The Bible and Law

Critics often refer to some Old Testament passages because they claim there are laws therein that are not germane today, yet advocated. This failure is based on not knowing there are three types of law in the Bible: Levitical, Civil, and Moral. Not all are intended for today.

Levitical law is primarily the ceremonial law related to Temple worship, offering animal sacrifices, the observance of certain days, and ritual cleansing.

These became passe and were intended only for a past era.

The ceremonial law was related specifically to Israel’s worship (see Lev 1:2-3, for example). Its primary purpose was to point forward to Jesus Christ; these laws, therefore, were no longer necessary after Jesus’ death and resurrection. While ceremonial law no longer binds us, the principles behind them—to worship and love a holy God—still apply. The Pharisees often accused Jesus of violating ceremonial law.

Civil laws were designed for ancient Israel only. They controlled the legal system for old Israel. They were culturally adapted for a society of a different era. The civil law applied to daily living in Israel (see Deut 24:10-11, for example). Because modern society and culture are so radically different from that time and setting, all of these guidelines cannot be followed specifically. Jesus revealed the passing of these standards by not complying with them as indicated in the intended stoning of the woman caught in adultery. 

Moral laws are ageless. For example, it has always been wrong to murder, steal, lie, or commit adultery. That was true long before there were Ten Commandments regulating such conduct.

The moral law (such as the Ten Commandments) is the direct command of God, and it requires strict obedience (see Exod 20:13, for example). The moral law reveals the nature and will of God, and it still applies today. Jesus obeyed the moral law completely.

These laws are put in perspective by Jesus who declared: 

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of 

Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”  (Matthew 5: 17 – 20)