The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

God's Law: Ceremonial vs. Moral

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This week I will continue the discussion of God's Law and it's authority and application today. In response to my article last week, God's Law: Fulfilled or Finished?, I received the following email from Mike. He writes,

Bye and Bye, the Apostles when confronted with the New Christians, indeed said, let us not incumber our brothers with the "Law", but teach them to obstain from food given to idols, (idolatry), sexual immorality, and eating food with blood, NO LAW. Grace

Mike is referring to Acts 15:5, where the Jerusalem Council met to bring harmony between Jews and Gentiles regarding observance of the ceremonial law, not the moral law of God. Acts 15:1 is clear that the issue before the Jerusalem Council was whether or not circumcision was a requirement for Salvation. Should Gentiles be forced to be circumcised and observe special days and seasons? The Jerusalem Council said no, but for the sake of their Jewish brethren did require that the Gentiles abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, blood, strangled animals, and fornication.

Dr. Greg Bahnsen addresses the purpose of the Jerusalem Council on pages 132-133 of his book, Theonomy in Christian Ethics, and states:

The things which James says should be avoided, then, are not to be viewed as the only portions of the law which are still binding on New Testament Christians. These things would not be morally binding on New Testament Christians. These things would not be morally binding at all due to their ceremonial nature. Yet expediency called for the Jerusalem Council to request the Gentiles to avoid meat which had idolatrous associations or which was not drained of its blood as well as to conform to the Jewish social code respecting the relation between the sexes. That is, while neither Jew nor Gentile are required to keep the ceremonial law as a way of justification, in Acts 15:20 three stipulations are set forth in order to improve social relations between believers of widely divergent cultural backgrounds. Therefore, the Judaizers who had taught that the Gentiles must keep the ceremonial law in order to be saved were unorthodox; they subverted and unsettled these Christians (v. 24). On the other hand, at the Holy Spirit's guidance, and in order to smooth the path of fellowship between Jewish and Gentile Christians, the Gentiles were requested by the Jerusalem Council to abstain from certain things (vv. 28-29). This is wise and expedient advice, but it does not imply that believers are obligated to keep the ceremonial provisions of the Mosaic law as such, much less that justification requires it. With respect to justification, the Jerusalem Council ruled out the works of the law as its proper ground.

To say that the Jerusalem Council overturned the entire moral Law of God is ludicrous. There ceremonial laws given in the Old Testament pointed to and were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The authority of the moral law, however, has never been in question. When Mike proclaims, "NO LAW," he is boldly challenging God's authority and His righteous standard for the universe and replacing it with anarchy and antinomianism (anti law). Consider the Apostle Paul's claim to the Law in Romans 3:31,

Do we then make the Law of none effect through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the Law. (Rom. 3:31, 1599 Geneva Bible)

Jesus did not come to abolish the Law of God (Matt. 5:17-20). In John 14:15, Jesus tells us that we show our love for Him by keeping His commandments. More importantly, Jesus specifically instructed us to teach all nations to observe whatever He has commanded (Matt. 28:18-20). And believers are told that God’s standards are not burdensome and, again, that we keep His commandments out of love for Him (1 John 5:3).

The ceremonial law pointed to Christ. Christ is now our King and His Moral Law is (and always has been) the law of the land. Anarchy and Antinomianism are blasphemous philosophies and are not acceptable in any form in heaven or on earth, where Christ has been given all authority and power (Matt. 28:18).

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