I get this one a lot. Why do Christians only obey parts of the old testaments and emphasize that the new testament is more important? When they quote the old testament, it's only to push their agenda. It sounds like Christians are picking and choosing parts of the Bible they want to obey especially considering that the old testament contains laws that we would deem immoral or amoral (has nothing to do with morality). In Leviticus, for example, the Bible says you may not eat pork, shellfish, have tattoos and wear clothes with two different fabric. Yet Christians ignore all of these laws and say to the homosexual that they aren't allowed to be gay pointing to a scripture in the old testament in the very next chapter. We are introduced to a God who ordered war, slavery and the execution of the innocent in the Old Testament, then He is contrasted by saying things like "turn the other cheek", "love you your neighbor as you love yourself" and "pray for those who persecute you" in the New Testament. How can Christians really say that is the same God and be consistent with their beliefs if all the above applies?
Before we get into it, I need to explain first of all, what is an old or new testament.
Old vs. New Testament
The Bible is a compilation of 66 books of authors inspired by God. 39 of them in the Old Testament and 27 in the New. In order to read the Bible correctly and keep things in their proper contexts, it is important to be able to distinguish between the two. The word "Testament" simply means a mutual agreement, covenant or a contract. So it is important to understand the difference between the Old "contract" and the New "contract".
The Old Testament was established before Jesus died on the cross. Its purpose was to show us that humans cannot keep God's law no matter how hard we try, no matter how many miracles and signs we see or even incentives God presents us with. It is synonymously known for its laws and rituals like animal sacrifice, unclean animals and worshipping on Saturday (the Sabbath). The Old Testament does this by following the stories of God's chosen people (the Israelites). We are presented with generation after generation of people who could not keep God's laws.
Although Christians believe the Old Testament has been done away with (which I'll explain in a few seconds), it serves the following purposes:
Disregarding the old testament is like reading the end of the book without reading the beginning. You know how it ends, but you may not understand why things are the way they are or what happened to get them that way. This is a bad analogy because the Bible isn't one book. It is a compilation of 66 independent books with different authors. However, it is still a good way to try to understand the importance of the old testament. This allows us to be able to apply the new testament properly today.
The New Testament started after Jesus died and rose again. It contains the rules for the new church (not just the Israelites like in the Old Testament) and how to become a Christian and live like one. The new Testament is the text we need to use for Church activities and our daily lives today. The Old Testament was specifically designed to get things ready for the New Testament. To Christians, it typically demonstrates God's love and just how far he is willing to go for those he loves. (Click here for an article I wrote on what Jesus went through on the cross). We read parables Jesus used to explain how much God loves us. That even though we have become his enemies (the old testament shows us this) by refusing to obey him, he is willing to lay his Godly stature to stoop down to human level and give us a second chance.
There are obvious differences between the two testaments. Next, I will answer the question as to how and why the application of the Testaments are different.
So how Christians pick and choose which laws to obey?
The general rule is Old testament (old "contract") laws are only applicable in the New testament (new "contract") if Jesus tells us that they are. The New Testament guides us to divide the laws into certain categories. There are three types of laws throughout the old testament:
The Moral laws refer to the ten commandments that God gave Moses (Exodus 20). Laws like "Don't Murder, Don't Lie or Don't worship any other god". These are the laws that distinguish what is morally objectively wrong and objectively right. In the New Testament, Jesus affirms these laws in what we call "The Sermon on the Mount". He said for example, "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:27-28). Jesus did not simply affirm the ten commandments. He placed them on a higher level. He was saying that it is not so much as your actions that are wrong but the intention behind the action and also what it is in your heart. He further summarized these commandments into two laws; Love God with all your mind, soul and strength and to love your neighbour as you love yourself (Luke 10:27). So these are reaffirmed in the New testament.
The Civil/Judicial Laws refer to laws that were given to govern normal day to day living of the Israelites in the Old Testament. These laws are found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy (The same scripture that don't allow eating shellfish or committing homosexual acts). Think of it as the laws in a country that govern how people should live. These laws main purpose, however, were meant to set the Israelites apart from other nations and most importantly to remind them to be set apart because the Messiah who would save them the world would come from their lineage. These laws were to be applied until their purpose was fulfilled (The Messiah coming through them). Think of it this way. The laws were like a trailer for a movie that was going to play. After the movie is out and finished, you don't need to keep playing the trailer because it has already served its purpose.
We can still use them as a guideline for what is acceptable or not but they are not needed (as mentioned above). The punishments for disobeying these laws are not needed for the reason I explained above.
However, there are laws from these Civil Laws that Jesus reaffirmed. So when coming to Jesus reaffirmed the laws on homosexuality implicitly through his teachings, we Christians have to see it as incorrect (Matthew 19 and Matthew 15:18-20 - sexual immorality on context includes bestiality, pornography, incest and homosexuality). So is every single civil law he reaffirms, we keep today. And those he did not mention, we don't have to keep.
For more clarification on the Christian perspective on homosexuality, Matt Chandler addresses it in the following videos. If you would like me to clarify further, please leave a comment or drop me an email.
Ceremonial Laws have to do with laws like sacrificing animals, celebrating the Passover or carrying a tabernacle around. All Ceremonial Laws have been done away with because all of them were fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus made it clear that he was the sacrifice, which meant we don't have to sacrifice animals. He said He is the Passover which meant we don't need to celebrate that. He will live in our hearts so we don't have to go to a building or a place to speak to Him. I think you see where I'm going with this. Ceremonial Laws were fulfilled in Jesus and were not reaffirmed so these don't need to be kept.
The video I linked below explains a lot of what I said above in much more depth. You don't need to watch it because I've touched on the major points but for a more in-depth knowledge to inform a solid opinion, listen to what Dr. James White a brilliant biblical scholar says. It 28 Mins long but I think its excellent. I don't share or like his condescending tone but try to look past it and listen to the points he brings up. He goes into more depth than I did.
I have given insight on the differences between the old and the new testament. It is important to understand which you are reading to properly understand the scriptures in context. I have also deliberately left out why God seems to be different in the Old and New Testament because this would need another blog post. The Bible is not difficult to understand when it is read in context and not with the intention of making scriptures say what one wants them to say.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Please check out some of the other articles I've written:
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