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!
- Natural Law
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.)
- Does this mean that sin has its own mechanism for
bringing death apart from God?
- 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.)
- 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
- 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.)
- Is it God’s fault that travel in the correct
direction is required, or at least an issue?
- Let’s look at God’s law as a map. Does the map make
the journey more difficult? (No! It is a tremendous
- 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?
- 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
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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?
- 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.)
- 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.)
- Moral Law
- Read James 2:8-11. What law is referred to here? (The Ten
Commandments. What we call the “moral law.”)
- Read James 2:12-13. How can James call this “the law that
- Does a map give you freedom?
- 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
- Would it be fair to say that the moral law operates
something like the Tree of Life?
- 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?
- Civil Law
- 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.)
- Read Romans 13:4-5. Why is conscience involved in obeying
civil laws? (This shows that at least God’s moral law is
- 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.)
- 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
- 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!
- What does this say about church-state relationships?
- Ceremonial Law
- Read Leviticus 1:1-4. What law is this? (This is part of
the “ceremonial law” given through Moses.)
- What “ceremony” are we talking about? (It was the
procedure for obtaining the removal of sin from the
person offering the offering.)
- Are the ceremonial laws also a map? (Yes. They illustrate
the plan of salvation. They pointed to the coming of Jesus
and His sacrifice.)
- Are the ceremonial laws still valid? (No. They were
fulfilled. However, we should not forget them because they
reinforce our belief in Jesus.)
- Read Romans 8:1-4. What law is referred to here? (At least
the moral law because it refers to sin.)
- Did Jesus fulfill the moral law in the same way that He
fulfilled the ceremonial law? (I think the answer is
- 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.)
- 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
- Next week: Christ and the Law of Moses.