I’m not always this direct.
Here, I feel like expeditiously extricating the furry feline from the burlap bag, right up front:
I resist the notion that believers today ought to concern themselves directly with the Old Covenant or with any of its provisions or laws.
The Old Covenant was for the ancient Jews, in another time and place. The God of the Old Testament is the same God, but the people group He was dealing with in terms of Covenant no longer exists, and hasn’t for nearly two millennia.¹ See Jewish Diaspora. The Old Covenant appears to be a covenant given in one era — for one people group that existed in a singular theocracy.
The New Covenant is not so limited.
This is NOT to say that the “Old Testament” writings aren’t important. Of course they are! Lisa Colón Delay has recently highlighted Dr. David Dorsey’s fine article The Mosaic Law and the Christian: A Compromise on this topic, in which he essentially suggests this dual conclusion:
- The Old Testament is not legally binding now.
- The Old Testament is, on the other hand, highly significant in terms of a) revelation of God and of b) teaching about God.
That makes sense to me. How about you?
I have too much respect for what Jesus and, e.g., Paul and John say to think I need to pay direct attention to following any aspect of the Mosaic Law. A couple of hermeneutically difficult passages in Romans notwithstanding, I keep reading and discovering reasons to be convinced that the Ten Commandments and all other things Jewish, are, flatly, obsolete. I know, I know — respected Christian authors and preachers have produced mountains (née mole hills) of material on the Commandments. I don’t get it. Those laws were icons, but they were superseded. There’s so much more in the New Covenant to be focusing on.
These truths are not just seen with crystal clarity in Galatians and Hebrews and Romans. In John’s gospel and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we also have unmitigated, convincing voices that speak authoritatively: not Jews, but those who believe in Jesus as Christ, are Yahweh’s people now, and the New Covenant God that made is now the covenant. Jews have a choice to make now — just like the rest of us.
Let me be quick to acknowledge that the Ten Commandments and other Mosaic laws were everything in their time — for the Israelites and others who came to fear and honor God. And if we still have a good appetite for the knowledge of God, we will be consumers of the OT law, to an extent. However, every important aspect of the Decalogue and the rest of Jewish Law is pointed up, or expanded upon, or superseded in some way in the New Covenant writings. (NC references to the “law,” by the way, often deal with more than the Ten Commandments.)
My present, relatively studied conclusion is that the messages of, for example, John’s gospel and the letters to the Ephesians and Galatians and Hebrews put the Old Covenant (and the entire Jewish system) in the position of having been superseded. These later writings do not present the Old system as being renewed or even refreshed. Although this New-Covenant-is-the-only-covenant bent was a part of my earlier Christian education, the understanding has more recently been deepened and enhanced through serious study of such documents as the above-named ones.
To be continued . . .
¹ One is hard pressed to relate the Jews of the Mosaic Covenant to the modern state of Israel that had its official origin in 1948.
For more teaching on Old vs. New: