the Old Testament Ceremonial Laws
Rev. Angus Stewart
(published in the Belfast News
Letter on 29 May, 2015)
In his letter on
homosexuality, Thomas from Belfast (News Letter 25 May) cites three
ceremonial and civil laws from Leviticus for Old Testament
Israel in the Mosaic age, asking about their role in
First, Leviticus 25:44-46 is a
law regulating slaves from the pagan nations around the land
of Canaan which God gave Israel (for a time). These slaves
were excluded from release at the jubilee (fiftieth) year.
Jesus Christ fulfilled prophecy regarding the jubilee as the
One anointed “to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” to
bring spiritual “liberty” from sin through faith in Him
(Luke 4:18-19; Isa. 61:1-2). This is guidance for our
Second, cutting one's body and
certain parts of one's hair was forbidden ancient Israelites
because of its association with idolatrous pagan funeral
rites “for the dead” (Lev. 19:27-28). This does not prohibit
shaving or surgery today!
Third, the Mosaic food laws
forbade Old Testament Jews to eat pork (Lev. 11:7) and other
foods in order to help keep God's one holy nation at that
time separate from the Gentiles even in their dining (Deut.
33:28). After the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost
when God started saving a universal church, He told Peter
that eating (formerly) unclean foods was now fine (Acts
10-11), as the Jerusalem council soon decreed (Acts 15),
for, as Christ said, “whatsoever thing from without entereth
into the man, it cannot defile him” (Mark 7:18). By His
sacrificial death, the Messiah abolished the temporary,
local, Jewish ceremonial and civil laws, thus uniting
believing Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:14-16; Col. 2:14-17).
The many Mosaic laws provide
guidance (in various ways) by showing us our sins, leading
us to the cross and calling us to live out of gratitude for
God's gracious salvation. Passages in the Bible are to be
understood in their place in the history of redemption, with
Scripture interpreting Scripture and especially the new
covenant/testament interpreting the old.
Thomas rightly notes that
“Leviticus 18:22 does say that no man is to have sexual
relations with another man.” This law is easily proved to be
moral, permanent and universal because it is based upon
God's creation ordinance of marriage as a one-flesh union
between one man and one woman (Gen. 2:24), in which
relationship alone sexual intercourse is to be enjoyed. This
truth about marriage is reiterated by Christ Himself (Matt.
19:4-6) and His apostles (Eph. 5:23-33; I Peter 3:1-7), and
guarded by the seventh commandment (Ex. 20:14). Moreover,
the New Testament also speaks of homosexuality as a sin
(e.g., Rom. 1:26-27; I Cor. 6:9-11; I Tim. 1:10; Jude 7).
If Thomas would like a box set
of 8 CDs of recent classes in our church on “The Abolishing
of the Ceremonial Law” for free, he should send me his