Does God put more weight on moral law and less on ceremonial law?




Thanks for taking the time to reply.  Sorry about my first email; I know it was a bit full-on and probably not in the best tone.  I grew up in churches of Christ and sometimes find it hard to understand the logic and get frustrated, bitter, etc.  Your position makes sense to me and is logical.  The only problem I'm having now is trying to get my head around what verse 5 means in the context of this passage, "priests profane the Sabbath and remain innocent" (I suppose I tend to use this verse to to formulate my opinions about the previous verse regarding David, they seem to flow together).  Does this mean they break the law but are innocent, or is that reading too much into the passage?  Can you explain the background to verse 5?

This last question I know is probably a bit dodgy, but could God place more weight on his moral law and maybe less on the ceremonial and ritual law?  Therefore, God doesn't bend when it comes to issues like homosexuality, but he may bend in circumstances such as frequency of communion (issues that are not necessarily moral in and of themselves).

Let me start with the last question first since it will color your view of the answer to the first. Many people like to divvy up the teachings of the Bible. You will find people saying, as an example, that lying is not nearly as bad of a sin as committing murder. The flaw is that you can't find God agreeing with their rating of sins. "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8). The preceding verse puts all liars in the same destiny as murders. We even have people wanting to rate lies as little and big, but the verse states all liars.

When people run into laws that they don't like, a common tactic is to divide the laws up into categories and say that those in category A are important while those in category B can be ignored. The flaw is that God is not the one doing the dividing; it is solely based on the decision of men. I've seen people take a passage, say from Exodus 20-23, that contains a series of laws and then put some in one category and others in another with basically no rhyme or reason beyond their own decision. In other words, the decision is not based on what the law says or the context in which it is found.

Some laws are weightier than others; that is, some laws have a bigger impact that others in a person's life. But it doesn't mean the "lighter" laws can be ignored. Do you remember when Jesus was scolding the Pharisees? He said, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone" (Matthew 23:23). Did you catch that while justice is a weightier matter than tithing, Jesus did not tell people not to tithe or that tithing was optional. He stated that each was to be done without leaving the others undone.

When a person states that one of God's commands is really not that important and can be skipped, they are effectively removing that command from God's requirements; but who made them the decider of what should or should not be done? God told the Israelites: "You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you" (Deuteronomy 4:2). People are not allowed to modify God's laws, period. The same is stated in the New Testament. "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8-9).

Your own example is proof. I have heard plenty of homosexuals argue that the laws against homosexuality are optional because love is more important than condemnation. They don't see the laws against homosexuality as a moral law. Yet, you see those same laws as unbendable. The root of the problem is in the categorizing and rating of God's laws based on human judgment.

Now, in regards to Matthew 12:5, "Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?" The statement is similar to an argument Jesus gave on another occasion when he healed a man on the Sabbath. "Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:22-24). Jesus' point is that the Jews were not thinking clearly when they pitted one law of God against another because they did so only in some circumstances. They claimed that all work was forbidden on the Sabbath. Thus they condemned Jesus for healing on the Sabbath because they saw Jesus as a prophet and Jesus was doing the work of a prophet on the Sabbath. Jesus pointed out that God commanded circumcision of the Jews on the eighth day. If that day happened to fall on a Sabbath, they would still do the circumcision, even though it was a "work." The work that Jesus was doing was authorized by God -- it was something good and God was supplying the power for the work to be accomplished. If God authorized it, man had no place to condemn it.

Jesus point in Matthew 12:5 is similar, though presented in satirical terms. If the Jews were consistent in their condemnation of all work on the Sabbath, then the work of the priests in offering sacrifices on the Sabbath must "obvious" be breaking God's laws, yet these Jews think nothing of it. Why? Because God said that it was to be done. The disciples were following a law found in Deuteronomy 23:25 that allowed nibbling a neighbor's grain as they walked by his field. Even though God gave authority, these Jews condemned it. They were being inconsistent in applying God's laws. They were guilty of picking and choosing which ones applied, just like people do when they artificially divide God's laws into moral and ceremonial laws.

See also:

Questions and Answers regarding Authority
Questions and Answers regarding Law