Reposted from The Cripplegate.
1. theologians have divided the Old Testament laws into moral, ceremonial, and civil law,
2. we are bound by some commands because they are moral principles,
3. we do not follow civil and ceremonial laws, rather we have to recognize that “God had a moral principle that he was applying to a specific society” and then in order to apply those laws to ourselves we have to “stop and ask what is the moral principle that God was applying into that world, and then figure out how do I apply that moral principle into my world today” and 4) figuring out the moral principle for today is a “harrowing and messy process” because “there is nothing in the Bible that marks the law as moral or ceremonial or civil, we just have to figure it out” and by studying the Bible we can understand what “would God have us do with this particular command.”
I would like to suggest today that there is a process for figuring out what God wants us to do in obedience to him that is neither messy nor harrowing—rather it is clear and fully revealed.
First, we need to understand what a law code is, then we need to know what law Christ fulfilled and then we need to know what law code we are under today.
1. What is law code?
A biblical law code is a set of rules issued by God to a specific group of people, for a specific time. It is binding on that specified group; they are aware that it is binding. The law codes are based on the character of God. To violate the law code that is currently in effect is to commit a sin but it is important to note that it is not sin to violate a law in a previous (or future) law code.
So for example, Adam was not required to circumcise his sons, nor celebrate communion. Adam could wear mixed fabrics if he so chose (supposing the antediluvian fashion industry supplied such a thing). Abraham did need to circumcise his sons but could eat shrimp to his heart’s content. Moses did circumcise his sons, could not wear mixed fabrics, nor eat shellfish, but he could eat any fruit he wanted to, unlike Adam. Cain was not executed for murdering his brother (Gen 4). Peter was allowed to “kill and eat” any formerly unclean animal (Acts 10).
Why? Because they were all under different codes.
Each new law code replaces the past one completely. There will naturally be some similarities and overlapping because each code is still based on God’s character. But the reason you obey a law is because it is part of the code to which you are subject, not because it was part of a previous code.
So, for example, Noah and Adam both had a command to go forth and multiply.
Abraham and Moses both had a law to circumcise males. But when Christians have big families to obey the command to Adam and to Noah, they are making an error in applying a command directly to themselves. Just like Christians who outlaw eating pork or getting tattoos.
2. What law did Christ fulfill?
The short answer is that Christ fulfilled the whole Law of Moses. But many believe, that Christ fulfilled some of the Law of Moses but not all. They say the Law can be divided into three parts: moral, ceremonial, and civil, and that Christ fulfilled the ceremonial parts (sacrifices, feasts, dietary laws) and he fulfilled the civil parts (tithing, stoning your kids, eye for an eye). But they say the moral parts (like laws against murder, adultery, and homosexuality) are still binding.
You can see why this solution is so handy. It explains neatly why we can’t murder but can eat bacon. That’s a helpful division to have. The problem is that the Bible doesn’t say that. Christ is not said to have fulfilled some of the Law and not all of it, and nowhere does the Bile make a distinction between types of laws. The laws are listed together and they were all binding on Israel and considered to be sin if violated. And since the Bible doesn’t make the distinction between moral and ceremonial, we are left having to arbitrarily decide which category tattoos, Sabbath, and tithing fall into. Or in the words of Dr. Fullilove: “there is nothing in the Bible that marks the law as moral or ceremonial or civil, we just have to figure it out.”
But if some of the Law is binding and some of it is not—surely it is very important that we know how to make this distinction? Further, he goes on to say that the moral principles of law that is civil or ceremonial is binding—although admits that ascertaining this is a “messy and harrowing process.”
The New Testament is clear Jesus fulfilled the whole Law.
Galatians 3: 23-26 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian [tutor] until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
The book of Hebrews is quite clear about the fact that Jesus did away with the old covenant and its laws and introduced a new covenant.
Hebrews 7:12 - For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.
Hebrews 7:18-22 - For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God… .This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.
Hebrews 8:13 - In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Hebrews 9:15 - Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
It makes no sense to say that Jesus fulfilled some parts of the Law but not other parts. He either fulfilled it all, or we are still accountable to keep it all.
Thanks be to God that Jesus fulfilled it all, so we don’t have to keep any of it.
So is lobster back on the menu? Yes.
Is circumcision a thing of the past? Yes.
Can I get a tattoo? Yes!
Can I make my daughter a prostitute, can I commit adultery, can I murder? Nooooo.
But wait!? Aren’t we then arbitrarily selecting which laws to keep?
I never said we’re not under any law. I said we are not under the Law of Moses. Jesus gave us a new law code.
3. What law are we under today?
No part of the Law of Moses is binding on New Testament believers. But… Christians are under a new law code, called the Law of Christ, (also termed the Law of Love).
1 Corinthians 9: 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.
Galatians 6: 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
There are naturally a number of similarities between Moses’ Law and the Law of Christ. There are laws that overlap.
In fact nine of the Ten Commandments are repeated as binding on Christians in the New Testament. But the reason we don’t murder and don’t steal, and yet we can lawfully enjoy playing basketball on a Saturday, is because the New Testament is binding on us as our law code, not because of the Ten Commandments.
So homosexual practices are considered sinful today, not because Leviticus tell us that, but because 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 tells us that. And that shouldn’t surprise us because both the laws in Leviticus and in Paul’s epistles are based on God’s character. God was offended by sexual sin in the Old Testament and is still offended by it now. Adultery is still wrong, not because of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, but because of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19. Again, this overlap shouldn’t surprise us.
And when in doubt the guiding law is “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
So there we go—no mess and no harrowing process to try and work out what laws you need to obey in order to show your love for God. The Old Testament laws teach us about God, and they inform us about a future Messiah, about the character of God, and the ways God worked in history—but they are not binding on us. They are part of a law code that was binding on Israel and that has been fulfilled by Christ. The laws that are binding on us now—those God expects us to obey—are all found in the New Testament. Some overlap with the Old Testament laws and some are new (like baptism and communion). But nothing has been left up to us to “figure out” for ourselves.
All Scripture is profitable to teach us something about God, ourselves, sin, righteousness, etc. (2 Tim 3:16-17). And no part of the Law will be done away with or should be ignored (Matt 5:18—the verse that Dr. Fullilove references at the beginning of the video). So the Law of Moses is important for us to study. But we don’t need to figure out which part is binding on us. All of it is profitable, but none of it is binding.
Our new law, the Law of Love, governs our behavior and attitudes. Much of that will overlap with that of the children of God under previous law codes.
If your head is swimming, then at least take this away: Praise God that you are forgiven and get to go to heaven because of what Jesus did for you from start to finish. But now that we are saved, we are not lawless, but still obey God, by loving him and loving our neighbor. And in that, we fulfill the law code we are under until glory.