I must admit that I have struggled with what commands in Leviticus--much less the rest of the Old Testament--mean to me as a believer in the 21st century. As you read through Leviticus, there are commands about things that seem minor, like what we eat or not getting tattoos, to “BIG THINGS” like the Ten Commandments. Jesus said that the greatest commandment was “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” [1] Yet the second, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” [2] is not part of the Ten Commandments. In fact, it is surrounded by various commands such as not showing partiality to the poor and eating any flesh with the blood in it. So, which of these commands apply to me today? This is a very controversial subject among theologians.

I would like to share where I am at. This is NOT a “thus sayeth the Lord” thing. In my mind, this is a Romans 14 kind of thing[3]. How we as believers follow ALL the commands of the Old Testament (OT) is not essential for our eternal salvation, but I do think it is critical for our sanctification.

We know from the NT that keeping HIS commandments is what one does if they love the Lord.

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever. – John 14:15-16

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  – 1 John 5:2-4

It is pretty clear that following His commandments is an important trait of a believer, so we don’t get a free pass.

This was debated in the first ecumenical council found in Acts 15. There, the Gentile believers were instructed to abstain from:
· What has been sacrificed to idols,
· Eating things with blood still in it,
· What has been strangled,
· From sexual immorality.

This seems to be a limited list. One thing to note is that it does not include anything about not worshiping other gods, obey parents, steal, or murder. So, obviously, this can’t be an exhaustive list.

The light bulb went on for me when I studied Reformed theology. The Reformers divide the commandments of the OT into three different categories: Civil (laws for the nation of Israel), Ceremonial (“Holy” laws related to Jewish worship and the distinctiveness as a people, and Moral (Primarily the Ten Commandments, but there are others like “loving your neighbor as yourself.”). The Civil laws don’t directly apply to the church, though do reflect the moral law. The Acts 15 passage applies to the Ceremonial law; this includes the sexual immorality portion because this was often associated with worship[4]. This leaves the Moral law. Considering that Jesus dealt with all of the Ten Commandments either directly or indirectly, it is clear we should be following these.[5]

Leviticus 26 discusses the benefits of obeying and observing His statues. These benefits are more descriptive than prescriptive.[6] We see this every day, those who follow the moral law of God, generally live long and happy lives. Often it is not easy, but with eternity in mind, well worth it.

Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.  Deuteronomy 5:33

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Joshua 1:8

Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to Him.  Psalm 128:1

Therefore you shall keep His statutes and His commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”  Deuteronomy 4:40

[1] Matthew 22:37 quoting Deuteronomy 6:4.
[2] Matthew 22:28 quoting Leviticus19:18 & 34.
[3] Reading Romans 14 Paul exhorts us not to quarrel over opinions. There are things that people are passionate about by not clear in Scripture. The examples Paul uses are: esteeming every day alike or saying the Sabbath is more important than other days and eating habits.
[4] Consider Ephesians 5:3, “Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people.” (NLT”
[5] Of the Ten Commandments, the Fourth (Remember the Sabbath) seems to be the only commandment that theologians will debate over. Many argue that Jesus didn’t seem to follow it. Generally, it is clear that we should follow the principle, but how and when to me is a Romans 14 thing. The is a great book call: 24/6 by Matthew Sleeth discusses the benefits and blessings of keeping a sabbath.
[6] Describes what happens generically versus prescribes what will absolutely happen. Example: In Exodus 20:12a it states, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long.” This does not mean everyone who honors their parents WILL have a long life.

by Michael Burner

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