God’s Law is Good

Christians, do you believe God’s word? Be careful here. I am not asking if you believe the parts that are easy for you. Do you really believe that, as Paul told us, all Scripture is inspired and profitable?

IF you believe that God is good and God’s word is good, you will have to allow that to impact how you think and feel about the Old Testament. While we are a New Covenant people, and we are grateful not to be under the old sacrificial system, we should nonetheless rejoice in the words that God gave his people.

Look at what God himself says to us about his word, particularly what he is going to tell his people in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 4:5-8 – 5 See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? 8 And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?

In that last verse, we see a fascinating question. God says that those who see his people abide by his word will ask, “What great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law?” God is telling us that he is good, that is word is good, and that is law is perfectly just. Either these things are true, or God’s word is not true.

Since we are a people who love the Bible, we must understand that his words are true here as well. His law is good. His principles for justice are right. His orders for Israel, as a nation, were perfect.

While I’m not suggesting that it is the responsibility of the Christian to attempt to establish legal systems that are identical to those of ancient Israel, I am wanting modern Christians to grasp this point if nothing else: God’s law is good. When God told Israel what to eat and what not to eat, for them, at that time, it was absolutely and perfectly good. When God told Israel the penalty for crimes against one another or against God, his justice was good. When God told the people with what particularity they are to address his holiness and his worship, it was good.

Christians, when you begin to think through the law of God, will you be careful to start here? Will you start with the assumption, the word-centered, God-honoring assumption that his law is righteous and good? If you do not start here, you place yourself in a position to say that some of God’s law is good and some is not. You, in that mental move, place yourself in a position to judge the Lord, and that is akin to original sin itself.

Christians, love the word. Love the New Testament. Love the law. Understand that, no, we are not Old Testament Israel. We are not under the same dietary restrictions as was Israel. We are not bound to their ceremonies. But we can look to those ceremonies and find hints of the gospel. We can look to the law to see the glory of being a people set apart for the Lord. WE can look to the law to see our deep sinfulness and need of a Savior. WE can look to the law and see God’s great holiness. We can look to the law and see what justice looks like. We can look to the law and know better what pleases the Lord. God is good, all good, including his perfect and righteous law.

An Example of Man’s Best Guesses

We see a fascinating event happen when Paul was shipwrecked on the island of Malta. The people gather wood and build a fire to warm the bedraggled passengers. And a thing happens to Paul that adds some level of insult to injury. And in that happening, we can see a solid example of why we ought not trust human conclusions without divine revelation.

Acts 28:3-6 – 3 When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. 4 When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.

OK, Paul is bitten by a snake. The thing just latched on. Paul shakes it off, and he lives. All things considered, this is a rough day.

But watch the assumptions made by the observers. First, the people draw a conclusion from the evidence they see. They assume that Paul is a criminal getting justice. Even though he survived the wreck of the ship, he is still going to die from the poison of the snake. HE is getting what is coming to him. This is what the natives assume.

Then, after Paul does not die, the people amend their assessment of the situation. He survives a shipwreck and the bite of a viper. Now the people assume that Paul must be a god.

The fact is, the people of Malta were wrong, badly wrong, twice. They used their best guess based on the evidence available to them and their understanding of the world. And what we discover is a simple truth. Mankind, apart from the perfect revelation of God, will misinterpret the world around him time and time again.

Christians, let a passage like this one cause you to give God great thanks for Scripture. After all, without God revealing himself in his holy and inspired word, you too would interpret the world around you wrongly. Either you would have superstition all over you like the people of Malta, or you would be given into the folly of a naturalistic worldview. Either way, you would be very wrong. Thank the Lord for speaking to us in his word. Thank the Lord for speaking to us in the person and work of Jesus. It would be totally just of God to simply destroy us for our sin without ever speaking to us in any way whatsoever. Thank God for choosing to tell us who he is, who we are, and what we must do to be made right with him. Thank God for the Bible.

God is Different Than People Think

You know why Scripture is such a gift? You could never know God without his revealing himself in his word. If God does not tell us what he is like, if we do not pay attention, we will totally have the wrong image in our minds as to who god is, what he does, and what he requires.

I Thought of this in a read through Exodus 19-20. In that passage, the text around the original giving of the Ten Commandments, God makes some restrictions on the people that do not sound like what many around you think God is like.

Why do I say this? In our world, most people think that God is open to any sincere attempt to worship him. People assume that God is open to all expressions of human religion so long as those expressions do not attack other humans. But look at God’s words and God’s standards for the people near the mountain. In two places, we will see something important.

Exodus 19:21-22 – 21 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to look and many of them perish. 22 Also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, lest the Lord break out against them.”

As God prepared to speak to Moses from the Mountain, he gave two significant restrictions. The people could not approach or touch the mountain while God’s presence was upon it. And the priests could not experience this day without a holy consecration. Either group who disobeyed the commands of God here would die. God himself would kill people for disobedience.

But that does not sound like the modern understanding of God put forth by so many people. And at this point we have to ask, is our picture of god from God’s revelation or from our own minds? God is holy. God may not be approached by sinful man. And God will destroy those who violate his holy standards and remain without his forgiveness.

Exodus 20:25 – If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it.

Here God points out that the people of Israel were not free to make just any kind of altar for worship. If they were to fashion a stone altar with their tools, their touching of the altar would defile it. God was clear that his worship was to be holy. God is clear that he sets the standards as to what is acceptable and unacceptable worship.

The simple thought that I want us to take away from these passages is that God is holy. God is not what the modern American believes. God will judge people. God will judge based on his own standards. God will not bend to our will and our standards. God is not OK with just any old action we want to take. God will tell us how he is to be worshipped.

And in both passages, we see that God is clear that sinful mankind cannot approach him. If we wish to avoid God’s judgment, we must find ourselves under his grace. We are sinners who need to be forgiven. We need to have God apply to us the perfect righteousness of Christ. If we do not have God’s forgiving grace and the imputed righteousness of Jesus, anything we would do that could be considered worship will only serve to bring us under God’s judgment.

So, what do we take away? First, you need Jesus. Ask him to forgive you and cleanse you before the Lord. Surrender to him and be saved by his grace through faith. Then, realize that God has a high and holy standard that is far more dangerous than anything you have ever imagined. Submit to his holy word in order to live and worship in a way that pleases the Lord.

Simple Depth in Glorious Doctrine

Sometimes the simplest of doctrines are the ones we need to remember most. IN churches like the one I serve, there are always folks who are interested in the “deep” things. And, quite often, the things these folks consider to be deep are primarily things that are hard to understand or not broadly known. While we want to study all biblical doctrine, we can, if we are not careful, become fascinated with the obscure and fail to embrace and cherish the simple and true.

Christians, may I remind you that depth does not equal obscurity? May I also remind you that simple does not mean shallow. Sometimes deep study and deep faithfulness means learning to embrace with all of your being the things that every Christian should know.

Here is an example of a few things said in Psalm 18 that we all should love deeply.

Psalm 18:30-31a

30 This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the Lord proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
31 For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?

Let me point out four doctrines, lovely doctrines, simple doctrines, deep doctrines, that we should love from those lines. First, note the perfection of God. David refers to God by saying, “his ways are perfect.” That is not a shallow truth. God’s ways are perfect. All that the Lord is and all that the Lord does is perfect. There is no flaw. There is no sin. There is no taint. God is absolutely, unquestionably, immeasurably perfect.

How important is that doctrine? How does it change us? When the Lord says that he will do a thing, our response must never be to measure it by whether or not we approve. God’s ways are perfect. Our response, when we see that the Lord does a thing should be to ask the Lord to reshape us in our sinfulness to love and embrace his perfection. Thus, when God speaks of things with which we are uncomfortable, we are the ones flawed, not the Lord.

Second, the word of the Lord proves true. This is a reminder that not only is what God does perfect in every way, all that God says is true. For David, this helped him to embrace the Pentateuch and the words of the prophets around him. For us, this develops for us our doctrine of holy Scripture.

Just like thinking of the ways of God as perfect, we now think of his word as true. So, what happens when our experience or our best understanding stands in contradiction to the word? WE have a choice to make. We either decide that we are more true than the word of God or that the word of God is more true than our experience. Christians, this is a vital piece of doctrine to get right, as it will shape everything you think you know.

Third, God is a shield for all who take refuge in him. What a glorious truth this is. God is a gracious God. God receives kindly those who come to him for shelter. Consider, there is no rule beyond God that says he has to do this. He could turn us away in our cries for his mercy. But he does not.

Here is a doctrine that helps us to understand the grace of God. We are all a people in danger. Our sin would cause us to be eternally condemned. But God is a shelter for all who take refuge in him. If you come to the one true God seeking shelter, he will grant it. We know from the rest of Scripture that there is only one way to come to God for shelter, through the person of Jesus Christ (John 14:6). But we also are gloriously encouraged by the truth that all who do come to Jesus in faith and repentance are genuinely saved (Rom. 10:9-10, 13).

Fourth, and finally, notice that David also tells us that there is only one God. Who is God but the Lord? Much of the world thinks in the terms of multiple divinities. Much of the world assumes all religions are the same. But the word of God tells us that there is not another God, period.

This doctrine is vital to the believer. We know that all other world religions are false, because we know that there is only one God who may only be approached through the person and work of Jesus. All other claims of authority are illegitimate, because we know that there is only one God. All that oppose God do not merely oppose a religion, they oppose the one and only Creator and Lord. And all who have the favor of God have blessing that can never be removed, because God is the only God. There is no competition for God. There is no alternative to God. There is only the one God.

You might say that all these things are easy to know. Perhaps they are. But that does not make these shallow. These are vital truths. And the more you think about them, the more you embrace them, the more you will love the Lord you serve. I’m glad that we have the opportunity as believers to delve into end times, to think about election, to seek to understand the intricacies of the trinity, to ponder the covenants. But I’m even gladder that we are given by God the chance to know that he is the only God, that is ways are perfect, that his word is true, and that he welcomes all who run to him for shelter. These things should change your daily life, and change it forever. So do not miss them as you seek to study the deep things of the Lord.

What the Bible Really Is

When you think of the Bible, what do you think it is? Be careful here. I’d ask that you not give me an answer that is a stock response, which is true, but which may not match your actual beliefs. If you say the Bible is the word of God, does your thinking in relation to biblical issues match that statement?

1 Thessalonians 2:13 – And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

When Paul preached to the people in Thessalonica, he spoke to them as an apostle. That means that Paul brought the message of God with the authority of God to those people. And Paul was thrilled to see that, when they heard this message of God with the authority of God, they welcomed it as such.

Paul saw that the Thessalonians received the word of God as the word of God. They heard the message, and they understood that they were hearing the word, the communication, the heart expression of God. As a contrast, to make his point clear, Paul said that they did not receive this message as the word of men. This was not a message that they could debate. This was not a message they could receive part of and leave the rest. It is an all-or-nothing proposition.

Dear friends, what Paul said of the Thessalonians needs to be true of us. The Lord as inspired and preserved his holy word. God has spoken. And we need to receive the Scriptures, not as the words of men, but as they truly are, the word of God. We cannot take part and leave the rest. We cannot debate with the Bible. WE cannot adopt what we like or what is popular while letting the rest fly away. We need to read the Bible and realize that, in doing so, we are hearing the voice of God.

Instinct or Understanding

By what standard do we determine what is right? This ought to be an easy question to answer for the Christian. But in our day and age, we are not as solid on this topic as we should be. All in all, there are only two options. You can determine morality by the faithful study of and application of Scripture, or you can determine morality based on your own personal judgment. There are not any other solid choices out there. You choose divine revelation or something else.

In the letter of Jude, we see that there are a people doing evil in the church. They are rejecting biblical morality for their own instinctual standards.

Jude 10 – But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.

The folks causing a problem have two things that they are doing. First, we see that they have gotten to a place where they blaspheme what they do not understand. When a standard is set before them that they do not want to follow, they speak out to revile that standard. In contrast, these people who are enemies of the faith in Jude are led to destruction by their instincts.

Let’s not let this seem mysterious. What is happening is simple. There are people in the church to which Jude is writing who do not understand God’s standards related to human sexuality. This is not to say that they cannot comprehend the command of God, but they do not agree with it. Their desires do not match the command of the word. And since they do not personally like or understand God’s standards, they speak out against the word of God and give themselves over to evil practices that go against God’s word and which will ultimately lead to their own destruction.

How do we know this is about sexuality and not merely about some other failure to follow Scripture? In verse 4, Jude says that these people “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality.” That word behind sensuality is a word that repeatedly appears in biblical condemnations of sexual immorality. As Jude speaks of other immoralities that mirror the licentiousness of these people, he compares them to Sodom and Gomorrah and says that they “likewise indulged in sexual immorality” (verse 7). And, in verse 8, speaking of the practices of the sinful, Jude says that they “defile the flesh.”

Jude is clear. There are people in his day who are in the church who are participating in sexual immorality. When they are challenged to stop sinning against the Lord and destroying themselves in this way, they speak out against the Scriptures. Instead of following the standards present in the word of God, instead of following the clear teachings of the apostles, these people rely on their own minds, their own dreams, their own instincts. And, as Jude said, these people determine their morality like unreasoning animals as they walk themselves into the judgment of God.

In no way am I trying to be personally harsh as I speak of this issue. But I must simply let the word of God say what it says. And God clearly inspired very strong language to describe the sexual immorality that was going on in Jude’s day. We cannot tone this down and be faithful to the word. Giving one’s self over to sexual immorality is deadly. Following our human instincts and passions instead of following what God tells us is right is deadly. And there is nothing good to say for those who would hear the word of God, see God’s standards, and speak out against those standards as if they somehow know what is best for us more so than the God who created us.

Of course, Christians, there is something for us to learn here about sexual immorality. We want to be very wary of any group claiming to follow God, yet which speaks out against the plain biblical standards of human sexuality. God is clear that human instinct will lead us to destruction if not corralled by the protective fence of biblical revelation. God has designed us to glorify him. One of the loveliest ways that we can honor the Lord is by submitting to his perfect plan for our lives and bodies. We are not our own. We are bought at a price. And our loving God intends that we honor him in our sexuality.

But the further truth, the foundational thing that we need to grasp, is that we must determine all morality based on the word of God and not on human instinct. WE are fallen. Our moral compass is corrupt. We lack the wisdom of the Lord. We are not naturally holy. For us to make moral choices that will not lead to destruction requires that we are fully submitted to the perfect word of God. Otherwise we will be misled by the blinding influence of our unreasoning instincts. Submit to Scripture and not to your best guess as to how things ought to be.

Not the Word of Men

There are a few questions that a person must answer in order to be in any way pleasing to God. Miss the answers to these questions, and you will be far from the truth. A person needs to know where we come from. A person needs to understand who Jesus is. A person needs to understand what we must do to be saved.

One more extremely significant question is this: What is the Bible? This is one of the most important questions any person can ask and answer. Get this one right, and you will have a proper foundation set for knowing the ways of God. Miss it, and you will be like a rudderless ship, floundering about without direction.

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul, almost in passing, reminds the church there what the Bible is. Paul is here talking about his preaching to these people, and probably including the Old Testament Scriptures as well, but the point carries over to what we now have in the Bible.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 – And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

There are two things to note here. Paul calls his message to the Thessalonians the word of God. And then he goes on to emphasize that it is not the word of men. This is vital. Understand, dear friends, the Bible is the word of God and not the word of men.

Start from the end. What if the Bible is merely the word of men? It might have some wisdom. It might be a somewhat helpful thing. But, if the Bible is merely a collection of the opinions and best guesses of fallible men, it is merely a tool to be used or discarded as we see fit.

But what if the Bible is, as Paul says, the word of God and not of men? Then everything changes. If the Bible is the word of God, it is authoritative. God is our Lord. What he says we must obey. What he wills we must strive to do or be.

If the Bible is the word of God, it is trustworthy. God is perfect. God does not err. It would be insanity to believe that the perfect and holy God of the universe would somehow give to us an errant, flawed, unreliable word and then claim it as his own.

If the Bible is the word of God, then what the Bible says, God says. If we want to know God, we will learn to know him through the word. If we want to be right with God, we do so by the method prescribed in the word. If we want to set our standards in line with those of God, we find those standards in his word.

The Bible is the word of God, not the word of men. Yes, men were used to write it down, but they were carried along by the Holy Spirit of God as he inspired them to pen for us, not the words of men, but the perfect word of God. Let this thought give you the answer to the question about what the Bible is. Know the Bible is the word of God. And let that Bible lead you to faith in and obedience to Jesus.