Seven Guidelines for understanding Old Testament laws

Have you ever heard someone ridicule the Bible based on strange laws from the Old Testament? How should you respond?

Seven things should be understood about Old Testament Law.

  1. The laws in the Old Testament were not given for the Church to follow as God’s will. They were required of God’s people during Old Testament times to distinguish them as they lived in very dangerous and barbaric cultures (see: Misreading the Bible).
  2. We don’t understand all of the reasons why God gave some of the laws, but we know that the times and places of that era were exceptionally evil and bizarre. The laws served a larger purpose of distinguishing God’s people from the nations around them. And God (as the law giver) was not subject to questions or disagreements from sinful creatures about His law. 
  3. The Old Testament was never intended to be a complete or perfect expression of God’s will. It was provisionally set for a specific purpose at a set time. It pointed to and anticipated a new covenant that would be superior and replace the old covenant (see: A truth we must accept).
  4. Those who follow the Bible should not quote laws directed to Israel as God’s will for people today. We should not look to detailed legislation in Leviticus to guide us as we follow Christ.
  5. We apply Old Testament Scripture to our lives as it is affirmed and taught by Jesus and the apostles. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament (Matthew 5:18-20). (see: Christ is the end of the Law )
  6. Mockers of Scripture speak with a degree of hypocrisy because they hold to standards (even the one they’re using to discredit Scripture) and expect everyone else to accept the reasonableness of their ethical code.
  7. The primary thing the Old Testament law teaches us is how sinful we are and how much we need God’s grace through Christ to be forgiven and accepted by God.

Consider the strong emphasis in the book of Galatians on the inadequacy of the law for making us right with God

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  • Galatians 2:16 – “For we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” (NLT)
  • Galatians 2:21 – “For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” (NLT)
  • Galatians 3:10-11 – “But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.” So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. (NLT)
  • Galatians 3:13-14 – “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (NLT)
  • Galatians 3:23-26 – “Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)
  • Galatians 4:1-7 – “Think of it this way. If a father dies and leaves an inheritance for his young children, those children are not much better off than slaves until they grow up, even though they actually own everything their father had. They have to obey their guardians until they reach whatever age their father set. And that’s the way it was with us before Christ came. We were like children; we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles of this world. But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father.’ Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” (NLT)

Steve Cornell

About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in Apologetics, God of Old Testament, Hermeneutics, Interpretation of bible, Law, Old Testament Law, Teaching of Jesus, Wisdom and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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