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The Purpose of the Law – Abiding Principles from the Ceremonial Laws: Introduction (1)

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The Purpose of the Law

Abiding Principles from the Ceremonial Laws: Introduction (1)

God’s Law teaches us the way of love.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:4, 5

The Law of God, we know, consists of three parts: The Ten Commandments, which function in the household of faith like the Constitution does in American law; the civil laws, which illustrate applications of the Ten Commandments in everyday situations; and the ceremonial laws, which direct the worship of God and other aspects of the spiritual lives of God’s people.

The primary function of the ceremonial laws, besides facilitating God’s Covenant with Israel during the Old Testament dispensation, was to point forward to the coming of Jesus Christ, the final High Priest and Sacrifice (Heb. 7-9). As with the civil laws and the Ten Commandments, the ceremonial laws guided the people of Israel in the proper ways of showing love for God. While all the Law fulfills that same purpose, the ceremonial laws were particularly pointed at helping Israel maintain a relationship with God in His glory, whereby they were enabled continually to be renewed in His Covenant.

The life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ fulfilled the purpose of the ceremonial laws, and thus He has done away with any need to carry on the sacrifices, meet with God in one appointed place, or have our worship mediated through human priests. Jesus Christ is our Sacrifice, Temple, and Priest. To continue the practice of the ceremonial laws would be to deny Christ and to miss the point of God’s giving those laws in the first place, as the writer of Hebrews argued.

So the ceremonial laws, in their Old Testament form, have been set aside. However, this does not mean that they are of no value for us today. Embedded in those laws are principles and guidelines from which we may benefit in our day. The Apostle Paul did not hesitate to draw on the principles contained in this portion of the Law of God in order to further the purposes of the Gospel in his day (cf. 1 Cor. 9:13, 14). It thus behooves us to consider these statutes, rules, and precepts from the perspective of what we may expect to learn from them about how to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matt. 22.:34-30).

God knows how to love His people; He is love itself, and needs no written codes to guide Him in lavishing His creating, electing, sustaining, redeeming, sanctifying, keeping, and steadfast love upon His chosen people. But we are not God, and our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. Thus we need explicit guidance from the Lord in how to reciprocate, through our attitudes and actions, the love He shows us. The ceremonial laws can help us in this matter, and, in this series of In the Gates, we will be poring over this much-neglected aspect of the Law of God in order to discover what we may learn from these statutes, rules, and precepts to help us in loving the Lord our God as we should.

Pastors, we’re getting ready to start the next season of The Pastors’ Fellowship. Write to me today at tmmoore@ailbe.org for information about how you join in these online discussions. Our theme for the coming series is “The Worldview of God’s Law.” There is no charge for participation, but you must reserve a place for these monthly gatherings. Subscribe to Crosfigell, the devotional newsletter of The Fellowship of Ailbe.

In the Gates is a devotional series on the Law of God by Rev. T.M. Moore, editor of the Worldview Church. He serves as dean of the Centurions Program of the Wilberforce Forum and principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He is the author or editor of twenty books, and has contributed chapters to four others. His essays, reviews, articles, papers, and poetry have appeared in dozens of national and international journals, and on a wide range of websites. His most recent books are The Ailbe Psalter and The Ground for Christian Ethics (Waxed Tablet).

Scripture quotations in this article are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, (c) copyright 2001, 2007 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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