Since the rebellion in the garden, all mankind have been born with a rebellious nature which is inclined to reject what is good and wise and choose what is evil and foolish.
“There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all gone out of the way; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no not one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
From the time of Adam to Noah, the law of God was not given, although through conscience men had an intuitive knowledge of good and evil. (Romans 5:12-13). Yet, the rebel nature in man was so strong that “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” (Gen. 6:5,6)
Left without divine law, mankind grew not better, but worse. So God decided to give laws, first to Noah, and later, more especially, to Moses.
What is the law of God?
The law of God (or more simply, the law) may be understood in different ways. In one understanding, it is the whole O.T., including the law of Moses, the prophets and the writings (including the Psalms and Proverbs). (John 10:34,35). It may be divided into the moral law of God (which doesn’t change) and the ceremonial law to do with various regulations which God applied to the people of Israel concerning lifestyle and especially sacrificial laws (which are now fulfilled in Christ). At a more basic level, the law of God is those instructions which He gives which carry a punishment for disobedience.
The Ten Commandments
The ten commandments were given to the people of Israel through Moses on Mt. Sinai. All of them are repeated to us in various forms in the New Testament. They form part of the moral law of God which we must respect. These commands, in short form, are as follows.
1. I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me. (Ex. 20:2,3)
2. You shall not make a carved image or any likeness of anything to bow down to them or serve them. (Ex. 20:4,5)
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. (vs 7)
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the Seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. (vs 8,9)
5. Honour your father and mother. (vs 12)
6. You shall not murder. (vs 13)
7. You shall not commit adultery. (vs 14)
8. You shall not steal. (vs 15)
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. (vs 16)
10. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbour. (vs 17)
What do these commands mean for us?
1. God must be the centre of our affections and love, admiration, trust, worship and service. No other person, no other thing, no other philosophy must take that place in our hearts and minds.
2. We must not represent God through any work of art and bow down to it. We must not bow down to or serve any idols. We must not worship a god of our own imagination or human tradition, but only the Lord God who is revealed through Scripture.
3. We must honour the name of God and not say things of God that are not true, using his name as a swear-word or as a justification for our wrong actions.
4. Despite what members of the Seventh Day Adventist church and some other groups may say, all this means is that we should cease from our own works and rest in God (See Hebrews 4:1-10). Whatever your situation, if you say you have no time for Christian meetings and for worshiping God, you are clearly a violator of the spirit of this commandment and you must repent. The fact is, if you overwork because of greed or insecurity about finances, saying that you have no time to attend church, you are an idolater and can expect God’s judgment and curse. We must make time for church meetings if we are God’s people.
For further information on the controversy regarding Sabbath Keeping, see Appendix A.
5. Respect your father and mother, don’t talk against them. Help them financially if need be.
6. Murder, not capital punishment is condemned here. Murder, even in the heart, is a serious crime against humanity. Jesus taught us in the New Testament not even to be angry with our brothers, and certainly not to hate them. We should love our human enemies, but hate the devil and his evil enticements and works (Matt. 5:43-48; 1 John 3:15).
7. Do not have sexual involvement with anyone except your husband or wife, even in your imagination. It is a sin to divorce so you can marry someone else. Also, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not commit adultery”. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:27-28) One clear application of this is that we must keep our eyes away from pornography of any kind. You may not be able to avoid the first sight of it always, but you can avoid the second look.
8. Do not take anything that does not belong to you, or anything that belongs to another person legally. Furthermore, you should realise that all you have belongs to God, so don’t take what is His and spend it on your selfish desires.
9. Don’t lie or say what isn’t true about someone else.
10. Don’t love money or wish that you could take what belongs to someone else.
The Law of love
“But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:25)
“If you really fulfil the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’, you do well.” (James 2:8)
This perfect royal law is in a word, “LOVE!” We must love God with all we have, and love everybody else as much as we love ourselves.
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Mt. 22:37-39)
Not that we are to love only God, but we are to love also our brethren as Christ loved us (Jn 13.34,35), our neighbour (anybody that needs mercy Luke 10:27-37) and even our enemies, those who curse us, hate us, spitefully use us and persecute us (Matthew 5:43,44).
Love is the fulfilment of the law. (Rom. 13:9,10). You cannot love your neighbour and steal from him, commit adultery with his wife or envy him for what he has. If you love, you will fulfil the moral law of God.
Why the law?
As we have seen, without law mankind became worse and worse until it was necessary that they be destroyed. After the flood, God told Noah and his sons that they may eat the flesh of animals without the blood, and that they will be punished for murder. Later, God gave the Mosaic law. Jesus kept this law, fulfilling all legal righteousness. He taught that love is the fulfillment of the law. What God really wants is obedience from the heart that leads to love. (1 Tim 1:5; 1 Peter 1:22). The New Testament puts the emphasis on the law of love, for it is God’s goal to conform us to the love that is in Him.
God’s laws are given for a number of reasons.
1. To restrain wickedness, by threatening judgment on those who break the law. (1 Tim 1:8-11)
2. To educate the conscience to have a true knowledge of right and wrong.
3. To convict men of sin and judgment (and therefore the need for a saviour) (Gal. 3:23; Rom. 7:7)
4. To protect mankind from the unrestrained evil of others and from their own foolish inclinations, in the hope that they may later be saved. (Gal. 3:23)
5. To be obeyed. God expected those to whom the law was given to obey them. This must be done by faith and by the grace of God, because our hearts still rebel and deceive us into sin if left to their own power. (Rom. 3:31) Christians ought to obey the moral law of God, even though we are not bound by the Mosaic covenant.
6. To shut the mouth of everyone who protests their innocence before God. (Rom 3:19)
7. To show sin for what it really is, but bringing it out into the open (Rom 7.13)
The law is good (Rom 7.12). It comes from the wisdom, understanding and even from the love of God, but there are some things it cannot do.
The law is not given to make us right with God. It cannot. (Rom. 3:28). No man except Jesus Christ can say to God, “You should accept me because I have kept your laws”. (James 2:1)
The law in itself does not give us power to do what is right. (Rom. 8:3; Acts 15:10)
No one therefore can be made right before God through the law. Any attempt to do this will prove to be futile.
Curses and The Judgments of God on sin now
Most people in the world today are in trouble now, because, having broken God’s laws and having worshiped idols (other things besides the true God), they are under the curse and the wrath of God. (Romans 1:18; John 3:36) God still loves us all, but he hates our sin and in his righteous judgment he many times punishes it even to some extent in this life.
God says he visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate him. (Exodus 20:4). At times whole nations are cursed because of their idolatry and history of rejecting God’s word.
Sin has its consequences, even in this life. It separates us from God and leads us to death – physical, spiritual and eternal. “The wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23. Death spread to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12). This is something that can be seen. We might try to ignore death or give it a pretty face through ritual, but it is an ugly, terrifying reality and a judgment on our sin.
Sin brings also a curse in this life. The curse includes poverty, sickness, demonic oppression, ignorance, war, disaster. (Deuteronomy 28:15ff). The book of Proverbs lists many woes that will come to the rebel (the fool) in this life. They include a sad mother, poverty, shame, violence, disgrace, failure, strife, punishment, destruction and many more! Deuteronomy 28:15-60 lists a whole series of curses that can come upon lawbreakers. We see clearly there that sickness is a part of that curse.
So even if some sins seem to bring a reward or a pleasure for a season, their harvest is always corruption, bitterness and death. Multitudes are under a curse and life does not go well for them because they disregard God’s principles and laws. But these curses are not the only consequence of sin and disobedience.
Eternal Judgment of Hell
Some teach that there is no hell, only the grave. And yet Jesus Christ taught more on hell than anyone – giving severe warnings.
“And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:30)
Hell is a place of torments (Luke 16:23). Luke 16:19-31 describes Hades as a place of torment where the dead, awaiting God’s final judgment are kept in prison and tormented.
There is also the final hell, the lake of fire, mentioned in Revelation 20:14 and 21:8. This lake of fire is the second death, which people and devils will be thrown into after the general resurrection from the dead and Great White Throne judgment of God. All who do not come to God and receive eternal life will eternally suffer this eternal death. Note the list of those who will go to hell. “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8).
Paul taught on hell. “It is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you … in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9). “And they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10).
Those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ will be punished eternally in hell! If you go there, it was because you did evil, broke God’s laws and then chose to reject the knowledge and application of salvation through Jesus Christ. This knowledge is available to you in the following lessons. Be sure to make it a matter of diligent enquiry and consideration.
To be saved, we must both know and obey Christ’s gospel! There is an eternal punishment for sin. If we understand God’s Word we cannot deny this awful doctrine.
Appendix A: Sabbath Keeping
It is a tradition observed even from the days of the early church to keep the first day of the week, Sunday, free from all kinds of business activity, so that we may undividedly give that time to the immediate worship of God in church meetings, for physical and emotional rest, and for building family relationships. This tradition was established as a celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead on Sunday (John 20:1,19). Scriptures such as Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:9, as well as the writing of the so-called early church fathers confirm this fact.
Now this will not satisfy some, who are quick to condemn those who do not keep the Jewish Sabbath as being of the antichrist. Yet the New Testament or New Contract which supersedes the Old Testament or Old Contract in all points of difference, is clear in these Scriptures:
i. “So let no one judge you in food or drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” (Colossians 2:16,17). There is no reason to suppose the sabbaths mentioned here are “special sabbaths” other than standard Jewish Sabbaths – Friday night to Saturday night. Christ has fulfilled this law for us in such a way that we are no longer bound to the written code regarding Sabbath keeping.
ii. “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.” (Romans 14:5,6)
Whether we keep special regulations on a particular day – be it Saturday or Sunday – or not – in both cases as Christians we must be making that choice for the Lord and not for ourselves. We should not attack those who wish to observe the Jewish Sabbath, but neither should we be intimidated by their doctrine that we are of the devil if we don’t observe it ourselves. The New Testament gives us freedom from such regulations, so that we may live for God every day, according to the leading of the Holy Spirit. In the New Covenant, every moment must be holy for the Lord. “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may be married to another – to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.” (Romans 7:4)