Sunday, December 02, 2007
Evidence that "the Law" Includes the Moral Law
"For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law. For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified." (Romans 2:12-13)
These two verses and the two that follow contain the first explicit mention of the word "law" in the book of Romans, but though the word is first explicitly used here, the concept of and discussion of law is already well underway since chapter 1 and the previous part of chapter 2. Immediately prior, Paul has just been talking about the righteous judgment of God, how God will judge the world, both Jews and Gentiles, according to what they did, whether they did good or whether they did evil (2:6-11). This is evidently moral. The unrighteousness he is talking about carries over from chapter 1 (see 1:29-2:5ff). From chapter 1 the whole discussion has been moral, and thus far nothing has changed and nothing new has been introduced. In light of this moral judgment, those who sin without the law (that is, the Gentiles. See further explanation below on v. 14-15) will perish, and those who sin in the law (that is, the Jews) will perish. Only those who not only know the good but do the good will be justified on judgment day. Here, "justified" is the word διχαιόω, which is a verb form of the noun διχαιοσύνη, which means "righteousness", a word featured prominently already in chapter 1. In the light of its use in chapter 1, as well as the immediate context here in chapter 2, it is perfectly evident that to be "justified" means to be declared morally righteous in God's judgment.
"For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)" (Romans 2:14-15)
This is still in the first passage where the word "law" is mentioned in the book of Romans. The law, as expressed here, cannot mean the ceremonial law but the moral law, since the Gentiles prove that the moral, not ceremonial, law of God is written on their hearts by their actions; their consciences also bearing witness and accusing them before God.
"Behold, thou art called a Jew, and resteth in the law, and makest thy boast of God... Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonorest thou God?" (Romans 2:17, 21-23)
The law here is described in moral terms: the Ten Commandments. The Jews were hypocrites in telling other to keep the law when they themselves broke it.
"For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfill the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?" (Romans 2:25-27)
Continuing on from verse 23, Paul actually contrasts circumcision with the moral law. He states that circumcision only profits you if you keep the law (meaning, you can have all the ceremonies done perfectly, but if you fail at the moral law it all profits you nothing). He then goes on to say that if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law (obviously moral) their uncircumcision is counted as circumcision. So the ceremonial and moral is contrasted. The law, here, clearly being moral.
"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 may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:19-20)
After Paul describes the immoral condition of both Jews and Gentiles in verses 9-18, he then shows how it is the law that reveals to us this true condition of ours. "By the law is the knowledge of sin" (the sin just described in verses 3:9-18). This, then, is the moral law, which makes every man, Jew and Gentile, guilty before God and without excuse. Therefore by the deeds of the moral law shall no flesh be justified in his sight.
"But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:21-24)
Since no man can be justified by keeping the moral law, righteousness must come to us apart from that law. The answer is the righteousness of God which is given to moral sinners through faith in Jesus Christ. There is no difference... Jews and Gentiles alike have sinned against the moral law, and receive this righteousness "apart from the law", through faith in Christ. Christ died on the cross for our sins (our moral failings). In His death He suffered the punishment that should have fallen upon us, Jews and Gentiles, for our moral sins.
"Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith." (Romans 3:27-30)
If Paul were merely saying that we did not have to keep the ceremonial commandments, but that we still were required to keep the moral commandments, then his point would fall apart, since a man could still boast that he worked for his salvation - he obeyed the moral law. But Paul's point is that all boasting is excluded because justification comes to us apart from works, any works whatsoever. God alone gets the glory, because God alone does the work; it is only for us to believe.
"For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all." (Romans 4:13-16)
Several verses earlier in chapter 4, Paul writes that "if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God." Moral works are spoken of here, since Abraham knew nothing of the ceremonial law at the time he was justified by faith (Genesis 15:6). Paul continues in verses 13-16. He states, "the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression." This wrath is the same wrath Paul has been speaking about at length: the righteous judgment of God being stored up against the immoral, whether they be Jews or Gentiles (Romans 1:18, 2:5,8). The law which accuses is the moral law which men have broken. The only way to be saved is by grace, not by obeying the moral law (for then it would not be by grace, Romans 4:4,5, 11:6)! It is only by grace if it is through faith, because faith, rather than working, trusts in the gracious work of another. In this we become the children of Abraham, "the father of us all" who believe.
"For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law." (Romans 5:13)
The presence of sin was in the world, but the knowledge, and therefore the imputation, of sin was not, until the law came and revealed it. This is evident by verse 20, which says, "Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound." By this it is evident that what is spoken of here is the moral law, for "the offense" before the law was not ceremonial but moral in nature.
"What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid." (Romans 6:15)
This verse makes it unmistakably clear that Paul's whole argument has been that people are not justified by the moral law, since the objection raised against Paul is as follows: "What then? If we are not under the moral law, shall we sin?" Such an objection would never be raised if Paul were arguing about the ceremonial law. In context, the sins being spoken of are moral, such as lust, uncleanliness, etc., all which were previously condemned by the law, and now, for the Christian, are restrained by grace. "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace."
"Wherefore, my brethren, 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)
Our relation to the law was taken out of the way through the death of Jesus Christ for our sins. Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (in our place), hanging on the tree. He bore our moral sins in his body: all the iniquity which we had committed against God's law were placed upon Him (Isaiah 53:6). He suffered and died, and thereby we died to law: it having no more controversy with us. Now, because we are free from the law, can we bear good works for God, since it was the law that stirred us up to rebel (v. 5).
"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." (Romans 7:7)
The law here is the moral law by the evident reference, "Thou shalt not covet."
"Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful." (Romans 7:12-13)
Nothing else can be inferred here but the moral law. The law is indeed holy, just and good. It was given for the express purpose of exposing sin in us, so that sin, by the law, might appear exceedingly sinful. The successful ministry of the law produces in us the following disillusioned confession: "For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin." It is the moral law alone that can do this.
"For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Romans 8:3-4)
The moral law was unable to make us righteousness before God. God's contention with the Jewish people was not that they had failed the ceremonial law but that they had failed the moral law (for even the failure of the ceremonial law is a moral issue!). Because of this God sent His own Son into the world, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, so that the moral righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us "apart from the law", by faith in Jesus Christ.
"Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." (Romans 8:7)
The carnal (fleshly) mind is not, and cannot, be subject to the law of God; it is in enmity against God Himself! This is a serious moral crime. What hope can we sinners possibly have if we are not made right with God by trusting in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone?
"But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone." (Romans 9:31-32)
Israel sought righteousness before God by the works of the law, which was neither the purpose of the law nor possible by the law. "Righteousness" in the Old Testament is everywhere moral (ex. Jeremiah 22:3). Israel did not learn the lesson of the law: that they are morally bankrupt (Romans 7:12-14, Galatians 3:21-24). And so, through pride and self-righteousness, they refused to look to Christ for righteousness and still remain under blindness to this day.
"For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:3-13)
All hinges upon "the righteousness of God" or "their own righteousness", and the deciding hindrance is man's own ignorance. "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many." (Isaiah 53:11) Moses describes the righteousness of the law like this: the man that does them will live by them. "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD." (Leviticus 18:5, immediately followed by a list of moral commandments) This, says Paul in Galatians 3:10, is the curse of the law; a curse to men, because no one can do it due to our sinful depravity. Jesus "became a curse for us" and delivered us from the curse of the law (literally, Jesus delivered us from the principle, "the man that doeth those things shall live by them"). Christ is the end of the moral law for righteousness to everyone that believeth; both for Jew and for Gentile. "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever (no matter how sinful!) shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
"Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." (Romans 13:8-10)
Again, more certain proof that "the law", to Paul, was essentially moral.
Therefore we conclude that the meaning of the word "law" in the book of Romans evidently refers to the moral commandments, and that a man, whether Jew or Gentile, is justified before God by faith in Jesus Christ without the deeds of the moral law.