By Ernst Verner
Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic monk, was professor of Biblical literature at the Catholic University of Wittenberg, Germany. On October 31, 1517, as the festival of All Saints was approching, he tacked on the Castle church door a paper containing ninety-five pro- positions of which he had written against what he believed to be unholy practices of the Catholic Church.
Luther’s bold act was a world-shaking event. It set into rapid movement the forces of Protestantism. Such was the good result of posting a paper on a church door.
More than nineteen hundred years ago Roman soldiers nailed, not a holy protest to a church door, but a holy Man to a tree. These men did not realize who the Man was or what they were really doing. And the Man prayed, “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do. ” Luke 23:34.”
The cruxifiction of Jesus Christ was a universe-shaking event, opening a new era of world history and assuring a day of universal good will-a time when all the intelligent creation will worship the true God and obey the precepts of his holy law.
The Mysterious Manuscript of the Cross
The dying Son of God Himself is said to have nailed something to the cross. The apostle Paul speaks of it in these words: “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, … and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” Colossians 2:14.
This does not mean that Jesus took a hammer and nailed a roll of ordinances to the cross. But it does signify to all of that some law or set of laws ended then.
Paul again speaks of it in Ephesians 2:15: “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances. ”
It is clear to all that there must be more than one type, or kind, of law in the Bible. We know that the ten-commandment, moral law of God did not end at the cross. This we have already learned. It is just as wrong today to steal, kill, commit adultery, or break any one of the Ten Commandments as it ever was.
Christ did not come to destroy this law; He came to fulfill it. Consider also that had God desired to abolish this law, Christ need not have died to meet its holy demands. Gods holy moral law is as enduring as His own character.
Three Types of Laws
First and foremost, there is the moral, ten-commandment law, written by God on tables of stone. (Exodus 31:18.) “Think not that I am come to destroy the law,” said Christ. Matthew 5:17.
Second, there are the ceremonial, sacrificial sanctuary laws- the ritual laws of worship.
Third, there are the civil laws of the Jewish nation. These regulated the multitude of matters pertaining to health, sanitation, disease, crime, court procedure, and so forth.
What Laws Were Nailed to the Cross?
With the ending of the Jewish nation as God’s chosen instrument, the civil laws naturally lapsed. For instance, by the law of Exodus 22:1, one who stole an ox was, if apprehended, required to give the owner five oxen. Though this law was a good one, it would not of necessity be followed in a nation today. However, the principles underlying the civil laws remain unchanged. For instance, it is just as obligatory upon a Christian to abide by the principles of health as it ever was for a Jew.
But more specifically, the ceremonial laws were nailed to the cross. “The law of commandments contained in ordinances.” “The handwriting of ordinances that was against us.”
Gone were the blood offerings, the meat and drink offerings, the special holy days and yearly sabbath days “which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” Colossians 2:17. The typical services and their yearly holy days (not the weekly Sabbath of the Ten Commandments) pointed forward to Christ the His death on the cross.
When He died the great veil of the Jewish Temple at Jerusalem was torn from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:51.) This signified the end of the ceremonial system and laws.
In the figure of Paul’s speech they had been nailed to His cross. (See the delineation at the close of this chapter for a comparsion of the moral and ceremonial laws.)
What Men Say
Prominent Bible students have always recognized these different types of laws in the Bible.
The great Dr. Barnes writes, when commenting on Matthew 5:18: “The ceremonial laws are such as are appointed to meet certain states of society, or to regulate the religious rites and ceremonies of a people. These can be changed when circumstances are changed, and yet the moral law be untouched.”–Notes, Explanatory and Practical, on the
Gospels (1860 ed.), vol. 1, p. 65.
Methodists Articles of Religion, article 6, says, “Although the law given from God to Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, doth not bind Christians, nor ought the civil precepts thereof of necessity be received in any commonwealth, yet, notwithstanding, no Christian whatever so is free from the obedience to the commandments which are called moral.”–Cited in Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, vol. 3, p. 808.
A Lutheran catechism states:
“Ques.–How many kinds of law are given in the Old Tesetament? “Ans.–Three. (1) The ceremonial, or church, law, which God gave to the Jews for the regulation of their worship, sacrifices, festivals, and other ceremonies; (2) the civil law, or that which regulated their political affairs; (3) the moral law, or that which rekated ti their duties to God and man, which is summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments. “Ques.–Are we under obligation to keep the ceremonial, or church, law of the Jews? “Ans.–No, the ordinances which it enjoined were only types and
shadows of Christ; and when they were fulfilled by His death, and the distinction between Jew and Gentile was removed, the ceremonial law was abolished, because it was no longer necessary.
“Ques.–Are we under oblgation to keep the moral law?
“Ans.–Yes, because that is founded on the nature of God and cannot be changed; it is of universal application, which was impossible with respect to the ceremonial and civil laws. Christ demands obedience to His law.”
The special emphasis we have placed on the distinction between the moral law and other laws in order that you may be well armed to meet deceptions that would distort the teaching of God’s Holy Word against His holy law.
The ceremonial laws are like the scaffolding of a building, to be removed when the building is finished. The moral law is like the foundation of the building.
Throwing away the Ten Commandments with the abolition of the ceremonial law is like tearing down the building when removing the scaffolding.
Said Jesus: “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain decended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon the house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” Matthew 7:24, 25.
Many years ago a bridge was to be built across the Conemaugh River in Pennsylvania. The contract for the job was given out, and the contractor set to work. On each side of the river he dug down And down to bedrock. Friends said it was too expensive, but he was building solidly. Finally his bridge was finished, and the matter forgotten.
In late spring of 1889 melting snows in the mountains and heavy rains brought more and more water down the streams. The South Fork Reservoir was surely filling to the very top. Its walls were weak, and finally gave way, permitting a mighty wave of water to sweep down the valley. Trees, houses, buildings–everything was swept
before the gigantic liquid wall.
What would happen when all this water and wreckage would strike the bridge built many years before? With awful impact it struck. The bridge staggered, groaned, shivered, and shook; but it stood! The flood swept on, spreading death and desolation in one of America’s greatest disasters–The Johnstown Flood. That bridge, built on the
solid rock, stood like a lone and mighty stronghold in the midst of ruin and desolation. It had stood the test of storms and floods because it was fastened to the rock.
Let us build upon the rock of Christ Jesus and upon the foundation of His unchangeable, everlasting law.
“We are building every day
A temple the world may not see,
Building, building every day,
Building for eternity.'”
Moral and Ceremonial Law Compared
Moral law Ceremonial Law Ten Commandments Commandments Contained in Ordinances
1. A perfect law. 1. An imperfect law.
“The law of the Lord is “For there is verily a disperfect, converting the soul.” annulling of the commandment
Psalms 19:7. going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. “All thy commandments For the law made nothing perfect, are righteousness.” Psalms but the bringing in of a better 119:172 hope did.” Hebrews 7:18, 19.
“Thy righteousness is an “For the law having a shadow everlasting righteousness, and of good things to come, … can
thy law is the truth.” Verse 142. never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto and the commandment holy, perfect. Hebrews 10:1. “and just, and good.” Romans 7:12
1. A law not in itself spiritual.
2. A law in itself spiritual.
“Which stood only in meats and
“For we know that the law drinks, and divers washings, and is spiritual.” Romans 7:14 carnal ordinances, imposed on
them until the time of reformation. ” Hebrews 9:10.”
3. Spoken by Jehovah. 3. Spoken by Moses.
“And the Lord spake unto “And the Lord called unto you out of the midst of the Moses,…saying, Speak unto the
fire….And he declared unto children of Israel, and say you his covenant, which he unto them, If any man of you
commanded you to perform, bring an offering unto the even ten commandments.” Lord, ye shall bring your of-
Deuteronomy 4:12, 13. (Exodus 20:1.) “He added no the herd, and off the flock.” more. ” Deuteronomy 5:22.” Leviticus 1:1, 2. “This is the law of the burnt offering, of the meat offering, and of the sin offering,… which the Lord commanded the children of Israel to offer their oblations unto the Lord.” Leviticus 7:37, 38.
4. Written by the Lord upon 4. Written by Moses in a book. two tables of stone.
“These words by the Lord “And the Lord said unto spake unto all your assembly Moses, Write thou these
in the mount out of the midst words.” Exodus 34:27. of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a “And Moses wrote this law, great voice: and he added no and delivered it unto the more. And he wrote them in priests the sons of Levi.” two tables of stone.”Deuteronomy 5:22. (Exodus 31:18.)- Deuteronomy 31:9. “And they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses.” Nehemiah 8:1. (2 Kings 22:8-16.)
5. Abolished, therefore not
5. Eternal, therefore requiring obedience from all. requiring obedience from any.
“Do we then make void the “Having abolished in his law through faith? God for- flesh the enmity, even the law
bid: yea, we establish the law. of commandments contained in Romans 3:31. ordinances.” Ephesians 2:15
“Think not that I am come “Blotting out the handwriting to destroy the law, or the of ordinances that was against
prophets: I am not come to us, which was contrary to us, destroy, but to fulfil.” Mat- …nailing it to his cross….
thew 5:17. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in re- “But it is easier for heaven spect of an holyday, or of the and earth to pass away, than new moon, or of the sabbath days: for one tittle of the law to which are a shadow of things to fall. ” Luke 16:17, R.V.” come; but the body is of Christ.” Colossians 2:14-17.
“If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” “Certain which went out from Matthew 19:17. us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, “Circumcision is nothing,and Ye must be circumcised, and keep uncircumcision is nothing, but the law: to whom we have no such the keeping of the commandments commandment.” Acts 15:24. of God.” I Corinthians 7:19.
“Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life.” Revelation 22:14.
Typed by Ernst Verner
The Verner Group, INC..