The Old Testament Law [What Is It?]

The Law Part 1

The Old Testament Law Is Not For Today, Or Is It?

The Old Testament Law is a confusing topic for many people. I first learned about it as a boy going to Sunday School. The main emphasis was on the Ten Commandments but it wasn’t limited to that. It’s funny how things stick out in your memory. I remember how odd it seemed that God wouldn’t let His people eat bacon or ham. Also, the whole idea of sacrificing animals conjured up some incredible images in my young mind.

Old Testament Law

Most of us understand the Ten Commandments but other than that we don’t know what to do with the Old Testament Law. I put a poll question on Twitter and Facebook about the Law. Even though the results aren’t scientific I think they’re accurate. The question was, “Is the Old Testament Law for us today?” Here are the results

Is the Old Testament Law for us today?

These results look like some polls I’ve seen for how people feel about different presidential candidates! I think one reason for the wide variety of opinions is that we aren’t sure what’s meant by Old Testament Law. Let’s try to clear that up.

Defining The Term “Old Testament Law”

  1. The word “law” in our English Bibles is the translation of the Hebrew word “torah.” Torah has a general range of meaning including direction, teaching or law. In fact, the idea of “law” isn’t the primary meaning of the Hebrew term. It has developed as a specialized meaning, however, and that’s what we’re interested in understanding.
  2. One specialized use of the word Law or Torah is to refer to the first five books of the Bible. These five books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are called the Law or Torah because that’s where you’ll find the Old Testament Law.
  3. Another specialized use of the term is to refer to the 613 different commandments that collectively make up the Old Testament Law. If you’re curious, here’s a list of all 613 different commandments.
  4. Finally, the term Old Testament Law is used to describe the two-way agreement between God and the people of Israel. That agreement is sometimes called a covenant. When the Jews kept the Law they were keeping their covenant with God. When they didn’t follow the Law they were breaking their agreement with God. God promised to bless them when they kept the Law. He also promised to curse them if they broke the Law. They agreed to these terms!

It’s easy to see that the answers to the poll will differ greatly depending upon what aspect of the term Old Testament Law you have in mind. In our next post we’ll talk about the different kinds of laws that make up the Old Testament Law.

Here’s something to think about today. The Law was about obedience. God cares about and rewards obedience. The odds are you’ll face a moment today when you’ll have to choose if you’re going to obey God or not. Think about it wisely. God still blesses those who obey Him!

What do you think? Please leave a comment or question below. I’d love to hear from you.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Zolile Ntshona

    “1. The law is needed because through it we are aware of what sin is; we know what is correct and what is incorrect.

    2. The Lord Jesus Christ takes saved people out of the law of God because of its high standard, quality, and perfection, and because not a single human being is able to fulfill its requirements.

    3. To be born-again means that the Lord Jesus Christ is doing everything for us.

    4. There is one thing that could be the main reason why born-again people cannot fulfill the requirements of the law themselves. It is the old tent (the body).

    The benefit for born-again Christians is that the Lord is doing everything. The disadvantage for someone who is not yet born again is the endless contradiction in fulfilling the requirements of the law—which while people may try to do it, the law of sin and of death controls and deceives the person.

    Hebrews 8:7 states that, “If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it.” The latter is not about the law but the agreement or contract between parties. Humankind failed to honor the contractual agreement.

    I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. (Romans 7:15 NLT)

    Using human sense, the apostle Paul outlines how bad it is to do the opposite of what one values. The intention of a human being is to do what one wishes, which is good. Be that as it may, all of us can attest to the fact that on innumerable occasions, we have done or are doing that which we dislike. It is unbearable to do what one dislikes, knowing the beauty of what one likes, which is the law of God. The apostle Paul, to show that it is bad to do the opposite of the law of God, states that in this situation one is puzzled by one’s own actions. Aiming to do what is right, one finds oneself doing what is contrary to one’s intentions.

    But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. (Romans 7:16 NLT)

    A clear demonstration that the law is good is the fact that when humankind does what is different from what it desires, which is the law of God, it finds that it is excellent. It is not nice to do something different from what one desires.

    So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:17 NLT)

    Prompting me to do what I loathe and what is contrary to my desires is sin. The body is an abode for the law of sin and of death. The body does not have control over sin, but sin directs the path. It has a form of tenure or ownership over humankind.

    And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. (Romans 7:18 NLT)

    Sin contradicts the willpower of a human being. Wishes and performances are contradicted by the law of sin and death dwelling in the body. What disturbs the best wishes is the fact that there is no power to do them. Sin has taken control over everything.

    Conclusion

    • Are we dead to the law? Yes.

    • Are we a bride to the Lord Jesus Christ? Yes. We now have a new Bridegroom, but the marriage law has not changed. The advantage is that our Bridegroom is fulfilling everything (marriage law) for us.

    • Why did the Lord Jesus Christ give His life for our sins? Because God loves us so much. We had to be taken out of the law of God and be joined with the Lord Jesus Christ, who, on His own, came to fulfill the high standard, high requirements, and perfection of the law.

    • Is there anything we need to do to fulfill the law of God? No. We need to cling relentlessly to the Lord.

    • Are you then saying that the law of God is nonexistent? No. It is extremely crucial for me in a plethora of things, including my prayer, for example, as a born-again child of God. Also, it is extremely crucial for those who are not born again, who know what they are supposed to do or not do but are incapable of achieving their requirements because of the law of sin and of death in the body. God the Son had to take sin from us and take us out of the law because He is the only One who can fulfill the high requirements of the standard, quality, and perfection of the law. Someone who is not born again requires direction to rest despite the evil around, through being born again.

    At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life. (Romans 7:9 NLT)

    This demonstrates the importance of being born again and the importance of Christ fulfilling the law for us (Matthew 5:17) since we will surely not be able to honor every aspect of the law since it is interwoven (e.g., you break one, you have broken everything, James 2:10). The Lord knows very well that we are unable to keep His law. He therefore made sure we were taken out of it, not because it is faulty but because of its standard, quality, and perfection. Having said that, the law of God is relevant and has to be preached and underpinned by salvation to reveal a route through which listeners and/or viewers can be righteous before God—not because of the listeners’ and/or viewers’ ability to be holy but because of what the Lord Jesus Christ did and the tasks currently done by the Holy Spirit.”

    • Hi Zolile,

      Wow, what a long comment! It’s clear you have studied this and thought about it. Thanks for posting your thoughts.

      Ward