Many believe that the Old Testament is no longer operational, as it was abolished when Jesus came and replaced it with the New Testament. As a result, they no longer take particular attention to the commands and instructions of the Lord imbedded therein. Instead, they look at the Old Testament books as mere providers of history for the New Testament books. This kind of persuasion is absurd and a gross misunderstanding of Scriptures. Rather than going into an endless debate, it is best that we consider what Jesus had to say. He said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matt. 5:17-18).
Clearly, the Old Testament—composed of the Law of Moses and the writings of the prophets—was not abolished by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, he came to fulfill or embody them. He gave substance to what the prophets had been saying all along. As for the Law of Moses, it is necessary that we categorize this into three—the moral law, civil law and sacrificial law—so that we can better understand how Jesus came to fulfil the righteous requirement of the Law. The first set of laws, the moral law, comprised the Ten Commandments. This was never abolished by the Lord Jesus Christ. In his own words, Jesus said to a young man who came asking how he could enter life, “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments” (Matt. 19:17). He emphasized the need to obey the Ten Commandments.
The second set of laws was the civil law. This governed the interpersonal relationships of people. To promote peace and harmony, the Law prescribed certain regulations that covered personal injuries, protection of properties and social responsibilities. Some of these were spelled out in the Book of Exodus 21 -23. These laws were not abolished by the Lord, but were reinforced when he said, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). To surpass the righteousness of the Pharisee is to go beyond the letter of the law and live its spirit. In the succeeding verses, Jesus taught his disciples, among others, to live by the spirit of the Law by loving their enemies and not resorting to the old command of “eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.”
The third set of laws was the sacrificial law. This covered the manner by which one who defiled himself or sinned against the Lord could be atoned or forgiven. In this law, it was required that the person who sinned offered sacrifices to God following certain ceremonies. Two of the mandatory sacrifices were the Sin Offering and Guilt Offering, where an animal had to be slaughtered and its blood sprinkled on them. This was the law that Jesus came to fulfil when he shed his blood for the remission of sins. This truth was appropriately presented in the Book of Hebrews: “Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.’ Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, O God.’’ First, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He set aside the first to establish the second (Heb. 10:5-9).
Friends, it is the sacrificial law that Jesus came to fulfill and set aside. Because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins, he came to offer his body, the perfect sacrifice. Therefore, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. There is no more need to offer the annual sacrifice. Jesus, the Lamb of God, has fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law. As for the other laws, these are still very much in effect. Let us then obey not the letter of these laws, but the spirit, and thus, exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees. The apostle Paul said, “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). Glory to God!