Have you ever heard someone say, “The Bible says you can’t get a tattoo.” or “God’s law says women shouldn’t dress like men,” or made some truth statement about Christian conduct based on The 10 Commandments, or one of the laws from Leviticus or Deuteronomy?
Can New Testament Christians (most of us reading this) spurn these laws, since they were written for West Semites of long ago? Or, on the other hand, which Biblical laws must apply to Christians today? I’ve noticed a bit of a pick and choose sort of thing, have you?
Paul says Christ fulfilled the law…but how does this play out practically in Christian living?
Opinions vary. Culture or our experiences can overshadow our decisions on this stuff. It doesn’t just break down into categories of legalist vs. lawless.
I’d like to address that today.
I won’t do it alone. Instead I’ll defer to a far smarter person than me. A helpful PDF document here, from my professor at ETS, Dr. David Dorsey, may inform your study of God, and improve your Christian living or outlook.
Try to muscle through the academic nature of this excerpt. Highlighted words are linked to definitions, if you need them. And please comment or respond in some way.
David Dorsey– An excerpt from last page of article:
[JETS 34:3 (September 1991) p. 312-322]
1. Remind yourself that this law is not my law, that I am not legally bound by it, that it is one of the laws God issued to ancient Israel as part of his covenant with them. When I look at this law I am looking over the shoulder of the Israelite (just as I am, for example, when I consider one of God’s messages through Jeremiah to the inhabitants of Jerusalem during the final days before the city’s fall).
2. Determine the original meaning, significance and purpose of the law. What was its point? Why did God issue it? What apparently were his motives in giving it? (Allegorizing, spiritualizing and typologizing here are counterproductive, succeeding only in obscuring the original significance and purpose of the law.)
3. Determine the theological significance of the law. What does this law reveal about God and his ways? A law, as mentioned, reveals a great deal about the lawgiver. What does this law reflect about God’s mind, his personality, his qualities, attitudes, priorities, values, concerns, likes and dislikes, his teaching methodologies, the kinds of attitudes and moral and ethical standards he wants to see in those who love him? In spite of the fact that these 613 laws were issued to another people who lived at another time under very different circumstances than ours (again, like the prophetic oracles of Jeremiah), they come from the God whom we too serve, and they represent a vast reservoir of knowledge about him and his ways.
4. Determine the practical implications of the theological insights gained from this law for your own NT circumstances. To take an example from the civil laws, Exod 22:25 states: “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest.” First, this law is not my law. It was part of Israel’s covenant with God (Christian bankers can relax—for a moment). Second, as far as the point of the law is concerned, it forbids the charging of interest when lending to a poor person, presumably to assist the person who is in a financial crisis in such a way that his recovery will be possible and the repayment will not be overly burdensome. A second purpose is undoubtedly to encourage the individual Israelite to be openhanded and generous, to be sensitive to the needs of the poor, and to be ready and willing to help needy people in practical ways even when it will not result in one’s own financial gain.
What theological insights come from this law? The Person who issued this law is obviously concerned about the physical and emotional well-being of the poor. Moreover he apparently wants his people to have a similar sensitivity toward the poor, to be willing to help the needy sacrificially.
If you are interested, read the full document here. (10 pages)
Have you thought about the Bible this way? Share something.