Are Christians Still Under Old Testament Commands? #126
Happy Lord’s Day, Brethren and Sistren. Today is a wonderful day to celebrate the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! If you don’t have a digital church home – what a strange thing to say! – please consider joining our digital church home – just go to Facebook and search VBC Salinas, and join us for our service at 11am Pacific. We would love to have you! Today’s Bible readings include Numbers 10, Psalms 46 and 47, Song of Songs 8, and Hebrews 8. Our focus question comes from Hebrews 8. Don’t ask me to explain what’s going on in Song of Songs 8. That’s a very unusual passage, and I need to spend some more time researching the meaning of Song of Songs. Some believe it to be a book with a dual meaning – on the surface about the marriage and intimacy of Solomon and his bride, but deeper below that a commentary on the relationship between God and His people. I lean pretty strongly in that direction, but there are some scholars, pastors and teachers who are pretty adamant that Song of Songs is ONLY about Solomon and his bride. Either way, Song of Songs 8 is pretty perplexing to me. Today’s big Bible question comes from a small part of Hebrews 8:
By saying a new covenant, he has declared that the first is obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old is about to pass away.
That’s interesting language, to be sure – is Hebrews 8 (and many other Hebrews passages) teaching that the Old Testament is obsolete – no longer binding on New Covenant Christians?
It’s a great question that is actually somewhat divisive – there are good and Godly men and women on both sides of the debate. Some believe that the Old Testament is no longer binding/authoritative on Christians, some believe that both the Old and the New Testament are BOTH equally binding on Christians, and some believe that the Old Testament ceremonial laws and commands are no longer binding, but the moral commands are still binding. My view, as discussed in a previous episode, is that non-Jewish New Covenant believers in Jesus are NOT under the commands of the Old Testament, but the New Testament, and I believe that this is what Hebrews 8 is referring to. Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament, and, though it is still Scripture and useful and the Word of God, we are not under the authority of the Law and Old Covenant, because it has been fulfilled – we are under the New Covenant. I like how Michael Houdman of GotQuestions.org phrases it:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18)
It could not be any more clear. Absolutely nothing in the Law will disappear until everything is accomplished. In order to demonstrate that “everything is accomplished,” all we need to do is demonstrate that something from the Law has disappeared. Is there something that has disappeared? Yes! What? The sacrificial system!
The Old Covenant sacrificial system is no longer in effect, and it was a major aspect of the Old Covenant Law. Not even the most ardent defender of the Hebrew Roots Movement will argue that God still wants us to be offering animal sacrifices today. So, if the Old Covenant sacrificial system has “disappeared,” what does that mean? It means, according to Matthew 5:17-18, that “everything is accomplished.”
If “everything is accomplished,” what does that mean? It means that the Old Covenant Law has been fulfilled. How was it fulfilled? It was fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ lived a life of perfect obedience to both the letter and the spirit of the Old Covenant Law. Jesus Christ died to fulfill the Old Covenant sacrificial system. Jesus fulfilled/completed the entirety of the Old Covenant Law. Therefore, followers of Jesus Christ, those who have accepted by grace through faith His death and resurrection as the atoning sacrifice for their sins, are not under the authority of the Old Covenant Law.
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4)
“So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.” (Galatians 3:24-25)
“…by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances…” (Ephesians 2:15)
It is not complicated. Jesus fulfilled all of the Law. The Old Covenant has been fulfilled. Observance of the Old Covenant Law is not a requirement, or even a recommendation, for New Covenant believers.
Now, if you want to observe the Old Covenant feasts and festivals in remembrance of the fact that Christ perfectly fulfilled them, wonderful! If you even want to attempt to live under the Old Covenant Law, there is nothing in the New Covenant that would prevent you from doing so. It would be part of your freedom in Christ.
But, I still have no idea why anyone would want to exchange what is described in Hebrews 8—10 as “more excellent,” “with better promises,” and “greater and more perfect,” in order to live under what is described as “a shadow,” and “obsolete.”
Does this mean that the Old Testament isn’t valuable, or is no longer the Word of God? Of course not! It is valuable and profitable in every way, but we are now no longer under the Law/Old Testament, but under grace/ the New Testament. (Go read Acts 15 for more, and also check out episode 15 – are we still under the Old Testament.)
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