I’ve seen that question asked so many times on the internet, and it surprises me that more people don’t know the answer. But then again, I always have to check my surprise because, really, the answer isn’t taught much in churches, it seems. I had always gone to Bible teaching churches, and the subject just doesn’t come up much (or at least it didn’t in the past). Maybe, in a way, it just seems too obvious to pastors, but then why do people keep asking? One law that will get a sermon now and then, since it specifically relates to non-Jews, is whether keeping the “Sabbath” “holy” is still required (this is from one of the Ten Commandments), but that specific subject is for a future post.
So what is the answer? As so many ask, why don’t we stone homosexuals anymore? Implying, I guess, that since we no longer stone them, then we should no longer think their actions sin anymore either. Of course, the one action or lack thereof (capital punishment) doesn’t change what God thinks of the crime (homosexual acts); what has changed between the Old and New Testaments was the timing of judgement. A major part of the Old Testament covers the time of the Jews, the history of the nation of Israel. God made the nation of Israel to be a human group that was governed by God’s laws, and His specific revelations would come through Israel during that time. They were an example that the pagan nations around them could see, and for future peoples to learn from.
But we – Christians – are not the nation of Israel and so we don’t mete out punishments to people that sin against God. We are to convey God’s plan of redemption to all peoples. God’s plan is redemption, it isn’t punishment, per se. His focus, as it was at the beginning and as it will be in the future, is for humans to have a wonderful life in fellowship with Him. God is extending His hand to all who will accept Him during this church era, and is reserving judgement until later. Sin is still sin. Just because God doesn’t zap people from heaven when they sin doesn’t mean He doesn’t see it or that He has changed His mind about it. Consider these quotes from two of the sources provided below:
The New Testament gives us further guidance about how to read the Old Testament. Paul makes it clear in places like Romans 13:8ff that the apostles understood the Old Testament moral law to still be binding on us. In short, the coming of Christ changed how we worship but not how we live. The moral law is an outline of God’s own character–his integrity, love, and faithfulness. . . . The New Testament continues to forbid killing or committing adultery, and all the sex ethic of the Old Testament is re-stated throughout the New Testament (Craig).
If we are to understand the application of the Law to ourselves, we must understand its purpose. The law was never intended to be a permanent and full revelation of God’s mind to man but was given for the express purpose of preparing the way for Christ (Galatians 3:23-25). Furthermore, the law given through Moses was never intended for any people except the nation of Israel (Deuteronomy 5:1-3; 6:6-7). Thus, with the death of Christ upon the cross, this impermanent law, the Old Testament, was taken away (Colossians 2:13-17). Now instead, God “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.” (Hebrews 1:2; cf. Matthew 17:1-5) One who goes back to the Old Testament and tries to be justified by it has “become estranged from Christ” (Galatians 5:4) (Sharp).
So, in response to the original question, we don’t “pick and choose” which laws to follow, since those laws aren’t for us to enforce. We do, however, acknowledge as sin what God tells us is sin, and we convey it to others since “the Good News” is that Jesus died for our sins. If there was nothing for Him to die for, then obviously He died for nothing. If people don’t or won’t recognize their sin, then they will not see why Jesus had to die for them. So, if you don’t know what sins are or don’t think that you’ve sinned, why would you think Jesus relevant? The gospel would be pointless.
If homosexual sins, or any other sins, are said to be forgiven and thus accepted by God, it makes a mockery of the whole actions of Christ. Christ said to the adulteress, “go and sin no more.” We are to strive to live sin free; to continue to live a life of sin, purposefully, is to deny Christ’s work. It’s like saying I can go out and murder, and the whole time Christ is at my side smiling, knowing He’s got me covered. Yes, we all sin, but the point is to recognize sin and repent of any sinful actions, so that we can have relationship with God; God will forgive the repentant, but to be unrepentant means to be unforgiven.
For a more detailed presentation of the subject, please read one or more of the sources listed below.
Sources/For Further Reading:
Dorsey, David A. “The Law of Moses and the Christian: A Compromise,” in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (34:3/Sept. 1991).
Sharp, Keith. Understanding the Law.
Image from ba1969 at stock.xchng, “Bible Collage 2.”