Ceremonial Law · Civil Law · God's Law · Moral Law · Mosaic Law · Ten Commandments

Distinguishing Between God’s 3 Old Testament Laws

When we study God’s Word, it can be challenging at times. One such area is the distinguishing of God’s law. When it is referred to in the New Testament, are we talking about the 10 commandments, the entire Old Testament, the full law of Moses, or parts of it? 

Here we will attempt to distinguish between moral, civil, and ceremonial law.

The question often comes up, and is debated, what part of God’s Old Testament laws are we under. Because of this, there is work to be done to understand what God expects of us today.

The Mosaic Law, or The Law of Moses, was given by God, to the Israelites. The 10 Commandments are a part of this. They were the basic overview of what God expected of His people. It was much deeper than that though. The Mosaic Law contained 613 commandments. These commandments included moral law, civil law, and ceremonial law.


The moral law includes God’s view of justice, and what is right and wrong. Think about basic moral ethics. This law includes the 10 Commandments. It has a lot to do with personal behavior, although it can involve morals that affect others.


The civil laws, also known as the judicial laws, were the laws that Israel, as a society, were to abide by. These were specifically given to the nation of Israel, who was governed by theocracy. This takes into account how the civil magistrates are supposed to enforce the law so they can have a civil society.


The ceremonial law involves how the Israelites were supposed to worship God. It involves laws of how sacrifices were supposed to work, religious feasts and festivals, and dietary and clothing restrictions. 

What we must understand is which laws we are under today. This, of course, is of great debate. Not all Christians agree. From my study, we are still under the moral law. God’s moral law, including the 10 commandments These were written on stone, showing their permanence, unlike other Mosaic laws written on perishable skins. They are repeated in the New Testament. 

We are no longer under the civil law. The civil law was specifically given to Israel as a nation. It is not to say that we can’t glean or interpret any of these laws for modern day use or reflection. It is to say, using them as strict laws is not for today.

We are also no longer under the ceremonial laws. The book of Hebrews says that these laws were given as a shadow of Christ who was to come. Once Christ came, and was the ultimate sacrifice, it freed us from such ceremonial laws.

If you would like to read more about these three laws, how they are different, and why some are for today and some are not, let me recommend The Law and the Gospel by Ernest C. Reisinger.

Think On It

Do you understand the difference between the moral, civil, and ceremonial law?

Do you understand what situations each of these laws was for?

Do you understand which of these laws God still holds us accountable to?

Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes  or Googleplay.