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Lesson 1: Laws in Christ's Day *

Introduction: For decades my brother lived in Southern California. When he would speak to me about towns, I would have an idea of the direction and distance to that town. He has now moved and when he mentions a town I have no idea about either direction or distance. Imagine you have to travel to a town and you have no idea about its location. You need a map. We start a new series of lessons on the law of God. It seems so natural to think of the law and grace as being opposed to each other. My goal in this series is to help us think about the law and grace as being gifts. Like a map, the law is a wonderful gift from God to help us to understand how to get safely to our destination. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn!

  1. Natural Law

    1. Read Romans 5:12-13. This text tells us that sin is not taken into account when there is no law. What do you think that means? In the absence of the law, no sin exists?

    2. Read Romans 5:14. We just read in Romans 5:12 that sin brings death. How do we explain that everyone died even when sin was not taken into account?

    3. Read Romans 2:12. This tells us that we can sin even when there is no law. How would you reconcile Romans 5:13 (no law = no accountability for sin) and Romans 2:12 (sin apart from law = death)? (Humans died from sin even when God did not hold them accountable for sin.)

      1. Does this mean that sin has its own mechanism for bringing death apart from God?

    4. Read Romans 2:13-14. What does it mean to "do by nature things required by the law?" (Welcome to the concept of natural law! Whether or not they are written down, natural laws control things in our life.)

      1. Can you think of some natural laws? (Consider all of the physical laws like gravity and the predictable movements of the sun and planets. What about injury and pain?)

    5. Let's go back to my brother's move. Let's say that I want to visit him. What natural (physical)laws are involved? (We can group the most critical ones and conclude that travel in the right direction is required. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line - a natural law. I could go in the wrong direction, but the trip would be much more difficult.)

      1. Is it God's fault that travel in the correct direction is required, or at least an issue?

      2. Let's look at God's law as a map. Does the map make the journey more difficult? (No! It is a tremendous help!)

        1. Recall that in Romans 5:12 it says that sin was not taken into account before the law was given. Could you could say that I was violating the "rule" of the map before you gave me a map? (No.)

        2. Would I be any less lost before I had a map? (No, I would still be subject to the natural law that I needed to travel in the right direction.)

      3. Does this clarify the texts in Romans? Humans did not violate God's given law (the map) when they did not have the law, but that did not suspend the operation of the natural laws.

    6. Read Genesis 2:8-9, Genesis 3:22, Genesis 3:24 and Revelation 22:12-14. What do these verses suggest about death? (Dying with age is natural for humans. It is a natural law. It took the Tree of Life to protect us from this natural law.)

    7. Read Revelation 21:4. Has God changed the natural law of death in the "new order?" Or, is death like a disease cured by the Tree of Life?

    8. Read Revelation 22:1-2. If sickness is a thing of the past, why is the Tree of Life "for the healing of the nations?" (We are beyond a subject easily understood by humans, certainly it is not easily understood by me, but it appears that when we are resurrected to a perfect state and living in the earth made new, we will still need the Tree of Life to prevent sickness and death.)

      1. Why does God not just rewire us to allow us to live eternally? (This causes me to think, in my very limited human understanding, that God lives with natural laws. He does not alter them.)

  2. Moral Law

    1. Read James 2:8-11. What law is referred to here? (The Ten Commandments. What we call the "moral law.")

    2. Read James 2:12-13. How can James call this "the law that gives freedom?"

      1. Does a map give you freedom?

    3. Consider this. If natural laws are operating in our universe, and God's moral law gives us a map to avoid violating the natural laws with their natural penalties, would you call the moral law something that gives you freedom? (Yes!)

      1. Would it be fair to say that the moral law operates something like the Tree of Life?

    4. Let's see if we can draw some conclusions about the natural law and the moral law. For reasons that are beyond my understanding, it appears that God does not attempt to rewrite natural laws. Instead of changing the natural law that weakness, sin and death come with time, He gives us the Tree of Life in the earth made new. Instead of changing the natural laws that operate on earth, God gives us His moral law to help us avoid suffering the penalties of violating natural law. Does this seem right to you?

  3. Civil Law

    1. Read Romans 13:1-3. On what are civil laws based, natural law or the moral law? (Remember that God's moral law is supposed to help us deal with natural law. Thus, the authority of civil rulers, which comes from God, should be based on both.)

    2. Read Romans 13:4-5. Why is conscience involved in obeying civil laws? (This shows that at least God's moral law is involved.)

    3. Read Romans 13:8-10. How does this help resolve the issue of whether civil authority is based on the moral law? (Paul is clearly referring to the Ten Commandments - moral law. He tells us that human authority is established by God to enforce the law of love.)

      1. What example can you give of how civil laws enforce the law of love? (Take for example private property and the judicial system. The examples in Romans 13:9 involve taking something from someone else. If we love our neighbor as our self, then we will not take anything from our neighbor. Since not everyone is in tune with the moral law, the civil authorities (the police and the courts) enforce the laws against stealing.)

    4. Can you begin to see a picture here? Natural laws exist and it appears that God does not alter them. God gives us His moral law to help us avoid violating natural laws. Not everyone is in tune with moral laws, and thus God establishes civil authority to enforce His moral laws. These three levels of law are all related!

      1. What does this say about church-state relationships?

  4. Ceremonial Law

    1. Read Leviticus 1:1-4. What law is this? (This is part of the "ceremonial law" given through Moses.)

      1. What "ceremony" are we talking about? (It was the procedure for obtaining the removal of sin from the person offering the offering.)

    2. Are the ceremonial laws also a map? (Yes. They illustrate the plan of salvation. They pointed to the coming of Jesus and His sacrifice.)

    3. Are the ceremonial laws still valid? (No. They were fulfilled. However, we should not forget them because they reinforce our belief in Jesus.)

    4. Read Romans 8:1-4. What law is referred to here? (At least the moral law because it refers to sin.)

    5. Did Jesus fulfill the moral law in the same way that He fulfilled the ceremonial law? (I think the answer is "yes.")

      1. Should we forget the moral law? (No! Recall the map. If you want to avoid getting into trouble with natural laws, pay close attention to the moral law.)

    6. Friend, if you feel this discussion is just a beginning, you are right! Let's ask the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth when it comes to the different laws with which we live.

  5. Next week: Christ and the Law of Moses.
* Copr. 2014, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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