A Perfect Law
From the time I was young, I have been fascinated with the law, yet had no desire to be a lawyer. I would not necessarily say my fascination was with manmade laws or even with the Ten Commandments, I am just fascinated with the law and how it works. However, as I have grown older, I have noticed one thing, there is a marked contrast between the perfect law of God and the imperfection of the laws framed by earthly legislators. Human beings are obliged constantly to enact new laws and modify or repeal old ones. Behavior allowed in one country is strictly banned in another. Further, in order to ensure respect and obedience to the government and its laws, a list of punishments is formulated.
God’s law, being perfect and complete, has required no modifications. It has stood as the flawless pattern for both divine and human behavior in both the sinless heavenly environment and the iniquitous situation on earth.
Christ’s life demonstrates this truth in that He kept His Father’s commandments in conditions so wicked that it was described as the time “when the transgressors” had “reached their fullness” (Daniel 8:23).
The second factor regarding the difference between the law of God and that of humanity, is that while people have attached their own formulated penalties to the law, with God this is not necessary. In His system, breaking the law itself brings its own terrible fruitage in sorrow, and finally, destruction.
Yet, we must be careful not to conclude that God deliberately or arbitrarily organized it in this way. When it is understood why He formed and gave the law, it will be seen that this is the only way it could be. Essential to the successful accomplishment of the great aspirations within His creatures is the possession of tremendous power. This power was designed for blessing and benefit only, but unavoidably, it has in it the potential for destruction. Being the only way to safeguard against the destructive side of power, laws became essential. While power is handled in strict accordance with law, there is no problem. But let the law be disregarded and every kind of problem arises. Therefore, God did not formulate the law with the deliberately built-in system of punishments, but instead, He gave them a perfect protection for self-destruction.
God is not interested in forced obedience, for he is only interested in voluntary obedience. It would, therefore, be impossible to give full liberty to a person to withhold obedience and then mete punishment for exercising the very freedom given to him or her. To punish under those conditions is to deny that full liberty had been given.
There are two ways in which God could have administered punishments upon those who chose to withhold obedience. The first method would be to decree what the punishment should be and then to execute it by His own direct actions. This is what the majority believe God does.
The second method would be to skillfully and deliberately build into the law punishments that would automatically fall upon the transgressor. In modern language this is called booby trapping. The farmer, for instance, has a patch of delicious melons growing and he knows that, despite the law forbidding theft, the young lads of the village will come at night for a feast. So he installs a trip wire attached to an explosive. He has built into the law an automatic punishment that will reach out and strike the lawbreaker apart from the action of the law itself.
Whether God punishes directly by His own action or indirectly by building destruction into the law, He would still be denying that He had, in reality, given His subjects full liberty to yield or withhold obedience.
The awful punishments that fall upon the violators of God’s great principles are what the law was devised to protect people from, not what it was designed to bring upon them.
The laws of man are set up in a way to protect the position and authority of those that create the laws. What we need to fully understand and understand with great clarity is that the law of God in no sense effects God’s effort to protect His own position and authority. God is so completely outgoing to utterly devoid of self-interest, self-justification, or self-protectionism in any form that He could never have formulated the law to save Himself. It is not something that He has “thought Up” as His wish or pleasure whereby the people could be identified as His subjects, doing His will and obeying His commands.
Romans 6:23 makes this very clear where it says, “the wages of sin is death.” There are two masters, God and Satan, or more correctly, righteousness and sin. Neither of these masters pays the wages earned in the service of the other. Satan never pays the gifts of God. God alone pays the gift of life. It should be equally clear that the Lord never pays the wages owed by sin to its subjects. Sin and Satan alone pay those. God does not traffic in death, for He is the purveyor of life. That is His merchandize, and he dispenses no other. He does not pay wages in the currency of death.
The law was given that it might be a protection and blessing to humankind. Obedience to it ensures absolute immunity from sickness, suffering, sorrow, fear, suspicion, robbery, violence, and death. Violation of its principles guarantees the introduction of these things in their worst forms.
The first command in the Decalogue is that: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” To the average person, this suggests a picture of God concerned about His receive the homage, respect, service and worship that He feels is due Him. This perception of God is such that God is seen as demanding that we acquiesce to His position of sole and ultimate authority, and He is thought to be saying, “IF I find any drifting away from Me, any rendering of homage or love to another, My anger shall become exceedingly great, and I will come in My fury to punish you without mercy.” Unfortunately, a more erroneous view of God’s intent could not be entertained. God had no concern for His own honor, security, and safety when He formed that commandment. He was entirely preoccupied with His subjects and their needs. He knew the danger in which they were, and to make them secure from it. He gave them this and the other commands.
God gave humanity the precious gift of life. But to give life was not sufficient. A home must be provided. Without this, what would life be but a horror of eternal drifting through cold and vast empty space with nothing to see or do. Rather, He created a home in which His children could develop and achieve the highest aspirations of their active minds. But life and a home were not enough. It was necessary that God bestow powers that would enable all of these things
These powers may be grouped into two divisions, those within people and those outside people in the marvelous world of nature. The powers in people may be listed as the power of thought, speech, ambition, planning, reasoning, invention, love, joy and so forth, including muscular power. The powers in the world of nature are the powers of the sun, moon, gravity, wind, water, centrifugal and inertial forces, electricity, and many more.
But giving of life, home, and all the powers was still not enough. The bestowal of the powers, while intended for the blessing and prosperity of all His creatures, inevitably possessed the potential of destruction. Therefore, God needed to add one more gift to make the work of creation complete and secure. That gift was the law.
Returning to the example of the first commandment, we can demonstrate that the law was not made by God for God, but for humanity. The sun in heavens will serve as one example. God spoke it into existence, and His work in respect to it did not end there. The sun cannot fulfill its mission unaided. It must be directed by another power. The only power that can do this is the power which made it. The Son of God is the One who not only “made the worlds” but is constantly “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:2, 3).
God is constantly employed in upholding and using as His servants the things that He has made. He works through the laws of nature, using them as His instruments. They are not self-acting. Nature in her work testifies of the intelligent presence and active agency of a being who moves in all things according to His will (The Ministry of Healing, p. 416).
You alone are the LORD; You have made heaven, The heaven of heavens, with all their hosts, The earth, and everything on it, The seas and all that is in them, And you preserve them all (Nehemiah 9:6).
It is not because of the inherent energy that our hearts continue to beat and we continue to draw breath, but rather these things are evidence of the all-pervading care of Him in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Nor is it be inherent power that the heavenly bodies continue in their way, for the hand of God “brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, By the greatness of His might, And the strength of His power; Not one is missing (not one faileth (KJV) (Isaiah 40:26).
These and many other statements teach the active presence of God as the Controller of all the powers He has installed in the universe for the good of His creatures. But this is not because God must be personally in control of all things in which He is power hungry or anxious to reserve to Himself any special position. The fact is that this is the only way it can be done. It was not possible to leave all these tremendous powers to themselves, for it is the very nature of power to the unintelligent. Power and force are just what they are, while intelligence is designed to control and guide the powers.
Therefore, the mighty sun must have a controller and guide to keep it exactly on its course and, at the same time, a source of energy to keep it forever fueled and burning a constant level. Should there be no controlling power, the possibilities are fearsome to contemplate.
God cannot merely appoint one of His mighty creatures to look after guiding the sun or other such tasks, for it required His own power to create it and set it up, and it requires the same power to maintain it. God gladly gives His creatures whatever He can, but this is the one thing He cannot give, for there is not one of us, angel or person, who can keep those might powers under perfect control.
Therefore, it is essential that no other god be placed in God’s position as the Controller, Guide, and Sustainer of these mighty powers. To do so would be to put in place a being who would have no hope of keeping those things under control. The heavenly powers would swiftly break out of their course in a holocaust of destruction. Some may object that God could prevent it. Certainly, He has the physical power to do so, but in order for that power to be exercised to prevent that destruction, it has to be in the very place from which it has been dismissed. Once another god has been put in the place of the true God, then God can only save the situation by forcing Himself back into the place from which He has been sent away, and God will never do this. This would violate the freedom of choice that He Himself gave to his creatures and which He will never invade even to the hairs breadth.
When Adam and Eve replaced God the Father for another god, they removed from themselves the protection the first commandment was designed to give. Sudden and terrible destruction immediately threatened them. Now, it may be objected here that the whole argument is disproved by the fact that sudden destruction did not befall them as God had said it would. But God is not a liar. His word was fulfilled in the spiritual side of their natures, the life of God in the presence of the Holy Spirit, died out of them that day had not the Lord interposed to introduce a delaying factor, designed in love, to give them a limited probationary period in which to reconsider their decision. Christ stepped in to divert the punishment to Himself.
The instant man accepted the temptation of Satan, the Son of God, stood between the living and the dead, saying, “Let the punishment fall on Me. I will stand in man’s place. He shall have another chance”
Right there in the Garden of Eden, all nature would have swung wildly out of its course with increasing ferocity had not Christ stepped in to give the world a period of probation in which to make a second choice either to serve God or to continue with the god of death and destruction. When at last the time of probation is ended and all have made their choice for eternity, this is just what will happen. Christ will step out of His place as Mediator, and all nature will collapse in a cataclysm of destruction. These “punishments” for disobedience are the unpreventable consequence of the removal of the protections the laws are designed to give.
These things must be meditated upon until the purposes and character of God are fully understood; until it is seen that God neither inflicts the punishment by His own hand, not has He arbitrarily legislated penalties to automatically sanction or destroy those who get out of line; until it is seen that death and suffering are the direct and unpreventable result of sin. This Lord seeks to save all from such disastrous results and guide them forever in those pathways that will ensure them perfect and complete happiness.
Let us take a quick examination of the command “Thou shalt not steal” and by examining it, it will show to us how it opens upon humanity the floodgates of woe. In a perfect society thee would be no need for the gates and locks. But suppose that one day someone enters this society and steals the property of another. As news of the event spreads through the village, the peace and happiness die under a cloud of fear and suspicion. Steps are soon taken to bar the openings and lock the doors so that protection may be obtained against a further visit from the thief. In this, the innocent suffers with the guilty. One look at airline travel today, with all its security measures, is sufficient to illustrate this point.
Should more and more people follow the path of the lawbreaker and become thieves, then the problem will escalate into destructive proportions. As one step leads to another, what begins with theft often leads to violence and murder.
It is only because the Lord is still able to exercise some restraint over humankind that people survive at all. In other words, if God removed his protection, then evil would have no restraint. Should the law be totally cast aside and anarchy reign, the extermination of the race by its own hands would be the swift result. It is self-evident that the breaking of the law governing people’s relationship to each other brings its own terrible results upon the world.
What kind of world would it be if all laws were done away with and every person became a thief, murderer, liar, adulterer, and so on? As this grim picture, wherein there is no stability or security, develops in your mind, ponder and see that the terrible conditions would not in any sense be the inflictions of God, but the result of removing the protection afforded by the law. Here is the revelation of the cause and effect, and no charge can be laid to God for any of it.
Not only is it against God’s principles to exercise force to compel or punish people into obeying Him, but He does not need to. The removal of sin is guaranteed by the mere fact that it is in its own nature, a way of death and destruction. There is only one life path, and that is the one God has mapped out for His people.
When the nature of the law as it really is, is truly understood, then out of obedience to it will be far more willing and successful. Likewise, when the character and ways of God are genuinely comprehended and appreciated, it will be known that He did not compose the law as the symbol of His authority, imposing it upon us as the obligation of service to Him, the medium whereby He could exact out service and homage. It will be realized that the law was made for the children of God and that perfect obedience is the only protection from death and destruction. It will be recognized that when human beings cast aside both the law and Christ as their protectors, they will have exhausted all that heaven has and can do to save them.
Beyond that limit, God can go no further, for that is the totality of His resources. This leaves him with no choice but to grant to each apostate the total separation with its attendant annihilation that he or she has chosen.
The law is a transcript of His character. His own behavior is expressed therein and is not something to which He has forced Himself to uphold as strict discipline contrary to His own nature. His promise is that he writes the same law on our hearts so that it is also a transcript of our characters. Then we can and will obey the law as He obeys it, and this will be the natural response to our regenerated inner natures.
As we have seen, we have “full liberty to yield or to withhold obedience,” He can never punish any one of His creatures for exercising the liberty that He Himself has given. This means then that the punishments that come as a result of turning from God’s way are the fruit or result of our own course of action, not the administration of such things by the hand of God.
Our next post will be “God’s Principles Tested” Does the entrance of sin necessitate any change in the operation of God Government? What was God thinking in placing a forbidden tree in the garden? What were Satan’s charges against God at the tree?
Listed below are the previous posts on this subject of God and His Character:
01 He Wanted to Teach Respect 05 Approaching the Study of God
02 Why a Tree to Teach Respect 06 The Constitution of the Government of God
03 The End of the Great Controversy 07 A Perfect Law
04 Isaiah’s Wonderful Prophecy