The Grace of Christ and the Law of Moses

From the Orthodox Study Bible (Old Testament): The Apostle John wrote, “The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn 1:17). The grace of Christ and the Law of Moses are complementary, not contradictory. The following helps explain both.

FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN CHRIST AND MOSES

Christ and Moses were friends and conversed as friends. The pre-incarnate Christ gave Moses the Law; in turn, Moses gave it to Israel (Ex 20:1-26). As the Lawgiver, Christ, not Moses, was the Author of the Law. Moses was His servant.

In the New Testament, Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, and they conversed with Him as friend with friend (Mt 17:1-8). The presence of Moses shows Christ as the fulfillment of the Law. The presence of Elijah shows Christ as the fulfillment of the Prophets.

CONTRAST BETWEEN CHRIST AND MOSES

Christ is incomparably greater than Moses, for Christ, the Son of God, who brought all creation in to existence from nonexistence, is building His Church. When Christ gave Moses and Israel the Law, He spoke as the Lord their God. Moses, however, spoke to Israel in the name of the Lord their God, not in his own name (Ex 20:22). When the Son of God became incarnate, He continued to speak to Israel, but now directly and not through a prophet. Although during His three-year ministry in Israel, He did works and spoke words in His almighty power, Israel refused to believe Him, their own Lord God. But to those Jews who did believe, He gave authority to become His children (Jn 1:11, 12).

Christ also gave authority to believing Gentiles to become His children. In the Old Testament, He made it clear through Moses and His prophets the Gentiles would be included in promises to Israel (for example, Gn 12:1-3; Is 49:5, 6). Both would be in His Church. Race is not the issue, but rather faith in Christ. His Church is one, composed of every nation, tongue and tribe (Rev 5:9).

HARMONY BETWEEN LAW AND GRACE

Christ is the Lawgiver in both Old and New Testaments. Therefore, there is no opposition or contradiction between the old and new laws. In His Incarnation, the Lawgiver Himself fulfilled the old Law, making it obsolete (Heb 8:13).

Christ gave His written Law through Moses to make sin known (Rom 3:20; 7:7). Man’s God-given natural law, written in the conscience, was dulled through disobedience in the years between Adam and Moses. The Mosaic Law helped renew this knowledge of sin to lead man to repentance. After His Ascension, Christ sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to convict the world of sin (Jn 16:8), to renew the natural law in man’s conscience (Heb 8:10), to lead us into all truth (Jn 16:13), and to make it possible for us to become partakers of the divine nature (2Pt 1:4).

GRACE FROM THE LAWGIVER

Christ is the Incarnate Lawgiver who offers us remission of sins through His precious blood. The old Law could never remit sins (Heb 10:1-4). Christ not only forgives sins, but also heals the damage done through sinning. This is the unspeakable grace of the Lawgiver.