Thursday, November 04, 2010

Should Christians command people to obey God? Can the unregenerate obey?

It's interesting that the subject of whether Christians are supposed to tell people to obey the commandments or not has been a heatedly debated topic recently. Another question is whether the unregenerate are ABLE to obey God's commandments. So,

* Should Christians command others (outside the covenant community) to obey God?
* Are the unregenerate able to obey God's commandments?

I have been studying the scriptures & asking my husband (a seminary grad) to help me to understand.  I am not very good at systematizing my answers (I am a random intuitive) but I would like to try. Today my husband & two other godly men joined me for lunch. I picked their brains.

As a result I have 11 pages of notes on these questions. I will not include all of my notes, but have whittled it down to some of the basics. As to the two questions:

* Should Christians command others (outside the covenant community) to obey God?
* Are the unregenerate able to obey God's commandments

I have found that YES is the biblical answer to both of those questions.

I believe that the scriptures provide us at least 7 reasons to say "YES" to the preceding questions:

1) God's commandments are not grievous, burdensome, hard, difficult or unreasonable. (I John 5:3) God is not commanding the impossible from men. They are able to obey OUTWARDLY. (I John 5:3)

2) God has written the commandments on every human heart. All people understand what is good & they know what is evil by their God-given conscience. This is called Natural Law & they are able to instinctively obey it on the outside. "For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.  in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.." Romans 2:14-15 When they do GOOD, they feel good. When they do EVIL, they feel evil. Thus, to maintain a healthy conscience, people can & do obey the inward witness of the God's Law OUTWARDLY. "Righteousness has two separable aspects - the heart and the hand. Rightness in the heart is always by faith. Rightness in deed is required in the law. Rightness in deed is possible for us because God requires it." ~ Kevin Ross

3) By General Revelation all human beings perceive that;
a) There is a Creator God.
b) They are created.
c) They are guilty before this God because they do the things that their God-given conscience tells them NOT to do & they do not do the things that they OUGHT.
d) They will be punished. This means, they are without excuse.  " ... because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them." Romans 1:19 (cff vs 19-32)

4) The moral Law of God (the commandments) has a three-fold use. (
The second use of the Law may be what we are alluding to for the purposes of our discussion. Commanding people to obey God's commands accomplishes the gracious influence of RESTRAINING EVIL. In other words, it serves to protect the righteous from the unjust. This is for both the individual & the common good.  John Calvin explains how the second use of the moral Law functions “by means of its fearful denunciations and the consequent dread of punishment, to curb those who, unless forced, have no regard for rectitude and justice.”

One might also include that this function of the Law produces 'fear of the Lord', which is the beginning of wisdom. This use of the moral Law is, in fact, our positive duty as Christians. Why? Because it reveals our love for people & our desire to keep them from harm, from themselves & from others. (The inverse is also true. Our stubborn refusal to preach & teach the Law reveals our lack of love for our neighbor.)

It is a fact that our faithful preaching of the Law, "You shall not murder", outside abortuaries is used by God to restrain evil & to prevent bloodshed. Some women, although they are heathen (false converts, agnostic, atheist & even Hindu!) turn from dismembering their infants. They repent of delivering their babies whole (& sometimes still alive) into the toilets of the killing place. Our commanding women to obey the Sixth Commandment curbs the evil in their souls & some choose loving adoptive Christian families to raise their babies.

The proclamation of the commandments is very much reflected in Jesus' teaching when He speaks of His disciples being salt & light. The commandments act as a preservative & an illuminating means of exposing the exceeding sinfulness of sin. We are to seek the peace of our city. We are, by the offensive weapon of the Law, commissioned to do battle against the principalities & powers. By faith & prayerful action through the public proclamation of the Law & gospel, we drive out evildoers. We are to be a wholesome influence on our culture through the message of the Lord.

5) The wicked store up wrath against themselves on the Day of Wrath every time they sin. (Rom 2:5) If we truly love our neighbor, while we cannot cause their wicked souls to be regenerated (salvation is of the Lord) we can, by giving voice to command them to obey the Law of God, see God use it to restrain their evil actions. This will lessen their outward acts of sin, decreasing the degree of sin they commit & as a result, the degree of wrath poured upon them at the judgment will be less severe. If they are not one of the elect & do not ever savingly repent, the restraint of their evil by the Law of God will have served the purpose of inhibiting their commission of evil, thus, shaving some of the degree of their punishment in the lake of fire. (Do you not know that the wicked shall experience the pain of EVERY one of their sins & wish to God that they had not committed them? "every sinner in hell has a full realization that he deserves to be there. Each sinner has a fully informed, acutely aware, and sensitive conscience which, in hell, becomes his own tormenter. This is the experience of torture in hell—a person fully aware of his or her sin with a relentlessly accusing conscience, without relief for even one moment. The guilt of sin will produce shame and everlasting self-hatred."

6) Jesus & the Father reveal themselves to those who obey their commandments. “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” John 14:21 When we preach the gospel truth, we are fishing for men (for the elect) The elect will hear the voice of their Beloved call them, even His voice in the Law! [Note: In the visible church there are unregenerate people - tares & goats. In Deuteronomy and Jeremiah, we find the Lord telling His covenant people, who were circumcised, to get a circumcised heart. The covenant community was always comprised of believers and unbelievers. In fact, the Scriptures bear witness than the believing covenant members were actually a remnant of the covenant people as a whole (see Rom. 11:1-6). ~ Nicholas Batzig]

7) Those who are unregenerate remain under the Covenant of Law & Works, which has never been abrigated. It is binding & all men are duty-bound to obey God's holy commandments under the Covenant of Works. Only the redeemed are under the New Covenant of Grace through the Blood of Christ. "There is an undeniable relation between the Law and the Covenant of Works. The unregenerate are still under the moral Law as a Covenant of Works. There is no denying the fact that it is broken. There is no denying the fact that they cannot keep it to obtain the blessings promised for perfect obedience to it. But it is still in place." ~ Nicholas T. Batzig

Question 95 of the Westminster Larger Catechism asks:
Of what use is the moral law to all men?
Answer: The moral Law is of use to all men, to inform them of the holy nature and will of God, and of their duty, binding them to walk accordingly;to convince them of their disability to keep it, and of the sinful pollution of their nature, hearts, and lives; to humble them in the sense of their sin and misery, and thereby help them to a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and of the perfection of His obedience.

[*I realize that we have not gotten into the reality of how the Law prepares a person for the grace of the Gospel, which of course is the very thing that we are to be about the business of. However, that was not the topic of discussion at this time. Perhaps that can be addressed in another note, if anyone needs convincing.]

To sum up:
Christians should, and indeed must, command others to obey God.
Even the unregenerate are able to obey God's commandments outwardly.

In conclusion, let's ask another question. What’s our MOTIVATION for preaching the Law & commanding all men to obey it? Love! Love for God, for the glory of His Son & love for our neighbor. Why? To seek & save the lost. Do good to those who hate us. Preserve the peace of our city. Educate & enlighten the conscience our neighbors. Restrain evil. Encourage the faithful. While the unregenerate do not obey from the heart, they can and must obey by the hand. Slaves obey under duress. Sons obey from the heart.

No comments: