Understanding Why The Old Testament Law is Not For Today

The Law Part 2

Digging Deeper Into the Law Of Moses

In my last post I pointed out that the term “Old Testament Law” is generally used in four ways. For the sake of this post we’re going to use it by its most common meaning. Let’s agree (for this post) that the term “Old Testament Law” refers to the entire collection of 613 commandments God gave to Moses. Using that definition it’s safe to say that there is no one, anywhere, who thinks the Law is for today.

Aaron with the Law

Although I am at times given to hyperbole, I seldom take extreme positions on matters. I like to say there are two words I’m always sure never to use, the words always and never. 🙂 In order to understand why I say no one, anywhere today is following the whole Law, let’s take a closer look at those commandments.

Elusive Attempts To Categorize The Laws in the Law

The Old Testament is not written like a law book. Yes, there are places where you can find a grouping of laws. There are also places where laws are interspersed throughout the text. Moses didn’t make any attempt to categorize and collect similar laws in one place.

Over the years theologians have proposed different ways to understand the 613 commandments in the Law of Moses. A popular view, such as is espoused at one website is to put all the laws into three categories.

  1. judicial or civil –  The civil law deals mainly with relationships between individuals.
  2. ceremonial – The ceremonial law deals with the priesthood and various sacrifices.
  3. moral – The moral law legislates behavior based on the character of God.

Another view uses three different categories.

  1. laws to obey and please God – such as the Ten Commandments
  2. laws about how to worship and deal with sin – the sacrificial laws
  3. laws about how Israel was to be different from the nations – food and clothing laws

However you look at it, there is no way to put all the laws into neat categories. And looking at these categories, it’s clear there are parts of the law that no one follows today. Here are just a few examples to show my point.

  • Children aren’t put to death for striking their parents Exodus 21:15
  • People in Israel don’t let the land lie fallow, planting nothing every seventh year Exodus 23:10-11.
  • There are no longer cities of refuge for people to flee who accidentally kill another Deuteronomy 19:3.

You may be thinking, “That’s not what I mean by Old Testament Law.” If that’s so then you’re changing the definition. But you’re in good company. That’s what many think who say the Law is for today. It would be more accurate, and I would agree, if you were to say, “Some of the Law is for today.”

Does that mean we are to ignore the whole Law? Not at all. In our next post we’ll examine the ways the Law is still beneficial today.

What do you think? Please leave a comment or question below.