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Ye Are Under The Law

by Harold Stough
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This is not a direct quotation from scripture else it would be surrounded by quotation marks and the book, chapter and verse given. It is a precise and positive rendering from Romans 6:14 but with a singular omission which reverses the meaning the word 'not' between 'are' and 'under'.

Obviously the Scripture is correct, but so also is the title of this article! We ARE under the Law, it is an apparent contradiction which has caused so much confusion and has done so throughout the Gospel age. Bitter have been the controversies amongst theologians and Bible students - between those who uphold the Law and those who do not and who are called Antinomians.

For the latter to use this verse to support their claim is utter folly. It destroys their argument rather than upholds it. Their confusion is understandable, however, because Law is not understood. It is too big a term. It is not limited to the Commandments and statutory laws as given at Sinai and relayed by Moses.

In a remarkable booklet entitled "LAW", written by two Canadian scholars and made available now by Ensign Publishers, at least five classifications of Law are given. More could be added, especially the New Testament moral laws, the Beatitudes and the Law of the New Birth.

NATURAL LAW. All humanity is under Natural Law - the Laws of the universe. They are not codified but we call them laws nevertheless. Some years ago Dr. Payne Smith listed those found in Genesis, Ch.l.

  1. The Law of Chemical Combustion and Combination Developing the Original Cosmic Heat and Light. "Let there be Light".
  2. An Ordinance of Atmospheric Separation. "Let there be an expanse".
  3. An Ordinance of Segregation and Aggregation. "Let the waters be gathered together".
  4. The Law of Vegetation with cellular growth .... Fertility and Reproduction. "Let the earth bring forth".
  5. The Law of Planetary and Stellar Motion ... with Gravitation and Illumination. "Let there be lights in the expanse".

He lists several more including the Law of Humanity, "Let us make man". God is the God of the Infinite and the Infinitesimal, as evidenced in the atom and its components. The Psalmist best sums it up in the statement "His throne is in the heavens, His Kingdom ruleth over all” (Psalm 103:19).2

Thus the Creator of all is the King of all. It is the King's creation. As man is the highest form of life, to him has been given dominion. Made in the image of God, he has a special relationship with the King. So, too, His Kingdom. Another meaning to Our Lord's declaration that ‘the Kingdom of God is within you’, i.e. mankind.

Many are the testimonies of the men of science concerning the perfection of creation. We would site Mr. A. Cressy Morrison, past president of the New York Academy of Sciences and Life Member of the Royal Institution of Great Britain. He wrote a remarkable book entitled "Man Does Not Stand Alone", challenging the conclusions of Julian Huxley, in the latter's book entitled "Man Stands Alone". The speed of the earth's rotation, the heat of the Sun and its distance from the earth, the tilting of the earth giving us our seasons, the distance away of the moon affecting the tides and the earth's crust, the thickness of the earth's crust, the thickness of the atmosphere, the amount of carbon dioxide and nitrogen, the emergence of man and his survival all point to order out of chaos. To this testimony could be added the writings of Sir William Dawson: 'The Mind which sent uncounted millions of star-systems swirling punctually through space has not disdained to endow with beauty organisms so small that a multitude could assemble on a pin point’. To these thoughts could be added testimonies from Sir Ambrose Fleming, Lord Kelvin, Sir James Jeans and many others, but they all are best summed up in the words of Sir William Blackstone, the greatest authority on British Law: "Thus when the Supreme Being formed the universe, and created matter out of nothing, he impressed certain principles on that matter from which it can never depart, and without which it would cease to be”. 'Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws could be suffered to contradict them'. (From Volume 1, Commentaries on the Laws of England, printed in 1765).

Blackstone's most famous statement, summarising it all, declares that: 'The law of nature, being coeval with mankind and dictated by God Himself, is, of. course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe in all countries and at all times; no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; ... The Doctrines thus delivered are called the revealed or Divine law and they are to be found only in the Holy Scriptures.

The Psalmist tells us that: 'The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul'. If perfect it is right, as the Psalm continues; 'The statutes of the Lord are right'. Hence righteous and righteousness. Righteousness in creation of natural law is thus extended to revealed laws for human conduct in corporate, constitutional laws.

Who can say we are not under creation laws? Try breaking the Law of Gravity.

NATIONAL CONSTITUTIONAL LAW. Known as the Law of God, given at Sinai, delivered to the people by Moses, ratified by them - 'all that the Lord has spoken we will do, and be obedient'. Sealed by the blood of the bullock, this became known as the Old or Mosaic Covenant. Its basis was the Commandments, amplified by the statutes, and, when administrative problems arose, judgments had to be given and these then became part of the statutory laws, today known as 'case' laws. These were basic laws, requiring individual’s observance. But the whole economy of Israel was deeply involved. Her financial status was secure, her protection from surrounding nations was assured, and none of the ‘diseases of Egypt afflicted them'. The late J. Taylor Peddie, in the preface of his "The Economic Mechanism of Scripture" said that 'the monetary laws necessary to cure the world of its ills was fully outlined in the Law and the Prophets ... If the present world order, which is an utter failure, and its accompanying artificial civilization and economic setup do not fit in with Divine Law, they must be adjusted to conform to Divine Law.

It is the whole of the corporate National Law that our Lord confirmed. He set His authority on them all when He said: 'Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven'. His anger was vividly displayed against those who 'made void the commandments of God through honouring their own traditions'.

Who dares to say we are not under these laws? In His, and in the Disciples days, falsifying the Law, or confusing liberty with licence, were the greater sins, and Sin is defined as transgression of the Law. If we who are made free from the bondage of sin, continue to transgress the law how can we become servants of righteousness? (Rom. 6:18) These are hard points which the anti-nomians must answer. And until they do 'must not teach men so'.

When our Lord said, 'A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another, as I have loved you', He wasn't nullifying the older commandments. Similarly when He said 'if ye even have anger against your brother ye have committed murder' He wasn't doing away with the 6th commandment. Lusting in thoughts is as wrong as the action itself. Scofield's notes on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount puts it very clearly: 'The Sermon on the Mount is pure Law, and transfers the offence from the overt act to the motive'.

THE LAW OF ORDINANCES. These are the rules and regulations which govern the outward worship - the offerings, fasts and feasts. They are a section of the Law and in no way can the term be applied to the whole of the Law. In fact it is not altogether certain that they are basic to the legal structure. They lack the Divine preamble which Sinaitic Law has: 'And God spake all these words’ - saying God Himself did not speak these words: 'For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifice' (Jer-22). The Epistle to the Hebrews amply confirms this (10:5-8). How were they introduced? 'And Moses returned the words of the Lord to the people'. Obviously this is, like the desire to have a king, yielding to the clamour for a demonstration worship, like surrounding nations had. W. J. Cameron used the phrase, 'The law of permitted custom'. But they had the vision of ultimate redemption. The lambs were both symbolic and prophetic of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, and the priests typified the Mediator yet to come. The devout could look forward through the smoke of the sacrificial burnings to Ultimate Redemption, just as we today can rejoice in the Finished Act of the Word made flesh.

'Once in the end hath He appeared to put away Sin (and sin-offering) by the sacrifice of Himself'. He has blotted out the handwriting of ordinances which were against us. He has nailed them to the cross. And we are no longer bound by these ritualistic aspects of the law. Even so, we must use caution in saying we are not under the law of ordinances, for His fulfilment of this law has brought to believing Christians the gift of Eternal Life. In this sense we rejoice that we still partake of this Law although freed from enacting its symbolisms of worship and the justification by Law which Israel tried to attain.

THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH. Herein is the Christian's triumph. Not in Natural Law, not in Constitutional Law, not in Ceremonial Law. All these are revelations of the Righteousness of God within His Creation. Sin too, since the first Adam’s disobedience entered into Creation. It was sin against Infinite God. It was Satan prompted and only Infinite God could bring forgiveness and Redemption. Finite man could not. Only a Second Adam could destroy Satan and his works. Only a Second Adam, God Himself in the person of His Son could re-establish righteousness, by defeating unrighteousness, sin and laws transgressions. He died and was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father (Rom. 6). Christians too, are buried with Him by baptism unto death, and as Christ was raised, 'so we also should walk in newness of life' ... ‘in the likeness of His resurrection' ... that henceforth we should not serve sin. We are free from the Law of Sin and Death. 'Sin shall not have dominion over you; for you are not under the Law (of sin and death) but under grace. What a victory for the believer! To be free from sin and death. What antinomian could rejoice in not being under this Law!

THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS. Although believers are 'in Christ' they are under the Law; it is always operative, and obedience brings blessings, but Christians, being delivered from the thraldom of sin, do by nature the things contained in the Law. They have the New Covenant experience of the Law being written in their hearts. They have 'the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit'. By grace we are justified, and justified, glorified. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, we pass from glory to glory until we become the Sons of God, and as Sons, Heirs, and, as John in the Revelation of Jesus Christ records, we become, with Christ, Overcomers.

THE LAW OF THE NEW BIRTH. As the Laws of Nature involving the whole of God's universe, as outlined above, reveal Natural Law(s) of which Man is dominant then we can speak of Natural Man. Perfection on this plain is Man at one with God, the idyllic Edenic state. But this oneness was broken by Adamic disobedience to the will of God. From henceforth man needeth restoration which could only come about through redemption. Eternal Life became the ultimate peak of man's quest, - the nation sought it through Law. Other nations had their own courses to pursue. Individuals sought by their own creeds until our Lord Himself replied to the rich young ruler, who had kept the law from his youth, that he had to be willing to lose all in order to gain all, not to rest in the observance of the Law for the answer to his seeking eternal life. Nicodemus, too, was seeking the answer and was told 'Everlasting life' was only available to whosoever believeth in Him, the One sent by God. The young ruler was told, 'Follow Me'. We can assume that the 'certain Greeks' who came to seek Him had this in their minds, no doubt in relation to redeemed Israel. But the reply to their seeking was the somewhat cryptic statement 'Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit', and again the injunction, 'Follow Me'. His words to Pilate; 'My Kingdom is not of this world!’ Not of this Kosmos or World Order. His is of a heavenly, or resurrected, spiritual order. Celestial and terrestrial. We find further help in understanding our Lord's words to Nicodemus in Paul's letter to the Corinthians. In Chapter 15 he speaks of ‘celestial bodies' and 'bodies terrestrial': 'So also is the resurrection of the dead ... Sown in corruption: it is raised in incorruption, sown in dishonour, raised in glory, sown in weakness is raised in power .. sown a natural body it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And later: 'As we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly’.

Jesus' words to the Master in Israel, Nicodemus, state this 'National Law in the Spiritual World' as Drummond titles his remarkable volume: 'Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.' Nicodemus either couldn't or wouldn't see this! So, Our Lord explains further, 'Except a man be born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God'. Here is contrasted the natural birth (water) and the spiritual birth (spirit). And 'flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God'. To the Christian this means that we put on life when death sheds our mortality. This Law of the New Birth is as firm and binding as the Old Birth under the Creator's Laws. But the Creator now leads us into a New Creation. We come into Laws Celestial, we come fully under the Sovereignty of God - freed for ever from the bondage of sin and death. For too long have we thought of the New Birth as something we can achieve, as though the choice was ours. We weren't given the choice of the Old Birth in matters 'terrestrial', neither in matters 'celestial'. It is the passive tense 'be converted', 'be born again', 'be baptised of the Spirit'. It is being 'born from above‘ the heavenly, not the earthly.

Who can ever say we are not under the Law of the New Birth? Rather it is something we yearn for - the coming of the Son that the world through Him might be saved - including ourselves.

The Christian does not bring about his own New Birth. It is the gift of God! 'And no one cometh unto the Father except the Father draw him'. What we can do is show willingness and repent and turn from our evil ways. As Archbishop Temple once wrote, 'The only thing I can contribute to my own salvation is the sin from which I wish to be redeemed'.

Neither does mankind have the choice to accept the Christ, the Lord of Life. That could mean that Man is sovereign over his life and death. THAT is the rule of man. That is Demos enthroned. That, in the last analysis, is humanism, from which the present world suffers. In the Church it is called Arminianism, introduced centuries ago by one Jacob Arminius. Calvinism was the answer in that it stressed the Sovereignty of God and all judgment is given unto Him. Christians and the world must acknowledge that 'He is the Way, the Truth and the LIFE'. Christians and Christian nations must acknowledge that He is the Lord of all.

Orange Street Congregational Church