How should the Christian respond to the various laws in the Old Testament? Some of the laws for Israel in the Old Testament seem strange to us today such as dietary laws forbidding pork and shellfish or laws that forbid wearing a garment made of two materials. To help us understand them, the various Old Testament laws can be classified into three categories:
· The moral law which governs the behavior for all men
· The judicial law which was for Israel’s operation as a nation
· The ceremonial law which was for Israel’s worship until Christ came
We know that Jesus fulfilled the law (Romans 10:4; Colossians 2:14), but what does this mean for the Christian? How does the Old Testament law affect us practically now?
The judicial and ceremonial laws were fulfilled in Christ and Christians have no obligation to observe them literally. Many of these laws, however, teach us general principles about holiness that are good for us to follow.
The moral laws are God’s eternal standards of righteousness for all people – don’t murder, steal, commit adultery, etc. They teach us of our guilt before God and our need for salvation. Jesus also fulfilled the moral law, but this doesn’t free us from observing it. It simply frees us from the punishment of having already broken it.
The lines aren’t always clearly expressed. Sometimes you’ll come to a Scripture and it is pretty obvious that it is Israel-specific, other times you’ll find one that could go either way.
A good example is the verse about tattoos in Leviticus 19:28. There’s a lot of division over whether or not that verse is for Israel-only or for everyone. I particularly think it applies to God’s people whether Christians or Jews.
So… when coming to a particular law in the OT, ask the following questions:
1. Is this law obviously meant for Israel only?
2. Does Jesus coming change the application of this law?
3. What does the New Testament say about this issue/law?
4. Is there some spiritual benefit for Christians to obey this law?
5. If this law is not to be observed literally, what can it teach me?
Ultimately, Jesus simply wasthe fulfillment of the law. Jesus had to fulfill the law because it is eternal and cannot be broken. As Christians, we are bound under the new covenant and the law of love (Matthew 22:34-40). We must love God completely and sincerely and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. God’s eternal laws are bound up in these two great commandments.