The Nature and Role of Law – Part 9

The Nature and Role of Law – Part 9


Part 9

In the August 18, 1997 issue of Time Magazine, they reported in an article entitled, “The Ties That Bind,” that our culture couldn’t make up its mind regarding divorce. “Should breaking up be harder to do? The debate over easy divorce rages on.” After taking polls, running tests on the pros and cons of divorce, etc., the “evidence” was inconclusive.

Ultimately, the decision rests in the hands of the spin-masters and their ability to garner enough votes from the masses to affirm their positions. No objective decision can be made because they exclude from the debate how Scripture addresses the question.

In part 4 we noted that philosophically, certainty is found in either the subject or object. I think you are wonderful, and therefore you are wonderful, etc. The only objectivity obtainable is the opinion of the majority; most people agree with me that you are wonderful. The Time Magazine article on divorce clearly demonstrates the limitations of this approach. Morality is the subjective opinion of the majority. If we are consistent we must admit that the only reason Hitler was wrong in his endeavor to exterminate the Jews was, we won the war and we said he was wrong! There is no objective basis for concluding that his actions were immoral.


This is the next major section in our study on the subject of the nature and role of law.

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.”[29] Earlier in His ministry He said, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”[30]

Love and the Golden Rule make law unnecessary. All the requirements of the law are satisfied; you are free to do what you want. I believe Martin Luther once said, “Love God and do as you please.” The point: if you love God you will love doing as He pleases.

In the last issue of this series we explored the difference between law and request. People wish to move from request to law because of rebellion. For example, a man enters into a bad marriage and knows that it was a mistake. He wants out, but the Bible gives him no out. So he goes to Scripture to see if he can find some kind of loophole in God’s prohibition against divorce and remarriage. He either examines the commands to see if he can justify his desire, or he argues that he is no longer under the law and can therefore do as he pleases.

In either case, he insists that he genuinely loves God and wants His will. I have a problem counseling such a person, for I do not know his motives or his sincerity when he says he genuinely wants to do God’s will; only God knows. I do know, however, what the Bible teaches, so I seek to dissuade him, exegeting the command with him for his sake. As I oppose him, he can obfuscate and justify himself. I am not smart enough to evaluate beyond what the Bible says. As I stand in his way, for his sake, he views me as his enemy.


This question, asked by God in Genesis 3:11 after Adam and Eve sinned, draws attention to an important truth. How they knew that they were naked was more important to God than the fact that they were naked. God wanted to know, “Who made it an issue?” How did they lose their innocence?

This probing question to Adam and Eve reveals the core of the issue in the relationship between love and law. By way of explanation, let me give several illustrations:


In I Timothy 3 Paul outlines the requirements for elders. In verse 2 he says he must be “the husband of one wife.” A literal translation reads, “a one-woman man.” At face value, Paul prohibits digamy of every kind for those seeking to be elders, and historically this is how the church has understood it.

A man challenges this last paragraph and with the question, “How do you know that this was the intent of Paul in I Timothy 3:2?” A more important question needs to be asked before responding: Why do you want to know? Who made it an issue? Almost always the question is raised on behalf of a divorced man who wants to be an elder and perceives that this verse stands in his way.

The man pushes to justify himself, insisting on the letter of the law with any and all possible points of ambiguity. Does Paul mean that if a man’s wife dies and he remarries he is barred from becoming an elder? Supposing a man fornicated with other women before he married? In the strict sense of the word, can we say that he is a “one-woman man?”

People argue that Paul had in mind polygamy rather than divorce and remarriage. There is no way I can know the motives and intent of such people’s hearts, but it is a convenient argument; the state prohibits polygamy and allows divorce and remarriage. Each individual knows in his heart whether he loves God will all his heart and eagerly desires to do His will, and God will judge him in that great day of reckoning.


In I Corinthians 11:1-16, Paul teaches that a woman should cover her head when she prays or prophesies. For years your wife and daughters go to church, pray and teach Sunday School, etc. and never covered their heads. Not that they were rebellious; they never thought about the issue, even though they read I Corinthians many times.

After church one morning, “Sue” comes to your wife and says, “I am glad to see that you are not wearing a hat. I just read I Corinthians 11 and Paul’s unreasonable insistence on women covering their heads. I always suspected that Paul was a male chauvinist, and now I am convinced. These medieval efforts to suppress women must be resisted, and I am glad you agree with me!”

Your family has just lost its innocence. “Who told you you were naked? Who made it an issue?” Once it becomes an issue you are forced to deal with it. You must now decide whether you consider God’s commands arcane and restrictive, or whether you really do love God with all your heart and are eager to please him.

You may resist me at this point, suggesting that these are not the only two options, and I agree. But the command is clear. Why wouldn’t you want to obey so simple a command? Each of us must answer to God who understands every thought and motive of the heart.


One of your children approaches you regarding the use of the family car. He wants you to make some rules regarding its use because he doesn’t feel that he has been treated fairly. You respond by saying, “Son, we love each other; let’s not try to relate to one another on the basis of a bunch of rules. When do you want to use the car? Just ask me, and if it is available, you can have it.”

But the boy is not satisfied. He does not think that it is “available” to him often enough. So he wants laws established to defend his rights. When he does this, he communicates that trust is missing and that the relationship is strained. In brief, he wants law because he perceives a lack of love.


The prohibition against lying if found in ninth of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”[31] As you know, it does not address lying per se, but rather that I do not falsify any man’s words. I think that it is safe to assume that most, if not all, know what this means.

For example, a man is caught in a lie; he deceives another person into believing that he could pay for a product when he knew that he couldn’t. So, seeking to justify himself, he argues, “Didn’t God deceive Saul in I Samuel 16:2?[32] And what about the midwives in Exodus 1:18-20; didn’t God bless them for lying to Pharaoh? Wouldn’t you lie to protect your family? Supposing your five-year-old daughter comes dressed atrociously with her mothers clothes and make-up, and asks, ‘Daddy, am I dressed beautifully?’ what would you say?”

He push you, seeking to force you into conceding what you are reluctant to concede. He wants to justify himself in his lie. But his point is well made; there are times when you feel justified in lying. When God commanded that we not lie, did He have in mind that we shouldn’t affirm our children in their endeavor to please, or lie in order to hide people from the harm of others?

I don’t think so, but each of us knows in our hearts whether when we lie we love God with all our hearts, and our neighbor as ourselves. When we so love God and our neighbor, the law is fulfilled, and it is on this basis that God will judge us.

Walking by faith,


[29] Matthew 22:37-40.
[30] Matthew 7:12.
[31] Exodus 20:16.
[32] 1 Samuel 16:2: “And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. And the LORD said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the LORD.”