I get this question from time to time.
I have heard people say, “We are a New Testament church, so the Old Testament does not apply to us anymore.”
Or “how do I obey the Law in the New Testament era?” Both are very interesting questions and points of view, and yet both fall short of getting us to an adequate answer.
The Law was given to God’s people to show them how to live in such a way that pleases God, and to show the nations around them the best way to live.
God created ceremonial, civil and moral laws to help them do just that. But the Law is a double-edged sword. In showing how to live right, it inevitably would show them the wrong they were doing as well.
Seems like doomsday for humankind. We can never measure up.
Entering the world stage, God sends his son Jesus.
The perfect Israelite and perfect human being. He states in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Our hero has arrived.
Jesus is/was the only one who could keep the Law perfectly. He satisfies every bit and piece of it. Thank you God for Jesus. Otherwise, we would never measure up.
So where does that leave today’s church in relation to the Law?
Do we still keep the Ten Commandments, the ceremonial, civil and moral laws? If so, how? If not, why not?
I want to keep this pretty simple. The best way forward is to follow Jesus.
My answer to these questions is ... of course, yes, we follow the Law, all of it, but in a new and different way than the Israelites did. If we give our lives to Jesus, follow his footsteps in baptism (death, burial, resurrection symbolism) and allow His Holy Spirit to take control in our lives, then we will be obeying the Law.
How? If Jesus fulfills the law, and we are following Jesus, then we are, in essence, obeying the Law. Our application of the Law follows Jesus’ application of the Law. Jesus was asked in Matthew 22:36-40, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
“This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Love God. Love others. If you did this, Jesus says, you are obeying that Old Testament law completely.
You will not covet, steal, commit adultery or murder, because you love your neighbor. You will not worship anything else, because you love God. You can be ceremonially clean before a holy God, because God gives you his Holy Spirit to live in you. You can completely obey the Law because you love and follow Jesus!
So is the Old Testament law still valid for today? Of course, only as it has been fulfilled and defined through Jesus and our subsequent obedience to Him.
Oh, but there is one thing that does not require a law: Paul says in Galatians 3:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there IS NO LAW!”
Sounds like Jesus to me.
• Scott Zorn is the Lead Pastor at First Christian Church in Morris. Connest with FCC online at fccmorris.org.