There is an on-going discussion in many quarters, and among Christians, surrounding this pertinent question: IS THE OLD TESTAMENT STILL RELEVANT TODAY?
It appears the 21st century Christians now cherry-pick which part of Old testament that should apply to them and which part is not applicable. This has caused so much controversies and so much confusion among Christians.
Are we not supposed to embrace ALL the Old Testament? And we not supposed to discard the entire Old Testament? How do we decide which part of Old Testament to embrace and which one to discard? Is there anything like a New testament Christian?
Furthermore, the Critics gladly quote the different parts of the Old Testament Laws, rubbing it on the Christians, and challenging Christians why they are not keeping such absurd laws, after all, they are in the Bible. Some other Critics isolate verses from the Old Testament Laws to discredit the Bible as a whole. For what kind of God would for instance endorse slave trade? Or command that nations be killed and wiped off the map?
The purpose of this post is to attempt to make some clarifications, and to answer some of these questions.
2 Timothy 3:16 (NKJV) says “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Note however that when Paul wrote this epistle, the New Testament has not yet been fully written, and “all scriptures” at that time included some parts of the Old Testaments and just a minuscule part of the New Testament.
The Book of Galatians is considered Apostle Paul’s first epistle. It was short but full of fire and fury. WHY? Some Jewish Christians, who have lived all their lives practicing Judaism before becoming Christians, started telling the non-Jewish Christians that their salvation was not complete until they started practicing the law of Moses IN ADDITION. In Galatians 3, Paul called the Galatia Christians “Foolish Galatians” for believing their salvation was not complete without practicing the Law.
Now, the Law was given BY GOD, to Moses. So, why is the Old Testament “BAD” for Christians? Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law. Does that mean the Old Testament is now irrelevant?
3 COMPONENTS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT LAWS
To understand this, we need to know that the OLD TESTAMENT LAWS can be broadly classified into THREE:
The Ceremonial law;
The Civil law and
The Moral law.
(Sometimes though, these laws overlap)
1. MORAL LAW:
These laws are the direct COMMANDS of God. For example, the 10 commandments.
The moral laws reveal the Nature and Will of God, hence they still apply to Christians today, and we still need to obey them, and they are still relevant. Refusing to follow the Moral Laws will be equivalent to sinning against God.
We do not obey these laws as a way to obtain salvation, as salvation is through Jesus, but we need to practice them as a way of life for believers. Refer Fruit of the Spirit. Christians should walk in the Spirit and practice this godly lifestyle called holiness.
2. CIVIL LAWS: RULES FOR A SAFE, HEALTHY AND ORDERLY,SOCIETY
These laws guided and dictated instructions for daily living, to ensure law and order. While reading the law of Moses, we will come across these laws. And some of them do sound bizarre, but it did work for them that time
However, we must understand that modern society and culture are so radically different that some (or most) of these guidelines cannot be followed specifically in today’s world. But the principles behind these commands may be relevant in guiding our conducts to guide our conduct.
Examples of civil laws include:
The law of divorce says if you don’t love your wife again, give her a certificate of divorce and send her to her father’s house. Today, you can’t just chase your wife. She will bleed you dry.
Or harvest law: if you’re harvesting, you must leave some for strangers! Today, you don’t want strangers on your property.
There are many of those laws: criminal laws, warfare laws, domestic laws, etcetera.
Other sundry laws include –
do not plow with donkey and ox together,
women must not wear men cloth or vice versa,
if you see baby bird and mother bird in a nest, do not prey on both but you can take the child and not the mother…
Or if a virgin is raped in the city, she must be stoned because she didn’t scream…
Or if you mistakenly grab another man’s genital, your hands must be cut…
What? All these laws are in the Bible? You bet!
However, our society today is guided by its own sets of Civil Laws different from what’s in the Bible (Lawyers in the house will agree with me)
3. CEREMONIAL LAWS
This is where a lot of Christians get confused.
Ceremonial Laws are specifically related to Israel’s worship. The laws pointed forward to Jesus Christ and are no longer necessary after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
They are NOT laws for Christians.
We as Christians are no longer bound to them, but the principles behind the ceremonial laws, to worship and love God, still apply. Hence, if you have personal revelation to keep these laws, you may, but they are Optional.
Clean and Unclean animals. There are so many laws on what animals to eat. We visit Chinese restaurants and can’t do without sushi. Trust me, many of these are meat of unclean animals.
Also, Biblically, you shouldn’t eat pig – no pork, no sausages, no bacon (keto ladies), no spare rib.
You can’t eat fishes bottom dwellers of the ocean, salt water fishes, including catfish, eels, “titus” etcetera because those fishes feed on junks, and you cannot eat fishes without scales.
You can’t eat mammals without 4 stomachs (i.e. non-ruminants)
Blood is forbidden, which means you must drain the blood completely from animals before you can cook it.
Circumcision: All male children must be circumcised (by the way, “un-circumcision” is back)
Temple Worship: There’s a whole lot of these!
You can’t serve in temple if you have physical disabilities, skin disease, fractures or even crushed testicles!
You cannot come to Temple is you’re on your periods
A Priest cannot marry a widow, a divorced woman or a prostitute
The Sabbath Law: Some Christians still practice Sabbath, innit?
Passover Feast… But we all celebrate Easter, innit? Easter and Passover overlap
Atonement feast, etcetera
And what about those offerings. For example, Deuteronomy 12:5 mentioned some of the offerings to bring – “your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, your sacred offerings, your offerings to fulfill a vow, your voluntary offerings, and your offerings of the firstborn animals of your herds and flocks.” Deuteronomy 14 also encourages to use your entire tithe every 3 years to help the less privileged, and even hinted that the tithe may be converted into money and spent for celebration in God’s presence!
In summary, these Ceremonial Laws are not for Christians. But obviously, many Christians practice them because they really are not sins, but just not required for believers in Jesus Christ.
Many ceremonial laws have however been completely abolished, like sacrificing animals.
When we read the pages of the Old Testament, or we explore the Laws of moses, we must ask the vital question: Is this a Moral Law? Or a Civil Law? Or a Ceremonial Law. The answer will guide us as to which is relevant and which is not.