The Law of God

“For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin” – Romans 7:14

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” – Romans 3:20

By “the Law of God” we mean the moral law of God, which is summarized in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1–17), but expanded and expounded in other parts of the Bible, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the New Testament Epistles.



The Law is Spiritual

God’s law concerns not merely outward actions, but the thoughts, motives and intents of our hearts, and even our feelings, our likes and dislikes. Civil or human law concerns only actions. Treason, for example must involve an “overt act”; mere sympathy with the enemies of our country is not treason, if not expressed in some action. Murder must be committed, or at least attempted, to be punishable by human law. But by God’s law, the hatred which is the root of murder is sinful. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. The Jews of Jesus’ day did not realize that the law is spiritual. Therefore they supposed, in their vain conceit, that they could really keep the law. They thought of external actions only.

God’s word says: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his THOUGHTS” (Isa. 55:7). God’s law concerns even our thoughts. In Noah’s day, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). To Simon the Sorcerer the apostle Peter said: “Thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee” (Acts 8:21, 22). God’s law is spiritual; it concerns our inward thoughts, motives, feelings, attitudes, desires and ambitions,as well as our actions.

The Law Crowds us to Christ

To the sinner, God’s law is not good advice, but an indictment. It is a minor that shows us ourselves as we really are in God’s sight. It strips away our self-conceit and tells us the humiliating truth about ourselves. It convinces us that we are not really law-keepers but law-breakers. “By the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). Thus the law of God convinces us that we are lost sinners, that we cannot save ourselves, and that we need a Saviour. The Holy Spirit uses the law of God to bring about this conviction of sin in the sinner’s heart.

Have we learned the lesson of the law of God? How do we plead to the Ten Commandments—guilty or not guilty? Do we think we cannot be as wicked as pictured in God’s Word? Then it is our feelings and ideas against God’s Word; we are fighting against God the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit works his work of special grace in us we will plead guilty, All inclination to argue the matter will leave us completely. We will throw ourselves unreservedly upon the mercy of the court—that is, on the mercy of God.

The Law is the Christian’s Standard of Right and Wrong

God’s Word commands us: “Depart from evil, and do good” (Psalm 37:27). But what is evil, and what is good? Some go by public opinion, some by their feelings, and some claim mystical “guidance” as their standard. But they are all wrong, God’s law revealed in the Bible is the standard of right and wrong. It is the Christian’s measuring rod to measure his life day by day. It shows where improvement is needed, where he falls short, what direction he ought to move in. “O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). – J. G. Vos