The Old Covenant is abolished. Then why turn to the Old Testament to learn which LAWS we are to observe? THE OLD covenant was the marriage agreement that united the LORD and the nation Israel into a husband and wife relationship. When Israel SINNED, the covenant was broken. When Christ, the husband, DIED, the covenant ceased to be in force. Death ENDED the MARRIAGE agreement — the old covenant.
Today the terms and conditions of a new covenant — a new marriage agreement — are opened to us as Christians. In the new covenant the laws of God will be written in our hearts and minds not on tables of stone or in a book (II Cor. 3:3).
Therefore, since the old covenant is abolished, why refer to Exodus 20 — a part of the old covenant — to prove that the ten commandments are still in force today?
And why refer to Deuteronomy 16 to prove how we ought to observe the annual festivals? To Leviticus 27:30 to prove that tithing is one of God's laws for us today? And why use Deuteronomy 14 to enumerate which are the clean, healthful meats?
Yes, WHY? — since the old covenant is abolished?
The Usual Argument It is a common assumption — accepted by the great majority of the Christian professing world — that the Old Testament HAS NO AUTHORITY FOR US TODAY! The usual argument is as follows: "The laws of the Old Testament are a part of the old covenant. They BEGAN with Moses. God never made the old covenant with Abraham; He made it only with the 'Jews' at Sinai. Besides that, Christ abolished the law and built a New Testament church."
You have heard this argument before. What is WRONG with it?
First, did God's law begin at Sinai with the old covenant? No! Let's notice when it really commenced.
The Sabbath — which is part of the law — began at the close of the six days of physical re-creation not in the days of Moses. God HALLOWED the seventh day. He made it holy time 2500 years before Moses! Read it in Genesis 2:3. It is SIN to profane whatever God hallows or makes holy. The heathen — from their own historical records — knew of the Sabbath long before the days of Abraham. Therefore God's law existed before Abraham. That's why Abraham had to OBEY God's law (Gen. 26:5).
Another point of the law is "Thou shalt not commit adultery." How could it have been a "sin against God" for Joseph to commit adultery, if the ten commandments were not in existence prior to Moses? (Gen. 39:9).
Second, how could Abraham keep God's commandments, if they did not exist? (Gen. 26:5). The undeniable fact remains that it was SIN to break EVERY ONE OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS BEFORE MOSES.
Here is what most people don't realize. God's inexorable laws have been in active force from the beginning. The fact that God wrote them down on tables of stone merely means that GOD CATALOGED THEM FOR US. Men write down laws of physics, chemistry, and mathematics in a book. They catalog these laws for ready reference, but their writing the natural laws does NOT originate them anymore than Newton's "law of gravity" brought gravity into being!
WE TURN TO EXODUS 20, not because the old covenant is binding, BUT BECAUSE IN THE OLD COVENANT IS FOUND THE ONLY PORTION OF SCRIPTURE WHERE ALL THE COMMANDMENTS ARE LISTED SYSTEMATICALLY. LET'S REMEMBER THAT!
The ten commandments are not binding because they were written in stone, but because they are God's law from creation. Only in Exodus 20 do we have all the POINTS of the law. James, the bishop of Jerusalem, quoted from Exodus 20 when he wanted to enumerate the points of "the law of liberty" — the ten commandments (James 2:10-11). WE ARE TO FOLLOW JAMES' EXAMPLE TODAY when quoting the commandments.
The Book of the Covenant The same pitiful argument utilized against the ten commandments is repeated concerning God's statutes and judgments. Scripture proves the statutes and laws of God were binding principles BEFORE Sinai (Exodus 18:16).
If they were not in force, how could God have told NOAH BEFORE THE FLOOD that certain animals were "clean" and others "unclean"? (Gen. 7:2). If the statutes and the laws began only when they were recorded in the book of the covenant by Moses, what right could God have in taking tithes of Abraham and Jacob 400 years earlier? (Genesis 14:20; 28:22).
Now consider this: Even though the distinction between clean and unclean meats was known to Noah, yet he did not tell us which the clean are! WE COULD NOT KNOW unless they were later recorded for us. And we find that record in the statutes and judgments (Lev. 11 and Deut. 14) which God commanded Moses to write. No law written by Moses could MAKE an animal unclean (unhealthful for food). Moses, under inspiration, merely codified the laws for us. Moses and the prophets "RECEIVED the lively oracles TO GIVE TO US" (Acts 7:58).
The prophets RECEIVED the laws from God. God, not man, instituted them. We received the laws of God through the written record of the prophets who recorded them for us when the Old Testament was still in force.
Incorporated into the Bible You will remember that the ten commandments, as originally given were written in tables of stone by the finger of God. The lesser laws were written as a civil code in the letters of the Hebrew alphabet by Moses in a book. How, then, did the ten commandments come to be written in a book today — the Bible?
Jesus said man shall live by "every word of God." God has committed His revelation of essential knowledge to us in the form of a book — the Bible. He therefore caused the old covenant with its commandments, statutes and judgments to be incorporated into the Bible so we would have A SYSTEMATIC FORM of His laws. We refer to the Old Testament for God's laws — NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE A PART OF THE OLD COVENANT WHICH IS NO LONGER IN FORCE — BUT BECAUSE THEY ARE A PART OF THE BIBLE, the very Word of God.
In the New Testament, Paul quoted twice from the book of the law of Moses (Deut. 25:4) to prove his doctrines (I Cor. 9:9 and I Tim. 5:18). Jesus used the old covenant as the basis for His New Testament teaching in Matthew 5:17-48. Jesus recognized that the old covenant was the ONLY portion of scripture where God's laws were systematically arranged. Instead of destroying God's law, he came "to magnify it and make it honorable" (Isaiah 42:21). He said: "If you believed Moses, you would believe me restored its spiritual principles — as it was in the BEGINNING! Jesus and the New Testament Church constantly referred to the Old Testament as FINAL AUTHORITY. Let us do the same TODAY!