I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
The date Friday June 26, 2015 is a day that will stand as a “red letter” day on the national calendar of the United States. This was every bit a landmark day as was the January 22, 1973 Woe Vs. Wade Supreme Court decision, legalizing abortion on demand in all fifty states. Since Roe Vs. Wade, over sixty-million unborn babies have been slaughtered in abortion clinics and hospitals across the nation. This stands as a blight on this Country, besmirching the land with innocent blood.
The 2015 ruling regarding same-sex marriage, is equally a dark day for America. It tears at the very fabric of society, further eroding the already crumbling foundation of the American family, and the God-ordained institution of marriage.
Many Evangelical Christians, yours truly included, took to the airwaves on Christian radio and television, as well as newspapers, magazines, blogs, and social media; decrying this opinion of the Court and its stark implications for the future of our country.
Many began to declare that these unions were not only biologically unnatural, scientifically confused, and without societal precedent; but were in fact against the very Law of God. For example, in the beginning in the Garden of Eden, God set forth His standard for marriage and the family when He officiated the very first marriage ceremony.
“And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. “ [Genesis 2:21 – 24]
Its pretty straight forward, wouldn’t you agree? The LORD God made a deep sleep to fall on the man, removed one of his ribs, and fashioned it into a woman. He then brought the woman to the man, and presented her to him. The man and the woman were then joined in marriage by the LORD God Himself. Here we see the beginning of the institution of marriage, and the beginning of the family.
Even though many deviations and perversions of this standard can be observed in both biblical and post-biblical history, by law of “First Mention”, every time we speak of and think of marriage, our thinking should take us back to the Garden and God’s original standard of marriage being one man, and one woman, for one lifetime.
The Law of God is pretty clear on proper and improper relationships. Moses wrote in Leviticus 18:22, “You are not to go to bed with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination.” [Lev. 18:22 CJB] A little later in Leviticus the Bible says, “ If a man goes to bed with a man as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they must be put to death; their blood is on them.” [Leviticus 20:13 CJB] In Romans 1:26, 27 the language of scripture is pretty clear on this subject as well. The Apostle Paul wrote there, “This is why God has given them up to degrading passions; so that their women exchange natural sexual relations for unnatural; and likewise the men, giving up natural relations with the opposite sex, burn with passion for one another, men committing shameful acts with other men and receiving in their own persons the penalty appropriate to their perversion.” [Romans 1:26, 27 CJB]
Now, believe it or not, this post is not about marriage or homosexuality. I am using these issues to illustrate where I want to go in our on-going series on God’s Plan for the Ages – Dispensations. Our topic under discussion presently is the Dispensation of Law. The Dispensation of Law is the period of time generally from Moses to Christ, and specifically from the giving of the Law on Sinai, to the preaching of John the Baptist.
Many who object to appealing to the Law of God to determine what is right and what is wrong with regard to sexuality, marriage, and relationships; do so by stating that the same Law also forbids the eating of shell fish [Lev. 11:9, 10], wearing garments of mixed materials [Lev. 19:19], and that a woman during her menstrual period is considered “unclean”, to name a few. How do we deal with these issues? What is the answer to all of this?
What those making these arguments are not aware of is the fact that there are different types, or different categories of laws. In fact, the Law can be divided into three categories:
- Moral Law
- Civil Law
- Ceremonial Law
Lets examine these in a little more detail.
The moral law, basically contained in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1 – 17), were basically the foundation of all other laws. They regulated life for the individual, because the commandments include the words in the KJV, “thou” and “thy” some 45 times. These commandments divide themselves into two sections, perhaps represented by the two stone tablets. The first four reveal the expected relationship between God and man. The other six reveal the expected relationship between man and his neighbor. Jesus also taught the importance of this vertical and horizontal association:
“ Jesus said to him, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ “ [Matt. 22:37 – 39]
This is truly amazing when you think about it. Jewish tradition states that there are a total of 613 mitzvot (Commandments) contained in the Torah (Genesis – Deuteronomy). This number was arrived at in the 3rd Century when rabbi Simlai mentioned it in a sermon that is recorded in Talmud Makkot 23b. Although several attempts have been made through the centuries to codify and enumerate the commandments contained in the Torah, the traditional view is based on Maimonides’ enumeration.
Of these 613 commandments, there are both “positive commandments”, to perform a certain act, and “negative commandments”, to abstain from certain acts. Yet Jesus narrowed these to two – 1) Love God with all your heart, soul, and strength, and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said in verse 40 of that same opening, “ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Another translation renders this, “All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” [Matt. 22:40 HCSB]
The civil law, or the judgments (Ex. 21:1 – 23:33), related to the nation of Israel, and concerned social affairs.
All of the legislation of the United States is based upon these laws: the protection of the innocent, the punishment of criminals, the law of justice and equality, human rights, and property rights. I suppose it would be more correct to say that the laws of the United States were, at one time, based upon the Mosaic Law.
We see an erosion of these values today with the acceptance of abortion-on-demand, and easy divorce, not to mention the attempts of our courts to redefine marriage and the family. It is clear that as a nation, as a people, we have drifted far from these moorings, we have turned from our foundation and from what made this land great in the beginning.
The ceremonial law, or the ordinances (Ex. 24:12 – 31:18), governed the religious life of the children of Israel, and is given in greater detail in the book of Leviticus. Under the ceremonial law the Tabernacle was ordained, designed, and occupied by God Himself (Ex. 25:8).
While today the body of the Christian is “the Temple of God” (1 Cor. 3:17), during this present Dispensation of Grace, the Tabernacle (and later the Temple at Jerusalem) was the dwelling place of God during the Dispensation of Law. Every part of the Tabernacle, every measurement, every piece of furniture, every color, and all the materials, manifested, in type and shadow, the Divine Truths of the Lord and His Church.
When Moses had completed the construction of the Tabernacle, the Glory of the Lord came down and rested on the Mercy Seat, and the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night rested on the Tabernacle as an outward evidence of an internal presence, and by it His people were continually led!
So, we see that there were and are different laws for different parts of life and society. We make a great mistake when we don’t see and understand this. To what extent the various types of laws are incumbent upon the people of God today is a matter for another study. It is perfectly safe to say that the moral and the principles set forth in the civil law are still every bit in force today, and we should order our lives and conduct accordingly.
It is also important to understand that there were laws prior to the Dispensation of Law. Obviously there were laws during the Dispensation of Human Government (Gen. 9:1 – 7). Even during the Dispensation of Innocence God had given Adam and Eve the “Law” should not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, lest they die (Gen. 2:17). The Dispensation of Law did, however, reveal God’s entire Law for mankind, because it covered every aspect of his life in great detail.
I want to pick this study up next time with discussing the purpose that the Law was given.
Until next time,
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson