This is the second in a series of posts on why Christians are no longer under the Jewish laws as found in the Old Testament. See my earlier post (Part 1) for my introductory comments on this topic.
2. Types of Rules
Within this third meaning of The Law, the rules and regulations (after the Torah and animal sacrifice), there are three types of rules.
a. Morals and Ethics
The first type of rules has to do with morals and ethics. These are still in effect for Christians as guidelines to live by. Abiding by these morals and ethics doesn’t earn our salvation, but once we are saved by God’s grace through our faith, we want to live by them. Living a moral and ethical life is part of the outworking of our salvation, guided by the Holy Spirit. The moral and ethical law consists of the Ten Commandments and any other commands of a moral or ethical nature mentioned in the Bible.
The moral and ethical law spells out things we should do, such as taking care of widows and orphans, observing the Lord’s Day, helping the poor, and loving your neighbor as yourself (Lev 19). The moral and ethical law also points out things to avoid, such as don’t lie, don’t cheat customers with false weights, don’t worship idols, and don’t commit sexual sins.
Jesus summarized the moral and ethical law by quoting two Old Testament passages in Matthew 22:36-40:
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" [Jesus] said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."NRSV
b. Civil Law
The second type of rules has to do with daily life in Israel in Old Testament times, called the Civil Law. Those rules aren’t in effect for us, because we don’t live in ancient Israel. Today we are to live by the laws of the nation we are citizens of.
c. Ceremonial Law
The third type of rules found in the Old Testament is the Ceremonial Law. God put these into place as forms of worship, self-sacrifice, and obedience. They include keeping Kosher, not mixing meat and milk products in the same meal, and hundreds of other observances.
Christians have been freed from observing these rules because our position in God has been assured by Jesus Christ for all time. Christians believe that claiming Jesus as our Lord and Savior makes us right with God, not by trying to follow hundreds of rules. But here is a very important point: we should still live according to the underlying principles of the Ceremonial Law, which is: we should worship God with our lives by exercising self-control, and living in obedience to God. We read in Romans 12:1
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. NRSV
More on this topic in a future post.