Law of the Lord is Good!
"But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust."
In addition to Paul's attribution of goodness of God's law in 1 Tim. 1:8-11, the Psalmist praised the effects of God's law upon those who walk in it. Consequently, those who keep God's law are they who:
Though long, this is not an exhaustive list of the Psalmist's praise of God's law as an extension of God's Person. In the Psalms and throughout the Prophets, the law of God is esteemed as good and wonderful, leading men aright and guiding them toward spiritual salvation.
How different the law is to some people!
We hear today (as in ancient times) of those who moan from being "restricted" by God's law, of being burdened by precepts too heavy to be borne, of "kicking against the goad." The law is seen as interfering with "freedom," as too narrow, as too demanding, as too unloving, as onerous. Those who attempt to keep the law of God are seen as narrow, bigoted, unloving, unkind, full of strife, meddlers, vicious, unfeeling, prejudiced, judgmental, over-bearing and hateful.
Can we be speaking of the same thing? Can the law be both this good and this bad? This wonderful and this terrible? So restrictive and yet so full of freedom?
Are those who love the law so narrow, yet so open; so hateful, yet so loving; so judgmental, yet so forgiving? Can they respect others while exhibiting prejudice and bias?
How are we to relate to the law and to law-keepers? Can there be two perspectives and both be true?
a true understanding of Deity, especially as expressed in the Person of Christ, makes us realize that God and His word will be, at the same time, to separate people, both good and bad, wisdom and foolishness, glorious and shameful.
"Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age. Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:20-24).
Thus, our text of 1 Tim. 1:8-11 addresses the fact that God's word is "good" if one is willing to use it lawfully. The same apostle Paul stated that "rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil." Therefore, "Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same" (Rom. 13:3-4).
It is the law-breaker who hates law. It is the law-breaker who rebels at law, who feels the law to be too restrictive, too inhibitive of freedom, burdensome and onerous.
It is the law-breaker who hates the law-keeper. Those who hate the law hate those who keep the law. While it is neither narrow, biased or judgmental to be one who keeps the law, those who break the law impugn such motives to law-keepers as a defense mechanism for they know they are different from law-keepers. In every age, law-breakers persecute law-keepers.
It is not enough to suggest that some keep law for the wrong purposes. It is granted that some elevate law hypocritically. It is granted that some misunderstand the function and place of law and allow law-keeping to replace grace. It is granted, as well, that some replace God's laws with traditions that they themselves elevate to equality with God's law. All this is true.
But some suggest that those who keep law as law is intended by God to be kept, with humility and fear, depending on forgiveness when falling short (Rom. 4:1-8) are somehow guilty of self-righteousness simply by being law-keepers.
Antinomianism, Gnosticism, Calvinism, Universalism, Libertarianism, and other "-isms" rail against law per se. That is to be expected; it is the nature of those who are rebels.
all those who hate God's law and hate law-keepers are confined to ancient history. Yes, the Pharisees of old would be classed as haters of God's law. Jesus identified them as such. But the spirit that motivated the Pharisee is still alive and with us in modern times.
When one wants an adulterous marriage that is unlawful, such a one despises the law of Christ that condemns it and despises those who teach the truth about marriage that is honorable. The people of Jesus' day have it in common with people of our day who rail against those who hold to God's marriage laws "from the beginning" (Matt. 19).
When one wants social drinking that is condemned, such a one despises the law of God against the sinful use of alcohol and despises those who abstain and teach against social drinking. Preachers have lost their jobs and have been persecuted by brethren who intend to have their alcohol even if it splits the church.
When one wants to depart into doctrinal error, such a one despises those scriptures that condemn apostasy and despises those who preach sound doctrine. Countless churches have been divided by those who try to pin the blame on faithful brethren opposed to innovations. "Who is the 'troubler of Israel'?" is still a relevant question.
When one wants unity in diversity, such a one despises the truth that requires us to be a separate people (2 Cor. 6:14ff) and despises those who preach against unity in sinful beliefs and practices. Diotrephes threw those out of the church that accepted John and John's epistles. Harsh language (if nothing else) is still directed at those today who oppose "unequal yokings."
So it has ever been; so it will ever be. "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 Jn. 1:5). The very nature of good and evil requires that animosity exists between the law of God and the law of Satan; between those who follow God and those who follow Satan. No amount of patience and good will can change the hostility and natural antipathy that must exist.
our premise, "The Law of God is Good," can be substantiated as right, a proper understanding of the Law of God (inclusive of both the Old and New Covenants, but expressed today through Christ), should lead to an acceptance of every facet of God's expressed will with joy and humble obedience. Surely, as we have "learned from the things written before" (Rom. 15:4), we should be able to avoid rebellion, murmuring against God's law and charging the law with being too burdensome. Surely, we have learned not to accuse sound brethren of being narrow, bigoted, unloving and full of strife. But, have we?
Jarrod Jacob opens our study of law with "God's Rules have Reasons." Though God has the right to legislate simply because He is God, nevertheless, God has tempered his law to our good and we can know that every law of God has a beneficial reason behind it, loving in its effect.
Yet, Jeff Smith reminds us, the law is "More Than A Love Letter." The Bible carries the weight of law, binding and compulsory in its expression. Some today seek to escape the binding force of "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots" by a new hermeneutic, attempting to change edicts of law into whispers of affection.
Daniel Vess relates the glory of Mt. Sinai, "The Law Given For Israel's Good," demonstrating that even the Decalogue and the entire mandate of Moses was for Israel's good, yet totally binding as laws from Heaven.
Donnie Rader compares the Law of Moses with "The Law of the Conscience" given to Gentiles and brings into sharp focus with truth the contention that some other law than the Law of Christ is binding today. How can we be obedient to any law if it cannot be explained, located and recognized?
Dennis Reed speaks in his material, "Is The Law of God Understandable?", to the complaint of many who say that the will of God is too complex, too obscure, too complicated to be sure of knowing what God really intended to say.
Gordon Grammar answers the mewl of the complainer and moaners among us who ask (and have their own answer about), "Are God's Laws Too Hard?" Obedience is hateful and submission is detestable to those who want freedom from law.
Harry Osborne exposes the pejorative complaint toward faithful law-keepers as being too narrow-minded by asking, "Who Are the Pharisees?" Today, it is not necessary to inquire whether or not a thing is scriptural or right. Just label it as Pharisaical and that is sufficient to turn many away from the truth. Are there Pharisees among us today? If so, who are they?
Finally, but not the least in importance, Bill Cavender addresses the misunderstanding of Romans 6:14, "Not Under Law, But Under Grace." With too many, law is impotent because of God's grace; we are not under law at all! Echoing the ancient error that taught, "let us sin that grace may abound," Bill shows the proper balance between law and grace which we need to receive the blessing of God's law.
(As a footnote, veteran and esteemed preacher of the gospel, H. E. Phillips of Lutz, FL, was invited to participate in this month's issue by writing on "Perfectionism: Is Doctrinal Unity Possible." However brother Phillips has suffered ill health and is under a doctor's care while taking dialysis on a regular basis. We regret that he was not able to be a part of this issue. If you are interested in sending him get well cards, his address is P. O. Box 1631, Lutz, FL 33549. If you would like to read material concerning doctrinal unity, please refer to the February issue of Watchman and you will find an outline with various charts that addresses that subject. Tom Roberts)
Email Tom Roberts
Return to Watchman front page
return to March 1999 index