As the topic of homosexuality continues to be a hot topic for Christians in the United States, many are lashing out saying that it is hypocritical to follow some laws and not others from the Bible (and more pointedly, the Old Testament). The Mosaic Law handed down from the mouth of God at Mount Sinai included dietary restrictions, methods for making clothes and even the amount of work one was allowed to preform on the Sabbath (the day kept as Holy for God, the weekly day of worship) alongside the sexual laws and condemnation of murder. Many have, in this mindset, run to the Law to claim that if Christians want to call homosexuality a sin, then they need to stop eating sea food and bacon and wearing clothing comprised of mixed fabrics:
“You shall not wear a material mixed of wool and linen together.”
– Deut 22.11
“…and the pig, for though it divides the hoof, thus making a split hoof, it does not chew cud, it is unclean to you.”
– Lev 11.7
“But whatever is in the seas and in the rivers that does not have fins and scales among all the teeming life of the water, and among all the living creatures that are in the water, they are detestable things to you, and they shall be abhorrent to you; you may not eat of their flesh, and their carcasses you shall detest.”
– Lev 11.10-11
Now, we as Christians, must be humble when we hear accusations like this. Do you know why the Church considers parts of the Mosaic Law binding, but not others? Some accusers claim this logic to tear us down, but many within the Church will actually question and fall prey to this line of reasoning if we do not clearly examine the whole of Scripture and it’s expectations for us today. We must be informed, and we must teach it clearly to keep ourselves from stumbling.
There are two major factors that we should embrace when approaching this conversation. Firstly, we must always remember that God has called us to be holy as He is holy (Lev 11.44, 1 Peter 1.16). This is the foundation on which the entire Bible is written, both Old Testament Law and New Testament Grace. The Law and Grace both have their end and fulfillment in our righteousness (which we learn is only attained through Christ – 2 Cor 5.21). Therefore, we must not and cannot ever justify one sin by another. We also cannot forbid someone to point out a sin in our lives because they have a sin (either the same or different) in their own lives.
What I mean is this: Many Christians walk around in the sin of pride. And when the day is over, they pat themselves on the back to say, “I did not sin today”, and sit in their lazy boys judging homosexuals and murderers while they watch the evening news. This person is guilty.
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”
– James 2.10
This passage of Scripture is often misunderstood. If one is guilty of the sin of pride, he is not guilty of the sin of murder, before God, too. But he is indeed guilty of breaking the law, and all who have broken the law are guilty before God and unworthy to enter the Kingdom of God eternally. If you have broken the law in any point, you are guilty of breaking the law. Speeding ticked or arson. You are condemned. God hates pride, and the proud will not enter into the kingdom of God. God also hates murder, and the murderer will not enter into the kingdom of God (Prov 6.17, 1 Cor 6.10-11).
This person must learn humility and be able to hear someone speak truth into their lives. He must be willing to repent. And this person cannot justify himself by saying, “well at least I never [fill in the blank]”. He might be better than some, but the standard is Jesus not Hitler. If we are not as righteous as Jesus, we are not good enough. On the opposite end of the spectrum, one who has made peace with a major sin cannot justify himself by pointing out a lesser sin of another. The thief cannot say to the over weight man, “Do not point out my sin, you are a glutton! You’re not perfect.” We all need humility. And we all need to remember that the point is to be holy, to fight for the standard that is Jesus, and to submit to the Word of God. One sin does not make another permissible.
The second factor in this conversation is the full picture and teaching of the Scriptures. Tim Keller points out clearly that the Old Testament has two types of laws: those regarding ceremonial purification and sacrifices (to atone for sin) and those regarding morality as defined by the character and heart of God. The Old Testament was written to the Jewish people who were waiting for a Savior. They were Spiritually unclean and in order to approach a holy God they were required to eat certain things (and not eat other things), they were to wear certain things and they were to keep themselves separate from other nations. God was unapproachable by unclean people and the whole of the ceremonial law was looking forward to the coming Messiah.
When Jesus came, He fulfilled that Law.
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
– Matt 5.17-19
This is why the curtain was torn in the temple when Jesus died. God no longer resides in the physical temple in Jerusalem. He is no longer separate from the people and only approachable once a year by the High Priest. Jesus has taken our guilt and given us His righteousness so that every believer can approach God without fear. We are now holy, by nature of being covered by the blood of Christ. We were given a new heart (Ez 36.26). The Spirit resides within us (1 Cor 3.16). The method of approaching God has changed. And God Himself removed these ceremonial laws, declaring all foods clean and commanding Jews to reach out to people of all nations:
“Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy…And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.”
– Acts 10.15, 28
Because we have been made holy by the fulfillment of the Law in Christ, we do not need to purify ourselves by our clothing and food. God has declared it permissible. And because of the work of Christ, we would be making a mockery of Him if we sought to make animal sacrifices to atone for our sins and to keep the ceremonial laws. Why? Because Jesus was the final and the perfect sacrifice, and to seek to add to it declares Him as insufficient. That is why Jesus declared, from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19.30).
The moral laws of God, however, exhibit the heart of God and are fully upheld by the New Testament. Jesus, in the sermon on the mount, not only declared murder a sin, He examined the heart of man and said that one who is angry with his brother is guilty of breaking the law (the moral law) of God (Matt 5.21-22). Jesus upheld the law and said with unminced words that unless we are as holy and righteous as He was, we cannot enter the kingdom of God.
“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
– Matt 5.20
We are not made righteous by the food we eat, we are made righteous by obeying the moral laws of God. Paul and the apostles understood this teaching clearly, and that is why we have sections of the moral law quoted throughout the entire New Testament:
“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
– Rom 13.8-10
We are regularly taught to die to the deeds of the flesh – remembering that we formerly walked in those ways so as to remain humble – but to continually fight those temptations and desires:
“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
– Gal 5.19-21
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
– 1 Cor 6.9-11
And we ultimately remember that we are not earning our salvation by keeping these laws, but rather we were given the righteousness of Christ when He took our guilt and therefore we obey out of love and desire to honor the sacrifice that He made. When we willfully choose to go on sinning against the moral law, we put Him right back on the cross. But those who have been forgiven would never want to see Christ defamed because they understand the weight of the price He paid.
“…since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.”
– Heb 6.6
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?”
– Rom 6.1-3
So in short, we can summarize everything by this simple truth:
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
– 2 Cor 5.21
We have been made righteous at the heart level (and are being sanctified as we grow and mature), and therefore we should desire to obey the moral law of God which defines His character in order to glorify and make much of Him. The ceremonial laws of the Old Covenant were fulfilled in Christ, and to seek to reinstate them is to negate the Gospel. It is to say, “Jesus was not enough and I have to add to His work on the cross”.
So the next time someone accuses you of picking and choosing which laws you want to obey, first of all step back and humbly examine your heart to see if your accuser is right. What are the sins that need to be fought in your heart and in your life? Even if your accuser would seek to shame you and comes with the wrong motive, you are accountable to God, and if someone points out a weakness in your life – even with the wrong motives – take that as a teachable moment. But we should also be informed of the Gospel and the full story of redemption taught throughout Scripture. If someone condemns your crab legs or poly-blend jeans by virtue of the book of Leviticus, proclaim to them boldly that your food and clothes do not make you righteous before God, but the blood of Jesus alone does! God has declared His ceremonial laws fulfilled and what He has made clean we must no longer call unclean! Wear your jeans boldly while you preach the Gospel humbly. And be prepared to give an answer, God is not mocked.
“…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.”
– 1 Peter 3.15-16