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QUESTION: What Old Testament laws still apply today?


ANSWER:  The Old Testament Law is divided into three subdivisions.  The first is referred to as the “Commandments.”  The commandments were given to Israel to govern moral life.  They would include what most people think of when they think of Old Testament Law: the Ten Commandments.  The moral law can largely be found in Exodus chapters 19 and 20. 


The second section is called the “Judgments.”  The judgments governed social life.  Things addressed included employer-employee relationships, safety, property rights, neighborly responsibilities, etc. Dietary laws and church-state relationships could be found here.


The final portion of the Law is referred to as the “Ordinances.”  The ordinances governed religious life: to include the Temple, the priests the sacrifices and the sacrificial system itself.


The Jewish Old Testament is one of the oldest, written laws of its kind in the world.  I have read some strong arguments that make it the vanguard for every set of written societal laws that followed.  Most societies think that building a barrier around a newly dug hole or the requirement for a wall around a porch on a roof are good ideas.  Both of these ‘rules’ can be found in the Judgments governing social life.  They are ‘good ideas’ if nothing else.


So what is supposed to apply to us today?  Why are some things that are forbidden in the Old Testament (like eating pork or shell fish) not only done today, but enjoyed by Christians who claim to believe the Bible?  Can we indiscriminately apply the Law of God as our own church would direct us?  Who or what makes that determination?


Well, the fact is, the Bible does that for us.  The moral law condemns all men.  God tells us what is wrong with man on every level and in every society.  The moral laws transcend governments and cultures.  To break a moral law is to become guilty before a holy God.  It is the moral law that is used to condemn all men – even in the New Testament.  It is the moral law that identifies drunkenness, adultery, murder and all the rest as sin that has separated us from God.


The Judgments were laws telling Israel how to be good neighbors amongst themselves and with the surrounding nations. America has had a great influence in the world championing work laws that affect safety, working conditions and efficiency.  Whether you agree with our attempts at “nation building” or not, when American ideals are adopted by other countries those countries are said to be becoming “Americanized.”  Accordingly, religions that follow social laws that were given to Israel ‘look’ or appear more or less “Jewish” depending on the extent to which they adhere to Jewish social laws (what to eat or not eat; what to wear or not wear; etc.).


The Ordinances governed not secular society but religious rites (although sometimes this is as hard to separate as the difference between a man’s spirit and soul).  Sure, God, in teaching Israel what it means to be holy and righteous, refused to allow any Levite who was blind, had an injured hand or leg or was a dwarf to serve in the Tabernacle, but that was because of the purpose of the Tabernacle.  It was a daily, living object lesson to the nation of Israel as to what it means to be separated from God.  But dwarfs, eunuchs, the blind, and the deformed could still worship God, sacrifice, go to the Synagogue on Saturday and are in Heaven today – sans malady, to the praise of God!


And so, to sum up, lying is always wrong; as is stealing, murder and adultery, etc. because the laws that govern morality transcend governments, societies and cultures.  Jewish social and religious laws do not apply to anyone who is not Jewish (unless they are attempting to become Jewish or perhaps see some personal benefit).  Eating pork is a sin to a Jew but not a Christian because that law is societal, not moral.


No room for all of the Bible references that could have been used in this article.  If you’re interested, write me and I’ll provide them all.

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