The More Perplexing Among Them

“For sin [i.e. law-breaking] will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law [i.e. curse for disobedience] but under grace [i.e. free gift of God’s mercy]” (Rom 6:14; ESV). Thus, the Christian outlook is no more law-breaking (sinning against God), because we desire to resist giving our bodies over to be tools for evil purposes (cf. Rom 6.15-19). The overarching standard assumption for the Christian mindset must be that if God says it, I am required to do it. If I fail at doing what He requires, I cry out in repentance boldly approaching the throne of grace knowing that my inward desire is to turn from (repent of) what is an offense to my Lord and Savior (Heb 4.16).

For, if Christ died for my sins by fulfilling the righteous requirement of the Law of God, then I must in my inner-being abhor doing that which was the grounds for my Savior having to give His life. That is to say, if I know that the source of my Lord’s pain and suffering and death was my sin (law-breaking), then why would I want to continue to do that which cost Him so dearly? The answer is that the true Christian will not. Christ’s sacrifice did not do away with the requirements of the Law, but it did do away with the just penalties of the Law (eternal separation/death) because of His gracious gift of mercy.

Therefore, when a believer looks at the Law of God his/her attitude should be humble submission to the Law-Giver. Why? Do I need any other reason than that He is God and He has said it? No, not really. May it be true that I still foolishly want a justification from God on why He has commanded it? Yes, but when inspected it should be obvious that such an attitude of “want” is not one of humility, but of hubris. Rather we should look to Job for how our conduct should be: “…I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42.3; response to 38.2). Too quickly we open our mouth, proclaiming ourselves to be wise, challenging the edicts of God due to our finiteness and in our disdainful rebuke at what He has spoken, we are the fools that need our mouths shut (cf. Rom 3.19-20).

“We conclude, then, that the Christian’s life of grace and faith is not one which is indifferent or antagonistic to the Law of God. God’s grace and saving faith establish the validity of the Law.”1 For we know in our hearts, “when God the Lawgiver speaks, His voice is one of authority and must be obeyed. His standard is absolute-unqualified, all-embracing, and beyond challenge.”2 Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to reason in the following way, “If Scripture does not make an exception for us, we do not have the moral prerogative to make exceptions for ourselves when it comes to the law’s authority over us. No extra-biblical standard, reason, or feeling can be legitimately used to depart from the law of God, for God’s word has supreme and unchallengeable authority. If the Lord says that His commands are to be kept, no creature may draw His word into question.”3

“Okay, suppose I agree with you Kris. What do you do about those really perplexing laws of the O.T. today?” Glad you asked.

Let’s look at an example:

  1. “You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material” (Lev. 19.19).


    “You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, lest the whole yield be forfeited, the crop that you have sown and the yield of the vineyard. You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. You shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together” (Deut 22.9-11).

At first glance these rules given by God seem very arbitrary. Contextually, however, these laws are given within a section of Scripture referred to as ceremonial (or cleanliness laws). The foundation of these laws is the holiness of God (cf. Lev 19.1). The authority of them is found in this one statement, “The Lord spoke…” (e.g. Lev 17, 18, 19, 20, etc.). What God spoke He intended to be obeyed (cf. Exod 19.1-8):

  • “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the Lord your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord” (Lev 18.1-5).
  • “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19.2).
  • “Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God” (Lev 20.7).

For those that are unfamiliar the book of Deuteronomy it is a book of repetition in that it is the second giving of the Law of God, of the Covenant. What was mentioned in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers is in a large part repeated in the sense of where God’s Law is concerned. The overarching concern of God is therefore the same and is not necessary for me to repeat it, since that is the governing presupposition that Moses relays what has formerly given to the generation whose parents died in the wilderness for their lack of faith.

The laws above about not mixing cattle, or seeds in a field, or materials used to make clothing is tied to who the children of Israel were supposed to be. They were covenanted to God. They had promised to keep His Law-Word (Exod 19.8), and had been taught the standards for how they were to live. As a nation of people they were to be distinct from the rest of the world around them. Their fidelity was to be to the Lord God alone, and as such they were to refuse to live like the rest of the nations. As silly as the above laws (Lev 19.19; Deut 22.9-11) may appear to the modern reader their purpose was to demonstrate two things. First, they were God’s people called to be holy as He is holy. Second, this holiness was demonstrated by their listening (hearing and obeying) the Word of God contrary to their surrounding neighbors in the world.

Thus, the apostle Paul would later apply these verses to his Corinthian audience when he told them the following truth:

  • “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty” (2Cor 6.14-18). (Did you notice the references to Exod 29:45 and Lev 26:12? They are there, and they are universally applied to God’s people.)

Scoffers read various texts about not touching dead things (Numb 19.11-18; Lev 11.31) or not eating this unclean thing (e.g. Deut 14.7-19) and they scratch their head. Believers who are unfamiliar with their biblical heritage have a hard time reconciling how such obscure texts could possibly apply to Christians today. God was teaching Israel in the past (this included the sojourner/foreigner that was grafted into their nations covenantal status) that to truly be distinct from the world (of sin) and to be His people (a holy people of priests offering sacrificial worship that is pleasing to God) is to be obedient to His voice; to learn to be humbly submissive to His commands, so that they might live.

  • “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he [will also] reject you…” (1Sam 15.22-23; emphasis added). (I realize that latter verse was specifically pointed at Saul’s sin and rejection as king, but do we dare assume that the line of reasoning Samuel gives Saul is limited to just one man? Are we not all held to the same standard?)

Now it is true that the application of those laws has changed due to the circumstances that we find ourselves in, but the underlying principle is still valid. God is the author of Life, and His light provides life, but to deter from the Light that He radiates through His Word is to remain in darkness and continue embracing death. For the believer who assumes (wrongly I might add) that Christianity is only concerned about “spiritual things,” I offer the following challenge.

Do you believe that God is seriously concerned about how we live? Did God create us to be ethical creatures? Isn’t it fair to say that all of life is ethical? There is a right way and a wrong way to think and live? Then you have just admitted that all of life is therefore spiritual. The Law of God has a natural implication for how we live as creatures, but at the same time the Law of God is spiritual for it is the heart of human beings that are addressed in it. All of life is ethical, all of life is spiritual, and God’s Law is given so that we might know how to think and live. As a professing believer shouldn’t I then be serious about discerning all that God has instructed? I think the answer is rather obvious….



1 Greg L. Bahnsen, By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1985), 76.

2 Ibid, 80.

3 Ibid, 134.

1 Comment

  1. After reading some of these Old Testament leads in the past and feeling a bit perplexed as to their usefulness , I can honestly say It had not occurred to me to see them in this light. It is so basic and yet ( just as scripture proves to be time and time again) so profound. The message of Obedience is one that is found across the entire breadth of the Bible and yet it was something I had missed until now in these Old Testament laws. In short where man struggles most God is constantly providing ways to save us from our selves.

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