THE LAW OF GOD
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything: that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's.
THE LAW OF GOD
It is a common saying, "The majesty of the law." It means that the character and genius of a government are embodied and expressed in its laws. The words of Inspiration declare to us the majesty of the law of the Most High.
The Character of God's Law
The infinite perfection of the divine character is reflected in it.
"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." Ps. 19:7.
As God is holiness and justice and goodness, so also is His law.
"Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." Rom. 7:12.
The law of God gives knowledge of the righteousness of its great Author.
"Hearken unto Me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is My law." Isa. 51:7.
It marks every departure from righteousness as sin.
"Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." 1 John 3:4.
It is not a code merely for the regulation of outward conduct. It is the moral law—the primal standard of righteousness established by the Creator for His creatures. There is not an impulse of the inmost soul that is not reached by it. It is the word which, living and powerful, is "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Heb. 4:12.
Face to face with this holy law, we hear in it the voice of God saying, "Be ye holy; for I am holy." Every soul must confess its guilt before the searching power of God's law. All things are naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. "Guilty!" we confess. Left alone with our guilt, there could be no ray of hope.
"The threatenings of the broken law
Impress the soul with dread;
If God His sword of vengeance draw,
It strikes the spirit dead."
Thank God, we are not left alone; help is laid upon One mighty to save.
"But Thine illustrious sacrifice
Hath answered these demands,
And peace and pardon from the skies
Are offered by Thy hands."
God's Law from the Beginning
The law of God existed from the beginning. When Adam sinned, he transgressed this holy law; for "sin is the transgression of the law." God's law was not committed to writing until the days of Moses, when the Lord began to make His written revelations to the children of men. But from Adam to Moses the precepts of the law of God were teaching righteousness and convicting of sin.
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (for until the law [the giving of it at Sinai] sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses.)" Rom. 5:12-14.
The declaration of this scripture is: Without the law there can be no sin. But sin and death were from Adam to Moses, in whose day the law was spoken on Sinai; therefore the law of God was in force from the beginning. Its precepts were witnessed to by every preacher of righteousness raised up by God in the days before the deluge and in the patriarchal age following. Of Abraham the Lord says,
"Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws." Gen. 26:5.
The Lord called His people out of Egypt, that they might keep his law. His message to Pharaoh was, "Let my people go, that they may serve Me." Ex. 9:1. He delivered them from bondage by His mighty arm, and cleft the Red Sea to lead them forth to obedience, as the psalmist said,
"He brought forth His people with joy, and His chosen with gladness:... that they might observe His statutes, and keep His laws." Ps. 105:43-45.
In Egyptian bondage the children of Abraham must have lost much of the purity of God's truth; yet the Lord held them under obligation to know His law—the Sabbath precept particularly—before they came to Sinai, or ever He had proclaimed the law in their hearing. He tested them in the matter by the giving of the manna, as He said,
"That I may prove them, whether they will walk in My law, or no." Ex. 16:4.
From the beginning, God's holy law demanded the loyal obedience of every human being.
Proclaimed Anew at Sinai
The Lord had delivered the people of Israel from Egyptian bondage that they might serve Him and make His ways known to the nations. This was according to the promise made to Abraham. To them was committed the written revelation of God, and through them was to come in the fulness of time the promised Messiah.
While the Lord at this time "made known His ways unto Moses," and there was begun the written revelation which grew into "the volume of the book," the Holy Scriptures, one portion of revelation was not left for the prophet of God to speak or for the inspired pen to write. The Lord proclaimed His holy law with His own voice, and gave to men a copy "written with the finger of God." Moses said of this:
"The Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice. And He declared unto you His covenant, which He commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and He wrote them upon two tables of stone." Deut. 4:12, 13.
This display of majesty and glory indescribable was designed to teach how sacred and holy is the law, and to cause men to fear to transgress its precepts. Ex. 20:20.
It was not for themselves alone that the law was committed to Israel. They were to teach the truth to others. As the New Testament says, it was greatly to their advantage that "unto them were committed the oracles of God." Rom. 3:2. But they "received the lively oracles to give unto us." Through obedience to the divine law, they were to be a light to the nations.
"Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them?" Deut. 4:6, 7.
An interesting comment upon these words is supplied by a speech of Phalerius, librarian to Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt. Urging the king by all means to secure copies of the sacred books of the Jews for his great library in Alexandria, Phalerius said:
"Now it is necessary that thou shouldst have accurate copies of them. And indeed this legislation is full of hidden wisdom, and entirely blameless, as being the legislation of God; for which cause it is, as Hecateus of Abdera says, that the poets and historians make no mention of it, nor of those men who lead their lives according to it, since it is a holy law, and ought not to be published by profane mouths."—Josephus, "Antiquities," book 12, chap. 2, sec. 4.
Unfaithful as the Jewish people oftentimes were, yet through their testimony and the dealings of God with them, the fame of the living oracles was spread abroad among the ancient nations.
One God—One Moral Standard
"There is one Lawgiver." James 4:12. He is ever the same, and His law is the standard of righteousness for all mankind. There was not one moral standard before Christ and another after. Christ's death upon the cross because man had broken the law, is the divine testimony to all the universe that God's law can never be set aside nor its force suspended. Jesus opened His public teaching with the declaration:
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Matt. 5:17-19.
The moral law of ten commandments is one code, every precept equally sacred and equally binding:
"Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For He that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty." James 2:10-12.
The law of God still speaks with all the force of that voice from Sinai, and it speaks to every soul on earth:
"Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." Rom. 3:19.
Thus the law of God convicts all men of sin, and would drive every one to Christ for pardon and for the divine gift of the grace and power of obedience.
The ceremonial law—the precepts and ordinances commanded for the sacrificial system—ceased with the sacrifice of Calvary, as all these ceremonial observances pointed forward to the cross. There can be no confounding of the moral law and the ceremonial law. The ceremonial law of types and shadows showed in itself that a primary or higher law—the moral law—had been violated, making necessary a divine sacrifice if transgressors were to be saved from death and restored to obedience.
The Standard in the Judgment
The law of God's moral government, which is the rule of life for every creature, must necessarily be the standard in the great judgment day. The Scripture states the sum of all human obligation and responsibility in the words:
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." Eccl. 12:13, 14.
Every son and daughter of Adam's lost race is judgment bound, to answer before the bar of God the demands of the perfect law. Divine justice cannot abate one jot or tittle of the requirements of the holy law, nor by any means clear the guilty. But divine mercy has provided the way by which God can "be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."