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In Defense of God's Law, Part 1

By Jeff Wehr

JESUS said, "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." Matthew 5:17-19.

I am compelled to write this series of articles on defending the Ten Commandments because:

  • God's law is "holy, and just, and good, . . . [and] spiritual" Romans 7: 12, 14;
  • we will all be judged by this "law of liberty" James 2:12;
  • Jesus overcame and condemned sin in our flesh and blood "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" Romans 8:4;
  • we live in a world where lawlessness abounds;
  • many in Christianity teach that Christians are under no obligation whatsoever to keep God's moral law;
  • the Papacy purports to have the authority to change God's law; and
  • many Protestants are currently working with the Vatican to legislate mandatory Sunday laws, which are neither constitutional nor biblical.

Many of the most respected Christian scholars have recognized the binding claims of God's Ten Commandments:

Dwight L. Moody said, "The law that was given at Sinai has lost none of its solemnity. Time cannot wear out its authority or the fact of its authorship. . . . I have never met an honest man that found fault with the Ten Commandments. . . . The commandments of God given to Moses in the mount at Horeb are as binding today as ever they have been since the time when they were proclaimed in the hearing of the people." Weighed and Wanting, 11, 15.

The founder of the Presbyterian Church, John Calvin, said, "We must not imagine that the coming of Christ has freed us from the authority of the law; for it is the eternal rule of a devout and holy life, and must therefore be as unchangeable as the justice of God, which it embraced, is constant and uniform." Calvin's Comment on Matthew 5:17 and Luke 16:17, in Commentary on a Harmony of the Gospels, vol. 1, 277.

Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon said, "The law of God must be perpetual. There is no abrogation of it, nor amendment of it. It is not to be toned down or adjusted to our fallen condition; but every one of the Lord's righteous judgments abideth forever. . . . To show that He never meant to abrogate the law, our Lord Jesus has embodied all its commands in His own life." Branson, In Defense of the Faith, 21-22.

Methodist Dr. Adam Clarke writes, "Thus it appears that man cannot have a true notion of sin but by means of the law of God. . . . And let it be observed, that the law did not answer this end merely among the Jews in the days of the apostle; it is just as necessary to the Gentiles to the present hour. Nor do we find that true repentance takes place where the moral law is not preached and enforced. Those who preach only the gospel to sinners, at best only heal the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly. The law, therefore, is the grand instrument in the hands of a faithful minister, to alarm and awaken the sinners; and he may safely show that every sinner is under the law, and consequently under the curse, who has not fled for refuge to the hope held out by the gospel: for, in this sense also, Jesus Christ is the end of the law for justification to them that believe. [See Romans 7:13.]" A Commentary and Critical Notes, New York: Lane and Scott, 1851.

Presbyterian scholar Dr. Albert Barnes wrote, "We learn hence: 1. That all the law of God is binding on Christians. Compare James 2:10. 2. That all the commands of God should be preached in their proper place, by Christian ministers. 3. That they who pretend that there are any laws of God so small that they need not obey them, are unworthy of His kingdom. And 4. That true piety has respect to all the commandments of God. Compare Psalm 119:6." Barnes, Commentary, note on Matthew 5:19.

The great preacher John Wesley wrote, "The ritual or ceremonial law, delivered by Moses to the children of Israel, containing all the injunctions and ordinances which related to the old sacrifices and service of the temple, our Lord indeed did come to destroy, to dissolve, and utterly abolish. To this bear all the apostles witness. . . . This 'handwriting of ordinances' our Lord did blot out, take away, and nail to His cross. See Colossians 2:14.

"But the moral law contained in the Ten Commandments, and enforced by the prophets, He did not take away. It was not the design of His coming to revoke any part of this. This is a law which never can be broken, which 'stands fast as the faithful witness in heaven.' The moral law stands on an entirely different foundation from the ceremonial or ritual law. . . . Every part of this law must remain in force upon all mankind and in all ages; as not depending either on time, or place, or any other circumstance liable to change; but on the nature of God and the nature of man, and their unchangeable relation to each other." Sermons on Several Occasions, vol. 1, 221-222.

In another place John Wesley said, "The most surprising of all the circumstances that attend this strong delusion is, that they who are given up to it really believe that they honor Christ by overthrowing His law, and that they are magnifying His office while they are destroying His doctrine! Yea, they honor Him just as Judas did, when he said, 'Hail, Master,' and kissed Him. See Matthew 26:49. And He may as justly say to every one of them, 'Betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?' Luke 22:48. It is no other than betraying Him with a kiss to talk of His blood and take away His crown; to set light by any part of His law, under pretense of advancing His gospel. Nor indeed can any one escape this charge who preaches faith in any such a manner as either directly or indirectly tends to set aside any branch of obedience; who preaches Christ so as to disannul, or weaken in any wise, the least of the commandments of God." Works of Wesley, vol. 1, 225-226.

So what is God's law? The Ten Commandments of God are His moral rules that govern His creation. The first four commandments define our loving relationship to God and the last six define our loving relationship with our fellow man. If these commandments were strictly kept, it would produce communities of decency and domestic tranquillity. There would be no idolatry, profanity, Sabbathbreaking, dishonoring of parents, murder, adultery, stealing, lying, or coveting. How would you like to live in a community like that?

God's law is as eternal and unchanging as God Himself. The Bible says, "All his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever." "Every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever." Psalm 111:7-8; 119:160.

Some teach that God's law has been abolished, but Jesus said, "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." Jesus said of Himself, "I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." John 15:10. In fact, the prophet Isaiah said of the Saviour, "He will magnify the law, and make it honourable." Isaiah 42:21. Did Jesus magnify the law and honor it by abolishing the law? God forbid! Christ came and lived a sinless life "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Romans 8:4.

How did Christ then magnify the law? Jesus said, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Matthew 5:27-28. Did Jesus abolish the seventh commandment? Certainly not! He did just the opposite. Christ defined adultery beyond the physical act. He magnified the law by declaring that you can commit adultery in your heart.

Never in the Scriptures are any of the Ten Commandments degraded or abolished. Paul asks the very question of whether the law is abolished. "Do we then make void the law through faith?" What is his answer? "God forbid: yea, we establish the law." Romans 3:31.

Throughout the Bible, God's law is exalted. Paul said, "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. . . . For we know that the law is spiritual: . . . For I delight in the law of God." Romans 7:12, 14, 22. Paul does not say that the law was holy, good, and spiritual. Paul declares that the law is holy, good, and spiritual. After all, the psalmist says, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." Psalm 19:7. And Solomon wrote, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." Ecclesiastes 12:13.

The beloved John declared, "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." 1 John 2:4. James said, "For 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." James 2:10-11.

When a young man came to Jesus and asked how he might receive eternal life, Jesus said, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." Matthew 19:17.

When Jesus reproved the religious leaders of His day for their hypocrisy, He said, "Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother." Matthew 15:3-4.

These moral principles existed long before the entrance of sin and the creation of this world. The Bible says, "All unrighteousness is sin." 1 John 5:17. "Sin is the transgression of the law." 1 John 3:4. "Where no law is, there is no transgression." Romans 4:15. And, "sin is not imputed when there is no law." Romans 5:13. Consequently, where there is sin there are the binding claims of God's law.

The covenant that God wants to make with us includes His law. The Bible says, "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." Hebrews 10:16-17. See also Jeremiah 31:33.

God wants to inscribe His law in our hearts and in our minds. He wants us to not only know His commandments (in the mind), but He wants us to love His commandments (in the heart). Paul said, "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man." Romans 7:22.

James said, "If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well." James 2:8. It requires love to keep God's commandments. As Jesus said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Matthew 22:37-40.

Paul declares that the "end" or the fulfillment "of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned." 1 Timothy 1:5. Again Paul writes, "Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." Romans 13:8-10.

In the end, God will again have a people who will keep all Ten Commandments by His grace. The Bible declares, "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." "And the dragon was wroth with the woman [the church], and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Revelation 14:12; 12:17.

These last-day saints will choose to keep His commandments because:

  • Christ is worthy of our obedience;
  • we want to please Him who created us and died for us;
  • we desire to show forth our love to both God and man;
  • the commandments are a delight;
  • we want to protect ourselves from the sure results of transgressing them;
  • we must prepare ourselves, through God's grace, to live in the sight of a holy God; and
  • we need to prepare ourselves by faith to live in harmony with the holy angels and the inhabitants of unfallen worlds.

After all, "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." Revelation 22:14.