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Many older people remember the time when the Ten Commandments could be found posted on the wall of public classrooms. As a boy, I remember more than one of my grade school teachers starting class by reading from the Bible. I suppose it is good thing to post the Decalogue here and there in public places to remind us that God exists and that knowing Him is about moral absolutes, godly behavior, and legitimate ethics (in any society). Of course outward symbols can be empty if the hearts of the people are devoid of conviction and faith.
Chuck Missler reminds us that the Ten Commandments are NOT "The Ten Suggestions." This part of the law of Moses (the Ten Commandments) is stated as a series of prohibitions:
I. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
II. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
III. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.
IV. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
V. Honour thy father and thy mother.
VI. Thou shalt not kill.
VII. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
VIII. Thou shalt not steal.
IX. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
X. Thou shalt not covet any thing that is thy neighbour's.
The Ten Commandments are part of the Law of Moses. The complete statement of the code of conduct God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai at the time the Jews were rescued out of Egypt adds up to about 613 laws and ordinances!
When we hear the word "law" we think of the kind of laws that are made by local, state, and federal legislatures, things like tax laws, environmental laws, traffic laws, and scores of other kinds of laws. These laws are intended for our good, but they are essentially restrictive and for the most part we have a negative reaction to them. There are laws like that in the Bible too, of Course: "You shall not murder," "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not steal," and so on; but generally when the Bible speaks of the "law" (torah) of God, it has something much bigger in mind. It is referring to the whole of God's spoken and written revelation, containing all the various elements that the other words for law in this psalm suggest, including "words," "testimonies," "charges," "promises," and "ways." (James M. Boice, on Psalm 119, Baker Books 1998)
The law of Moses was given to God's chosen, representative nation, Israel, about 3500 years ago. That group of people--descended from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob--were called by Yahweh to be Exhibit A--a nation under God living in harmony with their God--and with one another--on a very specific plot of land in the Middle East. The selection of Israel as the head of the nations was a permanent choice of God's--it is still in effect and has never been abrogated.
"For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt."
"Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face. Therefore you shall keep the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them. Then it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments, and keep and do them, that the LORD your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers. And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flock, in the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples; there shall not be a male or female barren among you or among your livestock." (Deuteronomy 7:6-14)
All the nations of the world will ultimately be judged against Israel as the standard (Joel 3). The fact that Israel has failed rather miserably in the past (and now) in this calling does not nullify God's calling--the required high standard for Israel though not yet attained, will before judgment day be achieved by them through their Messiah Jesus' grace and loyal love.
One very seldom hears a sermon or reads an article on the Law of Moses--especially concerning the more demanding sections. For example, punishment by death was clearly mandated for certain violations of the Law. Here is my short list of only the capital crimes:
1. Striking or cursing a parent; persistent adolescent rebellion:
"And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death, and he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death." (Exodus 21:15, 17)
"If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate of his city. And they shall say to the elders of his city, 'This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.' Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear." (Deuteronomy 21:19-21)
Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and this Israelite woman's son and a man of Israel fought each other in the camp. And the Israelite woman's son blasphemed the name of the LORD and cursed; and so they brought him to Moses. (His mother's name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.) Then they put him in custody, that the mind of the LORD might be shown to them. And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 'Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. 'And whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the LORD, he shall be put to death." (Leviticus 21:10-16)
"You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death." (Exodus 31:14-15)
4. Witchcraft; False Prophecy:
"You shall not permit a sorceress to live." (Exodus 22:18)
"A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them." (Leviticus 22:18)
"If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods'--which you have not known--'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst." (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)
"But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die." (Deuteronomy 18:20).
"The man who commits adultery with another man's wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death." (Leviticus 22:10)
"If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die--the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel." (Deuteronomy 22:22)
"If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and detests her, and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings a bad name on her, and says, 'I took this woman, and when I came to her I found she was not a virgin,' then the father and mother of the young woman shall take and bring out the evidence of the young woman's virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. And the young woman's father shall say to the elders, 'I gave my daughter to this man as wife, and he detests her. 'Now he has charged her with shameful conduct, saying, "I found your daughter was not a virgin,' and yet these are the evidences of my daughter's virginity.' And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. Then the elders of that city shall take that man and punish him; and they shall fine him one hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name on a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days. But if the thing is true, and evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father's house. So you shall put away the evil from among you." (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)
"If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor's wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you. But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; there is in the young woman no sin deserving of death, for just as when a man rises against his neighbor and kills him, even so is this matter. For he found her in the countryside, and the betrothed young woman cried out, but there was no one to save her. If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days." (Deuteronomy 22:23-29)
"The daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by playing the harlot, she profanes her father. She shall be burned with fire." (Leviticus 21:9)
"But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; there is in the young woman no sin deserving of death, for just as when a man rises against his neighbor and kills him, even so is this matter. For he found her in the countryside, and the betrothed young woman cried out, but there was no one to save her.
If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days." (Deuteronomy 22:25-29)
8. Incest; Bestiality; Homosexuality:
"Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death." (Exodus 22:19)
"The man who lies with his father's wife has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death. They have committed perversion. Their blood shall be upon them.
If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.
If a man marries a woman and her mother, it is wickedness. They shall be burned with fire, both he and they, that there may be no wickedness among you. If a man mates with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal. If a woman approaches any animal and mates with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood is upon them.
If a man takes his sister, his father's daughter or his mother's daughter, and sees her nakedness and she sees his nakedness, it is a wicked thing. And they shall be cut off in the sight of their people. He has uncovered his sister's nakedness. He shall bear his guilt. If a man lies with a woman during her sickness and uncovers her nakedness, he has exposed her flow, and she has uncovered the flow of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from their people. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother's sister nor of your father's sister, for that would uncover his near of kin. They shall bear their guilt. If a man lies with his uncle's wife, he has uncovered his uncle's nakedness. They shall bear their sin; they shall die childless. If a man takes his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing. He has uncovered his brother's nakedness. They shall be childless." (Leviticus 20:11-17)
9. Abduction and Enslavement:
"He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death." (Exodus 21:16)
"If a man is found kidnapping any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and mistreats him or sells him, then that kidnapper shall die; and you shall put away the evil from among you." (Deuteronomy 24:7)
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Again, you shall say to the children of Israel: 'Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who gives any of his descendants to Molech, he shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. I will set My face against that man, and will cut him off from his people, because he has given some of his descendants to Molech, to defile My sanctuary and profane My holy name. And if the people of the land should in any way hide their eyes from the man, when he gives some of his descendants to Molech, and they do not kill him, then I will set My face against that man and against his family; and I will cut him off from his people, and all who prostitute themselves with him to commit harlotry with Molech." (Leviticus 21:1-5)
"If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods'--which you have not known--'and let us serve them,' "you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. "You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst. If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods,' which you have not known, neither you nor your fathers, of the gods of the people which are all around you, near to you or far off from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth, you shall not consent to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him or conceal him; but you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. And you shall stone him with stones until he dies, because he sought to entice you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage." (Leviticus 13:2-9)
"If there is found among you, within any of your gates which the LORD your God gives you, a man or a woman who has been wicked in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing His covenant, who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded, and it is told you, and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination has been committed in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has committed that wicked thing, and shall stone to death that man or woman with stones. Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness. The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put away the evil from among you." (Deuteronomy 17:2-7)
11. False Witness in a Capital Crime:
"If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you. And those who remain shall hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit such evil among you. Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." (Deuteronomy 19:16-21)
12. Intentional Homicide:
"He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death."(Exodus 21:12)
"Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death." (Leviticus 24:17)
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall appoint cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person accidentally may flee there. They shall be cities of refuge for you from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation in judgment. And of the cities which you give, you shall have six cities of refuge. You shall appoint three cities on this side of the Jordan, and three cities you shall appoint in the land of Canaan, which will be cities of refuge. These six cities shall be for refuge for the children of Israel, for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills a person accidentally may flee there. But if he strikes him with an iron implement, so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. And if he strikes him with a stone in the hand, by which one could die, and he does die, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. Or if he strikes him with a wooden hand weapon, by which one could die, and he does die, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. The avenger of blood himself shall put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death. If he pushes him out of hatred or, while lying in wait, hurls something at him so that he dies, or in enmity he strikes him with his hand so that he dies, the one who struck him shall surely be put to death. He is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him. However, if he pushes him suddenly without enmity, or throws anything at him without lying in wait, or uses a stone, by which a man could die, throwing it at him without seeing him, so that he dies, while he was not his enemy or seeking his harm, then the congregation shall judge between the manslayer and the avenger of blood according to these judgments. So the congregation shall deliver the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall return him to the city of refuge where he had fled, and he shall remain there until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil. But if the manslayer at any time goes outside the limits of the city of refuge where he fled, and the avenger of blood finds him outside the limits of his city of refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the manslayer, he shall not be guilty of blood, because he should have remained in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest the manslayer may return to the land of his possession. And these things shall be a statute of judgment to you throughout your generations in all your dwellings. Whoever kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the testimony of witnesses; but one witness is not sufficient testimony against a person for the death penalty. Moreover you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death. And you shall take no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the priest. So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it. Therefore do not defile the land which you inhabit, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the LORD dwell among the children of Israel." (Numbers 35:9-34)
Several things are very important in understanding the Law of Moses. The Law is a statement about the character and Person of God. Any of us who wishes to live in a harmonious, covenant relationship with this Holy God must find a way to agree with Him in the way we live--from the heart. It is important to meditate on the Law. Why, for instance, are some sins worthy of capital punishment and other sins are not as serious? What does this tell us about God -- and about ourselves?
How people try to go about attaining this goal of peace with God makes all the difference in the world!
The Law was not given as a set of guidelines for good behavior, nor is it a set of ideals to strive for by trying harder or by making New Year's resolutions. James the brother of Jesus wrote, "Whoever would keep the whole Law but fails in one point of it." (James 2:10) In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tightened the demands of the Law by stating that the motives and intentions of the heart were also involved in living up to the impossibly high demands of the Law.
Paul is very clear that the Law was not given to motivate us to good behavior but to haul us all up short at the bar of God's court of justice. The Law is diagnostic, searching the chart to reveal the "thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Romans 7:7ff). When the Law is serving the purpose for which God intended it, we are driven to seek God's mercy and forgiveness. We then see ourselves as we are. We can then receive from God the power to be changed from the inside out.
"Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:19-20)
When Jesus had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, "Hear Me, everyone, and understand: "There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!' When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, "Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?' And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.' (Mark 7:14-23)
"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.' (Hebrews 8:12)
Actually God's provision for human failure through mercy and grace mediated by a priesthood was in place long before the Law was given to Moses. God sacrificed animals and clothed our parents Adam and Eve with animal skins to teach them that the shedding of blood was required to purchase forgiveness for their sin. The inner power to live up to the standards of the Law always had to come from God. When the Law of Moses was given at Sinai, God also put in place the Levitical priesthood, the Tabernacle with its furniture and ritual, and an elaborate system of sacrifices, so that every manner of sin could be covered and in order that all penitent sinners would eventually have their sins removed forever and be eligible to be received into eternal life. In other words, God first makes full provision for us with the resources we need before He asks us to attain to certain standards of acceptable behavior in His presence.
People have known God from the beginning of our race by simply trusting in Him and in His promises, i.e. "by faith." Many millions knew God this way before Abraham. The Law of Moses was given more than 400 years after Abraham's day but God never once changed the one acceptable way for people to know Him and to live in harmony with Him. (See Without Faith, http://ldolphin.org/withoutfaith.html).
"But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law." (Romans 3:21-31)
What has proven very difficult for most Jews, but very easy for many non-Jews (Romans 10:1-4), is this central theme of the Bible (Romans 9:30-33): God has always accepted sinful people into His presence solely on the basis of their trust in Him and in His promises (that is, by faith alone apart from works, and apart from the Law). To make sure we get this point, Paul starts teaching this with Abraham and David as examples as he unfolds this core doctrine concerning the Christian faith in his Epistle to the Romans, chapter 4. The rest of the Epistle to the Romans merely unfolds these great themes further.
Two court room transactions take place whenever a person places his or her trust in clearest of all the promises of God, that is trusting in Jesus as Lord. The court offers mercy to all who will place their trust in Jesus as Defense Attorney. All the sins on the record books of the defendant are transferred to Jesus and charged ("imputed") to His account. At the same time the righteousness, or just merits of Jesus, are credited to the defendant's empty account. The defendant is now innocent and also leaves the court room with the indwelling power to live up to the demands of the Law. (See How God Saves Us, http://ldolphin.org/howsaved.html).
The New Testament carries this "justification by faith alone" further by stating that the person who has saving faith is free from the demands of the Law. Paul says "knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. "But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.' (Galatians 2:16-21)
What this means is that Jesus, dwelling within the individual, fulfills the demands of the Law as long as we walk in the Spirit and refuse to respond to the old life of the flesh.
"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law...But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." (Galatians 5:16-25)
The New Testament does not repeat a long list of serious crimes and capital offenses such as one finds in the Law of Moses. This does not mean that God has changed. The same moral absolutes are restated in the New Testament in different terms. In Romans One Paul speaks of a broad class of people who "are worthy of death," (here and now). In the next chapter he says, "Do you not know that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance." James says, "Judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Yet mercy triumphs over judgment." (2:13)
Here are a few passages from the New Testament--consistent with the Law of Moses--which show that our failure to act of God's grace and come into harmony with God may not result into our immediate punishment by physical death but by something worse: eventual permanent exclusion from the Kingdom of God altogether. "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21)
"But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience." (Ephesians 5:3-5)
And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment. He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.' (Revelation 21:6-8)
"Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.' Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and every one who loves and practices falsehood." (Revelation 22:12-15)
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral (Greek: porneia), nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 5:9-11)
The Law of Moses was given--furthermore--not to the world--but to the nation of Israel. A New Covenant came into effect when Jesus died for the sins of all mankind. It is a better covenant than the Law of Moses (Hebrews Chapter 8). But, it is important for Christians to know the Old Testament as well as the New. There is an unfortunate tendency among Christians today to ignore the Law of Moses altogether (this is called antinomianism). Psalm 119, the longest Psalm in the Bible (176 verses) is a marvelous meditation on the Law--most worthy of our verse by verse, meditation and prayer. The Law brings us back to understanding the nature of that personal relationship we are invited to enjoy with our Creator through His Son Jesus Christ. We can not love and faithfully respond to any relationship in life if we don't bother to find out what our God is like and get to know Him as He is. What does Yahweh like and dislike? What does He hate? What pleases Him the most? What does He find irrelevant, or loathsome, or in opposition to His purposes for us? Though Yahweh is a loving and merciful God, He is also just and holy and we have to get that part right as well as rest.
ADDENDUM: Capital Crimes (Leviticus 20) by Bob Deffinbaugh, http://www.bible.org/page.asp?page_id=283
LAMED. Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.
Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You established the earth, and it abides.
They continue this day according to Your ordinances, For all are Your servants.
Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction.
I will never forget Your precepts, For by them You have given me life.
I am Yours, save me; For I have sought Your precepts.
The wicked wait for me to destroy me, But I will consider Your testimonies.
I have seen the consummation of all perfection, But Your commandment is exceedingly broad.
MEM. Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the
You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the ancients, Because I keep Your precepts.
I have restrained my feet from every evil way, That I may keep Your word.
I have not departed from Your judgments, For You Yourself have taught me.
How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.
NUN. Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my
I have sworn and confirmed That I will keep Your righteous judgments.
I am afflicted very much; Revive me, O LORD, according to Your word.
Accept, I pray, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD, And teach me Your judgments.
My life is continually in my hand, Yet I do not forget Your law.
The wicked have laid a snare for me, Yet I have not strayed from Your precepts.
Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, For they are the rejoicing of my heart.
I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes Forever, to the very end.
(from Psalm 119, verses 89-112)