Tuesday, 27 November 2018
For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, Hebrews 7:18
The word “For” is used again by the author of Hebrews to continue building his case concerning the superiority of Jesus’ priesthood over that of Aaron. Now, to show this as in indisputable truth, he reveals that not only is it superior, but it fully replaces the very commandment which established the Levitical priesthood. The words are, “For on the one hand there is the annulling of the former commandment.” He is referring to the Law of Moses. This is the “commandment” which established the priesthood. This is derived from verse 12 where he stated, “For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.”
The priesthood is that of Aaron. In changing that to the priesthood of Christ Jesus, the law is changed. But now he further clarifies that. Not only is it “changed,” the law itself is “annulled.” The second supersedes and entirely replaces the first. Therefore, in the coming of Christ’s priesthood, the law which established the priesthood of Aaron is annulled. The word annulled means “declared invalid.” The covenant known as the Law of Moses is made null and void through the establishment of the New Covenant. This is what Paul proclaimed all the way back in the book of Romans. There he said, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). For those who have come to Christ, the law is completed for them in Him and it is annulled. Righteousness comes through Christ’s fulfillment of it, not through continued observance of it.
The author then explains the failing of the Law of Moses in regards to fallen man with the words, “because of its weakness and unprofitableness.” The word translated as “weakness” refers to someone who is sick, and thus without vigor or strength. The word translated as “unprofitableness” simply means “useless.” The law lacked the strength to accomplish its intended purpose, which was to reconcile man to God. Because of this, it was useless. Something that cannot accomplish what it is made for is discarded. A cup with a hole in it is thrown away. A computer without a processor is a pointless piece of junk. Anything which is defective because it cannot accomplish its main purpose is replaced. Such is the case with the Law of Moses. The main thing the law could actually do for fallen man was to show him how sinful he was in the eyes of God. Paul explains that in Romans as well –
“Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:20, 21
In annulling the former commandment, Christ brought in a new one. But the way He did this was by fulfilling the law. The law must stand until it is fulfilled. But once it is fulfilled, it is then replaced. Paul again explains this in Romans –
“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3, 4
As far as the “annulling of the former command,” it is important to understand that this means “in its entirety.” Throughout the years, people have attempted to divide the law into that which is still pertinent and that which isn’t by naming parts of it the “moral law” and other parts of it the “ceremonial law.” However, no such distinction is made in Scripture. Rather, the Old Covenant law is annulled in its entirety.
This doesn’t mean that there isn’t overlap in what was mandated in the Old and that which is expected in the New. Many of the Old Covenant laws are incorporated into the New as binding precepts, such as not murdering. If the supposed “moral law” of the Old was still in effect, then the Sabbath, which is clearly spoken of as fulfilled in Christ, and not required to be observed, would still be a requirement. All Christians would be home doing nothing on Saturdays. However, the Sabbath is not mentioned as a requirement in the New Covenant, and is therefore set aside. It’s that simple. As it was one of the Ten Commandments, then this clearly demonstrates that the entire law of Moses was annulled irrespective of a “moral” or “ceremonial” distinction.
Understanding this, does this mean the former regulation was defective or having some type of error? Not at all! As Paul says, “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12).
The law fulfilled one purpose in that it demonstrated that no one could be justified by observing it because no one could keep it perfectly. Only Jesus was able to meet its strict requirements, which He did. Thus, He fulfilled it on our behalf. As He said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).
Paul then explains this in Galatians with the words, “Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.” Galatians 3:21
The law could not bring fallen man to righteousness, not because there was a defect in the law, but because there is a defect in man. Christ, in whom there was no sin (no defect), was able to fulfill the law. In its fulfillment, He annulled the law. For those who are in Christ, He is the end of the law for righteousness. Now, God is no longer imputing sin to those who are in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19). For those who are not in Christ, sin – because of the law – is still being imputed. The choice is ours. We can come to Christ and His fulfillment of the law, or we can attempt to be righteous apart from Christ by observance of the law. Choose wisely.
Life application: The words of Hebrews 7:18 are explicit and they are prescriptive. Jesus fulfilled what we couldn’t, and for those who accept that premise, the law is annulled for them. They move to a new and better covenant. However, the law is not abolished for those who do not come to Christ. If one chooses to reject Christ, it remains binding on them; they must fulfill it perfectly or be eternally lost. What a sad state of affairs Christianity is in today. The Hebrew Roots movement has brought many to a state of rejecting the finished work of Christ and reimposing precepts of a law which could never save fallen man. They have set aside grace, and they have brought on themselves condemnation. Run, don’t walk, from this terrible theology.
Jesus, how grateful we are… You alone could meet the strict demands of the law which otherwise only bring death. And You have given us the choice – we can accept Your fulfillment of it on our behalf, or we can attempt (and fail) to meet its mandates on our own. We choose You, O Christ! We choose life! To Your honor and glory alone! Amen.