Which Old Testament Laws Apply Today?

This short Bible study explains the easiest, surest way to know which Old Testament laws apply to New Covenant Christians. #BibleStudy

Let's look at some different types of Old Testament laws:

Old Testament Cleansing Law:
"When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening."  Leviticus 15:19 

Old Testament Dietary Law:
Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be regarded as unclean by you. Leviticus 11:12 

Old Testament Sacrificial Laws:
Leviticus 7 contains a long list of commands about sacrifices and says, "These, then, are the regulations for the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering, the ordination offering and the fellowship offering, which the Lord gave Moses at Mount Sinai in the Desert of Sinai on the day he commanded the Israelites to bring their offerings to the Lord." 

Old Testament Civil Law:
Deuteronomy 22:22: "If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel." 

Old Testament Ceremonial Law:
Exodus 23:16: Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field.

How can we know which commands in the Old Testament apply to us today?

Most Bible scholars divide Old Testament laws into moral, civil and ceremonial. When divided in this ways, ceremonial laws include cleansing laws, dietary laws, sacrificial laws, and ceremonial laws. Civil laws were given to the nation of Israel during the time when Israel was governed by God through God's anointed leaders, such as Moses. 

Many of these civil laws contain moral principles.

Christ helps us understand that the punishments for civil laws no longer apply in Matthew 5:38-42 when he quotes the Exodus 21:24 law of "an eye for an eye" and explains that it no longer applies. 

That law served two purposes: to warn those who brought harm to others and to make sure the punishment did not exceed the crime. Sadly, it was sometimes used as a law to take revenge, and Christ corrected that error as well as confirming that it was a civil law no longer applicable to New Testament Christians. 

But even in Old Testament times, God taught that He alone enacted vengeance because He alone has perfect knowledge and perfect character (Deuteronomy 35:35-36Romans 12:17-19).

But back to which laws apply today: Here is the simplest way to determine that answer: If an Old Testament law applies to us today it will be commanded in the New Testament. If it's not commanded in the New Testament, it doesn't apply to Christians.

And please note this says "commanded" not "mentioned." For example, in Matthew 23:23 Jesus mentions the Pharisees tithing their spices, but He doesn't command us to tithe our spices. In fact, some scholars believe the tithing of spices even went beyond the Old Testament command in Leviticus 27:39

In this series, articles specifically address dietary, cleansing, and ceremonial laws, so let's address Old Testament civil laws here:

Old Testament civil laws may be the hardest to understand because many of them contain moral principles, but some of the punishments seem harsh by our modern standards. We need to understand that the Israelites were living among evil, pagan nations and God was preparing them to be set apart so they could one day bless all nations.

None of these civil laws are re-commanded in the New Testament, but many of the moral principles behind those commands are reflected in New Testament commands.  For example, it's a New Testament command not to commit adultery (Hebrews 13:4), but we are not commanded to kill adulterers as required in the civil law in Deuteronomy 22:22.

In addition, it's relatively easy to discern which principles in Old Testament laws are applicable today. They involve moral attitudes and moral behavior. 

"So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality." Colossians 2:16-17 

For more details on Old Testament laws, see No More Sacrifices, No More Dietary Laws and Cleansing Laws, and The 9 Commandments.

copyright, Gail Burton Purath, 2013, BiteSizeBibleStudy.blogspot.com, updated in 2022

This short Bible study explains the easiest, surest way to know which Old Testament laws apply to New Covenant Christians. #BibleStudy

Bite Size Bible Study
This short Bible study explains the easiest, surest way to know which Old Testament laws apply to New Covenant Christians.


  1. Hi Gail. I have come across some teaching which seems to suggest that none of the old testament laws apply to Christians today, including the ten commandments. I was confused about this until I read your posts on the subject which helped to answer my questions, thank you. There's an awful lot of wrong thinking out there which is very worrying! Thanks again and God bless, Christine.

    1. That blessed me to hear, Christine.
      Yes, many of the laws in the Old Testament still apply to us today!
      But Christ has fulfilled the laws that had to do with being "clean" and "unclean" before God - dietary, ceremonial, and cleansing were fulfilled in Him. Acts 10 and the book of Galatians talk about the end to external law-keeping. And the New Testament laws are about our hearts, minds, attitudes, and actions, not simply external practices.

  2. Homsexuality is an abomination in Leviticus 18:22 and II Timothy 3:16-17 applies. Why not teach people to "rightly divide the Word of truth"? What I see is many Christians break off fellowship or effectively hate someone for what they perceive as "wrong thinking" but they won't have a conversation about the issues, perhaps because they don't know why unless John MacArthur, the Pope or Kenneth Copeland is around to help them. Or just get mad because someone disagreed with them!

    1. Hi Daniel,
      I'm not sure I understand your comment.
      As the devotion states: "The easiest, surest, way to know if an Old Testament law applies to us today is this: If it's commanded in the New Testament, it applies. If not, it doesn't."

      You offer an example of a law that is re-commanded in the N.T. so nothing in this devotion would refute that.

      But I'm not sure I understand your comments about breaking off fellowship or hating people or your references to these human teachers?

  3. This is ridiculous and not based in Scripture in any way. 1 John 3:4 says sin is transgression of the law, Yahweh's law. There is no Biblical distinction between "moral", "ceremonial", or "civil" laws. We are to live as "Jesus" lived and that was in accordance with the Torah. He is tbe same yesterday today and fire we and it is no longer I who live but Messiah in me.

    1. Hi Unknown,
      I would assume from your ungracious way of wording your comment that you are angry, and in your anger you didn't fully read the devotion.

      It clearly explains that despite these scholarly distinctions (moral, ceremonial and civil), "The easiest, surest, way to know if an Old Testament law applies to us today is this: If it's commanded in the New Testament, it applies. If not, it doesn't."

      I am sad for you that you cannot enjoy the wonderful name of Jesus and the freedom from Old Testament law keeping. Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament laws for me, thoroughly, completely, fully, 100%. Now I serve Him by obeying his New Testament commands because I love Him, not because they save me.

      May you come to understand the true Gospel.