Monday, June 19, 2006

Is Old Testament Law Applicable Today?

Something that has been on my heart lately is the relevance of Old Testament Law: Does it still apply to us today? I hope to write more on this subject in the near future, but in the meantime, let me share some of my initial thoughts on the subject.

Whevever I hear someone talk about "God's Law"—in particular, calling for "God's Law" to be enforced in civil government—I find myself a bit confused. What exactly does that entail? What do they mean by "God's Law"? My concern is that what they are really pushing is an American theocracy.

Recently, I read an article that called for the state-sanctioned killing of homosexuals. "The word of God commands that sodomites are to be executed," the author writes, "and God gives our civil officials the sword to do the job. Until our civil officials turn from their wicked way by administering Justice, we can only be judged with the most depraved pagan nations in history." Welcome to life under theocratic rule.

One of the things that jumps out at me whenever I see a plea for a return to "God's Law" is the lack of clarification in defining the law. If honoring the law means adherence to the Old Testament, then what other laws should we enforce? Should a man who lies with a woman during her menstrual cycle be banished (Lev. 20:18)? Should women who aren't virgins be stoned to death (Deut. 22:20-21)? Should all adulterers be executed (Deut. 22:22)? Should we stone rebellious children (Deut. 21:20-21)? What's to be done with those who mar the edges of their beards (Lev. 19:27)? Should women who have just given birth be kept from attending church services for 33 days—66 if they give birth to a girl (Lev. 12:4-5)? And how should we lawfully and biblically deal with those who have bodily discharge (Lev. 15)?

How are we to determine which laws are to be enforced? Didn't James say that if we fail to keep the law in one point, we are guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10)? I'm not saying that the Old Testament is irrelavant, but we must look at it in light of the New Testament.

For example, in the New Testament we learn that Christ, through his life, death, and resurrection, fulfilled the law (Matt. 5:17, Luke 24:44, John 15:25). We as Christians fulfill the law through love (Rom. 13:10). And Paul reminds us that "the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Gal. 5:14).

That, of course, isn't to say that we should be silent when it comes to the law. As we take Christ to the world, we preach the law so that people are convicted of their sin. But we also reach out to the lost in love by preaching the gospel. That's how individual lives, families, communities, nations, and the world are changed. No amount of legislating will do that.

A New Law
- from Mockingbird by Derek Webb



Don't teach me about politics and government
Just tell me who to vote for

Don't teach me about truth and beauty
Just label my music

Don't teach me how to live like a free man
Just give me a new law

I don't wanna know if the answers aren't easy
So just bring it down from the mountain to me

I want a new law
I want a new law
Gimme that new law

Don't teach me about moderation and liberty
I prefer a shot of grape juice

Don't teach me about loving my enemies

Don't teach me how to listen to the Spirit
Just give me a new law

I don't wanna know if the answers aren't easy
So just bring it down from the mountain to me

I want a new law
I want a new law
Gimme that new law

What's the use in trading a law you can never keep
for one you can that cannot get you anything
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid

11 comments:

Joe said...

Lee, I am surprised to see this post coming from you and on a Calvinist blog.

It seems to me that the Westminster Confession of Faith sufficiently addresses your concerns:

"Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a Church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated under the New Testament.

IV. To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any other, now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

V. The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator who gave it. Neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen, this obligation."

Pastor Rudd's argument for executing homosexuals is based on the moral law, not on ceremonial law.

Lee Shelton said...

Yes, we still have the moral law. Homosexuality is still a sin, is it not?

I understand the argument; I just don't see how one can jump to the conclusion that we are disobeying God by not killing off the gay population. Again, what other laws should be enforced? Which laws must be broken to warrant the death penalty?

Was Jesus in violation of the moral law when he prevented the stoning of the adulterous woman in John 8? The last I checked, adultery would still be covered under the moral law.

And what of the way Christ spiritualized the law?: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matt. 5:27-28). I hardly think the biblical response is to start executing people for impure thoughts. But that would have to be the logical conclusion according to Mr. Rudd's argument.

Israel J. Carberry said...

Jesus said that all of the Law can be summed up in the two greatest commandments, of which we are all familiar. Are these two laws moral, civil, or ceremonial? If they are moral, than all Old Testament Law is moral.

The question is not which laws are moral, civil, or ceremonial, but rather which laws apply to all men, to all Jews, to all people only in the land of Israel, to only Jews in the land of Israel, to all men only when the Temple or Tabernacle is present with God's Shekhinah, to only Levi'im, to only certain families in the tribe of Levi, et cetera.

Christ fulfilled the Torah, not to bring it to an end, for He said, not one yod or tittle will pass from the Torah until heaven and earth pass away. I see earth, and by faith I know heaven to exist, so if I believe in Jesus, I believe he means what he says. His fulfillment was to bring a completeness of how to live out Torah. We of all people, Jew and goy alike, who believe Jesus to be the Messiah, should know how to obey the Torah of God.

The classic arguments for not following God's Torah are known to us all, and taken for granted by most of us. The challenge put forth by the author of this blog, I believe, is the right one. Let us not use the difficulties of answering how to follow the Torah to end the debate on if we should follow the Torah.

For further reading and research, I refer anyone interested to the works of Timothy Hegg of Oregon. His web site is www.torahresource.com, and he has a wealth of free PDF documents as well as several books available for order. I can be reached personally at iisisrael at gmail dot com.

Joe said...

Lee,

That is not the logical conclusion. Biblically, sodomy is not just a sin - it is also a crime. Not all sins are criminal. Lust is a sin, but not a crime. Sodomy is sin that is also a crime and therefore subject to civil penalty.

Lee Shelton said...

If one wants to debate about which behaviors should be criminalized and what punishments should be meted out, that's one thing. Politicians do that all the time in the course of civil government. But that wasn't the kind of argument presented in Mr. Rudd's article. His position is that our nation is in violation of God's law because we aren't killing homosexuals.

Again, I'm at least looking for some consistency, and I haven't seen it. Have you stopped to consider, in light of Romans 1, that the prevalence of homosexuality--and sexual impurity in general--could itself be part of God's judgment on our perverse society?

Chris Poteet said...

I commend this article to you:

How Does the Christian Relate to the Law of Moses?

Anonymous said...

If we as a society do not use God's given civil laws, then we have two other options - making up our own laws and punishments according to our own vain imaginations and/or being lawless and allowing all crimes to go unpunished. I prefer the idea of adhearing to biblical law, even if it makes others squeamish.

If you do not believe sodomy or adultery are crimes, then why is murder, theft, etc... a crime? Where do the scriptures teach that a society is free to pick and choose from which crimes they wish to punish, while also making up new crimes and their own punishments for these crimes?

As a note to a specific law - women being kept out of the temple after birth... This was clearly a ceremonial law dealing with cleanliness and the temple has been transfered from a physical place to the hearts of the redeemed. Not possible to leave the body. ; )

Anonymous said...

My my my my.

If you claim any book in the bible is divinely inspired, you are practicing witchcraft.

If you take something out of context in the bible in order to give the text priority over the meaning of the text, you are a Pharisee.

If you think there are secret codes in the bible, you are a numberologist (witchcraft lite).

Jesus did fulfill the law. He gave the Torah context which people like you guys so desperately need. CONTEXT!

The bible is a collection of stories written by men.

Lee Shelton said...

I'm always amazed by claims that a book that was written over the course of over 1500 years by about 40 different authors from all walks of life with varying degrees of education and training, and yet remains completely coherent and internally consistent, is just "a collection of stories written by men." No other book in history can claim that kind of continuity. And no other book has the amount of ancient manuscript evidence supporting it that the Bible does.

Jeremy said...

I was always under the impression that Christ came to set us free from the CURSE of the law, not the law itself.

Therefore, when I break the law, I am no longer doomed to suffer a violent death by being dragged out into the streets and stoned. Christ took care of all of that for me.

The law now exists as a "good" thing; it is the standard of holiness against which righteousness and unrighteousness is measured (here on earth).

It is a conundrum because we are incapable of fulfilling the law (no one is righteous), yet we are told in scripture to strive for holiness.

We spend far too much time indulging our need to control our understanding of scripture and not enough time living out the greatest commandments -- to love the Lord our God with all of hearts, souls and minds and to love our neighbors as ourselves. My what an incredible place this planet would be if we'd just concentrate on those two things.

I'm just thankful that most of the Christians I know wouldn't put a gun to my head and shoot me because I'm a man and I'm attracted to other men. And regardless of whether or not people in this forum would holster their guns or not, I know with a deep sense of peace and certainty that Jesus wouldn't shoot me either.

How many of you in here could put a gun to my head and pull the trigger because I am gay? I'm just curious?

Anonymous said...

if ten commandments still applicable
no one will enter into the heaven.
let's praise lord for saving us on the cross.
we all live with him in heaven amen.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails