I never would have guessed that the Old Testament would pose so many problems to people as I was growing up. I mean, sure, I knew that there were laws that we didn’t follow any more. I mean, when’s the last time I headed to the temple to kill a sheep? I guess I never had to stop and think through the whole thing, and though reading recent discussions I can understand why many non-believers actually think that Christians are pretty selective when it comes to what they choose to follow and what they choose not to follow.
So, it sounds like something to cover, to help those that may never have thought through it, and perhaps help some make sense of it all.
Understanding the Purpose
The Old Testament is full of things that are looking forward. It starts in Genesis 3:16 where God promises that through the seed of woman will come one that will defeat sin and death. From there on out, God creates many pictures and examples of who His Son will be. Part of the Old Testament law contains that picture– the spotless lamb, the scape goat, etc.
The part that I’ve found people to stumble over when it comes to the Old Testament is not necessarily the law, but the punishments. You find that rebellion in children would warrant death– as would adultery and a few other things. Part of the problem here is that anything that’s contrary to our current culture may seem radical or wrong, but it wouldn’t be to a culture founded on these principles.
Christ’s Work on the Cross
When Christ came on the Earth, He came to be a blameless sacrifice for all. An infinite being could account for infinite sin, but He had to be perfect. So, in every area the law touched, He was. Since that sin was taken on Himself, it’s been paid for. The penalty was declared null and void. The human only has to confess with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead and that person will be saved.
But what does that mean about the moral code and the law? It is now covered by grace. However, there’s this caveat. Romans 6 tells us that we should not sin so that grace may abound– put into English, just because we have been saved from our sin that does not give us a license to sin. This is because we are to be like Christ– and He was sinless, He never failed the law in any area.
So, of What Worth is the Old Testament Law?
In order for us to know how to be like Christ, we need to know what sin is. We need to know what is right and wrong. This is found in the law. No, not the part about what offerings to bring, but the part that says that we shouldn’t talk to sorcerers, that we shouldn’t be rebellious, give false witness or envy.
What about the Sermon on the Mount and the intensification of the law? Looking on a maid is the same as committing adultery? Jesus said things to prove a point– that it’s not what is on the outside that defiles a man, but what is on the inside. Our heart is where everything comes out of. It is this that we must guard– we must be changed from the inside out.
This is why I have a problem supporting a Christian organization trying to get legislation passed to force Christian morality on people. It’s not that I don’t think that Christian morality would be bad for people– I think it would be terrific. It’s that I think that Christians were supposed to be spreading the Word that Christ came to save sinners, to change the inside.
If this message were spread and people actually changed, then the laws would change because the people wanted them to– not because we forced it on them. That’s why we were a Christian-based nation in the first place. It’s also why we’re a Secular Humanist nation with a Christian influence now. Because that’s what the people believe.
Where Does Paul Come Into Play?
Paul? Oh yeah, from the title. If you start thinking through this (and I’ve only really started to recently), Paul didn’t have copies of the New Testament lying around. So, where did he get his instructions on how people should act to one another? From the Holy Spirit– I knew you’d answer that way– but he would have gotten it from the law.
What about the whole Gentile directive in Acts and Galatians? The Judiasers believed that anyone who came to Christ must be circumcised, and start following the sacrificial system. It was determined that since the penalty was paid they didn’t need to do that. Only abstain from idols and fornication.
So, perhaps I should give up witnessing? How can that be so? I believe that rather than this being an exhaustive list, this is a list of what of the Mosaic commands the church felt was important for Gentiles (especially as they related to Jews) to follow going forward.