Did the New Covenant of Jesus Replace the Old Testament Laws?


You’ll hear it said that the birth and death of Jesus provided Christians with a new covenant that replaces Old Testament law. Is this true? Here are the three types of Old Testament law and what they mean for Christians today.

3 types of law in the Old Testament

Law in the Old Testament is found in four books: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. According to Olive Tree, this is often referred to as the “law of Moses” (a.k.a. Mosaic Law).

However, the law in the Old Testament falls into three categories: Ceremonial law, civil law, and moral law.

The Bible itself does not make these distinctions referring to them simply as the “Law.”

  1. Moral Law

Moral law is the most important of these three categories for all Christians as it is God’s timeless law.

Even before Mosaic Law was written, moral law existed from the time of Adam and Noah.

For example: a prohibition against murder existed even before God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses.

Moral wisdom for life can be found in the Old Testament books of Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes and are still applicable to Christians today.

  1. Ceremonial Law

The idea of ceremonial laws being a different category and these not applying to Christians is given in the New Testament.

“Therefore, let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.”

–Colossians 2:16

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, ceremonial laws were no longer necessary. However, their principles still apply: To worship and love God.

  1. Civil Law

These laws create the most confusion for non-Christians or even Christians who do not fully understand the Bible and the new covenant created through Jesus Christ.

Civil laws were specifically applicable to daily life in Israel. But because modern society and culture are radically different from when the civil laws were established, it is impossible to be followed in present times.

As examples, we do not stone blasphemers, psychic mediums, rebellious sons, adulterers, homosexuals, or virgins who have intercourse with someone they aren’t engaged to.

Nonetheless, the principles behind Old Testament civil laws are timeless and should guide the conduct of Christians today.

Salvation through faith in Christ not the letter of the law

“‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.'”

– Jeremiah 31:31

Through his prophets in the Bible, God revealed that the new covenant was coming.

This is revealed in great detail in Jeremiah 31.

According to the Gospel Coalition: “The laws given to Israel were its charter as a nation, as God’s special people in the ancient world. But the laws and stipulations aren’t the requirements for the church of Jesus Christ, which is under a new covenant.”

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

– Ezekiel 36:26-27

The new spirit was delivered through Jesus Christ.

God wanted humans to follow not the letter of the law but the spirit of the law. Interpreting the Bible literally leads to death, but by the spirit – by love – leads to eternal life.

“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

– 2 Corinthians 3:6

Salvation comes through faith, not by fulfilling the law. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ fulfilled the law.