Law and Society (I)

At the Council of Trent, in their Canons on Justification, the Roman Catholic church declared: CANON XXI.-“If any one saith, that Christ Jesus was given of God to men, as a redeemer in whom to trust, and not also as a legislator whom to obey; let him be anathema.”

Right from the Garden of Eden, mankind’s greatest problem has been his sin. The devil’s promise then, was that “you shall be as God, knowing good and evil” (Gen.3:5), and so sin has been endemic to our race.

Sin doesn’t have to spectacular. If I read the Bible and decide unilaterally that I don’t wish to obey a certain command, only God knows about it. But it’s still sin, and will have its consequences at some point.

There are of course, different manifestations to man’s sinfulness. Societies that turn away from God will quickly manifest sinfulness in the laws they enact, for an ungodly people will not long tolerate godly law. If the people and their legislators are hostile to God, they will be saying, “We do not want this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14), and they know exactly Who they are referring to.

This should serve as a warning to us. An ungodly culture is not going to suddenly turn around and embrace Biblical law. We can explain till we are blue in the face how much better it will be, and how much more liberty there will be, and how much less tax there will be under Biblical law, but I suspect it will make little difference.

Why? Because apart from the intervention of God, people want to cleave to their sinful practices. They may know instinctively that it’s wrong, and that they will suffer in the long run, but that doesn’t convince them to change; only God can do that by His grace, through the Gospel.

But before we get to that, there is an even more important thing that needs to happen. The Church, which the Bible says is to be “…the pillar and support of the truth” (I Tim.3:15), has to come to terms with the fact Jesus Christ is our legislator.

“Legislator? You mean we have to actually OBEY all that Jesus commanded?” Yes, that is correct. You see, it is easy to accept God’s promises to His people, but all His promises are conditional on our obedience. He did say “you are My friends if you do what I command you” (Jn.15:14).

Think of the time when God spoke to Solomon. “…If you will walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom Israel forever…” (I Kings 9:4-5).

When God spoke to Israel through Isaiah, He promised that “if you will consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land” (Isa.1:19).

Thus it is futile to think about having all that God has promised, without our consistent obedience to His Word. That means the Ten Commandments (which themselves are only a summary of God’s law) should be a part of the spiritual diet of every believer.

I know that 95% of the Church would tell me to get lost. “Don’t give me that stuff about God’s law. I don’t want to know about it. We’re under grace, don’t you know?”

And that’s why God’s people, the Church, are uncertain, confused and divided about what has to happen in the nations of the world. Our subsequent ineffectiveness can be traced to this very issue.

What happened to Solomon? The Bible clearly says that he turned from the Lord to idolatry. As a result, God appeared to him telling him He would strip parts of the kingdom from his son (I Kings 11:1-13).

What’s happened to us? God hasn’t given the nations of the world into the hands of the Church. We’re the ones trodden underfoot. We’re the ones who can rarely win a trick, and it is our fault.

Our great need? Obedience to Jesus Christ, the great legislator.