Are there some Old Testament laws that are still important today?
The Mosaic Laws
There are some laws in the Old Testament that are no longer relevant to the New Testament church because these Mosaic laws pointed to the coming work of Jesus Christ at Calvary. Some of the dietary laws are good examples. In the sacrifices, the animal needing to be without spot or blemish prefigured Jesus living a sinless life of perfect obedience, never having sinned once. By giving His own life, He made the perfect sacrifice and the only sacrifice that is acceptable to God. If you study some of the rituals, such as when Moses commands Aaron to undergo a special series of washings, you can see the analogy of being cleansed before coming into the presence of God. Don’t overlook a book that many people do. In the Book of Leviticus, you can see so much of the symbolism fulfilled in the life of Christ. However, these sacrifices had to be repeated over and over again and could only cover the sins of the people and only for a time. But Jesus’ once-and-for-all sacrifice takes sins away forever.
The Civil Laws
The Bible was ages ahead of science and medicine with the laws of sanitation, required washings, treatment for diseases, quarantines for the sick, measures to prevent the spread of disease but also other civil laws that it took humans hundreds of years to finally catch up to. The Bible says life is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11). At one time in human history, doctors would do bloodletting in order to “cure” someone; however, sometimes it would kill them. As you can see, some of these Old Testament laws are still important today because they were designed to benefit society as well as the individual. They gave certain responsibilities to individuals to ensure these laws were kept. Many of America’s laws, as well as other nations, are based on the Ten Commandments and other Old Testament civil laws. One example is murder, which required the life of that individual (Exodus 21:12). Kidnapping was punishable by death, and there were even laws that required the lawbreaker to pay restitution to the person they had harmed (Exodus 21:18-19). Other civil laws included when someone damaged another person’s property, in which they were required to restore that person’s property (Exodus 21:30-34). Many of these same Old Testament laws are found in law books across America, in the cities, counties, states, and even the government. Since many of the Old Testament civil laws are what most nations have patterned their own laws after, we can see there are some Old Testament laws that are still important today. That’s because these laws were made to protect life, limb, and property.
The Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments are not considered part of the Mosaic Law. For one thing, they came before the giving of the Mosaic laws. The Mosaic laws were only relevant until the One Who would fulfill all these laws came, and that was Jesus Christ. The Ten Commandments are considerably different from the other Old Testament laws. For one thing, they were written by the very finger of God, so to speak, and were written on tablets of stone, indicating their permanency. Certainly, “you shall not murder” and “you shall not commit adultery” are just as relevant today as in the day they were written. In fact, the Apostle Paul says that the law is even written on the hearts of the Gentiles (the unsaved), as they know what is sin and what is not. Paul writes, “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:15). This is why Paul says that people who deny God’s existence have no excuse. They know He exists; they simply suppress this knowledge (Romans 1:18-20). Clearly, Paul was not talking about the Mosaic law. The context of Romans 1 and 2 shows it was in reference to the Ten Commandments.
New Testament Commands
Jesus tells us the two greatest commands: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27), on these everything wrapped up in the law and in the prophets. The first four commandments are vertically related to loving God, shown by obeying God and having a personal relationship with Him. The next six commandments are horizontal and have to do with our relationship with other people. However, Jesus adds another, saying, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). That’s a very bold command. We are told to love one another just as Jesus loved them, which is a supreme, sacrificial, willing-to-die-for kind of love. This is the type of love that will define just who Jesus’ disciples are, as He says it is “by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Conversely, they may not know we are His disciples if we don’t have “love for one another.”
I believe there are more Old Testament laws that are still relevant today, such as don’t muzzle the ox while it treads out grain (Deuteronomy 25:4). This simply means that “whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast” (Proverbs 12:10), which means we should never treat animals in an inhumane way. If an animal is laboring for the farmer, doesn’t it have the right to partake in part of the harvest? Paul quotes that Old Testament law (Deuteronomy 25:4) in writing to Timothy, but this was in the context of “the laborer deserves his wages” (1 Timothy 5:18). If some of the same principles that were taught in the Old Testament apply in the context of today, then these Old Testament laws are still relevant in that way. This means they are still important for us today. They tell us about God and Who He is and about the holiness and perfection of God and His standards or expectations of His own people. Of course, we can’t be saved by the law or by works (Ephesians 2:8-9), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to live lives that avoid breaking the law. We will never be sinless, but we should desire to sin less. That’s what I think all of God’s laws point to–they reflect the holiness of God and His desire that we should strive to do what is right. His laws are important to Him. They must be important to us, not to be saved but because we are saved.