Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 28, 1971
NUMBER 36, PAGE 4c-6

The Christian' S Attitude Toward Lawlessness

William C. Sexton

The beloved apostle John tells us that: he who transgresses the law sins, and that sin is transgressing the law. (I John 3:4) The word "Transgress" means to cross plus to step, thus the idea is easy to grasp. The Greek word used in the passage anomia is translated lawlessness a number of times. The same word is translated iniquity several times in the K.J.V. Thayer defines the word: "1. the condition of one without law — either because ignorant of it, or because violating it. 2. contempt and violation of the law, iniquity, wickedness." (Thayer's page 48)

What we see today in the world, should concern each of us. We need to know what is proper, what God expects of us, so we can act. There are, it seems to me, three basic needs — information as to what is right, a heart that desires the good and right, then courage to do what is right in the face of opposition and in difficult times.

We see in the world today: 1. A disregard for the law of the land by a large segment of our society; 2. A disregard toward the law of God in religion — the voice is heard crying, "we are under grace not law, thus obedience to law is not needed." As a Christian, what should my attitude toward lawlessness be? What is your decision? What is the basis for your decision?

1. Have you made a decision? As a Christian, do you have a clear picture of your duty? Or, are you waiting to see how the majority leans, then decide with them? Have you given it serious attention? I suggest that each child of God should consider to the point that he knows what-his duty is, then desire to do it, muster the courage to carry out his duty.

II. What is the basis for your decision? When one makes a decision, there is to be a basis for it. Some have used the wrong basis at times, I am sure that most will agree. Therefore, we should give some attention as to what is the proper basis for establishing our attitude toward lawlessness?

The first things, of course, should be the Bible. "What saith the Lord?" should be the first question entering the Christian's mind. Knowing that therein is to be found the will of God, then, that is where he seeks the answer.

I offer the following for the consideration of those who are concerned about the matter:

1. Law is necessary in any society of men! The reflective man sees immediately that when more than one man is involved, rules are necessary. This is so, because each desires to know what is expected of him by the other. Where there are no clear established rules to govern man, great care must be taken, or else confusion will result. In every endeavor in life, we see the need for rules — in the business world, in games, and in the family life.

God has given laws to govern man in his two-fold duty; A. First, with reference to his Maker; He has told him the extent of his loyalty and what is required, and at times what is permitted of him. Genesis Two shows how He instructed Adam, the first man work was assigned him, prohibition was placed upon his activities. Cain and Abel, evidently were assigned a duty - to offer a certain sacrifice; Abel offered "by faith" and was accepted, while Cain substituted and was rejected. (Cf. Gen. 4:4; Heb. 11:4; I Jn. 3:12) The first four of the Ten Commandments stipulated man's duty to God -- having no "other gods," making no "graven image," not using the "name of the Lord. . . in vain," and fourthly "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." (Ex. 20:1-12) B. Secondly, God has set forth man's duty to his fellow-man. The last Six of the Decalogue, reveals man's duty to his neighbor — honoring "father," not to "kill," forbidding of "adultery," not to "steal." "Not bear false witness against thy neighbour." And the Tenth. "Thou shalt not covet. . ." (Ex. 20:12-17). Jesus said that "on these two commandments (the love of God and neighbor, W.C.S.) hang all the law and the prophets." (Matt. 22:37-40)

I believe that a close study will show, that every nation mentioned in the Bible had a system of law. Also, Christ recognized the law of other nations. He was asked about paying "tribute unto Caesar...?" His answer: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's: and unto God the things that are God's." (Mt. 22:15-21).

2. Nature and purpose of Law! God's law developed from Individual to National, and finally Universal -- to the whole world. He first gave law to govern individuals such as Adam, Noah, Abraham and others. Later he established a nation of Israel, to them he gave what is commonly called the "Law of Moses." The nation was to be governed by this law, and it was for 1500 years. Later, at the completion of the Personal Ministry of Christ, after His resurrection, the gospel was given to govern the whole of humanity; the great commission was to every creature in every nation. (Mt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-20).

His law has always been perfect to accomplish what he desired. Now, His law is completely delivered ; he laid it down in its completeness, it needs no modification or alteration. (Jas. 1:25) But, His law, as it is recorded in the New Testament, deals primarily with our spiritual relationships. Jesus said, "the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." (Jn. 6:63).

Man's law has also developed through the ages. An introduction to business law, will likely show: A. That our law is drawn from the past; we accept from the laws of England and Rome, the ones we think proved to be "good." B. The law has a purpose — to provide order, stability, and to produce justice. C. Law must be evolutionary: changeable to meet the demands of society. As society changes, there is of necessity to be a change in the laws that govern. Old laws that are no longer needed are to be discarded while new ones that meet the needs must be established.

God charges every Christian to obey the law of the land, while showing the purpose of such laws. (Rom. 13:1-7) He says let every soul be "subject" to them, and and that they are "ordained of God." Its just as much a fact that God has established the law of the land, as it is that He established the family and the church. Those who resist these powers, are in fact resisting God; he shall be punished: the purpose of the law is to be a "terror... to the evil." If one is good, he'll have "praise" of the powers, generally speaking. He needs to be "subject" to them for two reasons: "Wrath" — punishment if he does wrong, but also, for "conscience" sake — because God said do it! One cannot have a good conscience and disobey the powers "ordained of God."

These "powers that be," beareth not the "sword in vain," meaning that they have the duty of punishing the evil doer. In as much as there are, and seemingly always will be evil, such forces are needed. Paul indicated that if he had committed a crime he would have submitted to the punishment required. (Acts 25: 1 0-1 2) These powers deserve and demand our taxes and respect and our fear!

3. The enforcement of the law necessary to gain respect! God's penalty for disobedience was set forth with His instructions. (Gen. 2:17; 3:1-6) When the law was violated, the penalty was enforced — "Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, . ." So necessary is the enforcement of the law, that "He spared not his Son, ..." (Rom. 8:32) Man had disobeyed, for him to be forgiven, one had to die; Jesus suffered in man's stead. The destruction of the "old world," and the casting down of "the angels that sinned," are two outstanding examples, it seems to me, of the necessity of the enforcement of the law. We may not understand all that's involved, but it seems to me, that it is clear that there must be an enforcement of the law. An example that is familiar to all of us is: the parents who give orders, but don't carry them out and enforce the rules, lose the respect of their subjects and all who look on. It would be better never to have given the rule, than to have given it, then not enforce it. The same is true, is it not, of governments? I believe that the testimony is sufficient. It is better to remove a law from the books, than to have it there and not enforce it.

4. Attitudes held today — proper and improper! A certain segment of our society disregards all law. We call the ones whose attitudes are such, "Criminals." Their act is "Crime." Crime is defined: "an act or omission forbidden by law and punishable upon conviction." The number in our society with such attitudes, is large and is disturbing to many. Most of us would like to see that number diminished. But there is another group, that gives me even more anxiety.

This group may be classified as "Honorable." Some of them have been praised very highly by great numbers, for their efforts. Many of them claim to be "Christians." A number of them "preachers of the gospel." I am speaking of those who claim that one has the "right" to "break" certain laws — the ones they don't like, the ones that they feel are "unjust." Several people closely associated with law enforcement, feel that these people have contributed to the present break down in law and order; to the great out break of lawlessness. Such men as "A retired Supreme Court Justice," Charles E. Whittaker, in an article in U. S. News & World Report, July 5,1965, speaks out and gives a "Warning." Mr. J. Edgar Hoover, has also spoken out with respect to the same. I believe that such has contributed to the disorder we are now seeing. I have voiced my protest to our President two years ago, June 1965. I cannot see how we can allow some to "break" laws and hold them up as "heroes," and place others in prison for breaking other laws. If there are "Unjust" laws, and few would deny that there are, then through the "due process of law" let us work to change, to modify, these laws to meet the needs of society.

A certain class of people have failed to make the distinction between the Church and State, as it is commonly called. I choose to call it here, Law of Religion, and Law of the Land. Jesus made that distinction, I believe in Matthew the Twenty Second chapter verse Twenty One, to which we have already referred.

A fourth attitude held by some, which I conceive to be "improper" is that the states have no right to govern. This too is wrong, according to the apostle Paul. As we have shown from Romans Thirteen, the first Seven verses.

The proper attitude for the Christian, it seems to me, is: A. That God requires submission to the law of the land. These laws can be improved, just as other aspects of society, business and Etc. We must go about it lawfully, the prescribed way. So that there'll be order, stability with the end product — justice. When we discover a new product, whether it be fuel, food, or service — a certain amount of adaptation is necessary. If the conversion is not orderly, then, it is not going to be beneficial, rather harmful; so it is in law. The Christian is to suffer wrong, endure it, and be patient, rather than be impulsive, choosing the easy and retaliating. (I Pet. 2:13-21). History of Human Relations should convince us of this, also, the word of God teaching it, all this should be sufficient.

When there is a conflict between the law of the land and that of God, then the Bible is specific on this. (Acts 5:29) "We ought to obey God rather than men." The state has no right to demand of man that which God forbids, neither to forbid something that God requires. Few states ever do such, but some have, and when such is done, then the Christian's duty is clear — obey God!

The Christian should see the need for law and order. He should make his contribution — be a law-abiding citizen, and encourage others to be. Point to the need for parents to enforce discipline in the home. Here, I feel, is a break down, that is in the home. If children aren't taught in the home to respect and obey authority, they're not going to recognize the rights of others nor submit willingly to any authority. The Christian should obey the law of God, and encourage others to do the same.

III. A Plea: 1. For a recognition of the wisdom manifest in God's law, and of His goodness in giving it. His law sets forth the terms on which He accepts man (Acts 2:14-41), and the terms on which one maintains fellow- ship with Him — (I John 1:5-10) 2. For a determination to be governed by His law, which includes being a good citizen, promoting the well-being of humanity, seeking to adapt the services of discoveries and advancements in technology, etc. 3. For an active personality, that will associate with the discontent of this world, seeking to understand their needs, contributing to the intent possible, and encouraging them to seek progress in an orderly manner. Remembering that God — when He had been rejected by humanity, did not refuse to contribute, but He acted in an orderly manner to bring progress and relief.

Shall we draw from the past a formula and pattern of action for the future advancement or destruction? Shall we be aggravated or activated in the channel of hope? Shall we allow the forces to pull down or employ those forces to climb higher? The data is available, shall we interpret it correctly? The decision is personal, shall we linger or respond? The time is urgent shall we use or waste it? Are you a Christian? What is the Christian's Attitude toward lawlessness?

— 2718 Renick, St. Joseph, Mo. 64507