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By H. A. (Buster) Dobbs

religion, articles, christianity

Some would leave the impression that if a person is loyal to the law of the Lord, he is hard­headed and mean­spirited. Such people are disdained for believing in a legalistic system and thinking they can merit eternal grace.

The "kind and benevolent" souls that castigate the law-abiding majority will not answer straightforward questions. They shoot their cannons and then run and hide. The essence of sincerity is a willingness to question and be questioned. When a person avoids honorable dispute, he is a coward and lacking in basic honesty.

Here are a few questions that no religious liberal on earth will dare to answer:

  • Is there anything for a person to do in connection with salvation?
  • If yes, what? Is this required? Is it optional?
  • Are sinners made free from the law of sin and death by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus?
  • Is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus law?
  • Is law legal?
  • Is law systematic?
  • If we are saved by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, are we saved by a legal system? (See Rom. 8:2­3).
  • Are we under the law of Christ? (See Gal. 6:2).
  • Is there merit in obeying the New Testament command to be baptized for the remission of sins?
  • Is it possible for those who have not defiled their garments to be worthy to walk with Christ in white? (See Rev. 3:4).
  • If God tells the sinner to believe and be baptized to be saved and a sinner does what God tells him to do, is God obligated to save that person?
  • Can God lie?

Let me again assure you that no religious liberal on earth will answer these questions. He cannot answer honestly and remain a sincere liberal. The Bible does emphatically talk about law. Law is legal and systematic-a legal system in its very nature. Those who have problems with this, have difficulty with God himself.

God is the author of natural (or providential) law. Electricity, water, air, gravity, magnetism, etc. are governed by God-given law. If this were not true, we could not survive. Electricity always behaves in a prescribed and uniform manner. This, of course, does not mean that catastrophic events have not occurred (the Noachian flood, for example), but it is to say that even cataclysm is governed by God-ordained laws. Thank God for law. The life is in the seed, and the seed produces after its own kind, according to the appointment (law) of the Creator. This immutable rule puts bread on the table and a roof over the head. Natural law applies to every one and is modified for no one, except in the case of first-century miracles.

God is also the author of unchanging, moral law. It is wrong to murder. Cain knew that before he killed Abel and, therefore, attempted to hide both the corpse and his bloodstained hands. God would have none of it. Lying, stealing, false witness, drunkenness, homosexuality, witchcraft, fornication are wrong. There is never a time when an immoral thing becomes moral - or even acceptable. (Situation ethics notwithstanding.) Moral law applies to every man, woman and child in the entire universe. It is stamped upon our members and written in our nature. Creation clearly shows a benevolent and merciful Creator. The order and design of earth, sun, moon, and stars reveal plainly a cause that is systematic and disciplined. The ethical maxims revealed in nature and placed by the Maker in the heart of the creature are laws that cannot be violated without dire and eternal consequences. Violation of moral rules has repercussion in the providential or natural realm. Promiscuity, for instance, popularizes, if it does not cause, A(cquired) I(mmune) D(eficiency) S(yndrome), or AIDS. Because of the unalterable law of the God who made us and the creature's reckless disregard of basic morality, the guilty, and sometimes even the innocent, suffer.

God also gives positive divine precepts, or amoral laws. The thing commanded or forbidden may not be wrong within itself, it may not be a part of the system of laws by which the universe is held together, but it is a requirement of the Creator. It is changeless law. God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree which was in the midst of Eden. The fruit of all other trees in the garden was lawful, but the fruit of that one tree was forbidden and therefore unlawful. It was wrong to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, not because of the thing itself, but because God said so.

An example of positive divine law is the New Testament requirement to be baptized to wash away sins (Acts 22:16). There is no explainable connection between baptism and removing sins. (New Testament baptism, of course, to be effective in the taking away of sins, must be presupposed by faith and repentance as required in Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38.) No living person can show a necessary connection between being buried in water and the removal of sins. It finds its merit solely in obedience to the will of God. We do it because the Lord tells us to do it.

Peter put it this way: "which also after a true likeness cloth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 3:21). The inspired apostle speaks, in the context, of the salvation of eight souls in Noah's day by water, and says that in that exact likeness the obedient believer is saved by baptism. The New Testament teaches salvation at the point of baptism, and not before baptism. Simon Peter said that as the water of the flood in Noah's time separated the sinful and the clean world, so also after a true likeness does baptism now save you. Baptism is the line of demarcation between sin and salvation. It is the point at which the sinner is regenerated (John 3:5).

That is law. It is the highest of all laws. It is higher than the law of the mother, or the law of the husband, or the law of the land, or the law of gravity, or even moral precepts. It is a sublime law because God demands it-without rhyme or reason. It is a matter of graciously and spontaneously doing what God tells you to do simply because God tells you to do it. Peter says it "is the answering (interrogation) of a good conscience toward God." There are, of course, other positive divine precepts equally high (a cappella singing in worship, for instance), but this illustrates the point.

The revelation of Jesus is called a testament (Heb. 9:16­17). It is the New Testament. Testament is a legal term. It is, according to Thayer, a will or compact. It is also called a covenant and means "a contract." These are legal terms and indicate a formal agreement. It is also called a law (Rom. 8:2; 1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2; James 1:25). Thayer says the word translated law means, "anything established, a custom, a law, a command: a law or rule producing a state approved of God, a precept or injunction, the moral instruction given by Christ."

The New Testament is as much law as is the Old Testament. The law of Christ is as much law as is the law of Moses.

God rules by law whether in nature, morals, or religion. Jesus offends people who are repulsed by law. Jesus taught and kept law. He expects the same from his followers.

People, under the influence of the flesh, often attempt to get rid of law. They use various schemes to discount rules and try to say that we are not under a system of law.

The earliest trace of the sophist tradition is found in the teaching of Tisias and Corax. Major philosophers (most notably, Socrates and Plato) harshly criticized their tradition as not intellectual and an immoral profession. Plato thought sophists were more concerned with appearances than substance. In Plato's play, Gorgias, he has the character of Socrates accuse the rhetorician/sophist Gorgias of specializing in making the bad case seem best and the best case seem bad. Gorgias' anti-foundationalist belief that "nothing actually exists ... but even if it did, it would be incomprehensible to man ... but that, even if anything were to be comprehended, it could not be articulated and communicated to others."

This sounds like Shelly's baseless claims about God-talk and man-talk, and Tippens' (professor at ACU) ideas about deconstructionism.

Christianity provides the ultimate in higher authorities: the Word of God as revealed in scripture.

The New Testament is a legal system. Do not be ashamed of that-for to do so is to be ashamed of the gospel (Rom. 1:16). The word law is not unknown to New Testament writers, but occurs frequently in their writings. Here are a few instances:

  • Romans 3:27: "Where then is the glorying? It is excluded. By what manner of law? of works? Nay: but by a law of faith." The Holy Spirit, through Paul, speaks of "a law of faith." (It is interesting to note that the translators of the NIV, in their prejudice against law, fail to translate the word numos, which is in the Greek text, but render the phrase "but on that of faith." The word for "law" is in the text but it is ignored by the NIV. How sad! How revealing!)
  • Romans 5:13: "[S]in is not imputed when there is no law." Get that! No law-no sin. If we are not under law because we are under grace, as some say, then there is no sin because sin is a transgression of law. If no sin, there is no need of salvation. If there is no need of salvation, the cross was a colossal blunder. It also follows that all will be saved. (We may as well go fishing!)
  • Romans 8:2: "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death." If we are not under the law of the Spirit of life in Christ, we are under the law of sin and death. One law frees us from another law. Without the law that frees, we are under the sentence of death. "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." There is a connection between "law" and "truth."
  • Corinthians 9:21: "[T]o them that are without law, as without law, not being without law to God, but under law to Christ, that I might gain them that are without law." Paul thought he was under law to God and to Christ. If you don't like this, blame Paul.
  • Hebrews 8:10: "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel After those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, And on their heart also will I write them: And I will be to them a God, And they shall be to me a people."

The new covenant consists of "laws" in the mind and on the heart.

  • James 1:25: "But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing."
  • James 2:8 "Howbeit if ye fulfil the royal law, according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well."

The Bible puts great emphasis on doing and on works. Obedience is the astern daughter of the voice of God." From Eden forward the forces of evil have attempted to discredit the legal authority of God and dilute his Word. Since the serpent tempted the first pair with the taunting statement, "Yea, hath God said," it has been the strategy of infernal beings to encourage rebellion to divine instructions. It is diabolical to entice people to transgress law and disregard rules. It is also a direct attack upon God's Dower and therefore upon his very being.

It is diabolical for children to revolt against their parents. It is wicked for the creature to deny the control of the Creator. It is insurrection for the servant to overthrow the Master. Religious liberals, who advocate insubordination to deity, are guilty of heinous and inexcusable conduct. The first rule is to fear and honor God; the first commandment with promise is to honor father and mother. That is basic to common decency and fundamental to happiness.

When it comes to the rule of the road, which God has given, let us resolve to be iron-headed. Jesus was so determined to be faithful to his heavenly Father that he

humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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Published September 1997