Old Testament Law

Recently, I have been thinking about why I do not follow the laws of the Old Testament. Here is my explanation.

God chose Israel to be a special people, set apart from the rest of the nations. But His plan was always to bring the whole world to Himself through Israel. The Old Testament covenant with Israel was a way of setting them apart, while foreshadowing what was to come. Throughout its history, Israel had trouble following the law for any length of time, and one of its purposes was to show them that they were incapable of fulfilling the law on their own. And so they waited.

Then one day, “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2) – Jesus arrived, and said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). Jesus became the perfect sacrifice that the Old Testament sacrifices foreshadowed. In the Sermon on the Mount, He explained that loving God was more than just following a list of rules. Repeatedly He says “you have heard that it was said… but I say to you…” Through His death and resurrection, Jesus fulfilled the demands of the law in a way we never could have on our own, and made salvation available to all people, not just Israel. That’s the gospel – the “good news”, salvation had finally come, through Israel, to the whole world.

I am a Gentile. I was never under the Old Covenant. Through Christ, I am under the New Covenant. Paul, on his missionary journeys to the Gentiles, told them they did not have to become Jews. “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God” (1 Corinthians 7:19). By circumcision, he meant keeping the Old Testament law, and he makes a distinction between that and “the commandments of God.” We Gentiles are required to obey God’s commandments in the New Covenant.

Now that Christ has fulfilled the law, trying to keep the Old Testament laws is trying to do what has already been done. Like saving your dimes & nickels when you’ve already inherited a kingdom, or like offering to pay for your dinner at a wedding banquet. It’s already taken care of. We don’t need to sacrifice animals any more; the ultimate sacrifice has been paid. That’s the good news of the Gospel.

The Old Testament law provided a foreshadowing of what was to come, but now it is here, the kingdom of heaven is at hand. When Paul heard that some people were still trying to convince the Galatians to obey the Law, he said “O Foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth” (Galatians 3:1), and tells them to “stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1). Paul’s epistle explains that while we are condemned by the law, faith sets us free to enjoy liberty in Christ. The Old Testament law is not done away with; rather, it is fulfilled for us through Christ.

So I do not obey the Old Testament law because as a Gentile, I was never under the law, and trying to keep it would be a step backward to the first covenant. If that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one. The New Covenant requires that we worship God “in spirit and truth.” It’s from our hearts, not just our outward actions. God complained that people “draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote.” (Isaiah 29:13). I don’t want to be like that, instead, I want to be the type of person who loves God with my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Leave a Reply