The Limitations of Law

We fail to understand God’s law unless we realize how carefully it limits man. God’s law prevents man from placing too much trust in law, and from becoming a tyrant, by limiting man’s powers of enforcement.

An obvious limitation on the courts of law is the requirements of corroboration: one witness alone cannot convict (Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; 19:15). However, a more basic limitation is that many offenses, some very serious, have no penalties which any man or court can impose. For example, tithing is God’s tax; failure to pay the tithe is theft; it is robbing God (Mal. 3:7–12). God Himself imposes very severe penalties on this kind of theft, but He does not call for any man-imposed penalty. Another example: Deuteronomy 22:5 forbids transvestite dress, i.e., the wearing of clothing belonging to the opposite sex, and 1 Timothy 2:9 requires modest apparel of women, but no penalties for disobedience are cited.

God’s law covers every area of life: the family, the church, the state, our vocation, our relationships one to another, the use of the earth, sanitation, sexuality, warfare, boundaries, weights and measures, and all things else. The Lord makes very clear the curses and blessings He places on disobedience (Deut. 28; Lev. 26, etc.). His government is total: we can never, for a moment, step outside of God’s law and government. There is not a neutral corner or atom in all of creation. God is totally God, and His government and law are total, covering all things. At every point in our lives, we are face to face with the living God, in all things accountable to Him, and totally His creatures and servants.

Man, however, is not God, nor can he play god without being guilty of the great temptation of the evil one. Original sin is precisely this fact, the desire to be as God, to determine for ourselves what constitutes good and evil, and to rule all things totally. Among Nietzsche’s manuscripts, after his death, was found a slip of paper on which he had written these words: “Since the old God has been abolished, I am prepared to rule the world.” This is the meaning of humanism’s inescapable totalitarianism. Total government is a necessity, and everything in man requires it. If there is no God to provide it, then man must supply it. More accurately, when man rebels against God’s total sovereignty and government, he replaces it with his own claim to total sovereignty and government.

The Limitations of Law
By R. J. Rushdoony

I grow tired of lawless, unrestricted tyrants.

The rest of the world will weary of their destructive incompetence as well.

But if the world doesn’t understand how we got into this fix in the first place, we will continue to merely replace one set of tyrants with another.

It’s time to place limits on the power of Man, and recognize the holy authority of God.

Not only in reality (where this is already true!) but in our laws and our culture, as well.

God’s law, by reserving, in one area after another, the right of enforcement to God alone, severely limits the power of all human forms of government. Neither church, nor state, nor any other human agency is empowered to play God. Moreover, we do not gain in holiness by becoming “stricter” than God: we gain only in presumptuous sin. God alone is God: He does not delegate His throne nor His sovereign lawmaking power to any human being or agency. To become “stricter” than God’s law, as one pastor boasted to me of being, is to imply a moral defect in God and is blasphemy.

God’s law thus allows man many areas of freedom to obey or disobey without man-imposed penalties. The result is a great freedom for man to sin or to obey than most man-made institutions believe is wise. Certainly, church and state have alike worked to limit the freedom God allows.

One critic of Biblical law has declared to me that any strict adherence in every realm to God’s order would be “disastrous,” first, because in a few areas God’s law is marked by an “undue severity,” as witness the death penalty for adultery. (The family being God’s basic institution, treason in the Bible is adultery; there is no treason with respect to the state.) Second, in most areas, Biblical law would produce “anarchy,” because no penalties can be enforced by man in any strict reading thereof.

From the standpoint of Scripture, God’s rule is not anarchy but justice and freedom. Redemption is not by rules and regulation; salvation is not by law. It is by God’s sovereign grace through Jesus Christ. The redeemed man lives a life of faith and obedience in the Spirit and in terms of the enscriptured Word. Our liberty in Christ is from the bondage or slavery of sin and the penalty of death, and it is a deliverance also from fallen man’s way of salvation, a total government by the words of law, man-made law.

If we take any law of God and alter it, or go beyond it, we too become humanistic. We “correct” God as gods over God, and we limit and finally destroy man’s freedom under God.

he Limitations of Law
By R. J. Rushdoony

God’s Law ordains liberty.

It’s about time we got our birthright back.

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