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Jesus himself says it does in Matthew 5:17-18. He says he did not come to do away with the Law (the Old Testament), but to fulfill it and that it will not pass away until heaven and earth pass away. Thus all the OT still applies to us according to Jesus, but, he does say it is fulfilled in him. This means his life, teaching and work bring the OT to it’s fullest expression, to its true meaning. He says the OT is still binding on us, but only as interpreted through and in him.

The implications of this teaching are twofold. First, the moral laws of the Old Testament still apply to us as interpreted through Christ’s teaching and life. Secondly, the ceremonial laws have passed away because the OT ceremonies represented Christ until he came and redeemed us. Now we no longer have to practice those ceremonies because we have the salvation in Christ that they foreshadowed.

This is evident in Jesus’ teaching. In the Sermon on the Mount he quotes two of the commands of the 10 Commandments: You shall not murder and you shall not commit adultery. Instead of doing away with these commands, he intensifies them saying murder is committed when we speak evil of someone and adultery is committed when we lust after someone in our hearts. The moral commands of the OT still apply to us according to Jesus.

On the other hand, in the Book of Acts, the ascended Christ tells Peter Christians no longer have to obey the food laws of the OT. The point behind the food laws (don’t eat pork) was to teach the Israelites that they were to live differently than the peoples around them. This point still applies to Christians as we are to follow God morally, not the world around us. But the ceremonial laws, like the food laws, were training wheels to help the Israelites learn this point. It’s easy to see the difference between two groups when they are different in cultural externals like what foods they eat. But now that Christ has come, we know the real way God wants us to be different from the world is to follow Christ’s moral teachings. The training wheels, the “cultural” laws, like the food laws, have been revoked.

These principles don’t automatically solve all the problems of interpretation. Christians at times can disagree over whether an OT law is moral or ceremonial. Nevertheless, the interpretive principle is biblical: the whole OT applies to us in Christ and this means some commands are still binding and others have been revoked. As Christ said in Luke 24, the entire OT was written about him. To understand how it applies to us, we must interpret it through him.

Let us examine this theory as it applies to the Book of Hebrews. First, the writer of Hebrews treats the OT as binding. In chapter 1 he uses the OT to prove that Christ is superior to the angels, believing this settles the matter for the OT is the Word of God. In 3:7-4:11 he quotes OT scriptures and applies them to believers today, calling on us to persevere in faith unto heaven even as the OT believers were called to persevere into the promised land. Also, in Hebrews 11, he sites example after example of the OT saints and calls on us to follow them in our faith. These parts of the OT still apply to us in Christ.

On the other hand, Hebrews says the Old Testament is obsolete and that we are no longer bound to follow it because we have something that is superior to it spiritually (chapters 5-10). But what part of the OT is the writer talking about in that context? He is talking about the whole sacrificial system. Those ceremonies have been abolished and we no longer have to practice them because Christ, the true sacrifice and high priest has come and taken away our sins forever. The sacrificial system that foreshadowed this great work was just a symbol. Now that the reality is here in Christ, we no longer have to practice the symbol.

These same principles are seen in the Apostle Paul. On the one hand, he quotes OT laws/passages and tells us to obey them (Romans 13:8-10, 1 Cor 10:1-12, 1 Tim 5:17-18). On the other hand, in Galatians he tells us we are not under the Law. But again, what does he mean in that context? First he means we are no longer under the Law’s condemnation because we have faith in Christ. By his sacrifice on the cross he has paid the penalty for our sin and we are forgiven. Because of his work, we are no longer condemned by the Law for Christ bore its condemnation of our sin for us (Gal 3:1-14). Secondly Paul means we are no longer under the ceremonies of the law such as circumcision (Gal 5:1-6). We are freed from having to perform OT ceremonies that foreshadowed Christ and his work. Now that Christ has come, they are revoked.

The correct theological context for interpreting the OT is Jesus himself who is the beginning and end of the Law. He is the one who gave it to us in the first place and in him we learn its true meaning. He is the grid through which the OT is to be understood and applied.

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