How to Interpret Old Testament Law


CHRIS FITZ // Shoeless, Mission Guru-Hobbit Going to East Asia

A Few Guidelines as a Follow-Up to Exodus...

  1. The law is divine revelation, thus good and profitable
    1. order out of chaos = good
  2. God's law is an expression of God's love and God's character
    1. we learn what and whom God values 
  3. God's law is personal (given in relationship) and is an act of grace (allowing us knowledge and nearness to Him)
    1. Personal - note the details and day-to-day life issues that are involved
    2. Deuteronomy 4
      1. why was law given?  Same reason the plagues were sent - that Israel, and all nations, would know that the LORD is God and there is no other!
      2. This is so huge I want to hang out here for a second - there is a reason that David talked so much about the law in the Psalms - the law is a gift, and he knew it!
  4. The Church has always believed that some laws are permanent and others temporary, thus obsolete 
  5. The law was given to sinful people
    1. It includes how to handle when people break the law
    2. God has always operated this way, since the beginning - remember the cross, and remember that in the garden, there was only one law - one "don't" in a land full of "do's", and the heart of man is still wicked and still sinned and broke the one law, and God had a plan for when that law was broken, which Scripture says was planned before the foundation of the earth 

Categories of Law

  1. Creation Laws
    1. present from the beginning 
      1. e.g. procreation, environmental preservation, marriage, sabbath/rest, worship, don't murder 
  2. Old Covenant Laws (like what we are reading here in Exodus)
    1. Principle of Progression 
      1. since God's revelation was gradual/progressive and cumulative, we interpret later revelation in light of former and vice versa 
        1. e.g. Altars, Tabernacle, Temple and the Christian 
    2. Principle of Classification 
      1. know the type of law
        1. is it Moral, Ceremonial or Civil?
    3. Principle of Cancellation 
      1. Christians have never regarded as authoritative Old Testament laws that are cancelled in the New Testament 
        1. e.g., Colossians 2:16 (festivals, new moons, sabbaths); Mark 7:14-19(bacon!!)
    4. Principle of Imitation 
      1. The Church should follow the example of Jesus and how He interpreted Old Testament Law
        1. JC knew the Scripture, He knew they are inspired
        2. JC prioritized the condition of the heart, and prioritized moral laws over ceremonial laws
        3. JC applied the law to everyday life
        4. JC claimed that the message of the Old Testament culminated in Him