Divisions of the Law

Status
Not open for further replies.

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
The WCF divides the Law into three portions, the moral law, the ceremonial law, and the judicial law.

The way I understand this--and correct me if I'm wrong here--is as follows:

The moral law is binding to all men universally at all times, and is unchanging because it reflects God's character.

The ceremonial law, under the Old Covenant, was given specifically to those in covenant with God(i.e. Israel) and was fulfilled in Christ(no longer binding under the New Covenant). It covers how man was to worship God.

The civil law, under the Old Covenant, was again given to the kingdom of Israel and was fulfilled in Christ. It covers how God's kingdom was to be ruled.

Question: I know there's a division between the moral law and the other laws given in the New Testament, in that the one is still binding and the other is not. But of those Old Testament laws which were fulfilled in Christ, must they all be either ceremonial or civil? What I'm getting at is, is it hypothetically possible to have a law which does not fit in the category of either ceremonial or civil, yet was fulfilled in Christ's death and is therefore no longer binding?

I realize that it's entirely possible that my categories may be off. I've been trying to listen to the sermon series Joshua provided links for, but they're so quiet I can't hear them. :) I've been trying to amplify them but haven't gotten that finished yet. I'm trying. :)
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Perhaps you could provide us with a hypothetical example of one of these hypothetical categories, so as to help us understand your question more accurately?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
For what it's worth, two of the Westminster divines among a handful that wrote anything of length on the subject recognized it was often difficult to categorize something strictly ceremonial or strictly judicial.
 
Last edited:

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Generally, the way I understand the Westminster standards to summarize the doctrine of Scripture on this, is as you say. It is very helpful in understanding this in the context of the whole of Scripture.

A couple more notes on this below:

The WCF divides the Law into three portions, the moral law, the ceremonial law, and the judicial law.

The way I understand this--and correct me if I'm wrong here--is as follows:

The moral law is binding to all men universally at all times, and is unchanging because it reflects God's character.

The ceremonial law, under the Old Covenant, was given specifically to those in covenant with God(i.e. Israel) and was fulfilled in Christ(no longer binding under the New Covenant). It covers how man was to worship God.

The civil law, under the Old Covenant, was again given to the kingdom of Israel and was fulfilled in Christ. It covers how God's kingdom was to be ruled.

The civil laws given to Old Testament Israel as a nation was for that nation, a theocracy, through which God primarily dealt in the Old Testament and began His redemptive plan working toward all nations (all of His creation). When the nation was destroyed, the applicability ended except that there are general equitable principles in some of the law that may still apply.

The Westminster Confession

Chapter XIX
Of the Law of God

IV. To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging under any now, further than the general equity thereof may require.[7]

Scripture proofs

[7] (EXO 21-22) GEN 49:10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. 1PE 2:13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. MAT 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 1CO 9:8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? 10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
Question: I know there's a division between the moral law and the other laws given in the New Testament, in that the one is still binding and the other is not. But of those Old Testament laws which were fulfilled in Christ, must they all be either ceremonial or civil? What I'm getting at is, is it hypothetically possible to have a law which does not fit in the category of either ceremonial or civil, yet was fulfilled in Christ's death and is therefore no longer binding?

I realize that it's entirely possible that my categories may be off. I've been trying to listen to the sermon series Joshua provided links for, but they're so quiet I can't hear them. :) I've been trying to amplify them but haven't gotten that finished yet. I'm trying. :)
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
The divisions are helpful but not watertight.

Even the 10C are ceremonial, in that they were written on stone and laid in the ark, which they are no longer. This affects their application (see e.g. II Corimthians 6:3-18)

Re the 4th C there is a change of particuar day from last to first. I know some say that the particular day the Sabbath is to be celebrated isn't given in the 10C itself, but it would have been understood to be the last day of the week.

Re the 5thC the promise attached moves for having long days in the Land of Israel to having long days on the Earth.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise; ) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.(Ephesians 6:1-3)

Even the motivation for keeping the 10C in the preamble is typical of Christ's deliverance by the Cross. So we are not so much motivated by the fact that our Covenant ancestors, Israel, were taken out of Egypt, by God under Moses hand, but by the fact that Christ has died for us.
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
Perhaps you could provide us with a hypothetical example of one of these hypothetical categories, so as to help us understand your question more accurately?

I am trying to see if the divisions can be used to disprove pacifism. The doctrine of pacifism was clearly not taught in the Old Testament, so it can't be part of the moral law; if the rest of the law is cleanly divisible into ceremonial and civil, and the doctrine of pacifism is neither, then it follows that the doctrine of pacifism is not Biblical. If, as it seems, though, the rest of the law isn't that cleanly divisible, the objection fails.
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
I've been thinking again. :think:

Is the Law divided into covenant laws and general laws? Covenant laws being those given as part of a specific covenant(Old or New) and general being those given to all mankind? Or is that division blurry as well?
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
John Frame and others also mention:

(a) Creation Ordinances from the time of Adam and also Noah. Which abide.

(b) The 10C . Which abide.

(c)Mosaic Case Laws. Often indicated by the words "If....then...." Frame advises contra Dispensationalists and contra Theonomists that these have to be gone through one by one by scholars and ordinary Christians to see if and how their moral equity applies today.

We also have, as I'm sure you're aware:-

The Two Great Commandments:

The First Great Commandment summarises 10C, 1-4.

The Second Great Commandment summarises 10C, 5-10.

The New Commandment (John 13:34) which is really a new motive for love. In a sense it augments the Introduction to the 10C for New Covenant believers.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Most of the sources I know on this are in Latin (e.g. Beza's treatise on the Triplex Divisio Legis). Have you checked Berkhof, Hodge, and the usual sources?
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Found it:

Lex Dei, moralis, ceremonialis, et politica, ex libris Mosis excerpta, & in certas classes distributa (Geneva: Apud Petrum Santandreanum, 1577).
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top