August 26, 2015

Why Are Some Old Testament Laws Binding And Others Not?

The Old Testament has innumerable laws regulating human behavior. Many address how individuals ought to act. Others prescribe how to prepare meals, what food is permissible to consume, what clothing can be worn and so on. According to Jewish tradition, the Torah alone contains 613 commandments or mitzvot. The 613 commandments include 365 "positive commandments" (enjoining the performing of an act), and 248 "negative commandments" (urging refrain from certain behaviors). Why are some of these commandments binding on Christians today while others are not?

The Old Testament contains three different sets of law codes. There are:
  • Moral Laws
  • Judicial Laws 
  • Ritual Laws
Judicial laws regulated Israel's civil affairs. They act something like municipal laws today. They do not govern personal morality per se and we are not beholden to them.

Ritual laws concern Israel's ceremonial or worship life — expressed most notably in it's dietary and purification rituals. The Pharisees had strict rules relating to which foods were clean and which foods unclean. Jesus declared all food clean.

Lastly, the Old Testament's moral laws remain binding because such commandments (i.e. the Ten Commandments) are universal, objective, and eternal. Christ did not come to overturn these laws but to fulfill them. We must follow his example and do likewise.    

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