It seems to me that Christians regularly receive criticism for being hypocritical with regards to the Old Testament. Many outside of the Church claim that Christians are hypocrites if they do not obey the laws of the Old Testament while some Christians fall into the traps of legalism in their attempts to uphold the Law. So the question remains, “Should Christians hold to Old Testament law?
The answer, in short, is yes and no. Time and time again in the Old Testament we see God giving His People, the Israelites, specific commands in order to worship Him and to separate them from the neighboring peoples. These commands or laws can be divided into three categories:
This instructed Israel how to worship Yahweh correctly and is found in Leviticus 1-7. All of these laws were shadows that pointed to the coming Messiah and were a reflection of the tabernacle of Heaven. Because the Messiah has come in the form of Jesus Christ and the new covenant was inaugurated through Jesus’ blood, we no longer hold to Ceremonial Law.
This law instructed Israel how to carry on with people in civil and social matters such as those found in Deuteronomy 21. The civil laws given to Israel were dependent upon the culture of that time. Because we live in a society and culture that is so distinct from Israel’s, Civil Law typically does not apply to us, but nonetheless reflects the loving and caring nature of God.
This law is like that found in the Ten Commandments. While the other types of law indirectly reflect the character of God, Moral Law directly reflects the nature and character of God, and therefore must be followed. The beautiful thing though, is this:
He said to him, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”
The Moral Law of the Old Testament is fulfilled by loving God and loving others. It is impossible to disobey and to sin against God if we are choosing to actively love Him. Why did all the Old Testament Law exist then? Paul states,
The law then, was our guardian, until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith, But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
The Law was a reminder to the people of Israel that they needed a Messiah because they could not live by the Law with their own strength. No matter how hard they tried and no matter how hard we try, no person can uphold the righteous standards of God. But Christ, coming in the form of man, as a brother to us, did what we couldn’t do by keeping the righteousness of God. It is through Christ, that we uphold the Law and have a right standing with God. It is through His blood that we even have the ability to love God and others. And it is through that same blood that we are accepted by God and called sons and daughters.