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Do Only Old Testament Laws Repeated in the New Testament Apply Today?

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A young woman asked Christian apologist Frank Turek a question about the applicability of Old Testament law in the New Testament in this short video clip that has been posted on Facebook:

There are a lot of things we don’t follow now that are in the Old Testament. Like Don’t eat shrimp or don’t cut your hair. So what separates those from laws against killing?

Here is Turek’s response:

Excellent question. In the Old Testament. There were certain laws that were purely for Israel. Old Covenant laws. They no longer apply to Christians. Know people are going to hate me for this, but it’s true, the Ten Commandments don’t apply to Christians either. The Ten Commandments are part of the Old Covenant. Now, nine of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament, and because they are repeated in the New Testament, they do apply to Christians. But because they’re the Ten Commandments, they don’t apply to Christians, because that was part of the Old Covenant, and the writer of Hebrews—Hebrews 8:13—says the Old Covenant is obsolete. All the commands in the Old Testament are obsolete. Everything from Exodus 20 through Deuteronomy. That’s part of the Old Covenant that don’t apply today. If they are repeated in the New Testament, they do apply. So we need to keep that in mind. We don’t want to mix and match our covenants. Christians notoriously do that, and it causes a lot of confusion. I like that because I like bacon.

The Presbyterian dispensationalist, Donald Grey Barnhouse, had a similar view of the law, specifically the Ten Commandments. He said it was a “tragic hour when the Reformation churches wrote the Ten Commandments into their creeds and catechisms and sought to bring Gentile believers into bondage to Jewish law, which was never intended either for the Gentile nations or for the church.” [1]

By This Standard: The Authority of God's Law Today

God's Law is Christianity's tool of dominion. Who is to rule on earth, Christ or Satan? Whose followers have the ethically acceptable tool of dominion, Christ's or Satan's? What is this tool of dominion: the Biblically revealed law of God, or the law of self-proclaimed autonomous man? Whose word is sovereign, God's or man's?

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I like most of what Turek writes. He’s very good dealing with atheist arguments. See his book Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case (30–31). He mentions and quotes from my favorite section from the Bahnsen v. Stein debate. He has some helpful things to say about eschatology. For example, he wrote, “we can conclude reasonably that most, if not all, of the New Testament documents must have been written prior to 70.” [2]

His answer to this young woman’s question, however, is off base. It’s true that there was a change in covenants but not in the moral aspects of that covenant. We know this is true because the New Testament writers appeal to many Old Covenant moral laws as Turek points out.

There is nothing in the NT that supports Turek’s claim that only the laws repeated in the NT are applicable. He’s reading something into the Bible that’s not stated. My question would be, “Where’s the verse to support your claim 'If they are repeated in the New Testament, they do apply' ?”

Are we to believe that while Laws regarding incest (Lev. 18:8; Deut. 22:30; 27:20) apply in the New Testament (1 Cor. 5:1–2), but laws against sex with animals (Ex. 22:29), abortion (Ex. 21:22–25), kidnapping (Deut. 24:7), arson (Ex. 22:6), or cursing the deaf or tripping blind people (Lev. 19:14) do not apply?

How about “just weights and measures” (Lev. 19:35–36; Deut. 25:13–16)? This law is repeated in Proverbs (11:1; 20:10) but not in the NT. I suppose this particular law would come under the commandment not to steal, the Eighth Commandment. But why mention these specific laws in the OT if they are reasonably covered by the Eighth Commandment?

Some years ago, I participated in a discussion with a group of dispensationalists about the kingdom of God. Naturally, the subject of the law came up.

Dr. Harold Hoehner, at the time a professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, said like Turek, “Well, if something isn’t repeated in the New Testament, it’s not applicable today.”

David Chilton asked this pointed question in response: “So if your pastor was found to have had sex with an animal, what would you say?” And Hoehner responded, “Since it’s not repeated in the New Testament, it’s not a sin.”

The other DTS professors backed away from Hoehner’s claim. They remarked, “the prohibition comes under laws governing fornication. The New Testament forbids fornication.

I responded, “I agree with you. It is covered under the provision regarding fornication. How do you know what constitutes fornication from the New Testament alone?”

They knew they were trapped. “The Old Testament defines fornication,” they said.

What do we do with an Old Covenant law (Ex. 21:17; Lev. 20:9) that Jesus uses against the Pharisees concerning the death penalty for “he who speaks evil of father or mother” (Mark 7:10)? Of course, Jesus was not addressing little children. He was condemning the way the Pharisees were manipulating God’s law in order to avoid its practical applications and thereby "neglecting the commandment of God" and setting it aside "in order to keep [their] tradition" (vv. 8–9).

Jesus repeated the commandment in the NT? Is it still applicable? I guess Turek would say that it only applied before the cross. Then what do we make of the woman caught in the act of adultery? Did Jesus overturn the sanction for this prohibition? Some scholars believe He did. Then why not the commandment regarding rebellious children?

Paul freely uses Old Covenant law in the NT. He applies a law about the mistreatment of animals (Deut. 25:4) to “the laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim. 5:18). See an expanded application in 1 Corinthians 9:7–10 where Paul references what is written in “the law of Moses” (v. 9) and broadens its application by stating that it was written “for our sake” (v. 10).

He makes a similar application from the OT about different animals being yoked together for work (Deut. 22:10) with believers and unbelievers being bound together, that is, being “unequally yoked” (ἑτεροζυγέω=hetero [differently] + zugeó [yoked]) (2 Cor. 6:14).

The Old Testament is filled with such applicational laws that did not pass away with the coming of the New Covenant. That’s why Paul could write the following:

All Scripture is God breathed [θεόπνευστος] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

Reproof, correction, and training in righteousness are moral categories. Paul commended Timothy because “from childhood” he had “known the sacred writings” (v. 15). Paul is referring to all of the Old Covenant by using the terms "sacred writings" (ἱερὰ γράμματα) and "scripture" (γραφὴ). They were and still are applicable today.

What about Turek’s use of Hebrews 8:13? If the moral law from the OT was no longer applicable except those laws repeated in the NT which most people did not have access to, then why did God promise to put His “laws into their minds and write them upon their hearts” (8:10) in the New Covenant? What laws are these? They seem to be biblical laws—“elementary principles of the oracles of God”—that were to become second nature by way of study, practice, and application (Heb. 5:11–14).

The writer to the Hebrews explains in what way the first covenant was “obsolete … and growing old” and “near [ἐγγὺς] to disappear” (8:13). He was referring to the “regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary” (9:1). Jesus is the Word that “became flesh and tabernacle” among the Jews during His earthly ministry (John 1: 14). He is the lamb of God (John 1:29, 36), the temple (2:13–22), and the once for all sacrifice (Heb. 10:10). These are the laws that passed away because they found their fulfillment in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ:

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, H went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant (Heb. 9:11–15).

There is nothing about the passing away of the moral application of the law to the individual and society at large. The moral law was designed for the nations (Deut. 4:1–8).

The young woman mentions shrimp and Turek mentions bacon. The NT is clear that Jesus declared all foods to be clean (Mark 7:18–23). Peter was given similar instructions about unclean foods by a direct revelation from God: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:15; 11:9). To emphasize the point, the command was given three times (v. 16).

It’s downright simplistic to claim that only those laws repeated in the NT are applicable under the New Covenant. This does not mean that it’s always easy to apply God’s law in today's world, but it is part of wisdom to do so.

  1. Quoted in S. Lewis Johnson, “The Paralysis of Legalism,” Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 120 (April/June 1963), 109.[]
  2. Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 204), 239.[]
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