How Does the Old Testament Law Relate to Our Redemption?
The Old Testament Law is a wonderful resource for studying the subject of Redemption. The Law was filled with pictures, types, and shadows that God intended to be used to help the people of Israel understand what God was going to do to redeem mankind, who their Messiah would be, and what He would accomplish for them. Unfortunately, most of the people ignored the “types”, missed the point, and got entangled in the structure of “keeping the Law”.
The Purpose of the Law
Let's establish the original purpose of the Law. The Apostle Paul gives us the best teaching on this, and he is supported by other New Testament writers, and especially by the words of Jesus to the Pharisees in his day.
Galatians 3: 19–26 - What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise was made would come…
21. Is the law, therefore, contrary to God's promises? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly be by the law.
22. But, the Scripture has imprisoned everything under sin's power, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
23. Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed.
24. The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith.
25. But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,
26. for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
The Law was never intended to “make a person righteous”. Rather, it was the Holy “measure” by which a person could see their own unrighteousness—it showed them they were sinners. This “frustration” was designed to bring the person to the place where they “cried out for a Messiah / Redeemer”. In the Law, this was represented both by the animal of the sacrifice and by the Priest who offered it for them. In all of this, it was not the “performance” of the Law (works) that “saved” them, but it was the “faith” they placed in God’s provision of a “redeemer” (grace). Old or New Testament, we are all, “…saved by grace through faith.”
Now that the true object of this “faith” has come, Jesus Christ the Messiah / Redeemer, we are no longer “under the guardianship” of the Law. His “actual” death, typified in all the sacrifices, has once and for all removed our need to be bound to the “works of the Law”. We accept by faith the offering He has made, and we are declared righteous.
The New Testament Teaching of the Law
Romans 10:4 - For Christ is the end of the Law [the limit at which it ceases to be, for the Law leads up to Him Who is the fulfillment of its types, and in Him, the purpose which it was designed to accomplish is fulfilled. That is, the purpose of the Law is fulfilled in Him] as the means of righteousness (right relationship to God) for everyone who trusts in and adheres to and relies on Him. (Amplified Translation)
Matthew 5:17–18 - Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to destroy but to fulfill.
18. For truly I say to you, Till the heaven and the earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall in any way pass from the Law until all is fulfilled
I put these two scriptures together to establish the New Testament teaching concerning the Law. Jesus said He wouldn’t “destroy” the Law, but that He would “fulfill” it. His death on the Cross was the “completing / fulfilling” of all the sacrifices required to “atone” for mankind’s sin. Thus, the very purpose of the Law was “completed” in this action. Once the Law had been “completed”, its purpose was accomplished: a pure, blameless sacrifice sufficient to pay the debt for all sin had been offered and received.
In this action, He also “set aside” the Law—He “ended it; finished it; fulfilled all its types; took it out of the way; canceled the debt; nailed it to His cross” (See: Ephesians 2:15 and Colossians 2:13–14). The Law no longer stands in the way of mankind receiving righteousness—it is received by faith (that is: trusting in, adhering to, and relying on Him and His work).
Redemption in the Law
The Law was filled with “Types” —pictures that represented man’s need for redemption, the process by which man would be redeemed, and the person who would be the Redeemer. I do not have the space to present a study of these, but there are a few scriptures that establish that they were fulfilled by Jesus Christ.
John 5:45Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuses you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.
46. For had you believed Moses, you would have believed me: for he wrote of me.
47. But if you believe not his writings, how shall you believe my words?
Hebrews 10:1For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
These passages, and many, more, show that the Law was not an end in itself. It was a “tool”. The reality behind the Law was about man’s redemption. The Jews were the people to whom the Law was given. The social, civil, dietary, and sacrificial codes within the Law were not about the “object”, they were about man; sin; sacrifice; redemption, and righteousness. Some illustrations:
Jews / Gentiles: This was not an issue of “races” who were or were not acceptable to God. The Jews were to serve as a type of those who have acknowledged their need for a Redeemer and have accepted him. The “Law” was the tool by which God showed them that mankind needs a redeemer. It presented what God would do to redeem them, and how the people would recognize Him, and how they were to accept Him. Romans 3–8, Galatians 3–4, and Hebrews 3–4 and 7–10 are filled with teaching on this subject.
The Civil and Social Laws: These weren’t restrictions placed on mankind to harass and frustrate them, nor were they intended to cause some to rise up in arrogant self-righteousness. They were intended to demonstrate that those who seek redemption through God’s Redeemer will live and walk in a different way. They will be “Holy as God is Holy”. That means separated—distinct—exclusive to Him, just as Jehovah God is separate—distinct—exclusive in comparison to the other “gods” of this world. The people were to see that they could not live this life without the assistance / intervention of God “into” their lives. It was impossible to live by these Laws on your own. They needed special clothing, places to eat, ways to travel, anointings, and relationships. Man could not “Save Himself” - he needed God!
Clean and Unclean Animals: This is not about animals that God likes and those he doesn’t. In fact, it isn’t really about the animals at all. These animals were to serve for God as a type of what is acceptable to Him as a sacrifice for sin. From the beginning of man’s sin, God provided a sacrifice. It was a type of Christ: the Redeemer; the Messiah; the Sacrifice. God used different “types” of animals simply to represent that not any sacrifice was acceptable. The “unclean” animals represented man in his “fallen state”. The “clean” animals represented the “perfect” man—one who is acceptable to God. This man would need no “redemption”. Of course, no man was qualified until God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to redeem those who were condemned to death.
These animals were acceptable for a time, but ultimately God would deal with the reality. His Son would be the “clean” sacrifice (Man), and redeem all the “unclean” (all of humanity) unto God by the payment of His own blood.