I've seen some Christians, pastors, and churches try to legalize morality. It never works in the long run. No human will keep every law - even if you divide the laws into categories. A couple of months ago, I heard a well-known pastor talking about the 3 types of laws in the Bible: Civil, Moral, and Ceremonial. This week, I read about them again in an article. I was not brought up under that teaching. So, I set out on a search for this three-law-types thing. I asked,
- Are they differentiated in the Bible? No. I couldn't find any support for the three kinds of laws in the Bible itself. Anywhere.
- Are they listed elsewhere? No. Oh, sure, the categories themselves are listed in plenty of writings over the years, but there's no concensus on which laws go in which category. Often, the writer will point to one example. For instance, "Thou shalt not bear false witness" is a moral law because it reflects an unchanging character trait of God. Well, who decides that? Sure, God is trustworthy, He never lies, and Jesus is the truth. Those are characteristics of God, for sure. But what about all the instances in the Bible when God condoned, blessed, or even instigated a lie? Perhaps this would be a good Bible study for you. I'm not advocating lying, I'm just saying that categorizing Biblical laws does not work. There is no agreement on what is legal or illegal for those who follow Christ. And, don't get me started on "Thou shalt not kill."
- Does the Bible argue against categories, or is it just silent on the issue? I was taught that all Biblical laws were the same, and if you break one, you've broken them all. That actually IS in the Bible (James 2:10), so to me, the Bible is not silent.
My view of the Mosaic law comes from the Bible (from both Testaments). In Jeremiah 31, God says through His prophet, "This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people."
This same verse is quoted in Hebrews 8 where the writer states, "For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another," and "By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear."
These verses state that the true, permanent law of God is a heart issue, the law of love. I don't cheat on my wife, because I love her. I honor my parents, because I love them. I give, because I love my fellow earth dwellers. I spend time with God and His people, because I love Him - and them. I'm not trying to stay out of hell or trying to get into Heaven by keeping a law, I'm following my Jesus-filled heart.
At this point, I've concluded that there can be 50 categories of laws if someone wants to make a list, but if we truly understand what Jesus offers us we will live in freedom - freedom from the law, freedom from sin, freedom from the opinions of man, freedom from our past, freedom indeed. This is so clearly explained in Galatians. Why are we still tripping over the law and stumbling in our walk with Jesus. Shake off the old. Stand up strong in the new. Take a breath of air as if you've just been released from a prison, because you have.
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6
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