Gleanings In Exodus
28. The Law of God
In His Olivet discourse the Lord Jesus prophesied that, "Because iniquity (Greek, lawlessness) shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (Matthew 24:12). Surely no anointed eye can fail to see that this prediction is now" being fulfilled. Lawlessness abounds on every side. Men are bent on pleasing themselves. Authority is openly flouted. Discipline is becoming a thing of the past. Parental control is rarely exercised. Marriage has, for the most part, degenerated into a thing of convenience. Nations regard their solemn treaties as ‘scraps of paper.’ In the U.S.A. the 18th Amendment is despised on every side. Yes, "lawlessness" is abounding. And God’s own people have not escaped the chilling effects of this; the love of many of them has waxed cold.
The supreme test of love is the desire and effort to please the one loved, and this measured by conformity to his known wishes. Love to God is expressed by obedience to His will. Only One has perfectly exemplified this, and of Him it is written, "I will delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart" (Ps. 40:8). But we ought so to walk even as He walked (1 John 2:6). Simple but searching is that word of His, "He that hath My commandments and keepeth them he it Is that loveth Me" (John 14:21). And again it is written, "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous" (1 John 5:2-3). The "waning" of love, then, means departing from, failing to keep, God’s commandments!
The prophecy of Christ in Matthew 24:12 does not stand alone. In the book of Jude, that treats of conditions which are to obtain in the closing days of the history of Christendom, apostates are described as those who "despise dominion, and spake evil of dignities" (v. 8). The despising of dominion is the essence of lawlessness. Those latter-day apostates are also referred to in the second Epistle of Peter: "While they promise them liberty they themselves are the slaves of corruption" (2:19). Their slogan is, emancipation from authority, deliverance from all law.
While we cannot but deplore the lawlessness which abounds in the world and the effect which it is having on many who bear the name of Christ, far more sad and solemn is it to hear their teachers giving out that which can only foster and further this evil spirit. Reputable Bible teachers are declaring that the Law of God is not binding on men today least of all on Christians. They say that the Law was only for Israel. They insist that this is the Dispensation of Grace, and that Law is the enemy of Grace. They affirm that when we become members of the new creation, all the responsibilities attaching to the old creation automatically cease. They argue that because a Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, he needs no law. They brand as legalists the few who press the claims of God’s Law upon the consciences of men. They regard with scornful pity men mightily used of God in the past who taught that the Law of God is a rule of life, a standard for moral conduct.
Now it is of first importance that we obtain a Scriptural view of the nature of the Law. The very fact that it is the law of God should at once show us that it cannot contain anything inimical to man’s welfare. Like everything else that God has given, the Law is an expression of His love, a manifestation of His mercy, a provision of His grace. The Law of the Lord was Christ’s delight (Ps. 1:2); so also was it the apostle Paul’s (Rom. 7:22). In Romans 7, the Holy Spirit has expressly affirmed, "Wherefore the Law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good" (v. 12); yea more, He has declared "The Law is spiritual" (v. 15). How terrible then for men to despise that Law and speak evil of it! What state of sour must they be in who wish to be delivered from it!
Above, we have said that
the Law expressed God’s love. This comes out clearly in Deuteronomy 33:
"The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; He shined forth
from Mount Paran, and He came with ten thousands of saints: from His right hand
went a fiery law for them. Yea, He LOVED the people" (vv. 2-3). Love is the
fulfilling of the law from the human side and love provided the Law from the
Divine side. What, then, ought to be our response to such a Law? Surely that of
David: "O how love I Thy Law: it is my meditation all the day"
While Divine love provided the Law, the prime purpose of God in giving it was that His authority should be maintained. Israel must be brought to see that they were under His government. And this of necessity. The creature must be made to recognize the rights of his Creator. No sooner did the Lord God place man in the Garden which He had planted for him, than He commanded him—note how in Genesis 3 God pressed this both upon Eve and Adam (vv. 11, 17). The very ground of the sentence passed upon them was that they had repudiated His creatorial claims.
Now what we have in Exodus 19 and 20 is the enforcement of God’s claims upon double one. They belonged to Him not Israel. His claim upon them was not only because He had made them but also because He had purchased them: they were not only His creatures, but they were also His redeemed people. It was this second relationship which is now pressed upon them both in Exodus 19 and 20. In the former He says, "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto Myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine" (vv. 4-5). In the latter, He prefaces the Ten Commandments with the statement "I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (v. 2). But it should be carefully noted that in Exodus 20 He presses both of His claims upon Israel. In the first verse it is, "And God (the Creator) spake all these words"; while in v. 2, He reminds them, that as the Lord their God He had brought them out of the land of Egypt.
Now what we would particularly emphasize here, is the fact that redemption does not cancel the claims which God has upon men as His creatures. Instead, these claims are still enforced, but, the new relationship into which redemption introduces, imposes additional responsibilities, or, more accurately speaking, supplies an additional motive for recognizing and meeting God’s claims upon us. In the previous chapters we have witnessed God dealing in marvelous grace with Israel, bearing with them in tender patience, supplying their every need. But now the point has been reached when they must be taught that God has righteous claims upon them, that His Throne must be established over them, that His authority must be owned, that. His will is supreme and must be made the regulator of their lives, and that as His redeemed they were under the deepest possible obligations to fear, obey, and serve Him. Notice how Moses pressed this upon Israel near the close of his life: "The Lord thy God redeemed thee, therefore I command thee this thing today" (Deut. 15:15).
"The laws which God gave unto Israel fall into three classes: the moral, the ceremonial and the civil. The people of Israel may be considered three ways. First, as rational creatures, depending upon God, as the Supreme Cause, both in a moral and natural sense. And thus the law of the decalogue was given them; which, as to its substance is one and the same with the law of nature (the work of which is written on man’s heart. A.W.P.) binding man as such. Second. as the Church of the Old Testament, who expected the promised Messiah, and happy times when He should make every thing perfect. And in that character they received the ceremonial law, which really shewed the Messiah was not yet come, and had not perfected all things by His satisfaction (sacrifice), but that He would come and make all things new. Third, as a peculiar people, who had a policy of government suited to their genius and disposition in the land of Canaan: a republic constituted not so much according to those forms which philosophors bare delineated, but which wins in a peculiar manner, a theocracy as Josephus significantly calls it, God Himself holding the reins of government therein—Judges 8:23. Under this view God prescribed their political laws" (Dr. Herman Witsius, 1680—a deeply-taught theologian from whom our moderns might learn much).
We heartily concur with the remarks of the late Mr. D. L. Moody in "Weighed and Wanting"—"The commandments of God given to Moses in the mount at Horeb are as binding today as ever they have been since the time when they were proclaimed in the hearing of the people. The Jews said the Law was not given in Palestine (which belonged to Israel), but in the wilderness, because the Law was for all nations." We believe that the Ten Commandments are binding on all men, and especially upon Christians, and that for the following reasons:—
First, because it is both right and meet that the great Creator’s authority should be proclaimed by Him and acknowledged by His creatures. This was the demand which He made upon Adam, and every sober mind will acknowledge it was a righteous one. Even the unfallen angels are beneath a regime of law: of them it is said, "Bless the Lord ye His angels that excel in strength, that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word" (Ps. 103:20). Only a spirit of lawlessness can inveigh against the statement that every human creature is responsible to keep the law of God.
Second, because the Ten Commandments have never been repealed. The very fact that they were written by the finger of God Himself, written not upon parchment, but on tables of stone, argues conclusively their permanent nature. If it was contrary to the mind of God that those living during the Christian dispensation should regard the Ten Commandments as binding upon them surely He would have said so in plain language. But the New Testament will be searched in vain for a single word which announces their cancellation.
Third, because we need them. Has human nature so improved, is man so much better than he was three thousand years ago, that he no longer stands in need of the Divine Law? If the covenant people of old required to have such statutes are the Gentiles today any less self-sufficient? Are men now so little prone to idolatry that they need not the Divine command "Thou shall have no other gods before Me? Has the enmity of the carnal mind been so refined that it is no longer timely to say "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain?" Are the children of this twentieth century A.D. so devoted to their parents and so marked by the spirit of obedience that it is superfluous to say to them "Honor thy father and thy mother?" Is human life now held in such reverence that it is idle to say "Thou shall not kill?" Has the marriage-relationship come to be so sacredly regarded that "Thou shall not commit adultery" is an impertinence? And is there now so much honesty in the world that it is a waste of breath to remind our fellows that God says "Thou shalt not steal?" Rather is it not true that in the light of present-day conditions the Ten commandments need to be thundered forth from every pulpit in the land?
Fourth, because the Lord Jesus Christ Himself respected them. Galatians 4:4 tells us that He was, "made under the Law." On entering this world He declared "I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy Law is within My heart" (Ps. 40:8), and the record of His earthly life fully bears this out. When the ruler asked Him, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He answered, "Thou knowest the commandments—‘Do not commit adultery,’" etc. Whatever may have been our Lord’s reason for returning such a reply, one thing is clear—He honored the holy Law of God! When the lawyer tempted Him by asking. "Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" (Matthew 22:36), His answer once more shows Him maintaining the authority of God’s Law.
Fifth, because of our Lord’s teaching on the subject. In the Sermon on the Mount we find Him saying, "Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill For verily I say unto you till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in nowise pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:17-19). What could be clearer than this? So far from affirming that He had come to cancel the Law, He declared that He would fulfill it. Yea, more, He insisted that the Law shall remain, and remain intact so long as the earth remained. His words that not "one jot or tittle of the Law should pass away (become obsolete) proves conclusively that the fourth commandment (on the Sabbath) would remain in force equally with the other nine! Finally, He solemnly warns us that the one who should teach men to break one of these commandments, shall suffer loss in a coming day.
Sixth, because of the teaching of the New Testament Epistles. In them we find the Ten Commandments recorded and enforced. At the close of Romans 3, where the apostle treats of Justification, he raises the question, "Do we then make void the Law through faith?" and the emphatic answer is "God forbid: yea, we establish the Law." In the same Epistle he declares again after quoting five of the Commandments. "Love is the fulfilling of the Law" (13:10), and love could not "fulfill" the Law if it had been abrogated. Once more, in 1 Corinthians 9:21, Paul says, "Being not without Law to God, but under the Law to Christ."
Seventh, because God has threatened to chastise those Christians who disregard His Law. In the 89th Psalm there is a striking prophetic passage which brings this out plainly. In vv. 27-29 God declares of Christ, "I will make Him My Firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for Him for evermore, and My covenant shall stand fast with Him. His seed also will I make to endure forever, and His throne as the days of heaven." And then God solemnly adds. "if His children forsake My Law, and walk not in My Judgments; If they break My statutes, and keep not My commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes." The writer often wonders how much of the afflictions that so many Christians are now groaning under are explained by this scripture!
The Ten Commandments have been rightly designated the moral law, inasmuch as they enunciate a rule or standard for human conduct. Their application is race wide. Even Mr. Darby admitted in his Synopsis (Vol. 1, p. 86), "such is the character of the Law, a rule sent out to man, taken in its largest character" (italics ours). While dissecting from the expression "moral law," and while denying that the Law was a "rule of life," for the believer, nevertheless Mr. Darby did not go to the lengths of Antinomianism to which some of his followers have gone in their teachings. In Vol. 10 of his "Collected writings" he said," If I make of the law a moral law (including therein the principle of the New Testament and all morality in heart and life), to say a Christian is (delivered from it is nonsense, or utter monstrous wickedness: certainly it is not Christianity. Conformity to the Divine will, and that as obedience to commandments is alike the duty of the renewed mind. I say obedience to commandments. Some are afraid of the word, as if it would weaken love, and the idea of a new creation; Scripture is not. Obedience, and keeping the commandments of one we love, is the proof of that love, and the delight of the new nature." As to Mr. Darby’s consistency in arguing that the believer nevertheless is not under the Law in any sense, we leave the reader to judge.
It is not our intention to refute the objections which have been made against the truth that the Ten Commandments are not binding on men today, and that believers especially are in no sense under the Law. We have dealt with these, and expounded the scriptures which are supposed to support the objections, in our booklet on "The Saint and the Law." Suffice it now to point out that in the Word a sharp distinction is drawn between "the law of Moses" and "The Law of God:" the former was for Israel only; the latter is for all men. The Lord grant that writer and reader may be able to truthfully say with the Apostle Paul. "I delight in the Law of God after the inward man" (Rom. 7:22); and again, "So then with the mind I myself serve the Law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin" (Rom. 7:25).