I’ve started a series on the Ten Commandments and have done a fair bit of reading on the three areas of the law in the Old Testament: ceremonial, civil and moral. The ceremonial governed the worship of the people of God in the OT; things like which animals were acceptable for sacrifice, how they ought to be prepared and presented. These were completely fulfilled in Christ, so that now, we have only two ordinances to observe: the Lord’s Supper and baptism. The civil law was specifically for the nation of Israel as a theocracy. These laws were designed to govern case law: how to deal with theft, murderers, slaves, etc. I’ll emphasize, these were specifically for Israel and not intended to stretch to other nations or for today.

It’s the area of moral law that still pertains to us today. Jesus came to fulfill the law, not abolish it (Matthew 5.17–20). This does not wipe out the moral law; it does make it “attainable” by us through Christ. The “Big Ten” are every bit as much for today as they were for Israel. Since these were spoken out of a context of redemption – “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20.2) – the laws then given were never intended to bring anyone merit, but rather, to bring order into the new life we have in our redeemed state. Of course, they all point to Christ, who fulfilled them – He lived them out perfectly, because we can’t.

Now, there’s one law that I got to thinking about this morning (I don’t know why; it just popped into my head around 5.30 AM while the fog in my brain was trying to clear) – Leviticus 19.28. This verse says:

You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD.

The one commentary I looked at said that while there was nothing morally wrong with the way a person cut their hair or beard (verse 27, preceding context), the prohibition here was related to the way in which foreign nations used such practices for worshiping false gods and idols.

I know I may stir up the pot here, but the overall context of v. 28 is moral law. Verse 26 prohibits eating of flesh with the blood still in it (not just immoral, but bad health practice). It then prohibits the seeking out of omens or fortune-tellers (so, drop that horoscope right now). The verses immediately following prohibit profaning our daughters by making her a prostitute, along with the command: Keep My Sabbaths – clearly a large part of the moral law.

So does this make tattooing one’s body immoral? Is this moral law only for Christians? If so, then is it immoral, and hence, a sin for a Christian to get a tattoo? At the very least, the discussion has to include talk about how even these moral laws were given to keep the people of God distinct from other nations/people who worshipped false gods (laws given for the sake of purity… and this certainly enters into the context here in Leviticus 19).

I’d be interested in hearing your arguments. Let the chips fall where they may!

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