Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

Which Old Covenant Laws Are for New Covenant Christians? Part 2

You are here

Which Old Covenant Laws Are for New Covenant Christians? Part 2

Downloads
MP3 Audio (40.46 MB)

Downloads

Which Old Covenant Laws Are for New Covenant Christians? Part 2

MP3 Audio (40.46 MB)
×

The challenge for us in the Church of God is to “rightly divide the word of truth” and use sound “biblically-based” principles to determine which Old Covenant laws are valid for us to observe today. We each need to grow in knowledge and understanding of those laws so we can make sound judgments as to which laws apply to us. The hundreds of laws contained in the Old Covenant can be separated into three general categories: Laws that define sin (the eternal Ten Commandments and laws based on them); Laws that were symbolic in pointing to Christ’s role in solving humanity’s sin problem; and Laws that were administrative statutes governing the ancient nation of Israel. Ten basic principles are presented that you can use to determine which laws should be observed today. Six Old Covenant laws are selected as examples for analysis.

Transcript

INTRO:
Back in November, I gave a message in Orinda entitled “Why New Covenant Christians Do Not Need to Wear Tassels.”  In the sermon chat afterwards, I was asked a great question, “How do we know which Old Covenant laws are or are not still valid for New Covenant Christians?”.  In response to that question I gave a “Part 1” sermon entitled “Which OC Laws Are for New Covenant Christians — Basic Principles”.  

SPS:
This follow-up message will deal with the subject “Which Old Covenant Laws Are for New Covenant Christians? Part 2”.   It will review some basic principles for determining which Old Covenant laws apply, and then apply them to six of the hundreds of Old Covenant laws.

BODY:
This is a vast subject!  

It would be impossible to comprehensively address all the laws of the OC within the time limits of this 35-minute split sermon — or for that matter, within the time limits of a 10-part sermon series.  After all, there are traditionally 613 OC laws (248 affirmative plus 365 prohibitive).
This message will only focus on a few examples that you brethren asked me to address.  But before going to those examples, consider the following points:
There are three basic categories of OC Law (as distilled from our flagship booklet “The New Covenant: Does It Abolish God’s Law?”).    
The Three Categories of Old Covenant Law

The Old Covenant (aka “Sinai Covenant”) contained the “law of God” which Paul referred to as “the whole law” in Galatians 5:3 Galatians 5:3For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
American King James Version×
.  The laws listed in this group can be divided into three main categories, each category serving a different purpose.

Laws that defined sin—spelled out transgressions.
Laws that were Symbolic, dealing with regulations pointing to Christ’s role in solving humanity’s problem with sin. These laws had a symbolic purpose, filled a temporary need, and yet their observance is no longer required.  This category included what Paul called laws added “because of transgressions” in Galatians 3:19 Galatians 3:19Why then serves the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
American King James Version×
.
Laws that were administrative statutes of the ancient nation of Israel.  These laws established administrative procedures and punishments for specific transgressions. They were necessary for the governing of the physical nation of Israel.  Though given to a people not yet having received the Holy Spirit— they are still useful as examples of good, sound and godly judgment.

Some basic principles to use to determine which laws are for us today.

BASIC PRINCIPLE #1:  The Ten Commandments (and Laws based on them) are eternal, and therefore were not abolished when the Old Covenant ended.

These UNIVERSAL (intended for every human being who has ever lived) MORAL LAWS contained the Ten Commandments and other inter-related commands, precepts, statutes and judgments that distinguish righteousness from sin. They were regulations intended for daily life.  These laws reflect God’s divine nature of outgoing love.  These fundamental principles are eternal.  They existed before the Old Covenant began, and continue to exist after the Old Covenant ended.
Paul called these laws “holy and just and good” in Romans 7:12 Romans 7:12Why the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
American King James Version×
.
BASIC PRINCIPLE #2:  The sacrificial Laws which existed before the Old Covenant were not abolished when the Old Covenant ended.  The sacrificial laws which were created within the OC were abolished when the OC ended.

Jeremiah 7:22-23 Jeremiah 7:22-23 [22] For I spoke not to your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: [23] But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people: and walk you in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well to you.
American King James Version×
RSV  For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices 23 But this command I gave them, ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’
God did not command these sacrifices to be offered originally. This explains why none of those temporary sacrifices were perpetuated by different symbols in the New Testament Church.

There is one sacrificial law which existed before the Old Covenant, and therefore is perpetuated in the New Testament Church.  

BASIC PRINCIPLE #3:  God ALONE Can Change [Ritual] Laws

God ALONE has the right to add and change or alter the ritual laws.  The ritual laws were subject to change because they were only types of the promised seed, Christ, who should take upon Himself the sins of the world. When the circumstances were altered, the obligation to practice the ritualistic laws ceased.  But it was only God who had the authority to implement such changes.
BASIC PRINCIPLE #4:  A Change in the Priesthood necessitated Changes in how Laws were Applied

Hebrews 7:12 Hebrews 7:12For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
American King James Version×
NKJV  For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.

Hebrews 7:18-19 Hebrews 7:18-19 [18] For there is truly a cancellation of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. [19] For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw near to God.
American King James Version×
NKJV  For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment [specifically limiting the priesthood to Aaron’s descendants] because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law [requiring high priests to be appointed from Aaron’s descendants] made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope [Jesus Christ’s appointment as our permanent High Priest], through which we draw near to God.

In Hebrews chapters 8-10 the author explains that the transfer of the priesthood to Jesus Christ is the central reason that certain modifications in the law were necessary to accommodate this transition.
Hebrews 8:1-2 Hebrews 8:1-2 [1] Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; [2] A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
American King James Version×
NKJV  Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.
From our booklet, “Changes in the law became necessary to accommodate a new and permanent High Priest and a new and more accurate concept of the temple in which God would be actively present through the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

None of the ceremonial aspects of the Sinai Covenant could define righteousness in respect to the people’s hearts, minds and actions. Those ritualistic services could only remind people of guilt incurred by breaking the spiritual laws that define sin. They were “concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation”.

Hebrews 9:9-10 Hebrews 9:9-10 [9] Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; [10] Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
American King James Version×
NKJV  It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience— 10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.
Hebrews 10:1 Hebrews 10:1For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
American King James Version×
NKJV  For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.

That “time of reformation” began with Jesus Christ’s first appearance as the Messiah. As the book of Hebrews explains, the temple’s ritualistic worship system then in existence represented “only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship” (Hebrews 10:1 Hebrews 10:1For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
American King James Version×
NIV).

BASIC PRINCIPLE #5:  Old Covenant Laws “Added Because of Transgressions” were not part of God’s initial moral law to mankind (the Ten Commandments), and do now not apply to New Covenant Christians.

Galatians 3:19 Galatians 3:19Why then serves the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
American King James Version×
NKJV  What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.

BASIC PRINCIPLE #6:  Some aspects of the Scriptures now need to be applied “not of the letter but of the Spirit”

Paul devotes most of 2 Corinthians 3 to explaining the important difference in the administration of some of the laws written in the Old Testament. They are not abolished, but are to be applied in a way that is compatible with the New Covenant.
2Co 3:2-4 NKJV  You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; 3 clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.  4 … our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.  

The “spirit” of the law takes precedence over the letter of the law—with the clear understanding that the “spirit” of the law faithfully preserves the original intent for which any particular law was given.  The new emphasis is on where the law is written—in the heart of those whom God calls rather than merely on tablets of stone (2 Corinthians 3:3 2 Corinthians 3:3For as much as you are manifestly declared to be the letter of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
American King James Version×
).
2Co 3:3 NKJV  clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.  
It is also important to note that not everything concerning the office of the high priest had to be amended—only the regulations necessary to accommodate Jesus Christ’s appointment as our permanent High Priest.

The same principle applies to sacrifices and ceremonies. A change from merely symbolic animal sacrifices to the real and permanent sacrifice of Jesus Christ necessitates an adjustment in the law. But it does not abolish our need for a sacrifice. The law’s requirement that a sacrifice be made for sin remains intact. But now it is the sacrifice of Christ that fulfills that requirement.

Hebrews 10:4 Hebrews 10:4For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
American King James Version×
, 10-14, 18 NKJV  For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. …. 10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.  14  For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.  18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.

Therefore, some changes to the law were necessary to amend what was already in the law, to bring it up to date. God’s law has not been abolished by the New Covenant, but it now contains important revisions that accommodate the “better promises” foretold in those very same Scriptures.

BASIC PRINCIPLE #7:  National Administrative Laws of Ancient Israel
These were regulations that enabled the administration of governance in ancient Israel. Ordinances setting punishments for specific transgressions fall into this category. Such national ordinances— though given to a people not yet having received the Holy Spirit— are still useful as examples of good, sound and godly judgment.

These laws established administrative procedures and penalties for disobedience. They were necessary for the governing of the nation of Israel.  This also included laws specific to the ancient “bronze age” Israelites who lacked the knowledge of sanitation and how diseases were spread.  All the laws had spiritual applications, but many of them were for an ancient OC physical nation (and were fulfilled by the life of Jesus Christ).

BASIC PRINCIPLE #8:  The words and Examples of Jesus Christ and His apostles give us additional understanding on how the New Covenant supersedes the Old Covenant for us in the Church today.  

BASIC PRINCIPLE #9:  Difficult to observe in today’s world.

BASIC PRINCIPLE #10:  There are laws we do not yet understand.  Where we do not understand, we endeavour to understand their application.  How can we implement them spiritually if we cannot or do not observe them?

Six Examples Now Follow.

EXAMPLE #1:  Circumcision (OBSERVED SPIRITUALLY)

Circumcision vs. a ‘New Creation’ in Christ

“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation” (Galatians 6:15 Galatians 6:15For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

The Jewish practice of requiring gentiles (non-Jews) to be circumcised to be accepted into their fellowship threatened the unity of the early Church. The apostles held a special conference at Jerusalem to address that issue so that the right perspective of justification through faith in and of Christ would not be distorted.

In a letter sent to gentile congregations at the end of that conference, the apostles confirmed in writing that they were all in agreement on this matter. They explained, “We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said” (Acts 15:24 Acts 15:24For as much as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, You must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
American King James Version×
, NIV).

Those disturbing the churches in Antioch and other areas tried to convince Christian gentiles that “unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved” (verse 1, NIV).

The New Testament talks about a circumcision of the heart. But even Moses had long before prophesied: “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, in order that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:6 Deuteronomy 30:6And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live.
American King James Version×
, NASB).

Paul also confirms this, writing that “he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:29 Romans 2:29But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
American King James Version×
, NASB). Thus, true Jews—true Christians—are those who are circumcised spiritually, with the rebellious spirit of the human mind resisted, suppressed and subdued in obedience to God through His Spirit.

Of those who insisted that believing gentiles should observe the outwardly symbolic aspects of the law, many were motivated by a desire for harmony with the non-Christian Jewish community. But as was covered in chapter 2, those aspects of the law are no longer required. The book of Hebrews explains this thoroughly. But that epistle had not yet been written when the issue of circumcision of gentiles led to a crisis in Galatia.

EXAMPLE #2:  Prohibition Against Tatoos (OBSERVED)

Leviticus 19:28 Leviticus 19:28You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
American King James Version×
 “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD.”

Keil & Delitzsch commentary describes Leviticus 19:28 Leviticus 19:28You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
American King James Version×
as “Two prohibitions of an unnatural disfigurement of the body.”

The verse contains two commandments. The first commandment prohibits cuttings in the flesh for the dead. The second commandment is broader than that.  It says, “…and do not tattoo yourselves” (New American Bible). Although tattooing “for the dead” is included, it is not limited to it. According to Leviticus 19:28 Leviticus 19:28You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
American King James Version×
, all kinds of tattooing are wrong.

Refer to a recent COE doctrinal session video that discussed this topic.
Read below excerpts from “Old Testament Laws Still Valid Today” by Norbert Link.
One of the more common practices in many parts around the world has been the “fashionable statement” of wearing non-removable tattoos. Admittedly, taste is in the eyes of the beholder, but it must be emphasized that the Bible does not allow the tattooing of our bodies via an Old Testament law that is still in force and effect today.

As we will see, the prohibition against tattoos [….] describes a form of mutilation of the body. Apart from the temporary injunction of physical circumcision and a few cases of ear piercing for slaves …., there is NO example in the entire Bible which would in any way support self-infliction of pain or self-mutilation or the mutilation of others.
Although tattooing of the body is extremely popular among many peoples, even in our Western societies, including sailors, marines, teens and others, the Bible clearly prohibits this practice. [… in Leviticus 19:28 Leviticus 19:28You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
American King James Version×
].  

The translation “tattoo” is an accurate rendering of the original Hebrew.  The Authorized Version states, “…nor print any marks upon you.” The intended meaning is “tattoo” or “tattoo marks.” The New International Version states, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourself.” The Revised Standard Version states, “You shall not make any cuttings  in your flesh on account  of the dead or tattoo any marks upon  you.” The Revised English Bible states, “You must not gash yourselves in mourning for the dead or tattoo  yourselves.” Compare, too, Moffat, the New American Bible, the New Jerusalem Bible, and the Elberfelder Bible.

The Hebrew word, translated as “tattoo,” is “qa’aqa.” Strong defines it under  Number 7085  as an “incision”  or “gash” or a “mark.”  The Interlinear Bible Hebrew-Greek-English edition by Jay P Green Sr. uses the word “tattoo”  as a literal translation of Strong’s Number 7085.

The Ryrie Study Bible comments on Leviticus 19:28 Leviticus 19:28You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
American King James Version×
: “Both cutting and tattooing the body were done  by the heathen.”

Soncino remarks,  “…’nor imprint any marks,’ i.e. tattooing with a needle.  The flesh should not have any marks other than the ‘sign of the covenant,’ circumcision.”

Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary has this to say about “tattoos”: “A permanent mark  or design fixed upon  the body  by a process of picking  the skin and  inserting  an indelible color under  the skin. The moral  and  ceremonial laws of Leviticus declare, ‘You shall not make  any cuttings  in your flesh for the dead,  nor  tattoo  any marks upon  you’ (Leviticus 19:28 Leviticus 19:28You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
American King James Version×
).  Any kind  of self laceration or marking the body was prohibited amongst the Hebrew people.  Such cuttings were associated  with pagan  cults that  tattooed their followers  while they mourned the dead.”
The Nelson Study Bible adds,  “The human body  was designed  by God, who intended it to be whole and beautiful. Disfiguring the body dishonored God, in whose image the person was created. Cutting one’s flesh for the dead and tattooing (or perhaps painting) one’s body had religious significance among  Israel’s pagan neighbors. In Israel, such practices were signs of rebellion against God.”  ….  Some religious people, although they are aware of Leviticus 19:28 Leviticus 19:28You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
American King James Version×
, nevertheless claim that they tattoo their bodies just for decoration, without thinking about  evil spirits, or mourning for any dead person. They feel Leviticus 19:28 Leviticus 19:28You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
American King James Version×
 only prohibits tattooing in the context  of mourning for the dead.  [For this case, think of “tassels” and John 4:24 John 4:24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
American King James Version×
.]

We need to realize, however, that tattooing, even if it was originally done for the purpose of expressing sorrow for a dead person,  had  a somewhat permanent nature—the person would still continue to wear the tattoo  long after his mourning for the dead had ceased. It is also important to consider the origin of a certain practice. If tattooing was originally done to placate evil spirits and to mourn for the dead, as most commentaries suggest, and was therefore prohibited, it would still be wrong to carry out such practice today, even if it was done for different motives.  For instance,  members of God’s Church don’t keep Halloween, because this festival is clearly of a pagan or demonic origin. This fact is not changed by the argument that most people keeping Halloween today don’t do so for the purpose of placating  or expelling demons.  ….  tattooing is a form of “mutilation” (compare Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol.21, ed. 1959). A Christian is not to “mutilate” himself, except where it is expressly commanded or implied as permissible by God, such as in the case of circumcision. A Christian is to take care of his body in a right and cherishing way (Ephesians 5:29 Ephesians 5:29For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church:
American King James Version×
). He is to glorify GOD in his body, knowing  that his body is the temple or dwelling place of God’s Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16 1 Corinthians 3:16Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
American King James Version×
; 6:19-20).

More proof on the background of this now popular activity of tattooing may be found  in Deuteronomy 14:1 Deuteronomy 14:1You are the children of the LORD your God: you shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.
American King James Version×
wherein  God strictly forbids  pagan practices about  cutting or disfiguring  oneself. Also, in the account of 1 Kings 18, Elijah confronts the false religious leaders of his day. Verse 28 states: “So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom,  with knives and lances, until the blood  gushed out on them.” When Jesus confronted demon possessed people, one of the common manifestations was that these people  mutilated themselves in destructive  ways.
Tattooing  has given rise to other  forms of body  mutilations that often prove to be permanent disfigurations. Right and  true worship of God not  only avoids these practices, but  Christianity is a way of living in which  individuals seek to honor God through the kind  of obedience that is rooted  in love—not  body mutilation. On the other hand,  if someone has tattooed his or her body, there is not much the person  can do now, as the removal  of tattoos  is virtually impossible. God forgives upon repentance; but the command is not to engage in tattooing our bodies, once the truth has been understood.

EXAMPLE #3:  Harvesting of New Fruit Trees (OBSERVED IF POSSIBLE)

Leviticus 19:23-25 Leviticus 19:23-25 [23] And when you shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then you shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised to you: it shall not be eaten of. [24] But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the LORD with. [25] And in the fifth year shall you eat of the fruit thereof, that it may yield to you the increase thereof: I am the LORD your God.
American King James Version×
NKJV  ’When you come into the land, and have planted all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as uncircumcised. Three years it shall be as uncircumcised to you. It shall not be eaten. 24 But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, a praise to the LORD.  25 And in the fifth year you may eat its fruit, that it may yield to you its increase: I am the LORD your God.
These verses prescribe what we are to do with newly planted fruit trees. This law, is still valid today.  ….  These verses prohibit the consumption of fruit from a NEWLY PLANTED fruit tree for the first three years. The Ryrie Study Bible ex- plains:  “When they came to Canaan,  they were not to eat fruit from the [newly planted] fruit trees [for a certain  number of years].” To abstain  from eating the fruit from the newly planted fruit trees for the first three years allows the trees to become established, and what little fruit may be produced during the first three years of a new tree, should be allowed  to fall to the ground and to serve as manure or fertilizer. The passage refers to the AGE of the tree, not to the number of years it has borne  fruit. We are to begin counting, when the tree is planted or rooted,  or when it comes up.
In the fourth  year, the fruit is to be used to praise God. In ancient times, the fruits were given to the Levites, together  with the tithe. To- day, the fruit could be given to the minister, or the equivalent of the wholesale value of the fruit—in the fourth year—should be sent to the Church.  (In that case, the individual is of course permitted to eat the fruit during the fourth year). In the fifth year, and all following years, the fruit belongs to the individual, but the individual is still obligated to tithe on the increase.
This law only refers to newly planted fruit trees that bear fruit. It does not refer to existing fruit trees, which are older than three or four years. This means, if one plants a three-year old fruit tree, one does not start counting that year as year number one. Rather, it is already year number three. Further,  this law does not  refer to shrubs, bushes, grapefruits, or olive trees. Those “trees” are described  in the Bible as field crops, as they have a different  production cycle.
Although some have forgotten this important distinction, it is clearly revealed in Scripture, and it has been the long-standing teaching of the Church of God.

EXAMPLE #4:  Land Sabbath Resting of Farm Land Every 7 Years (NOT GENERALLY OBSERVED NOW.  MUST WAIT FOR THE MILLENNIUM.)

Leviticus 25:2-4 Leviticus 25:2-4 [2] Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, When you come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath to the LORD. [3] Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; [4] But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest to the land, a sabbath for the LORD: you shall neither sow your field, nor prune your vineyard.
American King James Version×
NKJV  ”Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the LORD.  3 Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the LORD. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard.

This falls into the “BASIC PRINCIPLE #9:  Difficult to observe in today’s world” category.  
In WCG days, it was sometimes attempted.  I remember hearing of WCG farmer (making payments on a financial loan) failing to be able to keep it.

EXAMPLE #5:  Cities of Refuge (CANNOT OBSERVE NOW)
God commanded Moses (Exodus 21:12 Exodus 21:12He that smites a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.
American King James Version×
- 14, Numbers 35:9-34 Numbers 35:9-34 [9] And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, [10] Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, When you be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan; [11] Then you shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which kills any person at unawares. [12] And they shall be to you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment. [13] And of these cities which you shall give six cities shall you have for refuge. [14] You shall give three cities on this side Jordan, and three cities shall you give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge. [15] These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that kills any person unawares may flee thither. [16] And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. [17] And if he smite him with throwing a stone, with which he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. [18] Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, with which he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. [19] The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meets him, he shall slay him. [20] But if he thrust him of hatred, or hurl at him by laying of wait, that he die; [21] Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he that smote him shall surely be put to death; for he is a murderer: the revenger of blood shall slay the murderer, when he meets him. [22] But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast on him any thing without laying of wait, [23] Or with any stone, with which a man may die, seeing him not, and cast it on him, that he die, and was not his enemy, neither sought his harm: [24] Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments: [25] And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, where he was fled: and he shall abide in it to the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil. [26] But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, where he was fled; [27] And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood: [28] Because he should have remained in the city of his refuge until the death of the high priest: but after the death of the high priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession. [29] So these things shall be for a statute of judgment to you throughout your generations in all your dwellings. [30] Whoever kills any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die. [31] Moreover you shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death. [32] And you shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest. [33] So you shall not pollute the land wherein you are: for blood it defiles the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it. [34] Defile not therefore the land which you shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the LORD dwell among the children of Israel.
American King James Version×
, Deuteronomy 19:1-13 Deuteronomy 19:1-13 [1] When the LORD your God has cut off the nations, whose land the LORD your God gives you, and you succeed them, and dwell in their cities, and in their houses; [2] You shall separate three cities for you in the middle of your land, which the LORD your God gives you to possess it. [3] You shall prepare you a way, and divide the coasts of your land, which the LORD your God gives you to inherit, into three parts, that every slayer may flee thither. [4] And this is the case of the slayer, which shall flee thither, that he may live: Whoever kills his neighbor ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past; [5] As when a man goes into the wood with his neighbor to hew wood, and his hand fetches a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slips from the helve, and lights on his neighbor, that he die; he shall flee to one of those cities, and live: [6] Lest the avenger of the blood pursue the slayer, while his heart is hot, and overtake him, because the way is long, and slay him; whereas he was not worthy of death, inasmuch as he hated him not in time past. [7] Why I command you, saying, You shall separate three cities for you. [8] And if the LORD your God enlarge your coast, as he has sworn to your fathers, and give you all the land which he promised to give to your fathers; [9] If you shall keep all these commandments to do them, which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to walk ever in his ways; then shall you add three cities more for you, beside these three: [10] That innocent blood be not shed in your land, which the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance, and so blood be on you. [11] But if any man hate his neighbor, and lie in wait for him, and rise up against him, and smite him mortally that he die, and flees into one of these cities: [12] Then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him there, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die. [13] Your eye shall not pity him, but you shall put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with you.
American King James Version×
), and then Joshua (Joshua 20), to set them up cities of refuge in ancient Israel.
The Cities of Refuge were six Levitical towns in which perpetrators of accidental manslaughter could claim the right of asylum.  The Bible names the six cities as being cities of refuge: Golan, Ramoth, and Bosor, on the east of the Jordan River, and Kedesh, Shechem, and Hebron on the western side.

EXAMPLE #6:  The Passover Sacrifice (OBSERVED)
When God brought Israel to the foot of Mt. Sinai, He gave the Ten Commandments to them. He allowed Moses to declare all the statutes and judgments to Israel (Exodus, chapters 20-24). These statutes and judgments MAGNIFY the Ten Commandments.

There is only one sacrificial law mentioned in the book of the law - the Passover sacrifice (Exodus 23:18 Exodus 23:18You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning.
American King James Version×
), which God called “MY sacrifice.” 

Consider Jeremiah 7:22-23 Jeremiah 7:22-23 [22] For I spoke not to your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: [23] But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people: and walk you in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well to you.
American King James Version×
RSV  For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices 23 But this command I gave them, ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’

God did not command these sacrifices to be offered originally. This explains why none of those temporary sacrifices were perpetuated by different symbols in the New Testament Church. 
Only the Passover is preserved by different symbols today because it began before the old covenant was made. It was instituted in Exodus 12 before the Israelites left Egypt.
The very fact that Jesus substituted unleavened bread and wine for the Passover lamb only, and not for the temporary offerings, is absolute proof that the ceremonial old testament offerings are not binding today! - but that the Passover is binding.

CONCLUSION:

We each need to grow in our knowledge of the Old Covenant laws.  With that knowledge, also need to grow in understanding and good judgment in determining what if any applications those laws have for us (in other words, “Which Old Covenant Laws Are for New Covenant Christians?”.
Our challenge in the Church of God is to “rightly divide the word of truth”, and use sound “biblically-based” principles, to determine which Old Covenant laws are still in force for us today and which are obsolete.  We need to understand basic principles so we can make proper judgment calls when questions arise. 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS:  Excerpts of this message were taken from Mr. Norbert Link’s booklet “Old Testament Laws Still Valid Today?”; Mr. Craig M. White’s draft study paper “Which Commandments do the Churches of God observe/teach and not observe/teach? And why?”; and the UCG booklet “The New Covenant: Does It Abolish God’s Law”.
 

You might also be interested in....