What Laws of the Old Testament Still Apply?

Moses with the Ten Commandments, Rembrandt, 1659

I’ve had questions recently about the laws of the Old Testament and how do we know what remains binding for us now. If you’ve kept up with Year in the Bible then you have come across dietary restrictions or requirements for personal hygiene that do not sound like something the church currently upholds. Do we just pick and choose which laws we follow? Do we select some of the Ten Commandments, then neglect ritual cleansing and stoning, then find some other codes that help us to judge others by some moral standard and keep those?

I’ll provide a quick answer, then point you in the direction of a couple of resources I’ve found helpful. To (perhaps over) simplify, there are different sorts of laws in the Old Testament, laws that had different purposes and held different roles. There were laws that dealt with the rituals of Israel, that made the people ceremonially clean or symbolized forgiveness of sin. There were laws that helped to divide and set apart Israel as a people unlike the pagan nations that were a people of God’s own choosing. There were civil laws, since Israel was a political group as well as a religious one. Then there were also moral laws that guided the people on how to live the way that God intends.

What we see in Jesus Christ, who says it in his own words and whose actions are described elsewhere in the New Testament, is a fulfillment of Old Testament law. He came to be our sacrifice, once for all, so why would we need to continue making sacrifices for our sin? By his death, a death that cleanses us of our sin, we are given access to God. Why then would we need to follow ritual laws that enable entrance into the tabernacle? Christ did not cast aside or overthrow the law, rather he fulfills it. And this was all God’s plan for us.

It still isn’t always to clear to the reader what is to be followed and what no longer applies for Christians today. So ask the questions, what sort of law was it? Was its purpose fulfilled in Jesus Christ? What does the New Testament have to say about it? Read through books like Acts and Hebrews to see the way in which early Christians struggled with these very same questions. What Jewish customs do we carry with us, what laws have had their time but are no longer of value? If the book of Acts instructs us about dietary laws, then we can confidently follow its interpretation on how Old Testament laws relate to us now.

One more point before I link to two articles. If looking at the Old Testament laws lead you to think that some part is no longer binding because it was part of the ritual laws, make sure to look at the entire witness of Scripture. If it is a part of God’s Word for his people throughout the Old and is found as well into the New, do not be quick to think we are in a different time and different place and different culture, therefore we can ignore that law. If Scripture is consistent from start to finish, I’d be inclined to say that law is still given for the church today.*

For further reading:

Old Testament Law and the Charge of Inconsistency, Tim Keller

How Do We Know Which Old Testament Laws Still Apply to Christians, Eric Snow

*And of course, remember that these laws are given as a way to live in response to God’s grace, not as something to merit it. Obedience is our gratitude to God’s grace.

One Reply to “What Laws of the Old Testament Still Apply?”

  1. Every single law still applies. Not a single law was undone.
    Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law, where does it say that any of it was “undone” or “done away with”?

    Four questions… 1) Is God eternal? 2) Is God perfect? 3) Is god unchanging? 4) Is God THE LAW?
    Answer… Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
    If you agree then you have just stated that no law was undone in any way. God’s law was set in place since before the beginning.
    God is eternal… He is all we know. Everything there is is from Him. He was here before the beginning, and will be here after the end.
    God is perfect… His perfection declares that His law is perfect. Can you give me the reason that God would do away with perfection? His own perfection…?
    God is unchanging… What God was when the earth was formed is no different that what He is today. “the word was with God, the word was God”. As the word is God, the word is also unchanging. God speaks the law… The law is the word of God. It is unchanging.
    God is the law… To do away with any part of the law would be to do away with part of God. We are told that if our eye deceives us, to remove it. If our foot misleads us, to cut it off. If our hand goes to evil, to cut it off. In most cases this is not literal. It means to remove yourself from what tempts you to do evil. God is not tempted to do evil ever. He is perfect in all things.

    Christ fulfilled the sacrificial laws. This means that we must still abide by the sacrifice of Christ… If we do not accept His sacrifice, then the sacrifice was not made in our hearts.
    The sacrificial laws stand. No, we do not offer up sacrifices of our flock. Because this would be an insult to God, saying that Jesus, the son of God and God Himself, was not enough when He was sacrificed on the cross.
    If you truly accept Christ, then it will change the way you live. Christianity is a way of life. Thus, to accept the sacrifice is to live a life that shows it. This is your sacrifice of the worldly ways that declares the sacrifice of the Lord.
    Not a one of the laws God has ever given has been undone. To fulfill does not mean it is over. If the Lord wills, I will soon be engaged. That will be the fulfillment of my courtship, but the courtship will not end. It will continue as long as I live. Shortly after, Lord willing, I will say my marriage vows. This will be the fulfillment of my engagement. But does that mean that I am no longer engaged? No. I will be engaged in a lifelong engagement to care for the woman of my life. In fact, I will be even more engaged than before my vows. It is the same with the Lord’s law. Though the law was fulfilled, is it over after that? That makes no sense at all. God is a God of sense. What is logic? Logic is the law of reason. Men will make laws for themselves, but men do not make logic. Logic is truth. Sense, logic, truth. all of them intertwine. And they are part of the law God has put before us. If it makes sense, it is of God.

    The law stands. All of it! Who are we to say this stands and this does not? God is the law, He is unchanging, unending. By saying that any one law is undone is to say part of God is undone. Many things are full of holes… God is not.

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