If they do, does that mean if we are unclean because of a bodily discharge as described in verses 16-24 that we should not come before God in prayer or for worship during the time which we are unclean? Should we abstain from sexual relations with our marriage partners in order to be clean thus allowing us to keep the Sabbath holy?
A: Most of the laws in Leviticus 15 were clearly only of a ritual nature and are no longer binding for us today. We explain the concept of ritual laws in our free booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound…” As we point out on page 53 of the booklet, one way to determine whether laws are temporary or permanent, is to look at the “penalty”:
“For instance, the violation of a statute or a particular circumstance could make a person ‘unclean’ for a certain period of time. Following ritual washings, that person could become clean again. Clearly, these kinds of laws are strictly ritualistic in nature, as no violation of a binding law was automatically cured simply by lapse of time and ritual washings.”
Most of the laws in Leviticus 15 provide that the person was only unclean until evening. When the sun set, the person became clean again — after he or she had gone through washing and bathing (note, for example, verses 5- 8, 10-11, 16-19, 21-23, and 27).
In this context, Hebrews 9:9-10 tells us: “It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices were offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience — concerned only with foods and drinks [or food and drink offerings], various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.”
As mentioned, violations of permanent laws were not automatically cured by lapse of time (“when evening comes”) and washings. (This is not to say, however, that we should not, for hygienic purposes, cleanse our bodies, or even things with which our sick bodies came in contact. Further, some of the laws listed in Leviticus 15 have a permanent application. Note, for instance, verse 25: “If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, other than at the time of her customary impurity, or if it runs beyond her usual time of impurity, all the days of her unclean discharge shall be as the days of her customary impurity. She shall be unclean.”)
There is never a time when we should not approach God in prayer, or when we should not fellowship with brethren — assuming that we are living close enough to other brethren, and that we do not suffer of a contagious sickness. Further, there is not a Biblically prescribed time for us to abstain from sexual intercourse with our mate, unless during the actual time of a woman’s menstruation (compare Leviticus 18:19; 20:18; Ezekiel 18:6; compare, too, Leviticus 15:25), or when both agree, so that they have time for individual prayer or fasting (compare 1 Corinthians 7:3-5: “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due to her, and likewise also the wife to her husband… Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because your lack of self-control.”). Otherwise, the Bible does not command us today to abstain from sexual relationships with our mates before or on the Sabbath.