Reading the OT law

Reading the OT law

We're working through the book of Leviticus in our Sunday sermons at Emmanuel, and this week we come to chapter 11, the regulations about clean and unclean foods.

Understanding the significance of this chapter presents us with a particular challenge - even by the bewilderingly high standards of Leviticus. For unlike in other OT texts, where we know that they remain relevant for the New Covenant church, even though their significance may be transformed in the light of the coming of Christ, here we have a text that we are explicitly told in the NT doesn't apply to the church at all!

For in Mark 7, Jesus declared all foods clean, and in Acts 10-11 Peter saw a vision from God in which he was commanded to eat a fairly grandiose picnic that was all described as "unclean" in Leviticus 11. So how can Leviticus 11 have any relevance for the New Covenant church at all, beyond the trivially obvious point that "We don't do this any more"?

Here we are forced to grapple with a crucial interpretive principle that is very often ignored in discussions about reading OT legal texts: a law can be relevant for us even if it's not binding on us. To put it another way, we can learn from something even without being required to do it.

We'll discover more, Lord willing, this coming Sunday morning.