On Stoning Adulterers and Not Eating Shellfish

by Hugh Fulford
via The Fellowship Room

Periodically — at least three or four times a year — someone feels compelled to demonstrate his or her lack of knowledge of the Bible by writing a letter to the editor of the local newspaper railing against Bible-believers who oppose homosexuality. (Capital punishment of convicted murderers is another popular target of such uninformed railing.) Their argument regarding homosexuality runs as follows: "If you are going to condemn homosexuality because the Bible condemns homosexuality, then you also must condemn eating pork and shellfish because the Bible also condemns that. And the Bible also commands that adulterers be stoned, so why don't you do that?" The charge is then made that we are guilty of "cherry-picking biblical laws" when we ignore the restrictions on the eating of certain foods and when we do not execute adulterers, but insist on condemning homosexuality. A recent letter writer said, "Most Tennesseans freely ignore such verses, so why not can the hypocrisy and let gays also do as they think best?"

The Bible certainly does contain prohibitions on the eating of certain kinds of foods, including pork, catfish, shellfish, and other food items (Leviticus 11:1-23). And the Bible clearly commands that adulterers, as well as a host of other sexually immoral persons, including a man who lies (has sexual intercourse) with a male as he lies with a woman, are to be stoned to death (Leviticus 20:8-21). But what is overlooked by those who cite these biblical injunctions is that all of them are part of the Law of Moses that governed the Hebrews / Israelites / Jews before the coming of Christ and the inauguration of the New Testament (covenant).

The Law of Moses was given to the Israelites / Jews (Deuteronomy 5:1-3). It was never binding upon Gentiles except as Gentiles voluntarily became proselytes to the Jewish faith. With the ministry of Christ and His death on the cross, the Old Testament was abrogated and the gospel/the law of Christ became effective. Christ fulfilled the Old Testament law (Matthew 5:17) and took it out of the way, "having nailed it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14). "Therefore let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ" (Colossians 2:16-17).

Christians do not observe the sabbath (Saturday), celebrate the Old Testament feasts or festivals, observe the dietary laws of Judaism, or stone adulterers. In the past, God spoke to the Hebrew/Israelite fathers by the prophets, but "in these last days (the Christian age, hf), [He] has spoken to us by His Son" (Hebrews 1:1-2). The gospel of Christ is for every person in all nations — both Jews and Gentiles (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). The gospel of Christ — not the Law of Moses — is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16; 3:20).

The gospel (the law of Christ, the New Testament) places no restrictions on certain foods. Rather, all foods have been created by God "to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving" (I Timothy 4:3-4). (Nevertheless, I am thankful that I have choices in both meats and vegetables, and that I do not have to eat escargot, sushi, tofu, or anything else I choose not to eat.)

At the same time, the gospel (the law of Christ, the New Testament) makes it clear that adultery, fornication, and homosexuality are still wrong and are still as severely condemned as they were under the Old Testament. (See Romans 1:26-32; I Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:8; et al). The difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament with reference to these and other kinds of sexual sins is that God (not man) is the final Judge and Executioner (Romans 1:32; 2:16; II Corinthians 5:10-11; Revelation 20:12)! In the meantime, while man is not the judge and executioner in such matters, Christians are to have no fellowship with members of the church who persist in a sinful and disobedient lifestyle (I Corinthians 5).

Thus, before one begins to make uninformed charges about "cherry-picking biblical laws," it would be beneficial for one to become informed about the different religious covenants set forth in the Bible, and to determine to whom the various laws were given and how long those laws continued in force.

"Be diligent (study) to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing (handling accurately) the word of truth" (II Timothy 2:15).