Wednesday, October 1, 2014

All of the OT is Not the OT Law

We must be careful at this point. So far in this series I've mentioned the Old Testament, the Old Testament Law, and the Old Covenant. It is extremely important that we do not confuse these three or think of them as being synonymous. If we do this, we may end up considering the Old Testament as irrelevant. This would be a tragic mistake.

The Old Testament is all of the books from Genesis to Malachi (or in the ordering of the Hebrew bible: Genesis to Chronicles). The OT Law is found in the OT; we read it specifically from the second half of Exodus through Leviticus and into the first part of Numbers. The Old Covenant is God's agreement with Israel that is founded upon the law given at Mount Sinai.

I want to make it clear in this post that all of the OT is not the OT law. In fact, a good portion of the OT still has direct application for us today. One clear example of this is the book of Psalms. This lengthy book amounts to praise after praise of our wondrous God. There's no reason to think that this would change between the time it was written and today.

We must be alert as we read through the pages of the OT. Some sections that are not part of the OT law still refer directly back to it and are connected with it. For example, instructions related to care and upkeep of the temple fall into this category. These aspects do not pertain to us today. They are interesting historically and show us much about the holiness of God. In that sense they are instructive. However, they do not tell us how to live now.

We read other OT passages that deal directly with holy living, acceptable worship of God, care and service to other people, avoidance of false teaching, danger of idolatry, etc. that do have direct application to the life of the church today. We need to pay careful attention to these parts of the Old Testament.

Blessedly, we do not have to follow the OT law. However, the law is not all we find in the OT. It is the other parts of the OT that we must not ignore as we ask how we must live today.

One other important thing to keep in mind as we read the OT is genre. We'll look at that next in this series.

10 comments:

Aussie John said...

Eric,
I've followed your blog long enough to know that you, as I,have had some very adamant opinions, which we had to change; you quite a bit more recent than I.

One thing we learn is that when the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to discovering what we thought was set in concrete,isn't quite so.

From Genesis to Malachi we read of the coming fulfillment of God's promised New Covenant person, Jesus(Isaiah 42:6).

The law, from which Christ's inauguration of the New Covenant set His followers free, is the whole of the 613 laws, including the ten of Mt Sinai.

I think we have yet something more to learn.

Eric said...

John,

Well said. The scriptures are full of treasures that God is thrilled to show us if we are only open to it.

Mike White said...

No no no.
The law I was set free from was NOT the 613 Laws of the Mosaic Covenant. NO!

Rather it is the Law of God that has always been and always will be.

Eric said...

Mike,

Thanks for participating here. Your comment is fairly sparse; can you please elaborate?

Goblin said...

Two questions for Eric and Aussie John
In saying that the Law we have been set free from is the 613 laws given to the people of Israel, are you rejecting the traditional theological approach of dividing the law into moral, civil and ceremonial?
Secondly, are all unbelievers - those before the law given on Mt. Sinai, those never part of the people of Israel and those now outside of Christ, going to be judged on the basis of the 613 laws given to Israel, or some other definition of 'the Law of God'?

Eric said...

Paul,

Yes, I reject the segmenting of the law into three sections. I find it artificial and see no basis for it in the New Testament.

Regarding your second question, I believe scripture is clear that all have sinned. This condemns us before God. This is, of course, why we need the perfect substitute in Christ. As for what law we have broken, we've certainly failed to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. We've also broken some of the Ten Commandments. In the end, we all know we are guilty regardless of which "set of laws" we choose to look at.

Mike White said...

Eric,
The 613 laws or the Mosaic Covenant was only for the Jewish people. It never, as a unit, was binding on Gentiles, except those who voluntarily put themselves under it.

The eternal Law of God is the code of His righteousness. It is how a Gentile who never heard of the Mosaic Law was condemned for their sins, because God has written the works of the law on the hearts of every person, and thus we all come to recognize right from wrong via our conscious. See Romans 2.

But the eternal Law of God, which is His righteousness, can not make anyone right with God once they have broken it. Once you sin, you can never do enough good to overcome that sin, since all good you can do is already expected under Law. Thus the Law, which is good, condemns sinners, and can not save them.

Now the Mosaic Law is gone. It binds no one today. But ye the world remains under the Law of God unless released from their deserved consequence of sin, eternal death, by the blood of the Lord.

Eric said...

Mike,

Thanks for clarifying. I agree with much of what you say, especially, "Thus the Law, which is good, condemns sinners, and can not save them."

Goblin said...

I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying Eric and I also find there is no basis for dividing the OT law into moral, civic and ceremonial. I also think Mike's clarification is very helpful in answering my underlying question too.
As far as I can see, we're all singing from the same hymn sheet here! How blessed it is to be united!

Paul

Eric said...

Paul,

I agree that we are all on the same page. I'm deeply thankful for that.

I hope we can, given the opportunity, convince other believers that they do not need to follow the law in any of their church practices.