As a Christian I am very concerned with what the Bible says because I believe it's the truth and I want to live my life accordingly. However, from time to time the question comes up whether or not Christians like me follow all of the commands of the Bible. For example, the vast majority of Christians do not follow the dietary laws or Sabbath laws found in the first five books of the Bible. I have thought about this for many years and additionally it's a common question that people ask me. Especially troubling is a verse from Matthew 5:17 and following:
"Do not think that I [Jesus] 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. Anyone who breaks 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 practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven..."
Since I bounced this question off of Karen she emailed Probe ministries a few years ago and got a response from a guy named Michael Gleghorn. Of course the only real authority on this matter is the Bible, but I thought Gleghorn addressed the question very well from the Bible. So below is a link to an interesting article followed by the email he sent to Karen. Both of them deal with this question.
What is the Value of the Old Testament for New Testament Christians?
Thank you for writing Probe Ministries. You ask a very good question about a controversial and emotionally charged issue. Here's my own view:
1. The Mosaic Law of the Old Covenant (Old Testament) is obsolete. Indeed, the writer to the Hebrews says this very thing (see Heb. 8:7-13). Today, it is the New Covenant which is in effect, not the Old. This does not mean that believers are without rules, or moral principles, to live by. It's very important to understand this. But whatever principles we are to conform ourselves to are given under the terms of the New Covenant in the New Testament. For example, nine of the original Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament. The only one that's not repeated is the Sabbath commandment (see Rom. 14 and Colossians 2, etc.) Additionally, New Covenant believers have the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit to help them fulfill God's righteous requirements (Rom. 8, 2 Cor. 3, Galatians 5, etc.). Indeed, in many of his epistles (e.g. Romans and Galatians in particular), Paul is concerned to drive this home repeatedly. It seems to me that Paul discouraged believers from putting themselves under the law of Moses (carefully read Rom. 7; Gal. 3; etc.). Besides all this, the law was never given to Gentiles in the first place. It was given only to Israel, and it was only in effect for a limited time. Finally, we must consider the purpose of the Law. Paul writes very clearly about this in Gal. 3:19-25 (as well as other places). In verses 24-25 he concludes that "the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."
2. Some good verses to share with your friend include those mentioned above. I would especially encourage him to read passages like Rom. 7, Galatians 3, Colossians 2 and Hebrews 8. However, reading these entire books carefully would be even better.
3. Matthew 5:17-20 = I take it that Jesus did fulfill the requirements of the Law through perfect obedience to it. Through His perfect obedience to it, substitutionary atonement and resurrection, He has provided a way for sinners who trust in Him to be made just before God (Rom. 3:21-26). This ties in with what Paul says in Galatians 3:19-25. The Law reveals our sin, but is powerless to make righteous. By revealing to us our sin, however, it performs a valuable service. It helps us understand God's holy standards and the fact that we fall short of these standards. Thus, by making us aware of our sin and helplessness to please God through our works, the Law should cause us to turn to Christ that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, our relationship with God is no longer governed by law; it is governed by grace (John 1:17; Romans 6:14; etc.). As the New Covenant believer faithfully relies on the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, he will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, but will manifest the fruit of God's Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25). In this way, "the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:4).