Why do I (try to) obey the Bible’s command not to lie, yet feel comfortable ignoring commands instructing me to sacrifice certain animals or to not cut my hair or trim my beard? This seeming contradiction leads some to write off all of the Bible’s teachings as irrelevant and many Christians as out of touch.
The Old Testament contains at least three types of laws: Ceremonial, civil and moral.
Ceremonial laws dictated how God’s people, Israel, were to worship Him. Leviticus prescribes many sacrifices that were to be brought to the Lord. The New Testament shows that Jesus’ death on the cross was the sacrifice that all the Old Testament sacrifices pointed to. Since Jesus died once and for all I no longer look to the Old Testament law to instruct me in worship. I worship God by the new and living Way – Jesus Christ.
Civil laws dictated how God’s people were to live in community together. Civil law includes commands about how to harvest fields, how to build houses and how to cook dinner. These laws express God’s desire for purity and justice among His people. However, since these laws applied to the government of a specific nation at a specific time in history, they do not apply to us today.
The Moral law, revealed in the Ten Commandments, show God’s holiness and reveal His moral standard. Neither His holiness nor His moral standard ever change so this law does apply to us today. God is holy and He is cultivating a people who delight to be like Him.