Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
I sometimes hear confusion about the relationship between the Old Testament law and the New Testament and an inconsistency in the application of the Old Testament law to Christian living. What do we do with the regulations for holy living which were enumerated in the book of Leviticus (and other places as well)? In short, Jesus retained and confirmed the moral law (the Ten Commandments and the two great commandments, to love God and love our neighbor) and fulfilled the ceremonial and civil law.
Christ did not come to abolish any part of the Old Testament. His view is that the law is as enduring as the universe—until Heaven and Earth disappear. The attitude of Jesus to the Old Testament (the Law and the Prophets) was not one of destruction and of discontinuity, but rather of a constructive, organic continuity and fulfillment. We, as Christians, affirm the divine inspiration of the Old Testament, while also realizing that the civil and ceremonial law contained in the Old Testament are not binding on us
The moral law is the weightier matter of the law. The full depth of meaning that it was intended to hold is rooted in the character of God, requires faith, and is absolute. The ceremonial and civil law are illustrations, applications, and situationally-specific implementations of the permanent moral law. Jesus taught that the entire Old Testament was inspired, but the application of the commands in the civil and ceremonial law are not binding on us as New Testament believers unless renewed in the New Testament.
The civil laws were those which governed the society and religion of the nation of Israel, which was a theocracy, a covenant between God and the people of Israel. For example, the Israelites were not to hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight (Lev 19:13). This command was specific to Israel, but the principle (paying our workers on time) is illustrative of how to treat an employee.
The ceremonial or ritual law (found especially in the book of Leviticus, but also in Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) found its fulfillment in the person, teaching and work of Christ. So, for example, the Israelites were to offer a year old lamb every morning and evening as a sacrifice for sin. Jesus, the sinless Lamb of God, was sacrificed once and for all as a permanent sacrifice for our sin (Hebrews 9:23-20). Jesus’ life, death on the cross and resurrection fulfilled the whole ceremonial system of the Old Testament.
While teaching that the entire Old Testament was inspired by God, Jesus confirmed the moral law, but fulfilled the ceremonial and civil law.