How the Moral Law is to Be Rightly Understood in Creation
On the Lord’s Day evenings the past month or so we’ve been looking at the Covenant of Works. As part of that we’ve sought to define what a covenant is (an agreement between two parties that includes stipulations and promises) and why God chose to use that form (because He is God and needed a way to deal with His creatures by grace). The Q/A’s today are explaining to us why the LORD did this with Adam and the reason why it applies to us right now regardless of what Adam did with the command given in Genesis 2:16-17. Our Heavenly Father is not in the business of making things up as He goes along. There is a sense in which we were covenantally related to God regardless of whether or not He made this specific covenant with our earthly father. Since He cannot relate to us as peers all the work He does with us is by way of condescension. Now, we usually use that word only in a negative sense, but in this case it is a great blessing for the Lord did not need to either make us or promise us anything. Both He did out of love and mercy. This condescension is to be understood in the way that an all-powerful being stoops to help out one who cannot help themselves. By giving us the moral law we know what God expects and also through it we see His wisdom and His person. Why can we trust the Lord? Because He does not steal, nor does He commit adultery. He gives what He promises and He is faithful to His word. These are great and wonderful helps as we think about the reasons why He provided the testimony of the moral law.
We presume too much about ourselves whenever we look back at our God and require of Him anything. It is as if your child woke up one morning and declared to you that he or she was now in charge and from now one there would only be chocolate cake for breakfast, no school, and YouTube on the TV forever. No loving parent would put up with such rebellion. How much less do you think that the One who made the Universe would react to any creature who thought they could dictate the terms of life to the Maker of life? Here we see one of the reasons for the Covenant of Works. It was an opportunity for Adam to show to God His thanksgiving and felicity to the one who breathed existence into His soul. We must be able to see the mercy of the Lord in providing an opportunity for Adam to testify to his thanksgiving to Him if we are to understand why God reacted in the way that He did when Adam failed to keep this covenant.
Here’s the Q/A’s for today:
Q. 91: What is the duty which God requireth of man?
A. The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to his revealed will.
Q. 92: What did God at first reveal unto man as the rule of his obedience?
A. The rule of obedience revealed to Adam in the estate of innocence, and to all mankind in him, besides a special command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, was the moral law.
Q. 93: What is the moral law?
A. The moral law is the declaration of the will of God to mankind, directing and binding everyone to personal, perfect, and perpetual conformity and obedience thereunto, in the frame and disposition of the whole man, soul and body, and in performance of all those duties of holiness and righteousness which he owes to God and man: promising life upon the fulfilling, and threatening death upon the breach of it.
Now we have to be a little careful about making sure we do not confuse ourselves when we talk about the law and the Covenant of Works. That word “besides” in Q.92 needs unpacked. The law in a sense is “neutral” when it comes to our relationship to it. Elsewhere we have heard it said that the moral law is a reflection of the character of God. The law is not bad, however, as we will learn next week it becomes the enemy of fallen man because the Lord’s requirement that we keep the moral law has not changed. We are still held to perpetual conformity and obedience to every jot and tittle of what God has declared to us in His written revelation, whether that is the law on our hearts as Paul describes in Romans 2 or the physically present word granted to Moses on Mt. Sinai and later written down in the Bible for our own reflection.
If we hope to gain the blessings of the Covenant of Works we must keep the law perfectly.
That is what is required for eternal life. This requirement has not, and does not change, regardless of our relationship to the covenant or the law. We have to comprehend this if we are to properly see the greatness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and what He has done for sinners in His life, death, and resurrection.
In closing, to tone things down a little bit let’s go back to Q. 91. Duty can take on an ugly connotation, but it does not need to. When we get to discussing the Covenant of Grace we’ll find out that duty takes on an element of thanksgiving, in other words we get to follow Jesus in obedience without the consequences of disobedience being what they are under the Covenant of Works. It is to be seen as a joy and a blessing. That’s the way our Lord set it up in the beginning before sin entered into the equation and it is healthy for us to remember that. Yes, because of Adam’s transgressions we are now burdened by its requirements, but we must look at the law in the way that it was designed by the God who loves us. As the catechism questions make clear this duty is a natural one and one that we must comprehend in the light of what David says (and we’ll end with this, as there is a need to move on to the next set of catechism questions) in Psalm 119:33-35:
Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it.
Here’s another way to think of it:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church