“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” –Romans 10:4
With about 20% of our culture having tattoos, I often get this question. While some Christians say yes and others say no, the only thing that matters is what the Word of God says. Only one verse in all of the scripture could be taken out of context to teach that tattoos are wrong and that is Leviticus 19:28 (NIV) which reads, “You shall not make any cuts in your [a]body for the [b]dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.” It should be noted that the King James will not have the word Tattoo because the word did not exist in English until the 1700’s. Let me explain why this verse may have been fulfilled in Jesus’ coming and the cross.
For centuries now, theologians and church historians have understood the over 600 laws in the first five books of the Old Testament (OT) as fitting into one of three categories: civil, ceremonial, and moral. Ancient Israel was governed under a theocracy, in other words, God was their king. So some of the OT laws applied only to that structure. The church is spread out among many different governments. The ceremonial laws were laws given to instruct God’s people on how they should approach Him before the Cross and how they should look different than their pagan neighbors. The OT was about God’s people being a pure nation. So laws that forbid: wear clothing with two kinds of thread (Lev. 19:22), don’t trim your beard (Lev. 19:22), and don’t get any kind of piercings including ear piercings (Lev. 19:28). I have not found a church yet that didn’t break these laws, so I believe that Lev. 19:28 has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ and we are no longer under these laws. Also, it appears their pagan neighbors would carve themselves as a sign of grief or get tattoos of a pagan God. Think of them like you would High School requirements, once you have shown up for all the classes, read the required materials, and passed the exams you are no longer required to do them. In the same way, Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial laws of the OT. Finally, the moral laws are those that carried over from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. Examples of these would be the Ten Commandments. While flexibility was grated on the issue of when the Sabbath should be, the principle remains for God’s people in the new covenant to take a Sabbath rest.
In conclusion, no it is not a sin to get a tattoo. In Rev. 19:16, Jesus has writing on his thigh could this be a tattoo? It could be. Let’s not be quick to judge the outside of others, when we know that it is the inside that counts in God’s kingdom (Matthew 23:27). None of us should take a verse out of context to use as a hammer against our brothers and sisters in Christ.