The Law of God vs the Law of Moses

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Adventists like to distinguish between the law of God and the law of Moses, between a moral law and a ceremonial law. They have to acknowledge that at least some of the Old Covenant law is no longer applicable to Christians – they don’t circumcise or offer animal sacrifices, for instance. But they need to preserve the weekly sabbath as a law obligatory for Christians. I’ve shown previously that the sabbath law is part of the Old Covenant, and not applicable to Christians. Here I will try to show how their distinctions between different types of laws are not supported by the Bible.

Law of God vs Law of Moses

10 Commandments

10 Commandments

One of the distinctions is between the law of God and the law of Moses. To Adventists, the law of God is the 10 commandments, and the law of Moses the rest of the Old Testament law.

Luke 2:22-24 (KJV) – And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

Luke 2 describes two parts of a law – the ritual purification that Mary underwent, and specifically the sacrifice of two turtledoves.

Lev 12:1-8 gives the law about the purification referred to here. Adventists classify Lev 12 as part of the law of Moses, not the law of God. Luke thinks otherwise, and refers to the sacrifice as “that which is said in the law of the Lord” – the Lord here being God, not Lord Moses.

Luke also tells us “Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord” and says that this is “written in the law of the Lord“. He is referring to Exodus 13:2, which Adventists classify as the law of Moses, not the law of God.

Clearly Luke calls the same law both “law of Moses” and “law of the Lord“.

2 Chronicles 31:3 calls Numbers 28:9-29:40 the law of God. It refers to “the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the sabbaths, and for the new moons, and for the set feasts, as it is written in the law of the LORD.” (2 Chronicles 31:3).

In Exodus 20, God gave the 10 commandments, yet Jesus, when expanding on the Old Testament law in Mark 7:10, ascribes this to Moses: “For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother …

One could go on and on and list many laws assigned to the law of Moses by Adventists and called the law of God by the Bible, or vice versa.

Moral vs Ceremonial law

10 Commandments

10 Commandments

The other big distinction is between the moral law (which they see as the 10 commandments) and the ceremonial law (which they see as the rest.)

But the weekly sabbath is in the 10 commandments, while Passover is not. To Adventists, this makes the weekly sabbath a moral command, and the Passover not.

While there is a moral component to the sabbath commandment, that component is not the timing, but rather the worship of God.

I have never had a straight answer to this question: Why is the use of one day of the week for worship moral (sabbath) but the use of one day of the year (Passover) ceremonial?

I’ve been told that the following are ceremonial laws by Adventists:

Exodus 21:33-36 (KJV) – And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein; The owner of the pit shall make it good, and give money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his. And if one man’s ox hurt another’s, that he die; then they shall sell the live ox, and divide the money of it; and the dead ox also they shall divide. Or if it be known that the ox hath used to push in time past, and his owner hath not kept him in; he shall surely pay ox for ox; and the dead shall be his own.

I’d call that a biblical basis for the moral principle of restitution and responsibility for wrongs done.

Ex 22:21-22,31; Ex 23:2; Lev 19:2,14-18; Deut 16:18

Exodus 22:21-22 (KJV) – Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.

Sounds like moral instruction to me.

Exodus 23:1-2 (KJV) – Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment.

Still sounds like moral law, but it’s outside the 10 commandments.

Leviticus 19:14 (KJV) – Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD.

That’s not ceremonial law. Yet I’ve had Adventists insist to me that it is.

Adventists will chop and change to make the law suit them. Dietary laws, as I’ve shown before, were ceremonial in nature, and actually fall into the part of the law Adventists describe as ceremonial / the law of Moses, yet they insist on them to this day, under the pretence that they are “health laws”.

Ironically, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he cited Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18, not the 10 commandments, not the sabbath commandment, and nothing from what Adventists consider to be the law of God. He cited what Adventists consider to be the law of Moses, or the ceremonial law, as the greatest commandments.

Matt 22:36-39 (KJV) – Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Commandments, statutes, ordinances, judgments, and decrees

Still life with Bible, Vincent van Gogh

Still life with Bible, Vincent van Gogh

A third distinction Adventists like to make is that between commandments on the one hand, and statutes, ordinances, judgments, and decrees on the other.

Adventist argument:
10 commandments = commandments
Law of Moses = statutes, ordinances, and decrees

They read most of the Bible in that light – whenever commandments are mentioned, it must be the ten, and whenever statutes or ordinances or decrees or judgments are mentioned, it must be ceremonial law / the Law of Moses.

But the very 10 commandments betray them there. Opening the 10 commandments is the statement that they are “statutes and judgments“.

Deut 5:1 (KJV) – And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them.

Right throughout Deut 5-6, the terms are all used interchangeably.

There are different ways to classify the laws of the Old Testament. One could classify them various types of principles. Moral principles, ceremonial principles, judicial principles. Ceremonial principles under the Old Covenant are not applicable under the New Covenant. How Israel was governed applied to Israel. Moral principles, whether they are found in the 10 commandments or elsewhere in the law of God, remain moral principles under any system of law, including the New Covenant.

However, the unified Old Covenant law is not divided up into such subsections in the Bible. We just put our interpretation of these laws into categories. Nowhere does the Bible separate them into different laws. Most of the time, the laws with different principles are mixed in with each other – ceremonial principles, judicial principles, moral principles. Adventists need to scratch out pieces here and there and pretend they are different sets of laws divided by different principles.

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1 comment

    • Vjatjeslav on November 18, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    Thanks Stephen, very good apologetics, You argue from adventist premises and adventistm is a religion of the book in the first place. If they could only understand that we should look at God’s Law with the reason! When discussing moral and ceremonial law (unfortunately adventists ignore both phylosofy and logic) we can not neglect that moral law is a part of the Natural law, written in the heart of every human being by the Creator. Even the worst criminal understands that stealing from him is not OK because “Do not steal” is in this Natural Law, but none would ever know that Saturday or Sunday is the day of worship if he has not learned it, it is a ceremonial liturgical order. Of course there is also a moral aspect in not working every day but having a special day for rest and for God!
    Another thought here – You know, deep inside, may be not oficially, but “between the lines” adventists have doubts wheter Christ is really God, and that is why the The Law of God (the Ten commandments) is not the same for them as The Law of the Lord. Lord is somehow not always the same for them as God. I know their doctrines do not say so, but they do have doubts about the divinity of Christ.

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