Is the Sabbath a Ceremonial Law?

I often hear contemporary Christians assert that the Sabbath is a ceremonial law. If this is so, it is strange that out of 10 commandments, 9 are “moral” and one is “ceremonial.” The historic Christian position has been that all 10 are moral (e.g., John Wesley and J.C. Ryle).

Walter Kaiser, in his book Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament, suggests that the moral law is found in the Decalogue (as expressed in Ex 20 and Deut 5) and in the Holiness Code in Leviticus 18-20.

I don’t share that view entirely, but since it is commonly accepted, this leads us to an interesting verse:

Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:3)

There is no one, I suspect, who would argue that honoring our parents is not a moral commandment, and here it is sandwiched along with the commandment to keep God’s Sabbaths. It’s a very steep hill to climb for those who suggest that keeping the sabbath is not a moral law.

Charles Simeon, the great 19th century expositor, close friend of William Wilberforce, and contemporary of John Wesley had some good insight here:

Christ, our incarnate Lord, has fulfilled every part of God’s law; enduring its penalties, as well as executing its commands: and this he has done, as our Surety: so that, if we believe in him, we may plead his obedience unto death in bar of all the punishment it denounces against us; and may even plead it also as having procured for us a title to all its promised blessings. Our blessed Lord, in fulfilling the law, has abrogated it as a covenant; and has obtained for us a new and better covenant, of which he himself is the Surety. As a rule of conduct, the law does, and ever must, continue in force; because it is the transcript of the mind and will of God, and contains a perfect rule for the conduct of his creatures:[1]


[1] Simeon, Charles. Horae Homileticae Vol. 15: Romans (London, 1832-63). 165-166.

2 thoughts on “Is the Sabbath a Ceremonial Law?

  1. Wow – great point here bro. That Lev. verse really makes you think! It brings me right back to the 10 too – honoring your father and mother (the first command with promise). Thanks for sharing! I really like what Charles Simeon has to say too. I may have to lift this quote from you for a blog that I’m working on.

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