The Influence of the Noahide Laws in the Gospels
The Gospel to Both the Jew and the Gentile

By Robert W. Clanton


Throughout the Old Testament and into the New, there is a consistent teaching of righteousness. Before Moses, that righteousness is the exercise of faith in God in covenant with the associated laws. True faith exhibits itself in true righteousness, not only in outward form but inward righteousness by his relationship with his Creator.  The practice of the Jews to accept the righteous Gentile incorporated in the worship of God is the fulfilling of the purpose of God. For the Jew or Israelite, faith consisted of the keeping of the laws of Moses in the covenant with Israel but only those laws which are common to both the covenant with Noah and the covenant with Israel.  Whether Jew or Gentile God desires and commands us to live a life of righteousness.  This is taught throughout the Old Testament and is the gateway into the New Testament.


Beginning with John the Baptist “preparing the way” for Christ, the scriptures lead us to him in the wilderness outside of Jerusalem.  Preaching first to the Jew and then to the Gentile. In a very dire warning, John the Baptist scolds the Jews who had only an outward show of righteousness and in the same practice had come to be baptized because that made them appear repentant, while their hearts were far from it. He condemns them for their unrighteousness. Mt. 3: 7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:” 


Luke 3 gives the most insightful account “10And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? 11He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. 12Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? 13And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. 14And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.” The people asked what should they do to be accepted with God. John the baptist answers, be charitable and give to the poor, do not take what is not yours.  Gentile soldiers is standing there with them and asks what they are to do. John gives them one of the Noahide commandments, not to do any violence to their neighbor and in the same spirit of the law, not to falsely accuse them, the extension of the commandment.  And lastly, not to be greedy but to be content with their wages.  Here we find the inward righteousness of what God expected of both Jew and Gentile, exhibited in outward manifestations of love toward their fellow man. 


It is generally accepted that the gospel of Matthew was written to the Jews or specifically for the Jewish audience. At the beginning of Christ’s ministry from His sermon on the Mount, Christ begins with the beatitudes.  Each one of them which can only flow from a truly converted and righteous person inwardly.  We learn to be truly poor in spirit, humbling ourselves to make peace and bring peace, to turn the other cheek and to be “pure in heart” .  All which flow out of a person. Christ’s emphasis is nothing less than that of the intent of the law and the prophets.  That is, to bring men to true inward righteousness by faith.  Immediately following the beatitudes Christ has these words regarding the law and the prophets: Mt. 5:17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18For 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.  Christ had not come to destroy the law and make the law of no purpose but to bring about all that the law and the prophets had taught.  Christ had come to fill to the fullest the intent of the law by his perfect example of love for his fellow man and God.


19Whosoever 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.


Now at the Sermon on the Mount, Christ is preaching the law of inward righteousness. Moses gave commandments from the Mount of Sinai and wrote them on tablets of stone, Christ was now giving us His own commandments of inward righteousness entire unattainable by outward show.  They are the words of righteousness that are to be written on the “tables of our hearts (2Cor.3). If some one teaches these commandments and also keeps them, they will be called “great” in the kingdom of Heaven.  The next verse is rarely ever quoted but clinches the whole context of the gospel for both Jew and the Gentile: 20For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The mere observance of outward circumcision of the flesh and keeping Jewish Sabbaths, meats and other ceremonial laws is not what God had or intended for either Jew or Gentile to become. 


Christ commands and true righteousness from the heart, not the mere outward practice of holy days and meat restrictions or the cutting of the flesh.  The prophet Isaiah in Chapter 1 “9Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.  10Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. 11To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.  12When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?  13Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.  14Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 15And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.   16Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” Israel often forgot fundamental purpose of the law, which was to bring about a change of heart that was devoted to God in every purpose and thought.


The Gospel to the Jews, Matthew records how Christ viewed the purpose for the Law and the Prophets, Mt. 7“12Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. Also in Mt. 22: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.


Throughout the gospels, we find very little emphasis upon the keeping of the outward ceremonial parts of the law because Christ and the Apostles are preparing the way for the teachings of the church, whose purpose it is to shine the bright light of truths taught by Christ and the Holy Spirit. By the time the four gospels are written, the Apostles are fully aware of the great number of uncircumcised Gentiles who have converted to Christianity.  The gospel of the justification by Grace through faith in Christ was placed the religious Jew in the same condition as the state of the Gentiles, [Acts 13: 38Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: 39And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” and Rom.3: 9What then? are we (Jews) better than they(Gentiles)? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;”]  All mankind Jew and Gentile alike are dire need of the forgiveness of sin and justification in Christ. Both Jew and Gentile were forced to look outside of the law of Moses for this justification and righteousness to find it in the promise seed of Abraham hundreds of years before the covenant at Mount Sinai. 


This left the Apostles and Elders of the Church with the responsibility to then explain the purpose for the covenant of law with Israel.  The gospels are written in light of that responsibility, to show forth the heart of the meaning of the law and the prophets two fold purpose. One, to show the intent of the law to prepare everyone of Israel to the Messiah, Jesus by showing them their own sinfulness. And two, to bring about through the exercise of religious acts, a heart that would fulfill the two great commandments and the summation of the moral purity taught in the law abounding in love for God and one another.  The Sermon on the Mount from Christ details the inward righteousness of the heart that God desired for the Jew who possessed the law and oracles of God to be. 


For the Apostles sin as it relates to the Gentiles would not consist in breaking the commandments of the Jewish Sabbath, Annual Holy Days, Circumcision of flesh or the neglect of tithes to the Levites commanded in the Law of Moses. Sin consists of the surrendering of the flesh to its inordinate affections.  Throughout all of the Epistles of Paul who labored most among the Gentiles, sin is an “infirmity of the flesh” and the “motions of sin working in the members of the flesh” Rom.7:7. 5For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.  6But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” Because a Christian is not under the Law of Moses, he is not free to live according to the lusts of the flesh.  He is to serve God, not by the letter of the law as prescribed in Moses but by the spirit and intent of the law, that is to overcome the temptation to do evil which the flesh tempts us. And by doing so to fulfill the laws intent by walking in the newness of the Spirit which they had received by faith.


Sin consists of “yielding the members (of the body) unto unrighteousness” Rom.6: 12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.  14For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. 15What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 16Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? Paul’s accentuation is sin as it refers to the body and the lusts of the flesh and its members.


This overcoming of the flesh is done by living and drawing in and from the Holy Spirit. Rom.8: 10 “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.  12Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” By living in such a manner of overcoming the flesh through faith and the Holy Spirit, the Gentile fulfills the intent of the righteousness of the law of Moses.  Rom.2: 26Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? 28For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”


When the conversion of the Gentiles to Christ was brought to light through the Holy Spirit, by the working of the Apostles Peter, these uncircumcised Gentiles received the Holy Spirit and salvation even as the Jews who had come to Christ (Acts 10:44-48, 15:6-10).  Peter’s words in Acts 10:34, declare the mind of God, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”


When “certain of the Sect of Pharisees which believed” attempted to limit the salvation of Gentiles to only those who would come under the Law of Moses by circumcision (Acts 15:1,5), they were defeated by the Apostles own decree which declared the Gentiles free from law of Moses save only those things which were common to the covenant of Noah.  By doing these outward things, they would be “doing well” in the sight of God and the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28-29).  The rest, was a matter not of outward observances of the law of Moses, in Sabbaths, Holy Days, and meat restrictions but the inward working of the Holy Spirit which would assist them in through Grace in the overcoming the flesh and fulfilling two great commandments with all the moral purity intended in the covenant of both Noah and Israel.


Throughout the rest of the Epistles and within the gospels we find the extensive and detailed emphasis of moral purity, while addressing some of the important questions of the time such as “meats offered to idols” in 1Corinthians 10 repeated warnings against idolatry and fornication.


In 1Thessalonians 4:2-5 Paul warns against fornication or pronea the sin of using the members of our bodies for immoral use.  Paul reminds them of the commandments which were given the Gentiles to keep through them as from the Lord Jesus. “:2For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. 3For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; 5Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:  For the Gentile the proof of their knowing of God is their abstaining from idolatry, fornication and the possessing of their vessel in purity.


In all the epistles left for us as a record of the teaching of the Apostles handed down to the Church, the commandments of God for the Gentiles to keep are always founded upon the teachings of Christ’s commandments to the Church regarding moral purity, Christian conduct and the unity of love and bond of charity towards the both the Jew and Gentile.  The Gentile Christian was not to be “troubled” (the often used word) or judged by the Jewish Christian regarding circumcision of the flesh, the Sabbaths, New Moon or Holy Days or in regard to foods (Col.2:16-17) However, immediately following these words are Paul’s strong words in Chapter 3: “5Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 7In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.   8But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” 


In the very epistle of Paul where, he condemns the Judaizers because they had corrupted the gospel by adding trying to add circumcision of the flesh and the rest of law of Moses to the Gentile believers, Paul sternly warns the Gentiles that because they are not under the law of Moses, they are not free to live after the flesh. Gal.5: 16This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.  17For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.  25If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”


By living “according to the Spirit” and “walking by the Spirit” the Gentile would be fulfilling the law not in the keeping of the letter but in the spirit of its intent. That is to bring all men to Christ and glorify God by faith, squelching and overcoming the lusts of the flesh and being the example of fullness of God’s love toward man and God and the intent of the spirit of the teachings of the law of Moses.  Both circumcised Jew, who by tradition may keep the Law of Moses and uncircumcised Gentile keeping the covenant laws of Noah would come together in one united body that would demonstrate God’s love for the Jew and God’s love for the other nations of the world.  In the one visible body of the church Jew and Gentile from every nation would not only be an expression of God’s love for men and men for each other but the fullness of the expression of God’s love for Christ, “the that world may know” God, the Father “loved him and sent him” as spoken in John 17:20-23.  Both Jew and Gentile (the sheep not of the Jewish fold, John 10:16) were all to keep the commandments to love one another because to love one another is the fulfilling of the law. To harm one another is to transgress the intent of the law. John 13:35 “by this sign” says Christ, “all men will know you are my disciples . 


The body of believers would then be “witnesses” to the sending of Christ from the Father, the Father’s love for Christ and the power of Christ’s own death and resurrection.  As witnesses, the Holy Spirit would unite Jew and Gentile in holiness, moral purity and brotherly love to become a living visible holy body on earth for all men to see as a visible demonstration of resurrected Christ living and holy body united on earth in the church in love throughout all nations (Mt.28:19, Rom.1:5, 16:26).  The whole volume of scripture and law and the prophets are a fulfilled coming of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, uniting in love both Jew and Gentile in the body of Christ to the glory of God.