Law and Society (IX)

Mosaic civil law did not compel anyone to offer positive sanctions. Rather, it imposed negative sanctions for evil acts. It should be the ideal for every system of civil law to remove all positive sanctions by the State and impose only those negative sanctions authorized by Biblical law. The State is to impose negative sanctions only: punishing public evil. It is not a wealth-creator… It is not safe to entrust to the State the power of making one man rich at the expense of another. It is also not moral.[1]

Anyone who has followed this series through from the beginning, may well be saying by now, “All right Andrew. Let’s see the evidence that we should be utilising Biblical law today.”

God clearly indicated to the children of Israel, that blessing or cursing awaited them, depending on their obedience to His law. This was the message of Deuteronomy 28. And it is not as though they were not repeatedly warned. The prophets sent by God had repeatedly made it plain to Israel what would be the consequences of their disobedience. Isaiah had warned,

“Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes stubble and dry grass collapses into the flame, so their root will become like rot and their blossom blow away as dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel” (Isa.5:24).

Later, Isaiah added, “who gave Jacob up for spoil, and Israel to plunderers? Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned, and in whose ways they were not willing to walk, and whose law they did not obey” (42:24). And then he added, “if only you had paid attention to My commandments! Then your well-being would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea” (48:18).

Jeremiah added to this list of prophesied woes: “Who is the wise man that may understand this? And who is he to whom the mouth of the Lord has spoken, that he may declare it? Why is the land ruined, laid waste like a desert, so that no one passes through? The Lord said, ‘Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice nor walked according to it, but have walked after the stubbornness of their heart and after the Baals, as their fathers taught them’ ” (Jer.9:12-14).

Amos adds, “Thus says the Lord, ‘For three transgressions of Judah and for four I will not revoke its punishment, because they rejected the law of the Lord and have not kept His statutes; their lies also have led them astray, those after which their fathers walked’”(Amos 2:4).

Thus since the time that Moses wrote Deuteronomy (around 1,500 BC), Israel had endured numerous defeats in battle, then dispossession from their land and captivity under the Babylonians, were subject to subjugation under the Romans in Jesus’ day, and history tells us that in AD 70, they were all either killed or enslaved by the Romans, and Jerusalem was burnt.[2] They rejected the warnings of their final and greatest prophet, Jesus Christ (see Mat.21:33-46; 22:1-7), before murdering Him, and thus as a nation they met up with the ultimate consequences of disobedience to His law.

I can almost hear someone saying, “Well that was true then. But this is the New Testament era. Now, it’s all different.” Well, here’s my test.

Take me to the New Testament scripture that clearly shows that all of the Old Testament law is invalid today. I don’t believe it’s possible to find one. And for the person who quotes Romans 6:14 (“…you are not under law but under grace”), I say, “you haven’t solved the problem. We are not under the law as a means of salvation, and in that context, no one ever has been. God has always dealt with His people on the basis of His grace, because we are all sinners that need grace.”

The fact is, the scripture never legitimises the abandonment of God’s law, for humanistic law. Such a thought would be abhorrent to God. And for those who then say, “Well, what about natural law?” I respond that natural law is Greek in origin: pure humanism.

Bahnsen’s comments are helpful in this regard:

Anyone whose attitude toward the Old Testament law is informed by the teaching and practice of the New Testament must maintain the law’s full and continuing validity today. Those who, in the name of a distinctive “New Testament ethic,” downgrade or ignore the Old Testament law are sternly warned by the apostle John: “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (I Jn.2:4).[3]

The Church has been learning the bad habits from its enemies for two thousand years, and this must stop. God warned His people not to do this (see Deut.12:29-32). Instead of us learning from them, it is time that we believed what the scripture clearly teaches about God’s law, and began teaching the nations just what it means to obey God. In fact, God Himself promised that His law would be a powerful evangelistic tool (Deut.4:5-8) to the nations.

Now is the time for us to turn to the Lord and acknowledge that we have fallen short of His glorious plan, to repent of our sin and ask Him to forgive us. Then we can take out the Bible, including the law of God, and begin the process of applying it to ourselves, our families, our churches, our communities and our nations. And at some point we may begin to understand more what the Bible means when it says “blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps.33:12).

[1] Gary North, “Inheritance and Dominion,” 1999, ch.54.

[2] This was recorded by the Jewish historian, Josephus.

[3] Greg Bahnsen, “By This Standard,” 1991, p.92.