Q40: What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience?
A: The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience, was the moral law (Rom. 2:14-15).

I. Distinctions between the types of “law.”

A. Ceremonial: consisted of regulations for celebrating various religious festivals (e.g., Ex. 23:14-19) and for worshiping God in His sanctuary (e.g., Ex. 25-30); includes clean and unclean foods and guidelines for the whole sacrificial system; given by finger__53964.1296076556.1280.1280Moses to the OT church to point to the gospel era.

1. These were but a shadow of things to come, the reality is found in Christ (Col. 2:17); hence they are abrogated.

a. The tabernacle foreshadowed Christ (Heb. 9:11), as the law did better things (10:1; cf. v. 10).

b. The temporary nature is testified to by their imperfections (Heb. 10:1, 11; cf. Jer. 31:33ff).

B. Civil: consisted of laws that governed Israel as a nation under God, e.g., guidelines for waging war, restrictions on land use, regulations for debt, and penalties for specific violations of Israel’s legal code.

1. These temporary laws (including the ceremonial) have expired. God’s people are now governed by church discipline, based on the moral law which has spiritual rather than civil consequences.

C. Moral: the declaration of God’s will, binding perfect obedience upon all mankind.

1. David attests to these distinctions (Pss. 40:6-8; 51:16-17).


II. The moral law is imprinted upon all men.

A. The works of the law are written on every human heart, not the words of the law (Rom. 2:14-15).

1. V. 14: “have not a law,” i.e., externally written; “do,” i.e., not that heathen keep the law, as preceding verses indict all, but they do certain things which prove innate discernment of right and wrong.

Relevant quote from Arthur Pink:
Returning now to Romans 2:12, 13. The simple meaning of these verses is that, the Gentiles never had given to them the two tablets of stone on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed, nor were they in possession of the Scriptures, wherein those Commandments were recorded. But it should be carefully noted that Romans 2:5 goes on to state these very Gentiles “show the work of the Law written on their hearts.” On these verses Professor Stifler has well said, “The argument (of v. 14) lies in this, that Gentiles have what is tantamount to the moral Law.” The fact that the Gentiles are “a law unto themselves” shows that God gave them the equivalent of what He gave the Jews, namely, a standard of right and wrong. In the case of the former, it was “written in their hearts,” in the case of the latter, it was written on tables of stone, and afterwards in the Scriptures. “From this it is clear that the moral Law given to Israel by Moses was but a transcript, or compendium, of the Law which God, in the creation, had stamped upon the moral nature of man … The moral Law, therefore, was not altogether new in the time of the exodus; nor was it something exclusively for Israel, but was a gift for the whole race, and therefore, must be of perpetual validity” (Mr. Wm. Mead).

Arthur Pink, The Law & the Saint.

2. V. 15: “work of …” i.e., the work of the law is that which it does, namely, teach about actions good or bad; “written in their…” i.e., imprinted on mind by Author of creation (“mind,” the knowledge of what is right; “conscience,” approves or condemns). That man has a conscience that either “accuses” or “excuses” him/others, presupposes a standard.

a. All men know they have moral obligations, and no man can free himself of these convictions of a righteous God (Rom. 1:32).

(1). Abimelech, king of Gerar, intuitively knew the marriage covenant (Gen. 20:1-7).

(2). The internal law is evident in all societies, in varying degrees, by their encouraging virtue and discouraging vice.

(3). All men exercise moral judgments, however sinful they may be (Rom. 2:1). Even though men are liars, they condemn lying.

b. All know that there is a God who is to be worshiped (Rom. 1:19-21).

(1). Every culture worships something, innate sense of deity evidenced though perverted by sin.


III. The revealing of the moral law.

A. To Adam in state of innocence. The law was written on his heart, as the knowledge of it was part of his created nature (Gen. 1:27), moral qualities and perfections: true holiness and righteousness.

1. The law was not revealed to Adam in an externally written form.

2. Adam was not conscious of the Ten Commandments as we are.

a. The law did not change, but rather only man’s relation to it.

(1). To Adam: positive power inciting love of God/good way of life.

(2). To all since: negative power inciting enmity (Rom. 8:7), making way to death.

(a). After the Fall the moral law is still in residue form written on the heart, as man is still created imago Dei. Man’s nature being corrupted, and the knowledge of thislaw darkened, it was necessary to be renewed.

B. To the Israelites at Sinai in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20).
C. To the world the law was again revealed through the NT by Jesus and His apostles.

1. Each commandment is repeated (1st, Jn. 14:6; 2nd, 1 Jn. 5:21; 3rd, Matt. 6:9; 4th [working/resting], Matt. 12:8; Col. 3:23; Heb. 4:9; 5th, Eph. 6:1-2; 6th, Matt. 5:21-22; 7th, Matt. 5:28; 8th, Eph. 4:28; 9th, Col. 3:9; 10th, Ja. 4:3).


IV. The properties of the moral law.

A. Universal: binding all men throughout all time (Rom. 2:14-15).
B. Perfect: comprehending the whole of man’s duty to God and neighbor (Ps. 19:7).
C. Indispensable and perpetual (Ps. 119:152, 160; Matt. 5:17-18; Lk. 16:17).

1. Written in stone by God, as opposed to ceremonial and civil given to Moses who wrote on vellum or parchment.

2. Law always reveals nature of Law-giver.

a. Illustration: Federal regulations granting handicapped access tells us Americans want to include disabled in ordinary events of public life.

b. Commandments reveal nature of God (e.g., 1st sovereignty [cf. Isa. 45:18b.], 2nd justice [Ex. 20:5-6], 3rd holiness).

(1). To violate law is a direct assault on God, as it reflects His nature.

Relevant quote from Jonathan Edwards:
Another reason why God hates sin, is that it’s disobedience to his commands. And seeing that God is our creator and our owner, and we are absolutely dependent upon him, to disobey his commands must needs be a great provocation of his displeasure. It contradicts God’s authority. By sin, the sinner denies God to be his governor, denies his authority over him, and rebels against him. And as God can’t deny his own authority and dominion, he must needs hate that which does deny it. The sinner can’t divest God of his authority, but he shows by his not subjecting himself to it that he would do it if he could. If they won’t submit to him as King of the world, they show that they don’t like that he should be King of the world, and do as much as say that although he rules over others, yet he shall not rule over them; and they plainly show that if it was in their power, they will pull God out of his throne. This is what the first sin that ever was did really endeavor: the sin of the angels that fell, they did endeavor to dethrone God; and all other sin is of the same nature. Sinners are all of their father the devil, and the lusts of their father they will do [John 8:44].

Jonathan Edwards, “God Hates Sin,” in Jonathan Edwards Sermons, ed. Wilson H. Kimnach (New Haven, CT: The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University, 1728), Hab 1:13.

(2). As His attributes are eternal, the law is perpetually binding.

Relevant quote from J. C. Ryle:
“The honor of God’s holy law was frequently defended by Christ during the time of His ministry on earth. Sometimes we find Him defending it against man-made additions, as in the case of the fourth commandment. Sometimes we find Him defending it against those who would lower the standard of its requirements, and allow it to be transgressed, as in the case of the law of marriage. But never do we find Him speaking of the law in any terms but those of respect. He always “magnified the law and made it honorable.” (Isaiah 42:21.) Its ceremonial part was a type of His own gospel, and was to be fulfilled to the last letter. Its moral part was a revelation of God’s eternal mind, and was to be perpetually binding on Christians.”

J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Luke 16:13–18


V. Uses of the law.

A. To Adam first revealed that by obedience to it he would be justified.

1. No longer for that purpose, as sinful man unable to render perfect obedience (Ecc. 7:20; Rom. 8:3).

B. To the unregenerate.

1. Mirror: the most important use, showing man his need of a Savior (Rom. 3:19-20; 10:4; Ga. 3:19ff).

a. Israel obligated to keep the law perfectly: they promised such (Ex. 24:7); God commanded such (Deut. 4:13).

b. If Israel obeyed it would have been their righteousness (Deut. 6:24-25; Lev. 18:5).

(1). Law provokes sin (Rom. 7:7), leading to death (vv. 8-10).

(2). Summed up: the people of God were bound to keep a law that they could not obey.

c. Donald Grey Barnhouse: “The purpose of a mirror is to reveal dirt on the face, not to remove the dirt. You don’t take the mirror and rub it on your face to cleanse. The purpose of the mirror is to drive you to the water” (paraphrased).

d. John Calvin: The law “shows God’s righteousness, that is, the righteousness alone acceptable to God, it warns, informs, convicts, and lastly condemns, every man of his own unrighteousness.”

e. Martin Luther: “[I]ts [the law] true function and use…a most useful servant impelling us to Christ. After the law has humbled, terrified, and completely crushed you, so that you are on the brink of despair to drive us to Christ.”

2. Restrainer: from further sin, by its commands and threatenings (1 Tim. 1:9).

a. Since it expresses divine attributes, it has the power to encourage fear of God and discourage sin against Him.

C. To the regenerate.

1. Magnifies Christ by showing obligation to Him for His fulfillment thereof (Rom. 7:24-25; Ga. 3:13-14).

2. Rule of life, wherein gratitude is expressed by obeying the law of Christ (Mk. 12:30-31; Jn. 14:21; 1 Cor. 9:21; 1 Jn. 5:2-3).

a. Law leads to Christ as Redeemer from its curse, and He leads back to law as rule of life.

(1). Objection: “The law does not have to be kept, for we are ‘under grace and not law’” (Jn. 1:17; Rom. 6:14; Ga. 3:25; 5:18)?

Answered: We are not under law as a covenant of works for justification; nor are we under the commanding or condemning power of it.  But, the law is to be established (Rom. 3:31) and rejoiced in (7:22).

(2). Freed to serve: The context of the giving of the law must be kept in mind. Exodus 1–19 tells the story of salvation by grace. Israel delivered from bondage through the blood of a lamb and was provided for in the wilderness. Therefore, they were to have “no other gods” before Him, etc. (Ex. 20). Israel could only understand the meaning of law by knowing its context, the Exodus experience: first grace, then law (Deut. 6:20-24). By revealing their sin the Israelites were made to long for the coming of Christ. Like us they were saved by grace through faith.

(a). This typifies one purpose of the law in the Christian’s life. Jesus’ death and resurrection are our great exodus/emancipation: freed to serve (Jn. 14:15; Ga. 5:13).


VI. Application.

A. Use, of knowledge.

1. Since the moral law is the rule of obedience, it reproves all who elevate their carnal wisdom as the standard for their rule.

2. It is necessary for the law to be preached to convince men of their inability to keep and cause them to flee to Christ.

Relevant quote from Arthur Pink:
Reader, suffer us please to make this a personal issue. Have you ever experienced anything which corresponds, in substance, to what we have said above? Have you ever heard the thunderings and felt the lightnings of Sinai in your own soul? Have you, in your conscience, been brought face to face with your Judge, and heard Him read the fearful record of your transgressions? Have you received by the Law such a knowledge of sin that you are painfully conscious that every faculty of your soul and every member of your body is defiled and corrupt? Have you been driven out of every refuge, and relief and brought into the presence of Him who is ineffably holy and inflexibly just, who “will by no means clear the guilty” (Ex. 34:7)? Have you heard that dread sentence “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10)? Has it brought you down into the dust to cry, “I am lost: utterly, hopelessly lost; there is nothing I can do to deliver myself”? The ground must be ploughed before it can receive seed, and the heart must be broken up by the Law before it is ready for the Gospel.

Arthur Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, Hebrews 12:21.

3. The law is to be studied and known by all who would attain to true holiness of heart and life (Ps. 119:105).

B. Use, of testing.

1. Do we love the law (Ps. 119:163)? Do we study it to live by it?

2. Can we define legalism (both senses) and antinomianism?

C. Use, of exhortation: sinners and saints.

1. Sinners. All are under the law, and though man naturally suppresses this truth in his unrighteousness, there will be a day of reckoning.

2. Saints. There will be a day of judgment wherein man’s every work will be scrutinized. Let us therefore conform ourselves to the holy law of God, and be holy as He is holy.

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