Hello! I am wondering whether all, none, or only essential laws are applicable to today from the Old Testament. This came about in a discussion with another Christian. I said that these rules, especially the law being mooted—declaring homosexuality wrong, we’re still in effect and to be obeyed. The other, who is a good friend of mine, said if that were true, then one still cannot where clothing made of different fabrics. I felt caught in a double standard. I fumbled with the rest of my argument. Please clarify.
The point about fabrics was made because it was reported that it was once a law in the Old Testament as well, similar to eating pork.
The author of Hebrews talks about the OT law being obsolete due to Christ. But many are repeated in the NT, so a general rule of thumb is that all would those would still apply. The law on fabrics and pork didn’t make it to the NT. It’s a bit simplistic of an answer but hope that helps.
Thank you very much!
@LleytonH58 That is a good question. Here is an article and short excerpt from it that explains why we do not need to follow all of the OT laws. The gist of it - and I agree - is that there 3 types of law in the OT - ceremonial (laws for the priests and purification of the people), judicial/civil (for the earthly kingdom of Israel) and moral (laws based upon God’s nature and eternally binding). When Jesus’ died on the cross, He put an end to the ceremonial and judicial law - He is our High Priest and King - we live a new life by the Spirit and not by the letter of the law. Our purity is not through sacrifices of goats and bulls, but once and for all by the blood of the Son of God.
“There exists a three-fold division of the law — ceremonial, judicial/civil and moral. The civil and ceremonial law are no longer applicable to us today, while the moral law — which is not culturally contingent — is indeed universally binding.”
Why a law about fabric?
The reason, in my opinion, for some of the laws about not mixing fabrics was because God was trying to teach Israel to live a holy life and He wanted them to understand that they had to be ‘set apart’ from the Canaanites and other nations that lived in that land. If Israel was going to be His people, they had to live in a unique way from the people around them - they had to honor Him as the true God and not worship the false gods of the nations or do any of the evil things that they did. So God used practical illustrations - don’t mix these fabrics as a reminder that you should not compromise your purity by defiling yourself / mixing with these other nations who worship false gods and defile their bodies.
One passage worth considering here is Matthew 15:16-20 (Mark 7:18-23 reads similarly):
“So Jesus said, ‘Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man’” (NKJV).
Here we can see Jesus, even while releasing His disciples from obeying ritual aspects of the Law, affirming that some prohibitions of the Law are there because certain actions are sins that defile. The key to discerning between what is sin and what isn’t seems to hinge on the motives of the heart and whether an action is intrinsically opposed to how God intended mankind to live.
Incidentally, since you brought up the topic of homosexuality, this passage offers a clear instance in which Jesus validates the Old Testament’s wholesale prohibition. Among His list of defiling sins is “fornication” (rendered as “sexual immorality” in many other translations). The term used here (porneía) is used throughout the New Testament to refer generally to illicit acts of sex (consensual and non-consensual), and it cannot be limited to adultery since adultery (moicheía) is explicitly referred to separately within the text. Jesus makes no effort to define what He means by “sexual immorality,” indicating that His audience (His disciples) understood what He was referring to. As First-Century Jews, their understanding of “sexual immorality” would have been based on the Law, specifically Leviticus 18. If you read the passage, a few things will become evident: First, the chapter is a distinct passage that is separate from the text preceding and succeeding it; second, with the exception of child sacrifice, the text deals exclusively with sex-related acts; and third, the chapter actually concludes by identifying the actions outlined in the passage (among which homosexuality is included) as the actions which so defiled the Canaanites and their land that God commissioned the Israelites to annihilate them. This last point is of particular interest: Such statements do not appear just anywhere within the Law, and if God lists something as part of His justification for genocide, it might be wise to take note.
Thank you for your helpful response.