At the Blue Letter Bible, we consistently receive questions on tithing, on which,if any, of the often “strange” Levitical laws (e.g., Do not weave two kinds of fabric together) apply to the believer today, on when to celebrate Old Testament feast days, et cetera. These are all questions borne out of an inadequate understanding of the agreement made between God and Moses on Mount Sinai.
Properly understanding the covenants and their importance seems to be one of the most eluding pieces of theology for the modern believer. The Mosaic Covenant was directed specifically toward the nation of Israel and was concerned in its chiefest aspect with Israel's inheritance of and blessing in the land of Canaanthe Promised Land. The laws that attended this covenant, while revealing God's desire for this nation to be set apart from all others as an example, do not necessarily give us any perfect basis for understanding morality. This may seem to be a strange statement. But we ask you to consider the following points.
- Much of the time when people discuss the “Law,” they are thinking primarily of the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments). However, the Law, (i.e., the Mosaic Covenant) contained several hundreds of commandments. Many of which today are not even possible to follow, due to the lack of a Jewish Temple. Yet, biblical morality is not affected by this situation.
- In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus seemingly expanded the understanding of the Ten Commandments. Rather than just stating that we should not murder, He told us that if we called our brother a “fool,” it was the same as committing murder. So the Ten Commandments were not all encompassing as to morality.
While the law is good
The Law (both the covenantal and the universal, Ten Commandment aspects of it) now serves to lead mankind to understand his corruption. Just as Israel, a nation born of the fruit of God's own grace, could not stand under the righteous requirements of the Mosaic Law, neither can any man stand under the condemnation of God's universal requirementabsolute obedience of mind and action. Paul speaks of the Law as one who leads us step by step to grace, for it points out our dire need of such (cf. Galatians 3:23ff). And having taken hold of grace by faith, the believer no longer heeds the condemning beckon of the Law (cf. Romans). So then, is there any reason to look to the Levitical laws for ethical guidance unto righteousness? Nofor their service now is to guide men to Christ (Galatians 3:24).
What then? Is this freedom merely for the believing Gentile? Or does the believer of Jewish decent likewise bear this liberty? As certainly as the Jewish believer holds to Christ is his freedom from the Mosaic Law assured. The chief redemptive aspect of the Mosaic Covenant has been fulfilled by Christ. The blood of bulls and goats is useless and perfectly replaced by the sacrifice of the one Son of God Himself; to return to the Mosaic Law is to deny the sacrifice of Christ. This was the impetus driving the apostles as they stood against the Judaizers (those who were requiring believers in Christ to bear up under the Mosaic Law) proclaiming, "Beware the dogs, the evildoers, the mutilation!"
Where then do we find our Christian ethic? Quite simply, in Christ's words: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength and you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:30-31). If we follow Christ's command, we cannot break any aspect of the Ten Commandments, nor any aspect of God's morality. And we find extrapolation of these ultimate commands in all the writings of the New Testament authors. That is our ethicand it is borne by our faith in and love for Christ rather than from our fear of breaking the law.