Doesn’t the Old Testament law judge the outward actions of man, while the New Testament law judges the inward heart of man?

It is a misconception that the OT law judges the outward actions of a man while the NT law judges the inward heart. That is not how God deals with His children. The truth is that God all through the ages judges the inward hearts of men and not just their actions. The Bible teaches that God in the OT placed great emphasis on the “heart” of man and his motives. God judged both man’s thoughts and actions. Here are few examples:

Before the Flood, the scriptures tell us that the Lord “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). It was not only their actions that were evil, but also their thoughts. Christ said, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts,” and observed that they in turn produce “murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19).

After the Law of Moses was given, God showed His people that He still looked at man’s inner heart. Moses said to them to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5-6). The Hebrew word here translated “love” is a general term that also suggests the ideas “desire,” “affection,” “inclination,” the more intimate cleaving of soul to soul. The believer’s relation to God is based on love (1 John 4:19). Love starts at the heart then is expressed in the actions  (John 14:15; 15:10).

Later, when David was about to be anointed King of Israel, the Lord told Samuel that He “does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). People usually judge by what they see but not so with the Lord who looks deeper into man’s heart. The heart of man reveals all the secrets about him. For as a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7).

And at the time of Isaiah, the Lord showed that without sincerity of heart, the actions of people are worthless: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men” (Isaiah 29:13). The people were hypocrites (Matt. 6:2). Their worship consisted of rituals empty of true communion with Heaven (2 Tim. 3:5). They looked upon their outward performance as meeting the requirements God had made (Micah 6:6–8). But God looks deeper to the devotions and sincerity of every heart which are the basis of all behavior.

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

Sign Up for Our Updates

Get notified of our latest updates. Don't worry, they're occasional :)

You May Also Like