Here are some overall principles to keep in mind when reading/interpreting the law.13
The Law should be read as relational, i.e., they are guidelines that govern God’s people in their relationship with their gracious God and with those around them. It is best understood in a covenant framework.
Covenants of Promise (i.e., God’s Promise to bless all nations):
Abrahamic Covenant(Gen. 12:1-3) amplified by the
Davidic Covenant((2 Sam. 7:4-17)e
Administrative Covenants (provide the means of experiencing the blessing)
Mosaic Covenant(Exodus 20-Deut. 33) is “Israel’s terms of obedience in order to experience the Abrahamic blessing in the land, in order to bless all other people”
New Covenant(Jeremiah 31:31-34) supersedes the Mosaic covenant and “gives terms of obedience for all God’s people under Messiah.”
Their goal was instructional, and was not intended to be a comprehensive legal system. The laws include a sampling of illustrative cases and topics.
Russell states that: “All of the Old Testament applies to Christians, but none of it applies apart from its fulfillment in Christ.”
Indeed, Christ fulfilled the law. Some of it, such as the OT sacrificial system, was completed at His death and resurrection. “The sacrificial laws of the OT were fulfilled in Christ and no longer require our literal obedience (Heb. 4:14-10:18). But we can still learn principles about the costliness and purity demanded by those laws as we read the opening chapters of Leviticus.” (KBH, p. 491). In other cases, it will not be completely fulfilled until Christ’s return (e.g., many moral injunctions.)
The detailed laws are often representative of larger principles. Russell says, for example, that “The Ten Commandments (Ex. 20 and Deut. 5) express the broad, overarching ethical principles whose details the subsequent legal codes flesh out. Thus, interpret them as foundational ethical principles to maintain relationship with a loving Lord and to cultivate a covenant community, not as a legal code.”
Look up the cultural background to help determine what the law may have meant to the original audience. Write how your passage may have been influenced by the culture:
Find the ethical, moral, or theological principles that underlie your passage. Write the timeless truth in the space below: