Noah J. Greer Pastor Matt Round

Noah Greer & Pastor Matt Round

November 17th, 2023

Episode 38

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Understanding Old Testament Laws in Today’s Context

Welcome to another episode of the Grounded Podcast with Pastor Matt Round. In this episode, we delve into a question that has been posed by one of our listeners: How do we delineate between what Old Testament laws apply today? This is a pertinent question, considering that the Old Testament provided Israel with numerous laws about how to live, perform sacrifices, traditions, and more. As Christians, particularly gentile Christians, how should we approach these laws and how do they apply in our lives today?

The Complexity of Old Testament Laws

Addressing this question is Pastor Matt Round. It’s important to note that this is a topic where people often have different perspectives, and that’s perfectly okay. There is room for some distinction as long as it is covered and saturated by grace. Israel was given over 600 laws. Counting them all up can yield different totals, but it’s over 600 laws that they were given. This raises the significant question: which ones of those are still binding? It’s an important question. If there are laws that are binding, we should know about them because part of our active heart desire to obey Christ as believers would lead us to want to obey those laws to the best of our ability.

The Purpose of the Law

Before we delve deeper into this, let’s first understand the purpose of the law. Why was it given in the first place? The first reason that the law was given is that it reveals the character of God. In Leviticus 19:2, when God says “Be holy as I am holy,” the law shows us what the holiness of God is like. Take any number of things, but when God says “you shall not lie,” why is that? It’s not just because lying is inconvenient. It’s because God is the God of truth. Every word He speaks is true. And if God’s people are to be like God, then they are to pursue his same characteristics, His same traits. So the law reveals the holiness of God.

We could say a lot more about all of these, but we’re going to try to keep them fairly short today. The second thing that the law does is it reveals the failure of mankind. If the law highlights the holiness and the character of God, then the law also shines a light on the character of man. And that’s not nearly so flattering.

Galatians 3:19, among other places, reminds us that the law didn’t save. Instead, what the law does is it shows us how far from the standard we’ve fallen. The law exposes our failure in a way where, if you don’t know, it’s a sin not to walk on, you don’t know it’s a sin to walk on the grass until you see the sign that says don’t walk on the grass.

The law is the sign that says “Don’t do these things.” And it exposes our failure to meet the standard, the high and holy standard of God. The third thing that the law did was that it provided covering for sin for a time through sacrifice, not perfect final forgiveness, but the law provided a way for a sinful people to live in the presence of a holy God without Him consuming them.

The sacrifices, particularly the specific outlines in Leviticus one through Leviticus seven, talk about the atoning work of those sacrifices, the covering the restorative work of those sacrifices. And as they were performed faithfully and obediently, they maintained that Covenant fellowship between God and His people. Now again, those sacrifices weren’t permanent. You read through Hebrews nine and three, Hebrews ten, and it so it’s this consistent contrast between the weakness of the old covenant law, the temporary nature, not only of the high priest, but the temporary nature of the sacrifice of the fact that they had to be offered over and over one after another.

And those are contrasted with the perfect final sacrifice of Christ that was not only once and for all, but that did more than an external covering. It actually cleansed the conscience of the worshiper. So the law not not have not a perfect final function, but one of the beautiful benefits of the law was that it covered the people’s sins and it allowed them to maintain fellowship with the Holy God whose presence dwelt in their midst.

And the law also bound Israel together. It gave them commonality and community as they came together to worship, to offer sacrifices, celebrate the feasts and the festivals, and made them distinct as a nation. They looked different. They spoke differently, they dressed differently. They ate differently when they were obedient, and it delineated them as God’s peculiar, clear, not meaning strange, but his particular his called out people. The law gave them, in a sense, a national identity as the people of God and none of those things are bad.

Christ’s Interaction with the Law

Fast forward and we have to talk about how Christ interacted with the law, what Christ said about the law. First of all, we know that Christ was perfectly obedient to the law. The fact that he was sinless means that he kept the law perfectly, and not only every external call, but every heart motivation behind the law was perfectly kept in Christ.

And then you come to Matthew Chapter five, the opening chapter for the Sermon on the Mount. And in Matthew 5:17, Jesus says, “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. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away. Not an iota, not a dot will pass from the law until all is accomplished.”

Therefore, whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

What’s happening there? And more than we can get into in a brief podcast. But essentially we have to see that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law of God. He didn’t come to abolish the prophetic words spoken by the prophets. He came to fulfill them. God did not change his mind. God made very particular promises to His people in the law that are not done away with in Christ.

God had very particular calls to His people that were not done away with in Christ. God did not say that something was good right and holy at one time and then changed his mind about it later. He did not say that something was evil at one time and then changed his mind about it later. That is not consistent with the nature and the character of God.

You actually see that as as Jesus teaches. He doesn’t undo the law. If anything, he heightens the requirement of the law. Even there in the Sermon on the Mount, you’ve heard it said, but I say you’ve heard it said you shall not murder, you shall not kill. And everyone would have agreed with that. But he says that murder isn’t simply an external act you can keep.

It begins in the heart motivation of hatred. That hatred is tantamount is on par with murder in that both break the law. So he doesn’t undo the law. He heightens, if anything, the requirement of the law drives it back to the heart motivation beyond even the external keeping of the law. Jesus is challenged about marriage and divorce and he doesn’t say, Well, that was for Moses in that time.

Instead, he reiterates what Moses and the law says about marriage. One of the things you hear a lot today is Jesus didn’t say anything about things like same sex marriage, and in fact, he did. When he’s challenged on the idea of divorce, he reiterates what is said in the law. Marriage is between one man and one woman, and that’s a binding covenant relationship.

Because he does not specifically mention something doesn’t mean he didn’t talk about it. He actually reinforced what the law said about marriage to begin with. So the law is an ignored. It’s fulfilled, particularly in the fact that Christ perfectly obeyed every piece, every part, every precept of it, including every heart motivation that you couldn’t simply visually see on the outside.

The Christian’s Interaction with the Law

So how does the Christian then interact with the law? First of all, the Christian has to see that the law is not evil. The law is not a bad thing. It is the old covenant. It is certainly a a lesser covenant that the New Covenant supersedes and is made necessary to the New Covenant. But the law in Roman 7:12 is called Holy, Righteous and Good.

The law reveals the character of God, and it still does. The law called to the forefront the reality of man’s sin, and it still does those things. So the law still does the good work of exalting God and exposing the sinfulness of mankind. It draws us to the reality that God is holy and is worthy of our worship, and it drives us to the place where we see that we are in need of salvation by grace, through faith and nothing else, because it exposes our complete inability to keep all of the commands and statutes and precepts that God has ordained.

Beyond that, it’s very common to divide the law into various parts, various headings. Most commonly people will divide the law into three parts. They’ll talk about the moral law, the civil law and the ceremonial law, the moral lobbying, things like the Ten Commandments laws that talk about our moral obligation to love God and love others. They’re the specifics for how to live that out.

Civil law would deal with kind of the particular legal code of Israel. What to do when you know your neighbor’s ox gores your servant, what to do when you dig a pit in someone else’s animal falls into it. The specific legal dealings between Covenant Brothers and sisters in Israel. And then you have a ceremonial law that would include the religious observations of Israel, the feasts, the festivals, the sacrifices, those types of things.

How Christians Interact with the Law

So how does the Christian interact with the law? The Christians, first of all, universally believers, would understand that we are not saved by law keeping. Romans two, Galatians two, Ephesians two. I’ll make it very, very clear that the law is not what saves us. That obedience and adherence to the law is not what saves us. The law exposes our sin.

The law reveals our condemnation. The law is only perfectly kept through Christ and therefore Christ. Our righteousness is what saves us, not our own righteousness, through observing the law. And that’s why we can have distinction on some of these finer points, because genuine Christians all view the law as not salvific not a saving thing. Second thing we need to see is that believers, Christians, particularly Gentile Christians, are not under the law.

Romans 10:4 Paul writes for Christ Is the end of the law for righteousness? To everyone who believes Galatians 3:23 through 25. Now, before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 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 for in Christ Jesus. You are all sons of God through faith. Ephesians 2:14 four He himself is our peace who has made us both. One has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances that he might create in himself one new man in place of two, so thereby making peace.

And he might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. In Acts 15, we have the Jerusalem Council, Paul and Barnabas have been witnessing among the Gentiles. They have seen the spirit come into Gentiles in the same way that it was given to the Jews. And in this early fledgling church, you have the potential for great hostility and even division.

And the question being raised, how Jewish do you have to be to be a Christ follower? How much of the Jewish law do Gentile believers have to take on in order to be a part of the church? That that’s that’s the heart of that question. And in Acts chapter 15, verse 19, it said, James says, Therefore, my judgment is that we should not trouble those Gentiles who turned to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols and from sexual immorality and from what has been strangled and from blood.

Four From ancient generations, Moses has had in every city, those who proclaim him free is read at every Sabbath in the synagogues. Essentially, the heart of the decision by the Jerusalem Council is that Gentile believers are certainly not under the law for an more in-depth reason, because the Jews themselves couldn’t keep it. Why place that burden on the Gentiles?

But they said the Gentiles are not under the law only tell them to do these things, not to save them, but to maintain peace and harmony and unity, not to offend their brothers and Paul talks a ton about that at the end of Romans as he’s working through the practical application of all of that theology. He talks about not offending the weaker brothers, not not doing things that might cause someone else to stumble, even as he says, don’t let anyone judge you with regard to a feast or a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.

He says to take into account the thoughts and the feelings of others as you exercise your liberty. So Christians are not saved by the law. Christians are not under the law. There are many who would divide the law into those three parts and would then say absolutely true. We are no longer bound by the law for salvation, but we are still called to obey the law.

And most would say we’re freed from the civil law since we are not in the nation of Israel, were freed from the ceremonial law because we don’t have the liberty call sacrifices and feasts and festivals, but we are still bound by the moral law. Most often that is how the delineation would get made that Christians are not under the law, but are still called to observe the moral law because of those timeless precepts that it’s built on.


Thank you very much, Pastor Matt. That was an excellent answer to a very good question. Thank you to the listener who submitted that question. If you have a question of your own, please email us. Grounded with Matt round at If you want to listen to other episodes related to biblical questions, visit our website, The Ground Head podcast dot com.

Thank you very much for listening and we’ll see you next week.