The “Jesus Was Born Under the Law” Argument

by Terry W. Benton

The Argument Stated:

Jesus was "born" under the law (Galatians 4:4) and he died on the cross to "end" the Old Testament law of Moses (Romans 10:4; Colossians 2:14).

This means that everything Jesus said and taught was under the authority of the Old Testament law of Moses.

The Argument Answered:

First, while Jesus was born under the law and lived perfectly under the law, the focus of his teaching and the goal of His life was the establishment of His kingdom.  Everything Jesus said about the kingdom is of application to the kingdom whenever it arrived.

Secondly, Jesus talked about principles of the kingdom that were righteous principles. Those principles could also be found in the Law of Moses.  Thus, there is no conflict of interest in expounding upon those principles of the Law that were righteous in any age and under any covenant with the righteous, Holy God. Jesus' sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is about kingdom righteousness.  Each of those points could be found in the Law of Moses, but the teachers "of old" had not taught those points of internal righteousness.  The righteousness of those entering and living in the kingdom from heaven would have to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:19). Those righteous principles would not be nailed to the cross.  Even after the cross, Paul would say that Christians are to have "the righteousness of the law fulfilled in us" (Romans 8:3-4) and that by loving God and others "we fulfill the law" (Romans 13:8f). The Scriptures of the Old Testament had "instruction in righteousness" for Christians in the New Testament age (II Timothy 3:15-17). If Christians after the cross could get instruction in righteousness from the scriptures of the Old Testament, then there is no problem with Jesus giving "instruction in righteousness" in things pertaining to the kingdom of heaven.  Children are to obey their parents in the Lord "for this is right" (righteous).  Paul appealed to the "right-ness" of a principle found in the Law (Ephesians 6:1-3) and applied that very righteous principle to Christians. If Paul could apply that righteous principle from the law to New Testament kingdom citizens, then there is no conflict of Jesus expounding on the righteous principles, also found in the law, and using those righteous principles to relate what would be expected of the righteousness of those who would enter and be living in the kingdom of heaven.  If Paul could do it after the cross, then Jesus could certainly do it before the cross. Both talk about righteous principles expected of the kingdom of heaven citizens.

Thirdly, the rule that Dan Billingsly invented, and others followed and echoed blindly above, does not really hold true when a "preparation" period is in place for a new age and a new covenant.  Jesus could talk about things he would expect of His people (in His coming kingdom age) without being in violation of the covenant He was under.  We can see this illustrated in the transition of Moses under the patriarchal age as he is preparing to enter the new Sinai covenant age.  Some things he taught Israel before Sinai would continue to be binding after Sinai. Consider the following points!

a. Moses was born under patriarchal law, but that did not keep him from commanding the passover command before he got to Sinai. See Exodus 12, which was eight chapters before he ever gave the Sinai law.

b. Moses commanded the passover which carried over into the Sinai testament, and Israel would always look back to what Moses had taught them in Egypt concerning the passover and would continue to base their actions on that teaching Moses gave WHILE he was under patriarchal law.

c. Being born under patriarchal law did not prevent Moses from working toward the establishment of national Israel. Neither did the fact that Jesus was born under the law of Moses prevent Him from working toward the establishment of spiritual Israel.

d. Being born under patriarchal law did not mean that "everything Moses said and taught was under the authority of the patriarchal law". Moses was given divine right to speak things that pertained to Israel in a unique way that was not understood or expressed by mere patriarchal law. Likewise, being born under the law of Moses did not mean that "everything Jesus said and taught was under the authority of the Old Testament law of Moses." Jesus was given divine right to speak things that pertained to spiritual Israel in a unique way not understood or expressed by mere Mosaic law.  It was time to move toward the new spiritual nation identity and get ready to leave the old influences and the superficial morals of the scribes and Pharisees behind. It was time to hear the truth about true righteousness and get ready to cross the Red Sea of conviction with the Prophet like Moses to the Mountain that cannot be touched.  It was time to prepare them about His own Passover memorial, so that after His blood was shed they would remember Jesus' instructions to them before He died on the cross. So, it is wrong to throw out the four gospels as if they have no instruction in righteousness and no truths to employ, no memorials to practice. Those who relegate the four gospels to a mere extension of the Law and teach that we will fall from grace if we employ anything from the gospels as binding law, are surely perverting the gospel and they are in danger of being "accursed" (Galatians1:6-10).

e. While Moses was born under patriarchal law, his major concern was not people’s relationship to patriarchal law, but his focus was on preparing Israelites for separation from Egypt so that he could bring them into national identity with their own new laws. The "prophet like"Moses (Jesus) had a major concern too. It was not Israel’s relation to the Mosaic law, but on preparing people for separation from the world so that He could bring them into a new spiritual identity, the kingdom of heaven. The coming kingdom was the major focus of Jesus’ preaching.(Matthew 4:23; 5:3,10,19; 6:10; 10:7; 11:12; 13:11,19; etc.). Being born under the law, did not mean the focus of His preaching was on the "tutor" (the law - Galatians 3:24). But, being the Christ, His focus was on preparing the tutored for graduation into kingdom faith. Those who are graduating need to know some things about the life they will be expected to live in the kingdom. This is what Jesus was giving them. The sermon on the mount is laying out the expected life in His kingdom while doing no harm or violation to the righteousness of the Law.


Kingdom principles of "righteousness" are complimentary to principles of righteousness found in the law of Moses as well. Thus, Jesus and Paul could talk about those righteous principles that both were part of the law and part of the new kingdom covenant as well. The fact that Jesus was born under the law does not prove that the righteous principles He taught were not to be fulfilled in His kingdom.  Some things in the law are right and should be fulfilled in us. We get "instruction in righteousness" in Jesus' teaching.  Righteousness is always binding.

Gentiles often kept the righteous principles of the Law of Moses even though they did not keep circumcision (which tells us that some things are righteous because they are righteous for everyone, and other things were right for the Jews to do simply because they were commanded to). Paul said that Gentiles were fulfilling the righteousness of the Law and circumcision was not a part of what he was talking about (Romans 2:14-15,25-27).  I heard one well-respected brother make this observation: "Some commands are given because they are right, and some commands are right because they are given". The command for children to obey their parents was given because it is right. The command for circumcision was right for the Jews only because it was given to them.  The righteousness of the Law (those parts of the Law that are given because they are right) were being fulfilled by some Gentiles (Romans 2), was upheld by Jesus in His speech about righteousness expected of those who would enter and live in His Kingdom (Matthew 5-7), and was upheld after the cross as well (Romans 8:3-4; Ephesians 6:1f; Romans 13:8-10). Born under the Law, Jesus kept it. Preaching the righteous principles of His soon-to-come kingdom, He both upheld the righteousness of the Law and told of the standards expected of those who would enter and live in His kingdom.

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