Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Learning from the Old Testament Part 3

     In light of all we have seen here, to what extent are we to obey the Old Testament? Do we have to obey its commands about not eating anything with a cloven hoof? What about the command not to wear a garment with mixed fabric? What about the Ten Commandments?

     What we need to realize is that “the law” (as it is called) contains ceremonial law and moral law. The law served different purposes. One major part was that God wanted Israel to be a witness among the pagan nations around them, and much of the dietary laws and dress code were tied up in that. The moral law had to do with conduct, or how they lived their lives. And much of the ceremonial law governed their religious duties, which was a way of appeasing God’s wrath (propitiation) because no sin could be forgiven until Jesus’ shed His innocent blood.

     (Since no sin could be forgiven, people could not go to heaven. They went to Paradise, or Abraham’s Bosom, as a sort of waiting room. After Jesus died He went to Paradise to set those people free to enter heaven. My next book, Where Did Jesus Go?, will look at this further.)

     That is why people will say things like, “We are not under the Old Testament law.” This is true; laws about the sacrificial system, for example, no longer apply to us. And as far as dietary laws, God gave Peter a vision in the book of Acts and told him that he could pretty much eat whatever he wanted, although the vision certainly had a deeper meaning about salvation being for Gentiles as well as Jews. Believers no longer needed certain robes or ribs to be set apart from the world because they now had Christ’s righteousness. 

     But what about the moral law? Did God no longer care about “you shall not murder” since Jesus died on the cross? Hardly. In fact, the moral law is all repeated, and even expounded upon in the New Testament. Consider these teachings from Jesus:

     “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not kill’…But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” (Jesus in Matthew 5:21-22, expounding on Exodus 20:13)

     “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’ but I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her in his heart already.” (Jesus in Matthew 5:27-28, expounding on Exodus 20:17)

     “Keep the commandments. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not lie. Honor your father and mother.” (Jesus in Matthew 19:17-19, referencing the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20)

     “The first commandment is, ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength…the second is like it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’” (Jesus in Mark 12:29-31 quoting the Shemah from Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

     Is Jesus saying that we do not have to live by the Old Testament moral laws? No, He said that they contained the greatest two commands (as my first book All the Law is about). And Jesus is not the only one to do this. Paul drew from the Old Testament in his writings.

     One of the hot button issues is homosexuality and gay marriage. Whenever a Christian quotes Leviticus 18:22 about a man not “laying with a man as he lays with a woman,” the sarcasm becomes unleashed.

     So you don’t eat pork, right?
     I hope you don’t read your fortune cookie!
     That shirt better be 100% cotton or you are a hypocrite!

     Let’s not forget that laws regarding homosexuality are repeated in the New Testament, thus giving them validity here in the church age. Consider Paul’s teaching in Romans 1:18-32, I Corinthians 6:9-10, and I Timothy 1:8-10. Jude 7 is also convincing, reminding New Testament readers about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their homosexual sin.

     So to my fellow New Testament brothers and sisters, let us embrace the Testament of our forefathers as we cling to that Old Testament passage cited by Jesus:

 “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Jesus to Satan in Matthew 4:4
Referencing Deuteronomy 8:3

(Read Part 1 here
Read Part 2 here)


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