How should Christians know which parts of the Law still apply?
How should Christians know which parts of the Law still apply? I’ve heard that we still live under the moral laws, but not the ceremonial laws. Is this an accurate summary or is there more to it than that?
Christians aren’t ‘under’ the law in the same way that the Israelites were. The two errors on the extremes which people tend to make are either that the law is irrelevant, or that is is compulsory.
The first group tend to cite regulations about mildew on tents, sacrificing bulls and stoning people to death. Ceremonial type things. (See Leviticus) It would be hard to say we should do that.
The second group look to things like ‘love God’ and ‘love your neighbour’. Moral type things (10 commandments, Deut 5) It’s hard to say we shouldn’t do that.
There are a couple of perspectives which help to see the right balance.
Matt. 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Jesus says that the law still has some relevance after his arrival.
Matt. 22:37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
Matt. 22:38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
Matt. 22:39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Matt. 22:40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Even the minute details of the priests duties have some relevance to the way we treat God and our neighbours.
Gal. 3:24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.
Gal. 3:25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
Rom. 3:20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.
The law trains us to know what sin is, and so appreciate the grace that is given through Christ. So the law has lots of relevance for Christians, even though we aren’t bound to obey every commandment.
I guess my nervousness about strictly applying the Moral / Ceremonial divide is that the Bible doesn’t do it explicitly. The danger is that WE decide what we can toss out as ceremonial. ‘I never really liked my neighbour much anyway’ We can avoid the two extremes of irrelevance and compulsion by reading what the law is, and humbly and prayerfully asking: “How does this help me to love God and my neighbour?”
Answers are kindly provided by our friends at Christianity.net.au