Do We Have to Obey the Old Testament?

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Some people may think that wearing skirts and dresses exclusively, or putting on a headcovering, falls under the category of “living under the law.” Not true at all! I choose to wear only skirts and dresses in an attempt to obey the NEW TESTAMENT command for women to dress modestly, and headcovering is discussed in a passage also from the NEW TESTAMENT. I don’t think that I have to do these things so that I will be good enough for God to save me–no way could I ever be good enough for that; only the shed blood of Christ, and the fact that He rose from the grave, can save us from hell.

However, I have sometimes referred to sections of the Old Testament to support certain beliefs that I hold to. Is this un-allowable? Is it illogical? How do we know which of the Bible’s commands we are required to obey, and which we are not?

Well, here are a few guidelines that I use for myself; read them and see if they don’t make sense.

  •  If a command is rooted in creation, then we still have to obey it (God created the world before He gave the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai; ALL of us are His creation, not just Jews.)
  • If a command is repeated in the New Testament, then we still have to obey it (Jesus re-examined and correctly interpreted some Old Testament laws that were being misunderstood; He also put His stamp of approval on some of God’s laws as good for us to continue to follow. Additionally, look at the letters written by the apostles where Old Testament commands are repeated in instructions to New Testament, Gentile believers–how many quotes from the Old Testament are there, and how often is something from the Old Testament referred to?)
  • If a command is given specifically to us in the New Testament, even if it is found nowhere in the Old Testament, then we have to obey it (Both Testaments were inspired by God, and are profitable for doctrine [2 Timothy 3:10-17]. With the coming of Christ, some new things started that had not been previously experienced nor practiced; however, we will most likely see in the Old Testament a shadow of the New Testament commands.)

Now for some examples.

COMMAND ROOTED IN CREATION

(I’ll just give this one example of a command based in creation, though there are several others.)

Marriage between one man and one woman:

Matthew 19

1 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;

And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.

The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh [quoted from Genesis 2:24]?

Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Please notice several points:

  • Jesus uses an argument based on God’s created order to make His point.
  • Jesus believes the account regarding the creation of male and female to be literal, not metaphorical, and applies it to a real-life, actual scenario as such.
  • Jesus makes no allowances for human invention (homosexuality, polygamy, pedophilia, adultery, divorce); He is strict in His interpretation, and not at all “fluid.” So, according to His method of “face-value” interpretation –> a)marriage was always intended to be between a male and a female [God “made them male and female v. 4], b)marriage was always intended to be between one man and one woman [“For this cause shall a man (singular) leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife (singular): and they twain (meaning “the two of them”) shall be one flesh” v. 5], c)marriage was always intended to be between adults [“For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife” v. 5; here, wife is the Greek word gyne, meaning “a woman; specifically a wife:–wife, woman“–see Strong’s Concordance, G1135], d) marriage was always intended to be a one-flesh relationship that excludes the possibility for adultery and/or divorce.

Because Jesus made an argument from Creation, we can conclude that this is a perfectly logical, acceptable criteria for assessing which commands we are to follow: if a command is rooted in Creation, we have Jesus’ example that we should continue to follow it.

An extension of this is that if a command is based on God’s (unchanging) character, we should continue to obey it. His creation gives us insight into His character and nature, and also His original and best intentions for us. I have already touched on this in my post Abominable Cross Dressing.

COMMAND REPEATED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

(Several examples are given in the text, but I’ll focus on this one.)

Do not worship idols:

1 Corinthians 10

1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;

And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

And did all eat the same spiritual meat;

And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.

10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

11 Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

The example given in verse 7 of the passage above is based on an Old Testament account found in Exodus 32. So, here we are given an illustration from Jewish history which is supposed to teach us something important. God didn’t want the Jewish people worshiping idols in the Old Testament times (or anything else that might have taken His rightful place in their hearts), and He STILL doesn’t want us to do that today.
This command to not worship idols is based on the following Old Testament passage (though there are many others places in the Bible that also talk about it):
1 And God spake all these words, saying,

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them

Exodus 20:1-5a

We must not make any carved (graven) images (statues, statuettes, or even religious images [“any likeness”]) that we then bow down to in worship. Not even in so-called “veneration.” He hasn’t changed His mind about it, but continues to expect that we will worship, bow down to, serve, and pray to, only Him. This wasn’t just an Old Testament command; it was repeated in the New Testament to show us that God still wants our obedience in this issue. Additionally, we are told that what happened in Jewish history and was recorded in the Old Testament was for us to learn from (not to ignore, as if it doesn’t apply to us today). This is a huge point.

We shouldn’t toss out the Old Testament because it’s old. The things recorded there were written down “for our admonition”! God had us in mind when He inspired what was to be written down in His holy word, and preserved it for our benefit! Doesn’t that make you want to flip back a few hundred pages in your Bible, to see what He wants to say to us from all those real-life stories?

COMMAND GIVEN SPECIFICALLY TO US IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

 The first example that comes to my mind is that of the Lord’s Supper. Though it is partly based on the Passover Feast, Jesus expanded its meaning for believers of the New Testament era.

Matthew 26

26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;

28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

All of the elements of the Passover Feast had special meaning. I have read that there were three pieces of unleavened bread kept in a special container, two of which were eaten, while the third was laid aside until the end of the meal. This third portion was what Jesus would have broken and given to His disciples. The first two pieces of bread probably represented the Father and the Holy Spirit, while the third represented the Son, Who would temporarily be separated from Them when He was dying on the cross in our place.

There were also four cups of wine, one of which symbolized “redemption.” It would make sense for Jesus to have lifted this one as He proclaimed that the wine represented His blood, which would redeem us from our sin and hopeless situation.

What a perfect meshing of meaning! The Old Testament Feast was an ingenious foreshadowing of what would come later! Jesus used the Feast that God had invented earlier as the base from which He gave us a new command, that of eating the bread and drinking the wine in remembrance of Him, until His return. (Please read also 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 for a more in-depth treatment of this topic.) So, here a new “twist” is given to an old tradition, with an application for New Testament believers, specifically; something new, just for us.

In conclusion, then, and based in part on the above examples, I believe it is perfectly acceptable to base one’s beliefs on the Old Testament, given that those things are 1)rooted in Creation (and God’s character), and 2)repeated in the New Testament. It is also appropriate for us to obey those commands given specifically to us in the New Testament that are not given to us in the Old Testament.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Do We Have to Obey the Old Testament?

  1. Nice article! The teacher who taught us bible at my church(a male pastor) also recommended highly to learn old testament for understanding NT further. I agree with him and your opinion,too.

    Some people including christians say that they do not like old testament because it contains many cruel,bloody,strict stories.But I think it helps us so much to understand what is sin in His eyes and what He hope us to be more. And to know it makes us understand how the fact Jesus Christ was sent to us was great thing.

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    • I so agree with everything you said! Especially this part: “…it helps us so much to understand what is sin in His eyes and what He hope us to be more.” You know, you express yourself beautifully in English, Sanae! Your words express your insightful and profound thoughts in a clear manner. Thank you so much for taking the time and making the effort to comment on so many of my articles; I appreciate it SO MUCH!
      Jessica

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  2. This was very thought provoking, Jessica. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but one teacher explained the importance of both parts of the Bible this way. The OT is Christ concealed, and the NT is Christ revealed. I never knew about the 3 parts of the unleavened bread and the 4 cups of wine used in the Passover. What did the other 3 cups of wine represent? I love the foreshadowing of the Trinity in the use of the unleavened bread that you spoke of. This absolutely makes me want to dig in and see more parallels and fulfillments! 🙂 Great study to do. -Ruthie

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    • “The OT is Christ concealed, and the NT is Christ revealed.” Yes! Thank you for adding that!
      Well, that part about the unleavened bread and the wine is from “The Awesome Book of Bible Facts,” by Sandy Silverthorne, published by Harvest House Publishers (it’s a kids’ book). I’d like to dig deeper myself; let me know whenever/if ever you find something more about it!
      Jessica

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