Case-Making 101: Does the Old Testament Law Apply To Us Today?

The Christian and the Old Testament

Last post we looked at the importance of the connection between the Old and New Testaments, especially with God’s Covenant Promise that unfolds from Genesis throughout the Old Testament and culminates in the person and ministry of Jesus. Part of the unfolding of the Covenant comes specifically in the detailed Law given to Moses found in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy (the books everyone skips over!) That Law was given through Moses to the Hebrew people immediately after the Exodus and was valuable to that Nation for their sovereignty and protection under the one true God, but how are Christians suppose to respond to that Law today?

Your answer to that question depends on how you are able to answer these:

  1. How does God’s Covenant Promise to Abraham specifically unfold in the Law given to Moses and the Hebrew people?
  2. Why was there a need to set apart God’s people, the Hebrews, from the other Nations of that day?
  3. How does the Law help us to understand the principle of ‘consequence for action’ and the need for salvation and redemption?
  4. Does the Law give a foreshadowing of Jesus as the Promised Messiah?
  5. What does holiness really mean and how does the Law reflect God’s holiness and the expectation that His people be holy too?
  6. Does the Law give us a glimpse of God’s character, love and unfailing grace (hesed) that would later be seen in Jesus?
  7. Is there a universal moral code evident in the Mosaic Law that we find reflected in the governing laws of nations today?
  8. Do modern scientific discoveries in microbiology, chemistry, nutrition and medicine support the ancient practices found in the Law?

These eight questions suggest their own positive answers and are important to reflect and focus on if you intend to study Moses and the Law (Exodus through Deuteronomy) and make it applicable for today. It is also helpful if you have already studied Genesis 12-50 as a precursor.

The Law of Moses can be broken down into these three categories:

  1. Civil and criminal conduct—rules for living together as a nation
  2. Moral, health and safety conduct—rules for right living, proper diet and germ avoidance
  3. Ceremonial and ritual conduct—worship rules that included sacrifices for praise; sacrifices for wrongs committed; offerings to honor God; festivals and priestly duties.

A few comments on these categories:

  1. Many of the civil laws are still in use today by governments around the world, especially ours. They go to the fact that there is a universal Moral Law embedded in the hearts of all humans by God (see previous post on the Moral Law). Most of the principles in this category are applicable today, although many of them were specific to the times and culture of that day.
  2. The moral, health and safety laws have been supported by evidence from modern science. With the advent of the microscope and advances in medical research we find that the things God prohibited, or gave special directions for, prevented disease and illness (bacterial, viral, food born, and sexually transmitted). Many of these practices seemed strange at the time but I wonder how many other unseen Biblical truths will become evident in the future?
  3. The ceremonial laws that included sacrifice are no longer needed because Jesus fulfilled this requirement as the perfect, sufficient and permanent sacrifice for all. It is ironic that the Jews stopped practicing sacrifices in the first century AD when the Temple was destroyed and the Jews were scattered! However, the application today is that we still need to worship God, confess our sins and repent (and on a daily basis!).

Tablets and the Law

The Old Testament principle is applied in the New Testament:

Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments in one sentence: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, [the first four commandments] and, love your neighbor as yourself [the last six commandments]. Luke 10:27

Jesus also said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” Matthew 5:17

The Apostle John says, We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. 1 John 5:2-5

The human problem still stands today, the difference is that we have Jesus to turn to:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23

The works of Jesus through the Cross and Resurrection in defeat of death is made available to all who will accept it. There is no need to be perfect, He will make us perfect, there is no need to work, He has done the work, and there is no need to follow the the Law for salvation because He has fulfilled it.

“Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” Galatians 2:16

The Law is there for us as a guide. As C.S. Lewis said (and I paraphrase): How will one understand what a crocked line is if we don’t have a straight one to compare it to. The Law is the straight line. God’s holiness and perfection is the line in which we must measure everything else. If we understand His ways then we will make better choices during our time here on earth and we will grow more and more into His likeness as we journey toward our eternal home in Heaven (John 14).

Watch this 7 minute video on the Moral Law from a study in Christian Apologetics, by Rory McGorty:

Apologetic Note on the Law of Moses: Some skeptics of the faith will say that the Law was taken from other cultures of that day. However, we must remember God’s basic moral law is an embedded universal moral law that humans have known since the Creation, so similar laws would make sense. However, despite some similarities to other cultures and religions, the Hebrew practices remained distinct in several ways:

  • The idea of direct divine revelation and Theophanies (appearances of the LORD to humans like Moses and Abraham)
  • The concept of strict monotheism (One true God instead of many – Deuteronomy 6:4)
  • The highly ethical and moral nature of Hebrew religion in contrast to the Canaanite fertility cults
  • The holy righteous character of YAWH (God) in contrast to the capricious behavior of the pagan deities
  • The prohibition of human sacrifice

Greg Koukl, Christian Apologist and President of Stand to Reason Ministries has written an excellent article on this topic called “How Does the Old Testament Law Apply to Christians Today?”

Also, view this 6 minute video by Greg on the Old Testament Law and Christians:

Join us next week as we begin a study in the New Testament and A Case for Christ.


You will not find this material in the public school curriculum even though it is based on solid evidence and grounded in research.  It is ironic that following the evidence to where it leads stops at the door of our public schools as they will not let a “Divine footprint” in!  Join us this year as we examine evidence for Christianity and learn how to become a thoughtful defender and ambassador of your faith.

Click into the resource page of this website to view many of the top Christian thinkers and apologists along with some of their work; connecting to these types of resources is essential in your Christian growth.

Please let me know what you think: Give feedback, ask questions or send concerns in the comment section of the blog.

Teri Dugan

1 Peter 3:15

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