Question:

I read your article regarding following the Old Testament and I'm just trying to wrap my head around the entire idea of old covenant versus the new covenant. The old covenant were the laws and edicts of God to Moses and his people, however, through Jesus, God imposed a new covenant that was guided by Jesus and his words advocating for a focus on loving God and loving your neighbor (among other things).

Correct me if I'm wrong, but does this new covenant override the laws of Moses and Leviticus entirely allowing us as Christains to follow what Jesus has set forth without due regard the the laws of Moses and Leviticus? My pastor preached something similar, but not as a definitive way. Instead he says that the Old Testament signifies the promise, and the New Testament signifies the promise fulfilled and, therefore, it is not mandatory that we follow the law of the Old Testament, but it is not wrong if we do. Is it safe to say by focusing solely on the ministry of Jesus and his word and what he wants us as Christians to do as well as accepting him as my savior I am living correctly? In effect, the entire premise that mainstream Christianity is predicated on is entirely wrong (e.g. homosexuality as a sin, anti-contraception, potentially anti-abortion) and that in truth Christianity permits a lot more than people would like to believe.

Thank you for your help.


Answer:

Using the illustration of a marriage covenant that permits a person to be married to one other person, Paul proves that the Old Law "died" allowing the Jews to enter into the covenant of Christ. "Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another -- to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God" (Romans 7:1-4).

Paul made a similar point to both the Colossians and the Ephesians, only addressing issue from the point of the Gentiles:

"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." (Colossians 2:13-14).

"Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh -- who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands -- that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity" (Ephesians 2:11-16).

The Law of Moses was exclusively given to the Israelites. Moses told the Israelites, "And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day" (Deuteronomy 4:8). It was a law that was unique and new. "And Moses called all Israel, and said to them: "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive" (Deuteronomy 5:1-3). But until that law came to an end, it was not possible to extend a covenant that would include the Gentiles.

But both laws -- the Old and the New -- come from the same God. While many requirements changed to suit God's purpose, some things never change. Sin remains sin. For example, you are incorrect to assume that homosexuality is only condemned in the Old Law. It is condemned in Romans 1:26-27; I Corinthians 6:9-10; I Timothy 1:9-11; and Jude 6-7. For a complete list, see Homosexuality. Contraception is not condemned in either the Old or New Law, but abortives would be a form of murder, which is condemned in both the Old and New Laws. See Contraceptives.

We study the Old Law because the New Law assumes that its readers are familiar with the Old Law.

"For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Romans 15:4).

"Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. ... Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come" (I Corinthians 10:6, 11).

The New Law often mentions something in brief and we then turn to the Old Law for a detailed explanation. As an example, "Remember Lot's wife" (Luke 17:32), not understandable unless you are familiar with Genesis. Similarly Ephesians 6:4 says, "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord," but it doesn't give details as to how a parent accomplishes this. But a review of Proverbs gives useful specifics.

However, we cannot go the other way around. We cannot take something out of the Old Law and claim it is binding on Christians without something in the New Law first telling us. An example is the requirement in the Old Law to circumcise all male children (Romans 17:10-15). That law was not continued in the Law of Christ. To pull it in as a requirement would be equivalent to woman marrying a second husband before her first husband's death. "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace" (Galatians 5:1-4).