From the Pulpit: Which laws apply?
I have taken the month of September and tried to give a summary of how the law relates to believers today who are trusting Christ alone for salvation. Maybe I have convinced someone that the law still does have relevance as a guide for godly living. But, “which laws apply,” is a good question. To understand which commands apply today, we need to understand we are in the New Covenant. We need to understand the three fold division in the law. The Civil Laws are those Old Testament commands that applied to Israel as a theocratic nation. These laws have ceased since that theocratic kingdom has ceased. The Ceremonial Laws are those laws, rights, ordinances and shadows that regulated Old Covenant worship and pointed to Jesus Christ and His suffering and death in our place. Jesus fulfilled these, so they are not directly applicable. The moral law of God consists of those moral prescriptions that reveal the character of God and were set down in the Decalogue and are called the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are a summary of the moral law of God that He has written on our hearts (Rom 2:15). They stand as norms for behavior for all people made in the image of God. They do not change because God never changes.
There is very little debate on whether 9 of the Ten Commandments are still in effect today since the New Testament clearly repeats them. I count 7 references in the book of Ephesians alone. One is explicit (5th in Eph 6:1-3) but the others are implicit, citing the moral principle behind the commandments. How the fourth commandment applies today is a bit tricky since we are not under the Jewish Sabbath.
But didn’t Jesus summarize all our moral behavior with just two commandments? Yes. Jesus did summarize the Ten Commandments with two in Mark 12. The first and “most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Jesus is giving summary to the first tablet of the law, the first four commandments showing our duty to God. Then He summarizes the second tablet of the law showing our duty to our fellow men, “The second is like this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
By boiling it down to love we learn something very important: Lawful living needs to spring forth from love; law needs love. When we study the Bible carefully we learn that love needs the guidance of law (Romans 13:8-10; 1 John 5:3). How do I love my neighbor? Have a warm fuzzy feeling about him? No. Don’t hate and gossip about him (6th commandment); Don’t sleep with or covet his wife (7th and 10th); Don’t steal from him or damage his stuff (8th); Don’t lie to him (9th). How do I love God? Have fuzzy feelings? No. Worship Him only; in the right way; use His name reverently; and take time off to go to church (1-4th). Are there other things? Yes, but this will get you started.