The Question, “How Should Christians Understand the Old Testament Law Today?”

  • People are often confused by some of the strange laws found in the Old Testament (ex. Deut. 22:10-12) and some wonder what their purpose was and why it seems Christians pick and choose which laws to follow today.
  • There were 2 primary purposes for the laws given in the Old Testament. First, God wanted to distinguish His people, the Israelites, from all other nations in the world. Second, the Law was ultimately meant to reveal humanity’s sin and need for a Savior; and thereby point us to the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
  • There were 3 categories of the Law given to Israel in the Old Testament: civil laws, ceremonial laws, and moral laws. Recognizing these categories is the key to understanding why Christians don’t adhere to all of the Old Testament laws today.
  • Civil laws were those governing daily community life and they were limited to ancient Israel. Ceremonial laws related to Jewish worship and the sacrificial system and these were fulfilled by Christ. The moral laws, however, are upheld by Christ and the New Testament. Thus, Christians recognize these as binding for today.
  • Some are quick to point out that Christians no longer follow the punishments required by the moral laws in the Old Testament (ex. stoning for adultery). This is because Jesus mitigated the moral law’s punishments, but never did he deny the actions condemned by the moral laws were wrong (ex. John 8:1-11).
  • For Christians today the Old Testament moral law can serve as a powerful evangelistic tool. As a mirror highlights a person’s blemishes, so too does the moral law reflect each individual’s sin and need for a Savior. When we realize how far short of God’s righteous standards we fall, the beauty and power of the Gospel becomes all the more compelling.

For more information on the Old Testament Law in relation to Christianity, please check out the Apologetics Study Bible For Students, available in our online store.