God’s Law Is Profitable*
You were born into an age in which the society and the Church of God have become thoroughly antinomian, which is to say that it has rejected God’s law. While it’s obvious that the world boldly rejects God’s law, preferring instead the ever-changing standard of man’s law, of particular interest to us is the fact that the majority of Christians have become uncomfortable, or perhaps embarrassed even, concerning God’s law. And, while it shouldn’t surprise us that those who don’t recognize Jehovah’s sovereignty in this world would reject His laws, that Christianity would reject it also is of great concern.
Using myself as an example, the vast majority of my Christian life was one confused on this matter in particular. I lived in a world and among a Church in which God’s law had been repealed, and yet I was still not free to sin. As I saw it, I was supposed to live righteously, but there was no law to guide me. I spent considerable time and energy in my attempts to understand this dichotomy between living rightly when nothing was wrong. This quest led me to understand that man in his heart hates God’s law. We can detect a resistance to law in our expressions. There is an almost knee jerk repulsion against “bringing back the law”, when there is an appeal to the fact that a thing is against God’s law. There are accusations of “attempting to put people under the law again” that are quite common when issues of morality are discussed. But at the same time these same Christians rightly have no problem calling idolatry, adultery, murder, all of which are based on law, sin. The vast majority of your true brothers and sisters in Christ will at some level be confused on this matter. I hope, however, to bring a little clarity for you in this letter. So let us look at the three purposes of God’s law.
Let me start by assuring you that God’s law is profitable. It does every human being, redeemed and unredeemed alike, good. A society that sets its morals on God’s law will be more safe and prosperous. Therefore, in order to love your neighbor as yourself you will want to, as much as it is up to you, encourage the enactment the laws of your land that are based on God’s laws. Will it doing that bring about a Utopian paradise? Of course not. Man is fallen. There are no Utopias, and anyone who thinks there can be ought to be judged as foolish.
God’s law is profitable in 3 ways:
God’s law Tutors, Reveals, Mirrors
The New American Standard Version uses the word “tutor” to describe God’s law. The King James Version uses “schoolmaster”.
Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. (Gal 3:24-25)
If God never commanded that I not covet my neighbor’s things then I would not know that is was sinful to do such things, even though it would still be sinful. But God did command, and His law ever points at my fallen nature by revealing to me God’s righteous standards and my failure to live accordingly. But this is where the power of the Gospel is revealed. The law teaches that man is fallen and rightly deserves God’s wrath. But rather than pour that wrath out on us, God instead sent His Son to die on the cross in place of those who put their faith in Him. The more we grasp God’s law, and our inability to live according to it, the more we grasp the glory of the cross. How can anyone meditate on such things and not be moved into praise, thanksgiving, and the worship of our glorious God? Meditate on such things. You must seek to grasp this lest the redemption that occurred on that cross become dull and small. It was by no means anything but glorious.
God’s law restrains evil
The word “civil” is based on law. Civil societies have laws and civil people obey those laws and their is a process in dealing with those who do not. Civilizations punish law breakers. This is justice, but it’s also a deterrent to others whose passions might rise up against their neighbors. When a civilization stops punishing lawbreakers, it begins a slide toward incivility. (For more on this be sure to read Romans chapter 13.) You will live your life in such an age that is well into this slide, I am sorry to say. Idolatry is embraced. Babies in the womb are murdered with the law’s permission, and increasingly so, so are the aged and sick. Marriage is no longer sacred. Private property is legally stolen through excessive taxation. Lying is acceptable to justify Godless ends. Covetousness is embraced, preached and glorified.
There is a well-known proverb, “Without vision the people perish“. It is stated in other versions as “without vision the people cast off restraint.” The understanding of the word “vision” in this proverb has morphed. But if we read it as simply “vision”, the ability to see, and consider the context, its true meaning will emerge. That context is in the next line. It continues with “But happy is he who keeps the law“. If we can’t see God’s law our society will cast off restraint and end up perishing. But if we see God’s law, and restrain evil, both in ourselves voluntarily, and in others by way of the civil magistrate, we will be happier. Evil and lawless societies are not pleasant societies. But wicked men not only cannot understand that God’s law provides the best society, he will not. And when he rejects God’s law, or, as scripture says, “casts off restraint”, obvious problems will emerge. The answer to these problems will always be to enact more godless laws to patch them up, which makes everyone even more unhappy and desirous of even more Godless laws. Scripture warns us about this. It tells us that God turns such over to their own foolishness:
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, spiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Rom 1:28-32)
God’s law shows us how we may please our heavenly Father
Man often asks the question, “How should we live?” God’s law answers that question. You, my dear children, know that your obedience pleases me, just as your children’s obedience will please you. In the same way we are not left here by God not knowing how to live. God shows us in His Word how we are to live in a way that is pleasing to Him. But in many ways this is the source of the confusion concerning God’s laws because the line between love and obedience is blurred. If you, my children, obeyed me to the letter but did not love me, your obedience would not be pleasing to me. And in the same way, if you loved me more than anything else in this world and yet rejected my authority, that would not be pleasing either. But both of these examples are absurd for if you didn’t love me you would not be obedient, and if you were not obedient you would not love me. And, along those same lines, if you do disobey me you do not lose my love, nor are you happy with yourself that you disobeyed because you do still love me. From this example we can begin to understand what Jesus meant when he said “If you love me you will keep my commandments”. (John 14:15)
There is so much more to say on this matter. Perhaps this introduction will give you reason to seek more knowledge, wisdom and understanding concerning God’s law in this age of lawlessness. I pray that God would richly bless you in this endeavor as you learn more and more about the beauty of the cross, God’s loving restraint of evil in this world for His children, and how you might grow in obedience to your Heavenly Father.