Should we obey God’s laws?
What a strange question to ask! As Christians we have been saved by grace, trusting in Christ’s death and resurrection for our forgiveness. But we have been saved for good works, to live in obedience to God. So of course we should obey God’s commands.
But what about the commands of the Old Testament Law – the Law which God gave his people Israel through Moses. The 10 Commandments and so many other statutes and decrees. Do those Laws still apply? To some we would give a hearty Amen – “do not murder, do not steal”. But what about Leviticus 19:19 – “Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material”? Chances are whatever you’re wearing right now disobeys that law!
Over the years people have noticed this problem and come up with a solution: Simply divide all the Laws into three categories:
1) Civil – regulations for the running of the nation of Israel.
2) Ceremonial – laws about sacrifices, priests and what is unclean etc.
3) Moral – laws concerned with relating to God and to one another.
Having divided up the Laws, we’re told that we are not bound by the Civil and Ceremonial, but that we are bound by the Moral.
This all sounds very helpful. But the trouble is, it just doesn’t come from the Bible. Not once does the Bible divide up the Laws into categories, let alone spell out which categories still apply. On the contrary, the Laws are all mixed together: just before the verse about clothing with different materials, God says ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’
Why does it all matter? It matters because we want to understand the Bible. It matters because to obey God we need to know what he commands. It matters because sometimes people object that we are not consistent: e.g. why is homosexuality still wrong (Lev 18:22), but it’s OK to wear a shirt of cotton and polyester (Lev 19:19).
Some questions to ponder as we consider Leviticus 17-27 this week.