A recent anti-Christianity letter to the editor of my local paper included this: "If we go by what the Bible says we should be out there putting homosexuals to death". The writer cited Leviticus 20:13 to support his statement.
The Leviticus reference is correct but what the writer failed to recognize is that there is an old covenant and there is a new covenant - and that we live under the new covenant today.
So no, we should not be out there putting anyone to death - or offering animal sacrifices or keeping the Sabbath or attending religious feasts in Jerusalem or many other things that were part of the old covenant between God and the nation of Israel prior to the coming of Christ.
Jesus ushered in a new covenant between God and His people (the church, the "Israel of God" [Gal6:16]) along with new terms and conditions:
"Now [Jesus] has obtained a more excellent ministry by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant which has been enacted on better promises......
'Behold days are coming says the Lord when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, for they did not continue in My covenant and I did not care for them, says the Lord.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days says the Lord:
I will put My laws into their minds and I will write them on their hearts and I will be their God and they shall be My people,
And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen and everyone his brother saying 'Know the Lord' for all will know Me, from the least to the greatest of them.
For I will be merciful to their iniquities and I will remember their sins no more.'
When He said 'a new covenant' He has made the first obsolete....." (Heb8:6-13)
Its important we make the distinction between the old and the new, not just to avoid binding unnecessary things upon people (including ourselves) but, more importantly, so that we are found to be doing what is God's will for His people now, not what it was before.
The terms and conditions of this new covenant are found in our so-called "New Testament". Does that mean we have no need for the old covenant ("Testament") scriptures today? Not at all. They are still the word of God and still therefore have much instruction / encouragement value for us. Referring to them Paul writes:
"Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom15:4)
Lets just be clear about what is binding upon us today and what is not.