Question: Somewhere in the Pentateuch God gave a certain set of laws for Moses to tell the Israelites. This list covered many subjects from incest to breeding animals. This got me thinking: I know that Christ came to fulfill the Law and that we do not obey it to justify ourselves but rather for the sake of showing love and obedience to God. So in order to do this, we should try to obey the law while keeping our faith in Him. However, there are many laws that we do not today obey such as the one saying we can’t wear clothing made from more than one type of material. That puts 50% cotton, 50% wool out the window. This seems like a social custom so we generally dismiss it. However, it was a direct command from God so how can we simply shrug it off? Where do we draw the line between obeying God and assuming that what God was saying then no longer applies? It may seem to be okay because we judge it to not be a moral issue, but God determines what is moral, not us, even if we don’t understand. Also there seems to be contradiction when the Old Testament Law says men’s hair should be long and the New Testament when Peter or Paul says that men’s hair should be short. How do we find what is necessary and unnecessary?
Answer: Paul very strongly says to the Galatians, “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law” (Galatians 3:25). To the Romans he says, “You are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14), and “You also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead” (7:4). In 1 Corinthians 9:21 he writes, “To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.” Jesus, on the other hand, says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).
Here is how I reconcile these statements. By fulfilling the Law and Prophets Jesus meant bringing to completion all the promises God had made concerning the restoration of all things under His authority. The way Jesus did this was by paying the price for our sins in His own body on the tree (a requirement of the Law, that all who sin must pay the price themselves or through sacrifice).
Believers since Jesus are no longer required to obey the Law of Moses, which is a particular form of expression to God’s law for a particular people who are living in covenant relationship to Him as a nation. The Church, on the other hand, is made up of believers from all nations, under separate governments that have requirements of them. But all believers are under the Law of Christ. This law includes some of the same laws as the Law of Moses (all ten commandments except the Sabbath are repeated in the New Testament letters). But it excludes some of the laws of Moses and adds others.
This is what we would expect of any lawmaker whose people’s needs change. A parent starts out with one set of rules and modifies them throughout the child’s life. Some remain throughout the child’s life no matter how old he is. The lawmaker has not changed, only the way He administers His laws.
Most of Israel’s regulations were intended to set Israel apart from other nations as belonging to God. Some of the regulations imposed on them by God were not “moral” issues in themselves, but only as they served to show Israel’s obedience to God. Circumcision is an example. There was a law that those males who devoted themselves to God under a Nazirite vow (Numbers 6), a voluntary vow, were never to cut their hair. The Law of Moses does not command that men wear long hair. The New Testament does not require men to have short or long hair, but Paul says, “Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him” (1 Corinthians 11:14). This obviously did not apply to the man taking the Nazirite vow.
So, consequently, we are not to shrug off the commands of God but to obey the ones that He means us to obey, those contained in the New Testament as the Law of Christ. We may voluntarily obey the Law of Moses as long as it does not conflict with the laws of our land. No law obedience will gain us eternal favor with God. Only faith in Christ and His sacrifice will accomplish that.