Should Christians follow Old Testament Laws?

HomeChristianity and the BibleShould Christians follow Old Testament Laws?

Here’s a simple answer to one of the many questions that never go away: should Christians follow Old Testament law?

Absolutely not.

The Old Testament is primarily a record of God’s interaction with the Israelites. The laws given to Moses – the Ten Commandments and all that spring from them – were given specifically for the Israelites in the context of God’s covenant with them. The Mosaic Law only applied to the ancient Israelites and those who chose to live with them in the promised land. Moses addressed this in Deuteronomy 5:2-3.

The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today.

The old covenant didn’t go backward in time and include anybody from the past. What about the future?

A New Covenant

In Jeremiah 31, God explained that He would make a new covenant with Israel. It would not be like His first covenant with them. The night before His crucifixion, Jesus explained that the new covenant would begin with His death:

This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

In Romans 11, the apostle Paul explained that Gentiles (non-Jews), who were never included in the old covenant, have been ‘grafted into’ the new covenant. God’s covenant with the Israelites was exclusive to them, but His new covenant with the Israelites extends to the rest of the world as well.

Are You Sure?

The New Testament clearly teaches this very simple concept again and again and again:

This simply couldn’t be any clearer: Christians should not use Old Testament laws as a guide for living.

Are You Really Sure?

Yes. Here’s how Paul expressed it in Hebrews 8:6:

The ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

… and in 2 Corinthians 3:7-11:
Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!


The old covenant served a very important purpose, of course. It has been replaced by a new and better covenant. Jesus’ teachings are the terms of the new covenant. We don’t need to old because we have the new.

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10 responses to “Should Christians follow Old Testament Laws?”

  1. Harriet Meaders says:

    But Christians claim the coming of the Messiah is prophesized in the Old Testament. So if they believe that, why are they not supposed to follow the Old Testament? The Creation of mankind and all of Gods laws are in this book. God said, thou shall have no other Gods before me. So how do Christians know they have not been praying to and following a false God figure all these years who was only a human being that sought immorality by starting a religion as he was rebelling against his own. You cannot be 100% sure unless you could return to biblical times which so far we cannot do.

    • Tony says:


      I think I see why you’re confused. Let me see if I can explain clearly.

      Christians believe that the Old Testament is true, that God inspired the writers to write exactly what He wanted to communicate, and that it’s an accurate description of what happened in the past. Christians should read and understand the OT, to be sure. From it we learn about God, His track record of faithfulness, and so on.

      I think you may be struggling because of the word “follow”. Christians are not to live by the laws and regulations of the Old Testament. We’re to follow (live by) what Jesus taught. Paul wrote many times that we are not under the Law, and that the Law has been fulfilled in Christ. The OT laws were given as part of a covenant between God and other people. You and I were never part of those covenants, so we shouldn’t try to live by them. The OT is primarily Judaism. The New Testament is about Christianity…Jesus’ birth, His life and teachings, His death and resurrection, the beginning of the church, the growth of the church and the spread of the gospel to many nations, and so on.

      Jews don’t currently sacrifice animals as part of their religion. Why? Because they can’t. They don’t have a temple in which to perform sacrifices, and don’t have a way to follow all of God’s commands about how sacrifices are to be done. Christians don’t sacrifice animals as part of our religion. Why? Because Jesus is the Lamb of God, the perfect and final sacrifice, and there is no longer any need to make sacrifices. Do you see the HUGE difference between why Jews and Christians don’t make sacrifices? That’s why Christians don’t live by the Old Testament…because it doesn’t apply to us.

      I read and study the Old Testament regularly. Right now, I’m studying Esther. I don’t focus on the OT, though…I use it to enrich my understanding, but spend most of my time in the New Testament, learning how to be a better follower of Jesus.

      Does that make sense?

  2. Alan says:

    So basically the Ten Commandments are null and void? You quoted Romans but yet Romans 3:31 says Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. Matthew 5:17-19 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. pick and choose your verses a bit better.

    • Tony says:


      That’s a good question. One could say that the Ten Commandments are null and void…but only in the sense that they’re no longer needed. Hebrews 8 is very helpful here. There’s a long quote from Jeremiah 31, where God speaks of His coming New Covenant. Then, the writer of Hebrews says this:

      By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete.

      That’s pretty plain. There are explanatory verses just before this, in the same chapter:

      But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.

      The old covenant has been replaced by a new one. The new covenant is better than the old. That doesn’t mean there’s no value in the Ten Commandments, of course. There is. By it we see the big picture of God’s plan, which culminates in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The Law (which is, of course, the Ten Commandments and all that came from them) was temporary. It was only needed until Christ came, and He has come. You and I have no part in the old covenant. Everyone who is born again has the Holy Spirit living in them. Even if we were once under the Law, we would be no longer.

      Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not denying the truth in the Scriptures you’ve quoted. I believe them 100%. I also understand that God will not contradict Himself…so the verses you cite and the verses I cite will always agree. If you or I see some conflict, it’s only because we have misunderstood them. We use the clear teachings of Scripture to understand the less clear. Romans 3 doesn’t contradict Romans 8, does it? Galatians 2 doesn’t contradict Matthew 5, does it? Of course not. A careful examination of all of the relevant verses will help us understand God’s plan. We are not under the Law.

  3. Israelite says:

    First people understand, the God that gave the Ten Commandments to Moses is the same Jesus that came in the flesh. Listen to what Jesus says himself: John 5:46-47 KJV
    [46] For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. [47] But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?
    God came in the flesh it is prophesied in Genesis how Jesus would come riding on the colt of an donkey:Genesis 49:10-11 KJV
    [10] The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be . [11] Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes:

    Also prophesied in Isaiah:Isaiah 9:5-7 KJV
    [5] For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. [6] For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. [7] Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

    Listen to what Jesus says:John 8:58 KJV
    [58] Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

    Genesis 14:18-19 KJV
    [18] And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. [19] And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:

    Revelation 1:8 KJV
    [8] I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

    Peace be with you in Jesus name.

    • Tony says:

      Hello, Israelite!

      Yes, the God that gave the Ten Commandments is the same God who became a human being (Jesus). That doesn’t mean that Christians should live by the covenant that God made with the Israelites. We have abundant evidence to the contrary in the New Testament. Jesus came first for the Jews, of course…so much of what He said and did was aimed at the Jews. Being a Jew Himself, He observed the spiritual intent of Judaism perfectly. This should not be surprising. What would be surprising indeed is if Peter, James, John, Andrew, and the other apostles were wrong when they told believers at Antioch that they did not need to live by the Law. It would be shocking to learn that they were wrong to approve Paul’s teaching, too…and it would be troubling to find that Peter was wrong to call Paul’s writings “scripture.”

      The simple truth of the matter is that Christians were never under the Law. Not ever, even for a moment. We have the Holy Spirit, who guides us in all things. The law written on stone brought death, but the law written on hearts brings life. You can read more about this in 2 Corinthians 3.

  4. Steve says:

    Could you please tell me what you think Matthew 5:18 means? I’m in debate about this passage with a fellow Christian who insists that it means that we are to follow the Mosiac law (10 commandments of the OT) to the letter. I think our disagreement lies in the passage: “until heaven and earth pass away………….until all is accomplished”. I agree with him that it certainly appears that Jesus is telling us to follow the commandments here, but that would mean that as Christians we are supposed to keep the Sabbath (and thus the debate). Could you please give me some clarity on this subject and support it with scripture? Thank you

    • Tony says:


      Thanks for asking! I’ve been having this discussion for decades now, and finally took the time to write a longer article about Matthew 5:18. You can find it here: It’s long. Here are the main points:

      • The Law was given to the ancient Israelites, and only as part of the covenant that God made with them.
      • Nobody else was included in that covenant.
      • Jesus did not come to destroy the old covenant, but to fulfill it… to complete it. It had a purpose, and that purpose is fulfilled in Jesus’ life, ministry, and death.

      Christians are simply not under the Law. Modern Jews are not under the Law, either. The old covenant has been replaced by the new covenant.

      Let me know if you have any questions. Have a great day!

  5. Rob says:

    I am a Christian but used to work at a Kosher Supermarket in Fair Lawn, NJ.
    Is it ok to eat shrimp, oysters, clams, squid, shark, Beef to the rear of the Rib-eye(Loin, Round) and any Pork products. Where in the New Testament does it say it’s ok.

    • Tony says:


      Great question! I think it would be cool to work in a kosher store. Yes, it’s okay to eat all of that stuff. You can find some details in another article: Can Christians Eat Pork? Let me know if you still have questions after reading it. I’d be happy to discuss it further!

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