Many of Paul’s instructions, such as those in Ephesians and 1 Corithinians regarding clothing, food, the position of women, all reflected the cultural practises of that time, not only in Jewish culture but most cultures. Take for instance, the position of women. Women were second class citizens, not given an education, nor positions of leadership, not allowed to own anything, etc. And wives were nothing more than possessions. Beloved perhaps, but legally nothing more than owned things.
In this day and age, we recognize that God can call women to roles and work just like men. And so, many women are pastors, deacons, elders, teachers, and yet there are still churches today who, because they have turned Paul’s instructions to those ancient churches into “law,” deny women to ability to answer the call of God (sort of like telling God what he can or can’t do).
Jesus spoke on this issue a lot, mostly in Matthew. In chapter 15, we read “7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” and in chapter 9, we read “16 No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.
17 Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.”
Rituals and customs are fine and enrich Christian life, especially in corporate worship and assembly, but when people turn these into “rules” that have to be followed in order to obtain and retain salvation, then they doing exactly what the pharisees and sadducces did, again, that Christ blasted them for. Jesus only gave a few simple “rules.” The rest, like the letters of Paul, is, well, consider this analogy.
You go out and buy a DVD player but it comes with no instruction book. You look and find an old VCR instruction book lying around. If you try to follow it exactly, you will not get the DVD to work. It has many things not in the VCR book and many things in the VCR book aren’t on the DVD player. Oh you could just start pushing buttons and hope for the best, but more than likely, you’ll just screw things up.
Now, if you go a different route, the VCR book can be helpful. Instead of looking at the specific steps, look at what the section is talking about, say programming to play back at a certain time and read it in its entirety. Then look for similarities, such as buttons with different names (between the book and the DVD) that do the same things. From that you can put together a new set of instructions. And in the process, you gained the ability to do the same thing in other situations.
Actually, in a way, this has been going on to some extent for centuries. It’s why we have different denominations. The problem is, many seem to think “their” way the one and only right way and have turned them into “rules.”