logo The Paraclete Forum Archive

Does the new testament change old testament instructions?


In the Old Testament, it is stated, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a
tooth. A system of revenge is practiced. Now in the New Testament, Jesus
changed that. He says 'Love your enemies'. Why is there a change of
instruction? Are there any other instructions under the Old Testament
changed in the New Testament? 
Thank you for your time.


Jesus said that He came not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it.  He did
not change the Law.  One must look at the context of "eye for an eye."
Israel has a special relationship with God as a nation.  The Church is not a
nation but individuals from every nation on earth.  God has given certain
authority to governments that individuals do not posses.  The idea of "eye
for an eye" is a judicial law for running a government and not something
applicable to individuals.  Thus, if someone kills two of my donkeys then
the law says that they must repay with two donkey and not ten donkeys or not
one donkey.  The same thing goes for "turning the other cheek."  This is
applicable to individuals and not governmental bodies, such as judges,
juries, and the military.  God gave Israel laws concerning morality,
religious ceremony, and judicial laws.  For the Church only the moral laws
apply because we are not a nation.  For Israel, they needed to have laws
that worked on on levels of their society.

This also applies to the law of tithing, which was your other question.
Many understand the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic Law in a strictly
physical sense. However, God tells us that the ceremonies are only symbolic
representations of things that are really occurring on a spiritual level,
"for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but
the LORD looks at the heart.'" (1 Sam 16:7b). 
For example, concerning circumcision the Lord tells Israel: 
"So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer." (Deut 10:16). 
"Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your
descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your
soul, so that you may live." (Deut 30:6). 

Sacrifices are another symbolic pointer to spiritual realities: 
"Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in
obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and
to heed than the fat of rams." (1 Sam 15:22). 
Thus, the Law contained elements that were actually symbols pointing to a
spiritual reality. That spiritual reality consists of righteousness, love,
truth, and trust in God. The goal is not the physical symbols but the
spiritual reality.

Jesus explained that the Mosaic Law was really more stringent than what the
Jews thought because it was really referring to spiritual things and not to
outward physical things. Consider the law against adultery. Jesus said that
this was not merely an abstinence from the physical act of adultery but,
"everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed
adultery with her in his heart." (Matt 5:28). The physical act merely
reflects what has already occurred on the spiritual level. 

The Law is weak in that it produces no life, justification, or righteousness
(see Heb 7:18-19; Gal 2:21; 3:11,21). The "new covenant" was required (see
Heb 8:6-13).

Then what about such statements by Jesus that "if you love Me you will keep
my commandments" (Jn 14:15; see also Jn 2:3-5; 5:3; & I Jn 6)? Has Jesus
discarded one set of laws just to bring another set? There is a hierarchy of
laws - some are more important than others. As an illustration, the Law
conflicts with itself concerning circumcision on the 8th day for newborns.
What if the 8th day falls on the Sabbath or on Yom Kippur? What do you do?
If you follow one law you will automatically violate the other. The Jews saw
that circumcision took precedence over observing the Sabbath or Yom Kippur.
And in the same way, when Jesus healed on the Sabbath, though He was accused
of violating the Sabbath, He was saying that doing good took precedence over
the Sabbath Law. Similarly, when David ate the bread that was reserved only
for the priests to eat (see Matt 12:2-4), he was violating the ceremonial
law. Jesus is telling us "that one greater than the temple is here" (Matt
12:6). Jesus tells us that the highest law is love of God and love for your
neighbor - everything else hangs on these (see Matt 22:35-40 and Mk
12:28-31). Jesus also said "a new command I give you: love one another. As I
have loved you, so must you love one another" (Jn 13:34). See also Rom 13:8
and Gal 5:14. I would add truth as part of the higher law because God is

So should we still follow the Ten Commandments? Yes. But what about "keeping
the Sabbath holy"? Most Christians do not keep the Sabbath (note the Sabbath
is on Saturday not Sunday). The Law said to violate the Sabbath was a crime
worthy of death. This sounds pretty serious! However, Christ is our Sabbath
(see Heb 4:1-11) and to be found outside of His rest (that is, doing our own
works of righteousness) we have death.

See also:
"Does water baptism save you?" at:
"Is the 'new covenant' described in Jeremiah a renewal of the Sinai
Covenant?" at:

Your servant in Christ,