OF GOD’S MORAL LAW
(See Westminster Confession of Faith chapter 19 paras 5-7)
Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Now, whatever you think those commandments might be, they must at least include the Ten Commandments. The Apostle John verifies this for us in 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”
So, love for God and love for Jesus is the same thing because Jesus is God and man in one Divine Person forever. Therefore we express our love for God by being obedient to Jesus, which means keeping His commandments, even His Ten Commandments.
The Ten Commandments, as we know, are a summary of God’s Moral Law. And we know that the Gospel in no way dissolves a person’s obligation to keep God’s Moral Law. It’s as the Apostle Paul says in Romans 3:31, “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.”
Therefore even when you’ve been saved by grace through faith, you are still as obligated to keep God’s Moral Law as you were before you were saved by grace through faith. And Jesus has already said in His Sermon on the Mount: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” Matthew 5:17.
There should be absolutely no doubt about it then, God’s Moral Law is here to stay. And, like the Apostle Paul, we ought to delight in it. For he says in Romans 7:22, “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.”
The Unity of God’s Moral Law
God’s Moral Law is one because God is One. God’s Moral Law is unchanging because God is unchanging. Therefore the unity of God’s Moral Law is permanent because the unity of the Trinity is permanent. The God who is One eternally loves the three Persons. And the three Persons eternally love the God who is One. Therefore the eternal God eternally keeps His Moral Law in that the eternal God loves God and His neighbour as Himself.
Think about it: Does God have a beginning? Does God have an end? Who made God and where does God come from? These are the types of questions some people think will stump Christians – especially the one about who made God! It’s quite sad really, to hear grown men ask that question. For everyone knows that God has no beginning and no end. Everyone knows that God is from eternity unto eternity (Psalm 90:2). And everyone knows that no one or no thing made God. In other words, everyone knows that God is the eternal God.
Now, we know that we might be hard-pressed to find a non-Christian who’d like to admit to this. But that doesn’t change who God is. Listen to Romans 1:20&21: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
God is the One who brought the heavens and the earth into being in the beginning. Therefore God is outside of time – He is eternal. So, there is a sense, therefore, in which everyone knows God. For space, time, and matter can only be created by the eternal God.
To be sure, not everyone knows God as Redeemer. But every human being knows God as Creator – whether they care to admit it or not. It all has to do with God creating man in His own image and likeness, (Genesis 1:26&27). And it has to do with God writing His Moral Law on our heart when He made us, (Romans 2:14&15). For man, God’s Moral Law is the outward expression of the character and nature of God. Therefore God created man in His own image, i.e., God created man to express the character of God in creation.
Think about it: The Ten Commandments are a summary of God’s Moral Law. And what are the Ten Commandments all about? We’ve already noted that they are about love. But we’ll let Jesus answer that by giving us a summary of God’s Moral Law in Matthew 22:37-40: “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. This is the first great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’” Jesus is saying here that the Old Testament Scriptures teach that you are to love God and our neighbour as yourself. Therefore, God’s Moral Law is about love.
Now, apart from being eternal, what is another one of God’s attributes? How about 1 John 4:8b, “…God is love.” So, if God is eternal and God is love, then His Moral Law (which is the expression of His nature and character to men) must be permanent.
It was this permanent Moral Law of love that God indelibly wrote on man’s heart in the beginning. Therefore, God’s Moral Law remains the expression of God in creation. And man is supposed to express God’s Moral Law physically in the universe God has made. He is to express the Moral Law by being like the God who created him. We are to love God and our neighbour as ourselves.
So, when we speak about the unity of God’s Moral Law we mean that man is always obligated to keep the Moral Law of God. The Moral Law of God never changes. Man was to keep it before the Fall. And man is to keep it after the Fall. And men are to keep it even after they are born again of the Spirit. Just because Adam as man’s representative broke the Moral Law by eating the forbidden fruit doesn’t mean that God disannulled it. No, it’s our breaking of the Moral Law that condemns us. That’s why we need the Gospel. But the Gospel isn’t our release from our obligations to keep the Moral Law. Rather the Gospel is about our release from the condemnation of the broken Moral Law.
So, the unity of God’s Moral Law is that it is eternal. It is the outward expression in creation of the character and nature of God. It was indelibly written in the heart of man by God when He created us. Therefore, because God’s Moral Law is built into our constitution we cannot escape it. And if it is part of who we are, then we need to keep it to function properly.
The Usage of God’s Moral Law
The Apostle Paul in Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Let’s ask the question: What condemnation have those who are in Christ be set free from? Paul answers this in the very next verse, Romans 8:2, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ has made me free from the law of sin and death.”
What is sin? Sin is the transgression of the Moral Law of God. What is the wages of sin? The wages of sin is death. Therefore those who are in Christ are free from the condemnation that comes with the breaking of God’s Law – which condemnation is death.
But notice that the Apostle is telling us what has set us free from that condemnation. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ has made me free…” Therefore to walk in the Spirit is walk in the Law of the Spirit. This is to say that those who have life in Christ obey the Law of the Spirit.
What then is the Law of the Spirit? Is the Law of the Spirit different to the Law of Christ, which, as we’ve seen, is the same as the Law of God? Well, is the eternal God eternally Triune? Is there any conflict in the Godhead? Are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in perfect harmony with each other through all eternity? If that is the case, (which indeed it is), then the Law of the Father is the same as the Law of the Son which is the same as the Law of the Spirit. Therefore walking in the Law of the Spirit is walking in God’s Moral Law. For what other Law of God is there?
The Moral Law of God is eternal and permanently locked into creation. And, as we’ve already seen, the Moral Law obligates all mankind to love God and our neighbour as ourselves. James calls it the “royal law” for he says in James 2:8, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself,’ you do well…”
So, we see then, that the Moral Law of God, the Royal Law, the Law of Christ, the Law of the Spirit, is about love – love for God and neighbour. Therefore to walk in the flesh, and to walk contrary to the Spirit, as Paul mentions in Romans 8:1, is to go contrary to God’s Commandments, even His Ten Commandments.
It’s as James says in James 2:10&11, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder,’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.”
So we see then the Law of God is a complete unit. Therefore there is no part of the Moral Law that the Christian is not to keep. We are to keep all of God’s Moral Law. However, this doesn’t mean that we are to keep God’s Moral Law under the same conditions Adam was to keep the Law before the Fall.
Before the fall Adam was under God’s Moral Law as a Covenant of Works. He was threatened with death for breaking God’s Moral Law. And, conversely, he was promised life for the fulfilling of it. It’s because he broke it, as well as our own sins, that we are under its condemnation and in need of salvation. But when the Holy Spirit comes to us and applies the benefits of Christ’s cross to us, we are no longer under the Law but under Grace., which is to say that we are no longer under the Covenant of Works with its condemnation, but under the Covenant of Grace with its benefits and blessings.
But even though we are no longer under the Covenant of Works, but under the Covenant of Grace, it doesn’t mean that we are not to strive to keep God’s Law. It’s as Paul says in Romans 6:14&15, “For sin shall have no dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!”
So, we see then that Christians are to use the Moral Law as a way or rule of life. We are to apply God’s Moral Law in all our dealings with God and our fellow man. The first four of the Ten Commandments teach us how to love God. And the last six teach us how to love our fellow man.
But we should note that even though the Law is not now a Covenant of Works for us, whereby we are blessed or condemned by it, there are blessings and punishments in the use of it. Simply put: God blesses obedience and chastens disobedience in His children (curses and punishments are reserved for those outside of Christ).
Sow to the flesh and you’ll reap corruption. Sow to the Spirit and you’ll reap everlasting life – by the Spirit who is God’s blessing poured upon us. God in Old Testament times promised to bless us with His Spirit. For He says in Ezekiel 36:26&27, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” And He says through His prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31:33, “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Heb. 10:16). Make no mistake, the “house of Israel” is the Lord’s Church.
So it’s not hard to see where the Apostle Paul is coming from when he tells us to walk in the Law of the Spirit in Romans 8:2. We grieve the Spirit by walking in the flesh, which is to walk contrary to God’s Law. Therefore, we may experience the chastening hand of God for breaking His Law. But when we delight in His Law we may experience a blessing from God. For God honours those who honour Him. 1 Chronicles 16:9a, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.”
So we see then that for the true Christian there are rewards for keeping God’s Law. But the non-Christian, of course, remains under the condemnation of the Law. But God’s Moral Law should be the Christian’s rule of life. The Christian should use it to examine himself that he may arrive at further conviction of sin. To be sure, when we prepare to come to the Lord’s Table we especially thoroughly examine ourselves.
And the Moral Law is the Light of God – the spotlight that shows up our sins. And when our sins are exposed by the light of God’s Law, we are convicted by the Spirit, and humbled because of our sins. And because of our love for God we are grieved because our sins grieve the Holy Spirit. Therefore we hate our sins even though we paradoxically love to sin! It’s the old, “Why do I do the things I hate?” It’s the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:19, “For the good I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.”
We love the sin when we sin but hate the sin after we sin! This is the war that goes on in the breast of every born-of-the-Spirit Christian. But we are spurred on by the promised blessings for the victories we score! But for that victory you must walk in the Spirit otherwise you are disqualified. Walking in the Spirit therefore is lovingly obeying the Law of the Spirit, i.e., God’s Moral Law.
But when we who ought to know better disobey His Law we have a clearer sight of the need we have for Christ. Our sins show our need for Christ and His righteousness as it is revealed in the Gospel. For it is His perfect Law-keeping that saves us. He alone is perfectly obedient to God’s Moral Law – every jot and tittle. So we see then that the Moral Law keeps on pointing us to Christ.
Now, theologians speak of the threefold use of the Moral Law:
1. It is the standard for society – i.e., it is binding on all men, restraining evil and promoting good.
2. It is the rule of life leading to repentance for non-Christians (and backslidden Christians) – that’s why the Law ought to be preached with the Gospel to show the clear need of Christ.
3. It is the rule of life for believers – who are sanctified (or grow in holiness) by its proper use.
The Moral Law helps Christians restrain their own corruptions by showing them what sin is, and by its forbidding it. The threatenings for the breaking of it show us what our sins deserve and therefore encourage us to keep it. And the sin and misery in the world show us the type of sufferings expected in this life for sins. But we must always keep in mind that true Christians have been freed from the curse threatened in the Law. And, when we consider the promised blessings we are able to see that God approves of our obedience to His Law.
None of the uses of the Law of the Spirit we’ve looked at are contrary to the grace of the Gospel. The fact is that they are in complete harmony with it. For it is the Spirit of Christ who enables us to freely and cheerfully do the will of God revealed in His Law as it is required to be done.
The Universality of God’s Moral Law
At the beginning we reminded ourselves of what Jesus said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” John 14:15. Now, we know that Christ indwells the Christian by His Spirit who regenerates. Thus every Christian has the Spirit of Christ, who is the Light of the World, dwelling within. So, when the Apostle says Romans 7:22, “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man”, he is speaking of his love for God in Christ, for it is the character and nature of Jesus Christ – the express image of God – that is revealed in the Law of God.
He is the Law of God incarnate forever. Therefore the permanence of God’s Moral Law in creation is directly connected to the permanence of Jesus Christ in creation. For the God-man Jesus Christ is the Creator and His creation in One Divine Person forever.
Now, John tells us that Jesus Christ is the Word become flesh, John 1:14. And he says of Jesus Christ in John 1:9, “That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.” So, if we add these two things together – the Word became flesh and the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world – we see that Christ is the Law of every man. How so? Well, Christ is the light or lamp of God that works in every man’s conscience. And He is the Man against which every other man is measured.
Speaking of those who don’t have the Law of God written on tablets of stone, Paul says in Romans 2:15, “… their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them.” So, do you see that it is Christ by His Spirit, even the Law of the Spirit, who works in the heart or conscience of all men, whether regenerate or not? Christ is the true Light which gives light to every man. It’s exactly as it says in Proverbs 20:27, “The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, searching all the depths of his heart.” And Hebrews 12:9b: “Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?”
Add it all together and what have we got? The Father is the Father of man’s spirit. The Son gives light to the spirit of every man who comes into the world, which is every man’s lamp. And the Spirit enables the spirit of man to search the depths of his own heart.
So, what should a man do when his spirit or conscience accuses him? First he ought to make sure that his conscience lines up with the permanent Moral Law of God. For, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” Psalm 119:105. But if his conscience still accuses, he ought to seek God’s forgiveness for his sins through the Mediator and Advocate God has provided, even Jesus Christ. For it says in Romans 2:16 that “…God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ…” thus again demonstrating that the Spirit of Christ is present in the heart of every man.
We should rejoice in the knowledge that the Spirit of Christ is in the hearts of all men in all the world. To be sure, this doesn’t mean that all men in all the world are or will be saved, but it does mean that all men in all the world are under the watchful eye of God. And it does mean that Christ is still in the world working His purposes out. And it does mean that the Spirit is convicting men of their sins. And it does mean that, because we are saved by grace alone, Christ is able at any given moment to change countless hearts from hate to love, i.e., from hating God and their neighbour to loving them.
This gives us hope – great hope that there will come a day on earth (before the Lord’s physical return) when nation will not lift up sword against nation, nor learn war any more.
Meanwhile: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” Ecclesiastes 12:3.