The Law of God illustrates the paradoxical nature of truth and reality.  How can God's Moral Law (ten Commandments) be both an authoritive code of commands and at one and the same time be a description of reality like all natural law is?

Read on to learn how this is true!

God the Lawgiver

SS Lesson for February 11, 2012

 

Ps 119:18  Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. 

 

Let us pray this prayer of David as we begin our lesson study this morning.

 

Our Lesson Quarterly presents a Key Thought with two ideas expressed:

                             1. God's law is an inseparable part of the Old and New testaments. 

                             2. God's law is an expression of His love.

As I have meditated on the law of God, one of the wondrous things I have come to see is this:

God's law is a statement of reality. God's moral law is also natural law. God's law is the revelation of reality concerning Divine and human relationships. The moral law of God describes and defines the things that govern and control the connections and relationships and interactions between intelligent beings that have freedom of choice and action.

 

There are at least two ways we can view the ten commandments of God. One view does not exclude the other.:

 

Way 1: Because I am God, and because I created you and I love you and redeemed you from Egyptian bondage, I am the authority and I am telling you:

1. Do not to recognize any other authority or god

2. Do not make any graven image or likeness of anything and do not worship or bow down to any image.

3. Do not take my name in vain.

4. Worship me sacredly and corporately every 7th day, the memorial of creation.

5. Honor your father and mother.

6-10 Do not kill, or commit adultery, or steal, or tell lies, or desire or covet anything that is not yours.

 

Way 2: Because I am the Creator and I love you and redeemed you from Egyptian bondage and made reality, let me tell you about reality and how everything works:

  1. If you choose to love me as Creator and Lord and God who redeemed you from Egyptian bondage;

  2. If, based on a knowledge of me and love and gratitude to me for creating you and redeeming you from Egyptian bondage and teaching you how to live in freedom, you choose to live in harmony with my will and reality as I have created it:

1. You will not recognize any other authority or God besides me.

2. You will not make any graven images or likeness of anything to worship or bow down to.

3. You will not take my name in vain.

4. You will meet with me and worship me in a special corporate way every 7th day, the memorial of creation.

5. You will honor your father and mother.

6 - 10 You will not kill, or commit adultery, or steal, or tell lies, or even desire or covet anything that is not yours.

 

Truth is paradoxical. Truth always has at least two different aspects that seem to be opposite or at least apposed to each other. Wisdom is knowing how to put these apparently apposing aspects of truth together to understand their harmony and perfect fit.

 

Now there is a deceptive twist that the devil puts on the law of God. The devil says the law of God is not compatible with freedom and to be free, God's law has to be done away with. The devil illustrates his point this way. There is no freedom or joy in a “Love me or I will kill you” government. This is true that there can be no joy or freedom in a “Love me or I will kill you” government. But this truth gives a false picture of God and His government founded on the law of liberty. The truth is that the law of God is a description of reality. And reality is based on creation. The truth is that sin, transgression of the law of God separates from God and there is no life apart from God. The devil has deceived himself into believing that he does not need God and that there is life separate from God. This was the first recorded lie: “Ye shall not surely die”.

 

Three times recorded in Scripture, God has asked the same question: “Why will ye die?”

 

Jeremiah 27:13:

Why will ye die, thou and thy people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as the LORD hath spoken against the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon?

 

Ezekiel 18:31:

Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

 

Ezekiel 33:11:

Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

 

In the Ellen White Book Darkness Before Dawn page 4 we read this statement:

 

Satan's lying charges against the divine character and government appeared in their true light. He had accused God of seeking merely the exaltation of Himself in requiring submission and obedience from His creatures, and had declared that, while the Creator exacted self-denial from all others, He Himself practiced no self-denial and made no sacrifice. Now it was seen that for the salvation of a fallen and sinful race, the Ruler of the universe had made the greatest sacrifice which love could make; for "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself." 2 Corinthians 5:19. It was seen, also, that while Lucifer had opened the door for the entrance of sin by his desire for honor and supremacy, Christ had, in order to destroy sin, humbled Himself and become obedient unto death.{DD 4.1}

 

Another Spirit of Prophecy statement from Medical Ministry page 187:

 

The human family is suffering because of the transgression of the laws of God. Satan is constantly urging men to accept his principles, and thus he is seeking to counterwork the work of God. He is constantly representing the chosen people of God as a deluded people. He is an accuser of the brethren, and his accusing power he is constantly using against those who work righteousness. The Lord desires through His people to answer Satan's charges by showing the result of obedience to right principles.{MM 187.1}

 

Now the viewpoint that God has authority and we should obey God because He has the authority is truth. However, if the wondrous idea that the law of God is simply a statement of fact, a statement of reality, consider the effect that that idea has on our understanding of salvation and particularly the means, the method, the way of salvation – particularly our part in the plan of salvation.

 

But before we go there, let's consider this idea - that God's moral law is also a natural law, in the light of some Bible texts.

 

In Thursday's section of the quarterly we find these texts:

 

Isaiah 48:17 Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I [am] the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way [that] thou shouldest go.

Isaiah 48:18 O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea:

God is here presented in a teaching and a leading role. The next verse makes a statement of fact: “O that you had benefited by believing and acting on your belief of my commandments – then had thy peace been as a river and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.

 

Look at the next verses in Psalms:

 

Psalm 119:71 [It is] good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.

Learning and believing to the point of doing what is believed from God's statutes has what affect?

Did the affliction come from doing or not doing what is believed from God's statutes?

Is affliction punishments from God?

 

Look at these verses from Psalms 119:

 

Knowing natural law gives wisdom and understanding. Does knowing the law of God give wisdom and understanding?

 

119:98 Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they [are] ever with me.

119:99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies [are] my meditation.

119:100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.

119:101 I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.

119:102 I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me.

119:103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! [yea, sweeter] than honey to my mouth!

119:104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.

Taken from the EGW book A New Life [Renewal and Beyond] page 30 we read:

 

As the Supreme Ruler of the universe, God has ordained laws for the government not only of all living beings, but of all the operations of nature. Everything, whether great or small, animate or inanimate, is under fixed laws which cannot be disregarded. There are no exceptions to this rule; for nothing that the divine hand has made has been forgotten by the divine mind. But while everything in nature is governed by natural law, man alone, as an intelligent being, capable of understanding its requirements, is amenable to moral law. To man alone, the crowning work of His creation, God has given a conscience to realize the sacred claims of the divine law, and a heart capable of loving it as holy, just, and good; and of man prompt and perfect obedience is required. Yet God does not compel him to obey; he is left a free moral agent.{NL 30.1}

 

Look at these passages from the book Temperance page 213:

 

No Moral Right to Do as You Please.--Have I not a right to do as I please with my own body?--No, you have no moral right, because you are violating the laws of life and health which God has given you. You are the Lord's property, His by creation and His by redemption. "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." The law of self-respect and for the property of the Lord is here brought to view. And this will lead to respect for the obligations which every human being is under to preserve the living machinery that is so fearfully and wonderfully made.--Manuscript 49, 1897. {Te 213.4}

To Sense the Sacredness of Natural Law.--Every law governing the human system is to be strictly regarded; for it is as truly a law of God as is the word of Holy Writ; and every willful deviation from obedience to this law is as certainly sin as a violation of the moral law. All nature expresses the law of God, but in our physical structure Jehovah has written His law with His own finger upon every thrilling nerve, upon every living fiber, and upon every organ of the body. We shall suffer loss and defeat, if we step out of nature's path, which God Himself has marked out, into one of our own devising.{Te 213.5}

 

My current insights about the law of God are these:

 

  1. God's moral law is also a natural law as viewed in way 2 above at the start of our lesson.

  2. What makes a moral law moral is three things:

a) The moral law describes reality in relationships of free moral agents.

b) We have ability to understand the moral law and the freedom of choice to obey or disobey it.

c) It is the natural law aspect of God's moral law that cannot be avoided except by the death of the Son of God.

 

Jesus voluntarily took upon Himself the consequences of sin which is death that cannot be avoided with separation from God. Going contrary to God's will, separates the sinner from God and apart from God there is no life. Natural law cannot bebrokenor violated because they are descriptions of reality and reality is based on creation. Miracles are the operation of other natural laws that we may not know about yet. For instance the law of gravity is superseded by the law of aerodynamics operating in the airfoil of an aircraft wing allowing the aircraft to fly.

 

 

Let us now look at a couple of implications regarding the plan of salvation from the notion that Moral and natural law are essentially the same kind of law.

 

What the Lord requires from us for salvation is expressed in Micah 6:8 “He hath showed thee, O man, what [is] good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

 

It is in the Law of God that we are shown what is good and what God and reality require from us. We have two problems with our part in the plan of salvation.

1. We have all sinned. Our habituation to sin makes us keep sinning. God forgives us for our past sins. This was accomplished at the cross. Forgiveness does not heal or deal with our habitual sinning.

2. We start life with a bent to sin and we sin naturally (habitually) – which means that we do what we do not want to do when we come to know what God wants us to do. God does not hold us guilty for our sinful natures but we cannot fit and be happy in heaven with our sinful natures. We need a total transformation of nature before we can fit and be happy and satisfied in heaven. It is impossible to please self. Self must die before we can be satisfied and happy and content in heaven. Transformation of character takes place with/by death to self, and our will where it is opposed to the will of God.  This total transformation of nature must be accomplished in this life before our close of probation. Viewing the Law of God as a set of demands that we have to meet (by God's grace) before we can be saved in heaven gives us a performance focused perspective of both the Law and salvation. Viewing the Law of God as a definition or explanation of reality of the way things in the realm of relationships with each other and with God happens or takes place, puts us in a learning focused perspective.

 

Perspective 1 [Law as rules]

The end point of God's training school in preparation for heaven is that I will be maturely educated to perfect obedience and do not sin because I have learned by habit how not to get tripped up by the devil's temptations either in thought or action.

 

Perspective 2 [Law as description of reality]

The end point of God's training school in preparation for heaven is that I know and habitually believe reality to the point of habitually acting out my belief that God's will is reality and most desirable. I become like Him in mind, habitual thoughts and feelings and purposes because of the natural law of observation, association, and familiarity [by beholding we become changed 2 Cor 3:18]

 

The reality is that there is truth in both viewpoints. The judgment of God is performance focused:

Matthew 25:36

Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Revelation of John 20:12:

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

Revelation of John 20:13:

And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

 

Truth is paradoxical. The moral law of God is one illustration of this truth.