What do we do with a passage like Leviticus 19:11-22? On one hand, the first half (verses 11-18) lists commands that are easy for us to understand and that we can easily see applying just as much today as in Moses' time: "Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not pervert justice. Do not slander others, etc."
But then in the second half (verses 19-22) we come across commands that may sound strange and foreign to us. For example, verse 19 says to not plant two kinds of seed in the same field. Is it wrong for you to plant tomatoes AND cucumbers in your backyard? And how about this: do not wear clothing woven with two kinds of material (verse 19)? Is God offended if I wear a shirt that is 50% cotton and 50% polyester?
To what extent do the regulations in Leviticus apply to Christians today? This was something the early church had to come to terms with (see Acts 15). Based on the wise teaching of others, here's how I try to approach it:
1. If a regulation in Leviticus has been revoked in the New Testament, that regulation no longer applies to us. (For example, the restrictions on food in Leviticus are emphatically revoked in the Gospels and Acts.)
2. If a regulation in Leviticus is repeated and affirmed in the New Testament, that regulation applies to us today. (For example, all of the commands in Leviticus 19:11-18 are re-affirmed in the New Testament and therefore apply to us still.)
3. If a regulation in Leviticus is neither revoked or repeated in the New Testament, we should ask, “Were these regulations primarily moral or civic/ceremonial rules that were specific to Israelite culture and society at that time?” If they are moral rules, then we should do our best to apply them (since God’s morals do not change). If they are civic, ceremonial, or cultural rules, then we must ask whether they are still in any way relevant in our current context. As part of this, we should ask, “Is there a timeless principle or a spiritual lesson behind this regulation that we can still apply today?”
So, for example, the regulation not to plant two kinds of seed in a field or not to wear clothing made of two kinds of material is not specifically revoked or repeated in the New Testament. It's also not an obvious moral law. So is there a spiritual lesson or a timeless principle we can glean from this regulation? Here are a couple thoughts:
- When Leviticus 19:19 tells us not to wear clothing made of two kinds of material, perhaps the timeless principle here is that God wants us to live our lives simply, and not to complicate or crowd our lives with two many conflicting commitments
- When Leviticus 19:19 tells us not to plant two kinds of seed, the spiritual lesson here may be that God's Word, which is described as a seed (Luke 8:11-15), must not be mixed and combined with the seed (teachings) from other religions.
Praise God! Just as Paul prayed for Timothy, I pray that you would be a lover of God's Word and a workman who correctly handles His word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), including those tough to understand passages you find in the Bible.
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