Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 1, 1952

Lawful Living

R. C. Bell, Abilene, Texas

God made man and gave him as the cardinal principle of his being that he must walk with him and partake continuously of his nature. This gracious, infallibly safe guide for man's life is profoundly adequate for all human need. What God did at creation "was very good" (Gen. 1:31); He made no mistakes. Man is a dependent creature and can live only as he was made to live.

Had man kept this all-inclusive, constitutional appointment no occasion for a code of laws could have ever arisen. Man's being lawful in this primary sense is the ultimate for him; it is the way God himself lives. But Adam failed to heed God's kindly warning that he would kill himself in disobeying this vital ordinance. The workings of this inexorable principle are such that men in the act of breaking it break also themselves, and are punished by as well for breaking it. Adam died because of his own lawlessness.

Secondary Laws

A distinction between this primary principle, or law, and secondary laws, that are rooted in it, and are made necessary by its breach, needs be made. Adam's treason in breaking this essential decree perverted his whole nature and opened the floodgates of sin, which is lawlessness. Lawlessness abounded more and more in men until God to maintain His moral government on earth had to drown, except Noah and his family, the world of lawless men. But ever working to get men back and up to the original, lawful way of life, God enacted prohibitive, punitive, and other secondary laws for Noah's descendents, and finally gave the Jews a system of written law. This written law, embodying as basic the changeless, heretofore unwritten primary principle of life given to Adam in the beginning, contained temporary memorial, typical, and ceremonial laws peculiarly adapted to the Jews and to God's over-all purpose. God's unwritten law was still in force over the other nations of men.

God used his oral code and his written code, concurrently, to restrain men, to make them sensible of their sins, and to show them that they could not keep law perfectly. Since law has penalty, but no atonement, for broken law; and since all men break law, neither Judaism nor Paganism could or can justify them. Law cannot prevent sin or remove even one sin after it is committed. For all men, therefore, legal justification is impossible. Secondary laws, however, help men to realize the corruption of their nature, to despair of ever attaining the complete obedience required for legal justification, and that, if they are ever to live lawfully, they must have superhuman aid.

Lawful Living Again

God "knew what was in man" (John 2:25) and announced a plan, when Adam became lawless, that would restore him to lawful living. In pursuance of this plan, after God had used his provisional, directive legal codes until they had served their purpose, He abolished them both, and in grace, "apart from the works of the law" (Rom. 8:28), gave his law-abiding Son that the death sentence on all men as lawbreakers might be executed on Him. This is the heart, on the divine side, of God's perfect plan to make men lawful again.

Now, on the human side, what is its heart? When men realize that they cannot save themselves and accept Christ as their only hope, things begin to happen. God's love as expressed in Christ does something down deep inside sinners to prick their hearts. Their souls so respond in appreciation and gratitude that they must love God back. Men, so touched, do God's will even unto being immersed, for Christ says, "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments." "Love wields a magic wand" and can do far more than law can to make men lawful. Since Christians love to please God as a mother loves to please her child, they may do as they please. Who is so free as he who is bound by love? Behold, the infinite wisdom and power and efficacy of Christianity! God's altogether admirable Christian way makes men lawful in their lives, because it first makes them lawful in their hearts. Thus, the lives of Christians become more and more like Christ's lawful life. They find Christ doing Christian things in and through them. Eventually, they shall be really lawful again forevermore.