Preaching Old Testament Law to New Testament Christians -- By: Daniel I. Block

Journal: Southeastern Theological Review
Volume: STR 03:2 (Winter 2012)
Article: Preaching Old Testament Law to New Testament Christians
Author: Daniel I. Block

Preaching Old Testament Law to New Testament Christians1

Daniel I. Block

Wheaton College


I am keenly aware that in proposing to address this subject I have guaranteed for myself a limited hearing. There are many reasons why there is little interest in preaching Old Testament law in our churches, whether they are mainline protestant, or charismatic, or fundamentalist, or generic evangelical. This aversion toward Old Testament law arises from a series of “mythconceptions” concerning the law. First, we are deluded by the ritualistic myth, that is, that Old Testament law is pre-occupied with boring ritualistic trivia, declared to be obsolete with Christ’s final sacrifice on the cross. Second, we are driven away by the historical myth, that is, that Old Testament law concerns the times and cultural context of nations so far removed from our own that, unless one has purely academic or antiquarian interests, what it has to say about the human condition is hopelessly out of date. Third, we are repelled by the ethical myth. The OT law reflects a standard of ethics that is rejected as grossly inferior to the law of love announced by Jesus and the high stock placed on tolerance in our enlightened age. Fourth, we are confused by the literary myth, that is, that the Old Testament laws are written in literary forms that are so different from modern literature that we cannot understand them. Fifth, we are indoctrinated by the theological myth, that is, that Old Testament law presents a view of God that is utterly objectionable to modern sensitivities. So long as these “mythconceptions” determine the disposition of preachers and pastors toward Old Testament law there is little hope that they will pay much attention to those parts of the Old Testament that we refer to as Israel’s constitutional literature.

Contributing to these “mythconceptions” are fundamental ideological and theological prejudices against Old Testament law. The essentially antinomian stance of contemporary western culture may represent the most important factor, especially in our post-Christian and increasingly secular culture. But these will hardly explain why within the church the law has had such a bad rap for such a long time. The roots of the aversion to Old Testament law

within the church may be traced back almost 2000 years to the second century heretic Marcion. Marcion proclaimed a radical discontinuity between Old and New Testaments, Israel and the church, the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New. In his canon he rejected all of the Old Testament and accepted only those New Testament books that highlighted t...

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