Wednesday, 1 December 2010


Some people are a bit sceptical when they hear Christians say that certain Old Testament laws don't apply today - it seems these Christians are just picking and choosing what bits of the Bible they want to obey and what they want to throw out. 

They very often will claim that Christians don't really take the Bible seriously because we don't observe the dietary laws or the laws relating to clothing.  They point out that we want to hold to the moral laws but generally don't insist on the death penalty for their violation.  This, they say, shows that Christians hold that their own reason is a more reliable guide to morality than the Bible.

This mistaken notion stems from the fact that the critics aren't prepared to think.  They simply see a verse that Christians don't appear to observe, they put their finger on it and start a victory dance.  However, they'd be better served sitting back down and doing a bit more reading, because Christians aren't as inconsistent as they are made out to be.  Let me try to illustrate.

It's against the law to drive on the left side of the road in mainland Europe.  But I drive on the left side of the road everyday.  Am I breaking the law?  No, because I don't live in a country in which that is against the law.  The laws of another country, and the penalties for their violation don't have juristiction over me.  It will obviously be the case that many countries will have similar laws because some things are wrong wherever you are in the world, but each country will have laws that are solely applicable to its own citizens.

The same is true with the Old Testament law.  The twelve tribes of Israel were taken out of Egypt and constituted a Nation at Mount Sinai.  Every nation needs a law so God gave the law to Israel.  That Old Covenant was not for the nations around, it was something for those in the Theocracy. 

Now of course, some of the specific laws are binding upon all people because to violate them is objectively wrong.  This is where people accuse Christians of arbitrarily picking and choosing, but it's not so for a few reasons.
  1. God has written the work of the law on our hearts so that we have moral intuitions (Romans 2 v 15), telling us that certain acts are really wrong.  No one needs to be told that lying, adultery, murder, selfishness etc. are wrong - we know it.
  2. Nine of the ten commandments are repeated, or alluded to, in the New Testament, showing us that these commandments communicate God's standard to everyone at all times.
  3. When God was giving certain prohibitions to the nation of Israel He told them that these acts He forbad were the abominations of the nations, and God actually judged the nations around for their practice of these things (Leviticus 18 v 24-30; Deuteronomy 18 v 9-14).  This shows that these things weren't peculiar to Israel, but the violations of objective standards written on the hearts of all men.
Some things were wrong simply because God said so (e.g. not eating certain foods or wearing certain clothes).  An Israelite who ate the forbidden food would have sinned because he disobeyed God, not because there's anything inherently sinful in the food.  Thus, if you weren't in the nation of Israel under the Theocracy, such laws weren't binding on you.  However, other things are wrong because they are an offence against God's holy nature, and therefore, no matter who does it, and where and when, it is sin.  We all fall under that condemnation, and we know it (Romans 3 v 19).  God's holy law, written in our hearts, expressed in His Word, condemns us all.  That is why we need the Saviour that God provided (John 3 v 16; 1Corinthians 15 v 1-4).