Servants' News

Jan/Feb 2003

The Mechanics of the Law and Its Biblical Application

by Ray Serrano

“He who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Prov 28:9).

Throughout history and as far back as the first century a.d., the word “law” has been indiscriminately used when addressing the different rules of human behavior. The commandments, statutes, and ordinances have been lumped together when addressing issues relating to the law.

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Although having the same weight as law, they are significantly different. The definition of “law” can and does include a wide spectrum of operatives, forcing the use of different categories, divisions and subdivisions in order to give a complete and accurate view of its many meanings. The indiscriminate use of this word “law” has not only caused schisms in many churches, but has also caused totally new and different religions to emerge with doctrines that are based on Statutes and Ordinances (or the lack of)—views which cannot be legally supported and have been misconstrued to be on the same level as “The Ten Commandments”.

The nature of the word “law” is so general and broad that it encompasses such a wide spectrum of activities, and rules of conduct that it behooves us all to have at least a basic understanding of its function, not only in our daily lives, but in our pursuit of a moral level of understanding and development. We have all been misled by individuals and groups, though well-meaning, but having a limited knowledge and understanding of the mechanics of the law.

Statutes and Ordinances, although having the same weight as law, are not legally considered “the fundamental law”. This means that they are not at the same level, and have certain restrictions and limitations imposed on their implementation and duration that the fundamental law does not have.

Definition of “Law”

“LAW. In its most general and comprehensive sense, law signifies a rule of action; and this term is applied indiscriminately to all kinds of action; whether animate or inanimate, rational or irrational. In its more confined sense, law denotes the rule, not of actions in general, but of human action or conduct.

Law is generally divided into four principle classes, namely: natural law, the law of nations, public law, and private or civil law. When considered in relation to its origin, it is statute law or common law. When examined as to its different systems it is divided into civil law, common law, canon law. When applied to objects, it is civil, criminal, or penal. It is also divided into natural law and positive law. Into written law, lex scripta; and unwritten law, lex non scripta. Into law merchant, martial law, municipal, and foreign law. When considered as to their duration, laws are immutable and arbitrary or positive; when as to their effect, they are prospective and retrospective” (Bouvier Law Dictionary, Revised Sixth Edition, 1856).

From Strong’s Concordance, entry number H8451, torah:

“law, direction, instruction

a. instruction, direction (human or divine)

1. body of prophetic teaching

2. instruction in Messianic age

3. body of priestly direction or instruction

4. body of legal directives

b. law

1. law of the burnt offering

2. of special law, codes of law

c. custom, manner

d. the Deuteronomic or Mosaic Law”

As you can see in the above definitions both Bouvier and Strong’s agree, in that the word “law” encompasses a wide spectrum of activities, and rules of conduct. The word “law” has always been used when speaking of any rule of conduct, including statutes and ordinances.

However it is important to understand that statutes and ordinances differ from the Commandments in three important ways:

1. They must be in harmony, and in compliance with the fundamental law (the Ten Command-ments);

2. They are limited in the duration of their enforcement;

3. Ordinances can be readily changed or modified usually due to changing circumstances.

The Ten Commandments are considered the fundamental law as can be ascertained in the following definition:

Definition of “Commandment”

“The law (torah) was the title of the Pentateuch, constituting the 1st division of the canon (Luke 24:44); the legal portion, consisting of the Ten Commandments, which form the fundamental law of the theocracy, and statutes based on them, was given at Sinai” (The New Westminster Bible Dictionary).

In Exodus 20, not one of the commandments ends with a time period, as to the length of time it shall be in force. That is not the case when you consider the statutes.

Definition of “Statute”

“The written will of the legislature, solemnly expressed according to the forms prescribed in the constitution; an act of the legislature. This word is used in contradistinction to the common law. Statutes acquire their force from the time of their passage unless otherwise provided. Statutes are of several kinds: namely, public or private. Declaratory or remedial. Temporary or perpetual. 1. A temporary statute is one which is limited in its duration at the time of its enactment. It continues in force until the time of its limitation has expired, unless sooner repealed. A perpetual statute is one for the continuance of which there is no limited time, although it be not expressly declared to be so. If, however, a statute which did not itself contain any limitation, is to be governed by another which is temporary only, the former will also be temporary and dependent upon the existence of the latter” (Bouvier Law Dictionary, Revised Sixth Edition, 1856).

After the institution of the feasts of the passover season:

“And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings” (Lev 23:14, KJV).

In other words, statutes, after enactment, have a limited period of duration although the duration may be perpetual. Notice that the statute (in Leviticus) has a time limit (for-ever throughout your generations) whilst the commandments have no time limits imposed.

Definition of “Ordinance”

“Strictly, a bill or law which might stand with the old law, and did not alter any statute in force at the time. A bill or law which might at any time be amended by the parliament, without any statute” (Black’s Law Dictionary, Third Edition).

As you can see in the above definition, the ordinance can not alter the statute in any way, and can be amended at any time.

Bible Example of Laws, Statutes and Ordinances

“And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof: But every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof. In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof. All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof” (Ex 12:43–48, KJV).

In contrast, look at:

Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee: But at the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt” (Deut 16:5–6, KJV).

Also:

“And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me… After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me” (1Cor 11:13, KJV).

 

Passover Lamb Replaced by Christ, Not Bread & Wine

The difference between laws, statues and ordinances is well illustrated in the surrounding article. This writer would not have included the quote from 1Cor 1:13, above, because “passover” is never mentioned in that chapter. A better example of the ordinance change in the New Testament Passover is found in 1 Corinthians 5:7, KJV:

“Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.”

There is no longer a need to sacrifice a Passover lamb when one has been sacrificed for us. That is the change in the ordinance.

For more information on the Old and New Testament Passover observance, see Servants’ News issues for Jan/Feb 1997 and Mar/April 1997, or our separate article Resolving the Passover Controversy.

See page 2 for contact information or download them from www.servantsnews.com/snprev.htm and
www.servantsnews.com/PDF/pascon01.pdf.

— Norman Edwards

The time limit on ordinances, depends on the duration of the Statute it supports however, ordinances can, at any time be amended, based on the circumstances. The “ordinance” of the Passover was changed in Exodus 12, and Deuteronomy 16, then again in the New Testament. That is to say, that the location and not the timing of the observance was changed due to the different circumstances. Notice that the statute dealing with the Passover, sets the time and duration of the observance of this feast.

“These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s passover” (Lev 23:4–5, KJV).

However, the ordinance deals only with the procedures to implement the statute. In other words, the start and end of the feast is an integral part of the statute. (Also, note the addition of the new procedure, “foot washing”).

“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14–15, KJV).

With the information that we now possess as to the workings of the law, we can confidently conclude that:

a) The “Ten Commandments” are the fundamental and supreme law which will always be in effect. (The commandments as the Messiah Himself “broke down” into two commandments, is the universal law of “Love” which is a spiritual law that had to be made physical for us humans to understand, seeing that we are only physical beings.)

b) All “Statutes” must be in harmony with the fundamental law and although having a time limit, are, in effect, until the beginning of the prophesied millennium mentioned in Revelation. (The “world” to come or the third “earth age” as some call it)

c) All “Ordinances” must be in harmony with the statutes and can be changed at any time.

The Law, that was “done away with,” can only be referring to the “Ordinances” dealing with the sacrifices which were added. Also note that most of these ordinances were carried out by the Levitical priesthood who were removed.

“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made…” (Gal 3:19, KJV).

“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Gal 3:24–25, KJV).

The “schoolmaster” was the law of sacrifices (actually ordinances that can be changed or amended due to changing circumstances) which job it was to point to the coming Christ, Yahshua.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7–11).

Beholding the Lord in Our Presence         Two Aspects of God

 


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