The Sinless Thief
The Law of God
By David B. Smith
My cousin, the late Morris Venden, was a gifted preacher with a droll sense of humor. He complained once about driving along a mountain road being persecuted — he and other sedate drivers — by a bunch of thuggish teens who were hotrodding past everyone at well above the posted limit: passing on curves, cutting people off, tossing beer cans out the window. The only signals they used were the rude gestures they made at all the slowpokes along the route. A few minutes later, Venden was gladdened to see this car pulled over to the side, with a cop writing (he hoped) a hefty ticket. And as Venden cheerfully cruised past, his mood considerably lightened, he mused to himself: O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day (Psalm 119:97).
What is the relevance of the Law of God here in the 21st century? Charlton Heston became a household name as the lead actor in Cecil DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Stewart Moore risked his career by putting a wooden Ten Commandments plaque in his courtroom in defiance of the ACLU, declaring his conviction that these represented an eternal moral code. Millions of people — Christian and otherwise — have a vague concept of God’s Law, but don’t understand exactly how it still has meaning and validity here in the era of grace.
What is the purpose of God’s Law?
1. God’s good law is for our benefit. One truth we must keep front and center at all times is that God loves us! He desires our happiness; His rules are like those outlined by a caring parent — designed to protect and bring us peace and joy. Drivers like my cousin are most secure when every person on the freeway is part of a “Great Society” all heeding the speed limit. King David writes: The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple (Psalm 19:7). Paul, the greatest of gospel writers who fully entered into the kingdom of grace, still wrote: I agree that the law is good; I delight in God’s law (Romans 7:16, 22). James concurred, calling God’s framework of rules the perfect law that gives freedom (James 1:25).
2. The Law is instructive; it reveals God’s eternal will. Many theologians have concurred that the Law of God is an expression of His character; it is an unalterable as He Himself is. “I am the Lord; I change not” (Malachi 3:6). Even though the Ten Commandments were officially proclaimed to the Children of Israel at Mt. Sinai, the rebellious angels in heaven sinned long before that moment in time (2 Peter 2:4). Even by Genesis 6, the human race was devoted to wickedness, and the Bible plainly teaches that sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4).
For our sake, then, and for the upholding of God’s government, He commands our obedience. Jesus’ words to His disciples echo down through the twenty centuries of Christian faith: “If you love Me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). At the very end of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon concludes: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man (12:13).
What does commandment-keeping have to do with our salvation? Aren’t we saved by grace?
It is a pillar of the Christian faith that our salvation is a free gift. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8, 9). Paul adds in Romans 3:20: No one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law.
The Bible does teach that certain aspects of the Old Testament system of rules and ceremonies came to their designated conclusion at the Cross. For [Jesus] Himself is our peace, who has made the two [Jews and Gentiles] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations (Ephesians 2:14, 15). But the NIV text notes quickly add: “Since Matthew 5:17 and Romans 3:31 teach that God’s moral standard expressed in the OT law is not changed by the coming of Christ, what is abolished here is probably the effect of the specific ‘commandments and regulations’ in separating Jews from Gentiles, whose nonobservance of the Jewish law renders them ritually unclean.”
In fact, Paul goes on to teach that the Law’s continuing function is to point out our urgent need of a forgiving Savior; Paul uses the metaphor where the Law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24); James describes it as a mirror which points out our great need (1:23). Our obedience to the Ten Commandments — offered out of gratitude for the generous gift of salvation — pleases our heavenly Father and bring glory to His name and kingdom. Jesus even taught that obedience springing from faith-obedience is the kind of good fruit that brings salvation (Matthew 19:17).
Virtually every great creed of the Christian era — prayerfully crafted by various denominational groups — affirms that the Ten Commandments continue to be a moral code and guide for our confused world. However, our obedience must always be a response of grace, not an attempt to earn a salvation already freely given at the Cross. C. S. Lewis observes that this kind of loyalty is wonderful and liberating! “Obeying in a new way,” he puts it, “a less worried way.”
Obedience in the last days. Especially as this sin-weary world lurches toward final cataclysmic events, God will need loyal ambassadors whose experience with Calvary has transformed them into men and women who are obedient for noble reasons! Revelation describes how the prince of darkness will continue to lead the whole world astray (12:9). The concluding tyrant power in Daniel’s “empire vision” will endeavor to deceive the world by altering the laws of God (7:25). But the triumphant church will be identified as supremely devoted to the Lamb of God and a commandment-keeping community (Revelation 12:17).
View related article: The Sinless Thief
David B. Smith writes from California. (19 0f 28) His web page is Copyright © 2014. Click here for content usage information. Biblebay