The Bible presents moral, ceremonial, and other laws. The writers of the New Testament books are not always specific; but we understand from the context to which law(s) they refer.
“God gave a clear and definite knowledge of his will to Israel by especial precepts, showing the duty of man to God and to his fellow-men. The worship due to God was clearly defined. A special system of rites and ceremonies was established, which would secure the remembrance of God among his people, and thereby serve as a hedge to guard and protect the ten commandments from violation.
“God’s people, whom he calls his peculiar treasure, were privileged with a two-fold system of law; the moral and the ceremonial. The one, pointing back to creation to keep in remembrance the living God who made the world, whose claims are binding upon all men in every dispensation, and which will exist through all time and eternity. The other, given because of man’s transgression of the moral law, the obedience to which consisted in sacrifices and offerings pointing to the future redemption. Each is clear and distinct from the other.
“From the creation the moral law was an essential part of God’s divine plan, and was as unchangeable as himself. The ceremonial law was to answer a particular purpose of Christ plan for the salvation of the race. The typical system of sacrifices and offerings was established that through these services the sinner might discern the great offering, Christ. But the Jews were so blinded by pride and sin that but few of them could see farther than the death of beasts as an atonement for sin; and when Christ, whom these offerings prefigured, came, they could not discern him.
“The ceremonial law was glorious; it was the provision made by Jesus Christ in counsel with his Father, to aid in the salvation of the race. The whole arrangement of the typical system was founded on Christ. Adam saw Christ prefigured in the innocent beast suffering the penalty of his transgression of Jehovah’s law.”—Review and Herald, May 6, 1875.
A. THE MORAL LAW OF GOD
An Expression of God’s Character
The law of God—the standard of all righteousness, an expression of His mind, His character, His will—is the embodiment of two great principles: love toward our Creator and love toward our neighbor. Matthew 7:12; 22:36-40; Romans 13:8-10. These two principles are summarized in ten commandments, which, in turn, are detailed in all the moral judgments and statutes contained in the whole Bible. Genesis 26:5; Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 4:1, 2, 6; Nehemiah 9:13, 14.
“The law of God is as sacred as God Himself. It is a revelation of His will, a transcript of His character, the expression of divine love and wisdom..” —Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 52.
The Principles of God’s Government
God’s government is based on solid, good, holy, perfect, and eternal principles of truth and righteousness disclosed in His law. Therefore, anything that is contrary to these principles is sin. Psalm 89:14; 119:142, 172; 19:7; 111:7, 8; Romans 7:12, 16; 1 Timothy 1:8 (cf James 4:17); 1 John 3:4; Romans 3:20.
Proclaimed and Written by Christ
The law of God (also called the law of Christ) was proclaimed by our Saviour on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:1-17) and was written by His own hand on two tables of stone. Exodus 31:18; Acts 7:38 (cf Isaiah 63:9; Malachi 3:1; 1 Corinthians 10:4, 9; Hebrews 12:24-26); Deuteronomy 33:2; Exodus 24:12; Deuteronomy 4:2, 12, 13; 5:4-7, 22. It is the same law that was given at the very beginning to Adam and Eve and the patriarchs. Hosea 6:7 (mgn); Genesis 4:7 (cf 1 John 3:4); Genesis 26:5; Romans 4:15; 5:12. This law should never be confused with the ceremonial law, and nothing is to be subtracted from it or added to it. The Decalogue was defined and explained in the statutes and judgments. This was the basis of the covenant that God made with His people at Sinai. Exodus 24:4, 7, 8; Hebrews 9:19, 20.
“It was Christ who, amid thunder and flame, had proclaimed the law upon Mount Sinai.”—Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, p. 45.
Vindicated by Christ
When Christ was on earth, He did not change or abolish His law—the law of ten commandments. Matthew 5:17-20. On the contrary, He magnified it, vindicated it, explained it, taught it, made it honorable, and rebuked its transgressors. Isaiah 42:21; Matthew 5: 21, 22, 27, 28; 7:12; 15:3; 19:17-19; 22:36-40; 23:2, 3; Luke 10:25, 26; 16:17, 18; John 7:19.
Written on the Hearts of Christ’s Followers
Under the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth, writing the law of God (the law of Christ) in our hearts. Ezekiel 36:24-29; Jeremiah 31:33 (Hebrews 8:10); 2 Corinthians 3:3.
Taught by the Apostles
The moral law of God, the law of ten commandments, as it is in Jesus (Psalm 40:8), remains in force under the New Covenant as a mirror for our self-examination. Acts 25:8; 24:14; Romans 2:12-23; 3:19-21, 31; 4:15; 7:7-14, 22; 8:4, 7; 1 Corinthians 7:19; 15:56; 1 Timothy 1:9, 10; James 1:22-25; 2:8-14; 4:11; 1 John 2:3-6; 3:4; 5:3; Revelation 11:19; 22:14. They taught it as a valuable legacy received from God through the Jews. Romans 2:25-27.
“When the temple of God was opened in heaven, the ark of His testament was seen [Revelation 11:19]. Within the holy of holies, in the sanctuary in heaven, the divine law is sacredly enshrined—the law that was spoken by God Himself amid the thunders of Sinai and written with His own finger on the tables of stone. The law of God in the sanctuary in heaven is the great original, of which the precepts inscribed upon the tables of stone and recorded by Moses in the Pentateuch were an unerring transcript.”—The Great Controversy, pp. 433-434.
“The moral law was never a type or a shadow. It existed before man’s creation, and will endure as long as God’s throne remains.”—Selected Messages, vol. 1, pp. 239-240.
Christ and the Law: Inseparable
Christ said He would come with the law in His heart. Psalm 40:8; Hebrews 10:8, 9. Therefore, we cannot receive the law without Christ or Christ without the law. The two are inseparable from each other. The end (or objective) of the law is to show us our sins (Romans 3:20; James 1:22-25) and lead us to the Sin-Bearer, Jesus Christ (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:24). When we accept Christ, He writes His law, the Decalogue, on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 10:16).
“The law is a great mirror by means of which the sinner may discern the defects of his moral character.”—Signs of the Times, July 18, 1878.
Standard of Judgment
The law of God is the standard by which the actions, words, intentions, and thoughts of men will be judged. Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14; Romans 2:12, 13; 3:19; James 2:12.
“The law of God is the standard by which the characters and the lives of men will be tested in the judgment.”—Great Controversy, p. 482.
Statutes and Judgments
“He [the Lord] did not stop with giving them the precepts of the Decalogue. The people had shown themselves so easily led astray that He would leave no door of temptation unguarded. Moses was commanded to write, as God should bid him, judgments and laws giving minute instruction as to what was required. These directions relating to the duty of the people to God, to one another, and to the stranger were only the principles of the Ten Commandments amplified and given in a specific manner, that none need err. They were designed to guard the sacredness of the ten precepts engraved on the tables of stone.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 364.
“Had the people practiced the principles of the Ten Commandments, there would have been no need of the additional directions given to Moses.”—Ibid.
B. THE CEREMONIAL LAW
The ceremonial law, which included the sacrificial system and the seven yearly sabbaths (Jewish holy days), typified the mysteries contained in the plan of salvation. Its rites pointed to the promised Saviour. Christ’s death made it null and void. Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14-17 (cf John 19:30; Matthew 27:51); Hebrews 9:8-10; 10:1-6, 8. Although it is the purpose of the enemy to lead people to confuse the moral law of God with the ceremonial law, by applying to the former certain verses which clearly refer to the latter, we can see the distinction between the two.
The law concerning the Levitical priesthood was also abolished. Hebrews 7:12-14, 19, 28.
“The ceremonial law was thus given to Moses, and by him written in a book. But the law of Ten Commandments spoken from Sinai had been written by God Himself on the tables of stone, and was sacredly preserved in the ark. There are many who try to blend these two systems, using the texts that speak of the ceremonial law to prove that the moral law has been abolished; but this is a perversion of the Scriptures. The distinction between the two systems is broad and clear.” —Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 365.
“Many in the Christian world also have a veil before their eyes and heart. They do not see to the end of that which was done away. They do not see that it was only the ceremonial law which was abrogated at the death of Christ. They claim that the moral law was nailed to the cross. Heavy is the veil that darkens their understanding.”—Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 239.
“It was Christ’s desire to… disentangle them from the rites and ceremonies which they had hitherto engaged in as essential, and which the reception of the gospel made no longer of any force. To continue these rites would be an insult to Jehovah.”—SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, pp. 1139, 1140.