Old Testament Law

Reading through the Old Testament can sometimes be challenging. It is especially so when God’s Law which is revealed in the Old Testament seems inapplicable or even outright insupportable to what we are taught in the New Testament. At first glance, we can mistakenly believe that the God of the Old Testament was full of wrath, anger, and vengeance whereas the God of the New Testament is the polar opposite; in that He is full of love, grace and mercy. Of course, this is a bewildering outlook to maintain, for the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament! He is unchangeable!

Many atheists, who generally do not know the truth, typically view the Old Testament and New Testament as contradictory, specifically in regards to the Law.

Often, an atheist will quote Matthew 5:17-18 where Jesus states, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Upon misinterpreting Jesus’ words, such atheists will proceed to bring up strict Old Testament laws that Christians do not follow today, such as the stoning of a rebellious son (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), and ask the question: “If you are a Christian, why is it that only certain biblical law is followed and not the seemingly strict Old Testament Law that your God had commanded you to do?”

The Law of the Old Testament was a part of God’s original covenant with the nation of Israel. The old covenant was broken by Israel, so in Jeremiah 31:31-33, God makes a promise that He will establish a new covenant: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah . . . I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.”

The new covenant does not give us the liberty to live apart from the Law, as it is still regarded as our standard for living. However, the Law has revealed that we do not measure up to the standard of holiness that God desires us to have. As we cannot attain perfection by our own strength and effort, Jesus Christ, our merciful Savior, was sent as the fulfillment and foundation of the new covenant. Moreover, it is through His strength and not our own, that we are able to follow God’s Law, which He has written upon our hearts. Jesus Christ’s death and His resurrection fulfilled the requirements of the Old Testament Law once and for all. He had fulfilled the old sacrificial requirements that once had to be followed to the letter and has established the new covenant based on God’s mercy.

Thus, in effect, the Old Testament Law (and old covenant) was twofold: Firstly, the Law was established by God to help us understand God’s holiness, in that He is set apart, different and righteous. Secondly, the Law was established to help us know what sin is.

Finally, after answering the above query about the Old Testament Law, politely ask, “If the Bible were irrelevant, what is your basis for a moral law?”

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