Summary: explanation of why we don't adhere to the Levitical laws or the sacrifices. Paul teaches that Gentiles should not enslave themselves to the old Jewish Law.
During our Bible study in Leviticus, we have been studying the laws that God gave to the Israelites as a result of the Mosaic Covenant that He made with them. When we read these laws, it is very apparent that we no longer keep many of them, but how do we know what to keep and what not to keep? If they’re in the Bible, why don’t we keep them? How do the laws relate to the New Covenant? Why is that important?
While I cannot cover everything this morning, these are some of the questions that I would like to look at this morning.
Prior to the Exodus, God had made a covenant, or a binding agreement, first with Noah, then with Abraham, and finally with Moses at Mt. Sinai. Each new covenant came with a promise and an expectation. Under the Mosaic Covenant, God promised Moses that He would continue to bless Israel if they would obey Him and the laws that Moses wrote out in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. This was what is called the Mosaic Law or Mosaic Covenant. There was one other covenant made during the OT. It was the Davidic Covenant and it was made between God and King David and was the setup for the next covenant to come.
When God installed the Mosaic Law, He knew that the people of Israel would not be able keep the laws, so God also included rules for sacrifices that would atone for the sins of the people. This is what we have been reading in Leviticus. However, this system was only meant to be temporary. It required a constant parade of inadequate sacrifices. Why were they inadequate? Because they were not perfect sacrifices. They only served for the moment. God already had a permanent plan in mind. The prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34) sets us up for the next covenant:
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
God said that He would write the law on their hearts and in the minds. How would He do that? Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He told the disciples that He would send His Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the way in which God writes His laws on our hearts and in our minds. In this new Covenant, we never have to walk alone.
In each of the other Covenants, there were new laws that had to be obeyed. But what are the new laws in this New Covenant? Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith gave us the new laws when He said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” All of the Ten Commandments are encompassed in these two commandments.
But, what about all the other laws that are contained in the Law of Moses? The Apostle Paul tackles this subject in-depth in the book of Romans. He explains that the Law shows us that we are sinners. The Law was perfect and we are not. We could not hope to keep them all, which is why God set in place the sacrificial system. Paul goes on to say that those that live according to the law of the flesh are destined to die, but those who live by the law of the spirit will live.
The writer of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 8:6
But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.
The new Gentile Christians in Galatia were being hassled by the Jewish Christians and were attempting to revert to Jewish law. Paul tells them (Galatians 1:6-7)
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.