Leviticus, the Law, Christ, and Divorce

Christians are not under the Law of Moses. This is a really fundamental Christian doctrine, and it is clearly stated in the New Testament.

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was put in charge of us until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. (Galatians 3:23-25, TNIV)

Most famously, Christians are not bound by the dietary restrictions of the Law, and nor are we bound by the rituals regarding worship. Some Christians believe that we are still bound by the “moral” parts of the Law. Is this the case, despite what Galatians says?

No. James says that you are either bound by the whole Law, or none of it.

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:10, TNIV)

As Christians, we can confidently say that we don’t have to follow the rules and regulations of the Law of Moses.

But sometimes people object, saying that the moral principles of the law still apply, even if the letter of the legislation no longer does. After all, “not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen” (Matthew 5:18, TNIV) will disappear from the Law. Does that idea stand up to scrutiny?

Let’s consider divorce. What does the Law of Moses say about divorce.

If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4, TNIV)

Under the Law of Moses, a man could divorce his wife for pretty much any reason, and she was free to remarry. What did Christ say about divorce and remarriage?

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.  I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:8-9, TNIV)

Christ does not permit divorce for any reason – he only allows it in cases of sexual immorality – and remarriage is certainly not allowed. It is clear from Christ’s words that he was changing the rules, not merely clarifying them.

Divorce and remarriage is adultery, so this is clearly a moral issue, yet Jesus and Moses disagree. It simply cannot be that the moral principles of the Law remain.

What does this have to do with being a gay Christian? Sex between men is mentioned in Leviticus (18:22, and 20:13). The precise meaning and context of these verses doesn’t concern us here. Even if they really were a blanket prohibition on all sex between men, as they are part of the Law of Moses they are not binding on Christians today.

About Andrew McFarland Campbell

I'm Andrew. Belfast born, Cambridge educated, working in Dublin. Married to Michael (who is also known as John). I earn my living by writing, mainly documentation, but I write fiction as well.

Posted on 24 June, 2011, in Defence, Leviticus. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. You are right, lev laws are not something we are bound to, however consider Romans 1:26-27,1Cor 6:9-10, and Rev 21:8.

  2. “After all, “not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen” (Matthew 5:18, TNIV) will disappear from the Law. Does that idea stand up to scrutiny?”

    These are the words of Jesus. What scrutiny does it need to stand up to?

    The immediate flaw in your argument is that the entire meaning of Matthew 5 is that the law of Moses is a) still in effect and b) not stringent enough to make a person righteous before God. The law forbade murder, but Christ teaches that anyone angry at his brother also is guilty. The law forbade adultery, but anyone who seeks to lust is also condemned.

    There is simply no intellectually honest way to turn this, or anything else in the New Testament, into “now homosexuality is righteous conduct before God”. I realize you don’t like it and don’t want to hear it — pretty much every church and almost every Christian has their favorite parts of the Bible to ignore.

    Okay I’ll stop now. I have a beam in my own eye that needs attention.

  3. Obviously this writer did not read Romans 1 about how homosexuality is a sin. It is mentioned as a sin the new testament as well. Oh we like to ignore out scriptures that speak to our sins and deceive people with your incomplete and deceiving articles

  1. Pingback: blogged elsewhere: Leviticus, the Law, Christ, and Divorce « Gyronny Herald

  2. Pingback: Adultery and Divorce (Matthew 5:31-32) « Anchor for the Soul

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