defined. Isaiah spoke of repentance as a turning away from sin by turning to God for salvation (55:6-7). Notice, one turns from the revelation of how sinful one is in God’s eyes by turning to God for grace to relieve one from this burden that had been revealed by the Law (Ro 7:21-25). David tells us that the cultic practice of the Law, the civil and sacrificial systems, were ineffective in dealing with sin. According to David God was not interested in the blood of bulls and goats but in a broken spirit and contrite heart (Ps 51:16-17). This is the best example of repentance in the Old Testament. In addition, it shows that the Law does not produce repentance or else he, David, would sacrifice to remove the guilt of sin of the murder of Uriah and causing the death of his innocent child in judgment for his sin.

We also know that John was a Levite, his father was a priest and John was also in line to be a priest (Lk 1:5-7). John was like Moses, a Levite but not a priest. The cultic Law began with Moses and would end with John’s coming Messiah’s death on the stauros {tree}. In effect, John was announcing the fulfillment and end of the cultic Law {the moral law contained in the Ten Words will never pass away for they embody the very nature of man’s relationship to God} (Mt 5:17-20). With John’s announcement of the coming Messiah he was in effect announcing the end of the Levitical priesthood with the sacrifice of the Lamb of God to take away sin (Jo 1:29). His baptism of repentance was nothing more than an outward expression of the inward, spiritual, acknowledgement of one’s sin and need for a Savior. Christian baptism did not replace John’s baptism but extended its meaning to include the salvation which would occur with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (1Pe 3:18-22). John’s water baptism was limited to the physical birth but Christ’s baptism would extend to the new birth via the Spirit.

Thus, through John the Baptist, God was announcing the purpose of the cultic Law was to bring condemnation of sin such that one would, under the influence of God’s Spirit (Ro 3:10-18), seek repentance beyond the kin of what the cultic Law could provide, relationship with God Himself. God’s Son would speak God’s very words pointing to Himself as the true sacrifice for sins and the fulfillment of the Law, giving of the New Covenant (Je 31:31-34).

Therefore, Christianity is not a new religion but a planned metamorphosis of the cultic Judaism. In this same vein, the Church is a planned parenthesis until God grafts His people back into Himself in what has been called the Millennial Kingdom (Ze 12:10; Ro 11:11-27). Then all who are His will be filled with His Spirit and members of His bride, the New Jerusalem in eternity future (Ga 3:24-29; Re 21:1-2, 22-25). John’s ministry was to announce this change to the Jews, prepare for the Messiah who will take away your burden of sin. Scriptures announce the latter change that reunites all in Christ who is the fulness of God (Col 1:15-23). This is the unity of the Scriptures in revealing the will of God not in our individual lives but in the breadth of human history. How glorious is the workings of God that surpasses our understanding, Amen (Is 64:4-8)!

 

Author: LeeS

Retired naval nurse, Dad, Husband, Christian who seeks to share the Bible with those who want more than the superficial milk given out in the majority of today’s churches. God has taught me through hard experiences as well as through book learning (Master’s of Ministry, Doctor of Ministry).