We feel that there are ample Biblical grounds for making this distinction. The
Ten Commandments, or the Decalogue, constitute in principle God's eternal law.
Not only is this law eternal, but it is immutable. It is the foundation of His
throne; it is the expression of His character. Since it represents His
character—or what God Himself is—we believe it is as eternal as the
This thought can be seen in the following qualities inherent in God and in His
His Law Is
But while this is true of the eternal law of God as expressed in the Decalogue, it would not be true of the
ceremonial law that God gave to Israel. This ceremonial law embraced the types
and shadows that entered into the sacrificial system of Israel. All the
sacrificial offerings, the feast days, and even the priesthood—all that was
typical of the sacrifice and ministry of Christ our Lord—met its end on
Calvary's cross. This we believe is what is meant by the apostle Paul when he
wrote that Christ "abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of
commandments contained in ordinances" (Eph. 2:15).
"Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was
contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross" (Col.
"Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ"
(verse 17). The distinction between the moral law of God—the Decalogue—and
the ceremonial law can be seen in the following:
||The Ceremonial Law
|1.||Spoken by God Himself. Ex. 20:1, 22.
||1.||Spoken by Moses. Ex. 24:3.
|2.|| Written by God. Ex. 31:18; 32:16.
||2.|| Written by Moses. Ex. 24: 4; Deut. 31:9.
|3.|| On stones. Ex. 31:18.
||3.|| In a book. Ex. 24:4, 7; Deut. 31:24.
|4.||Handed by God, its writer, to Moses. Ex. 31:18.
||4.||Handed by Moses, its writer, to Levites. Deut. 31:25, 26.
|5.||Deposited by Moses "in the ark." Deut. 10:5.
||5.||Deposited by the Levites "by the side of the ark." Dent. 31:26, A.R.V.
|6.||Deals with moral precepts. Ex. 20:3-17.
||6.||Deals with ceremonial, ritual matters.
(See parts of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.)
|7.||Reveals sin. Rom. 7:7.
||7.||Prescribes offerings for sins. (See book of Leviticus.)
|8.||Breaking of "the law" is "sin." 1 John 3:4.
||8.||No sin in breaking, for now "abolished." Eph. 2: 15. ("Where no law is, there is no transgression." Rom. 4:15.)
|9.||Should "keep the whole law." James 2:10.
||9.||Apostles gave "no such commandment" to "keep the law."
|10.||Because we "shall be judged" by this law. James 2:12.
||10.||Not to be judged by it. Col. 2:16.
|11.||The Christian who this law is "blessed deed." James 1:25.
||11.||The Christian who keeps this law is not blessed. (See, for example, Gal. 5:1-6.)
|12.||"The perfect law of liberty." (Cf. James 1:25. James 2:12.)
12.|| The Christian who keeps this law loses his liberty. Gal. 5:1, 3.
|13.||Established by faith Christ. Rom. 3:31.
||13.||Abolished by Christ. Eph. 2:15.
|14.||Christ was to "magnify the law and make it honourable." Isa. 42:21.
||14.||Blotted "out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us." Col. 2:14.
|15.||"We know that the law is spiritual." Rom. 7:14. (Cf. verse 7.)
||15.||"The law of a carnal commandment." Heb. 7:16.
It should also be noted that the leading confessions of faith, and the historic
creeds of Christendom, recognize the difference between God's moral law, the
Ten Commandments, or the Decalogue, as separate and distinct from the
ceremonial precepts. The following are a few of them:
The Second Helvetic Confession (1566), of the Reformed Church of Zurich, and
one of the most authoritative of all Continental symbols (Philip Schaff, The
Creeds of Christendom, vol. 1, pp. 391,
394, 395), in chapter 12, "Of the Law of God," after contrasting the
"moral" and the "ceremonial" laws, says of the moral law,
"We believe that the whole will of God, and all necessary precepts, for
every part of this life, are fully delivered in this law" (not that we are
to be justified by it, but that we shall turn to Christ by faith). The types
and figures of the ceremonial law have ceased. "The shadow ceased when the
body came," but the moral law is not to be disdained or rejected, and all
teachings against the law are condemned. (See Schaff, vol. 3, pp. 854-856.)
Thirty-nine Articles of Religion of the Church of England (1571). Article VII
states that while "the lawe geven from God by Moses" concerning
"ceremonies and rites" is not binding, "no Christian man
whatsoever, is free from the obedience of the commaundementes, which are called
morall." (See Schaff, vol. 3, pp. 491, 492.)
The American Revision of Thirty-nine Articles by the Protestant-Episcopal
Church (1801) is identical with the foregoing.. (See Schaff, vol. 3, p. 816.)
The Irish Articles of Religion (1615), believed to have been composed by
Archbishop Ussher, after stating that the ceremonial law is abolished, says:
"No Christian man whatsoever is freed from the obedience of the
Commandments which are called Moral." (See Schaff, vol. 3, pp. 526, 541.)
The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), after showing the difference
between the ceremonial and the moral law, and the abrogation of the former and
the perpetuity of the latter, in chapter 19 declares "the moral law doth
forever bind all," not for justification,
but as a rule of life, in order to recognize the enabling power of Christ. This
law continues to be "a perfect rule of righteousness." And it adds,
"Neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen,
this obligation." (See Schaff, pp. 640-644.)
The Savoy Declaration of the Congregational Churches (1658). There is no change
in chapter 19, "Of the Law of God," from the Westminster Confession.
(See Schaff, vol. 3, p. 718).
Baptist Confession of 1688 (Philadelphia), based on the London, 1677,
confession, has no change from the Westminster Confession in chapter 19,
"Of the Law of God." It deals with the distinction between the moral
and the ceremonial law, and asserts that no Christian is free from obedience to
the moral law. (See Schaff, vol. 3, p. 738.)
Methodist Articles of Religion (1784). These twenty-five articles, drawn up by
John Wesley for American Methodists, are an abridgement of the Thirty-nine
Articles of the Church of England, and declare: "Although the law given
from God by 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 whatsoever is free from the
obedience to the commandments which are called moral." (See Schaff, vol.
3, pp. 807, 808.)
The conclusion from the foregoing is therefore clear: The position maintained
by Seventh-day Adventists regarding their relationship to the Decalogue, and
their distinction between the moral and the ceremonial
law, is fully sustained by the leading creeds, articles of faith, and
catechisms of historic Protestantism. The concept that the Decalogue was
abolished by the death of Christ is a relatively recent one. Certainly it was
not taught by the founding fathers of Protestantism, for such is in total
conflict with their belief