LAW

"Do Christians have to obey the Old Testament law?"

The key to understanding this issue is knowing that the Old Testament law was given to the nation of Israel, not to Christians. Some of the laws were to make the Israelites know how to obey and please God (the Ten Commandments for example), some of them were to show them how to worship God (the sacrificial system), some of them were to simply make the Israelites different from other nations (the food and clothing rules). None of the Old Testament law applies to us today. When Jesus died on the cross, He put an end to the Old Testament law (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15).

In place of the Old Testament law, we are under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2) which is to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40). If we do these two things, we will be fulfilling all that Christ wants for us to do, “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). Technically, the Ten Commandments are not even applicable to Christians. However, 9 of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament (all except the command to observe the Sabbath day). Obviously, if we are loving God we won't be worshipping other gods or worshipping idols. If we are loving our neighbors, we won't be murdering them, lying to them, committing adultery against them, or coveting what belongs to them. So, we are not under any of the requirements of the Old Testament law. We are to love God and love our neighbors. If we do those two things faithfully, everything else will fall into place.

"Do Christians have to obey the laws of the land?"

Romans 13:1-7 states: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."

That passage makes it abundantly clear. We are to obey the government God places over us. God created government to establish order, punish evil, and promote justice (Genesis 9:6; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Romans 12:8). We are to obey the government in everything - paying taxes, obeying rules and laws, showing respect, etc. If we do not, we are ultimately showing disrespect towards God, for He is the One who placed that government over us. When the Apostle Paul wrote Romans 13:1-7, he was under the government of Rome, during the reign of Nero, perhaps that most evil of all the Roman Emperors. Paul still recognized that government’s rule over him. How can we do any less?

The next question is: "Is there a time when we should not obey the laws of the land?" The answer to that question may be found in Acts 5:27-29, "Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 'We gave you strict orders not to teach in this Name,' he said. 'Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood.' Peter and the other apostles replied: 'We must obey God rather than men!'" From this, we can plainly see that as long as the law of the land does not contradict the law of God, we are bound to obey. As soon as the law of the land contradicts God's command, we are to disobey the law of the land, and obey God's law. However, even in that instance, we are to accept the government’s authority over us. This is demonstrated by the fact that Peter and John did not protest being flogged, but instead rejoiced that they suffered for obeying God (Acts 5:40-42).