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Does God Still Expect Us to Obey His Law?


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]


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.


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).


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?


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?


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  • Love the picture of the transformation that God does in your Heart Change section. 

    I have a question Derek, if you don't mind. Where does the divisions come from (civic, moral, ceremonial)? When I see The Law I see it as 613 (I think that's the right number) laws that God gave to His people via Moses and I thought it had always been referred to as THE Law all grouped together not with division. 


    • Hi Annette, as the article says, the laws fall under three headings, just as the Ten Commandments fall into two parts, our relationship with God and those between each other. It is interesting that the writer notes that many of the laws are no longer required or needed, because in our society they are either no longer required or possible/practical. Many of the laws about protecting health are practised by most people, like washing, or eating pork (pig-meat goes off very quickly in the desert or summer) preventing food poisoning.


      The ceremonial laws are traditions that developed, just as our ceremony in our churches evolved over time, the liturgy and the spiritual year. As was pointed out, there is no longer any need for sacrifice any more, Jesus performed that sacrifice, once and for all on the cross. However many of the ceremonial traditions have been absorbed into our worship traditions, the reading of scripture, the following of a seasonal liturgy, singing praise and listening to a preach. Many of the laws though, were written by man, and many of these are what is known as 'Fencing Laws', these are laws that stop the people from breaking God's law. A classic example of his is the law that no one should mention God's name. This is centred on the third commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” There was obviously confusion as to what was “take the name of the Lord your God in vain,” actually was, so the law-makers banned the using of His name, but allowed the description of 'Lord'. In our society today we hear people breaking this law over and over again, even Christians seem to thing that it does not apply to them, with their 'OMG's. So a fence law was made that His name should not be uttered unless in a formal situation, in prayer or in ceremony.


      At the very core of the Law are the Ten Commandments, but there are laws, many other laws, and laws that command that we observe certain days. The foremost of these is His very first commandment to observe the seventh day of the week as holy and to use it as both a rest (God knew that man would need one day's rest a week), “Man was made for the Sabbath not man for the Sabbath [Mark 2:27]. So why does it matter what day the Sabbath is on, I hear you say, as long as there is one day? It matters simply because God made that seventh day Holy, and therefore different to any other day. It was Constantine who changed the day in the third century, because that was the day that the Romans were used to worshipping, their Sun god. In 1 Corinthians 11:1-2 it tells us, “ Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.” Jesus followed the laws of God during His life and taught others to 'follow Him' in their own lives, He worshipped on the Seventh Day, and He observed the ordained feasts of His Father, Passover, Feast of Booths, Hanukkah, and so on. As I have said previously, all God's ordained feasts (Sabbaths) are set to remind us of the great things He has done for us, His people, not just genetic Jews.

      I hope this answers you question, although I may have wandered a little.



      • Hi Derek,

        I kept meaning to come back to this because I appreciate you responding and then I'd forget. I'm not sure you really answered my question. It almost sounds like one would get to pick and choose which law they will abide by. There are 613 laws that are part of THE LAW that God gave the Israelites and are all part of THE LAW as God refers to it. There doesn't seem to ever be distinguishing between them (civic, ceremonial, moral) and that seems to be a human thought applied. We've talked a little bit about this before but I still don't understand where that distinction comes from. The thousands and thousands of laws that man has in the Talmud are just that..... man put in there but THE LAW from my understanding are the 613 commandments given directly by God to Moses for His people.


        • Of course Annette, the Israelies stacked laws on laws on laws, so many that it is very confusing.  As yu say, the Talmud notes that the Hebrew numerical value (gematria) of the word "Torah" is 611, and combining Moses's 611 commandments with the first two of the Ten Commandments, which were the only ones heard directly from God, adds up to 613.  If you look on Wikipedia you will find a full list of the laws, I tried to past them here but we are restricted to 40,000 characters.  I know what you are saying sister, that if we break one law we are guilty of breaking all of them, but that's why we have Jesus as our advocate.  The more we try to obey His laws, the more we please Him and the less we try the more we sadden or anger Him.  In 1 John 5:2 John sets out simply what we need to do to please Him: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” Surely if we love someone, we want to please them, and in innumerable places in the Bible, both old and new testaments that tells us this.

          Law 347, for instance tells us Not to burn honey or yeast on the altar — Lev. 2:11. and many, many of the laws are like this one, which come into the ceremonial group, does 376, To remove the ashes from the altar every day — Lev. 6:3. We have no need to observe these because Jesus made these laws obsolete as He was our sacrifice. We do not offer up physical sacrifices any more. Many of the health related laws we observe automatically in this age (or most do), like letting a field lay fallow every few years, washing, It would be difficult to remember every law in its detail, so I believe we must concentrate on the more important laws, such as law one and the first few laws:

          1. To know there is a God — Ex. 20:2

          2. Not to even think that there are other gods besides Him — Standard: Ex. 20:3; Yemenite: Ex. 20:2 [17]

          3. To know that God is One — Deut. 6:4

          4. To love God —Deut. 6:5

          5. To fear God — Deut. 10:20

          6. To sanctify God's Name — Lev. 22:32

          7. Not to profane God's Name — Lev. 22:32

          Also observing certain memorial laws that are ordained to remind us of what God has done for the His people, Seventh day Sabbath (the very first ordinance given, because He blessed that day and made it holy. Passover which He ordained to be observed by all people forever.


          I am still not sure if I have answered your question, if not maybe you can the question a little for me.

          Bless you my sister.

          • Blessings to you too Derek. You know I appreciate these conversations. :)  I don't see that you have answered my question, it could be that you are thinking more deeply than the question really is. There are many divisions in the Bible that are not original. They are there to be of help to us but because people have done the dividing sometimes it means we miss out on some context if we're not careful. I can't think of a specific example at the moment but I've seen it and I"m hoping you know what I mean with that. 

            That said, I don't believe that God divided the commandments into different types, but man did, likely to be a help to understand them a bit more. It is that division that I'm questioning because if I read correctly you said that we should keep one type (I don't remember you saying it exactly that way but don't have the time to quote you). Sooo just the divisions is what I was questionning. How did one come up with those since (and I may have simply missed it) I don't see God saying... these are the civil laws, these are the ceremonial laws, these are the moral laws. Does that make more sense?


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