Understanding the nature of sin —
Why God’s Law is so Important
Thousands today believe the lie of Satan that they can best achieve happiness by ignoring God’s holy law and living for self. But, in reality, just the opposite is true.
This is an important chapter for everyone who wants to learn how he can daily become an overcomer with God.
In the truths of His Word, God has given to men a revelation of Himself; and to all who accept them they are a shield against the deceptions of Satan. It is a neglect of these truths that has opened the door to the evils which are now becoming so widespread in the religious world. The nature and the importance of the law of God have been, to a great extent, lost sight of. A wrong conception of the character, the perpetuity, and obligation of the divine law has led to errors in relation to conversion and sanctification, and has resulted in lowering the standard of piety in the church. Here is to be found the secret of the lack of the Spirit and power of God in the revivals of our time.
There are, in the various denominations, men eminent for their piety, by whom this fact is acknowledged and deplored. Prof. Edward Park, in setting forth the current religious perils, ably says: “One source of danger is the neglect of the pulpit to enforce the divine law. In former days the pulpit was an echo of the voice of conscience . . Our most illustrious preachers gave a wonderful majesty to their discourses by following the example of the Master and giving prominence to the law, its precepts, and its threatenings. They repeated the two great maxims, that the law is a transcript of the divine perfection, and that a man who does not love the law does not love the gospel; for the law, as well as the gospel, is a mirror reflecting the true character of God. This peril leads to another, that of underrating the evil of sin, the extent of it, the demerit of it. In proportion to the rightfulness of the commandment is the wrongfulness of disobeying it.”
“Affiliated to the dangers already named is the danger of underestimating the justice of God. The tendency of the modern pulpit is to strain out the divine justice from the divine benevolence, to sink benevolence into a sentiment rather than exalt it into a principle. The new theological prism puts asunder what God has joined together. Is the divine law a good or an evil? It is a good. Then justice is good; for it is a disposition to execute the law. From the habit of underrating the divine law and justice, the extent and demerit of human disobedience, men easily slide into the habit of underestimating the grace which has provided an atonement for sin.” Thus the gospel loses its value and importance in the minds of men; and soon they are ready to practically cast aside the Bible itself.
Many religious teachers assert that Christ by His death abolished the law, and men are henceforth free from its requirements. There are some who represent it as a grievous yoke and, in contrast to the bondage of the law, they present the liberty to be enjoyed under the gospel.
But not so did prophets and apostles regard the holy law of God. Said David, “I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.” Psalm 119.45. The apostle James, who wrote after the death of Christ, refers to the Decalogue as the “royal law” and the “perfect law of liberty.” James 2:8; 1:25. And the Revelator, half a century after the crucifixion, pronounces a blessing upon them “that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:14.
The claim, that Christ by His death abolished His Father’s law, is without foundation. Had it been possible for the law to be changed or set aside, then Christ need not have died to save man from the penalty of sin. The death of Christ, so far from abolishing the law, proves that it is immutable. The Son of God came to “magnify the law, and make it honorable.” Isaiah 42:21. He said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law”; “till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law.” Matthew 5:17, 18. And concerning himself he declares, “I delight to do Thy will, O my God; yea, Thy law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:8.
The law of God, from its very nature, is un-changeable. It is a revelation of the will and the character of its Author. God is love, and His law is love. Its two great principles are love to God and man. “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” Romans 13:10. The character of God is righteousness and truth; such is the nature of His law. Says the psalmist, “Thy law is the truth”; “all Thy commandments are righteousness.” Psalm 119:142, 172. And the apostle Paul declares, “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” Romans 7:12.
Such a law, being an expression of the mind and will of God, must be as enduring as its Author.
It is the work of conversion and sanctification to reconcile men to God, by bringing them into accord with the principles of His law. In the beginning, man was created in the image of God. He was in perfect harmony with the nature and the law of God; the principles of righteousness were written upon His heart. But sin alienated him from his Maker. He no longer reflected the divine image. His heart was at war with the principles of God’s law. “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Romans 8:7. But “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,” that man might be reconciled to God. Through the merits of Christ He can be restored to harmony with His Maker. His heart must be renewed by divine grace; he must have a new life from above. This change is the new birth, without which, says Jesus, “he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
The first step, in reconciliation to God, is the conviction of sin. “Sin is the transgression of the law.” “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” 1 John 3:4; Romans 3:20. In order to see his guilt, the sinner must test his character by God’s great standard of righteousness. It is a mirror which shows the perfection of a righteous character and enables him to discern the defects in his own.
The law reveals to man his sins, but it provides no remedy. While it promises life to the obedient, it declares that death is the portion of the transgressor. The gospel of Christ alone can free him from the condemnation or the defilement of sin. He must exercise repentance toward God, whose law has been transgressed, and faith in Christ, His atoning sacrifice. Thus he obtains “remission of sins that are past” and becomes a partaker of the divine nature. He is a child of God, having received the spirit of adoption, whereby he cries, “Abba, Father!”
Is he now free to transgress God’s law? Says Paul: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the law.” Romans 3:31.“How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Romans 6:2. And John declares, “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not grievous.” 1 John 5:3. In the new birth the heart is brought into harmony with God as it is brought into accord with His law. When this mighty change has taken place in the sinner, he has passed from death unto life, from sin unto holiness, from transgression and rebellion to obedience and loyalty. The old life of alienation from God has ended; the new life of reconciliation, of faith and love, has begun. Then “the righteousness of the law” will “be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:4. And the language of the soul will be, “O how love I Thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:97.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” Psalm 19:7. Without the law, men have no just conception of the purity and holiness of God, or of their own guilt and uncleanness. They have no true conviction of sin and feel no need of repentance. Not seeing their lost condition as violators of God’s law, they do not realize their need of the atoning blood of Christ. The hope of salvation is accepted without a radical change of heart or reformation of life. Thus superficial conversions abound and multitudes are joined to the church who have never been united to Christ.