The Law Shall Go Forth of Zion

Micah 4:2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

When I was a young girl my Bible class teachers drilled into my head on a regular basis that the law of Christ was to go forth from Jerusalem. Our class turned in our Bibles to Acts 2 and read Peter's sermon to the crowd that had gathered in Jerusalem for the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ. "Who preached the first gospel sermon?" we were asked. And we responded with "Peter." "And where did he preach it?" "Jerusalem."

I did not understand the significance of that knowledge, although I thought later that we had been taught it so we would know that we could not be saved the same way the thief on the cross was saved. We could say to those who taught otherwise: "Oh no, the thief lived and died under the Law of Moses. The word of the Lord went forth from Jerusalem, and at that point everything changed." And we did say that.

Somehow, though, it does not work quite the same way when it comes our own doctrines. We choose very little from the gospels that we want to apply to us, but we do take some (just not the thief on the cross!). We easily discard Jesus' commands to those He healed to go show themselves to the priest, and we ignore His command to the rich young ruler to obey the Law of Moses. I think the only doctrines that we want to latch onto from the gospels are divorce and remarriage, Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus, and church discipline.

I have not figured out how the church discipline applies to us, as Jesus plainly says: "Let him be unto thee as a heathen and a publican." Nobody ever told me that I am to treat a heathen or a publican any special way, and I am positive that applied to those to whom Jesus was speaking. As for Nicodemus, Jesus chided him after discussing the new birth with him by saying, "Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" (John 3:10).

It took much study but I finally came to realize that we have condemned others for reaching back under the Law to the thief for their own redemption while we have reached back even further for ours. Yes, with our mouths we have always proclaimed that the doctrine for the church began with the sermon preached by Peter in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, but some of our beliefs tell a different story. When I got to thinking about all this, a light bulb suddenly came on in my head and I was stunned when I realized how ignorant I had been. We cannot go back to the thief on the cross and we cannot go back to the Sermon on the Mount. The word of the Lord (the new law that was prophesied) went forth from Jerusalem!

My reason for talking about this is to discuss the subject of divorce and remarriage. We have traditionally believed that Jesus taught new doctrine regarding this topic in Matthew 5 and Matthew 19. We have preached that this was His new law and, for all intents and purposes, the final word on the subject. However, if His word was prophesied to go forth from Jerusalem, then how can this be? If a child had been born, even of a virgin, in the city of Nazareth, would we accept him as the Messiah? No, of course not, because the Messiah was to be born in the city of Bethlehem. For the same reason, we cannot accept that a doctrine that supposedly began in Galilee is the beginning of the word of the Lord for the church.

The Jews came to Jesus asking Him a question about the Law. They were not interested in any new doctrine He might have the apostles teach three years later to those who would be Christians. They did not consider Him to have any authority to contradict the Law of Moses. And indeed He could not have done that for in Matthew 5, just before His first discourse on divorce, He stated: 17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus stated very emphatically that anyone who broke the least commandment would be called least in the kingdom, for not one jot or tittle would pass from the Law until all was fulfilled. Yet we teach that just thirteen verses later He was contradicting the Law and pushing a radically different divorce doctrine on these same people. It makes me wonder how these people might have responded had they viewed this as new doctrine the way we have done. I am guessing that, to say the least, they would have been shocked and would have reminded Him of His previous words.

These Jews were living under the Law and they were interested only in the Law. They saw Jesus as a teacher of the Law but certainly not as the coming Messiah. They would not have allowed Him to break the Law and still continued to listen to Him. They would have viewed Him as a rebel and a heretic. In the discourse on divorce in Matthew 19 Jesus' listeners asked a question regarding the Law. Either Jesus refused to answer their question and instead taught His new doctrine (which could not have applied to them at that time), or He did answer their question, in which case He was discussing the Law of Moses and not a new and contradictory law. Some of these people probably did not survive until the cross. They may have died under the Law of Moses. And whether they lived or died, at that point in time they wanted to know about their own law. Furthermore, Jesus told them that what He was saying applied right then and there. He did not say, "When my new law comes...."

It is obvious in Matthew 5 that Jesus was speaking of the Law when He talked about bringing gifts to the altar. On what day of the week are we as Christians supposed to do that? It is equally as obvious that Jesus was not quoting the Law and then changing it when He said they had heard that they were to hate their enemies. Nowhere in the Law were they told to hate their enemies. In fact, they were told to love their enemies. Proverbs 25:21: "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink." Jesus did not even use the language He would have used had He been quoting from the Law. He used expressions like: "Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time." Some were saying these things and Jesus was simply correcting the understanding of the principles taught in the Law of Moses. If Jesus was quoting the Law, why did He not say, "Moses said, but I say..."?

It is impossible to believe in all good conscience that Jesus came changing the Law of Moses regarding divorce and remarriage. He condemned doing such a thing, the Jews would not have allowed it, His own language confirms that He was not doing it, and His law had been prophesied to go forth from Jerusalem. It is one thing for Jesus as well as John to come baptizing and telling people to repent, but it is quite another for Jesus to come contradicting and changing the Law of Moses. He could not and would not. His law went forth out of Zion and His word from Jerusalem.

Tina Rae Collins