The law and judgement of God
The best way to know our own lostness and depravity before God is to look deeply into the law of God and especially the Ten Commandments. By the law of God I mean the first 5 books of the Bible (The Torah), Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The law of God can be divided into the ceremonial law, the moral law and the civic law. The ceremonial law in the Torah had to do with the construction of the Tabernacle, the Temple service, the animal sacrifices and dietary laws that God instituted for the nation of Israel. These ceremonial laws were only temporary and was a shadow of the things to come in Jesus Christ. All the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament pointed to Jesus Christ and His sacrifice that would take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). With the coming of Jesus Christ into the world who was the substance of the things to come (Collosians 2:14-16) God fulfilled the ceremonial laws of old Israel (Matthew 5:17-18) and abrogated them. That is why the curtain in the temple was torn in two when Jesus died at the cross (Matthew 27:51).
The civic law that God instituted was meant and instituted by God for the nation of Israel and when the nation of Israel was judged in 67AD this lost its function because the Everlasting King and eternal Judge came into the world. The civic law with its many commandments had benefit for the Israelites and children of God can still make use of them and obtain principles that would benefit societies and cultures today. But as binding on the people of God today they should not always be applied in every circumstance. E.x. We as children of God don’t have to rest after every six years from all work and every 49 years. We don’t have to celebrate the yearly feasts the Israelites used to celebrate. But we should honor the principle for work and rest and celebrate the salvivic events in history wrought by God (the birth of Christ, the death of Christ, the resurrection, the Ascension of Christ and the day of Pentecost). We are not forbidden to wear clothes of different material (Deuteronomy 22:9) but we are to obey the principle of separating from worldliness and not mixing idolatry with godliness and so on. In other words, the moral law embedded in the civic law guide us as Christians even today. What is of concern for us at this stage especially in evangelism is the moral law of God, given to us especially in the Ten Commandments and its out-workings in the Torah (Leviticus 18:1-23). The law of God shows us the nature of sin. It shows us the sinfulness of sin. The law of God (Ten Commandments) is good and holy and right (Romans 7:7) and is also the expression of God’s character. In the Ten Commandments we see what God loves and what God hates. We see in them what God condemns and what God commands. We see what behavior He blesses and what behavior He curses (Deuteronomy 27,28). Although the Ten Commandments are given in the negative (“you shall not murder”) it doesn’t mean the positive is not required (“protect innocent life and those who are vulnerable”) or (“you shall have no gods before Me”) ; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind” etc.
What is especially important for us in the law of God and the Ten Commandments is that it shows us how we have offended God. Each of the Ten Commandments stands for a family of sins. For example “you shall not murder” prohibits taking an innocent life, abortion, euthanasia, hatred towards a person, envy, jealousy, unrighteous anger etc. “You shall not commit adultery” prohibits “sexual lust, fornication, incest, pedophilia, bestiality, homosexuality etc. Each commandment deals with a family of sins. If we look deeply into the law of God we would see how many times we have offended God’s majesty and infinite worth and realize we should get justice from God. In the Ten Commandments and in the Torah we see that God never clears the guilty (Exodus 34:4-6; 20:4-9) and that because of our sins we deserve an Infinite punishment. We deserve infinite punishment, everlasting hell, because we have sinned against an Infinite holy God. If God was not as valuable and worthy and glorious as He was then our sentence would not be unlimited and deserving of eternal hell. Since God is infinite and almighty and the Creator and Sustainer of everything we deserve such an infinite and severe sentence.
We see that sin is serious in the narrative of Adam and Eve. God said they would surely die when they ate of the tree in the middle of the garden and they did die when they ate (Genesis 2:10-3:15). They spiritually died when they sinned and their sin affected the human race ever since. Adam was the Federal head, the representation of mankind in the beginning when God made the heavens and earth and because of his sin we all became sinners (Romans 5:12-21). In Adam we all died (1 Corinthians 5:22). Adam also eventually physically died and all humans will die physically as a result of sin.
We also see in the Torah the veracity of sin and the judgment of God on sin. We see this most clearly in the narrative of Noah in Genesis 6. Because the thoughts of mankind was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5) God decided to destroy mankind except Noah, his family and selected animals and life-forms. God judged mankind for their sins with death. God never can just wipe our sins under a rug and forgive. Because God is just there must be punishment for sin. There must be divine payment for every sin. That is so because when we sin we reject God’s authority over us, we despise His rightfully ownership over us, and we insult His worthiness and value. Every time we sin we say, in fact, “God we choose sin instead of you. We rather have sin than you. We rather be satisfied with sin than with you.” And because God is infinitely valuable and worthy and just and holy we deserve an infinite worthy sentence. The sentence against each of our sins is death: spiritual death and physical death. Death came into the world by one man, Adam, everlasting life came into the world through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:12-22). The soul that sins must die (Ezekiel 18:20). The penalty and wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The day that you eat of that tree you shall surely die (Genesis. 2:17).
Because we were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) we have moral motions. We are moral beings. That means we can differentiate between evil and good, between right and wrong. We are like God in that respect. But because we are born in sin and because we have all violated God’s standards for us, encapsulated in the Ten Commandments, we deserve justice from God. We are all guilty before God. The world will face judgment before God. We will give an account before God of how we have lived (Romans 2:14-16).
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11-15 ESV)
The Old Testament is an account of how God judged individuals and the nations for their sins. God used the Philistines, the Syrians, the Assyrian Empire and the Babylonian Empires to judge His people. And God has done that throughout history. Even if people never heard the law of God or the Ten Commandments they will face judgment because God has written His laws on our hearts and He has revealed His eternal power and His divinity in the things that He has made, in nature and creation (See Romans 1:18-24). We are all without excuse before God because we have rejected and rebelled against the light of nature and of God in our conscience. Our guilt is real because it is moral. By nature we reject God’s love and God’s goodness because we love evil. We cannot save ourselves from our sins. We cannot do what we ought to do: obey God’s laws. But we do what we want to do: sin. And because we do what we want to do, sin, we are accountable to God and guilty before God for every sin we commit.
As evangelists we can only be successful and do what God wants us to do if we first declare the law of God and the demands of the law and show our hearers how they fall short of God’s standards and His glory before we give them the good news of the gospel. We have to give our hearers the bad news first before they will ever receive the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If people are not aware of how they offended God and how they broke His holy laws and how they grieved His Holy Spirit and what punishment and judgment they deserve why should they care of the good news of salvation? If we don’t tell people how sick they really are why would they want spiritual healing, salvation?
We see in the Old Testament how the prophets always declared the sins of the people and the judgements of God before they gave them the hope of the gospel and the hope of forgiveness if they would repent of their sins. Evangelists that reject this order will breed a bunch of false converts that only want Jesus for their own ends or for the gifts of love, peace and joy and forgiveness that He may give them.
If we don’t see our own danger before we see the remedy we won’t come to God for the right reasons. Ray Comfort the evangelist has shown us clearly why it is so important to use the law of God in evangelism to convict the sinner of his sins and show him the nature of sin. We must tell people to flee from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10). This was also the way great preachers have done in past centuries:
The purpose of the law is firstly to strip us of our pride and own righteousness.
Charles Spurgeon said: “they will never accept grace until they tremble before a just and holy law.”
And Martin Luther said: “the first duty of the gospel preacher is to declare God’s law and show the nature of sin.”
Romans 7:7 states: “I had not known sin, but by the law..”
Paul the apostle made it clear how to use the law of God lawfully, that is, to convict the sinners of his sin:
But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.”(I Timothy 1:8-11 NKJV).
We use the law of God lawfully if we use it like Jesus Christ did when he encountered the rich young ruler. Jesus used the law of God to convict the rich young ruler of his sins. When the self-righteous young ruler justified himself, Jesus pointed to His riches as His idol.
“A man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mark 10:17-21 ESV).
We will be wise if we also use the law of God to show people their sins. And after we showed them their sins give them the remedy, the cure. In our gospel presentations we must first diagnose the sick with spiritual cancer before we can prescribe them with the cure of spiritual cancer: the gospel! For self-righteous people we should use the law. For the contrite of heart, the broken and desperate for salvation we give the gospel.