I am having trouble understanding how the Old Testament Law coexists with the New Testament. For example, did Jesus believe it was wrong to eat pork (and other foods), and did He support the idea of capital punishment? It seems that Jesus' message is about not getting hung up on what you eat and that we should forgive versus capital punishment. I realize that in regards to the food issues, He was implying that other things are more important. But isn't the old law about food still valid and would not Jesus have given the okay for someone to be killed for their sins as written in the Old Testament?
Which Old Testament laws can we ignore? When can we ignore a command that is given by God?” The answer is, “After He changes the command.” God is the only One who can change divine commands. When we come to the New Testament, we find that God has replaced many of them but not all of the Old Testament laws.
Mosaic Law Changed
The Mosaic Law, also known as the Old Covenant, was replaced by Jesus Christ with the New Covenant. The Mosaic Law includes all of the rules about the sacrifices, priests, the temple, the tabernacle, foods, capital punishment, and how to handle disease. When Jesus died, the Old Covenant was replaced by the New Covenant. At that point, God eliminated many of the old commandments. In Hebrews 8, God says that the Old Covenant or Mosaic Law was being replaced by the New Covenant.
. . . there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” But now [Jesus] has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah – not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant . . .” says the LORD. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people . . . In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (NKJV) Hebrews 8:4-13
That is, the Old Covenant was disappearing.
When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on the night he was betrayed, He said that the cup of wine they drank symbolized the blood of the covenant.
And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:27-28 (NASB)
Luke 22:20 refers to it as the blood of the New Covenant. The New Covenant replaced the Old Covenant or Mosaic Law when Christ died on the cross. The Old Covenant included all of the rules and ordinances of sacrifices, priests, and many other things.
Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. (NKJV) Hebrews 9:1
So, which laws disappeared?
Ceremonial Laws Disappeared
After Jesus’ death and return to life, a new covenant replaced the old covenant and the ceremonial and dietary laws were replaced, including the command to observe the Sabbath. Hebrews 9 describes the ceremonial laws. They included the sacrifices and the priesthood.
Then in Hebrews 10:8-12, the Holy Spirit tells us that the ceremonial law has disappeared. Verse 9 says the first covenant was taken away. It was replaced a second once. That is, the new covenant.
After saying above, “SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, NOR HAVE YOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them” (which are offered according to the Law), then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (NASB) Hebrews 10:8-10
Hebrews 12:24 summarizes the conclusion.
. . . to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant. . . (NASB) Hebrews 12:24
Sabbath Laws Disappeared
The moral law has not been changed. The Ten Commandments still exist, except for keeping the Sabbath. The Sabbath also disappeared. This fact is revealed in the New Testament. All of the Ten Commandments are repeated except for the Sabbath. You are encouraged to read “Must we keep the Sabbath? — The Fourth Commandment.” Instead of the Sabbath Day, the early Christians met for worship on the first day of the week or Sunday.
We are still to love God and our neighbors (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37-39). We are to strive to be holy (Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 1 Peter 1:15-16). We are to avoid adultery and sexual sin. These are a few examples.
Dietary Foods Laws Disappeared
The Old Testament dietary laws were given by God to the nation of Israel for two reasons. Those who are interested in the Mosaic dietary laws are listed in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. The primary reason given in the Old Testament for the dietary laws was to separate the Israelites from the nations around them.
You are therefore to make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean; and you shall not make yourselves detestable by animal or by bird or by anything that creeps on the ground, which I have separated for you as unclean. Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine. Leviticus 20:25-26 (NASB)
But there is also another important reason. The laws helped to minimize the spread of disease. There is a fascinating book written about the health benefits of these dietary laws entitled “None of These Diseases.” Here is a quote from this book.
When God led the Israelites out of afflicted Egypt, He promised them that if they would obey His statues, He would put “None of these diseases” upon them. God guaranteed a freedom from disease . . .
The Mosaic dietary laws provided that great freedom. The Israelites did not see the level of disease the Egyptians had experienced. After Jesus death, resurrection, and return to heaven, the Mosaic dietary laws were revoked. They were no longer needed because 1) God was putting both Jews and Gentiles together into the body we call the church, and 2) the sanitary practices were now personal choice.
But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. 1 Corinthians 8:8 (NASB)
If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” . . . These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. Colossians 2:20-23 (NASB)
Notice that there are no longer any rules against what we can eat. Earlier, the apostle Peter had been told that he could eat anything. There is a previous question which discusses Peter’s experience. However, we should add that this does not mean we can drink poison nor can we be gluttons. The dietary laws were made obsolete by the New Covenant, but God had to speak to Peter in a dream before he would accept the fact that there had been a change. Finally, Jesus says in Mark 7:19 that we can eat any food. He is the ultimate authority.
Only some of the Old Testament laws apply today. But most have been canceled. Some have been retained. Most of those which were canceled deal with the Mosaic Law’s dietary laws, the sacrificial system, keeping of the Sabbath on Saturday, and the priesthood. God has established some new ones while keeping some of the old ones. Saturday worship has been replaced with worship on Sunday. The priesthood has been replaced with elders in the church. The greatest change was Jesus, the perfect, sinless sacrifice who abolished the animal sacrifices which never permanently took away our sins. Salvation comes only by faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing else can contribute to our salvation.
By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time . . . For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified . . . Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. (NASB) Hebrews 10:10-14, 18
To learn more about how you can be saved, visit the page “Searching for God.”
1. McMillen, S. I. M.D., None of These Diseases. Spire Books. 1973. p. 17.
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