Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Homosexuality and the Old Testament Ceremonial Laws

Rev. Angus Stewart

(published in the Belfast News Letter on 29 May, 2015)


In his letter on homosexuality, Thomas from Belfast (News Letter 25 May) cites three ceremonial and civil laws from Leviticus for Old Testament Israel in the Mosaic age, asking about their role in guidance today.

First, Leviticus 25:44-46 is a law regulating slaves from the pagan nations around the land of Canaan which God gave Israel (for a time). These slaves were excluded from release at the jubilee (fiftieth) year. Jesus Christ fulfilled prophecy regarding the jubilee as the One anointed “to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” to bring spiritual “liberty” from sin through faith in Him (Luke 4:18-19; Isa. 61:1-2). This is guidance for our generation!

Second, cutting one's body and certain parts of one's hair was forbidden ancient Israelites because of its association with idolatrous pagan funeral rites “for the dead” (Lev. 19:27-28). This does not prohibit shaving or surgery today!

Third, the Mosaic food laws forbade Old Testament Jews to eat pork (Lev. 11:7) and other foods in order to help keep God's one holy nation at that time separate from the Gentiles even in their dining (Deut. 33:28). After the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost when God started saving a universal church, He told Peter that eating (formerly) unclean foods was now fine (Acts 10-11), as the Jerusalem council soon decreed (Acts 15), for, as Christ said, “whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him” (Mark 7:18). By His sacrificial death, the Messiah abolished the temporary, local, Jewish ceremonial and civil laws, thus uniting believing Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:14-16; Col. 2:14-17).

The many Mosaic laws provide guidance (in various ways) by showing us our sins, leading us to the cross and calling us to live out of gratitude for God's gracious salvation. Passages in the Bible are to be understood in their place in the history of redemption, with Scripture interpreting Scripture and especially the new covenant/testament interpreting the old.

Thomas rightly notes that “Leviticus 18:22 does say that no man is to have sexual relations with another man.” This law is easily proved to be moral, permanent and universal because it is based upon God's creation ordinance of marriage as a one-flesh union between one man and one woman (Gen. 2:24), in which relationship alone sexual intercourse is to be enjoyed. This truth about marriage is reiterated by Christ Himself (Matt. 19:4-6) and His apostles (Eph. 5:23-33; I Peter 3:1-7), and guarded by the seventh commandment (Ex. 20:14). Moreover, the New Testament also speaks of homosexuality as a sin (e.g., Rom. 1:26-27; I Cor. 6:9-11; I Tim. 1:10; Jude 7).

If Thomas would like a box set of 8 CDs of recent classes in our church on “The Abolishing of the Ceremonial Law” for free, he should send me his postal address.