CHRISTIANITY IS a divinely revealed religion. The
difference between all other religions and Christianity is the difference
in its authority. Once we believe that God has spoken His Word to man, we
should have no difficulty believing that Word. Godís deity is accepted
without question as authenticating His Word. The Word of God stands on its
own divine origin. Human reasoning does not make it more true. Reasoning
is the human medium by which the Word of God becomes known to us. Revealed
truth is our ultimate authority.
Manís Need of Divine Authority
From Mt. Sinai God spoke to man in such majesty and
glory as the world had never before heard or seen. The children of Israel
heard His voice. God wrote with His own finger the Ten Commandments, all
ten of them. No other moral code received that honor or distinction. This
is the beginning point for Christian morality and obedience. Morality has
a firm foundation.
Why was this revelation necessary? Man is a sinner. His
moral sense is perverted. A gulf exists between man and God due to manís
fall into sin. Man, of himself, has no way back to God. He cannot find God
by his own devices. If God is to be known, it will be because God
condescends to come down from heaven to communicate to man.
The law of God at Sinai was not the creation of manís
own thinking. Israel did not invent their moral code in the wilderness. It
came down from heaven. Man is silent at Sinai. Only the voice of God is
heard. No prophet speaks here. No human genius is lecturing on ethics.
Israel established no school of philosophy from which they finally
developed their own ethical system. God led Israel away from the culture
and advanced civilization in Egypt in order that they should hear His
voice alone. For us also, everything depends on our believing that God
Himself spoke at Sinai, that these Ten Commandments are not the words of
The children of Israel did encamp around Mt. Sinai.
They did see Moses descend from the mountain with the two tables of stone
from God. These things did happen. These tables of stone rested in the ark
throughout their wilderness wanderings. The Ten Commandments came with the
authority of a "Thus saith the Lord." Through the following
centuries, whenever the children of Israel departed from the Lord, the
divine charge was that they had disobeyed the voice of the Lord heard at
Sinai. Any revival and restoration involved a return to obedience to the
law of God, the supreme authority in their lives.
At Sinai God provided man with a divine moral code for
life. Manís ethics are to be tested, not by manís ideas but by Godís
word. If we reject Godís word in favor of manís word, then we dethrone
God and enthrone man in Godís place. The divine credentials are Godís
writing the Ten Words with His finger and speaking them with His voice to
the mind of man. This establishes forever the authority of Godís law.
The Ten Commandments are excellent in their nature.
They set forth the moral righteousness that belongs to God. The law of God
does not admit of improvement. It constitutes the finest moral code ever
given to man. It was given with absolute clearness and intelligence so
that none need misunderstand. In this revelation are no ambiguities,
nothing to confuse the mind. At Sinai God does not address the people of
Israel in mythological terminology. The law is simple and straightforward.
It is foolish to believe that at some later time God submitted the
clarification and reinterpretation of His moral law to the fallible
judgment of men.
The absolute integrity of these moral principles has
its foundation in the moral nature of God. All these commandments are
evidence of His moral perfection. The clear, rational expression of His
law and His character speaks authoritatively to man. That revelation at
Sinai is an objective historical event. It did take place.
The order and method of Godís revelation at Sinai is
significant. The relation of the divine deliverance of the children of
Israel from bondage in Egypt to the giving of the Ten Commandments is a
fundamental one. Yet it is liable to be overlooked, or at least to be
And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord
thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the
house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Ex. 20:1-3).
Before God proclaims His law to Israel, He identifies
Himself. The Decalogue is not given in isolation from Christ the Redeemer.
The preface to the giving of the law makes this clear. Before God requires
anything from men, He provides everything for them. Grace comes before
law. The giving of the law must not be separated from the divine Deliverer
and Lawgiver. Israel must know from the beginning who their Lawgiver is.
His act of redemption is the prelude to the giving of the law. God makes
Himself known first. In light of what He has already done for them, he
asks for their loving response to Him. The belief that God at Sinai gave
them a dispensation of law to be replaced fifteen hundred years later at
the coming of Christ by a dispensation of grace is entirely un-Biblical.
The doctrine of dispensationalism is entirely man generated.
This wondrous manifestation of Godís grace to Israel
included the exercise of His miraculous power before Pharaoh and Israelís
walking on dry land in the midst of the sea while the Egyptian army
perished in the waters. Such a miraculous deliverance could never be
forgotten. Throughout their history this deliverance was celebrated in
song and story. It became the occasion for a celebration of joy at every
Passover. It reminded them of Jehovah as the God of love and grace.
This is the ground on which the law of Moses rests.
Jehovah has just bestowed upon the children of Israel the most remarkable
expression of His grace of which history has any record. They did not
merit this. They did not deserve it. They did not earn it. They had no
claim upon God whatsoever. His mighty deliverance was not a reward for
their previous obedience to the law, but the inspiration for future
obedience. He was their divine Redeemer and Protector, the
"Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, the
Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6). His encounter with them at Sinai was an
outpouring of His love and grace, with the intent of fulfilling His
covenant and promises that He had made to their fathers: Abraham, Isaac,
Israel owed everything to Jehovah. They stood around
the foot of Mt. Sinai as a people already endowed with the supreme
distinction of being children of the living God, separate from all other
peoples in the world. They now belonged to Him by virtue of His redeeming
them from slavery. Who could deny such a wonderful God the response of
faith and loving obedience to His will and law? What more could God have
done to secure their response of faith and love? There was not the
slightest ground for a legalistic response. Israel was not confronted with
a cold law that they could not obey, but with their Redeemer who was now
prepared to fight for them all the way into the Promised Land by His power
alone. Obedience to the law was in no sense the condition of eternal life.
It was to be from henceforth a grateful return for the gift of life, the
natural spontaneous response of love that the rescued sinner must feel
towards his Saviour. Thus the moral law of the Ten Commandments takes its
place in Godís plan of redemption, the place where it belongs for all
The commandment of God is not an inert law, which man
can impersonally fulfill or not, but something which calls for a total
and personal relationship, in the giving over of the heart, and therein
of the whole man, to obedience. . . . Obedience is always a response to
the divine demand, and excludes every merely legalistic understanding of
the law.óG. C. BERKOUWER, Man: The Image of God, pp.
These historical personal revelations from God are more
important than any human opinion and judgment. What is needed is more
concern lest the moral character of God be tarnished and the divine law of
the Ten Commandments be abrogated. When men deny and reject the
commandments given at Sinai, then it becomes possible not only to disobey
them, but to believe that they should be changed and adapted to every
generation and situation. If the Ten Commandments are merely ways in which
people found it convenient to act at different times, then they have very
little authority. They have no binding force in the life. One opinion is
as good as another. Man can therefore do as he likes. There is no ultimate
authority once revelation is denied.
The world stands in need of a great moral revival.
Unless men find in Christ the power to obey His law, there is no hope for
mankind. The true knowledge of moral distinction between right and wrong
and the immutable sense of moral obligation can be arrived at only by
accepting the revealed and immutable law of God.
We cannot get the right moral code from man the sinner.
How can the moral judgment of the sinner be capable of deciding what is
right and wrong, without bringing over into the process and the judgment
the sinfulness inherent in menís hearts and minds? Must not a mind that
is warped by sin and blinded by evil be rigidly excluded from deciding
what is the right moral code for men? Man cannot define and decide a true
morality from within the bounds of his own sinful ways, for this relaxes
our hold on Godís law by trying to measure and test it by its utility in
It is a dangerous error to believe that the dictates of
conscience and the pressure of human situations determine the standard of
obligation. For the mind of a sinful race partakes of that depravity under
which man is now held in bondage. The point at which morality can be
trusted cannot be ascertained.
Unless men see themselves in the light of Godís law
and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, it will benefit nothing to use
His name. Everything in the name of religion that claims to free manís
spirit and life, without a corresponding moral and spiritual
transformation by Jesus Christ, is pernicious and self-deceiving.
A man who has toned down sin either by changing or
rejecting the law of God will be in no hurry to appropriate the atonement
Christ provided for his sins. He will feel little need for the dying
"Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." And when
man stands before the judgment seat of God, if he has not experienced both
the grace and the power of God to save him from his sins, it will be too
late. There is no greater need than to make men conscious of their sins
before God and their need of Christ.
No generation of Christians who have inhabited the
earth ever carried such responsibility as the present one for the
restoration of the Decalogue as the word of God to man. In a sinful world
morality must have a firm foundation. Expediency can never yield moral
dependability. Given a defective moral code, the consequences will soon
appear in conduct. The Scripture speaks of the crumbling of the moral
structure of todayís civilization.
You must face the fact: the final age of this world
is to be a time of troubles. Men will love nothing but money and self;
they will be arrogant, boastful, and abusive; with no respect for
parents, no gratitude, no piety, no natural affection; they will be
implacable in their hatreds, scandal-mongers, intemperate and fierce,
strangers to all goodness, traitors, adventurers, swollen with
self-importance. They will be men who put pleasure in the place of God,
men who preserve the outward form of religion, but are a standing denial
of its reality (2 Tim. 3:1-5, N.E.B.).
The remnant church of God has something very specific
to say to the world. The day will soon come when the eternal law of God
will be very precious indeed. Men may seem not to care to obey the law of
God. But the time is just upon us when they will find out that they have
been sinning against God, that it is too late to repent and to get
forgiveness. Then the law of God will stand out clearly in the heavens for
all men to see. Men whose easy belief has led them into disobedience and
the breakdown of moral integrity will find themselves under the judgment
of Christ. Again it is good to remember the words of Christ:
"Not everyone who calls me ĎLord, Lordí will
enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of my
heavenly Father. When that day comes, many will say to me, ĎLord,
Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out devils in your name,
and in your name perform many miracles?í Then I will tell them to
their face, ĎI never knew you; out of my sight, you and your wicked
"What then of the man who hears these words of
mine and acts upon them? He is like a man who had the sense to build his
house on rock. The rain came down, the floods rose, the wind blew, and
beat upon that house; but it did not fall, because its foundations were
on rock. But what of the man who hears these words of mine and doÁs not
act upon them? He is like a man who was foolish enough to build his
house on sand. The rain came down, the floods rose, the wind blew, and
beat upon that house; down it fell with a great crash" (Matt.
Manís Enmity Against the Law of God
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it
is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be (Rom. 8:7).
Probably the most damning indictment of man is his
natural enmity against the law of God, against the righteousness which the
law requires. Man by nature is contrary to the law of God. Consequently,
he does his utmost to get rid of it. He rebels against God in this way.
The reason man does not obey Godís law is because he
is not disposed to do so. The child does not obey his parents unless he
has the disposition to do so. Man does not love God and obey His
commandments unless he has the disposition to do so. His faculties and his
nature are so paralyzed by sin that they have lost their natural ability
to obey Godís commandments or accept their authority.
One must love God to keep His commandments. But enmity
and love cannot coexist in the mind. So long as enmity to God reigns in
the heart, love to God cannot. We cannot love God and hate Him at the same
time. We cannot possess a rebellious, disobedient spirit and an obedient
one at the same time. The unregenerate man is so averse to the law of God,
that, left to himself, he will not obey it. Throughout the universe and in
heaven man is not known for any brilliance, physical strength, or beauty.
He is known as a rebel against God.
There is no way to change the depraved nature without
the agency of the Holy Spirit. "No man can come to me unless he is
drawn by the Father who sent me" (John 6:44, N.E.B.). Furthermore,
unregenerate men feel that any demand for a strict obedience to the
Decalogue is a denial of personal freedom. Men believe that insistence
upon that kind of obedience infringes on their liberty. The unregenerate
man tends to feel that Godís law fetters him, denying him the free scope
for his natural powers, capacities, and inclinations. He rebels against
the law of God in the name of freedom.
There was a time when, in the absence of law, I was
fully alive; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I
died. The commandment which should have led to life proved in my
experience to lead to death, because sin found its opportunity in the
commandment, seduced me, and through the commandment killed me (Rom.
But the false cry for freedom from obedience to the
commandments does not make bondage to sin-any less real. Manís sin
problem is not resolved by changing or abrogating the law, but by having
the Holy Spirit write Godís law in manís entire being. Then enmity is
changed to love. The heart is changed, not the law. There is no lessening
of manís responsibility to obey the law. Rather it is more clearly
defined and accepted. Christ so reigns in the Christianís life that he
has no further conflict with the law of God.
0 how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day
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. More to be desired are they than gold,
yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is
great reward (Ps. 19:7-11).
Obedience keeps our peace with God. The more our lives
witness to the obedience of faith that works by love, the more
encouragement and assurance we will have. The more we disobey God, the
more condemnation will mar our lives.
Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing
shall offend them (Ps. 119:165).
Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we
confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because
we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his
sight (1 John 3:2 1, 22).
The Unchangeable Law of God
As one studies the history of man, one could easily
conclude that Satan has conspired with sinful man against the law of God.
Consequently, the moral standard and the claims of Godís law have been
greatly obscured. Daniel wrote of the time and the religious power that
would seek to pervert the law, and by so doing oppose God Himself.
And he shall speak great words against the most High,
and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change
times and laws (Dan. 7:25).
One of the marked features of the world today is the
departure from the law of God. Men construe transgression in softer terms
than the Word of God does. Manís attitude amounts to a laxness and a
leniency with the claims of the law in favor of a very tolerant God of
love. Even with many churches the plea is for an openness of mind when
considering any kind of moral absolute. There is an absence of positive
convictions on moral issues. All of this leads people to no longer accept
the law of God as binding. Men advance their own laws and standards in
place of Godís law.
It is also believed and proclaimed by many that one
commandment is different from all the rest: that the command to keep the
seventh day as Sabbath can be amended to keep Sunday, the first day of the
week. If that could be done, the Ten Commandments are no longer Godís
unchanging will and moral standard for man. The question involved here is
whether the man who keeps Sunday holy has done what God commanded him to
do. If freedom in Christ means that in order to accommodate himself to his
situation and relieve his discomfort, man can modify, amend, add to, or
change Godís law, how shall we interpret Christís own statement:
"I tell you this: so long as heaven and earth endure, not a letter,
not a stroke, will disappear from the Law until all that must happen has
happened" (Matt. 5:18, N.E.B.)?
If the exact requirement of the fourth commandment or
any of the other commandments can be changed by man, has he not usurped
the place of God? Has he not denied the eternal nature of the law of God
proclaimed by Christ? Has not man now become the lord of the Sabbath in
the place of Christ? Jesus said, "Therefore the Son of man is Lord
also of the sabbath" (Mark 2:28). How do you change any one of the
Ten Commandments without breaking it and negating the whole law? (See
Adam and Eve tried this and brought sin and death to
the entire human race. King Saul tried it. When God sent him to destroy
Amalek, the deadly enemy of Israel, the command was straightforward and
Go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that
they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and
suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass (1 Sam. 15:2, 3).
What did Saul do?
And Saul smote the Amalekites. . . . But Saul . .
spared Agag [the king of the Amalekites], and the best of the sheep, and
of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good,
and would not utterly destroy them. . . . Then came the word of the Lord
unto Samuel, saying, It repenteth me that I set up Saul to be king: for
he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my
commandments (1 Sam. 15:7-11).
Did Saul keep part of Godís specific command, or did
he simply break all of it? Men have always been wrong in supposing that
the law of God could be changed or modified in any particular. Only when
man accepts the commandments of God as Christ did, inviolate in all parts,
does he look at his violations as sin against God. Everywhere in
Scripture, God has submitted His law to man only for complete obedience
and never for disobedience, even in any of the so-called minutial aspects.
Many religionists, churches, and denominations will not
agree with this. The scriptural demand that man keep Godís law in all
its parts is unacceptable to men who insist on accommodating the
commandment to fit themselves. Because the law of God points out sin and
considers every infraction as transgression, men who wish to go their own
way find the law intolerable.
The only choice left is to reject obedience to the
commandments or set up a system or an interpretation accommodated to their
own sinfulness. When this happens there results a serious loss of respect
for Godís commandments. Once this attitude becomes prevalent, then the
moral deterioration of both men and nations follows. This is what we see
in our society and in our world today. No moral stability remains. How
small a portion of those who profess to be Christians are unflinching
advocates of Godís truth, upholders of the law, sustainers of the Bible
as the Word of God? How few are engaged in manning the moral dikes and
holding back the flood of transgression that is sweeping over the world!
Sinful man easily assumes that it is enough to believe
the gospel, but be exempt from the claims of Godís law. This is a
dangerous error. For the warped judgment of the sinner partakes of that
transgression that he dismisses as unimportant. The requirements of
obedience must be perpetual regardless of our inability to do what the law
requires. We can never escape the demands of the law of God.
Dare we harbor the thought for one moment that God will
allow us to transgress any of His commandments? Can we really believe in a
God who allows moral evil in any form to continue? If we are truly honest
with ourselves and accept the whole truth of the Bible, we will believe
that in committing our lives to Christ we ought also to obey Him and keep
His commandments. This is what the gospel had in mind in saving us from
sin. Everywhere the gospel honors the law.
The cry of "legalism" every time a Christian
seeks to adhere strictly to keeping the whole law does not hold weight
anymore. Manís problem today is not to be found in his trying hard to
obey the law, but in his desire and determination to be free from the law.
There have always been those who have hoped to become righteous by their
own good works and welldoing, hoping thereby to win favor with God. They
have difficulty in accepting salvation by faith alone.
The scribes and Pharisees in Christís day perverted
the proper function of the law and the doctrine of salvation by grace.
They taught that the keeping of the commandments was the prerequisite for
becoming a child of God and not the result of it. In their religion they
drew their motivation from the law and not from Godís gift of salvation
freely offered solely on the basis of faith. Thus they became their own
ideal by their own efforts, with a false security based on
self-righteousness. Christ repudiated the legalism of the Jews; so did
Paul and the other New Testament writers. Certainly there is opposition to
the wrong use of the law in the Bible.
It is more than unfortunate that many theologians,
Bible interpreters, church leaders, and the Christian church throughout
much of its history have interpreted the New Testament opposition to the
wrong function of law as opposition to the law itself and to the moral
contents of the law. The tragic consequence is that many professed
Christians have been led to believe that strict obedience to all of the
commandments is no longer obligatory. But the moral content of the law is
eternal. The moral and spiritual character of the Ten Commandments is
inviolate. The values of perfect goodness, perfect purity, perfect
honesty, perfect love, and perfect worship of the one true God that the
law requires are universal, embracing every one of Godís creatures
throughout the universe, including the angels.
Christ is not the end of the law; . . . He is the one
person who meant to fulfill and did fulfill the law. Christ, far from
ending the law, put it on its proper footing (Rom. 3:31). And the Spiritís
function within us is to enable us to fulfill the genuine demands of the
law (Rom. 8:4). What the law is, what the law reveals, what the law
demands is not only unassailable from the vantage point of Christ; man
must bow before it in total commitment as the revelation of God Himself.
The content of the law gets unconditional assent. But
the function of the law is another matter. Here things become more
complex. There is an important distinction within the function of the
law. We can talk about its legitimate and intended function on the one
hand and its illegitimate and distorted function on the other. We can
talk about the function that God meant it to have and the function that
people . . . invested it with.óLEWIS B. SMEDES, All
Things Made New, pp. 96, 97.
The purpose of the law is to show us our sins. The
purpose of the gospel is to take away our sins. We are not to apply the
law where the gospel is to be applied. The law of God does not fail. Nor
does it lay aside the claims for obedience. Granted that the moral law can
be obeyed only by the man in Christ. The law of God is spiritual. It is
addressed to spiritual persons. The Christian should have no difficulty in
rendering honor to the law by his obedience to it. There is no conflict
between the law and the gospel, only between legalism and the gospel.
Strict adherence to the law of God is not legalism. The
fact that a man insists on obeying all of the Ten Commandments does not
make him a legalist. Only when a man obeys the law in order to gain
acceptance and a standing with God is he a legalist. Only when he attaches
merit to his obedience to gain favor with God is he a legalist. Jesus
Christ is antilegalistic. But He is not antinomlan.
Compulsive obedience is unacceptable to God. Right
doing apart from the right motive is not saving righteousness. The
righteousness of the Jews consisted in an externalization of the law. For
them external conformity was the fulfillment of the law. Christ rejected
For I say unto you, That except your righteousness
shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in
no case enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:20).
Jesus was just as particular about the "jots and
the tittles" of the law as they were. But He went beyond them in
possessing a heart and mind in perfect harmony with the law. In His life
Christ showed what true obedience really involved. The law of God was
eternally vindicated in Jesus.
"If any man therefore sets aside even the least
of the Lawís demands, and teaches others to do the same, he will have
the lowest place in the kingdom of Heaven, whereas anyone who keeps the
Law, and teaches others so, will stand high in the kingdom of
Heaven" (Matt. 5:19, N.E.B.).
According to this, every manís place in the kingdom
was to be determined on how he obeyed the law and how he taught it. There
was to be no tampering with it. Christ came not to release his followers
from their obligation to obey the law, but to give them supernatural power
to obey it by means of His own indwelling presence and that of the Holy
Spirit. Transgression of Godís law is nowhere approved in the Bible. It
is excluded under the gospel. The requirements are eternal. We must not
allow ourselves to differ with Christ by seeking to change or disobey any
part of His law. To do so is to move away from Christ.
The law and the gospel are complementary. Any teaching
that weakens the authority of Godís law obscures the sinfulness of man
and diminishes the need for the saving work of Christ. "The strength
of sin is the law" (1 Cor. 15:56). "By the law is the knowledge
of sin" (Rom. 3:20). "Sin by the commandment might become
exceeding sinful." "Wherefore the law is holy, and the
commandment holy, and just, and good" (chap. 7:13, 12).
The law cannot restore a man to righteousness and
obedience, but the gospel and the Holy Spirit can. The gospel is good news
because it provides the Christian power to be saved from sin and do what
hitherto he could not perform: obey Godís commandments. The gospel
manifests its full power and glory when the claims of the law are
faithfully sustained. The binding force of the law, so far from being
weakened by the redeeming work of Christ is, by virtue of that work,
affirmed for all men. Just what would the gospel do for the human race if
it left men in their sins and their transgressions of the law? "By
the obedience of one shall many be made righteous" (chap. 5:19).
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may
abound? God forbid" (chap. 6:1, 2).
We are saved by grace through faith. This is the root
of all obedience. Obedience is nothing without faith. But neither is faith
anything without obedience. Faith that does not work by love to recover
man to harmony with God is no faith. Salvation by grace is never the
minister of transgression.
But if the law of God can be changed or abrogated as
some would like to believe, then no longer is sin that serious. And if the
law could be changed, then it was not necessary for Christ to die for sin.
The law and the gospel stand or fall together. The unchanging obligation
of the law of God is essential if the nature of sin is to be understood.
Christ died for our sins because there was no way to lessen the penalty
for sin by lessening manís transgression of the law without at the same
time diminishing the urgency of the gospel.
To change the law of God cannot help man, for to
abrogate it is simply to approve sin.
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet
offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not
commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery,
yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak
ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty (James
The Christian must make up his mind how he wants to
live: either in harmony with and obedience to Godís will or in
disagreement with God.
Do we then make void the law through faith? God
forbid: yea, we establish the law (Rom. 3:31).
It is no small thing that in being saved by Christ
alone, men find that salvation is from sin unto the fulfillment of the
righteousness of the law, from disobedience unto obedience. Men are not
saved by great sacrifices or on account of obedience. At the same time a
living faith is not a lapse into a life of sin. It leads to no moral
retardation. Assurance of Godís forgiveness can never be without
corresponding moral change. The children of God must sow to themselves in
righteousness, not in unrighteousness.
God is not only our heavenly Father, but our Lawgiver.
He is so because He is also our Creator, as He is of all things in the
world and in the universe. This is apparent from the orderliness of the
universe and the absolute authority and consistency of natural law
throughout the physical realm. God never varies these natural laws. If God
were unreliable, changeable, inconsistent in upholding and directing these
laws, utter chaos would prevail. Science confirms the absolute
dependability of the laws by which God runs our world and our universe.
"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his
handywork" (Ps. 19:1). We thank God then for His consistency and His
dependability. We rejoice in it. We would not have it any other way.
Since God rules our physical world by law, is it not
equally important that God should insist upon the rule of the moral law
within the realm of rationally free beings? God created us to live in
harmony with Himself and with all other beings in the universe. Man was
made in the image of God, endowed with that very same nature from God. God
would not be God if, at Creation, He had not given man a moral standard
akin to His own character, intelligently understood and morally and
spiritually approved and obeyed by all His creatures. There is every
reason to rejoice that our heavenly Father requires His children to live
by the life that is in Himself, by the moral code that He Himself is.
Jesus Christ on earth lived His life in absolute obedience to the will of
His Father, the very life that God intended us to live.
Let men travel to the uttermost parts of the universe,
to the planets and to the stars if possible. They will be confronted
everywhere with the unalterable declaration of Godís laws concerning
what is good and what is evil. Godís law both in nature and in all
created beings will encompass them like the very atmosphere itself.
Before long the heavens surrounding our world, and the
earth itself, will pass away with a great noise at the coming of Christ.
All that is sinful and involved in the transgression of Godís law will
be forever eradicated. But never will the moral law inherent in the very
nature of God be changed. Today the remnant church calls upon men and
women everywhere to honor both the law and the everlasting gospel.
Fidelity to the moral law and to the will of God is the lodestar amid the
moral degeneracy of our time.
The Obedience of Love
At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and
ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he
it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father,
and I will love him and will manifest myself to him (John 14:20, 21).
As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you:
continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my
love; even as I have kept my Fatherís commandments, and abide in his
love (chap. 15:9, 10).
In this passage Christ promises His disciples the Holy
Spirit with its love dynamic. "The fruit of the Spirit is love"
(Gal. 5:22). This love for Christ is no sentimental emotion in the heart.
It is expressed by obedience to His commandments, by a type of morality
that truly knows how to obey with a "faith which worketh by
love" (verse 6). The obedience of love is the mark of our total
allegiance to Christ. "If ye love me, keep my commandments"
(John 14:15). Love to Christ is expressed in moral terms. Obedience is the
test of discipleship. "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I
command you" (chap. 15:14).
There was never a day when men talked so much about
love, and yet the word means so little or is so shallowly understood. One
of the great deceptions in modern reli~gion is the unwillingness of men to
understand and accept the love of God upon the terms laid down by Jesus
Christ. The tragedy of our day is the degrading of life and love because
people will not relate love to the law of God. Certainly the world needs
the love of God, but it must be a love that we can trust: intelligent,
clean, honest, based on eternal values, and proceeding from the Spirit of
From the above scriptures we learn that Christian love
moves within the circle of the will and the law of God, never outside of
it. Christian freedom is freedom to obey the commandments, not freedom to
disobey. The type of freedom that wants only the feeling of love and the
right to express it any way men please, without restraint and
self-control, is a conterfeit. [sic]We need the law of God to sit in
judgment on that which is not Christian in our lives, to judge our sins
for what they are. We do not want to be deceived. We want a righteous God
we can trust, not a doting "man upstairs" who will let us do
anything we have a mind to do.
We have developed in our time a type of Christianity
that acknowledges no obligation to the commandments. There is a moral
permissiveness that is being sanctioned by modern Christianity. All over
the world the law of God is being silenced. People are being fed a type of
religion or gospel that has little or no appeal to genuine Christian
obedience. Today we have a conscienceless religion with no moral dynamic.
We have belief that does not influence behavior. We have love without
responsibility. We have an easy calling upon Jesus Christ without real
commitment, a climate of compromise with sin and moral standards. Much of
religion is in name only.
It is of primary importance that we hold true to both
the law and the gospel and steadily remember the fact of Godís absolute
and eternal antagonism to sin and the transgression of His law. "The
fear of the Lord is to hate evil" (Prov. 8:13). Transgression of Godís
law never aids in the fulfillment of man. It invariably destroys man.
But the law of God lacks the power to motivate man to
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak
through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful
flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness
of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but
after the Spirit (Rom. 8:3, 4).
Man cannot obey the law in his own strength. The law is
manís master. As Paul states it, the unconverted sinner is "under
law," or under its dominion. He is bound by the law. The pressure of
the law does not change a man.
We know that the law is spiritual: but I am not: I am
unspiritual, the purchased slave of sin. I do not even acknowledge my
own actions as mine, for what I do is not what I want to do, but what I
detest. But if what I do is against my will, it means that I agree with
the law and hold it to be admirable. . . . For I know that nothing good
lodges in meóin my unspiritual nature (Rom. 7:14-18, N.E.B.).
At once it becomes apparent that man can never meet Godís
requirements in his own strength. The law can point men to Godís moral
ideal, but it does not show the way to reach it.
The law of God claims perfect obedience and fulfillment
from the heart. It not only exercises dominion over outward actions, but
over the very intents and desires of the heart. The law of God condemns
the whole circle of wrong actions and wrong motives. Not only killing is
forbidden, but also hate; not only the act of adultery, but lust. Not only
external acts of disobedience are forbidden, but every wrong motive and
intent. Far from giving His followers a new or a changed law, Christ
insisted upon an inner, as well as an outer, obedience to the Ten
Commandments. (See Matt. 5:2 1, 22, 27, 28.)
The law of God can pressure man to conform externally,
but it cannot produce true obedience. Within the family, it can require
external obedience, but it cannot make children love their parents. It can
make a man conform socially so as to refrain from stealing, but it cannot
make him honest in heart. It can prevent a man from killing another, but
not from hating him. It can require a man to have only one wife, but it
cannot make the husband loving. It can require a man to obey the law of
the state, but it cannot make him do that with gladness and enjoyment.
In short, the law cannot change a manís heart so that
his overt acts now flow from the highest and best motives. The law cannot
produce in man what can come about only when a manís heart is in harmony
with God. That is why we cannot solve the sin problem by changing or doing
away with the law. Motivation lies beyond the power of the law. The law
cannot produce love. But Christ can. "Love is the fulfilling of the
law" (Rom. 13:10).
That is what the gospel offers: a change of heart and
mind that makes the whole of manís conduct an expression of what a man
really is. The Christian in whom the Spirit dwells has a mind renewed in
the love of God and the love of righteousness. We now have the exalted
privilege to live as sons of God. Our heart and life belong to God. All
the benefits of salvation in Christ constitute the most powerful motive to
keep Godís commandments.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the
house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws
into their minds, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them
a God, and they shall be to me a people (Heb. 8:10).
We must follow what is truly in our hearts. When the
Spirit writes the law in our hearts, the heart will desire and delight in
that law. This means that man s inmost life is changed and expressed in
terms of harmony with and obedience to the law. When Paul writes that God
sent His Son into the world to condemn sin and cause us to walk after the
Spirit (see Rom. 8:3), he means that the power of the Spirit has now
entered into our lives in order that we may be able to live out the
righteousness that the law requires. In our lives the Holy Spirit unites
both the law and the gospel.
Love is not motivated or bound by law. Love never puts
limits on our obedience and commitment with the idea that we have done
enough. Love is the enjoyment of God and man. Love born of the Holy Spirit
is the supreme spiritual quality and experience that we can know. It
defines the nature and quality of our response and our involvement with
God and man. We now "delight in the law of God after the inward
man" (Rom. 7:22). We rejoice that the righteousness of the law is
part of our very lives. Everything about the law of God is now attractive.
We walk in newness of life. We have a new spiritual dynamic, the
constraint of love.
No greater stress is laid in Scripture than on the
attributes of love and righteousness. To say that God is love is no
contradiction of His divine revelation in the Ten Commandments. Both at
Sinai and on the cross God moves toward us in perfect love and perfect
righteousness. Here we see clearly the kind of love that God has for us,
the kind of love and righteousness of the earth made new. God grant us
understanding and confidence in the historical facts of these divine
revelations. What human brain could have invented either the Decalogue or
the divine atonement for sin at the cross? Manís trust in and obedience
to Godís revelation of law and gospel has kept the human race alive even
until now, and ennobled and sanctified His followers in every age.
We need to commit ourselves to that love from God and
from His Son Jesus Christ that issues in our deliverance from all that is
sinful. Let us give full scope to His incomparable love and law in our
lives. The power of the Holy Spirit within us is sufficient to make us
like Him, to keep His commandments, and to know Him whom to know is life