Whenever confronted with a challenge concerning a viewpoint held by the Bible concerning today’s issues, I’ve heard a particular statement more than once. Some believers respond along the lines of “that was the Old Testament, we’re living under the New Covenant now“. Usually the issues will have to do with something controversial, and the viewpoint held by the Bible will feel rather harsh (by man’s standards anyway). So this response is to excuse such a seemingly-harsh Biblical stance, and so also as to dismiss the viewpoints of the Old Testament law and how it stands with certain issues in our “modern” times. I mean, it makes sense right, we are living under the grace of Christ now after all. Why shouldn’t we brush Old Testament, outdated viewpoints under the rug?
The problem is, if you truly believe the above phrase is an acceptable one for issues, Satan’s already got you.
You’ve divided the Bible by “New” and “Outdated/Obsolete” portions. And he knows that within your mind a “kingdom divided against itself cannot stand” (Mark 3:24 NIV). If you dismiss one portion of the Word, you’ve started a domino effect in your mind that will eventually have a hard time standing up for any of it when under pressure.
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While it is true and undeniable that through Jesus we are now under a New Covenant of Grace, statements like “that’s the old law, we don’t follow it anymore” just serve to confuse unbelievers and water down the true faith. How can anyone follow a manual that its users can just cut and toss out entire sections of it at will. Worse than that, such statements are actually Biblically false. Whether they know it or not, believers are all getting this “no old laws” notion from one same central section of the Bible:
4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 6 The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. 18 …you are not under the Law.
Not an insignificant amount of the church has taken this out of context. Through poor teachings from the pulpit and self-focused logic without any course-correction that comes from reading your own Bible, people may come to believe that they are not under any law. They may come to believe that the only law is love. But the problem is, when Paul wrote Galatians 5, he was primarily referring to the practice of circumcision. To its relevancy towards being a follower of Christ.
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This was a ritualistic practice, an argument about an outward sign akin to today’s version of going to church dressed up or in shorts and flip flops, singing hymns or heavy metal, praying the Our Father or praying in a prayer language, etc. Paul was stating these arguments about outward appearances have nothing to do with serving Jesus. Now under Jesus, you can be Billy Graham in a suit and tie or Todd White in dreads and flops and be equal brothers in Christ, serving Him effectively regardless of your outward appearance.
What Paul was NOT talking about, was dismissing the core doctrines of sin and lawlessness, and doing whatever you please.
We know this, because these verses are literally side-by-side in the same chapter of Galatians 5:
13 …do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh. 16-17 Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 19-21 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
It does not sound to me like Paul was just throwing the entire Old Testament out the window. To me, he wasn’t saying “all you need is love man”.
What Paul’s getting at is if you truly give yourself over to the Spirit and are being led by it, you won’t need the law. You will already be accomplishing all the facets of the law and so much more. And if this wasn’t enough, Jesus Himself states “I have not come to abolish the [old testament] law, but to fulfill it.” (Matthew 5:17 NIV)
So following the law is actually critical to being a Christ-follower, if you do in fact align yourself with Jesus and His words (you just can’t self-justify yourself through it). But, luckily, it isn’t all under your effort. He gives us the Spirit to help us, immensely.
The next time you feel the desire to write off Biblical commandments and laws in the face of pressure in a “modern” world, remember Jesus said in John 14:15:
“If you love me, you will keep my commands.”
The root word for “keep” can be equally and additionally known as “to protect or guard”. To please Jesus, our job as believers is to actually uphold the law as truth. Uphold it, when it starts coming under fire. Do not try and brush it under the rug. Doing so is to relieve the world of its only compass when it’s lost.