CONCEPT FIVE: THE NECESSITY OF LAW IN A FALLEN WORLD

© Rosemary Bardsley 2005, 2015

We have seen in Concept Three that knowledge of evil, and evil, entered the world. We have seen in Concept Four that God introduced a different order into the world now corrupted by sin. In our choice to reject God’s authority and our refusal to live in accordance with his Word, we have chosen a situation in which

[1] We need his law to define and outlaw evil.  
Before Genesis 3 there was no need for God to say ‘thou shalt not murder’ or ‘thou shalt not commit adultery’. Murder and adultery, or any other sin simply did not exist. Adam and Eve did not need to be told to love one another, they simply did. In the same way it was not necessary for God to define the husband/wife relationship. The husband ‘led’ spontaneously; the wife spontaneously ‘followed’ without having been told that was how it should be. But since Genesis 3, with our experiential and perverted knowledge of good and evil, we need God’s way spelled out. ‘Good’ now needs to be defined and affirmed. ‘Evil’ now needs to be defined and prohibited.  

[2] God imposes authority over us for our good, irrespective of our choice.
This imposition of law and authority is necessary for the preservation of human life in a destructive sin-sick world; it anticipates the Redemption Factor, keeping us alive for the coming of the Redeemer [Galatians 3:23-25]. God’s law, along with God’s judgement, is an expression of his grace. Both put a hedge around us to prevent our self-destruction. At the same time as the husband’s rule over the wife is God’s judgement, it is also his provision of protection and preservation for the wife. As we will see later, Christ’s self-sacrificing love as Saviour of the Church, is the role-model for the saving, protective responsibility of the husband for the wife.

We will look now at some other expressions of this necessity of law in a fallen world, and how these laws impact men and women in relationship, defining the boundaries of what is ‘good’ and defining and prohibiting what is ‘evil’.

A. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
The Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 are a concise statement of our responsibility towards God and towards our neighbours. Within the man/woman context they set a boundary around the kind of behaviour and attitudes that God allows men to have towards women, and women to have towards men, prohibiting behaviour that will further divide or destroy.

The law against murder is a principle that prohibits:

Physical violence [Exodus 21:12-27]
Negligence leading to death or injury [Exodus 21:29-32; Leviticus 19:16b]
Anger, contempt, disrespect [Matt 5:21-22; Eph 4:31]
Hate [1 John 3:15]
Unresolved interpersonal issues [Mat 5:23-26]

The law against adultery is a principle that prohibits:

Lust (which includes pornography) [Mat 5:27-30]
Fornication:
Lack of self-control [1Thess 4:3-8]
Rejection of godly wisdom
[Prov 2:1-22; 5:1-23; 6:20-29]

The law against stealing is a principle that prohibits:

Coveting [see below]
Selfishness [Ephesians 4:28]
Negligence leading to loss of another’s property [Ex 22:1-15]
Fraud [Lev 19:13]

The law against false testimony is a principle that prohibits:

Lying [Ephesians 4:25] [The usual roots of lying are [1] fear
or [2] desire to destroy another person, both of which are evidence of the sin factor.]
Deception [Lev19:11;Jer 9:4-6]
Slander [Leviticus 19:16a; Jer 9:4; Eph 4:31]
Perversion of justice: [Exodus 23:1-8]

The law against coveting is a principle that prohibits:

Lack of trust [Matthew 6:19-34]
Envy, jealousy [James 4:1-6]
Grumbling, complaining and discontentment [Ex 16:1-8; Ps 106:25; Phil 2:14; 4:11-15]
Temptation [James 1:13-15]
Our godless mindset [Gal 5:16-21; Eph 4:22; 2 Peter 1:4b; 1 John 2:15-17.

These fundamental principles assume and are grounded in the equal value and dignity of man and woman as the image of God; they also recognize and are necessitated by the severance and loss of identity that entered in Genesis 3.

B. THE COMMAND TO LOVE OUR ‘NEIGHBOUR’
The above commands are summed up by the second greatest commandment: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ [Luke 10:27b; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8]. This commandment, therefore, includes the actions, words and attitudes of men towards women and women towards men.

In what contexts does the God command us to love our neighbour? In what areas do we have to be especially careful that we are loving the person on the other side of the division and lack of trust that came between the sexes in Genesis 3? In the Bible the command to love is given in the following specific contexts:

Loving is the opposite of seeking revenge or bearing a grudge [Leviticus 19:18]

Loving is commanded of us even towards those we call our enemies – those who despise us, and in whose presence we feel threatened [Mt 5:43-48; Lk10:25-37]

Love is commanded unprejudiced by poverty or wealth [Leviticus 19:15; James 2:1-9]

Love neither derides nor destroys the neighbour with words [Proverbs 11:9, 12; Gal 5:14,15]

Love does no harm to the neighbour [Romans 13:9b-10]

Love is committed to please the neighbour, seeks the neighbour’s good, and wants to build the neighbour up [Rom 15:2]

This puts another clear boundary around the attitudes men and women should have towards or about each other.

C. GOVERNMENT AND LAW

The Bible teaches:

Governments exist by the appointment of God [Romans 13:1-2]
Governments exist for the good of the people [Romans 13:4a; 1 Timothy 2:1-4]
Governments exist to execute God’s judgement on earth [Romans 13:2b,4b]
We should respect governments as the servants of God [Matthew 22:17-21; Romans 13:5-7]
Governments are accountable to God for their wrong actions [Amos Chs 1 & 2]

When governments legislate contrary to the standards set by God, Christians ought to obey God rather than men [Acts 4:19]

In our society today some of our laws are increasingly being changed to conform to what is perceived to be accepted as the norm by the majority of the population. Others still reflect, indeed increasingly reflect, the Biblical standards.

In this context a church that chooses not to give men and women equal roles within the ministry of the church could face an ethical and legal challenge from Equal Opportunity or Anti-discrimination laws. This problem will, however, arise in the church only if women in the church react to male leadership in an unbiblical way, or if men interpret or exercise their leadership in an unbiblical way. [A similar question arises over the question of the right of Christian parents to physically discipline their children. A couple of centuries ago the issue was that of slavery, which the Bible clearly accepted as the social norm, and in relation to which Paul gave clear instructions to slaves not to be bothered by their slavery [1 Corinthians 7:21,22], instructed slaves to obey their masters [Ephesians 6:5], and sent a runaway slave back to his master [Philemon]. Yet today none of us would go against the government law and engage in the trade or the employment of slaves. We see it clearly as wrong, yet Christians of previous generations saw it as right and acceptable.]