Tag: Hermeneutics

Charles Hodge on Christ in the Old Testament

Our Lord commanded the Jews to search their Scriptures, because they testified of Him. He said that Moses and the prophets wrote of Him. Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to the disciples in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. The Apostles when they began to preach the gospel, not only everywhere proved from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ, but they referred to them continually in support of everything which they taught concerning his person and his work. It is from the Old Testament they prove his divinity; his incarnation; the sacrificial nature of his death; that he was truly a Priest to make reconciliation for the people, as well as a Prophet and a King; and that He was to die, to rise again on the third day, to ascend into heaven and to be invested with absolute authority over all the earth, and over all orders of created beings. There is not a doctrine concerning Christ, taught in the New Testament, which the Apostles do not affirm to have been revealed under former dispensations.

-Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, p. 370

Thanks to D.G. Hart’s helpful essay on Princeton and the Law in The Law is Not of Faith, I have begun again to dig into Charles Hodge. It’s been so long since I have dug into the book that I found that the old bookmark I had left in it was an old-school prepaid long-distance phone card. Anybody remember those? I was in my early 20s, and a new Christian, when I first stormed through Hodge’s Systematic Theology, barely understanding a word I read. Anyhow…

This summary by Hodge of Christ in the Old Testament is nearly as eloquent as Calvin’s. I spend a lot of time in the Old Testament. If you’re reading your Bible straight through (and I hope you are), you do as well. We need these sorts of reminders often.

Law and Gospel and Application

This is the third and last entry in a series on ‘meaning and application.’ See Part 1 and Part 2.

William Perkins’ book, The Art of Prophesying, is a gem. It is written as a means of instruction for preachers, but Perkins’ principles of interpretation can be used by anyone. With that said, here is what Perkins writes about biblical application:

Application is the skill by which the doctrine which has been properly drawn from Scripture is handled in ways which are appropriate to the circumstances of the place and time and to the people in the congregation (p. 54).

For an individual who is not a preacher, we would simply say that application is drawing out the teaching of a passage in such a way that it is instructive (in any number of ways, both negative and positive) to himself and his world (including his family, church, culture, etc.).

Perkins then goes on to describe what he considered to be the most important element of the application of Scripture:

The basic principle in application is to know whether the passage is a statement of the law or of the gospel. For when the Word is preached, the law and the gospel operate differently. The law exposes the disease of sin, and as a side-effect stimulates and stirs it up. However the gospel not only teaches what is to be done, it also has the power of the Holy Spirit joined to it. When we are regenerated by him we receive the strength we need both to believe the gospel and to do what it commands. The law is, therefore, first in the order of teaching; then comes the gospel (p. 54).

He also notes that

…Many statements which seem to belong to the law are, in the light of Christ, to be understood not legally but as qualified by the gospel (p. 55).

This is how the Israelites should have understood the Law – as qualified by redemption. But, the Apostle Paul writes,

Brothers,my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them (Romans 10:1-5).

They did not properly qualify the Law by the Gospel. If you take “do this and live” to mean that you are actually capable of gaining life through obedience, then you’ve missed the qualification of the Gospel, which tells us that Christ obeyed the Law in our behalf that we might be counted blameless through him.

This is an aspect of what Perkins recognizes as ‘rightly dividing the Word of truth’ (2 Tim. 2:15). It has been widely observed that the Apostle Paul uses a Greek word (Ὀρθοτόμεω) relating to his ‘second job’ as a tent-maker when he speaks of the art of ‘rightly dividing.’ He wants Timothy to ‘cut straight the Word of Truth.’ Perkins relates the word to the Old Testament sacrifices:

Right cutting is the way in which the Word is enabled to edify the people of God…

The idea of cutting here is mataphorical language possibly derived from the activity of the Levites, who were required to cut the limbs of the animals they sacrificed with great care. It is of this skill that the Messiah speaks: ‘The Lord has given Me the tongue of the learned, That I shoul dknow how to speak a word in season to him who is weary’ (Isa. 50:4).

There are two elements in this [right cutting of the Word]: (i) resolution or partition, and (ii) application.

Resolution is the unfolding of the passage into its various doctrines, like the untwisting and loosening of a weaver’s web…Sometimes the doctrine is explicitly stated in the passage…On other occasions a doctrine not specifically stated is correctly drawn from the text because, in one sense or another, it is implied in what is written…Note, however, that doctrines ought to be deduced from passages only when it is proper and valid to do so. They must be derived from the genuine meaning of the Scripture. Otherwise we will end up drawing any doctrine from any place in the Bible (pp. 48-51).

Perkins will go on to make his argument that the key principle of application is discerning between Law and Gospel, and a proper qualifying of the Law by the Gospel – this is a part of ‘cutting straight the Word of truth.’

Let me summarize: If you are going to apply the Scriptures well, you need to know the difference between law and gospel and you need to be able to understand how the law is qualified (i.e. how our position in relation to the law is qualified) by the gospel. Once you understand the law as law, and your inability to gain righteousness through it, you are well on your way to a proper application of the law. But if you stay there, if you fix your eyes on the law as if you will be able to produce righteousness in your own power, then you have failed to properly distinguish law from gospel. The Holy Spirit (read Romans 8) works through the gospel and gospel principles. You must therefore take the law and qualify it according to the gospel. This can be as simple as: I have failed, I know that in my own power I will still fail, but Christ has succeeded and paid for my sins, therefore I will walk by faith in him. This is the attitude the Spirit promises to bless. This is the “mindset of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:6) – always looking to Christ as he is offered in the gospel. (Read more about that HERE).

The main point here, from Perkins, is that in order to apply a passage legitimately, which also implies a proper understanding of the meaning of the text, you must train yourself diligently in what Walter Marshall calls “the rare and excellent art of godliness.” That is, obedience motivated by gospel principles. And in order to seek holiness by gospel principles, you must be able to discern the Scriptures’ distinction between Law and Gospel, which includes the qualifying of the Law by the Gospel.

Meaning and Application 1: The State of the Question

My history with the question of the relationship between meaning and application began, years ago, when a friend asked my opinion of this statement:

A particular statement [of Scripture] may have numerous possible personal applications, but it can have only one correct meaning (R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture, p. 39).

My initial take was that this seemed correct enough. The Bible can’t say that something is blue and red at the same time and in the same way, right? The Bible would never claim that 2+2=5. But after we discussed this question over the course of time, we were left asking the question of whether this sort of way of looking at the Bible actually turned the student of the Bible into a mathematician. Sure, the Bible cannot say 2+2=5, therefore all we need to do is be good mathematicians. In studying the Bible, we want to make sure that we are getting the correct answer every time.

So, how do we get the correct answer? By understanding the original context of the writing of the text. We must become historically-minded exegetes who can dig down beneath the layers of historical interpretation and discover the original historical context of the text. From there, we must unearth the original reason for the writing of a particular text to a particular people in that original context. From there, we discover the illusive ‘original intent.’

Once we have found that original intent, we follow the basic rule of hermeneutics. Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, in How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, set forth this proposition:

On this one thing, however, there must surely be agreement: A text cannot mean what it never meant. Or to put it in a positive way, the true meaning of the biblical text for us is what God originally intended it to mean when it was first spoken (p. 30).

And bingo! We’ve arrived at the meaning of a text. Now what? Now we can begin to make applications, based on that original meaning, to our present context. This all sounds rather scientific, does it not? And herein lies the problem.

Anyone who has wrestled with the Scriptures understands that the distinction between meaning and application is not so simple. For instance, let’s do some deconstruction on the idea that ‘a text cannot mean what it never meant.’ The idea here is that a text can only ‘mean’ what it could have ‘meant’ for its original audience. John Frame, in his book The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, uses the example of embezzling to deal with this idea. Does “You shall not steal” mean “You shall not embezzle” or is “You shall not embezzle” an application of “You shall not steal”? Perhaps it was possible for second generation Israelites of the wilderness years to embezzle. If it was, then “You shall not embezzle” could be included in the meaning of the text. ‘A text cannot mean what it never meant,’ but perhaps it could have meant that. But what about this: does “You shall not steal” mean “You shall not illegally download movies on the internet,” or is that simply an application of the commandment? The original human writer couldn’t have meant that. The original audience would never have understood it that way. But it seems logical to say that illegal downloading is a form of stealing and therefore “You shall not steal” does indeed mean “You shall not illegally download movies from the internet.” “You shall not steal” means more than that, but it would seem this is a part of the meaning of the words.

One could think of a thousand examples like this. ‘Coveting’ originally applied to your neighbor’s house, and wife, and donkey. God explains, to the original audience, what he means by adding particular applications of the principle. But what about your neighbor’s BMW? Is ‘not coveting your neighbor’s BMW’ a part of the meaning of the text or simply an application of the text? I am not making the case that all application of Scripture is necessarily included in the meaning, but I want to demonstrate that the distinction between meaning and application is not as simple as some would have us think.

Next, let’s briefly consider the notion of ‘good and necessary consequence.’ The Westminster Confession of Faith (1:6) uses this language, as did many of the Puritans. Here is an example of the idea from John Owen:

Moreover, whatever is so revealed in the Scripture is no less true and divine as to whatever necessarily followeth thereon, than it is unto that which is principally revealed and directly expressed. For how far soever the lines be drawn and extended, from truth nothing can follow and ensue but what is true also; and that in the same kind of truth with that which it is derived and deduced from. For if the principal assertion be a truth of divine revelation, so is also whatever is included therein, and which may be rightly from thence collected…(Works of John Owen, vol 2, p. 379).

Owen, in a discussion on the doctrine of the Trinity, is making the case that the ‘application’ (or, to put it another way, the implications) of Scripture carries the same divine authority as the very ‘words’ of Scripture. Therefore, in the context of our discussion, this means that “You shall not illegally download movies from the internet” carries the same divine authority as “You shall not steal.” If, Owen says, an idea “is included” in “divine revelation” and therefore may be “collected” from it, then it carries the same authority as the very words of Scripture. John Frame recognizes this same principle:

Unless applications are as authoritative as the explicit teachings of Scriptures…then scriptural authority becomes a dead letter (The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, p. 84).

From here, I want to share a number of helpful quotes that unpack this idea.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in the preface to his commentary on Romans 3:20-4:25, makes this statement about preaching:

Moreover, it is vital that we should understand that an epistle such as this is only a summary of what the Apostle Paul preached. He explains that in chapter 1, verses 11-15. He wrote the Epistle because he was not able to visit them in Rome. Had he been with them he would not merely have given them what he says in this Letter, for this is but a synopsis. He would have preached an endless series of sermons as he did daily in the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9) and probably have often gone on until midnight (Acts 20:7). The business of the preacher and teacher is to open out and expand what is given here by the Apostle in summary form.

This is quite a statement: ‘The business of the preacher and teacher is to open out and expand.’ That means, if we make sharp distinctions between meaning and application, then the preacher is mainly concerned with application. After all, you can’t really ‘open out’ or ‘expand’ the meaning of a text if the meaning is once and for all settled according to its original context. But, if we take Frame’s perspective, we don’t want to make such a distinction:

The meaning of a text is any use to which it may be legitimately be put. That means that in one sense the meaning of any text is indefinite. We do not know all the uses to which that text may be put in the future, nor can we rigidly define that meaning in one sentence or two (Frame, p. 198).

The applications we are making, if they are an opening outward of the text, that is, if we are (in Owen’s words) ‘deducing’ from Scripture and opening up what is ‘contained therein’ are actually implied in the text. We are merely expounding the meaning. This, again, shows that a clean distinction between meaning and application is hard to make. And it means, for the preacher, that it is quite alright to be ‘application-heavy,’ so long as the application is bringing out the meaning of the text (even if that meaning is latent or implied or is drawn out from necessary inference).

The major objection to this line of thinking is that it opens up the possibility of adding to Scripture. Fee and Stuart’s primary argument for the notion that ‘a text cannot mean what it could never have meant’ is that extending meaning to contemporary applications could lead to the possibility of ascribing words to God that he never said. I don’t doubt that the idea could be abused in that way, but there are answers to such objections:

Implication does not add anything new; it merely rearranges information contained in the premises. It takes what is implicit in the premises and states it explicitly. Thus when we learn logical implications of sentences, we are learning more and more of what those sentences mean. The conclusion represents part of the meaning of the premises.

So in theology, logical deductions set forth the meaning of Scripture. ‘Stealing is wrong; embezzling is stealing; therefore embezzling is wrong.’ That is a kind of ‘moral syllogism,’ common to ethical reasoning. Deriving this conclusion is a kind of ‘application,’ and we have argued that the applications of Scripture are its meaning. If someone says he believes stealing is wrong but he believes embezzlement is permitted, then he has not understood the meaning of the eighth commandment…

When it is used rightly, logical deduction adds nothing to Scripture. It merely sets forth what is there. Thus we need not fear any violation of sola scriptura as long as we use logic responsibly. Logic sets forth the meaning of Scripture (Frame, p. 247).

The clearest biblical illustration that sharp distinctions between meaning and application are problematic is our Lord’s Sabbath-encounter with the pharisees recorded in Matthew 12. Here are verses 1-7 from the ESV:

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

The issue of Christ’ s discussion with the pharisees is whether or not it is permissible to pluck and eat heads of grain on the Sabbath. The pharisees say that the disciples are breaking the fourth commandment (Remember the Sabbath…) and Jesus contends that they are not breaking the fourth commandment. Jesus questions the pharisees’ interpretation by asking them whether or not they have read other portions of Scripture: ‘Have you not read…’ Indeed, there is little doubt that the pharisees had read all of the Old Testament Scriptures. Rather, it seems that Jesus’ main point is that they had misunderstood the Scriptures. They knew the words, but they were not able to make proper application of the words. In this case, their misapplication of the words of Scripture would have deprived Christ’s disciples of a Sabbath snack and therefore allowed them to remain hungry. Jesus says that the satisfying of their hunger is more important than extra-biblical laws about labor on the Sabbath.

Notice that this is a battle of applications. Jesus charges the pharisees with misapplying Scripture and he leads them down the interpretive road to true application. But is that all that is going on? The main point I want to make is that Jesus is essentially charging the pharisees with misunderstanding the Bible. In other words, their faulty application of Scripture meant that they had not understood Scripture. They had not only missed the application, they had missed the meaning. If you think that the fourth commandment means you can’t pick an apple and eat it on the Sabbath, then you do not understand the meaning of the fourth commandment. It is as if you have never really read it to begin with.

Charles Spurgeon has a wonderful sermon on this text HERE entitled How to Read the Bible. At one point, he says this:

I think that is in my text, because our Lord says, “Have ye not read?” Then, again, “Have ye not read?” and then he says, “If ye had known what this meaneth”—[that] the meaning is something very spiritual. The text he quoted was, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice”—a text out of the prophet Hosea. Now, the scribes and Pharisees were all for the letter—the sacrifice, the killing of the bullock, and so on. They overlooked the spiritual meaning of the passage, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice”—namely, that God prefers that we should care for our fellow-creatures rather than that we should observe any ceremonial of his law, so as to cause hunger or thirst and thereby death, to any of the creatures that his hands have made. They ought to have passed beyond the outward into the spiritual, and all our readings ought to do the same.

By ‘spiritual,’ I do not think he means that there is some ‘higher meaning’ of a text. Rather, he means that you must bring the text out and down – open it up and apply it in a personal way that is consistent with the rest of Scripture. To do this, I am arguing, is to open up the meaning of a text.

We now have a basic sketch of the argument I am making. From here, let me summarize, and then move on to a few implications of the argument.

In summary, sharp distinctions between meaning and application are difficult to make at best. I fear that the making of such distinctions comes out of a desire to seek ‘scientific objectivity’ in interpretation. Such objectivity is impossible. And even if it were possible (and I don’t think it is), it is still undesirable. My argument is that objective detachment in biblical interpretation is impossible and/or undesirable for at least two reasons: 1) Interpretation (even in determining the original context of portions of Scripture) necessarily involves asking questions of the text, and questions cannot be neutral and 2) the best biblical interpretation is also the most applicable and vice versa (the worst is the least applicable). I will pursue those points in the next post with a little help from Neil Postman and Michael Polanyi.

Interpreting Levitical Laws as a Christian (An Interpretive Grid)

Samuel Bolton writes,

The ceremonial law was an appendix to the first table of the moral law. It was an ordinance containing precepts of worship for the Jews when they were in their infancy…As for the judicial law, which was an appendix to the second table, it was an ordinance containing precepts concerning the government of the people in things civil…’ (The True Bounds of Christian Freedom, p. 56).

Taking this understanding of the ceremonial and civil laws as appendixes to the 10 Commandments, and taking Jesus’ declaration that the summary of the Law is ‘love God and love your neighbor’, we might diagram the Law in this way:

There are a couple of things about this diagram that need to be clarified. First, the fifth commandment is included in the first table of the law as pertaining to the honoring of authority (God’s authority being supreme). This is debatable, but not necessarily important for the current discussion. Second, the cleanliness law (purity laws dealing with the clean/unclean distinction) are set in the middle between ceremonial and civil law because cleanliness laws often pertained to both. Remember that the priests served not only as officials of worship (ceremonial) but also as health officials (civil) in some respects.

This paradigm (summary of the 10 Commandments>the 10 Commandments>the appendixes to the 10 Commandments) is a helpful grid through which we may pass any law as we determine its continuing validity. But before we get to that in detail we need to discuss the fulfillment of the Law in Christ. The teaching of Jesus Christ in the New Testament makes it abundantly clear that the moral essence of the law (the summary of the 10 Commandments and the 10 Commandments themselves) remain intact (cf. Mat. 5:17-18, 19:17-19, 22:37-40). Yet, while the moral essence of the Law remains, it is clear from the New Testament that in other areas there has been a broad change.

These changes all relate to the fulfillment of the appendixes of the law (see diagram above) and the laws relating to cleanness and uncleanness. In other words the moral core of the Law remains while the external, exact forms of keeping the Law are altered under the administration of the New Covenant. Relating this to the ceremonial and civil law this means that the external forms of worship and government have been drastically altered under the New Covenant reign of Christ. Here is a brief example:

  • Leviticus 17:3 If any one of the house of Israel kills an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or kills it outside the camp, 4 and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it as a gift to the LORD in front of the tabernacle of the LORD, bloodguilt shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from among his people.
  •  John 4:21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.

This law has obviously changed, for we no longer bring offerings to an earthly tabernacle, Christ being the fulfillment (anti-type) of the tabernacle (cf.Mat. 1:23;  John 1:14, 2:19; 1 Cor. 3:16ff., Eph. 2:21, Rev. 21:22, etc).

As for the laws of cleanness and uncleanness it appears that the New Testament teaching on the subject is that those laws have been entirely fulfilled by the work of Christ, as he takes all uncleanness upon himself, offering his own cleanness to those who are united to him by faith:

  • John 13:10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
  • Mark 7:18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” ( Thus he declared all foods clean.)
  • Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
  •  Acts 10:9 ¶ The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”
  • Acts 11:9 But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ 10 This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. 11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house.
  • 1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
  • Romans 14:14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.
  • Hebrews 9:13 For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
  • Titus 1:15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.
  • Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us- for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”-

In summary of what we’ve said so far, the moral essence of the law is binding (summary of the 10 Commandments and 10 commandments), the appendixes to the moral law (ceremonial and civil) must be evaluated in light of whether or not a particular law has been fulfilled by Christ or altered in its New Covenant application, and the Clean/Unclean Laws have all been fulfilled in Christ. That means that it is very easy to deal with straight-forward moral commands and laws dealing with cleanness and uncleanness. The former are still in force the latter are all fulfilled. The difficulty then is in dealing with those tricky appendixes. This is where we can get into trouble as interpreters, but this is also where our interpretation grid comes in handy.

Since the ceremonial and civil laws are basically appendixes to the 10 Commandments, and the 10 Commandments are summarized further as Love God, Love Neighbor, we should attempt to take those ceremonial and civil laws and locate them in the 10 Commandments and its summary. This will boil the precepts down to their moral essence. From there we can ask whether or not the essence of the command is fulfilled in Christ and determine if the individual laws have any modern application for us as Christians.

Let’s take one example. I’ve had to deal with this passage because some have interpreted it simply to mean that a woman should not wear pants:

  • Deuteronomy 22:5 ¶ The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

Using our grid, we need to locate this command in our grid. First, we know it’s not a cleanliness law. Second, then we can ask, ‘what part of the 10 Commandments is this law applying?’ The only law that makes sense is the 9th commandment (‘You shall not bear false witness’) because the general issue is deception – pretending to be something that you are not (i.e. a man looking like a woman, a woman looking like a man). This is therefore an issue of loving your neighbor, and the moral force of it is still relevant. How then can we honor this commandment? Some would say it is as simply as ‘a woman shouldn’t wear pants.’ But this is a very strict application of a rather broad rule. The moral force of the commandment is basically that a woman should not appear to be a man, or try to look like a man, and vice versa for men. Drag queens are breaking the 9th Commandment.

If I were to preach Deuteronomy 22:5, this should be the thrust of my application – don’t try to look like someone of the opposite sex for this is deceptive, untrue, and a violation of the 9th Commandment. The good news is that while the moral essence of the law is still in force, Christ has paid the price for our breaking of the 9th Commandment as offers forgiveness through penitent faith.

Another good example of how this grid works pertains to the gleaning laws of the Old Testament. As a part of the appendix to the civil law they relate back to the 8th Commandment (‘You shall not steal’). Those who refused to leave the crops in the corners of their fields for gleaners were taking what God had declared not to belong to them and, thus, in essence, stealing. And at the back of that stealing is the moral issue of coveting – they wanted what was not legally theirs (i.e. coveted) and so they stole it. The result of this is that they were not loving their neighbors. The moral force of such laws are still binding despite external changes – we should honor the poor and use our money to do good.

  • Matthew 5:42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

So, how can you interpret Levitical Law as a Christian?

1. If it is a cleanliness law it is fulfilled in Christ.

2. If it is a strictly moral law, relating to the 10 Commandments or the summary of the 10 Commandments, it is still in force.

3. If it is a ceremonial or civil law it must be examined in the light of New Testament teaching and then, if it is not explicitly fulfilled in the New Testament, it must be related back to the moral law to find its proper contemporary application.

In all these areas the Law is meant to point us to our need of Christ, but for the Christian, having discovered that need, and believed upon him, we will find in the Levitical Law wise and impactful ways of applying the moral law to our current situations. Look at it this way – the individual levitical laws give us angles from which to approach the 10 Commandments, and therefore angles from which we can apply them both to the unbeliever in need of justification and to the believer striving for sanctification.

Update: 8/27/14
I found a great quote (HERE)(about theonomy) that summarizes Bolton’s view well:

This constitutes an approach to the nature of the civil law very different from Calvin and the rest of the Reformed tradition, which sees the civil law as God’s application of his eternal standards to the particular exigencies of his people.

“God’s application of his eternal standards to the particular exigencies of his people” is another way of calling the civil (and ceremonial) law ‘appendixes’ to the moral law. This is precisely how we must view the law today: it is to be applied to the particular exigencies of God’s people under the administration of the New Covenant.