Is the Sabbath a Ceremonial Law or Moral Law?

It seems today that many cannot tell the difference between what God wrote in stone and what Moses wrote in a book. There are some who claim that the Lord's Sabbath is a ceremonial law and they go to complicated extremes to try and prove this heresy. But the truth does not have to be complicated and so we are going to keep this simple so that the wise will have no trouble seeing how our adversary has once again set out to deceive many on this precious Commandment about quality time with God on His Holy day.

As there is so much confusion between laws it would be very beneficial to read the first few paragraphs of the comparison between the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law before continuing. See also the Bible list of the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments were personally spoken by God, and written by the finger of God (Exodus 31:18; Deuteronomy 4:12-13) and stored on the inside of the Ark of the Covenant. (Deuteronomy 10:5) Ceremonial law or moral lawOn the top of the Ark of the Covenant were two Cherubim and between these two Cherubim was what is known as the Shekinah glory which represented the very presence of God Himself. Directly under the Shekinah glory was the mercy seat and under the mercy seat was where these stone tablets which God wrote upon were stored. This is the moral law of God and it is not difficult to see just how important this law is. The purpose of this law written in stone is to point out sin. (Romans 7:7)

The ceremonial law on the other hand was given to Moses by God and was written by Moses on parchment in a book (Deuteronomy 31:24) and was stored on the outside of the Ark of the Covenant (Deuteronomy 31:26) to be a witness against the Israelite people. Hence it was also called the Mosaic Law or the law of Moses since it was written by him. This law is also called the sacrificial law as it was added because of sin and was practiced when one sinned before Jesus replaced this sacrificial law on the cross when He became our final sacrifice ending the need for this law. Thus the Mosaic Law only was nailed to the cross. See were the Ten Commandments nailed to the cross.

So basically we have the moral law which defines love and the character of God and the ceremonial law that was added because God's moral law was transgressed. (1 John 3:4) Now to state the obvious, if the Lord's Sabbath had been a ceremonial law then it would have been practiced when one sinned before the cross but the Sabbath of the Lord was never practiced because of sin. It would also had to have been written by Moses in his book of the law, but not so.

Most of the genuine confusion comes from the fact that there were also sacrificial sabbaths such as “Passover” and “Day Of Atonement” and five others that were added because of sin. Jesus of course became our Passover Lamb and no one can dispute that was about sacrifices and hence sin, (Hebrews 10:12; Romans 6:23) and the Day Of Atonement was about removing the sins of the people from the sanctuary, and again, clearly about sacrifices. These two sacrificial, ceremonial sabbaths were written down by Moses in the Mosaic Law where they belonged, as I hope one would now understand.

Now, to state the obvious once again, the Mosaic Laws were written in the Mosaic Law and the Ten Commandment laws were written in the Ten Commandments. The “Sabbath of the Lord thy God” (Exodus 20:8-11) is the fourth Commandment. The Creator of the universe does not make mistakes and knew exactly what He was doing when He wrote His Sabbath in His law instead of the Law of Moses, which had all the ceremonial sabbaths! God put His Sabbath precisely where it belonged. God is not a fool and “is not the author of confusion…1 Corinthians 14:33.

Some also claim that the Lord's Sabbath was not made at creation but scripture shows this incorrect also. The only reason why we have a seven day week is because God added the Seventh day Sabbath at creation. (Genesis 2:1-3) The word translated “rested” in our English Bibles in Genesis 2:3 is “shabbath” in Hebrew and means Sabbath! So the Sabbath was made at creation before sin and was part of God's original perfect plan. Thus the Lord's Sabbath existed a long time before the ceremonial law ever did which is just one more reason why the Lord's Sabbath cannot be a ceremonial law. Exodus 31:17 also confirms when God created the Sabbath day, “It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever:..When and why was this? six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested [shabbath], and was refreshed.” Parentheses are added. And as per Genesis 2:3, the word “rested” in Exodus 31:17 is also “shabbath” thus saying God rested on the Sabbath after creating and was refreshed. See also is the Sabbath for Israel only.

Those guilty of antinomianism often claim that the moral law and the ceremonial law are the same but to make such a statement is no different from saying that when someone commits adultery, they must go and commit murder to make reconciliation for their sin. Or that Jesus died on the cross because people were using animals for sacrifices. This sounds ridiculous I know, but this is what they are effectively saying when they try to convince others that there is no difference between these two laws. It is easily seen that one law was about animal sacrifices that Jesus replaced, while the other is a law of love which defines God's character and is sin to break.

Some also claim that the moral law did not exist before the Ten Commandments were given but again scripture proves this false. (Genesis 26:5) These commandments, statutes and laws cannot be the Mosaic Law because this law was not given until 430 years later because the law was transgressed. But what law? (Galatians 3:17-19) The Ten Commandments had to be transgressed first and why the sacrificial law was added to make reconciliation for sin until the seed should come. It obviously cannot be the other way around. Note that this law was only until the seed (Christ) as He nailed this sacrificial law to the cross being the perfect sacrifice. Read what is the law in Galatians for more. We also find the Sabbath being kept before the Ten Commandments were codified in Exodus 20. Just before God first read the Ten Commandments, He said to Moses that He is going to test the people to see if they will keep all His law or not. The Sabbath is very much a test Commandment and most are failing miserably just as God's children did in Exodus 16:4-30. So how did God test the people to see if they loved Him enough to obey His Law? By seeing if they would specifically keep the Seventh Day or not. Did they keep the Seventh day as God commanded? No! And so God accused them of breaking all His law. As far as God was concerned, if they did not keep the fourth Commandment as He commanded then they were breaking all His Laws and Commandments. We find James confirms this same principle as God. (James 2:10-12)

Seventeen verses after the second reading of the Ten Commandments, Moses quoting God states in Deuteronomy 6:5 that to keep the Ten Commandments God wrote in stone is to love Him with all our heart, soul and might. Thus these Ten Laws, which of course includes the fourth Commandment are about loving God with all our heart and are therefore moral laws. So did you note that all Ten are love for God? The fourth being the Sabbath is also a Commandment of love because Deuteronomy 6:5 says that loving God with all your heart, soul and might is to keep each and every one of the Ten Commandments that had just been read. In no way does loving God supremely change one single Commandment. So we find from these points and many more that the Lord's Sabbath cannot be a ceremonial law. Read also was the Sabbath abolished.