Staff & Sling

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078

The Law

The Hebrew word for "law" is %9&; (Torah). But it doesn't mean "law" the way we normally think of the word. Look it up in a Hebrew dictionary and the first definition will be "instruction."

This is why Paul wrote that the Law was our schoolmaster (Galatians 3: 24, 25). You and I have to stop and think about that one. We have to struggle to wrap our mind around just what he was trying to say. But to the Jews it made perfect sense.

When we hear the word "law" we think of a legislative decree. We think of a dictate that we have to obey, and prescribing a punishment if we don't. Unfortunately, this is also how we tend to think of God's Law.

Don't commit adultery or you'll go to Hell. Don't steal or you'll go to Hell. Even when we understand that this is patently false, that our salvation is not dependent upon anything we do, this perspective of God's Law persists.

How many people do you know who believe people get sent to Hell for their sins? Even many Christians, who understand that their salvation has nothing to do with anything they did, still believe that the lost are condemned for their sins.

But Christ paid the price for all sin. They are all forgiven. That's not to say everyone will go to Heaven, but those who are condemned are not condemned for their sins. They are condemned for rejecting Christ. (For more on this, see my article The Lamb's Book of Life.)

Anyway, that's our misperception of God's Law, that it's a set of legal prohibitions accompanied by prescribed punishment. But what we should think of is something more like "the law of gravity."

The law of gravity wasn't passed by a legislature to keep us in line. We won't be punished if we stumble but then either forget, or choose not, to fall. In fact, the very idea of "forgetting to fall," or "choosing not to fall" is ludicrous on its face.

The law of gravity is not a command we must obey, nor be punished if we ignore. Oh, we'll suffer the consequences if we ignore it, but that's really not the same thing. Instead, the law of gravity is simply a description of how the world works. It wasn't written to keep us in line, but to teach us how to live in a world with gravity.

And that's how we should think of God's Law? Adultery isn't a sin because God said "Thou shalt not!" Instead, God said, "Thou shalt not," because adultery is a sin.

In other words, He didn't just make up a bunch of rules like so many hoops for us to jump through to earn his favor. He told us not to commit adultery because of the deleterious effects it would have on our lives.

Think about it for a moment, and remember that not all sins are sins against God. Adultery is a sin against our spouse. Theft, like murder, is a sin against our neighbor. Fornication is a sin against ourselves (I Corinthians 6: 18). When we do these things we harm ourselves and each other, not God, and that is what God was trying to teach us. (For more on this, see my article Sin.)

This is how to understand God's Law. Like everything God has revealed to us, it was to teach us truths we otherwise wouldn't learn. Think about it. Love is the fulfillment of the whole of God's Law. So you tell me. What could possibly be more counterintuitive to man than this, to love your enemies, to love your neighbor as yourself, or your brethren as He loved us? If God didn't explain this to us, that this is the way for us to find ultimate fulfillment and happiness (blessedness), how would any of us ever know?