God’s LawBy: Joseph H. Murray
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, [love] even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Gal. 5:14).
There are many dispensations and applications of God’s law recorded in the holy Scriptures. Some of these applications were written and some unwritten. For instance, why was Cain’s offering unacceptable to God? Because sin lay at his door. Sin is transgression of God’s law, whether it be written or unwritten.
It’s not a surprise to us that Cain slew his brother, Abel, after seeing that his sacrifice was not accepted of God. His sinful nature had been inherited from his father and mother. They had broken the first commandment, or law, given to man. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:16–17).
God, again, gave His laws to Noah and his sons after the flood. “And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man” (Gen. 9:5–6).
God, likewise, established His covenant with Abram and commanded him as to what he must do. “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Gen. 12:1).
In like manner did God speak to His servants Isaac, Jacob and Joseph until at last, under an evil pharaoh, the children of Israel were in slavery.
Moses then was the one chosen of God to go down into Egypt and lead the Israelites out of bondage. God gave him His laws, ten commandments, written on a table of stone, penned by the omnipotent finger of Himself.
Moses pronounced publicly and ordained the Ceremonial law with all its rituals and ordinances to Israel.
This Ceremonial law was in effect until Jesus came on the scene, obeyed and fulfilled it with the sacrifice of Himself. He shed His blood and set before us a new and living law: a law of love that the world hitherto had not known. “Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent” (Matt. 27:50–51). Thus, the tabernacle with all its significance, ceremony, rituals and sacrifices became without meaning or value because the true Lamb of God had finished in reality what these had been a symbol of.
Throughout Bible history, God gave His commandments to those in authority. Saul, the first king of Israel, received commandment from God to slay the Amalekites, but he kept Agag and the best of the cattle alive. This displeased God because His orders had been disobeyed. Thus the law was broken and sin committed. Saul not only failed to obey God’s law but lied in saying to Samuel “I have performed the commandment of the LORD” (1Sam. 15:13).
After Samuel had finished reprimanding Saul for his disobedience, he called for Agag. “Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately.” King Saul had handled Agag with kid gloves, so to speak. He still was attired in robes of royalty and stood proudly before Samuel thinking himself to be honored. “Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past.” But what he didnít know was that he was confronted with God’s law and God’s judgment about to be executed. “And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal” (1Sam. 15:32–33).
Surely the sling and the five stones in David’s hand, Solomon’s wisdom, Elijah’s mantle, Elisha’s double portion, Isaiah’s prophecy, the jawbone of the ass in Sampson’s hand with the Spirit of the Lord upon him, and the anointing of the Lord upon all other prophets, major and minor, were instruments by which God executed His law.
Jesus then came on the scene, with His authority from God the Father, proclaiming, “A new commandment [or law] I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).
The words of our Lord were not words of passing fancy or idly spoken, for He knew that He must prove and establish this new law of love by dying on the cross of Calvary before it could go into effect in the lives of the apostles. Again, Jesus said, “This is my commandment [or law], That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12–13).
When we have the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost (Rom. 5:5), not one of the ten commandments will be broken, if we stay yielded to its holy influence, for in this the divine nature of Christ is imparted to us. Paul explained it to the Romans in these words: “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. 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” (Rom. 2:13–15).
The apostle Peter tells us how we are made partakers of the divine nature of Christ in these words: “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2Pet. 1:3–4).
The nature of God, that was in Jesus, is what fulfilled the law. This nature in us will enable us to be obedient to the law and thus it is fulfilled in us. Not one of the commandments will be broken through the nature of Christ.
First of all, if we love God, there will be no other gods before us. Secondly, if we have no other gods, there will be no graven images or idols and nothing before which to bow. Thirdly, those who love God do not use His name vainly in their daily lives. Fourth, keeping the Sabbath day holy will be a certain thing, for they all are kept alike holy. Fifth, mothers and fathers [are] amply honored when they are loved. Sixth, to slay one whom we love is out of the question. Seventh, adultery is a sin that injures everyone involved, but worst of all, it is a sin against God Himself, for Joseph said, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9). Ninth, you could not steal from anyone you love as you do yourself. Tenth, last but not least, to abstain from coveting will exempt us from breaking a number of other commandments. Our dearly beloved brother James wrote, “If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well: but if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors” (James 2:8–9).
“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12) are the words of our Lord. And, again, Jesus answered when he was asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:36–40).
Since Jesus has given a new law, or commandment, that we should love our brother as we do ourselves, we are duty bound to love each other, or we become transgressors of this law and thus are sinners.
Groupism, sectarianism, denominationalism, and all other dividing lines that cause respect of persons among God’s people are hinderances instead of an asset to God’s kingdom, for James has already said, “If ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors” (James 2:9).
The three laws, as we know them, are, namely, the Civil law, the Ceremonial law, and the royal law of God.
We are no more concerned with the Ceremonial law now. This law had its fulfillment and was abolished in Christ at His crucifixion. That is what the apostle Paul meant when he said, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth” (Rom. 10:4). However, this did not do away with Civil law or the royal law of God which has always been in effect since the foundation of the world. Peter admonishes us concerning the observance of human authority in these words: “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. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1Pet. 2:13–14, 17).
Should there arise the question as to what is the royal law of God, James said, “According to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (James 2:8), and if ye fulfill this, “ye do well.”
When we “do well”, that is, keep God’s royal law, the civil authorities are on our side but a terror to the evildoer.
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1John 4:7–8).
“For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it” (Deut. 30:11–14).
“Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them” (Ezek. 20:10–11).
“Then came to Him His mother and His brethren, and could not come at Him for the press. And it was told Him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee. And He answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it” (Luke 8:19–21).