People who claim that the Old Testament law still applies to believers, can be divided into several groups:
1) Those who believe that all the Old Testament laws still apply.
2) Those who believe that believers will not be judged according to the Old Testament law, but that it still serves as a moral compass that will help them to avoid falling into sin.
3) Those who believe that the law can be split up into two different sections, namely moral laws and ceremonial laws, and that the ceremonial laws have passed away, but that the moral laws still need to be obeyed.
For those who fall into the first group, the Bible unfortunately bears disappointing news:
For whoever shall keep the whole Law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (Jam 2:10 MKJV)
The punishment for sin is extremely severe, namely death (Romans 5:12 & 1 Corinthians15:56). The Bible also tells us that no man is ever able to obtain right standing with God through their level of obedience to the law:
God doesn’t accept people simply because they obey the Law. No, indeed! All the Law does is to point out our sin. (Rom 3:20 CEV)
But the apostle Paul then continues and shows us how to stand forgiven and justified before God:
Now we see how God does make us acceptable to him. The Law and the Prophets tell how we become acceptable, and it isn’t by obeying the Law of Moses. God treats everyone alike. He accepts people only because they have faith in Jesus Christ. (Rom 3:21-22 CEV, emphasis added)
The law provided a physical standard to measure a person’s level of holiness by. It was a contract which God had sealed in blood with the nation of Israel – only with them. How do we know this? Because we see in numerous instances how God acted in favor of Israel against other nations (the Moabites, Philistines, Syrians, etc).
In today’s world, when the terms of a contract between two parties have been fulfilled, the contract is finished. The contract isn’t abolished or destroyed, it is fulfilled. This is exactly what Jesus meant when he said:
Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to destroy but to fulfill. (Matt 5:17 MKJV)
And since Christ fulfilled the law and ended that contract which God had made with Israel, the consequences for failing to observe the clauses of that contract (the laws) are now irrelevant. God does not judge people by their ability to uphold the requirements of a contract which has already been fulfilled.
The law is not a tool to assist us with moral direction. It cannot and has never helped anybody to stop sinning because it was never intended for this purpose. The purpose of the law was to make mankind aware of their inner sin problem (their sinful nature) so that when they realize they’d never be able to obtain eternal life through their own level of holiness, it would point them to Jesus for salvation. This sinful nature would then be circumcised (cut) out of them spiritually (Colossians 2:11) and be replaced by a brand new born again spirit which is 100% perfect, righteous and holy. The law was only a signpost that pointed to Jesus – it’s pretty silly to set up camp next to a signpost, isn’t it?
All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. (Rom 5:20a MSG)
What is the use of the Law? It was given later to show that we sin. (Gal 3:19a CEV)
The practice of trying to obey the demands of that ancient Jewish rule keeping system in order to overcome fleshly habits and lusts, is powerless and useless against the onslaughts of sin. Trying to overcome sin through adhering to the law will only have the effect of showing us how far we fall short of its decrees. The only way to overcome sinful habits is to be established in the revelation of how much God loves us and that He sees us as completely righteous. His grace took care of all our sins and He promised never to remember them ever again (Hebrews 10:17). When we know how much grace God has extended towards us, it will empower us to overcome any sin:
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under Law, but under grace. (Rom 6:14 MKJV)
Nobody in this group (those who claim that the “ceremonial laws” have fallen away) has actually gone to the effort of drawing up a list to show exactly which of the laws have remained. The truth is that God Himself also never made this kind of distinction between any of the laws when He handed them down. On the contrary, He said:
“Obey all the laws and teachings I am giving you. Don’t add any, and don’t take any away.” (Deut 12:32 CEV)
Yet we find all sorts of religions that are based on Judaism jumping up nowadays, with non Jewish people trying to go back to their supposed “Jewish roots”.
Israel never welcomed intimacy with God (which is really all that God wants from us), because they always sent Moses to talk to God on their behalf (Exodus 20:19). Similarly, it appears that when people can’t find any fulfilment in their relationship with God, they make up all sorts of theories to try and earn His approval through some kind of rule keeping system. The peculiar thing about this trend is that since the entire Old Testament law is far too wearisome and laborious to keep, they formulate their own version of it and decide by themselves which laws they want to keep and which ones they can discard.
From Exodus 20 up to the end of Deuteronomy there were a total of 614 laws passed down to the nation of Israel. Just as the law was very specific about what to do and what not to do, it also contained very specific instructions about how to avoid being punished when a law was transgressed. Dodging retribution was mainly achieved in the form of sacrifices and offerings. Most of the modern day variations of Judaism (including those groups who insist calling God and Jesus by their Hebrew names, but whose lives are void of the fruit and the gifts of the Spirit) have opted not to include these sacrifices as part of their man-made belief systems, yet they vigorously claim to be living according to God’s laws. Who’s fooling who here?
Nonetheless, to accommodate these people and to try and show to them that they are actually not only disregarding the sacrifices and offerings, but also breaking many of the other (moral) laws contained in the Old Testament, let’s take a look at some of the laws:
Only, you shall not eat these of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: …the swine, though he divides the hoof and is cloven-footed, yet he does not chew the cud; he is unclean to you. (Lev 11: 4, 7 MKJV)
Any form of pork, including bacon and ham, are strictly off limits according to the law. There goes that nice English breakfast or that ham and cheese sandwich out the door!
You must not eat anything that lives in the water and does not have fins and scales. (Lev 11:12 GNB)
No calamari or squid allowed, no sir!
And if any man’s semen goes from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water and be unclean until the evening. And the woman with whom a man shall lie with emission of semen shall both bathe in water and be unclean until the evening. (Lev 15:16, 18 MKJV)
Men and women ought to separate themselves from any other people for an entire day every time after they’ve had sexual intercourse. This would mean quite a lot of sick leave for most people or heaps of broken up marriages because of spouses abstaining from sex with each other.
Don’t cut the hair on the sides of your head or trim your beard. (Lev 19:27 MSG)
All men would have to walk around with beards. If anybody who claims to be living according to the law shaves their beard, they are breaking God’s commands!
Don’t even build a cooking fire at home on the Sabbath. (Exo 35:3 CEV)
There will be no BBQ after watching that sports game with our friends on a Saturday, because strictly speaking the Sabbath is supposed to be observed on a Saturday.
Don’t wear clothes woven of two kinds of material. (Lev 19:19b MSG)
This would mean throwing out piles of our clothes, since a vast portion of the clothing found in anybody’s closet today is made from a mixture of cotton and polyester.
See how ridiculous it gets? But praise be to Jesus that He fulfilled all the requirements of that antique law keeping system, setting people free to live a life that is led by the Holy Spirit and not by rules:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Gal 4:4-5 ESV)