What is the Ceremonial Law?
When God led the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage, He delivered to them in fiery majesty the Ten Commandments. This Holy law was spoken by God, written by God, recorded on tables of stone, and is of eternal duration. At the same time the ceremonial law, of temporary usage, was also delivered to the children of Israel. This law dealt with the ceremonial rites of the Jewish sanctuary service, and concerned itself with a system of religion that passed away at the cross. Large sections of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy describe in detail this temporary law. The ceremonial law can easily be identified in scripture. It talks about circumcision (a religious Jewish rite), sacrifices, offerings, purifications, holy days and other rites associated with the Hebrew sanctuary service.
God's Word speaks of two great laws. Law number 1 is the law of God (the Ten Commandments, or Two tablets of the Testimony,) also known as the moral law and the Decalogue. Law number 2 is the Law of Moses (the “Book of the Law,” or “Book of the Covenant”), also known as the Mosaic Law, the Ordinances and the Ceremonial Law. Is there a relationship between these two laws? Absolutely. If an Israelite sinned, he broke law number 1, the moral law being the Ten Commandments. He then had to bring his offering according to law number 2, the sacrificial law to receive forgiveness. This is the relationship between these two laws. Law number 1 defines sin, as sin is the transgression of the moral law, the Ten Commandments (1 John 3:4). Law number 2 defined sacrifices which was the remedy for sin.
If the Israelite sinned, he broke the first law. To make atonement for his sin he had to obey the second law. As can be clearly seen, here are two very distinct laws of which this fact is unmistakable. Jesus Christ permanently took the place of law number 2 when He cried out “It is finished” and bowed His head and died. When the unseen hand tore the temple curtain from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51), this signified that this sacrificial law system was once and for all time nailed to the cross.
While the word ceremonial is spoken frequently of in scripture the term ceremonial law is not. In the King James Bible, it is normally translated to ordinances which Strong’s dictionary translates to as being a law of the type ceremonial or ordinances. As it was a system of commandments given by God to Israel, there can be no doubt it was a law that involved ceremonies so it will often be called as such and has been by all the late great theologians.
The ceremonial law was for Israel alone as the Gospel did not go to the Gentiles for 3.5 years after Jesus died on the cross. The perfect sacrifice of Jesus ended this whole sacrificial system once and for all, thankfully giving us no requirement to obey this law of bondage which pointed forward to the true sacrifice that saves us from our sins, which is transgression of the moral law, the Ten Commandments. When we sin now, we genuinely repent, confess our sin and through God’s grace and faith in the sacrifice of Christ, we are forgiven.
The main Passages of confusion
Many people believe that Colossians 2:16, Galatians 4:10 and Romans 14:5 are referring to the Seventh day Sabbath and even some believe they refer to the Ten Commandments and not the sacrificial law. So what is the real truth? Since there is so much confusion in this area, these passages will be our main focus.
The Ceremonial law Holy days and feasts
Before considering Colossians 2:16, Galatians 4:10 and Romans 14:5, getting some insight into the various feasts, holy days and sacrificial sabbaths will give us a much better understanding of this law and why Paul referred to it as bondage. Leviticus chapter 23 is the easiest and shortest way of covering these feasts and sabbaths so we will start there and then move onto Colossians 2:16 and the other passages.
To fully understand the purpose of the ceremonial or sacrificial law, one must really understand the principle of type and antitype. The sequence of days observed for the feasts as shown in scripture is the “type.” This sequence of days is symbolic of what was to come in the future and for its fulfilment which is the “antitype.” The type and antitype WILL and MUST therefore always match precisely.
Leviticus 23:3 Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; you shall do no work therein: it is the SABBATH of the LORD in all your dwellings.
The above verse refers to the fourth Commandment, i.e. Gods Sabbath. It is the “Sabbath of the Lord” and is part of that great eternal law of love that James called liberty. Notice how it is listed separately from the other “feasts of the Lord.” Note also how it is a Holy convocation, that is, the Sabbath is a day intended for fellowshipping with other Christians and quality Holy time with our Creator. This is not part of the Mosaic Law!
The seventh day Sabbath is a memorial of creation that God established at creation and is not a day that originated with the Jews, it preceded them. When one of the feast days fell on the seventh day Sabbath, it was referred to as a high Sabbath day (John 19:31).
Leviticus 23:4-5 These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which you shall proclaim in their seasons. 5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD'S Passover.
This part of the sacrificial or ceremonial law was a shadow of the crucifixion of Jesus and is called “Passover or Pesach.” These and all the following verses in Leviticus chapter 23 are not part of God’s eternal Ten Commandment law. As verse four says, “these are the many feasts of the Lord” that are not moral laws and were temporary as they represented the work that Christ would do at the cross through His death and resurrection. Love however is not temporary and will never be nailed to the cross.
The type was the Passover in Egypt where the blood of the lamb was smeared on the door posts. Jesus and the disciples ate the Passover meal (Matthew 26:18-20) of unleavened bread and wine in the early hours of this day (Exodus 12:18), which would have been our Thursday evening (the biblical day begins and ends at sunset). Jesus was crucified the afternoon of the 14th (Friday) at the time the Paschal lambs were being slain (Exodus 12:6). Passover is a shadow or type of the sacrifice of Jesus which is the antitype, the Lamb of God, at the cross (1 Corinthians 5:7).
Leviticus 23:6-8 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days you must eat unleavened bread. 7 In the first day you shall have an holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein. 8 But you shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein.
This part of the sacrificial law was a shadow of the time Jesus spent in the tomb on the seventh day Sabbath and is called the “Feast of Unleavened Bread.”
The Feast of Unleavened Bread was a type of the sinless nature of Jesus releasing us from the bondage of sin (if we have faith in His atoning death). Jesus is the sinless bread of life (John 6:32, 48-51) and leavened bread represented the corruption of sin in one’s life that Jesus overcomes (1 Corinthians 5:8). Putting away the sin in your life (leavened bread) and replacing it by accepting sinless Jesus Christ (unleavened bread) in its place is the Gospel message symbolized in the Passover meal known today as the Lord's Supper or Communion. You participate in the Lord's Supper to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for you at the cross (Luke 22:19). This was the time of year of the latter rain (March/April). On this day Israel began to eat from the old corn and the manna ended the following day (Joshua 5:11).
Leviticus 23:9-14 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying, 10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When you be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: 11 And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. 12 And you shall offer that day when you wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD. 13 And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin. 14 And you shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that you have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
This part of the sacrificial law was a shadow of Jesus' resurrection from the tomb and is called "First Fruits." Note the meat offering and drink offering that Paul refers to at the start of the verse in Colossians 2:16 that we will discuss later. The table below gives clarity to this and the previously discussed feasts.
This was the day of first sheaf waving (type), the first fruit of the barley harvest. The antitype was Resurrection Sunday which also occurred on 16 Nisan. Jesus was the first fruits of the resurrection, (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23, 2 Timothy 2:6-8), the antitype. It is important to note that it was not a day of convocation (Not a sabbath) to the Jews, so there is no reason for it to be a sabbath in antitype (post-resurrection) to Christians. This is because the festival sabbaths were not just commemorative in nature but also prophetic, pointing to future Holy events as fulfilments. To suggest a new Sunday holy day was instituted on resurrection day, is to say the festival calendar appointed by God was in error since it omits a weekly 1st day observance. In Jewish Tradition, the period called the Omer begins on 16 Nisan and extends for 50 days to Pentecost or Shavuot. Manna ceased to fall on this day (Joshua 5:12).
|Passover||Feast of Unleavened Bread|
|Unleavened Bread Eaten|
|All Leaven Removed From the House|
|Crucifixion||In the tomb||Resurrection|
|1st Day||2nd Day||3rd Day|
Leviticus 23:15-21 And you shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: 16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall you number fifty days; and you shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. 17 You shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD. 18 And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the LORD. 19 Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. 20 And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. 21 And you shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: you shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
This was a shadow of Pentecost and is called the “Feast of Weeks or Shavuot.” Note for the second time the meat offering and drink offering that Paul refers to at the start of the verse in Colossians 2:16.
This feast was also a shadow or type because fifty days after the resurrection there was the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit that resulted in three thousand souls being added to the church in one day (Acts 2:41). This outpouring of the Holy Spirit is also known as the early rain (Antitype). There will also be a latter rain, the greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit near the end of time (Joel 2:23, Zechariah 10:1, James 5:7) for the proclamation of the three angels messages (Revelation 14).
Leviticus 23:23-25 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying, 24 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall you have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. 25 You shall do no servile work therein: but you shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
This is the Day of Judgment and the Jewish New Year and is called “Trumpets or Rosh Ha-Shanah.”
This was an announcement to Israel of impending judgment which occurred on the Day of Atonement nine days later. The antitype of Trumpets was the worldwide proclamation of the second coming in 1843, during the “Great Awakening” revival which was based on the 2300 days prophecy in Daniel 8:14 which began in 457 B.C. and ended in 1844. This was mistakenly interpreted by many as the time of the second coming and end of the world in 1844, when in fact it was the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary.
Leviticus 23:26-32 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying, 27 Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. 28 And you shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God. 29 For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. 30 And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. 31 You shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 32 It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and you shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall you celebrate your sabbath.
This very significant part of the ceremonial law is called the “Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur.”
This was the Holiest day of the year and signified a cleansing of sins and reconciliation with God (Judgment day). The people were to afflict their souls and fast. On this day only, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to atone for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16). This was a shadow or type of Jesus carrying out His role as our High Priest (Hebrews 9) and entering the Holy of Holies in the heavenly sanctuary when he began the investigative judgment at the end of the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14. This was the beginning of the antitype or fulfilment of the Day of Atonement which is still underway in heaven today. Many do not understand this investigative judgment and so they condemn it. What they fail to realize in so doing is that they take away the purpose and fulfilment of this day and hence remove the antitype and the whole Old Testament purpose of this Holy day and what it pointed forward to. Jesus is now our High Priest and fulfilment here. This judgment begins with the righteous dead and will end with the righteous living. At the end of this period of judgment, probation for humanity will have closed, and the 7 plagues of God will then fall on the wicked. Soon after will be the second coming to gather the righteous to join the kingdom of God in heaven for a 1000 years. The Jubilee year begins on this day (Leviticus 25:9).
Leviticus 23:33-44 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying, 34 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD. 35 On the first day shall be an holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein. 36 Seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and you shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and you shall do no servile work therein. 37 These are the feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD, a burnt offering, and a meat offering, a sacrifice, and drink offerings, every thing upon his day: 38 Beside the sabbaths of the LORD, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill offerings, which you give unto the LORD. 39 Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. 40 And you shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. 41 And you shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: 43 That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. 44 And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the feasts of the LORD.
This final one is called the “Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkoth.” Note once again the meat offering and drink offering that Paul refers to at the start of the verse in Colossians 2:16 which we will cover later on.
For seven days the people moved out of their homes and lived in temporary shelters called “Sukkah” as a reminder of their wanderings in the desert for forty years. The branches cut from palm, willow and other trees were to be waved in celebration to the Lord during the first seven days of the feast (Leviticus 23:40). This final feast of the year is a celebration of ingathering at the end of the harvest (Exodus 23:16) and is a time of rejoicing and fellowship. It symbolizes the gathering or harvest of God's people who leave earth for the marriage supper of the Lamb to be celebrated in heaven after the second coming of Jesus. This begins the millennium. The following table gives an overview of all these feasts just described.
|Spring Festivals||Autumn Festivals|
|A Week Long Festival
15th to 21st Day
|50 days from
|An Eight Day Festival
15th to 22nd Day
Feast of Weeks
8th Day of Festival
|A Sabbath||Not a Sabbath||A Sabbath||A Sabbath||A Sabbath||A Sabbath||A Sabbath||A Sabbath|
|In Jerusalem||In Jerusalem||In Jerusalem|
|Barley Harvest||Wheat Harvest||Fruit Harvest|
|Latter Rains||Early Rains|
As you can see, there were many ceremonial sabbaths that were part of this temporary ceremonial law that was nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14). As Colossians 2:17 states, “they were a shadow of things to come.” These sabbaths are not to be confused with the fourth Commandment which is part of God’s eternal law of love and was not a shadow of any kind and so is not a type and has no fulfilment and antitype. Having now covered most of the various obsolete feasts and holy sabbath days that were nailed to the cross, let’s move on with one of the most misunderstood scriptures.
The Ceremonial law and Colossians 2:16
Colossians 2:16 is one of the main areas of misunderstanding when it comes to understanding the ordinances of the ceremonial law, so we will cover this verse first followed by Galatians 4:9-10 and Romans 14:5, which are all related to the Mosaic law and what Paul is explaining in Colossians 2:16.
In Colossians 2:16 it reads “Let no man therefore judge you in meat (offering), or in drink (offering), or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:” and so the argument is the fourth Commandment was deleted from stone. What was done away with here was called the ordinances (ceremonial law). This is clearly seen by noting what Paul said two verses earlier. Colossians 2:14 states, “blotting out the handwriting (has to be Moses handwriting) of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross.” Paul then goes on to say, so “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:“ Luke 1:6 KJV shows that the ordinances and the Ten Commandments are two totally different things. It states, “And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” And Hebrews 9:1-2 says, “Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. 2 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the showbread; which is called the sanctuary.” The first covenant had the ordinances as well as the Ten Commandments but the new covenant has only the Ten Commandments. Note that these ordinances unmistakably belong to the Hebrew sanctuary sacrificial system explained previously. It was the ordinances that were nailed to the cross “not one jot or one tittle” of any of the Ten Commandments. The major differences between the Ten Commandments and the ordinances are that the Ten Commandments were written by God’s finger, were written in stone and were placed inside the Ark of the Covenant and it is a law of love which is eternal as love is eternal as God is and is why we were created. The ordinances were in the Moses handwriting, were written in a book and were placed on the outside of the Ark of the Covenant and it is NOT a law of love and was temporary. The One great and perfect Sacrifice was offered that Friday afternoon, when the true Passover Lamb bowed His head and died. When He cried out, “It is finished”, the old ceremonial law that pointed people to His sacrificial death was forever nailed to the cross.
The Ceremonial law and God’s Sabbath
Does the phrase “sabbath days” in Colossians 2:16 refer to the Lord’s Sabbath? Absolutely not. Firstly, the word “sabbaths” is definitely plural here and as we have seen, there were several sabbaths in the ordinances, and secondly, everything in verse 16 belonged purely and only to the ordinances which Paul specifically tells us is in verse 14. Studying the table below will give clarity between the ceremonial sabbaths mentioned in Colossians 2:16 and the Sabbath of the Lord.
Sabbath of the Lord
|Spoken by God personally - (Exodus 20:1, 8-11)||Spoken by Moses - (Exodus 24:3)|
|Written in stone by God Himself - (Exodus 31:18)||Written by Moses hand on paper - (Exodus 24:4)|
|Placed inside the Ark of the covenant - (Deu 10:5)||Stored on the outside of the Ark - (Deu 31:26)|
|Breaking the Sabbath is sin - (1 John 3:4)||These were kept because of sin - (See Leviticus)|
|It is a law of love - (Mat 22:35-40, Isaiah 58:13-14)||They were not love - (Colossians 2:14, Gal 4:9-10)|
|It is a law of liberty (freedom) - (James 1:25, 2:10-12)||They were bondage - (Galatians 4:9-10, Col 2:14)|
|Was established before sin - (Genesis 2:1-3)||Were established after sin - (Exodus 20:24)|
|Was made at creation - (Genesis 2:1-3)||Were made after Sinai - (Exodus 20:24)|
|The Sabbath is for everyone - (Mark 2:27)||Only for the children of Israel & Jews - (Read Bible)|
|God calls it MY Sabbath - (Exodus 31:13, Eze 20:20)||God calls it HER sabbaths - (Hosea 2:11, Lam 1:7)|
|The Sabbath is eternal - (Psa 111:7-8, Isa 66:22-23)||Were nailed to the cross - (Col 2:14, Eph 2:15)|
Consider the following three questions:
1) Why didn’t God put His Sabbath with all the ceremonial sabbaths that were written by Moses if it was a ceremonial sabbath that ended at the cross? So is the Sabbath a ceremonial law? Not a chance!
2) Why didn't God put His Sabbath with the Jewish ceremonial sabbaths that ended at the cross, if His Sabbath was only for the Jews?
3) Why would our omniscient (all knowing) God put His Sabbath in His eternal law of love if it’s not eternal or not part of His law of love?
Does Colossians 2:16 refer entirely to the Ceremonial law?
Note that every single part of the verses in Colossians 2:14-17 actually does refer to the ceremonial law. Unfortunately, most modern Bible translations have translated the word meat in verse sixteen incorrectly and most non Jews get this wrong including some of the best theologians. Ask some Jews that have a good understanding of Hebrew. The King James Bible is one of the few translations that does translate these words correctly and is therefore recommended in these studies. So much gets lost at times when translators don’t have a good understanding of Jewish culture and terminology and the ceremonial system. To be referring to clean or unclean foods here would be totally out of context for the passage, but when it is kept in context, every single point here refers to the various feasts and festivals and the sacrificial sanctuary system. Further clarification can be given here from Hebrews. Note that the context of this passage below is undoubtedly the sanctuary service in regards to sacrifices and offerings, of which Christ became the final perfect sacrifice for us.
Paul speaks of meat and drink offerings and carnal ordinances which were imposed until the time of reformation, being Jesus Christ who obtained eternal redemption for us and brought an end to the sacrifices prescribed by the ordinances once and for all. Several verses have been given here so that the context of the passage can be seen. Hebrews 9:6-12 “Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. 7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: 8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. 11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”
As in Colossians 2:16, nowhere in this passage are clean and unclean foods referred to and nowhere in the Bible where clean and unclean foods are discussed, are there issues of unclean drinks. There is talk of unclean containers and strong drink but never unclean drinks and this clearly still would not fit into the context of the passage here. What is spoken of here in both Colossians and Hebrews are references to meat and drink offerings that were part of the sanctuary service that are in the ordinances which had meat and drink offerings. This is all that can possibly be referred to and when done so it fits absolutely perfectly into the context of both passages as it remains totally in context with the sanctuary service.
So lets discuss Colossians 2:16 and Colossians 2:14, 17 again to see if everything does actually refer to the ceremonial law by the fact that the context of the passage remains the same throughout. “Blotting out the handwriting”, this law was written in Moses handwriting. “Ordinances”, Strong’s dictionary also directly translates this word to a law being ceremonial, “that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way”, the sacrificial law is now against us and contrary to us, as Christ has become that One and perfect sacrifice for us. “Nailing it to his cross”, and of course now that Christ has become that perfect sacrifice for us, no longer are meat and drink offerings and animal sacrifices and all associated Holy days necessary, so the ceremonial law was nailed to the cross. Moving onto verse sixteen, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink”, and as we have now seen were part of this. “Or in respect of an holyday”, these Holy days included such days as Passover, Feast of Weeks and many others as we saw earlier in this document. “Or of the new moon”, new moon celebrations were also part of the ordinances. “Or of the sabbath days”, Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Weeks, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles and many others were all sabbath days. When referred to in plural and the context of the passage is the sacrificial law, then the sabbaths referred to can be nothing else but that. Verse seventeen goes on to say, “Which are a shadow of things to come.” Again, as we have already seen, these sabbaths were called a shadow because Passover was a shadow of the crucifixion and Feast of Weeks was a shadow of Pentecost etc. These Old Testament feasts and holy days were shadows of what was to come and once those things had come and gone then the shadows disappeared. Here is one verse from Leviticus that refers to such feasts and Holy days, which involves meat and drink, that is meat and drink offerings that Paul is referring to in Colossians 2:16. Leviticus 23:37 “These are the feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD, a burnt offering, and a meat offering, a sacrifice, and drink offerings, every thing upon his day.”
Note the following verses and from the table below how Colossians 2:14-16 and Ezekiel 45:17 compare precisely. Parentheses are added.
Colossians 2:14-16 “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; [sin] 16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink [offerings], or in respect of an holyday [feast], or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:”
Ezekiel 45:17 “And it shall be the prince's part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings, in the feasts, [holydays] and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all solemnities of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the meat offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel.”
Did you note how these meat and drink offerings and feasts etc, were a sin offering, to make reconciliation for breaking God’s Ten Commandment law? This is what Israel had to do to make atonement for sin, which is the breaking of God’s Ten Commandments which includes the Seventh Day Sabbath.
|meat, or in drink,||meat offerings, and drink offerings,|
|KJV of an holyday, NKJV regarding a festival
(Strong’s Dictionary; a festival: - feast, holyday.)
|in the feasts,|
|or of the new moon||and in the new moons,|
|or of the sabbath days:||and in the sabbaths,|
Since Colossians 2:14 says “handwriting of ordinances” which Moses wrote in a book. It should make perfect sense to all of us that if God intended for the Sabbath of the Lord to be temporary, He would have had Moses put it in his own handwriting along with the rest of the ordinances that included all the other temporary sabbaths that were nailed to the cross. The fact is, God did not include His Sabbath that He blessed and sanctified at the beginning of creation and wrote in stone with His own finger along with the other nine Commandments and placed inside the original Ark of the Covenant that is in heaven right now and will be for all time. The only logical reason there could be for this with God being omniscience (all knowing) is He obviously did not intend on changing or abolishing it which scripture supports.
Read what “Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible” has to say on Colossians 2:16 in regards to sabbath days, “Colossians 2:16 - Or of the Sabbath days - Greek, “of the Sabbaths.” The word Sabbath in the Old Testament is applied not only to the seventh day, but to all the days of holy rest that were observed by the Hebrews, and particularly to the beginning and close of their great festivals. There is, doubtless, reference to those days in this place, since the word is used in the plural number, and the apostle does not refer particularly to the Sabbath properly so called. There is no evidence from this passage that he would teach that there was no obligation to observe any holy time, for there is not the slightest reason to believe that he meant to teach that one of the ten commandments had ceased to be binding on mankind. If he had used the word in the singular number - “the Sabbath,” it would then, of course, have been clear that he meant to teach that that commandment had ceased to be binding, and that a Sabbath was no longer to be observed. But the use of the term in the plural number, and the connection, show that he had his eye on the great number of days which were observed by the Hebrews as festivals, as a part of their ceremonial and typical law, and not to the moral law, or the Ten Commandments. No part of the moral law - no one of the ten commandments could be spoken of as “a shadow of good things to come.” These commandments are, from the nature of moral law, of perpetual and universal obligation.”
And this what Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible has top say on Colossians 2:16, “Colossians 2:16 - Let no man - judge you in meat, or in drink - The apostle speaks here in reference to some particulars of the hand-writing of ordinances, which had been taken away, and the necessity of observing certain holydays or festivals, such as the new moons and particular sabbaths, or those which should be observed with more than ordinary solemnity; all these had been taken out of the way and nailed to the cross, and were no longer of moral obligation. There is no intimation here that the Sabbath was done away, or that its moral use was superseded, by the introduction of Christianity. I have shown elsewhere that, Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, is a command of perpetual obligation, and can never be superseded but by the final termination of time. As it is a type of that rest which remains for the people of God, of an eternity of bliss, it must continue in full force till that eternity arrives; for no type ever ceases till the antitype be come. Besides, it is not clear that the apostle refers at all to the Sabbath in this place, whether Jewish or Christian; his σαββατων, of sabbaths or weeks, most probably refers to their feasts of weeks, of which much has been said in the notes on the Pentateuch.”
The Ceremonial law and Galatians 4:10
These various Holy days and festivals involved DAYS that took place at various TIMES of the year as well as YEARLY Holy days such as the Day of Atonement and MONTHLY like the New Moon celebrations already discussed. As these were a shadow of things to come and those things have past and the shadows are now gone, to still observe these days would be putting us back into unnecessary bondage. This is what Paul is talking about in Galatians 4:9-10 which says, “But now, after that you have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn you again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe DAYS, and MONTHS, and TIMES, and YEARS.” Paul is obviously not saying you can ignore anything that is a day, month or year in the Bible. He is referring to something that includes all of these things, which is and can only be the ceremonial law. Compare Colossians 2:14-16.
Colossians 2:14-16 “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; … 16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink [offerings], or in respect of an holy day [holy day], or of the new moon [months], or of the sabbath days: [years eg; Passover, Unleavened Bread, Day of Atonement, Pentecost and three others, which are all yearly sabbaths].” Parentheses are added.
Galatians 4:9 and Galatians 4:10 is talking about bondage and servitude and the sacrificial law was just that, a law of servitude and bondage where they had to year after year observe all the feasts at various times, days, months and years. Galatians 4:3 “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:” Paul continues telling the Galatians that they are no longer servants in Galatians 4:7 “Wherefore you are no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” God’s Ten Commandments on the other hand are a law of liberty. James 1:25 “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” And for further clarity James 2:11-12 reads, “For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if you commit no adultery, yet if you kill, you are become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak you, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.” The Bible does not contradict itself by one moment calling the Ten Commandments a law of servitude and bondage and then call it a perfect law of liberty or freedom the next. Freedom and bondage are exact opposites. The Ten Commandments show us how to love God and man and could never be referred to as bondage or servitude. Loving God for my family is a natural occurrence and pleasure as it should be for all Christians. If we keep all of these points in mind when studying the Bible, it will help us see more clearly what law is being spoken of. We should also remember to check the context of the entire chapter and if necessary other related chapters for a complete picture. See also Galatians and the Ten Commandments and the Ceremonial law.
Romans 14:5 and the Ceremonial law
Having now adequately covered Colossians 2:16 and Galatians 4:9-10, let’s now conclude with the final scripture. The scripture concerned, is mainly Romans 14:5, but so the context of the passage can be seen, I have given the surrounding verses also. Romans 14:1-6, “Him that is weak in the faith receive you, but not to doubtful disputations. 2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God has received him. 4 Who are you that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yes, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. 5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.”
It must first be acknowledged that the Word Sabbath does not even appear anywhere in the entire chapter, and also very significant is that the word “alike” does not exist in the original Greek text and is an added word, which tends to convey an idea which the apostle never designed or intended.
It becomes clear from Romans 14 and 15, that several misunderstandings existed between Jewish and Gentile Christians in relation to certain customs which were sacredly observed by one but disregarded by the other. The primary subject of dispute was concerning meats and days. The converted Jew retaining respect for the law of Moses abstained from certain meats and observed ceremonial days while the converted Gentile understood that Christianity put him under no such obligation or regard to these ordinances. It also appears that mutual and heartless judgments existed among them and that brotherly love and reciprocal tolerance did not always prevail. Paul exhorts that in such things no longer essential to Christianity, that even though both parties had a different way of thinking they might and probably do still have an honest and serious regard for God. Paul further explains they should not therefore let different sentiments hinder Christian fellowship and love, but they should mutually refrain and withhold and make allowance for each other and especially not carry their Gospel liberty so far as to prejudice a weak brother or a Jewish Christian. Select this link for more detail on Romans 14:5 by Bible commentary.
When reading the Bible and the passage is about a law of bondage, foods and days and especially when associated with the sanctuary service, then we must realize the sacrificial law and not the Ten Commandments are being referred to. When the Ten Commandments are being referenced, you can always tell as the context of the passage will always be centred around love, as that is what the Ten Commandments are. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:8 “He that loves not, knows not God; for God Is Love.” As God is eternal, then Love also must be eternal. 1 John 4:16 says, “And we have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.” Love is inseparable from God and the true Christian, as God is Love and Love is God. We were created in Love and for Love and no other reason. This is why the Ten Commandments are eternal and unchanging, as God changes not, and love changes not, and the guidelines on loving God and man also changes not. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 that He did not come to destroy the law and that till heaven and earth pass, not one jot or tittle shall pass from the law. He also warned against not teaching the law and said great is he that does teach and uphold the law. Jesus then raises the bar even higher and tells us that if we commit the sin in our mind, we are guilty as verse 27 shows. Jesus is in no way implying the Ten Commandments are going to be abolished or change, but to the contrary, Jesus shows they are now being magnified. See Isaiah 45:21. To imply that Colossians 2:16, Galatians 4:10 or Romans 14:5 refer to the Ten Commandments puts them out of context and they then also fail to line up with other scripture throughout the Bible as well as seriously contradicting other scriptures.
For more info, select this link see Colossians 2:16 translation charts and the issue of plurality on the word sabbaths or this site if you would like to read some Colossians 2:16 commentary from the public. Some groups say the sacrificial feasts are still to be observed. Read Colossians 2:16 and the Jewish Festivals or Colossians 2:16 Ordinances, Feasts and Holydays for the real truth.
The Ten Commandments and the Ceremonial law compared
See a more elaborate table near the bottom of this page with scripture tool tips.
The Moral Law
The Ceremonial Law
|1. Spoken by God Himself. Exodus 20:1, 22.||1. Spoken by Moses. Exodus 24:3.|
|2. Was written by God. Exodus 31:18; Exodus 32:16.||2. Written by Moses. Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 31:9.|
|3. On stones. Exodus 31:18.||3. In a book. Exodus 24:3, 7; Deuteronomy 31:24.|
|4. Handed by God its writer to Moses. Exodus 31:18.||4. Handed by Moses its writer to Levites. Deuteronomy 31:25, 26.|
|5. Deposited by Moses “in the ark.” Deuteronomy 10:5.||5. Deposited by the Levites “by the side of the ark.” Deuteronomy 31:26, ARV.|
|6. Deals with moral precepts. Exodus 20:3-17.||6. Deals with ceremonial, ritual matters. (See parts of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy)|
|7. Reveals sin. Romans 7:7.||7. Prescribes offerings for sins. (See book of Leviticus)|
|8. Breaking of “the law” is “sin.” 1 John 3:4.||8. No sin in breaking the sacrificial law, for it is now “abolished.” Ephesians 2:15. (Where no law is, there is no transgression. Romans 4:15)|
|9. Should “keep the whole law.” James 2:10.||9. Apostles gave “no such commandment” to “keep the ceremonial law.” Acts 15:24.|
|10. Because we “shall be judged” by this law. James 2:12.||10. Not to be judged by the sacrificial law. Colossians 2:16.|
|11. The Christian who keeps this law is “blessed in his deed.” James 1:25.||11. The Christian who keeps the sacrificial law is not blessed. (See for example, Galatians 5:1-6)|
|12. “The perfect law of liberty.” James 1:25. (Cf. James 2:12)||12. The Christian who keeps the sacrificial law loses his liberty. Galatians 5:1, 3.|
|13. Paul said, “I delight in the law of God.” Romans 7:22. (Cf. verse 7)||13. Paul called the ceremonial law a “yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1; Galatians 4:3, 9. (See Acts 15:10)|
|14. Established by faith in Christ. Romans 3:31.||14. Abolished by Christ. Ephesians 2:15.|
|15. Christ was to “magnify the law and make it honorable.” Isaiah 42:21.||15. Blotted “out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us.” Colossians 2:14.|
The Ten Commandments and Gods character compared
Notice how the Ten Commandments are a reflection of God’s holy character. To say the Ten Commandments are no longer applicable is an attack on love, God and His Holy character. See a more elaborate table here.
God’s Ten Commandments equals God’s Holy Character
|» Romans 16:26: God is Eternal
» Psalms 111:7-8: The law is Eternal
|» Luke 18:19: God is Good
» Romans 7:12: The law is Good
|» John 4:24: God is Spiritual
» Romans 7:14: The law is Spiritual
|» Deuteronomy 32:4: God is Just
» Romans 7:12: The law is Just
|» Psalms 145:17: God is Righteous
» Psalms 119:172: The law is Righteous
|» 1 John 3:3: God is Pure
» Psalms 19:8: The law is Pure
|» Matthew 5:48: God is Perfect
» Psalms 19:7: The law is Perfect
|» I John 4:8: God is Love
» Romans 13:10: The law is Love
|» I John 1:5: God is Light
» Proverbs 6:23: The law is Light
|» Psalms 48:1: God is Great
» Hosea 8:12: The law is Great
|» Deuteronomy 32:4: God is Truth
» Psalms 119:142: The law is Truth
|» Isaiah 5:16: God is Holy
» Romans 7:12: The law is Holy