Answers to "Ask Mike" Questions
22. I am somewhat confused on the fine line between things to follow in the Old Testament versus the New Testament. I understand that once Jesus died for our sins there is no longer a need for burnt offerings and that type of thing, but what road do we walk on many of the other laws required by God in the Old Testament?
Moses reveals God's Law in the Bible's first five books - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These books reveal law that applies to all humanity and law that applies specifically to Abraham's descendants.
Laws that apply to all humanity are called Creation ordinances. Among these are the law of marriage (Genesis 2:24), the law of human dominion (Genesis 1:28), and the law of capital punishment (Genesis 9:6). God reveals Creation ordinances in Genesis 1-11, that's just one reason why it is so important to have a proper understanding of those chapters. The rest of the Old Testament deals specifically with God's chosen people, the descendants of Abraham.
God revealed His law for the chosen people, for the most part, through Moses. You will find law throughout the Old Testament, but it is grounded solidly in the Mosaic Law. God's Law is technically the 10 Commandments and only the 10 Commandments (see Deuteronomy 5:22). The rest of the ordinances recorded in the Old Testament are viewed in two categories: law that pertains to ceremony and law that pertains to civil government. Some of these rules rest firmly on the 10 Commandments and help us understand the fuller implication of those commandments. According to Colossians 2, Christians are not obligated to observe any of the ceremonial or civil rules. Christians are, however, to obey the laws of proper governmental structures.
In Christ's time, Jews used the word "law" to describe any or all of the following: the 10 Commandments, the first five books of the Bible, all of the Old Testament books except the prophets, and the entire Old Testament.
It is no wonder that people get confused. Paul adds to the confusion when, in the book of Romans, he uses the word "law" in two ways. He uses it of the Old Testament commandments and ordinances as well as a "system of salvation." According to Paul's argument in Romans 1-5, there are two ways to be saved. One way is to keep the law perfectly. By that he means keeping the 10 Commandments and all the peripheral rules and ordinances or to live without violating your own conscience (see Romans 2). If you could live and never violate any of God's law or your own conscience, God would owe you salvation because you deserve it. Paul's judgment is, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Romans 3:23 KJV). Sin is the transgression of law. The other way of salvation is to trust implicitly in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, who did keep God's law perfectly. In Romans 5, Paul says Jesus took our punishment upon himself in spite of the fact we were sinners. That is precisely why you can't earn salvation or do sufficient works to merit it.
Well, then, you may ask. What about the 10 Commandments, are we to keep them? In one way or another all the 10 Commandments are repeated in the New Testament save one. In fact, Jesus raises the understanding of Old Testament law to higher levels. For example, He teaches that it is not enough to not commit murder, but if you hate someone you have already committed murder in your heart. Nowhere in the New Testament, however, is the Fourth Commandment repeated. That commandment calls for Sabbath keeping.
The word "Sabbath" means rest. According to the 10 Commandments, the Israelites were to keep the seventh day (Saturday) holy (separate) as a commemoration of Creation. At the heart of the commandment is God's awareness of man's need for rest. God gave all His Commandments to meet basic human needs. God does not forbid adultery because He wants to keep us from having fun. He knows stable families and a stable society depend on the state of the family. All of the 10 Commandments bear directly on humanity's ultimate happiness and well-being. That goes for the Fourth Commandment as well. Jesus said God did not make man for the Sabbath, He made the Sabbath for man. (see Mark 2:27) God knows humans need to set apart at least one day of seven for rest. An individual's health, state of mind, and welfare depend on it. During the French Revolution, the humanists who took power changed the calendar from its present construction to months of three 10-day weeks. Once implemented, they soon discovered that such a schedule proved unworkable because most could not work effectively without proper rest. That principle remains true to this day! Every person needs to keep God's law by setting aside at least one day for rest, relaxation, and re-creation. That day of rest can be any day of the week, however. If you want to keep the Sabbath as the Jews do, begin at 6:00 p.m. Friday night and rest until 6:00 p.m. Saturday. That remains the Sabbath.
Some respond, "Then we should worship on Saturday." Not necessarily. Such a statement is borne of several misunderstandings. First, the Old Testament Sabbath observance was to commemorate Creation. Jesus accomplished re-creation, which is superior to the first creation. As Christians, we gather to celebrate the "new creation" accomplished through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Second, the Jews did not gather to worship on the Sabbath. They attended Synagogue, which was school.
Worship occurred only at the Temple and required sacrifice. No Jew offered sacrifice at the Synagogue. Furthermore, the Synagogue originated during the Babylonian Captivity long after God gave Moses the Fourth Commandment.
So the Sabbath was not a day of worship, it was a day of rest. Third, the early church worshiped daily but specifically gathered as congregation to worship on the first day of the week, Sunday. New Testament history supports this fact, as do the writings of early church leaders well into the second and third centuries. Fourth, Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week giving impetus to the early church to gather for worship to commemorate his resurrection in the Communion on Sunday. Some say Constantine, the Roman Emperor after AD 316, changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. Not so! He did, however, formally recognize what the church was already doing and set aside Sunday in the empire as a day of worship.
Now, let me sum up. No one can be saved by keeping the law, however understood, because no one can perfectly do so. Jesus came, not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). I understand this as a reference to the entire Old Testament, not just the 10 Commandments and other ordinances. The Old Testament Scripture, including the 10 Commandments, remain for our spiritual growth and edification (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Jesus sums up all the law and the prophets in just two statements, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself. (see Mark 12:29-31, see also Deuteronomy 6:4, 5)
The whole Bible, Old and New Testament, including the law, gives us insight into the mind of God. What does God think of our culture's current view of marriage, or lack of it? Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24 to reply.
What does God think of abortion on demand? A proper understanding of the law reveals abortion as the non-judicial taking of a human life (i.e., murder). Are we required to keep the law? Not to be saved! But as an expression of gratitude and a desire to live so as to please God, yes, but as seen through the understanding of the New Testament. Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (John 14:15 NASB)
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