The Old Testament or Covenant found in the Law of Moses had three main pillars. They were Sabbath keeping, dietary laws and circumcision. It was these three things that God told Israel to observe that would set them apart from the rest of the world as his chosen people. Therefore all of these were ordained by God and were holy and good, but the mere observance of these three were not enough to make Israel righteous or holy in God’s sight. There was an underlying meaning in these that would only be found in Christ.
All three of these ordinances that were given by God are found, and fulfilled, or complete, in Christ. Therefore try as we might we can never be justified or made right with God by simply not working on the Sabbath, eating kosher foods and being physically circumcised. These were all shadows of the reality that was to come in Christ.
After a thorough reading of the New Testament we discover all three of these have a very significant role. Starting with Sabbath keeping we discover it to be a type of Christ as the rest for the people of God. The holy diet symbolized persons who are clean and unclean, those God’s people should be around and those they should avoid. Finally the circumcision was a shadow of the crucifixion of Christ in its putting off of the flesh, as shown in baptism.
Therefore now that Christ has come, all of these shadows are no longer important in comparison to the real thing found only in Christ. Jesus himself often found himself at odds with the religious leaders of his day in regard to whether or not he was breaking the Sabbath. It seemed as though Jesus deliberately did things on the Sabbath in order to show himself to be the true point of it all. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. He told them that the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath. God had ordained the Sabbath for a time of rest for man, but in the New Testament we discover that Jesus invites us to come to him for rest.
The dietary laws were also a shadow or picture of things to come. They were an outward showing of holiness meant to be carried over into our inner relationship with God. In fact God does expect us as his people to be called out from the world and to be holy, but the diet laws were only an outward expression of what was to become an inward reality. In Acts 10 Peter received a very personal object lesson on this matter. He was shown a sheet of “unclean” animals and told by God to kill and eat them. Of course Peter being the law abiding Jew said “by no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” While Peter was adamantly opposed to eating anything deemed unclean by the Law of Moses, God was teaching him a deeper lesson about his plan for the Gentiles. Later Peter discovered that God was in fact opening the Good news of the Gospel to the Gentile world, and He even ate with a Gentile family which he never would have done if it had not been for a revelation from God. In Jesus Christ the dividing wall has come down.
Finally in the case of circumcision we find out through the ministry of the Apostle Paul that it signified the cutting away of the flesh, meaning our own fleshly ability to obey God’s law and be pleasing to him through our own efforts. In reality circumcision was a shadow of what Christ was going to do through the cross. “In him we were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with him in baptism, in which we were also raised up with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.”
It is true that in Christ is found all of the riches of the Godhead, and in him we have been made complete. God the father has fulfilled all of those Old Covenant laws, ordinances and rituals in Christ and upon our receiving him he then funnels them into us his chosen vessels. Wow! What an amazing plan from an amazing God.