Should Christians Obey the Old Testament Laws?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Should Christians obey the laws of the Old Testament? Which laws are still in effect and which are not?

Old Testament Law

Should Christians obey the laws of the Old Testament? Which laws are still in effect and which are not? To start with, the Book of Romans and the Book of Galatians show us what the purpose of the Old Testament laws is and it is tLamb of Godo convict people of their utter hopelessness and inability to keep the law, thus (hopefully) pointing them to their need for Jesus Christ as Savior; their (and our) one and only hope in this life (Rom 7:7-9; Gal 3:24). Some of these Old Testament laws were written especially to the nation of Israel and are not binding upon believers today. The sacrificial laws have no application in the Christian life today because of Jesus Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross (John 3:16). One obvious example is the need to offer daily animal sacrifices. Jesus died once for all and entered into the Inner Sanctuary with His own blood. He had to enter into the heavenly sanctuary with His own blood because animal blood sacrifices cannot save us. The Author of Hebrews wrote about Jesus, that “he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Heb 9:12). The blood of goats and caves cannot save us…only faith in Jesus Christ and trusting in Him and His redemptive work at Calvary.


Mosaic or Sacrificial Laws

The rituals and the washings and daily sacrifices where only for a time. They were only a shadow of things to come, and shadows are not the reality which came in Christ. The law showed that we cannot ever be good enough or we can never do enough good to save ourselves. We need Jesus’ own righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). All these things pointed to Jesus Christ. The imagery and symbolism of the holy days and temple worship all foreshadowed the coming work of Christ. The high priest never sat down, which is why there were no chairs in the temple. His work was never done. Day after day sacrifices needed to be made by the high priest for the people and for himself. For Jesus, the sacrifice was one and done because “He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself” (Heb 7:27). Jesus entered the heavenly temple and sat down at the right hand of the Father. He sat down because His redemptive, high priestly duties were finished. It was paid in full (John 19:30).

Love Your God

Jesus never came to do away with the Law but to fulfill it, or fill it up to the full measure, meaning He kept every law of God there was, perfectly and never sinned. Only Jesus who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might have His righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). One Jewish lawyer asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt 22:35-36). Of course, Jesus did this perfectly as there is perfect love and harmony in the Trinity, but who among us could claim to have loved the Lord our God “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind?” I know I haven’t lived up to this, nor has anyone else that I know of. But we’re not done yet! We can’t forget about loving our neighbor.

Love Your Neighbor

So loving God and putting Him first “is the great and first commandment” (Matt 22:38), but “a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39). How important is it to love God and to love our neighbor? Jesus said that “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 22:40). So who is our neighbor? Jesus answered that question in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, showing that anyone we come in contact with is our neighbor and we are to help those we are able to help who by God’s divine providence have crossed our path (Eph 2:10). If we fail to love our neighbor as ourselves, and remember, we take very good care of ourselves, then we are sinning. James wrote, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17). Remember that Jesus loved us first (1 John 4:19) before we ever loved Him, and further, He loved while we were weak (unable to save ourselves) and ungodly, wicked enemies of Him (Rom 5:6-10).


We no longer have to obey the Old Testament laws about animal sacrifices and ritualist washings and offerings, but many of the Old Testament laws like loving the alien who lives among us (Lev 19:33-34), and taking care of the orphans and widows (Deut 15:11) will never be phased out, nor will the law against adultery and murder. Laws that tell us to love God and love our neighbor are good, but we can only love God and He love us when we love His Son and put our trust in Him by repentance and faith (Mark 1:15). My highest priority in everything I write is to help you escape the wrath of God you rightly deserve (Rom 2). If you have never come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, then He will not be your Savior…He will be your Judge. Please do not turn away from Him today. I plead with you at the very moment you are reading this; repent today and put your trust in the Savior. If you refuse, God’s judgment will surely come after death (Heb 9:27) or at Jesus Christ’s appearance (Rev 20:12-15), whichever comes first.

Here is some related reading for you: The Importance of the Old Testament for the Christian Faith

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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