LIVING UNDER GOD'S LAW

A STUDY BY
GARY RAY BRANSCOME



  "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfill. For truly I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." (Matthew 5:17-18)

    The verse just quoted tells us that Christ did not abolish the Law of Moses. On the contrary, His aim was not to change the law, or replace it with another set of laws, but to fulfill it. And, by fulfilling it in our stead He freed us from its bondage and curse (Romans 7:4, and 10:1-4). Furthermore, on the day of Pentecost three thousand Jews experienced that freedom when they turned to Christ (Acts 2:41, Romans 7:4). Walking by faith, the burden of feeling that their salvation depended on their ability to keep the law was lifted. They no longer had to offer up animal sacrifices, or avoid certain kinds of food (Acts 10:10-16, Hebrews 7:12). However, they still had to be subject to the political laws of Israel, not because their salvation depended upon it, but because those laws were the law of the land (1Peter 2:13-14).

THE POLITICAL LAW OF ISRAEL


    Unlike the religious or cultural laws of the Old Testament, the political laws of Israel all relate to the Ten Commandments, and either deal with civil litigation or have punishments attached to them (Exodus 21 and 22, Leviticus 20, Deuteronomy 14,15 and 16, or Leviticus 4 and 5).

    Furthermore, because the political law of Israel is the wisest and most just system of law ever devised, many of the laws we associate with good government were taken from it. Nevertheless, those who advocate the use of force, in order to make everyone comply with its religious and cultural regulations, have given it a bad name. Such people fail to see that any attempt to impose punishments where God has not, is rebellion against His law (Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32).

    At any rate, because the rulers of one nation often get ideas from the laws of another nation, there is nothing wrong with getting ideas from the laws of Israel. In fact, every ruler has a God-given right to learn from the laws of Israel, and to incorporate those laws into the legal system of his own nation (Romans 13:1, Philippians 2:1).

THE ENGLISH CONSTITUTION


    Although the English Constitution does not consist of one document, but of many documents and laws that determine how the English government is constituted, the code of laws adopted by King Alfred (871-899 AD) forms the basis of English common law. Furthermore, while King Alfred took into consideration the code by which his predecessors had ruled, because he saw God's law as the source of principles basic to all good laws, he borrowed freely from the Bible. As a result, he incorporated the Ten Commandments and other political laws of Israel into the code of laws that he established for England [878 AD]. Three other important documents which shaped the English constitution were the “Magna Carta” (1215), the “Petition of Right” (1628), and the English, “Bill of Rights” (1689). [See “From Alfred to Henry III,” by Christopher Brooke].

    By incorporating Biblical law into his own code of laws, King Alfred freed that law from those who would interpret it in a rigid and legalistic way, and gave it a flexibility that is in accord with Christian freedom. That flexibility allowed those laws to conform to English culture. Moreover, when English people migrated to North America they carried that English system of law with them, making it the basis of the colonial governments that they founded.

THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION


    As a result, when the English colonial governments sent delegates to Philadelphia, and empowered those delegates to adopt the Declaration of Independence and later a national Constitution, those documents simply developed and added to the governmental structure that already existed. Therefore, even though the severance of ties with England necessitated changes to the state constitutions, the state governments continued to operate much as they had before our national Constitution was adopted. Thus, far from making a radical break with the past, the federal government built upon and added to the civil establishment that already existed. That is why American lawyers, for almost a century after the War of Independence, trained by studying Blackstone's, “Commentaries On The Laws of England.”

    In short, the purpose of the war of independence was not to abolish the existing colonial governments, but to protect them from usurpation on the part of King George. The people objected to the fact that the king was treating them as if they had no constitutional rights — the rights of Englishmen. Therefore, when our Declaration of Independence speaks of a right to “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” it is claiming for Americans the same right to life, liberty, and property guaranteed to all Englishmen by the Magna Carta.

    That being the case, because our American system of government is founded on the English Constitution, the Ten Commandments are just as much a part of our government as that document which was adopted in 1789. In fact, that is why the Ten Commandments are posted at the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. You could even say that the American system of legal jurisprudence is founded on the Ten Commandments.

    For those who would like to know more about the roots of our free system of government I would like to recommend the book, “A Better Guide Than Reason” by M.E. Bradford. The better guide, that Professor Bradford refers to, is the guide of past experience. He believes that history has proved experience to be far more reliable than ideology. He also explains the “Old Whig” political tradition that shaped the worldview of those men who wrote our Constitution. For that reason, I see his book is one of the most valuable contributions to political literature to come along. Consider the following quote from an address that John Dickinson gave at the Constitutional Convention:
 
 “Experience must be our only guide. Reason may mislead us. It was not Reason that discovered the singular and admirable mechanism of the British Constitution. It was not Reason that discovered the odd, and in the eye of those who are governed by reason, the absurd mode of trial by jury. Accidents probably produced these discoveries, and experience has given sanction to them. This then was our guide.”
 

CONCLUSION


    At present, the Biblical foundation of our system of government is being attacked as never before. Atheist lies have so obscured the truth that many people actually believe that it is unconstitutional for our government to promote the Ten Commandments. Therefore, if we are to preserve and pass on our free system of government, we need to know something about the role that the Ten Commandments have historically played in our system of government, and why those Commandments are fundamental to both freedom and justice.