— By LOU TISCIONE
The giving of the law and God’s ordination of civil authority are two blessings of God that intersect each other.
The blessing of the law is stated in Deuteronomy 11:26-28. It was given to the Church of the Old Testament.
“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.”
The Apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia, “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions…” (Galatians 3:19)
He called believers to “walk by the Spirit,” (Galatians 5:16). Believers live by the Spirit by applying the word of God in their lives.
He later wrote to the church in Rome, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad …” (Romans 13:3)
He reminded the members of the church that God is the one who ordains all authority. Those who are in authority are His ministers for the good and welfare of all people.
In Deuteronomy 11:26-28 and Galatians 3:19 the focus is on the Law of God, which is the word of God and, more precisely, the Ten Commandments.
In Romans, Paul was referring to civil authority and by implication civil laws. God is the one who ordains all civil authority. God’s purpose is to provide for an ordered society. Those who are governmental officers are God’s ministers for the good of all. They are charged with keeping order so as to promote good. As God is the source of all that is good, civil authorities and civil laws are subordinate to God’s law.
The Bible declared a situation in which there was a conflict between God’s law and man’s law. When the leaders of Israel commanded the Apostles to cease preaching the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Peter and John responded, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
To help understand the importance of the law and law in general there are, what the Protestant Reformers called, three uses of the law as they are revealed in scripture. The first use of the law is to point to man’s hopelessness and his desperate need for a savior. The second use of the law is to restrain men who are untouched by any care for what is just and right unless compelled by hearing the dire threats in the law. The third use of the law is to guide the life of a believer in pleasing God.
These descriptions of the three uses of the law have been paraphrased from Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, book 2, chapter 7, sections 9-10. John Calvin articulated what the Bible teaches concerning the law in Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 11:26-28, Galatians 3 and 5 and Romans 13.
The intersection of the blessing of the law and civil authority is the second use of the law. It is the means given by God to put bounds around sinful mankind. It is this use of the law that is the foundation of every society.
It is accurate to say, “All truth is God’s truth,” especially when speaking of the rule of law. We are experiencing the disregard of law by duly elected members of our government. We read about our executive branch ignoring laws enacted by our legislative branch of government.
Apparently we have laws that don’t apply to all. Those who have been charged by the people to execute and enforce our laws only do so selectively. This makes for a dangerous time.
May we once again understand that it is because of God’s blessing of law that we will be able to guard those rights that He has given all men: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Lou Tiscione is pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA).