Q: #17. What is the difference between a ceremonial law and a moral law?
A: Ceremonial laws were given by God to Israel, and they pointed forward prophetically to Jesus Christ. Most of these laws made a distinction between what was clean and unclean (with many of them having practical benefits as well). In addition, they showed the holiness of God, and were a way to show honor and respect to Him. These laws were connected with the Old Covenant, and were fulfilled through Jesus death and resurrection. In Jesus, we are now under a New Covenant, given to the “church,” and we are made pure, clean, and sanctified through Him. Therefore, ceremonial laws have passed, and no longer need to be kept.
Let me list a few examples of ceremonial laws given to Israel in the Old Testament that no longer apply today.
Men were to be circumcised (Lev 12:3)(Gen 17:10-14).
They could not eat or touch pigs (Lev 11:7-8)(Deut 14:8).
They could not eat the fat or blood of animals (Lev 7:22-27)(Lev 3:17)(Lev 17:10-12).
They could not touch any dead person (Num 19:13,16)(Num 31:19)(Num 5:2).
Women were unclean during their menstrual cycles (Lev 15:19)(Lev 12:2,5).
They could not wear clothing made of linen and wool (not of two different materials as some might say) or sow a field with two kinds of seed (Lev 19:19)(Deut 22:9,11).
Priests could not have a defect (Lev 21:16-23).
Moral laws were given by God and will never pass away, must never be broken, and apply to everyone. The Ten Commandments (with the exception of the 4th commandment about the Sabbath Day) are all examples of moral laws. These laws are based on God’s unchanging nature and character. The Bible tells us in (Rom 2:14-15) that we all instinctively know the difference between what is right and wrong, because it is written on our hearts. For instance, we know in our conscience that it is wrong to murder, steal, commit adultery, etc… This gives moral laws a clear distinction from ceremonial laws, which man would not have known were wrong if God had not specifically stated that they needed to be followed.