by J. C. Choate
Law is defined: “A rule of conduct or action established by custom or laid down and enforced by a governing authority; the whole body of such rules; the control brought about by enforcing rules.” In the Bible “the law” is often used to speak of the law of Moses. (John 1:17). The New Testament is said to be the perfect law of liberty. (James 1:25). But regardless of what law is under consideration, law itself originated with God and all subsequent laws, even the secular laws of various villages, cities, and countries around the world, are generally based on God’s law.
From the beginning it was necessary for God to give man some rules by which he should be governed. On breaking his law, God imposed additional rules and regulations as well as to stipulate the consequences for failing to abide by them. With the passing of time and with the growth of the human race, God’s laws for man increased in number. These laws were for man’s own good, dealing both with his moral relationships with his fellow-man and his spiritual relationship with God.
In the Old Testament there are two major laws revealed. The first one was known as the Patriarchal Law. A patriarch was the father or head of a family or household and in this particular arrangement God spoke to the patriarchs and in turn they spoke to their family members concerning God’s will for them. Some of the well known patriarchs were Adam, Noah, Abraham, isaac and Jacob. This law had its beginning with Adam and continued up to the time the law was given to Moses and therefore lasted approximately twenty five hundred years. The Hebrew writer refers to it when he says, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets… “(Hebrews 1:1).
Continuing, the second law spoken of in the Old Testament is the Law of Moses or the Mosaical Law. This law was the result of God speaking to Moses, as recorded in Exodus 20, giving him the ten commandments as well as many other laws pertaining to his moral, physical and spiritual welfare. It was a written law, at first being written on tablets of stone, and then penned in book form, as well as being written upon the hearts of the people. It was directed only to the household of Israel or to the Jews, God’s chosen people. It was a law of works with physical penalties being leveled on the disobedient. Given originally to Moses, it extended over to the death of Christ, which means that it lasted for a period of fifteen hundred years. John said of it: “For the law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17). Christ said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one title shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17, 18). And so it was fulfilled, as Christ said, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.” (Luke 24:44). You might also want to read 2 Corinthians 3; Colossians 2:14; Galatians 5:4, and so on.
In the New Testament we read of yet another law, which makes the third and final law found in God’s book, the Bible. This law is the law of Christ. It was given by God through Christ and the Apostles and others as they were miraculously directed to write it down and it has come down to us in written form. This law came into force with the death of Christ and will remain binding until he comes again. It was given to all people everywhere when Christ said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15). Going back to some of the verses that we have already referred to, the Hebrew writer, after talking about how God had spoken in the beginning to the fathers by the prophets, goes on to say, “Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” (Hebrews 1:2). God said at the transfiguration of Christ, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” (Matthew 17:5). In John 1:17 the writer declares that the law was given by Moses but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. In James 1:25 he says that this is the perfect law of liberty.
This is to say therefore that we of today are not living under the patriarchal law because that law was given to those who lived during the first twenty five hundred years of man’s existence. Since we were not there, therefore, it was not given to us and neither has it been brought over to our time. Neither are we living under the law of Moses and therefore the law of Moses is not binding on us. It was binding on those who lived from the time of Moses up to the death of Christ, but since we were not there at that time then that did not include us. And since we cannot go back to that period, and neither are we permitted to bring that law over to this age, then that law is not binding on us and neither can we keep it. That leaves us with only one law left and that is the law of Christ as set forth in the New Testament. Now that law came into force at the death of Christ and will remain binding until Christ comes again. That means therefore that since we are living in between those two great events that that law is binding on you and me and on every human being living today. To be aware of what is expected of us then we need to study this law and then put forth every effort to abide by it. This is a law that is primarily spiritual but it also serves as a moral and physical law in the sense that when we obey God’s spiritual law we will likewise live pure lives morally and physically and in doing this it also effects our relations both to God and our fellowman.
All of God’s laws have been binding at the time that they were given and for the period that they covered. They were laws given to protect man, to benefit him, and to save him. Those who have kept his laws have been blessed but those who have broken God’s status have been made to pay the penalty. How much better off man would be if he would learn the importance of staying within the framework (;f God’s law rather than to transgress and go beyond. Furthermore, how sad it is that men in general have made it a practice to try to improve on God’s laws but in so doing they have rejected God himself. Actually, God’s laws are not to be tampered with. There are many warnings along this line. For instance, read Revelation 22:18, 19 where the Lord warns that we should not add to his word or subtract from it.
But there is one other set of laws we want to notice. These are generally thought to be the laws of men, like city laws made by a country to govern its people, but actually these laws have been lifted from God’s laws. For example, in all of God’s laws he has said that man should not kill, steal, bear false witness, commit adultery, etc. What kind of laws does man have? The same. Why? Because they are basic laws that must be enforced if man is to survive. Even in those countries where some other religion dominates and controls the people, still it is God’s law that governs them- This may be denied, but it is true nevertheless. God first gave law and having made man he knew from the beginning the kind of laws that man needed and these laws, secularly, have been handed down from generation to generation, from country to country. Therefore, these are God’s law and God consequently rules these countries and the world itself through his laws.
How is man to look upon the law of the land? As he is expected to respect and obey God’s spiritual laws, the same likewise holds true with the laws of man, that is, if they are his laws, and laws that are in keeping with his will. For instance, Paul writes, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisted the power, resist eth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same. For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.” (Romans 13:1-7). Peter writes, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” (1 Peter 2:13-17). Paul said, “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work.” (Titus 3:1).
What about the law here in Singapore? Basically the laws of this country are of God. How should the Christian therefore react to them? He should obey the laws of his country. He should be a good law abiding citizen. He should be an example for all others. He should not break the law. He should stop at the red lights on the streets even when others go on. He should pay his taxes. And on and on with all other laws that are in harmony with God’s will. Law is necessary and it is also necessary that the law be enforced. Christians should never give any trouble, should never have to be fined, or have to go to jail.
The law of the country is for our good and for the good of others. What would happen if there were no laws? We would all be frightened and our very lives would be in danger. So we should thank God for the laws, for those who strive to enforce them, and we should help them in every way possible and pray for them. But above all, God’s divine law is for our good and the good of the world. The Lord asks us to repent or to turn away from all bad and evil things and to obey him. Then as Christians we are to live pure, holy, and godly lives. All good citizens of this country have not obeyed God, but you can be sure that all who have obeyed God are good citizens.
What is your attitude toward the laws of God and the laws of the land? Are you keeping these laws? Are you a good citizen of both the Lord’s kingdom and that of your country? They go together.