Which of God’s Laws Are STILL in Effect?
As stated earlier, the Old Covenant agreement consisted of obedience
types of laws which came from
God: (1) the Ten Commandments (Ex. chap.20); (2) the statutes, judgments and ordinances (Ex. chap.21-23); (3) the ceremonial laws (Ex. chap.25-40).8 So now let’s now look at each type of law, to see which are
still in effect today.
Christ----never changes His underlying spiritual laws, which reflect His basic character. ‘For I am the Lord, I do not change…’ (Mal.3:6). And: ‘Jesus
Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever’ (Heb.13:8).” 5
Since God’s Ten Commandments, statutes
and judgments existed prior to the covenant made at Sinai,
they therefore were not abolished by the cessation of that covenant!
[Although the Sinai Covenant ceased to be in force when Christ
was crucified, the Ten Commandments, statutes and judgments did not cease!]
Termination of a covenant (or agreement) could not render void what that covenant did not bring into force! 2
What about the ceremonial rituals?
The ceremonial rituals were added for the purpose of teaching and instilling the habit of obedience----things
to do repeatedly morning, noon and night. Yet, this system of rituals was only
a temporary substitute. Once God’s Holy Spirit was made available
(after Christ’s resurrection), these physical rituals were no longer needed (Gal.3:24).
Likewise, the system of animal sacrifices was only a temporary,
physical substitute. It was a substitute for----and until----the Sacrifice of
Christ (Heb.7:27). It served to remind the people of their sins
(Heb.10:3), and also to remind them that the penalty of sin is death (Ezek.18:4).
“The author of Hebrews describes the physical ministry of the Levitical
priesthood: ‘It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot
make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience; concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings,
and fleshly ordinances imposed until
the time of reformation’ (Heb.9: 9-10).
“Animal sacrifices, washings and the carnal ordinances of the Levitical
priesthood were added later, as we have seen---and are no longer necessary for the ‘Israel of God’
(Gal.6:16), now that the sacrifice of Christ has been made and the Holy Spirit is available to spiritually cleanse converted
“….Even the Mosaic writings indicate that the ritual sacrifices
and offerings did not begin until the Tabernacle was dedicated---a year after the Old Covenant was made at Sinai (Ex.40:17,
29)…. the ceremonial laws were
additions to the Old Covenant, and….These alone were terminated at the death of Jesus.” 3 [Rather than “a year after,” it may have actually been
a little less than a year afterward (compare Ex.19:1 to Ex.40:17).]
let’s look at the statutes, judgments and ordinances. The late Raymond
F. McNair had much to say about this issue. Notice his following comments from
his article “Must Christians Keep the ‘Law of Moses’ Or Only the Ten Commandments?”:
In many… scriptures, the Apostle Paul clearly taught obedience
to the law of God. However, he also taught [in Gal.5:3] that Christians did not
need to keep the entire “law of Moses,” or the “whole law”….referring to everything in the first
five books of the Old Testament....
What did Paul mean when he spoke of the “whole
law” (Gal.5:3)? Clearly, in context, he was referring to the whole
law of Moses, which did include the Ten Commandments, God’s statutes and judgments---and also the animal sacrifices,
meat and drink offerings, carnal washings, rituals and numerous ordinances pertaining to the flesh [Heb.9:10] which
were added by God, later, to the covenant He had already ratified with Israel (Ex.24) after the Israelites had sinned
by making an idolatrous golden calf (Ex.32)…
He [Paul] taught that Christians need not keep the whole law (meaning
the whole law of Moses). But that
did not annul every other portion of God’s law. Even today, if a
court annuls or abrogates or supersedes some specific part of a state’s legal code, does that court’s action throw
out the entire penal code? Certainly not!
Our primary Christian focus should still be on the SPIRITUAL LAW of God as summarized by the Ten Commandments. But even they [the Ten Commandments] are not the ONLY part of the Mosaic law Christians
are still required to observe.
….the apostles’ letter to the Gentile converts [Acts
15] listed four prohibitions: 1) things
offered to idols… 2) blood… 3) things strangled… 4) sexual immorality---all of which are specifically prohibited
in the five books written by Moses---Genesis through Deuteronomy!
….Those prohibitions were specifically mentioned because devotees
of the Gentile religions often utilized temple prostitutes, offered unclean animals to their idols, ate or drank blood,
especially by eating the flesh of strangled animals from which blood was not drained.
Notice that these prohibitions were part of the divine statutes which clearly defined how you were to
live by the Ten Commandments….Clearly, these four specific prohibitions and even numerous other laws besides
the Ten Commands are still binding on all Christians today! …
Many so-called “Christians” think we only need to keep those OT laws reiterated in the
NT. They have it completely BACKWARDS! In reality, we must keep ALL laws revealed in the Old Testament unless they are
specifically, or in spiritual principle, abrogated in the NT.
….The sacrifices and washings were imposed on God’s
people “UNTIL the time of reformation.” ….[The time of reformation was] when Jesus Christ
offered Himself as the Lamb of God and then ascended to heaven to serve as High Priest for the people of God. [Notice
Heb.9: 8-12: “…the first tabernacle…with foods and drinks, various washings, and
fleshly ordinances imposed until
the time of reformation. But Christ came as High Priest…with greater and
more perfect tabernacle…not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood…”]…
We have seen that the Jerusalem Church Council (c. 50 A.D.)
enjoined on Gentile Christians four
prohibitions found in the law
of Moses. But how can one know which other laws, statutes and judgments of the law of Moses are to be kept, today? Should individual Christians or churches each pick
and choose which laws, statutes, ordinances or testimonies of God they will keep? Or,
should they let the New Testament Scriptures show them which laws, statutes and judgments in the law of Moses are still binding
on true Christians today?
There are literally scores of laws, statutes or judgments in the
law of Moses which any honest Christian would have to freely admit are still obligatory for the followers of Jesus Christ
to keep in the modern world.
God used His statutes and ordinances as practical applications of
the spiritual principles of the Ten Commandments. Can you figure out which of
the spiritual principles of the Ten Commandments apply to the following examples? 1) Would any Christian say that “witchcraft" or sorcery
is now permitted, while it was strictly forbidden (Lev.19:31; 20:6; Deut.18) in the law of Moses? 2) How about God’s statute forbidding
kidnapping (Ex.21:16)? Is it still binding on Christians? 3) Should Christians keep the law of Moses that requires one
to honor the elderly (Lev.19:32)? 4)
Are the Mosaic laws prohibiting bestiality (Ex.22:19; Lev.18:23) still binding on Christians?
5) Is homosexual conduct forbidden to Christians (Lev.18:22; 1 Cor.6:9)? 6) Are those laws which prohibit oppressing
or afflicting widows and orphans (Ex.22:22-24) still to be kept by Christians? 7) Are Christians allowed to “revile God...[or]
curse a ruler” of their people (v. 28)? 8) Is the law against being a talebearer or gossip (Lev.19:16) still to be observed by all true Christians? 9) Can Christians ignore God’s
statute which says an employer must never defraud his employee (Lev.19:13)? 10) Would Christians deny that one must be diligent to maintain just and equal weights
and measures (Lev.19:35-36)?
These are just a few of the examples of ethical standards which God expects
His people to keep. There are many other laws, statutes and judgments in the
law of Moses which true Christians must still obey!
Again, how can one really know what is still binding on Christ’s
followers and what is not? One must diligently study the entire NT to see what Christ
and His apostles believed and practiced! As an example, Jesus and His apostles kept God’s
Sabbaths (Luke 4:16; Acts 13:14-15; 17:1-4; 18:4). They also observed the annual
Holy Days of God (Lev.23; John 7; Acts 2; 12:1-4). Even Paul, the apostle to
the Gentiles, kept God’s Holy Days
(Acts 20:6, 16; I Cor.5:6-8; 16:8).
….There is absolutely nothing in the NT which abolishes those so-called
dietary laws [“unclean” foods of Lev.11; Deut.14]!
….We can only know which OT laws, statutes, ordinances and testimonies are still binding on Christians
by carefully studying the words and practices of Christ and His apostles as mentioned in the NT Scriptures.
….After Jesus Christ’s resurrection, He revealed to His apostles
that though they were to keep God’s spiritual law, it was not now necessary for them to keep the whole law, which in
NT times was known as the law of Moses. (Global Church News, July-Aug. 1995)
Notice now the
following enlightening comments by Herman Hoeh in his article “Which Laws in the Old Testament Have Authority Today?”:
The law of Moses comprises civil statutes
and judgments that God gave
him to communicate to the people….When Moses first delivered the statutes and judgments, the law of Moses had no sacrifices
connected with it. Jeremiah said so (Jer.7:22). The law of Moses was originally the civil law, based on the principles of the Ten Commandments. ….Some of these civil laws were
included in the covenant made at Sinai (Ex.21-24) and others were promulgated at later times (Deut.12:1 and
following chapters, for example).
After the ratification of the Sinaitic Covenant [Ex.24:3-8],
the Levitical priesthood was established [Ex.28, 29] and the laws regulating offerings were added to the law of Moses...(Before this time offerings
were voluntary and young men were priests---Ex.24:5.)
Therefore the law of Moses has more than one part!
Notice God’s definition of the original part of that law in Malachi 4:4, RSV: “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and ordinances that
I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.”
This law [the original statutes and judgments given at Mt.
Sinai] we are not to forget. We are to keep it!
But added later to this law were other statutes regulating
material rituals, such as sacrifices, lighting of candles, burning incense and various washings for the unclean. This almost unnoticed fact, that the law of Moses was composed
of two distinct parts ---the CIVIL and the RITUALISTC
---is what causes so much difficulty in understanding.
Jesus said the two great commandments were love to God and love
to neighbor... [He quoted these] Out of the book of the law---the laws that Moses spoke to the people [Deut.6:5; Lev.
The civil law of Moses [the original statutes and judgments given
at Sinai] expounds the Ten Commandments by revealing how the 10 basic principles are to be applied. We are to keep this part of the law, not in the old strictness of the letter, but according
to its full spirit and intent.
Then why do we read in Acts 15 that gentile converts do not
have to observe the “law of Moses,” except for four points?
The answer is made plain in Acts 21:21.
The law of Moses, here called in question, involved “customs”
[the ceremonial or ritualistic part of the law of Moses] …The Jews were mistakenly accusing Paul, saying that he taught
Jews living abroad “that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs” (Acts 21:21)!
The controversy in the early Church did not involve the spiritual intent of the original civil law of Moses [the original statutes and judgments]. It involved the ceremonial additions to the original civil law of Moses---customs---added ceremonies or rituals.
This fact is further proven by noticing the four points [of Acts 15:20]. These
four points were originally part of the civil law of Moses. But these four points were ALSO included later within the added ceremonies [Why?] because gentiles
ate their sacrifices with the blood, often strangled their animals, presented them to idols and commonly committed
fornication in their religious ceremonies.
To prevent these pagan customs being practiced by Israel, God included the four civil points of
the law along with the rituals (Lev.17:7,10; Num.25:1-3).
Because some newly converted
Christians would have thought, therefore, that they were abolished along with the temporary rituals
when those ceremonies were declared no longer binding (in Acts 15), these four points had to be specifically declared
still in effect. Since these four points were part of the civil law BEFORE the addition of the rituals, they remained binding after
the need of the physical sacrifices and washings ceased.
The civil law [statutes & judgments] of Moses that defined
sin was not called into question in Acts 15---it was not involved. (Paul,
of course, explained elsewhere that the civil law, formerly administered in the letter, was now to be observed in
the spirit and full intent of its meaning---II
The many CIVIL laws
regulating tithing, clean and unclean meats and the annual Sabbaths are still for the New Testament Church because
they help explain what sin is. They
were NOT part of the ceremonial law of Moses mentioned in Hebrews 9:10 and in Acts 15. (The Good News magazine, Oct.-Nov. 1983)
Additional Comments Concerning Sacrifices
Let’s now clarify this issue of sacrifices, by reiterating and expanding
upon points already made.
God entered into a covenant (or agreement) with the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. At the time it was ratified and made binding (in Ex.24:3-8), this Covenant did NOT
contain the ritualized laws of animal sacrifice and other rituals. Such ritualistic
laws were added by God---soon thereafter---as a result of the people having grievously failed to uphold
their end of the agreement, which was to obey God’s spiritual law.
“For I did not speak to your fathers, or command
them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God…’”
(Jer.7:22-23). “What purpose then does the law [of sacrifice and
rituals] serve? It was added [later]
because of transgressions [of the spiritual law], till [yes, only until] the Seed [Christ] should come”
“The book of Exodus concludes with the erection of the tabernacle….How
was Israel to use the tabernacle? The
instructions in Leviticus answer that question. [Yes, the laws regulating sacrifice and offerings were given, basically, in
the book of Leviticus.], and [those laws] were given to Moses during the month and 20 days between the setting
up of the tabernacle (Ex.40:17) and the departure of the people from Sinai (Num.10:11).” 8
Again, the laws regulating sacrifices and offerings
were not even given by God until after the Old Covenant had been ratified and made binding in Ex.24:3-8.
They were added later ---within a year---due to grievous transgression
of the spiritual law (Gal.3:19). (We
can see how serious God considered this sin, by reading the following passages: Ex.32:6-12,
21, 27-28, 31, 35.)
This ritualistic and regulated system of sacrifices and offerings
was given for the purpose of instilling the habit of obedience, and to remind the people of their sins (Heb.10:3), and to
remind them that the penalty of sin is death (Ezek.18:4). It was this regulated system of sacrifices, given by God basically in the book of Leviticus, to which
God was referring when He said, “I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings
or sacrifices” (Jer.7:22). (Sacrifices
were not originally part of the Sinai Covenant.) In His comment in Jer. 7:22, God was not referring to other sacrifices, such as the following:
were burnt offerings and peace offerings made during the ceremonial ratification of the Sinai Covenant, in which the
blood was sprinkled both on the altar and on the people to formalize the agreement (Ex.24: 3-8).
Passover lamb sacrifice is the one and only sacrifice mentioned in the Book of the Covenant (Ex.23:18; 24:4,7). This Passover sacrifice had already been
introduced by God to the Israelites back in Exodus chapter 12---weeks before Sinai. Although it was a part of the Sinai agreement, it was not originally instituted
by that Covenant.
(3) Voluntary sacrifices: The principle of individuals voluntarily offering sacrifices
had existed all the way back to Cain and Abel. Such a freewill offering
is mentioned in Exodus 22:20.
(4) In Exodus chapter 29---after the ratification of the Sinai Covenant in chapter
24---God gave instructions in certain animal sacrifices that would be carried out once the Tabernacle was erected. These sacrifices described in chapter 29 were not for the sins of the people. Rather, they would be for the purpose of sanctifying the priests and the tabernacle, once the tabernacle
was erected. Chapter 29 begins by saying, “And this is what you
shall do to them to hallow them for ministering to Me as priests…” (verse 1). In the concluding statements of the chapter, God says,
“So I will sanctify the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. I will also sanctify both Aaron and his sons to minister to Me, as priests” (verse 44).
Finally, consider this. [Although the system of ritualized sacrifices was not begun until almost a year
after ratification of the Sinai Covenant, God had given instructions for the institution of a tabernacle and a priesthood
during Moses’ first forty days on Mt. Sinai (presumably during the latter part of that forty day period). Since the tabernacle and priesthood were
largely instituted for the purpose of offering sacrifices and performing ritualistic ceremonies, it is obvious
that God had already---during that 40-day period---decided to establish a system of sacrificial offerings.
Yet, the reason that He decided to do this was because of the grievous
sin committed by the people while Moses was on Mt. Sinai. And we can see how very serious God considered this sin, by reading the following: Ex.32:6-12, 21, 27-28, 31, 35.] Raymond McNair refers to “…the
animal sacrifices, meat and drink offerings, carnal washings, rituals and numerous ordinances pertaining to the flesh which
were added by God, later, to the covenant He had already ratified with Israel (Ex 24) after the Israelites had sinned by making
an idolatrous golden calf (Ex 32)…” 9 Yes,
God added these sacrifices and rituals after ---and because of--- this great sin committed
by the Israelites almost immediately after they had solemnly agreed to obey God!
An Outline of Exodus (Selected Events)
Ex. 20: 1-17
Ten Commandments spoken by God to the people.
Ex. chap. 21 thru
& Judgments spoken by God to Moses, who then spoke
them to the people and wrote them down (Ex.24: 3-4, 7).
Ex. 24: 3-8
Covenant ratified and made binding (including sprinkling of blood).
Ex. 24: 15 thru
chap. 31 Moses’
1st 40 days on Mt. Sinai, where he received from God the
Ten Commandments written on stone (Ex.31:18) and also instructions
God on instituting a tabernacle (Ex. chap. 25 thru 31:11). In the
midst of these instructions, God gave (in chap. 29)
the future tabernacle, as well as
instructions on the
institution and consecration of a priesthood.
Ex. chap. 32 The
great sin of the golden calf (which had been occurring while
was on Mt. Sinai). Upon returning
and seeing this great sin,
broke the 2 tablets of stone (verse 19), and then fell down
fasted another 40 days (Deut.9:17).
Ex. chap. 34 Moses’
2nd 40 days on Mt. Sinai, where he again received the Ten
written by God on stone (verses 1, 28).
Ex. chap. 35 thru
of the tabernacle.
the final chapter of Exodus (chap. 40), the tabernacle was raised
(verse 17). During the month and 20 days after the raising up
the tabernacle, God gave instructions (basically recorded in
Leviticus) which would now
regulate sacrifices & offerings.
(1) As a technical point of consideration, it may be that the animal sacrifices and ceremonial laws were never
technically part of the Old Covenant. The Sinai (Old) Covenant was ratified
and made binding in Ex.24:3-8 (as discussed above). The Apostle Paul
says that once a covenant “is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it” (Gal.3:15). “Once a covenant is signed, sealed or ratified---confirmed---it cannot be added to
(Gal.3:15). Anything appearing
‘beneath the signature,’ so to speak, is not legally any part of the covenant.” 2, 6
The adding of ceremonial laws to the Covenant would, in fact, be “annulling or adding to” a confirmed covenant!
Gal.3:19 makes it plain that the ceremonial laws were, indeed, “added.” Yet, the question is whether they were
added to (and became a part of) the
Covenant itself, or whether God intended these ceremonial laws to function along with the Old Covenant. In either case, when these ceremonial laws were added (within a year after the Covenant was ratified)
they became binding, and---like the Sinai Covenant---were to remain in effect until Christ’s
chapter 34 speaks of the Sinai Covenant being “renewed.” However,
that still does not answer the question posed above. Furthermore, the word “renewed”
is not used in the text of chapter 34---or anywhere else in the Pentateuch---and,
instead, is employed as an editorial chapter title
in certain Bibles.)
1. “A New Covenant?” Roderick
Meredith, The World Ahead magazine, Feb. 1995
2. “The Plain Truth About the Old and New Covenants,” Lesson 17 of Ambassador
College Bible Correspondence Course, 1983
3. “Did Jesus Abolish the Law?” Douglas Winnail, Living Church News,
4. “Which Laws in the Old Testament Have Authority Today?” Herman Hoeh, The
Good News, Oct.-Nov. 1983
5. “A New Covenant?” Roderick Meredith, Tomorrow’s World Magazine,
6. “WHY The Old and New Covenants?” Lesson 6 of Ambassador College Bible
Correspondence Course, 1991
7. “The Truth About the Covenants,” sermon by Roderick Meredith, 1995
8. “Introduction to the Book of Leviticus,” Ryrie Study Bible, 1985
9. “Must Christians Keep the ‘Law of Moses’ or Only the Ten Commandments?” Raymond F. McNair, Global Church News, July-Aug. 1995