We know from scripture that the early Christians where Jews who observed the Jewish laws as this was already their way of life. The only difference was they believed in Jesus Christ. However, their Jewish customs became a bit of an issue when the gentiles began to turn to Christ; as some Jews expected the gentiles to observe the Jewish customs as well. The bible discusses this in the book Acts.
5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. 6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Acts 15 (KJV)
The apostles did not think the gentiles should observe the Law of Moses and provided an alternative which was basically an abridged version of the law.
19 “So I think we should not make things hard for those who have turned to God from among the non-Jewish people. 20 Instead, we should send a letter telling them only the things they should not do: Don’t eat food that has been given to idols. This makes the food unclean. Don’t be involved in sexual sin. Don’t eat meat from animals that have been strangled or any meat that still has the blood in it. 21 They should not do any of these things, because there are still men in every city who teach the Law of Moses. Acts 15 (ERV)
Paul didn’t think this should apply to the gentiles at all and addressed it in his epistle to the Corinthians.
Now I will write about meat that is sacrificed to idols. It is certainly true that “we all have knowledge,” as you say. But this knowledge only fills people with pride. It is love that helps the church grow stronger. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know anything as they should. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God. 4 So this is what I say about eating meat: We know that an idol is really nothing in the world, and we know that there is only one God. 5 It’s really not important if there are things called gods in heaven or on earth—and there are many of these “gods” and “lords” out there. 6 For us there is only one God, and he is our Father. All things came from him, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ. All things were made through him, and we also have life through him. 7 But not all people know this. Some have had the habit of worshiping idols. So now when they eat meat, they still feel as if it belongs to an idol. They are not sure that it is right to eat this meat. So when they eat it, they feel guilty. 8 But food will not bring us closer to God. Refusing to eat does not make us less pleasing to God, and eating does not make us closer to him. 1 Corinthians 8 (ERV)
His premise clearly shows that we cannot obtain God’s favour or blessing by keeping or observing parts of the Old Testament like some of the apostles encouraged the gentiles that first believed to do.
It is not uncommon to see some churches try to resurrect some Old Testament practises in today’s church. It is like they almost believe that doing this makes them more acceptable in God’s eyes.
The land of Israel was central to the Old Testament Law as was the knowledge of one’s ancestry. The latter was essential in determining those who should act in the priestly offices and those who shouldn’t. Land usage was also governed by this and had to be strictly followed. Dietary requirements were strictly enforced as was a dress code and physical appearance. Different offerings were required and the temple was central to worship. Conversion to this faith involved full adherence to all of these.
But herein lies the beauty of the New Testament; it transcends every race and tongue on the face of the earth. It does not require a dress code for acceptance. Observance of the Old Testament Law is not required. Relocating to the land of Israel is not required. A tribal distinction to determine those who are supposed to serve in a physical temple is not required. A physical temple is not central to its worship.
The universality of the New Testament is clearly seen in scripture; Christ died for the whole world as seen in John 3: 16. John 1: 12 tells us that anyone who receives Jesus is automatically given the rights to sonship. This is open to all and sundry irrespective of race and background. The Old Testament clearly made a distinction between the Jew and the gentile and the only way the gentile could be accepted was by observing all of the Old Testament laws. The New Testament does away with these and establishes justification by faith and faith alone.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesian 2: 8 – 9
The Old Testament further creates a class distinction between those allowed to approach God and those not allowed and desire was not enough to make one join the party of those allowed to approach God; it was a tribal privilege. The New Testament removes such limitations and all are welcome.