Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
Luke 16:16 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
What was the purpose of the OT Law and Prophets? To what did they point? What were they the precursors of? Was it more and better laws and further prophetic revelations extending for thousands of years. Is that the message we should take away from the Bible?
One of the most important and perhaps most debated points of theology within Christianity is the role or importance of laws and rules as defining elements within the Christian faith. No one who has ever been associated with Christian Orthodoxy can miss the great emphasis on obedience which it stresses. By its very nature obedience requires laws and rules, so Christianity has always been, at its core, a legal system, not unlike OT Judaism.
As much as Christianity may like to draw attention to other more benevolent aspects of its faith, the bottom line is always obedience and conformity under threat of punishment. Though Jesus may have been the initiator of a new kind of righteousness, the new is not so new as to eliminate human obedience as a necessity. The new is still about rules and legal requirements. In fact, in many, many instances the present day church still holds up the OT Commandments as an active part of the Christian faith.
In addition to attaching to various aspects of the Mosaic law, the church also picks up on the NT references to the Law of Christ” or the “perfect law of liberty” to inject legalism and obedience into its theology. The many admonitions of Paul to the various 1st Century churches provide a multitude of opportunities to expand the religious rule book.
However, many other places in the scriptures, including in the OT, raise serious counter arguments to the church’s historical focus on obedience to religious rules and procedures as the essential message of the Bible. The verses above are a few of the examples indicating that obedience to religious laws and rituals was not the ultimate operating principle of the Bible.
When we get specifically to the NT, Paul says emphatically (Romans 13:8 and Galatians 5:14) that all the law is fulfilled in the Golden Rule. All the law surely includes all of the Ten Commandments. That would mean that even those Commandments which defined proper respect toward God personally. Those commandments would also find fulfillment in loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Actually that implication should come as no surprise to those familiar with Matthew 25 where Jesus taught that as we treat each other we likewise treat God. Reverencing our fellow creature is an act of respect for the Creator.
We might then ask ourselves why in the church we spend so much time emphasizing proper worship, proper church organization, proper salvation procedure, and proper piety, all of which suggest that our God relationship depends on obedience and conformity to a multitude of detailed requirements. Why wouldn’t our Christian emphasis be instead on trying to install the Golden Rule as our life principle? Why all the focus on acts directed specifically to God’s attention rather than on acts directed to the attention of other human beings. Why so much effort on divine worship and so much less on divine service of others?
One possible explanation for this choice of emphasis is the difficulty of how to apply a general principle rather than specific dictated rules. And the rules provide the justification for having an institutional church in the first place, as the promoter and enforcer of those rules. Our conventional religion continues in the same vein as Old Testament Judaism, relying on detailed rules to gain and maintain divine favor.