The Old Testament Ceremonial Law Fulfilled by Christ
& Disannulled for Christians
Section #1: Fulfilled – Disannulled – Destroyed?
Section #2: The Disannulment of the Old Testament Clean & Unclean Laws
The Disannulment of the Old Testament Clean & Unclean Laws
“a disannulling of the commandment” – Heb. 7:18
“a change also of the Law” – Heb. 7:12
The writer of Hebrews used the word disannul and change when speaking of diverse aspects of Old Testament Ceremonial Law which are no longer binding to New Testament Christians. There is no verse that more clearly expresses the disannulment of Old Testament Clean & Unclean Laws, but that when God said to Peter, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common [or unclean]” (Acts10:15). Upon receiving this word from God via a trance Peter later understood its meaning. Being compelled by the Spirit of God to go to the house of one called Cornelius, a Gentile centurion, Peter experienced an unforeseen parallel to John the Baptist’s baptism. Peter said, “Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that He said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost” (Acts. 11:16). What happened?
Upon entering Cornelius’ house Peter “found many that were come together” (Acts. 10:27). Like Cornelius, they were all Gentiles… but Peter was a Jew. In any other occasion Peter would have denied such an audience. He would have refused to enter into the house of Cornelius or keep company with anyone therein. This is because, according to the Law, the Gentiles don’t belong in Israel. When God first gave the Israelites the Promised Land, He forbade the cohabitation of Israel and Gentile Nations. On this vein, God demanded the total annihilation of all Gentiles which abode in the Promised Land (Ex. 23:20-33, 34:11-14, Lev. 18:24-30, 20:22-27, Num. 33:51-56, Deut. 7:1-6, 16-19, 23-26, 12:1-4, 29-32, 18:9-14, 20:16-18, 23:1-17, Josh. 23:2-16, Judges 2:2-3). God was intent upon eradicating from the Land of Israel every person, tradition, and custom of all Gentile peoples that He might, in turn, preserve Israel as a holy and set-apart people unto Himself (“I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people”-Lev. 20:24). According to God’s Law the Gentiles were unclean; their religion, way of life, culture, customs, manners, and traditions made them so to be (Lev. 18:24-30, 20:22-27). According to God’s Law the Israelites were cleansed and commanded to remain clean & holy: in clothing (Deut. 22:5, 11-12), farming (Deut. 22:9-10), eating (Lev. 20:25), taxing (Ex. 22:25, Lev. 25:36-37, Deut. 23:19), living (Ps. 34:12-16, Deut. 32:39), dying (i.e. funeral ceremonies: Num. 19:16-18), and even in the excrement of their waste (Deut. 23:12-14), to name a few. In Israel every man (Prov. 5:21, 19:16), household (Prov. 3:32-35, 12:17), city (Eccl. 7:19, Prov. 11:11, 29:8, Deut. 28:3, 16), and province (Eccl. 5:8), and the entirety of the Land and Nation (Prov. 2:20-22, 10:27, 30) belonged immediately and especially to God; therefore the Gentiles were considered aliens, strangers, and enemies to the progress and prosperity to religion and society.
With all of this in Peter’s mind as he entered into the house and company of Cornelius’ family and friends, the 6 Jews who went with him did follow on with discomfort and reservation, to say the least (Acts 11:12). Seeing that both Peter and the Gentiles knew that this mingling of company was against Jewish Law, Peter was compelled to give an explanation for his actions.
“And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for…” – Acts 10:28-29
Peter was not misunderstanding Jewish Law here. According to the aforementioned scriptures this statement was not a residue of Pharisaical and heretical thinking carried over in the life of Peter from the time he sat under the anti-biblical Pharisaical traditions in 1st century Judaism. You see, my reader, the Nation of Israel was not meant to be like Gentile Nations, according to the Law (Deut. 14:2). You must see the significance of this! There was an inseparable mingling of state and citizen affairs in Israel, namely because - Israel was holy unto God! The Land itself was holy! If this can be said of the Land then what can be said of the people? What can be expected of the people who inhabit and populate the Land of Israel? You see, my reader? Because the Land of Israel is holy this means that Israel is unlike any other Nation because state and citizen affairs were not secular but religious. Matters of state were matters of religion. According to the Law, the branches of society and civilization in Israel (every congregation held anywhere with any vocation in all of Israel) were, more specifically, branches of Church Ministry. Yes! And the congregants therein were Church Ministers! Therefore in Israel, the government and its citizens, along with the soldiers of war (Deut. 23:9-14, 28:7), the ingathering harvesters of the farm (Ex. 23:16, 34:22, Deut. 28:4-6, 10-13), the marital compatibly of individuals (Neh. 13:1-3), all things that appertain to financial and economic prosperity or concourse (Deut. 28:4-6, 10-13), or likewise, family relationships and fruitfulness (Deut. 28:4-6, 10-13)… all persons of every vocation, or, “the children of Israel” as a people, had to be separated from all other peoples (exempting lawful converts from strange peoples who became Jews)---the Land & people were holy!
Closely considering what scriptures were addressed heretofore, how the Law forbade the very presence of Gentiles and sinners in Israel (Num. 15:29-31), the unlawful situation of a Gentile-ruled 1st century Israel made for a difficult environment for those who attempted to keep the Law in good conscience (as much as they were able to given the circumstances). The cohabitating Gentiles affected the cleanliness of daily life, the traffic of business, public commerce, and more. This is because when something or someone was unclean, their uncleanness did not suddenly vanish away (it lasted for a specific time period only to be cleansed by a specific regiment of ceremonial purification). The entire duration in which someone was unclean and the person was trafficking society (instead of remaining in isolation as the Law commanded), whatever or whoever the man touched did also become unclean, and also whoever touched that object or person which was just made unclean did also become unclean. Speaking of this, it was written, “whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even” (Num. 19:22). The radical advancement of uncleanness spreading throughout all of society was not only a potential but a likelihood that every good-conscience Jew had to reckon with as he faced the day. This would radically change the behavior pattern of good conscience Jews as they undertook the responsibility of their daily affairs or public commerce.
“But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the Sanctuary of the LORD: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; he is unclean. And it shall be a perpetual statute unto them, that he that sprinkleth the water of separation shall wash his clothes; and he that toucheth the water of separation shall be unclean until even. And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even.” – Numbers 19:20-22
According to the Law, the clean and unclean was a matter of life and death! God said, “that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation”! Israelites were thereby energized to keep the Law at all costs (“I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live”-Deut. 30:19). Put yourself in their shoes, my reader. What would you do? Israelites would be motivated to keep in memory the aforementioned Laws to avoid any circumstance wherein they might become unclean; and when faced with the decisions of public commerce and neighborly behavior this proved difficult. With unlawful methods of killing (“things strangled”) and cooking (“blood”), and with foods sacrificed and dedicated to idols infiltrating the grocery market on every side – the Land was full of the “pollutions of idols” (Acts. 15:20, 29), as Peter called them! Yes, and the Land was crawling with the people of idolatry: the unclean and uncircumcised Gentiles! With all the aforementioned means of uncleanness included, the Land was crawling with unconfined and unidentified Gentile women on menstrual cycles (Lev. 15:19-31), unidentified Gentile men defiled by their seed of copulation (Lev. 15:16-18), and unidentified and identifiable diseased men of every race oozing with defiling liquids (i.e. leprosy and running issues; Lev. 14:1-57, 15:1-15). Shockingly, each unclean person was leaving unidentifiable trails of uncleanness every place they went: on every garment, bed, chair, saddle, or any object for that matter, all over the City and in innumerable houses therein, uncleanness pervaded (Lev. 15:1-15, Num. 19:22)! Given the circumstances, it is understandable why Jews did not keep company with or enter the houses of Gentiles. Keeping company with Gentiles would involve touching them, and entering into Gentile homes would involve touching the objects which do touch them.
I say again, it is no wonder that Israelites were strongly apprehensive to ever enter a Gentile man’s household! Think of it, my reader, Israel was intended to be territorially clean, according to the Law. All things outside of Israel were considered territorially unclean, the Gentile people included (exempting lawful converts). The concept of territorial uncleanness was introduced to Israel by the Law and enforced among Israel through the power of Divine-anger all throughout biblical history. For example, during Israelite conquests of war in The Promised Land (the Land of Canaan) everything that breathed was slaughtered; this means that no person or animal was salvageable from the curse of territorial uncleanness (Deut. 20:16-18). During other conquests of war against non-Canaanite Cities or Nations, all males were slain and nothing more; this means that, circumstances permitting, everyone and everything else was salvageable from territorial uncleanness (Deut. 20:10-15). Howbeit let us remember, the salvageable persons and objects from these Cities or Nations needed to undergo a cleansing ceremony of purification before entering the Camp or territory of Israel (a clean place). Ceremonial instructions of purification were specified categorically according to what the object was: a person (Num. 31:19), an imperishable object (Num. 31:21-24), or a perishable object (Num. 31:21-24). All these things existed because the Land of Israel – Itself – was meant to be a clean place. When and if the Land of Israel was defiled it happened via unlawful bloodshed (Num. 35:33, Deut. 21:23), sexual sin (Deut. 24:4), idolatry (Jer. 3:9, 16:18, Ezek. 36:17), and all manner of other sin (Jer. 2:7, Ezek. 22:24, Lev. 18:25, 27).
All of these specifications were decreed by God’s Law to give the Israelite Land and people a God-given identity; and demonstrations of Divine-fury were performed so that among common Israelites it would be an unforgettable identity! The concept of territorial uncleanness was enforced with the power of Divine-fury in several different historical events recorded in the Old Testament. Each of the following instances were relevant memories to any good-conscience Jew who avoided the company and households of Gentiles in the 1st century: when Achan was defiled by accursed objects and Israel became unsanctified thereby (“Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had…Israel stoned…and burned”; see Josh 7:13-15, 24-25), when the Korah-led rebellion was punished by God (“the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit…”-Num. 16:32-33), and when Jericho was territorially cursed and territorially unclean except Rahab (“Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had”-Josh.6:25; see Josh. 6:17-19). Remembering these historical events, can you imagine how a good-conscience Jew would journey about the Land of 1st century Israel as it was crawling with such abominations!? Echoing in Jewish memory would be the words of Moses, God, and Joshua, who said,
“And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins.” – Numbers 16:26
“Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the LORD God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.” – Joshua 7:13
“he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath transgressed the Covenant of the LORD, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel” Josh 7:15
Associated with these historical events were foreseeable and theoretical events of idolatry or other sorts, addressed by the Law. For example if there was an outbreak of idolatry in an Israelite city so that it was given over to idol worship, the Law commanded, “smite the inhabitants…destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof…gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof…burn with fire the city and all the spoil thereof every whit” (Deut. 13:15-16). Such a generation-to-generation command given by God was terrifyingly relevant to any Jew who assayed to enter the house of a 1st century Gentile man in Israel. Dare he be caught by God in the company of intruding rebels in God’s Holy Land!? It would be moral apostasy for a good-conscience Jew to fearlessly waltz into Gentile households or engage in Gentile companionship.
These Laws were binding upon the most fundamental aspects of life and religion in biblical Judaism. For example when keeping the Passover, God said, “Seven days shall there be no leaven in your houses” (Ex. 12:19), “there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters” (Ex. 13:7). In the case of a person’s death, it was written, “when a man dieth in a tent: all that come into the tent, and all that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days” (Num. 19:14). These stand as relevant examples to the subject at hand, this is for sure, but the most notable example exists in the forms of uncleanness which Peter called, “pollutions of idols” (Acts. 15:20, 29). In the theoretical City of Israel which turned to idolatry, nothing was spared (no life or object; see Deut. 13:15-16)! Even the precious metals of Jericho were salvageable (Josh. 7:19)… but not for a backslidden City of Israel – to them belonged the greater sin! Therefore, my reader, revisit the aforementioned question: dare an Israelite be caught in the company or household of idolaters? The common Gentile household would be decorated with and polluted by rampant idolatry! And God, foremost of all, was determined to destroy these objects of His jealousy! – Any true Jew would have been minded likewise.
“If thou shalt hear say in one of thy Cities, which the LORD thy God hath given thee to dwell there, saying, Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their City, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known; Then shalt thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you; Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that City with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword. And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with fire the City, and all the spoil thereof every whit, for the LORD thy God: and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again. And there shall cleave nought of the cursed thing to thine hand: that the LORD may turn from the fierceness of his anger, and shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers; When thou shalt hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep all his commandments which I command thee this day, to do that which is right in the eyes of the LORD thy God.” – Deut. 13:12-18
Idols polluted and defiled peoples (Deut. 13:12-18), territories (Deut. 13:12-18), and objects (Deut. 13:12-18). Backslidden Israelite people or Cities suffered the most severe woes of separation as you can see, my reader… nothing is left salvageable! When the Law was reversed back to uncleanness in the Land, woe to the inhabitants of Israel! Before the Law was ever established (like I mentioned before), precious metals were able to be salvaged from the territory of Jericho, but not from the idols found within Jericho or anywhere else! All gold or silver found on every idol found anywhere was an utter abomination to God! The Lord explicitly commanded,
“The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the LORD thy God. Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine House, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing.” – Deut. 7:25-26
Do you see how God said, “thine House”! With such commandments given by God of this sort – throbbing with jealous fury against idol worshippers, idol materials, idol habitations, and idol households – what would a good-conscience 1st century Jew be thinking about when and if he entered the Household of a Holy-Land-intruding and idolatry-polluting Gentile? Aye, the terror! Could the wrath of God be so kindled in that hour that then, in any present 1st century circumstance, the mind of God would sound the alarm, “Touch nothing of theirs” (Num. 16:26)!? It may be… but one thing is for sure at any given time: “The curse of the LORD is in the House of the wicked: but he blesseth the Habitation of the just” (-Prov. 3:33). Rightly did Peter say to the company of Gentiles in Cornelius’ House,
“Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for…” – Acts 10:28-29
My reader, this is “a disannulling of the commandment” (Heb. 7:18) and “a change also of the Law” (Heb. 7:12)! When Peter came back from Cornelius’ House he was compelled to give an answer for his seemingly unlawful behavior. “Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them” (Acts 11:3), was the contention of the believing Jews (Christians) when they heard that Peter entered the house of Cornelius and ate with him. As Peter expounded to the Jewish Christians the details of what had happened from beginning to end (Acts 11:1-18), Peter was confident that the events which transpired speak for themselves. The event – itself – settles the argument. As Peter began to rehearse everything up to the point where he was about to open his mouth and preach to the Gentiles, it is written,
“And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that He said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as He did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” – Acts 11:15-18
Peter concluded, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the Name of the Lord” (Acts 10:47-48). This is what it meant to Peter, when God said, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 10:15). This event signaled to the Jewish Christians that God was pleased to make Gentiles Christians by the very same means whereby they were made clean; “the Jew first, and also to the Gentile” (Rom. 2:10)! Peter recalled how the Jews, thronging by multitudes, went unto John for the Baptism of repentance for the remission of sins – a baptism of water – but how, shockingly, this was but a foreshadow of what was about to come! Peter understood the connection between the three year earthly ministry of Jesus Christ unto Israel in comparison to what was unfolding then, beginning with Cornelius, unto the Gentiles – that as salvation began among Israel in Jesus’ three year earthly ministry and culminated in the Day of Pentecost outpouring, even so, likewise, salvation must continue beyond the Jews and unto the Gentiles throughout all the world in THE VERY SAME WAY! Peter recalled the word, “ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost”. Peter remembered the supremacy of Jesus Christ’s ministry above John the Baptist’s ministry and the supremacy of Jesus’ baptizing powers above John’s baptizing powers! What dawned upon Peter cannot be fully understood until we, like Peter, understand the three year earthly ministry of Jesus Christ in relationship to John the Baptist’s ministry, with all associating controversies in mind.