The Lord has a great many wonderful names and titles. Each of them reveal different aspects of His nature and His relationship to creation. Thousands of pastors and Bible teachers have taught through them – blessing their churches.. That is something I have considered but never done, but I have addressed many of those names and titles individually.
This afternoon I want to bring your attention to one of those titles – one of my least favorites. I often refer to the fruit of this office without directly mentioning the title on the door. To neglect this subject is to improperly preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am referring to the title “Lawgiver.” I am much more comfortable with “Judge” than I am “Lawgiver,” but they are closely related. In God’s government there is no distinction between the executive, legislative and judicial offices. Because God is one – and completely sovereign – He is King, Lawgiver and Judge.
As a title, “Lawgiver” is given to Jehovah twice – once in each Testament. Isaiah uses the three titles I just mentioned in his 33rd chapter. – “For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.” Isaiah 33 is filled with glorious promises of God’s future blessings on Israel – and ultimately to us. Jehovah is ISRAEL’S lawgiver, but because he is King, Judge and Lawgiver over all His creation, the wicked – universally – will pay for their rebellion against him. I could see only one other verse which calls God our “Lawgiver.” Amidst exhortations to Christian not to be overly critical towards other Christians, James says, “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” – 4:12.
For our thoughts this afternoon, let’s begin by considering “Law.“
I address this subject, knowing that some of you are far more familiar with the subject than I am. But I press on with what I have learned. For example, I have learned that to have some degree of law is important. The Book of Judges is often hard to read because of the wickedness and judgment it records. The history in that book rises and falls like a sine wave – horrible sin and great victory. Over and over again, Israel sinned against God, and He judged them. But then He raised up someone to deliver them. The nature of Israel at that time in history is revealed in one repeated statement – “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” When every man lives by his own path – his own morals – his own individual laws – chaos results. I agree with this quote – “The moment that law is destroyed liberty is lost, and men, left free to enter upon the domains of each other, destroy each other’s rights, and invade the field of each other’s liberty.” To some extent there need to be laws so that society can properly function. Sadly, the wickedness of powerful men often creates far more law than is necessary, and the only ones to benefit from those laws are those powerful men.
The United States has federal laws which apply to all its citizens and residents – whether we like them or not. They govern our national society. Then each of our states have additional laws, and our communities add even more. We have no problem with seeing the helpfulness of some of them. Driving would be chaos if there was not the rule to drive on the right side of the road. Stop signs and traffic lights illustrate certain laws, preventing accidents and saving lives. There are hundreds of man-made laws which benefit our society. But as I say, as I see it, there are many more laws which hurt society in various ways.
Of course, nations often have laws which differ from the laws of other nations. Driving on the right side of the road (the correct side), in Great Britain is against their law and is dangerous. And here in this country, there are state laws which differ from neighboring states. It is legal to buy marijuana in Washington and Colorado, but it is illegal to have it in possession in Idaho.
Diversity is also true when we compare Israel with neighboring nations – and even our own nation. Circumcision was, for example, a law issued to mark a difference between God’s people and all others. And certain dietary laws were given to Israel to set them apart from everyone else. Those two things are examples of what Bible scholars call the “Law of Moses” or the “Ceremonial law.” But actually, they were neither the laws of Moses nor were they entirely ceremonial. Couldn’t we say that the “Law of Moses” was really the national law of Israel? Just as English tort law is very different from the American right to sue the socks off our neighbors, Israel had laws – given to them by God – which don’t apply to Americans or directly to Christians.
But incorporated into Israel’s legal system were commands which we might call “Natural,” “Inherent,””Intrinsic” or “Moral laws.” These are laws which the Creator requires of every creature – Gentile, Jew, Greek, Barbarian – American. Commands like – “Be ye holy, for I am holy” – Leviticus 11:44 and I Peter. 1:16. “Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” Isn’t Genesis 9:6 one of those moral laws? – “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man.”
Closely related to the “Moral Law” is the revealed will of God in any form. Elohim has given commands, beyond the codified of law, expecting us to keep them. In these our disobedience proves us to be sinners – and thus in need of salvation. Sometimes it is hard to determine exactly to which KIND of law certain scriptures refer. Of which type of law was Paul speaking throughout the Epistle to the Romans? “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died….” “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good….” Romans 7. Some of this is clearly the moral law – “thou shall not covet.” But could the apostle been referring to Israel’s ceremonial law in some of this? Romans 3 – “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before god…. by the law is the knowledge of sin….” And “all have sinned, and some short of the glory of God.”
Every society, from the Mafia, to the Federal Government of the United States, to your family, have laws. Israel had laws given to them by God through Moses. Our states have laws, and generally speaking the Bible teaches that we are obligated to obey them. There are laws which apply to all men equally – no matter in what country we may live.. Even nature is required to live by laws which Elohim has created for it – like entropy and gravity. And to break the laws which apply to us creates problems – crimes in some cases. To break the moral laws of God is to sin.
Shifting gears, now, I’d like to point you to Christ.
God’s law should always take us to Christ, because we are law-breakers in need of a Saviour. Turn to Galatians 4 and consider one very important statement – Galatians 4:4-5 – “When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem those that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Notice that after saying Christ was “made of a woman,” it says he was “made of the law.” Obviously the first statement is that Christ Jesus was BORN – Mary gave birth to the Son of God. The second statement may be a little more difficult, but it says that He was born under the law.
In fact Christ was born under several different sets of laws. Christ was born in Bethlehem because Roman law demanded that Joseph return to the city of his father. Christ was also born a Jew – a Hebrew. And therefore He was presented to God in the temple and was circumcised on the eighth day. Throughout His life, Christ kept the Mosaic Law, although not exactly as the Pharisees interpreted it. He was also born under the moral Law of God – which He kept absolutely perfectly. Christ Jesus lived more than thirty years in absolute holiness – without any iniquity. Christ “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.” “He knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
We began this message with the scripture from Galatians 6:1-2. It refers to another kind of law which we haven’t addressed as yet. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” What is this law of Christ? Is it different from any of the others? If so how?
Have you ever heard anyone say– “This [law of Christ] is God’s moral law now in the hands of the Mediator. This was the law that Christ was made under (Galatians 4:4). It is the law that was in his heart – ‘I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart’ – Psalms 40:8. It is the law he came to fulfil – ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law … I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil’ – Matthew 5:17.” Have you ever heard it said, “This law of God is now called ‘the law of Christ’ as it relates to Christians. As creatures we are under obligation to serve the law of God – ‘I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin’ – Romans 7:25. However, as redeemed sinners we are now the bond slaves of Christ doing the will of God from the heart – Ephesians 6:6. And because we are his bond slaves we are now required to serve the Lord Jesus Christ – ‘Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ’ – Colossians 3:24.”
As I just said, I agree that Christ was “made under the moral law.” And He came to fulfill or satisfy the demands of the Law. But I also disagree that in our salvation we become bond-slaves to Christ, – “because we are his bond slaves we are now required to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.” There are people who want to enslave Christians to one or more of the kinds of laws which do not really belong to our society – our kingdom. This teaching is condemned in the Epistle to the Galatians. Those people are usually called “Judaizers” – false teachers attempting to drive Gentile believers into obedience to the laws of the Jews. But as the scripture says, “We are not under the law, but under grace” – Romans 6:14. “Ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” – Romans 7:4. And Romans 7:6 – “But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” Romans 10:4 – “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” I suppose it’s a matter of focus. The Judaisers wanted the Gentile believers to focus on obedience to the law. But the Christian focus is to be on Christ.
Another disagreement which I have with the previous quote is in regards to “the law of Christ.” The statement was that “This law of God [the moral law] is now called ‘the law of Christ’ as it relates to Christians.” There is no Biblical support for that declaration.
What is the law of Christ? Doesn’t the Bible clearly tell us?
Remember, there are different laws for different societies. The children of Israel were obliged to obey the laws given to them through Moses. The residents of the United States must obey the laws of this country or suffer the consequences. But we are not obligated to obey the laws of Mexico or Canada – unless we visit those countries. And then as residents of our various states we have additional duties. But you and I, as Christians, have been born into the family of God. And with that birth we are now citizens of Heaven, where our elder brother, Christ Jesus, is King. As such we are bound to a new law – “the law of Christ.” The Bible doesn’t speak of “the laws of Christ” – (plural) but to one singular “law of Christ.”
And just as the Jews proved their citizenship by the maintenance of certain laws, Christians prove theirs by the implementation of one law. In John 13 the Lord Jesus was preparing His disciples for His death and departure. After Judas left the upper room and the eleven remained, Christ said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.” Then later in 13:34-35 He said – “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples.” We prove ourselves to be Christ’s disciples – not by keeping any other law, but the law of Christ – love. And because of our obedience to this law, we find it easy to obey other just laws – even those of men. In Galatians Paul tells us “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” After Biblically decimating those false teachers who were demanding that the Gentile believers return to the laws of the Jews, Paul summarized those laws. Galatians 5:14 – “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Paul, in essence, repeated what the Lord had earlier said. In John 15 Christ was speaking to his disciples,“Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” And what was the command immediately given? “This is MY commandment – (the law of Christ) – That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”
I will close with a little historical anecdote. The Puritans left England seeking freedom from oppression, desiring to establish a thoroughly Christian society as they understood it. They passed laws after the pattern of the Old Testament, essentially mirroring the Judaizers who had been plaguing the Christians in Galatia. They jailed, whipped and beat their own citizens for breaking their laws. They produced the mayhem of Salem; they pretended holiness, but they created Pharisees. They legislated righteousness – something which governments cannot do – it is impossible. When a few Baptists began to surface among them, the Puritans categorized them as “Antinomians” – lawless people. Those Baptists refused to acknowledge the authority of the Old Testament laws over their Christianity. But they were NOT anti-law; they were NOT lawless. They followed the law of Christ, something which most of those Puritans did not understand – or obey.
True love for God empowers obedience. The law of Christ teaches, and enables, the Lord’s people to keep the moral law. It motivates the saint toward holiness, and out of that flows a desire to obey the Lord. Christians may appear to be obedient to God’s law, and in fact they are. But it isn’t by putting the law above everything else. Out of love they are putting Christ, the Lawgiver, in His proper place in their hearts, and as a result in their lives. When the heart is focused on the Lord rather than the law, the law will be obeyed, but the Lord will be glorified. Similarly, love for one’s neighbor gives the saint a desire to be the kind of neighbor society needs. In the context of Galatians 6 – Love is the reason we bear one another’s burdens. Love produces a spirit of meekness, helpfulness and graciousness.
Are we anti-law; “Antinomians?” Absolutely not! Christians willingly bind themselves to obey the law of Christ; a single law. We don’t have a long list of required duties and a longer list of prohibitions. We have our Saviour whom we love “with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.” And because we do, we find that we love our neighbours as ourselves, and we love our brethren even above ourselves.