The Relevance of the Old Testament
Question: There are so many things in the Old Testament that we in the Church Age simply do not observe. How, then, is the Old Testament relevant for today?
Answer: There is much in the Old Testament that is not obligatory for us. The reason is that the Old Testament is "covenant law." It provided the legal terms for God's covenant with Israel. Since we are no longer under that particular covenant, many of the laws and stipulations of that covenant are no longer binding on us.
On the other hand, there are many things found in the Old Testament that are still very much binding on us. Murder, adultery, and incest are all condemned in the Old Testament. These are sins in today's Church Age as well. Hence, just because something is condemned in Leviticus does not mean that it is NOT condemned today.
Some activities prohibited in the Old Testament are no longer prohibited today. On the other hand, there are also some things prohibited in the Old Testament that are still prohibited today. Even though the Old Testament is covenant law, there are certain moral aspects of covenant law that are morally binding even on those who are outside of the covenant.
In Romans 13:9-10 the Apostle Paul quotes from the Old Testament: "For this, Thou shall not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." It is clear from this that love is a perpetually binding ethic.
Question: But what about a passage like Leviticus 18:22 or Leviticus 20:13? In these passages, we see a strong condemnation of homosexuality. Doesn't Leviticus also condemn eating shellfish and eating pork?
Answer: There is a big difference between the dietary prohibitions found in Leviticus and the prohibition against homosexuality. The latter is also prohibited in the New Testament, where the dietary restrictions are no longer in force. Paul wipes out the observance of times and special religious diets, but he never wipes out God's condemnation of homosexuality.
It is common in some circles to reject everything in the Old Testament. Those who do so forget that there are moral obligations in the Old Testament that are still binding upon us.
I've heard people reject a teaching in the Old Testament by saying: "That's not for us. We are no longer under the Law." However, there are some teachings in the Old Testament that predate the giving of the Law. This was Paul's argument in Galations 3:17. The Law, which was given 430 years after God's covenant of grace with Abraham, does not nullify God's covenant of grace.
Question: Doesn't the death penalty fit into that category?
Answer: It sure does. Genesis 9:6 says, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man." Capital punishment was not instituted by the Mosaic Law. Hence, the passing of the Mosaic Law does not nullify the death penalty.