In the last few weeks I have repeatedly heard people mention that the Bible or Jesus never makes any distinction between moral and ceremonial laws. Usually this comes up in the context of discussing Christ’s fulfillment of the law. There also tends to be confusion for many church goers around this topic. I believe the Bible does teach a distinction in the type of laws. Below I will give three succinct reasons as to why I believe there is a distinction made in Scripture.
1. From the beginning of creation there were laws that everyone was to follow. God judged individuals as well as groups on certain principles or laws. (Genesis. 4:10-11, 6:11, 9:6, 18:20 Ezekiel 16:48-50) Later on God gave commands that were specific to the Jews, such as circumcision. It should be noted that not all of the commands God gave to the children of Israel at the later point applied only to the children of Israel. Some did only apply to them and some did not. For example, After going through all the laws dealing with sexual morality in Leviticus chapter eighteen, God says, “Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants.” (Leviticus 18:24) By carefully examining this text we can see that the nations before Israel were under some of these same laws. How else could they be defiled if they were not under the law?
An example of laws only applying to Israel are found in Leviticus chapter fifteen. No where in chapter fifteen does God mention that he punished or punishes other nations for that type of uncleanness. That uncleanness was specific to Israel. An example of a ceremonial law is Leviticus chapter twelve dealing with uncleanness after childbirth. Certainly within these two different laws we can see a difference. Call it what you want, but most people call them moral and ceremonial. What matters is that a distinction is made.
2. While Jesus was giving a sermon on top of a mountain He said, ”Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) What is interesting to note is that He said this right before delving into the intricacies of what most people would call the moral law of the Old Testament. (Matthew 5:21-32, 6:2) When delivering His sermon on the mount Jesus strengthens what I would call the moral law of the Old Testament. He has little to say of what most people would call the ceremonial. So what did Jesus come to fulfill? See the next paragraph.
3. We see in Galatians that circumcision is fulfilled in Christ (Galatians 5:6). But in the same chapter Paul mentions the works of the flesh, which goes on to include what many would call the moral law. He mentions the works of the flesh as something that will cause someone to not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Galatians 5:19-21). I along with many others equate the works of the flesh with the moral law. In Colossians, Paul also writes that Christ “Wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14) In the next two verses the Apostle Paul clarifies the requirements he is talking about; “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or in regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths.” (Colossians 2:16) Paul ends that section by writing, “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations- ‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle.’”(Colossians 2:21-22) We see that even the Apostle Paul made a distinction in the types of laws. No where does Paul mention anything that even closely resembles what most people would call a moral law. Some people wanting to do away with Christ’s laws twist scripture by taking the Apostle Paul’s words out of context. Overall we see that Christ fulfilled all the laws that distinguished the Jews from Non-Jews. Christ fulfilled Israel’s purpose.
I hope to have shed some light on this topic for the reader. Much more could be written on this issue, but here I have laid out three main reasons as to why I hold that a distinction exists. Others may use different and various names for these type of laws, but what matters is the distinction, not the terminology.