When Christians read the Old Testament, they are often puzzled. They find many laws that seem to be part of Christianity, and yet they also find many laws that no one obeys. Laws of sacrifice, rituals and civil laws are mixed together with laws that tell people how to get along with others.
How can a Christian know which laws to keep? Does the Bible tell us? This series of Bible studies explores this topic in detail. You will need to look up each of the scriptures you find listed, because we have not taken the space to quote them. But it is worth the time to learn about how we ought to obey our Creator and Savior. We’ll begin with some general principles so that we lay a good foundation for discussing specific laws later in this study.
First, we will establish from Scripture that Christians are expected to obey God. Then we will look at God’s laws — starting in the time before Moses, then a closer look at the covenant made at Mt. Sinai. We will see how Jesus, Paul and the early church deal with the difference between old and new, then explore that difference with a few examples of laws that almost all Christians agree are obsolete.
We then apply those principles to the seven annual Sabbaths, dietary laws, and the weekly Sabbath. We close by noting some of the commands the New Testament gives us, and end by emphasizing that, although Christians should obey God, our salvation is received on the basis of faith, not on the basis of our obedience.
Letter From the Executive Editor
Many booklets and articles are published each year about the weekly Sabbath, the annual festivals and Old Testament dietary laws. Unfortunately, most of this literature does not take into account the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant.
The people who write this literature are usually eager to keep God’s law, but they rarely understand which laws were given to Christians and which were not. In some cases, they are concerned about sabbatical years, hybrid animals, hybrid seeds, mixed fabrics and other peripheral issues. They try to determine whether certain laws were ceremonial, civil, moral, economic or for health. They also struggle to understand and explain various New Testament verses that seemed to contradict their conclusions.
Through it all, they rarely attempt to deal with the concept of covenants, even though this is the framework in which God gave his laws to ancient Israel. Often, they act as if they were still under the old covenant. Some acknowledge that the old covenant had ended and that Christians should live by the principles of the new covenant, but they still do not clarify how to tell which old covenant laws are also in the new covenant.
Many Bible-believing people have found it difficult to reconcile biblical laws with Christian practice. They struggle with the tension between Old Testament law and the New Testament emphasis on grace. They struggle with the interpretation of certain verses.
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In this series, all scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com
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This series was written by Michael Morrison in 1997 and updated in 2014. Copyright Grace Communion International. All rights reserved. If you'd like to learn more about the Bible, check out Grace Communion Seminary. It's accredited, affordable, and all online. www.gcs.edu.
This series of studies is published with the hope and prayer that it will help everyone who wants to understand this subject better. We believe that our studies on this subject have helped us ask the right questions, and to examine the foundation and framework of God’s laws. We believe that this approach will help many people understand which Old Testament laws apply to Christians today regardless of whether they have ever kept any of these laws.
Equally sincere Christians sometimes come to different conclusions on these matters. Thankfully, our salvation does not depend on us having a perfect understanding of these laws. We should not condemn those who understand them differently. But it is helpful for us to understand how conclusions are drawn from the biblical revelation. This series of studies will help Christians not only in their relationship with God but also with one another as we all strive to respond with love to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be all praise and allegiance.