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Friday, April 14, 2006

The Law - The Divine Standard

Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
Romans 7:12

It is here where the crux of the controversy rages. What ever our position the law towers over us. It is impossible to once and for all separate us from it. This is in part because it has been written on our hearts.

Romans 2:14,15 - For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

Adam, having eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil sentenced us all to have that knowledge stamped on our hearts. We were deprived, because of his disobedience, to live our lives in simple, child-like innocence. The world forever changed on that fateful day and it was most certainly for the worse. Law, the knowledge of right and wrong, was with us all now. It would be some years before God would have his standard of righteousness recorded and formally erected as the rule by which all men were responsible to live but its presence was felt in our lives.

Even Cain realized he had done a bad thing by killing his brother Able. We know this because he rose up against him while he and his bother were alone in the field. He did not do it in the sight of family. We know this because when God questioned him concerning the whereabouts of his brother he curtly replied, “Am I my brother’s keeper.” Even though God had yet to declare, “Thou shalt not kill” Cain knew it was wrong. It was sinful. His own heart condemned him. His own conscience accused him.

The Bible is clear that even before the law, from Adam to Moses sin was in the world.

Romans 5:12-14 - Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

The result of sin is death. Sin was in the world even before the law was given. Sin is not reckoned to one’s account when there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses. How could this be if the law had not yet been given? Why were those generations of men subject to the penalty of sin? Because they had the law written in their hearts, so that although it had not been formally declared it had been practically experienced. This is why death reigned from Adam to Moses. Men knew what was right and choose to do wrong. They sinned but not after the similitude of Adam’s transgression. Adam sinned against a clear precept all others until Moses sinned against the law that was written on their hearts.

The law is an ever-present reality. Try as we may to remove it from all prominent positions in society it remains in our hearts. From that sacred chamber no judge or court can remove it. The very fact that the Ten Commandments continue to receive the attention they do is an amazing testimony to their continued relevance and their unsettling proclamations.

One’s view of the law and how it is to be related to is fundamental in one’s outlook on life. The truths that we emphasis will have a direct bearing on the spiritual nature of our lives, behavior, and decisions. There are many that want to contend that we are free from the law. By this it seems that they mean the law no longer provides direction for us concerning what is holy and what is unholy. With this premise I disagree. There are others who believe (no Baptist that I know of) that the law, in some respect or of some kind, must be kept either to achieve salvation or to sustain salvation. With this premise I disagree. I would contend and this is the foundation of my arguments to be presented in this book, that we are not saved or kept by keeping the law (that is legalism). In fact salvation frees us from the law for the purposes of justification. While I no longer look to the law for justification it remains valid as an accurate representation of God’s view on a host of moral issues. It is strange that when it comes to the Ten Commandment there seems to be wide agreement on this point but once we move beyond Exodus twenty every moral precept is then called into question. To reference any scripture from Exodus, Deuteronomy, or Leviticus is legalistic and an attempt to try and put people back under the law. It is my position that God has not changed his mind on any of the moral principles set forth in the law. They are as valid today as when they were written. The simple fact is that while the Ten Commandments present a condensed version of the moral expectations of God there are other places where the ten are embellished and should serve us well in seeking to determine the mind of God on a host of issues.

Psalms 19:7 - The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul;

The law is designed to convert the soul, in the sense of identifying unrighteousness and turning men back from it. It is a perfect law. The law is not blemished. The moral precepts of God are perfect. The law is not to be manipulated to suit our fancy but it is to be acknowledged, as an expression of the divine will. If we are not careful we can fall headlong into a "clintonian" mindset, “it depends on what “is” is.
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