Was the Old Law from God?
It seems that the Old Law was not
Objection 1: Deuteronomy
32:4 says, “The works of God are perfect.” But
as was explained above (a. 1), the Old Law was
imperfect. Therefore, the Old Law was not from
Ecclesiastes 3:14 says, “I have learned that all the works
which God has made persevere forever.” But the Old Law
did not persevere forever; for in Hebrews 7:18 the Apostle
says, “There is indeed a setting aside of the former
commandment, because of its weakness and unprofitableness.”
Therefore, the Old Law was not from God.
It is a function of the lawmaker’s wisdom to remove not
only evils but the occasions of evil. But as was
explained above (a. 1), the Old Law was an occasion of
sin. Therefore, it was inappropriate that God—who, as Job
36:22 puts it, “is such that none is like Him among the
lawmakers”—should hand down such a law.
1 Timothy 2:4 says, “God wills all men to be saved.” But
as was explained above (a. 1), the Old Law did not suffice
for the salvation of men. Therefore, it was inappropriate
for God to make such a law. Therefore, the Old Law is not
But contrary to this:
In Matthew 15:6 Our Lord, in speaking to the Jews, to whom
the Old Law had been given, says, “You have made void the
commandment of God because of your traditions.” And just
before this we find, “Honor your father and your mother,”
which is clearly contained in the Old Law (cf. Exodus
20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16). Therefore, the Old Law is
The Old Law was given by the good God, who is the Father
of Our Lord Jesus Christ. For the Old Law ordered
men toward Christ in two ways.
First, it ordered men toward Christ by bearing witness
to Christ. Hence, in the last chapter of Luke,
verse 44, He Himself says, “All things must needs be
fulfilled which have been written about me in the law
of Moses and in the prophets and in the psalms,.”
And in John 5:46 He says, “If you believed Moses, you
would perhaps believe me also; for he wrote about me.”
the Old Law ordered men toward Christ in the manner
of a disposition, since by drawing men back from idolatry,
it enveloped them within the worship of the one God
by whom the human race was to be saved through Christ.
Hence, in Galatians 3:23 the Apostle says, “Before the
faith came, we were guarded under the Law, enclosed
for that faith which was to be revealed.” But,
clearly, the one who disposes things to the end is the
same as the one who leads them to the end, and by ‘the
same’ I mean either through himself (per se)
or through what is subject to him (per suos subiectos).
For the devil would not have given a law by means of
which men might be led to Christ, through whom he himself
was going to be cast out—this according to Matthew 12:26
(“If Satan casts out Satan, then his kingdom is divided”).
And so the Old Law was given by the same God by whom
the salvation of men was effected through the grace
Reply to objection 1:
Nothing prevents a thing from being imperfect absolutely
speaking and yet perfect with respect to a given time.
For instance, a boy is not said to be perfect absolutely
speaking, but is said to be perfect for his age (secundum
temporis conditionem). So, too, precepts that are
given to children are perfect for the condition of those
to whom they are given, even if those precepts are not
perfect absolutely speaking. The precepts of the Old Law
were like this. Hence, in Galatians 3:24 the Apostle
says, “The Law was our teacher (paedagogus) in
Reply to objection 2:
The works of God that persevere forever are the ones
which God made in such a way that they should persevere
forever, and these are the ones that are perfect.
By contrast, the Old Law was set aside at the time of
the perfection of grace—not as something bad, but as
something weak and unprofitable for that time.
For as is added [in the cited passage], “The law did
not bring anything to perfection.” Hence, in Galatians
3:25 the Apostle says, “Now that faith has come, we
are no longer under the teacher.”
to objection 3: As was explained above (q.
79, a. 4), God at times allows some men to fall into
sin in order that they might thereby be made humble.
So, too, He willed to a give a Law that men could not
fulfill by their own power in order that men, while
relying on themselves, might discover themselves to
be sinners and, having been humbled, might have recourse
to the assistance of grace.
Reply to objection 4:
Even though the Old Law did not suffice for the salvation
of man, there was nonetheless another sort of assistance
which God offered to men along with the Law and by which
they were able to be saved, viz., faith in the Mediator—a
faith through which the ancient patriarchs were justified
in the same way that we ourselves are justified. And so
God did not remove Himself from men in the sense of not
giving them the means to salvation.