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Question 71

Q: To what degree are we bound by the Old Testament?

My Baptist pastor used to say, “I’m not bound by the Ten Commandments,” meaning, of course, that Christ reiterated all of these laws—except for keeping the Sabbath—which, as New Testament commandments, do bind us.

When we studied the book of Joshua in our church, it provoked debate. Some argued that we should conduct ourselves just like Joshua: being prepared to kill any and all who interfered with God’s plan. Others emphasized New Testament Christian love. What are your thoughts?

Asked by: Stuart

A: Well, Stuart, I want you to know you asked enough questions here to occupy us from now until the end of the year.

These are very difficult questions, but I need to at least comment on them. And hopefully help you and point you in the right direction.

First of all, your pastor is probably right that we are not under the law as a rule. But nonetheless, the law, even the ceremonial law, has much benefit to the Christian if we understand it, and especially if we understand it in a spiritual sense. The more I think about this, I see much more unity between the Old and the New Testament than I used to.

But let me get to this issue of Joshua, because your question is very troubling to me. You say that some in the church thought that we, like Joshua, should be prepared to kill anyone who interfered with God’s plan. Well, my dear friend, if we did that, we’d be killing everybody. The answer is “no” and then, once again, the answer is “no and no.”

The way in which things operated in the Old Testament, when you had a Theocracy, is very different than the New Testament. That doesn’t mean that God has changed His mind regarding sin. That’s a separate topic that I could talk about at great length. What it does mean is that His administration is different. Today, we do not stone people who commit adultery, we do not kill children who are rebellious, and on and on we could go. So, the point is this: Christian love has to be tough love, particularly for ourselves. And we need to be able to represent Jesus Christ to society. You know you’ve asked such a tough question, Stuart, I really need to end this, but I want to give you a suggestion. When you think about the way in which we should live, read the gospels and find out how Jesus lived. How did He treat people, how did He treat sinners, how did He treat those who were self-righteous? It seems to me that He should be our example. And in the New Testament era we must recognize that there are many changes and we are under the law of Christ. Don’t ever think that because it’s the New Testament era that sin is safer—or less serious—than it used to be in Old Testament times. Stuart, we’re just barely getting into it, aren’t we?

I hope this helps a little bit. And maybe in the future sometime, in more detail, I’ll be able to clarify these matters. You have a good day.

Scripture references

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