the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
If all of creation is reckoned as one kingdom and Christ is Lord of all, may we logically assume that all mankind is responsible to Christ the King? In other words, is every human being required to obey the law of God? Many well-meaning Christians say that this cannot be so. Yet, to suggest humanity has no responsibility to God's law is to say that mankind can be saved apart from the mediating work of Jesus Christ. In other words, if someone is not required to obey God's law then there is no reason for them to be condemned to hell if they refuse Christ as Lord and Savior: Christ died to save sinners and sin is defined as lawlessness. Hence, without responsibility to God's law there is no sin.
Most Christians are of two minds on this issue. Very few believers - if any - would suggest non-Christians can ignore God's prohibition against murder. The same can be said for the laws against theft, sexual assault and other crimes against our fellow man. But if the unregenerate person is required to obey God's laws against murder, theft and sexual assault why is he not required to obey the laws that deal with charity, honoring parents or observing a day of rest?
The problem lies in our lack of understanding concerning the various God ordained institutions and their particular spheres of responsibility. Too often Christians assume that talk about biblical law and human responsibility to God's precepts will lead to an overthrow of legitimate civil authority by an ecclesiastical cabal made up of all the worst sort of religiosity human society has to offer. But again, this reveals a lack of insight concerning the responsibility each institution has been given by God.
One thing we conveniently neglect is that God has always held humanity accountable for their actions. This forgetfulness takes some doing because the Old Testament has record of God bringing judgment on pagan nations for their failure to acknowledge and worship him. How can we forget God's words to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me” (Jonah 1:1-2). Most of us have known this story since childhood yet we ignore the ramifications of the outcome. Jonah eventually went to Nineveh, preached a message of judgment and was dismayed at the submissive response of the people. Moreover, when God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened (Jonah 3:10). Thus the city of Nineveh (and by implication the nation of Assyria) recognized its responsibility to obey God's law and made the corporate decision to repent and live in compliance with the wishes of the Almighty.
This is not the only time God demanded obedience on the part of a pagan nation. Throughout the Old Testament we see the prophets proclaiming judgment against non-Israelite nations because they refused to bow to Yahweh. Although the circumstances are different in the new covenant age there remains a responsibility on the part of all people to obey God's law.
A Christian needs to understand which institution has what responsibility. In other words, a Christian needs to know what laws of God the civil realm is responsible to enforce in the age of the Son of Man and what laws of God are left to the enforcement of the individual, the family and the church. As we know, it is only the civil authority who bears the sword and so all biblical law that falls outside the domain of the state is “enforced” by persuasion. Thus, no one is imprisoned or executed for violating the Sabbath. Instead, the Sabbath breaker is admonished by the church and encouraged to comply by his family and other individuals.
We will continue this discussion in a couple weeks.