I was reading some articles tonight on the Gospel Coalition website and ran across this article by Tim Keller entitled, “Old Testament Law and the Charge of Inconsistency“. In the article Keller wisely articulates why Christians aren’t being inconsistent when they distinguish between the moral law (including sexual ethics) that trancends both the Old and New Testaments, and the ceremonial law that existed during the Old Testament when God’s people existed in the form of a nation-state.
Keller would write, “Further, the New Testament explains another change between the Testaments. Sins continue to be sins—but the penalties change. In the Old Testament things like adultery or incest were punishable with civil sanctions like execution. This is because at that time God’s people existed in the form of a nation-state and so all sins had civil penalties.
But in the New Testament the people of God are an assembly of churches all over the world, living under many different governments. The church is not a civil government, and so sins are dealt with by exhortation and, at worst, exclusion from membership. This is how a case of incest in the Corinthian church is dealt with by Paul (1 Corinthians 5:1ff. and 2 Corinthians 2:7-11.) Why this change? Under Christ, the gospel is not confined to a single nation—it has been released to go into all cultures and peoples.”
It’s a helpful read with some practical advice on engaging with the culture at the end. Enjoy.