Selective Obedience? Why Observe Some Old Testament Laws & Not Others?

March 21, 2024

Also Available on:

Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Google Podcasts
Amazon Music

Today's question says, "How are we to defend when critics point out that although we reference the principle in Deuteronomy about men not wearing women's clothing and vice versa. We, at the same time, do not follow all the other Old Testament rules."


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast, where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Today's question says, "How are we to defend when critics point out that although we reference the principle in Deuteronomy about men not wearing women's clothing and vice versa. We, at the same time, do not follow all the other Old Testament rules. Thank you for your podcasts and ministry." Well you are most welcome. I'm grateful that God has given us the ability to have this podcast and this ministry. This is a really important question when we think about how the Old Testament Mosaic law applies to New Testament believers, because there are times when we look to the Old Testament law and say, oh, God says that cross-dressing is wrong. And then we're like, okay, so we should not be dressing as a male if we're a female. We should not be dressing as a female if we're a male. But then there are so many other laws in the Mosaic Covenant laws about eating shellfish and eating pork and wearing clothing of different kinds of fabric and ways to plant fields that we do not follow today. So how are we to understand this and then how are we to respond when people bring this as a criticism against the biblical worldview? That's a really important thing for us to think through.

Before we dive down deep into answering this question, please make sure that if you haven't already, you just take the two seconds it takes to give this show a five star rating, if you think it's five star content and if you're watching on YouTube, please just give a like, write a comment. These are all things that help more people discover this content so we can equip as many children as possible to understand the truth of the biblical worldview.

Now, when I first read this question, the thing that came to mind was actually a scene from the old, I think it was early 2000s, TV show 'The West Wing'. And there is this scene in one episode where the president of the United States just berates this person in a meeting because they are a Christian, and he says, "You call homosexuality an abomination. But I was just wondering, my assistant works on Sundays, should I stone him publicly or should it be a private stoning?" And then he talks about the Washington Redskins play football and they touch a pig skin. What should be the punishment for that? And so there's so much confusion in the culture at large, but also within the church about how Christians as New Covenant believers are to relate to the law given in the Mosaic Covenant.

Now, before we dive down into this question, just want to give the preface that Christians hold different views on how New Covenant believers relate to the Mosaic law. And not all Christians will agree with the analysis that I'm going to give you. So if you agree with what I'm going to say or you just want to learn about other views on this, there's a book called 'Five Views on Law and Gospel', and it just gives five different Christian views on how, biblically, we as New Covenant believers are to relate to the Mosaic law. And so what I'm going to cover with you today, my perspective on this, is a perspective that we cover at Foundation Worldview in our 'Studying the Bible' curriculum. And as we're teaching kids to read through different portions of Scripture and look at prescriptive text, so text that gives some command, the question we have the kids ask themselves is which Covenant does this command represent living under? Because the view that we take in that curriculum is that the Mosaic Covenant was a Covenant specifically for the nation of Israel. Where the New Covenant under Jesus's blood is for all people. But not all people who are in this New Covenants were actually part of the Mosaic Covenant because not all believers come from a Jewish lineage. And so now as New Covenant believers, many of the commands that we follow, many of God's laws that we follow are the same as commands that were given in the Mosaic law, but we as Christians don't follow them because they were part of the Mosaic law, but because they have been given specifically to us as New Covenant believers under the law of Christ. So if there are commands that are repeated in the New Testament that were given under the Mosaic law, we know that those are commands that directly relate to us.

Now, when you start talking like this, somebody might say, whoa, Elizabeth, are you saying then that the Mosaic Covenants that the Old Testament has no value? Absolutely not. That is not what I'm saying. That all 66 books of the Bible are part of the canon. They're all God's revelation, and we are to learn from all of them. We need all of them, and we need an understanding of the Mosaic Covenant if we are to properly understand the New Covenant that we have been brought into. So then you might ask, okay, so then what do we do with the Mosaic law? And in that 'Studying the Bible' curriculum, what we walk kids through is that the Mosaic law, so the first five books of the Old Testament, reveal who God is and what he values. That each of those laws reveal who God is and what he values.

So let's apply this then to the example that was given the command in Deuteronomy about men not dressing as women and women not dressing as men. So these commands against cross-dressing, what do they reveal about God, about who God is and what he values? Well, when we look at the whole canon of Scripture, we know that God is the source of truth that all truth stems from God. And this specific command in the Mosaic Covenant reveals that God values humans telling the truth, he values them following him by telling the truth and not pretending that we are something we are not. And that is why cross-dressing was forbidden in the Old Testament because it is pretending to be something that someone is not. It is in effect trying to deceive others, trying to lie to others and convince others that we are something that we are not.

Now, as New Covenant believers, we should be following this command. And why is that? Is it because it was specifically given in Deuteronomy? No, it's because in the New Testament, we are given commands very similar. I'm going to read us a portion from Ephesians chapter four in Ephesians chapter four, verses 17 through 25. This is what Paul writes. "Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! - assuming that you have heard about him,and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another." And so we see this broad principle here in Ephesians chapter four, that we are to walk in a way that follows God, that we are to put off the ways of our corrupt nature and to put on the new self, which is created after the likeness of God in righteousness and holiness. And so therefore, part of putting off the old nature is putting away falsehood. That's what verse 25 says. "Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor..." If I am dressing in a way that is trying to convince others that I am male, when the truth of my biology is that God has created me female, I am directly disobeying this command. I am lying. I am trying to deceive others.

So why is it that we as Christians say no, cross-dressing is not something that honors God because we see this as a command given to us in the New Testament and see that that was reiterated in the Old Testament, in the Mosaic Covenant. And so we're following this because this still applies to us because it's part of the law of Christ.

Now, the person who wrote in this question also asked, well then there's other commands that we do not follow in that we're in the Mosaic law. So let's think through one of those. So in the Mosaic Covenant God's people were commanded that they could not eat shellfish, that if they were going to eat any kind of fish, it had to have fins and scales on it. They also were not allowed to eat pork. And there was many other animals that had a certain type of hoof that the Israelites were not allowed to eat. So we can think, okay, what does this reveal? These commands, these dietary laws in the Mosaic Covenant? What do they reveal about who God is and what he values? Well, there's two things that are very clearly revealed through that.

First, that God wanted his people to be healthy. God cared about the health of his people. And back then things like shellfish and pork would've been very dangerous to eat in a society where there was no refrigeration system, where there was no preservatives, that would've been very, very dangerous for God's people to eat. So God cared about the health of his people. Also, as we look at the Mosaic law as a whole, God wanted Israel to be separate in very distinct ways from the rest of the world. That they were visibly to be different than others. And what God was doing there is he was preparing the way for the coming Messiah that his people, his Covenant people, Israel, were to be separate from the rest of the world in order that they would then be the light to the nations as the Messiah, Jesus came. Now in the New Testament, we do not have any such food commands in the New Testament. In fact, in Mark chapter seven verses 18 through 19, Jesus's disciples are asking him to explain one of the parables he just told. And Mark chapter seven, verses 18 through 19 says, "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, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?' (Thus he declared all foods clean.)" So in this chapter in Mark, we are specifically told that the dietary laws of the Old Testament when Jesus said that, were no longer valid for Jesus's followers to have to follow. And then we see this repeated in the Book of Acts when Peter is sent to Cornelius and he sees this vision from heaven where a sheet comes down and there's all sorts of food that he was not allowed to eat on it, and God tells him to kill and eat. And so in the New Testament, in the New Covenant, we specifically see that these dietary laws are rid. We do not need to follow them anymore.

However, this principle about God caring about his people being separate from the world is still in place as New Covenant believers. We no longer do that through what we eat or the way that we dress or the way that we plant a field, but we are to be separated through what we choose to refrain from and how we are being renewed. Okay? Romans 12, one through two tells us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God and to not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but to be renewed through the spirit of our minds. And so we are to be separate, not through what we eat or do not eat, but through how we live.

So I hope this just offers a greater understanding of why there are certain things in the Mosaic Covenant that we still do follow, not because they were given in the Mosaic Covenant, but because they're also part of the New Covenant. They're part of the law of Christ.

Now we want to think, okay, so how would we respond to a critic? I think one of the worst things we can do is when a critic asks something, if we just jump in with a response, and this is something we want to train our children with as well, because not always, sometimes, critics do genuinely want to learn, and they do genuinely want to hear how we would explain something. But a lot of times critics are not open to actually hearing a response. They just want to cut down. So it's usually not helpful for us to just jump in with an answer. So this is something we want to train ourselves and our children to do, not to just jump in with an answer, but to ask some questions. So if somebody says, oh, sure, yeah, you pull out the cross-dressing commands from Deuteronomy, but you don't talk about shellfish, you don't talk about pork, you don't talk about fabric of two different kinds. And so what we should do is ask questions. And so what I would ask if somebody said something like that to me is that's interesting. So where have you heard others use these verses in Deuteronomy about cross-dressing? Because we just want to gather a little bit more information. Maybe they had a really bad experience with someone kind of beating them over the head with this Bible verse. And if that's the case, just trying to shove our answer down their throats is not going to work. We want to learn what kind of experience have they had, because maybe what they need right now is not a thorough explanation, but some compassion. Maybe they had a really traumatic upbringing where their parents didn't really understand Scripture and they used it as a weapon against them. And then what they need right then is not an in-the-moment explanation, but compassion and to say, I'm so sorry that God's word was used as a weapon against you. That, yes, God's word is meant to reveal our sin and lead us to Jesus, but it is not meant to be used to weaponize us. And I'm so sorry that is not, as we read Scripture, that's not the heart of God behind Scripture.

Another question we can ask. We can say, I can tell you're really passionate about this topic. Can you tell me more about what makes you so passionate about this? So to really hear where they're coming from, because sometimes people are not going to be ready for a long time to hear the truth, or maybe not ever. But if we can ask good questions and help them see we really care about them and we want to understand where they're coming from, that tends to diffuse the situation and let there be genuine dialogue.

And then once we're in a place where we think the person might be ready to talk through this and to hear a coherent biblical answer, a question to ask them to see if they really would be open to listening is to say, if God does exist and he has something to say about how we live our lives, would you want to know about that? Because if somebody just says no, then we really don't even need to give them a response because they're not open to hearing anything from God's word. They're just out to try to prove it wrong. So I think it's really important for us to practice this and for us to train our kids in this as well.

Now, if you're thinking about really wanting to help your kids understand what Scripture has to say and how to read different portions of Scripture such as the Mosaic Covenant, highly recommend that you check out our 'Studying the Bible' curriculum. Now, just as a warning, it is not for the faint of heart. We really have you dive down deep into Scripture because the goal is that by the end of this curriculum, your children will not need me to help guide them through the Bible. Will they need other resources at time at times? Of course, we all do. We can all use commentaries and different sermons from pastors and Greek lexicons at times. But the goal is that by the time your children have graduated from this 30 lesson curriculum, they will be equipped to open up God's word on their own and soundly read, interpret, and apply it. So again, it's a hefty curriculum, but we've designed it so that you can take it at your own own pace and fit it into your life as it fits into your life, and really prepare your kids to seek God through his word, and then to prepare them in advance for critics who are going to make faulty claims about Scripture.

Well, that's a wrap for this episode. But if you have a question that you would like for me to answer on a future Foundation Worldview podcast, you can submit that by going to As we leave our time together, my prayer for you is the same as always, that no matter the situation in which you and the children God has placed in your care, find yourselves that you would trust that God is working all things together for your good by using all things to conform you more into the image of His Son. I'll see you next time.

Share this article

Related Posts and insights

Walking Through Old Testament Law with Kids

Today's question says, "What is the best approach to getting through the Old Testament with kids? I'm having some trouble, even myself, getting through many of the commandments that came from God."

Teaching Young Kids About Scripture

Join host Elizabeth Urbanowicz in this episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast as she addresses the question: how to help younger kids, seven and under, understand passages of scripture. Through examples and strategies, Elizabeth explores how to guide children in developing a firm understanding of the biblical worldview.

Where to Turn When Scripture Leaves You Confused

Today's question says, "Where do we go when we have questions? There are so many times I am confused about things in Scripture. Are there references you would recommend to answer biblical questions?"