In today's Olive Tree Bible newsletter there was an article about observing the Old Testament laws, which I found interesting, it was headlined:
Does the Old Testament Law Still Apply?
Well as many of you know, I believe it does still apply, but the article made several good points, the article says:
Christ Came to Fulfil the Law
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18 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. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." [Matthew 5:17-20]
DOES THE OLD TESTAMENT LAW STILL APPLY?
If Jesus did not come to abolish the law, does that mean all the Old Testament laws still apply to us today? In the Old Testament, the law can be understood to have three dimensions: ceremonial, civil, and moral.
The ceremonial law related specifically to Israel’s worship (see Lev 1:2-3, for example). Its primary purpose was to point forward to Jesus Christ; these laws, therefore, were no longer necessary after Jesus’ death and resurrection. While we are no longer bound by ceremonial law, the principles behind them—to worship and love a holy God—still apply. Jesus was often accused by the Pharisees of violating ceremonial law.
The civil law applied to daily living in Israel (see Deut 24:10-11, for example). Because modern society and culture are so radically different from that time and setting, all of these guidelines cannot be followed specifically. But the principles behind the commands are timeless and should guide our conduct. Jesus demonstrated these principles by example.
The moral law (such as the Ten Commandments) is the direct command of God, and it requires strict obedience (see Exod 20:13, for example). The moral law reveals the nature and will of God, and it still applies today. Jesus obeyed the moral law completely.
THE ULTIMATE GOAL
God’s laws were given to help people love God with all their hearts and minds. Throughout Israel’s history, however, these laws had often been misquoted and misapplied. By Jesus’ time, religious leaders had turned the laws into a confusing mass of rules. When Jesus talked about a new way to understand God’s law, he was actually trying to bring people back to its original purpose. Jesus did not speak against the law itself but against the abuses and excesses to which it had been subjected (see John 1:17).
OBEYING > EXPLAINING
Some of those in the crowd were experts at telling others what to do, but they themselves missed the central point of God’s laws. Jesus made it clear that obeying God’s laws is more important than explaining them. It’s much easier to study God’s laws and tell others to obey them than to put them into practice. How are you doing at obeying God yourself?
HEART CHANGE > OBEYING
The Pharisees were exacting and scrupulous in their attempts to follow their laws. So how could Jesus reasonably call us to greater righteousness than theirs? The Pharisees’ weakness was that they were content to obey the laws outwardly without allowing God to change their hearts (or attitudes). They looked pious, but they were far from the Kingdom of Heaven. God judges our hearts as well as our deeds, for it is in the heart that our real allegiance lies.
Jesus was saying that his listeners needed a different kind of righteousness altogether (out of love for God), not just a more intense version of the Pharisees’ obedience (which was mere legal compliance). Our righteousness must
(1) come from what God does in us, not what we can do by ourselves,
(2) be God-centered, not self-centered,
(3) be based on reverence for God, not approval from people, and
(4) go beyond keeping the law to living by the principles behind the law. We should be just as concerned about our attitudes that people don’t see as about our actions that they do see.
So ends the article:
Whether we are Catholic or Protestant, Evangelical or Baptist, we are still operating under the false belief that our Christian faith is a true faith, unaltered since the time of Jesus. Not so. We are told to use Jesus’ life as a role-model for our own lives and the the model for our churches. Yet at the time Christianity, or ‘The Wat’ as it was then known, was being accepted as the official faith of the Roman Empire, it was changed beyond our recognition. The Romans really wanted to hold onto all of their demigods, the gods that explained how the things they didn’t understand, happened. For that reason a system of ‘saints’ was introduced, the early church fathers all became saints, St. Matthew, St. Paul, St. Peter, an so on, replaced the Parthenon of Roman, Greek, and Egyptian gods. The Lord’s day was changed from the God-ordained seventh day to Sunday, the day that the Roman’s worshipped the their Sun god. The whole process was also an antisemitic one as the Jews had hit another low in popularity. The Roman Emperor Constantine had a hatred of Jews, who had caused more problems than any other conquered country in the empire. To replace Passover, Easter, named after a fertility god, was appointed, Christmas replaced Hanukah, Harvest Festival replaced the Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths, and so on. These days, even for the most devoted and devout Christian and church, it is impossible to please God by obeying His laws. It is so fortunate that God helped us by giving us Jesus, Amen?