Definition: The Law

Technically, when the Bible speaks of “the law” in the most basic and fundamental way, it is referring to the Ten Commandments and the first five books of the Old Testament.  But there exists a depth and richness to the law that far transcends the technical explanation.  We can begin to grasp this just by paraphrasing the Hebrew and Aramaic definitions of “law” from the Strong’s Concordance, 1995 Edition.

The law in Hebrew is Torah: A precept or statute, especially the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) or Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament which were written by Moses).  Torah comes from the word yarah, which means “to flow as water (i.e., to rain), transitively to lay or throw (especially an arrow, i.e., to shoot), figuratively to point out (as if by aiming the finger), to teach.”

The first five books of the Bible contain divinely inspired history, prophecy, and principles for life.  It is a history of man learning the principles of righteousness from the fresh water of God’s rain, symbolic of His thoughts falling upon the earth (Isaiah 55:8-11, see spiritual definitions of rain in the April 2011 issue and water in the August 2011 issue).  With His finger, God wrote the Ten Commandments and pointed the way we should go.  With His finger He taught us what sin is—the transgression of the Ten Commandments.  We read in the Pentateuch the results and effects of sin and the statutes, ordinances, and sacrifices needed to deal with sin.

The immutable Ten Commandments have been and always will be in force, but the way we deal with sin changed with the life and death of Christ.  The law of God, the Ten Commandments, is active and in force as the spiritual law “written on our hearts.”  Instead of being inscribed on tablets of stone, they are written within the living stones that comprise humanity.

The New Testament word for “law” is nomos, which means to parcel out as food or grazing (pasture) for animals through the idea of prescriptive use (how to live the law).  That is because the first four of the Ten Commandments teach us how to relate to God, and the last six teach how to relate to our fellow man.  The Church is considered the grazing sheep of God’s pasture.

  • Joshua 1:8, 8:32: The first five books are the law.
  • II Kings 17:34-37: Differentiation between the Ten Commandments and the statutes.
  • Matthew 5:17-18: Christ did not do away with the Ten Commandments.
  • Matthew 22:37-39: The Ten Commandments are in two sections.
  • Hebrews 10:16: Christ is willing to write the law on our hearts if we are willing to let Him.