What is the relationship between NT church regulations and "law"?

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Mr. Bultitude

Puritan Board Freshman
In a former thread, I asked:

Would it be proper to say that New Testament regulations about church government and proper worship constitute a "new ceremonial law"?

I got a good response:

No. Ceremonial laws were preparatory or typological. They dealt with how a believer maintains ceremonial cleanliness. This notion pointed beyond itself but there are a number of dietary, clothing, grooming, and physical statutes that an OC Jew had to honor. They were temporary until the fulfillment of the New Covenant when the substance, Christ, came to usher in a Kingdom where the wall of division (in large part made by the ceremonial laws) was torn down. Even the entire Temple or Sanctuary was typological as Moses was shown a copy of the heavenly sanctuary to which we now have access through Christ.

So the ceremonial law was temporary, dealt with ceremonial cleanliness, and was a shadow of what was to come in Christ, and was done away with when the reality appeared and fulfilled all righteousness and accomplished our permanent cleansing. The New Testament regulations are permanent, have nothing to do with ceremonial cleanliness, and guide our worship of the already-appeared risen Christ. Is that all a fair summary?

If so, what still confuses me a bit is the relation of these regulations to "the law." Is it all then subsumed under moral law, or is it another thing altogether? If it's a part of the moral law, from which of the Ten Commandments does it follow?


Puritan Board Doctor
See what it says in the Confession in Chapter XIX about the ceremonial and judicial law, and the supporting texts.

The OT ceremonials do remind us of moral duties here in the NT as the Apostle and the Confession says. Also the judicial law provided boundary markers between types of sin that were presumptuous or high-handed, and those that were not, which gives a degree of guidance/food for thought regarding what types of sin should be dealt with by church sanctions today.

We learn from any moral and practical guidance in the ceremonials and judicial re church principles and law in the NT. But we don't say there is a new ceremonial law and judicial law in the church. That would be erroneous and confusing.

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Puritanboard Amanuensis
or is it another thing altogether?

It would usually be classified as "positive law," to distinguish it from "moral law." Moral law is naturally, perpetually, and unchangeably binding. Positive law is given for a specific time, place, and circumstance. The ceremonial laws were positive in this sense. Regulations concerning government and worship are of this nature under the New Testament. They are not "ceremonial law" because that has been fulfilled by Christ in the tabernacle made without hands. They are not "moral law" in the sense of being unchanging and perpetually binding because they are given for the New Testament church on earth. Nevertheless they are binding as laws because Christ as head has constituted the government and worship of His church. It might also be noted that the moral law itself teaches the binding authority of things which are positively appointed; the second commandment specifically binds men to observe any and every divine institution.


Puritanboard Amanuensis
Do you have any recommended reading on the subject, Matthew?

A good general introduction might be found in Robert Shaw's Exposition of the Confession of Faith, 19.1, 19.2, 19.3-5. Turretin's Institutes for further explanation. 2:1-12, for the moral-positive distinction; and 2:145-165, for the ceremonial law.
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