4.7.1 The term "law"

The term "law" refers, first and foremost, to the written Mosaic Law, that is the five Books of Moses (the Torah). Essential elements of the Mosaic Law include the Ten Commandments and the double commandment of love (see 5.3).

In the old covenant, the law is understood as the path to salvation. It opened up the possibility for man to avoid sin, to thereby live righteously before God, and to thus avoid His judgement. The law obliged the Israelites to make a decision: if they kept it, they would have the blessing of God, but if they broke it, they would incur God's curse (Deuteronomy 11: 26-28). Cases where only the ritual side of the law was emphasised–the merely formal fulfilment of the Commandments–were harshly criticised by the prophets (Isaiah 1: 10-17).

The path to salvation, that is to complete reconciliation with God, was established in Jesus Christ. The New Testament exposes what the Mosaic Law is all about: it is not–as had been previously believed–a path to salvation, but rather illustrates the situation of mankind irredeemably entangled in sin before God, and points to the true path of salvation.

Furthermore, the New Testament allows for a considerable extension of the concept of law: it no longer refers only to the Torah which was enshrined in writing, but also to the basic state of all life and all things, of which man is also a part. This includes the laws of cause and effect, seed and harvest, and birth and death, from which nothing and no one is exempt. The term "law" also refers to an authority present within man which places moral and ethical demands on him (see 4.2.1.3).

Both Jews and Gentiles are subject to the law: the Jews are subject to the law revealed to Moses, while the Gentiles are subject to the law which God Himself wrote in their hearts (Romans 2: 15).

See also