God’s Comprehensive Law – r

They sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are your works, Jehovah God, the Almighty! Righteous and true are your ways, you King of the nations. — Revelation 15:3 — RLIV

(1) JEHOVAH’S wisdom, love and justice decide on what is best, and that decision is His will or law. But, strictly speaking, only so much of God’s will as He expresses to His creatures is law to them. Hence, while His laws never conflict, they may be more or less fully and differently expressed on one occasion than on another. Thus, while the law was given to Adam not to eat of a forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:16,17), we are not under any such law. And to Noah a command was given to build an ark (Genesis 6:14-7:1), we today are not given such a command.

(2) All of God’s intelligent creatures are under instruction, being taught those laws which his infinite love, wisdom and justice have enacted for the well-being of all. Though created perfect, each in his plane of being, yet they all lack that scope of knowledge and wisdom which belongs in full measure to the divine nature only. They all lack experience; hence, in giving them instruction in the wisdom and propriety of his laws, it has pleased Jehovah to make an illustration which would manifest and practically exemplify his own nature and demonstrate to his creatures the wisdom and righteousness of his laws.

(3) It is evident that the spirit of his law is not to take advantage of some transgressive slip, occasioned by lack of experience on the part of his creatures, but that he intends it to apply to the thoughts and intents of the hearts. That this is the real intent of God, we shall see illustrated by his dealings with those who have from lack of knowledge become sinners.

(4) His law in full, as we now see it in the light of his Word, is, “You must love Jehovah your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37,38) Jesus stated: “The whole law and the prophets hangs on these two commandments.” God had given to Israel a covenant, often called the “Law Covenant”, and the penalty attached to the slightest deviation from that law is, “The soul who sins, he will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4) As applied in the final judgment, this principle would mean that no being will be permitted to continue to live, who, when fully informed of God’s righteous will, and enabled to obey it, refuses to conform to Jehovah’s will. All such will be cut off from life. Nevertheless, the same prinicple of law existed before God made his covenant with the children of Israel, for Adam was to either prove or fail to prove his love for his Creator by his obedience or disobedience.

(5) To fully exemplify this law, God caused man to be used as an illustration before this extreme penalty was placed upon the angels. So man was placed under the extreme penalty of his law — death. God knew that through inexperience man would violate that law and come under its penalty; but he purposed to make an illustration to all his creatures of the exceeding sinfulness of sin and its sure consequences, while at the same time his love and wisdom so marked out the plan, that mankind, the illustration, might not suffer loss, but be blessed by the lesson as learned. — Romans 7:13; Genesis 22:18; Isaiah 29:18,19; Jeremiah 16:61-63.

(6) Nor should we forget that God’s dealing with man was perfectly just. He had a right to demand perfect obedience from a perfect creature; and the fact that he at first did not inflict death upon the angels was a favor toward them; even as toward man he has displayed his favor also, though in a different manner — through a ransom, and Savior, and restitution, and future trial for life, more favorable than the first, because of the knowledge of sin and its effects, meanwhile acquired by experience. (See our publication: Mankind’s Course to the Day of Judgment) This was a masterly stroke of wise economy on God’s part; for had the death penalty been pronounced on the angels who sinned, a redeemer of their own kind would have been necessary for their recovery; and not only one, but many — one redeemer for each transgressor; for they were legion and were individually on trial; and the requirement of God’s law is, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life.

(7) Let us briefly view the exhibition of God’s character as displayed in his dealing toward mankind whom he made a spectacle to angels. (1 Corinthians 4:9) In so doing, let us guard against the common error which would judge God’s actions exactly as our own. Let us remember that justice, love, wisdom and power, as commonly displayed by the fallen race, in dealing with each other, and by human parents with their children, are far from perfect. In our first parents those qualities were perfect: they were in the image of Jehovah; but in our experience, in consequence of the fall, these qualities are constantly at war with each other. Sometimes love has a victory over justice, and sometimes justice has a victory over love.

(8) But with Jehovah there can be no conflict; and neither ever gains a victory or ascendancy over the other. Both are perfect, and work only in perfect harmony.

(9) Before man was created, the Justice, Wisdom, Love and Power of God held conference on the subject, and devised the plan which has since then been developing. The plan was suggested by Wisdom and concurred in by the other attributes; the arrangement and execution of it being left in Wisdom’s hands.

(10) Wisdom designed to have the largest returns from the experience of man, and the most valuable illustration of God’s character to all his creatures, on every plane of being. Accordingly Wisdom said, Let the man come under the control of Justice, Love and Power, separately, that the force and operation of each may be the more forcibly illustrated. Let Justice first have complete control, let men be dealt with by the strict law, “You must not” –. “In the day that you eat…dying you will die.” And it was so.

(11) Man, inexperienced and unused to self-control and liberty, violated the law, and experienced the full weight of Justice, as Wisdom had foreseen and prepared for.

(12) The lesson under Justice has been long and severe, but the lesson must be thorough, so that it shall never need repeating. Men and angels must learn that Justice is relentless, irrevocable and unalterable. Then, too, before it could be realized that the remedy for man lay only in Jehovah and nowhere else, an opportunity was offered for the trial of other methods for man’s recovery. First, the angels were given rulership (during the age before the flood), and made a miserable failure; for, while man became more and more corrupt himself, his evil influence led to the fall of some of those who attempted his assistance — “those angels who did not keep their first estate.” — Jude 6

(13) With the deluge that order of affairs passed away. Then, under the Law Covenant, given to one selected nation, another and different opportunity was presented, to prove to man that even if God should cancel all enmity, or resentment, and receive the world into covenant relations, they would require a Restorer, so that they could continue in harmony with God, even after being forgiven. Hence sacrifices and offerings for sin were instituted, and God treated that nation as though original sin and guilt had been removed, and then placed them under laws to prove to them, to us and to all, their inability (as degenerate creatures) to keep his law without a restitution to perfection — to his likeness. — See How God’s Son Condemned Sin in the Flesh.

(14) Meanwhile Love stood ready to manifest itself at the moment Wisdom should give the word. Love would have done so at once, but for two reasons: First, it could not oppose or interfere with the action of Justice in condemning man and delivering him over for the execution of the prescribed penalty. Second: though Love might have acknowledged Justice and approved its action by promptly providing a ransom (an equivalent price), Wisdom objected and did not permit this course at that time, because it saw best to make the lesson complete and thorough.

(15) Hence for over four thousand years Love was not permitted to manifest itself, and might only speak in shadowy sacrifices and ceremonies, and more or less obscure promises. But, finally, when the right time had come, “in due time,” “in the fulness of time,” Wisdom gave the word, and Love began to manifest itself for man’s relief. The first act was to produce a perfect and sinless man to be a suitable “ransom for all:” one not under the Adamic curse — who would lay down his life for the race, and whose sacrifice would meet all the requirements of Justice, and therefore be acceptable as a ransom and propitiation for man’s sins. And Love’s great exhibition was seen in the gift of the grandest and greatest and first of all God’s creation, who stooped and became man, to redeem men: and “they called his name Jesus.”

(16) “Ah!” says one who judges by his own feelings, “Now comes Love’s victory over Justice. We shall see that God is more loving than severe.” But not so; God is not more loving than severely just: he is perfect in both respects. It will be indeed a victory for Love, but not over Justice. It will be much grander than that. It will prove a victory for both Justice and Love; for it will be gained by Love’s paying the price demanded by Justice–a ransom, “an equivalent price.” — 1 Timothy 2:4-6.

(17) Thus did love of God magnify the justice and law of God, and ‘make it honorable,’ by acknowledging its claims in the payment of the very penalty demanded — man’s death.

(18) We need scarcely say, that the love of God so long veiled from sight, was manifested in the gift of his Son to be our Redeemer and Savior. The record is: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation [satisfaction or appeasement] for our sins.” “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” — 1 John 4:9,10

(19) When Love had ransomed man, and was ready to reveal itself by restoring the willing and obedient of mankind to perfection and harmony with God, Wisdom postponed this on the ground that a further development of the plan would ultimately enhance Love’s glory, and perfect the work: that an interlude (the Gospel age) must occur in which should be selected some from among the redeemed, some sharers in Christ’s sufferings and reproach, who should be counted worthy to share his glory and to be his associates in the execution of Love’s triumph in “the restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets.” — Acts 3:21.

(20) Long and faithfully has Love labored; yet all her labor will yet be lost, unless in due time Wisdom shall commission Power to do its special part in the great plan.

(21) Power thus far has stood in the background, doing nothing directly in man’s relief, save in the resurrection of our Lord, and in the miracles which shadowed forth its coming work.

(22) Now, we are living in the era when Power begins to act, not in opposition to Justice, but in harmony with Wisdom, Justice and Love. Oh, blessed day! The Lamb that was slain and who redeemed us by his blood is now invested with Power to bless all whom he bought; and he is now about taking unto himself his great power, and shall reign until he has subdued all enemies. — Revelation 20:6; 1 Corinthians 15:25.

(23) Thus, God has chosen the plan which most fully and grandly exemplifies his unalterable justice, and exhibits the exceeding riches of his grace — his love; and in the restoration of man (“all who come to the Father by him”) from destruction, from death, to perfection and life, will God’s power be illustrated far more forcibly than even in man’s creation. And as men and angels come to recognize the full fruition of God’s plan in the ages to come, will they not with one consent exclaim with our brother and Apostle Paul, as he caught a glimpse of it: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who has known the mind [plan] of Jehovah? or who has been his counselor? … Because out of him, and through him, and for him are all [these] things. To him be the glory for ever.” — Romans 11:33-36.

— Based on article from Reprints page 1680 (R1680)
Updated 9/26/2010; 3/17/2014

Divine Law – Part 1

For the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. — John 1:17, World English

We should not think that the above words mean that there was no divine law governing heaven and earth previous to the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai through Moses; such would be as unreasonable as to suppose that neither grace nor truth were known throughout the universe until our Lord’s first advent.

On the contrary, we may say that, as surely as it is true that God himself had no beginning, so we can reasonably assume that truth had no beginning and that law itself had no beginning; for God’s righteous will has always been the law incumbent upon all his creation. There was a beginning to falsehood, and Satan is credited with being “the father of lies” (John 8:44); but since God is the Father of truth, we have reason to conclude it had no beginning even as he was never untrue. There was, however, a beginning to lawlessness or sin, and Satan is credited with being the first transgressor; but, since God’s will or law is the standard of righteousness, it follows that it, like him, has been from eternity past and will extend to eternity future.

We have no direct scripture that conclusively proves that God’s government has always existed; the nearest statement in the Bible we have found is that of Psalm 93:2; the World English reads: “Your throne is established from long ago. You are from everlasting.” While this does not literally state that God’s throne has been established from eternity past, it would seem to indicate that this is so by following up with the thought of God’s own eternal past existence. Since the government of God is universal and if assumed to be without beginning or end, it would follow that there never was a time or a place without law. On the other hand, since there was a time when there was no creation at all, then there would have been no created subjects for God’s law to be active upon. Thus, another assumption could be that God’s throne was established upon the first creative act of God. Nevertheless,  even with this assumption, His Law,  in principle, would have existed even without any creation, and  therefore before the act of establishing his throne to enforce that Law.

Notwithstanding, God’s law was made known at Mt. Sinai, through Moses, in a different manner than it had previously been made known. Angels were created before mankind, and the scriptures relate that man was created “a little lower than the angels.” (Psalm 8:5,6; Hebrews 2:7) As man was created in the moral image of the Creator and the firstborn creature (Genesis 1:26; Colossians 1:15), and as the angels were created higher than man, we can reasonably assume that the angels were also created in God’s moral image. Thus, God had given them such intelligence on even a higher degree than man so that they could distinguish right from wrong. Their minds were so properly balanced that right always appeared as right, and wrong never could be mistaken for right. This capability of discernment, on the part of the creature, is said to be God’s “image,” which, when possessed, obviates the necessity of any written law. Adam, the first of the human race, was also created in God’s moral image, and had this law of God written in the construction of his being, or, as it is sometimes said, written upon his heart, of which mankind now falls short (Romans 3:23), but to which mankind is to be restored. — Jeremiah 31:33; Acts 3:23; Romans 2:15; 2 Corinthians 3:3; 1 Timothy 2:5,6.

The Law Covenant given through Moses, however, was a restricted set of laws and ordinances given to a restricted people (the children of Israel — Deuteronomy 4:44), much of which pertained to a certain land of area of the earth, designed for men who were falling short of the full glory of due to sin. (Romans 3:23) This Law Covenant was not made with anyone before it was given through Moses. (Deuteronomy 5:3) As a sign to the children of Israel as respecting His covenant with them, God gave the children of Israel the seventh-day sabbath and seven-day festivals to keep. (Exodus 13:5,6,7,8,9,10; 31:13,14,15,16,17,18) Although the Law proved that man could not make himself straight, justify himself (Ecclesiastes 1:15;  7:13;  Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16; 3:11), the offer made under that covenant was that if one under the covenant arrangement could have obeyed that Law, he would be restored to life as Adam had it before Adam sinned. (Leviticus 18:5; Romans 10:5) Thus, had any man perfectly obeyed that Law, then, as Paul wrote, “if there had been a law given which could make alive, most assuredly righteousness would have been of the law.” (Galatians 3:21) The reason that the Law Covenant could make no man alive was because of man’s crooked condition, from which he could not make himself straight — justified. Nevertheless, that Law covenant was for unrighteous (crooked) man, it was not for a righteous (straight) man. — 1 Timothy 1:9.

The law given by Moses would have been entirely out of place in heaven, or in Eden before sin entered. With the law of God (briefly comprehended in one word, love — to God and all his creatures in fellowship with him — Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 13:10) written in their very beings, how strange it would have seemed to the angels if God had set up in heaven the Mosaic law tables or copies of them. Of what service could such a statement of the law of God be to such beings, who already had a much higher conception of it? And such a presentation to Adam in Eden before his fall would have been similarly useless; and it was not done.

But why was the Law given by Moses? Why about 2500 years after the fall of Adam into sin and death? Why at Mt. Sinai? Why to the nation of Israel, and not to all nations or any other nation? Why was it written upon stones? Why that departure from the previous method of expressing it?

The mere reading of these questions, and a reflection upon the facts upon which they rest, should relieve the mind of many inconsistencies and prepare it for the answer to them all.

The first man Adam was given one simple command that would demonstrate his obedience to law of God, that which was written in his being; his disobedience to the command was, in effect, a violation of the law that had been written in his being. The result was that he came under the condemnation for such disobedience, that is, death. However, along with this death sentence, in order that the matter of may demonstrated as to what it would mean to live without harmony with divine law, God subjected the whole creation of mankind to vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:2,14; Romans 8:20), and God turned man’s mind over to reprobate condition. (Romans 1:28) Man was no longer straight and just; God made man crooked and in bondage to corruption, but with the hope that man would be freed from that bondage. (Genesis 3:15; Romans 8:21) Due to Adam’s disobedience, the original law written in his heart became marred, so that his mental and moral processes were no longer on the incorrupt level, but were operating on a corrupted level, for corruption came into the world through lust, a desire out of harmony with God’s eternal law, that that desire led to disobedience. (2 Peter 1:4; James 1:15; Romans 5:12-19) Thus began the effacement from his heart of that power of discerning or intuitively knowing right from wrong. The fallen conditions favored the cultivation of selfishness, and exalted selfishness to be the rule of life, instead of love, as in God’s original creation.

The more selfishness came in and gained control, the more the original law of love was erased from man’s heart. And the fall continued naturally from parent to child as years rolled on, until, in Moses’ day, it is safe to say that, with the majority of the race, the original law was almost gone. A general picture of the whole human race, both Jew and Gentile, is given by the Apostle with an account of just what led to such a dreadful condition. –See Romans 1:21-2:1; 5:12-19.

When the first man sinned, however, God immediately gave a covenant of promise as recorded in Genesis 3:15, which in symbolic language foretold that there would an undoing of the condemnation upon man. Later, due to Abraham’s faith, God gave another covenant of promise to Abraham, that through his seed all families, all nations, of the earth would be blessed.  (Genesis 22:18; 26:4; 28:14) It was because of the faith of Abraham, that God made the promise that Abraham’s descendants would receive the land of Canaan, and thus the Law Covenant. (Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 15:7; 17:8; Deuteronomy 9:5) But, as though to insure men that the Hebrews were not naturally superior to other men, God permitted them to go for centuries into slavery to the Egyptians (Numbers 20:15; Deuteronomy 6:21; 16:12; 24:18), then to be his chosen nation out of all the nations of the earth. — Exodus 19:5,6; Deuteronomy 7:6; 10:15; 26:18; 32:9; Amos 3:2.

From this we conclude that the Law given at Sinai was given because the original law, expressed in Adam’s nature twenty-five centuries previous, had become almost extinct and unintelligible. It was given to a chosen people, at the hands of a specially chosen leader. It could not have been re-written upon their hearts, because that would have implied the restoration of that nation to Edenic perfection; and that was impossible because the condemnation  under which that perfection was lost was death, and that condemnation and the subjection to vanity still rested upon Israel and upon all men, and would continue until a ransom could be found, for Adam, — and hence for all who lost life in him.

The best way to express the law of love to those who do not possess the spirit of love, or mental likeness of God, is as God indicated it in the ten commandments written in stone, — Thou shalt, and Thou shalt not. This brings us to the question, Why did God give the law on tables of stone? Why did he not wait until the due time to send his Son to be our ransom-price, and then, after he had redeemed or purchased all from the sentence of death, begin the work of “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21) –t he re-writing of the original law in the human heart?

The Apostle answers this important question. He tells us that when God told Abraham that he would bless all nations through his seed, he referred not to all of his offspring, but to Christ Jesus, who, according to the flesh, would be born of Abraham’s descendants; and that with Jesus he would select others who would be brought into the covenant through Jesus, all of whom would constitute the seed of Abraham, one seed made up of many members, but all of one spirit with him. This seed, once perfected, will share with Jesus in the work of blessing all the families of earth. (Galatians 3:16,29; 1 Peter 1:11; Romans 8:17,18) Paul tells that the righteous seed, Jesus, had to first come and provide the redemptive price, before the selection of the remainder seed of faith, because they would need to have the merit of redemption applied to them in order for them to join Jesus as members of the seed of Abraham by faith. But as a long interval lay between the promise to Abraham and the “due time” for God to send his Son to redeem men, God purposed a work with Abraham’s natural children, which would fill the interim between then and the coming of Christ Jesus, the real “seed of Abraham” according to the divine intention.

This law covenant which Yahweh proposed with Israel, Abraham’s natural children, would do them great good, even though they might thereby pass through some very severe experiences; it would not only keep them from sinking lower into degradation and losing the image of God as completely as some other nations; but in a few cases it might even make the original law more discernible. And not only so, but this Law given to Israel would be to some extent a standard before the world; and thus Abraham’s natural seed might lift up a standard to the people and to a slight extent bless all nations, by calling a halt in the downward course and by reviving in all to some degree the dying influence of the original law of conscience. Nevertheless, the Law was given to a sinful people, under the bondage of corruption, made crooked, etc., and thus most of the Law Covenant reflects this. Furthermore, much of the Law Covenant could only apply to this people in the land promised to them, since many of the commandments of the Law Covenant pertain only to that land.

Of this law covenant the Apostle declares, The Law “was added [to the Abrahamic covenant of promise] because of transgressions [because sin was spreading and men were degrading very rapidly], till the [promised] Seed should come [until Christ came (not only Christ Jesus, the Head, but also the Church his body) to do the real work, the time for which had come] to whom the [Abrahamic Covenant] promise was made.” “For the Law made nothing perfect:” and, moreover, “the Law which was [given] 430 years after [the Covenant made with Abraham] cannot disannul [or in any manner change the terms and conditions of that covenant], that it should make the promise of none effect.” — Galatians 3:19,17; Hebrews 7:19.

But this covenant which God made with Israel was something more than they could fulfill. Although the Law Covenant contained some promises for obedience to particular laws, and it also held the promise of life for those who obey all the laws of the covenant, it is not among the “covenants of promise” that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 2:2. In Galatians 3 & 4, Paul separates the Abrahamic covenant of promise from the Law Covenant. Paul states: “If the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by promise.” (Galatians 3:18) Additionally, he stated: “For not through the law was the promise to Abraham or to his seed that he should be heir of the world, but through the righteousness of faith.” (Romans 4:13) And we should also note that the promise to Abraham is built upon the earlier promise of the seed of woman. (Genesis 3:15) Thus, there are at least two covenants of promise.

The Law Covenant given to Israel was fruitless as far as the promise of life, because the Law was weak for such purposes due the sinful flesh of mankind. (Romans 8:3) Thus, Paul wrote: “if there had been a law given which could make alive, most assuredly righteousness would have been of the law.” Therefore, it fails as being a covenant of promise as spoken of by Paul in Ephesians 2:2. The Law Covenant itself produced no living sons of God, for no one is justified by that covenant, thus it fails as a covenant of promise, whereas the earlier covenant of promise with Abraham, as well as the even earlier covenant of promise of the seed of woman (Genesis 3:15), do not fail.

God’s dealings with Israel, however were typical of his dealings future from their day. Their Sin-offerings, for instance, typically took away their sins, and brought reconciliation to God for a year at a time to the nation; but, as the Apostle says, those sacrifices could not really cancel sin. — “The blood [death] of bulls and goats can never take away sin.” (Hebrews 10:4) It was man that had sinned, and man that had been sentenced to death, and the death of the animal could at most only typify the death of the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all. (1 Corinthians 15:21,22; Hebrews 10:1-10; 1 Timothy 2:5,6) And not only their sacrifices, but God’s every dealing with that nation, seems to have a typical lesson, the reality of which reaches down either to the Gospel age and even beyond into the age to come. (1 Corinthians 10:6; Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5; 10:1) From what we have shown foregoing respecting the divine law, which establishes the lines of right and wrong upon every question, and which, like its Author, is eternally the same unalterable law, we trust that our readers see clearly that the giving of the Law at Sinai had a special, peculiar significance of its own, incidental to the people to whom it was given.

(The above was adapted from R1723)

God’s Covenants (Herald Links)

The following links are written by Bible Students. While we agree with most of what is said, we do not necessarily agree with all that is said.

January/February 2010:

In the Beginning (God’s Covenants) Audio MP3

Obey and Live Audio MP3
The first covenant was between God and Adam. — Genesis 2:16,17

The Rainbow Covenant Audio MP3 — Genesis 9:16
God promised there would never be another flood.

The Harmony of the Covenants Audio MP3
God’s covenants work together to provide man’s salvation.

All the Nations Shall Be Blessed Audio MP3 – Abrahamic Covenant; Genesis 22:17.
God’s covenant with Abraham described his entire plan of salvation.

What Was the Purpose of the Law? Audio MP3 — Galatians 3:24.
The Law Covenant kept Israel a separated people.

The Barren One Will Rejoice Audio MP3 – Galatians 4:28.

I Will Make a New Covenant Audio MP3 – Jeremiah 31:31.
The New Covenant provides blessings for everyone.

The Prophecies and Promises of Jeremiah 31 Audio MP3
Jeremiah 31 contains promises of future blessing for Israel and all mankind.

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Other Links:

A New CovenantConsiders the Old and New Testament use of this term, and analyzes some of the puzzling details regarding this covenant. – Jeremiah 31:31.

Noah’s Covenant and the Promise Covenant – Isaiah 54:9.