CHRIST’S CALL TO A HIGHER STANDARD

Putting God’s Law in Perspective

 

By Gary Ray Branscome

 

When the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, they… show the work of the law written in their hearts. // This is the covenant that I will make with them… says the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they will be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 10:16, Romans 2:14-15.)

 

          The entire Law of God, everything that He requires, is summarized in two commandments. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength, and, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:30-31, Galatians 5:14.) Those commandments summarize the heavenly standard, the standard set forth in God’s Ten Commandments. As it is written, “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet; and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, namely, You will love your neighbor as yourself” (Romans 13:8-9).

          The verses just quoted make it clear that genuine love, the kind of love that comes from God, will never lead anyone to do evil. Therefore, those who appeal to “love”, a twisted perverted “Love”, in order to justify their own immorality, adultery, homosexuality etc. are under a Satanic delusion, and are doing the will of Satan, not God.

 

          However, even though the entire will of God for us is love, it would be totally wrong for us to assume that anything not specifically condemned or forbidden in Scripture is in accord with love, for it is not. War is not in accord with love! Slavery is not in accord with love! Divorce is not in accord with love! On the contrary, they are evils that are in the world because of sin. Therefore, if God does not specifically condemn and forbid them, it is not because that is the way He wants us to act, but because they are a part of God’s judgment on a sinful world.

          War is the opposite of love. War is hate! And, because people on both sides suffer and die, war is always a judgment of God on both sides. Therefore, even though God allows for war, the cause of war is sin. And, even though love may sometimes require us to take up arms in order to protect our families and loved ones from those who would do them harm, we should never love war, glory in war, or seek war except as a last resort.

 

          Two other evils that have come into the world through war are slavery and polygamy. Slavery and polygamy are only in the world because of sin, and are not in accord with love. The first slaves, both male and female, were prisoners of war. And, whenever men own women they tend to become objects of their affections, thus degrading marriage in a way that degrades the status of women in general, and leads to strife and division in the home. That is why the Jews rejected polygamy before the time of Christ, and that is why it is not mentioned in the New Testament.            

 

          Another evil that is not in accord with love is divorce. Even though Moses allowed for divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1), and those who lived under that law sometimes divorced and remarried, Christ made it clear that even though they were following the Law they were still guilty of adultery if the divorce was for any reason other than adultery (Matthew 19:3-9). And, why was it adultery? Because it was not God’s plan from the beginning! Here are the words of Christ.

 

“The Pharisees also came to him [Jesus], tempting him, by asking him, Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for every reason? And answering he said to them, Have you not read, that he who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this reason a man will leave father and mother, and will be united to his wife: and the two will be one flesh? Accordingly they are no more two, but one. Therefore, do not let man separate what God has joined together.  Why then, they asked, did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce, and to put her away? He said to them, Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. But I tell you, whoever divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another, commits adultery: and whoever marries her who is put away commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:3-9.)

 

          In order to understand how “obedience” to the law given by Moses could still be sinful, we need to distinguish between the political law and the Moral law. As the political leader of Israel, Moses had to govern both the saved and the unsaved, both those who had God’s Spirit in their heart and those who did not. When a husband and wife are both saved divorce should never happen, because they should love and forgive each other just as Christ has forgiven them. However, Moses had to deal with those had hardened their hearts. Nevertheless, Christ has called us to a higher standard! The standard intended by God from the beginning.     The standard that Christ calls us to is not a new standard. The Law has not been changed. Although Moses never specifically said that a couple could divorce for reasons other than adultery, the law was interpreted that way. However, Christ has called us to a higher standard of interpretation. A standard that does not compromise with sin, excuse sin, or in any way allow for sin. And, that is just what is done by those who want to justify slavery, polygamy, or any other evil just because it was not specifically forbidden by the Law of Moses.    

 

The fact that Christ has called us to a higher standard can clearly be seen in the following statements.

I am telling you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will in no way enter into the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said by those long ago, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whoever is angry with his brother without a cause will be in danger of the judgment: whoever says to his brother, You idiot, will be called to account: and whoever says, You fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has a grievance against you; Leave your gift before the altar, and go; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer your gift.… You have heard that it was said by those long ago, You shall not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:20-28.)

 

          Furthermore, because Christ has said, “Whoever divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another, commits adultery,” it would be lowering the standard and cheapening marriage to assume that a man who does not even bother with divorce before marrying another is not committing adultery. That is opposite of what Christ was teaching! He was not lowering the standard. On the contrary, He was calling us back to God’s original intention for marriage. And, that is how Christians have understood His words for two-thousand years.

 

Conclusion

 

          Christianity did not originate with the gentiles, but with the Jews. Not the unbelieving Jews, but those who accepted Christ as the Messiah, those who spread palm branches before Jesus when He entered Jerusalem (Matthew 21:8), those who were baptized by the thousands following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41 and 4:4). And, because the Jews living at that time had rejected polygamy, that rejection of polygamy was a part of Christian morality from the beginning.

          Because Christianity aspires to the highest standard, because it calls all who name the name of Christ to walk in a clean conscience, and conduct themselves in a way that brings honor to His name, Christians have, throughout history, been the leading opponents of both slavery and polygamy.

          In the past, the stricter interpretation of the Ten Commandments embraced by the Church has been referred to as “reasonable morality”. However, because the meaning of words has changed, I need to explain that the phrase, “reasonable morality” is not a reference to “rationalism” (which excludes God), but to the law of God written on the heart. It was that law that set forth God’s original intent for human conduct and marriage. And, even though that law can be easily explained away by a sinful heart, when we come to faith in Christ it is written anew as we are “renewed in knowledge after the image of the One who created” us (Colossians 3:10). As it is written, “After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they will be my people,” (Jeremiah 31:33).