321BibleStudy.net
Ross' Remarks
THE LAW
&
THE COVENANT
I attended the 7th Day Adventist Church for nearly six months talking with their members years ago, until I was
asked not to return. The distinction which they made in the OT was three-fold: moral law (commandments);
civil law (ordinances); and ceremonial law (judgments). I attended a church of Christ several years ago (fifteen
years later) and heard the preacher make the same division of the OT. The idea is that “moral law” continues
and is still in force, while the “civil law” and the “ceremonial law” have been replaced. The main difference in the
positions was which verses and passages were in which law. Commentators such as Barnes agree with this
division (he uses “judicial” where I have used “civil”) and application.

I teach that all the OT has been replaced. There are, however, some commands of the NT which are similar, if
not identical to those of the OT. Therefore, the OT can shed more light upon how God responded to identical
situations in the past – therefore, how He will respond to similar situations in the present. The OT is not
useless, it is helpful. However, it is not authoritative – it is illustrative.

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and
comfort of the scriptures might have hope. (Romans 15:4 KJV)


Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon
whom the ends of the world are come. {ensamples: or, types} Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take
heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:11-12 KJV)


Covenant: a unilateral statement of God’s will. The Old Covenant is the Old Testament (both Law, Prophets &
Psalms – inclusive of all the laws, commands & judgments). The New Covenant is the New Testament (both the
Gospels, Acts, the Epistles & Revelation). A covenant puts forth facts to be believed, commands to be obeyed,
and promises to be received. A rejection (in word or deed) of the covenant places one outside the promises of
reward, but not beyond the promises of damnation. In other words, the commands apply to those outside the
covenant as well as those inside the covenant, whether they agree to the covenant or not.

In the Old Testament the word has an ordinary use, when both parties are men, and a distinctly religious use,
between God and men. There can be no doubt that the religious use has come from the ordinary, in harmony
with the general custom in such cases, and not the reverse. There are also two shades of meaning, somewhat
distinct, of the Hebrew word: one in which it is properly a covenant, i.e. a solemn mutual agreement, the other
in which it is more a command, i.e. instead of an obligation voluntarily assumed, it is an obligation imposed
by a superior upon an inferior. This latter meaning, however, has clearly been derived from the other. It is
easy to see that an agreement, including as the contracting parties those of unequal position, might readily
include those agreements which tended to partake of the nature of a command; but the process could not
readily be reversed.

        Covenant in the Old Testament, ISBE


Diatheke, was the word chosen by the Septuagint translators to render the Hebrew berith, and it appears thus
nearly 300 times in the Greek Old Testament in the sense of covenant, while suntheke and entolai are each
used once only. The choice of this word seems to have been occasioned by a recognition that the covenant
which God makes with men is not fully mutual as would be implied in suntheke, the Greek word commonly
used for covenant (although not a New Testament word), while at the same time the rarity of wills among the
Jews made the common sense of diatheke relatively unfamiliar. The Apocryphal writers also frequently use
the same word in the same sense and no other.

In the New Testament diatheke is used some thirty times in a way which makes it plain that its translation
must be "covenant." In Ga 3:15 and Heb 9:15-17 it is held by many that the sense of covenant must be set
aside in favor of will or testament. But in the former passage it can be taken in the sense of a disposition of
affairs or arrangement made by God, a conception in substantial harmony with its regular New Testament use
and with the sense of berith. In the passage in Hebrews the interpretation is more difficult, but as it is
acknowledged on all hands that the passage loses all argumentative force if the meaning testament is
accepted, it seems best to retain the meaning covenant if possible. To do this it is only necessary to hold that
the death spoken of is the death of the animal sometimes, if not, indeed, commonly slain in connection with
the making of a covenant, and that in the mind of the author this death symbolized the death of the contracting
parties so far at least as to pledge them that thereafter in the matter involved they would no more change their
minds than can the dead. If this view is taken, this passage falls in line with the otherwise invariable use of
the word diatheke by Jewish Hellenists.

        Covenant in the New Testament, ISBE


Law: a reference to the Five Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), or a
reference to the OT utilizing the title for the first five books for the whole (metonomy). The context determines
the usage.

The Term "Law":

The Greek word for "law" is nomos, derived from nemo, "to divide," "distribute," "apportion," and generally
meant anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, usage, law; in the New Testament a
command, law.

Austin's Definition of Law:

It may not be amiss to note the definition of law given by a celebrated authority in jurisprudence, the late Mr.
John Austin: "A law, in the most general and comprehensive acceptation in which the term, in its literal
meaning, is employed, may be said to be a rule laid down for the guidance of an intelligent being, by an
intelligent being having power over him." Under this comprehensive statement, he classifies "laws set by
God to His human creatures, and laws set by men to men." After analyzing the three ideas, command as the
expression of a particular desire; duty or obligation, signifying that one is bound or obliged by the command
to pursue a certain course of conduct, and sanction, indicating the evil likely to be incurred by disobedience,
he thus summarizes: "The ideas or notions comprehended by the term command are the following: (1) a wish
or desire conceived by a rational being that another rational being shall do or forbear; (2) an evil to proceed
from the former and to be incurred by the latter in case the latter comply not with the wish; (3) an expression
or intimation of the wish by words or other signs." This definition makes it clear that the term "laws of nature"
can be used only in a metaphorical sense, the metaphorical application being suggested as Austin shows by
the fact that uniformity or stability of conduct is one of the ordinary consequences of a law proper,
consequently, "Wherever we observe a uniform order of events, or a uniform order of coexisting phenomena,
we are prone to impute that order to a law set by its author, though the case presents us with nothing that can
be likened to a sanction or a duty." As used in the New Testament it will be found generally that the term "law"
bears the sense indicated by Austin, and includes "command," "duty" and "sanction."

        Law, in the New Testament; ISBE


1. Torah ("Law"):

Torah is from horah, the Hiphil of yarah. The root meaning is "to throw"; hence, in Hiphil the word means "to
point out" (as by throwing out the hand), and so "to direct"; and torah is "direction." Torah may be simply
"human direction," as the "law of thy mother" in Pr 1:8; but most often in the Old Testament it is the Divine
law. In the singular it often means a law, the plural being used in the same sense; but more frequently torah in
the singular is the general body of Divinely given law. The word tells nothing as to the way in which the Law,
or any part of it, was first given; it simply points out the general purpose of the Law, namely, that it was for the
guidance of God's people in the various matters to which it relates. This shows that the end of the Law lay
beyond the mere obedience to such and such rules, that end being instruction in the knowledge of God and of
men's relation to Him, and guidance in living as the children of such a God as He revealed Himself to be. This
is dwelt upon in the later Scriptures, notably in Ps 19:1-14 and Ps 119:1-176.

In the completed Canon of the Old Testament, torah technically denotes the Pentateuch (Lu 24:44) as being
that division of the Old Testament Scriptures which contains the text of the Law, and its history down to the
death of Moses, the great lawgiver.

        Law, in the Old Testament; ISBE