Morality and The Law :: By Bud Hancock

In this country we declare that we are a “Nation of Laws,” or a “Nation Under the Rule of Law.” The ultimate law of our land is the United States Constitution; but should it be? Can this “Framework of Law” be the best way that American citizens have to determine the proper behavior for them and their families?

Since the Constitution originally consisted of seven articles which determined 1) the structure of the federal government, 2) the rights of the various states and 3) a means of ratifying the Constitution by the states, there was little in it to determine what was, and was not, acceptable behavior on the part of the citizens.

John Adams, the second President of the United States, once said, “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  Why would a beautifully written document such as our Constitution be “inadequate” for the government of immoral people? That document contains ideas that are founded on, and intended to further, good moral behavior.

Based on the statement of President Adams, it would appear there were many people even then who would have neither regard nor respect for the high-minded ideals of “the law of the land.” In essence, what President Adams said is that it is unreasonable to expect an immoral people to obey, uphold and defend the Constitution, let alone to live within the framework of behavior demanded by the US Penal Code.

The US Constitution was amended 27 times, with the first ten amendments forming what is called “The Bill of Rights,” a list of rights that would be guaranteed by government to all citizens. But these “rights” did not deal with the “responsibilities” all citizens have to live according to certain accepted behavior.

The US Penal Code was developed to describe criminal behavior and assign penalties for any failure to obey the various laws. This US Penal Code is the basis that many states use to determine criminal offenses and penalties. In addition, there is a civil code that deals with the various areas of private law as used in business and commerce, etc.

If our system of law and justice was a perfect one, life in these United States should be idyllic, peaceful and utterly serene. But we all know that is not the case; in fact, there seems to be an increase in criminal activity and general lawlessness year after year. Does this mean that our system of law and justice is broken?

While it may not be completely broken, it certainly seems to be less than adequate to maintain peace, law and order.

There seems to be no shortage of “laws” that are used to determine proper individual, as well as corporate, behavior. With all these laws on the books, with thousands of law enforcement officers to “uphold” them, with multitudes of attorneys to try cases of alleged criminal activity, and with judges to decide and pass judgment on accused lawbreakers, why is there so much crime and illegal behavior in our nation?

Remember the words of John Adams: “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” During the presidency of John Adams, I dare say the level of morality and thus the level of good versus bad behavior in the United States was much different than what we see in the US today.

Consider the definition of the word “moral” by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: (a) of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior; (b) expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior; (c) conforming to a standard of right behavior; (d) sanctioned by or operative on one’s conscience or ethical judgment; (e) capable of right and wrong action.

Neither the Constitution nor the US Penal Code has, nor have they ever had, the power to actually regulate proper behavior of our citizens. For those who were considered ‘moral people’ at that time, the Constitution and the Penal Code were merely ‘guidelines’ to illustrate the type of behavior that was acceptable to, and expected of, moral people, and also to illustrate what the consequences of bad behavior were likely to be.

But there have always been people in this country who are considered immoral at best, and wildly evil at worst.  Unfortunately, an inordinate number of them seem to be occupying positions of high authority within our government. For those people, no laws were sufficient then, nor are they now, to make them want to be, or become, moral people. The only way laws work at all on such people is by threat of punishment when they are caught breaking them.

So, if our American system of law and justice is insufficient for immoral people, is there an answer to the problem of the bad behavior they exhibit, as well as the danger they present to those of us who are moral and religious?

The law that was passed down from God to the Jewish people through Moses on Mount Sinai was God’s ‘Moral Code’ that illustrated what God expected of ‘His people” and was, in effect, a depiction of what and who God is: a moral person, the very image of righteousness and perfection. Because those to whom the law was given were spiritually dead, having no fellowship with the Lawgiver, they were unable to abide by the law; so instead of a sound moral code, it became the ‘Law of Sin and Death.’

Each part of the law defined the type of behavior that was acceptable to God, as well as what was unacceptable, and also provided the punishment allotted to all the breakers of the law. In most cases, the penalty for failing to live by the law (sin) was death; hence the ‘law of sin and death.’ The Law of Moses was given to the Jews to guide them into godly behavior, but it was not able to accomplish that task. It became simply a means of condemning the lawbreaker.

The words of the writer of the Book of Romans (I believe to be Paul) very eloquently stated the problem with the law as a means of promoting godly behavior: “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3).

He condemned sin, not by pronouncing condemnation on individual people, but by living a perfect sinless life before all of them.

Notice the words from verse 3: “it (the law) was weak through the flesh.” Even though the penalty for breaking the law was usually death, the flesh did not provide a means of obedience to the law because the human spirit, which should have been exercising control over the flesh, was ‘dead to God’ with no way to communicate with God and become like Him.

So, the strength of the flesh combined with the weakness of the human spirit made the law of little effect in promoting good behavior. This situation presented a serious conundrum for the human race: ‘How do we get to the place where we can actually live according to God’s Moral Code while living in sinful flesh and blood bodies?’

The words of Paul recorded in his letter to the church in Galatia offers the solution to this conundrum: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Galatians 3:24-25).

Obviously, the answer involves faith, something the former slaves to the Egyptians were unaware of.  But, what does the faith do?

It provides the means to receive the answer to our problem from the God who designed the Moral Code as well as the conundrum it presented. There had to be a way to get out from under the cruel schoolmaster, the law that provided only condemnation.

Now read the words of Romans 8:1-2: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”

So, now we see a ‘new law,’ the “Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus,” that has the power to negate the condemnation provided by the Mosaic Law!

This is wonderful. Now the flesh will automatically fall in line with God’s Moral Code, and everything is just fine and dandy, right? Hardly. The next ten verses of Romans 8 provide the full answer to the terrible conundrum of the Mosaic Law:

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.  And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8: 4-13).

Wow, finally, the answer to the terrible predicament of our failure and inability to live by God’s Moral Code; it involves, through faith, the ability to walk “in the flesh” but not “after the flesh.” This can only be accomplished by the communication that is established between us and an Almighty God through the Spirit of God after we accept the redemptive work of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

That work provides the means, finally, to understand the heart of God and especially the Love of God. Whereas we previously walked only in Fear of God, now we can walk in “The Love of God” and have the loving fellowship of a child with a kind and loving Father.

What a mighty, all-encompassing work that was done by our marvelous Saviour, Jesus of Nazareth!  We can now be made free from the fear of death that kept us in bondage to the law.

Notice that Paul said in Romans 8:2 that we are “made free,” not “set free.” There are those that believe this freedom allows us to live as we please and not fear any judgment from God for future failures. In reality, it allows us to actually be free from the inability to walk in total obedience to God’s Moral Code.  Does it mean that we will never again sin?  Of course not, but it means that we have a way of receiving forgiveness through the blood of Jesus for any sin committed (I John 1:9).

But this new way of life, living according to the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, is only accomplished by staying in communication with God through His Word.

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth (that you know) shall make you free” (John 8:32).

No one knows “all the truth” that is contained in God’s Word, hence the need to keep digging into it so as to uncover all the kernels of knowledge and truth that God has provided. As more and more truth is uncovered and made a part of our own “Moral Code,” we become (are made) more and more free.

So, knowing what we now know about the two contradictory laws, “The Law of Sin and Death” and “The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus,” I repeat the question asked at the beginning of this article: Can the US Constitution, this “Framework of Law,” be the best way that American citizens, or any peoples for that matter, have to determine the proper behavior for them and their families?

The answer is a resounding NO! Although it is a sound document containing wonderful moral ideas with much value, as President John Adams stated, it is wholly inadequate for the government of immoral people. Those identified as immoral people are not primarily concerned with trying to live according to any laws; on the contrary, they are usually committing any illegal and immoral acts they desire while trying to escape the punishment connected with them.

Until, and unless, a person has committed to walk in the “Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus,” “after the Spirit and not after the flesh,” the means to exhibit godly and proper behavior cannot be found. There is no other law that can provide the freedom from sin and death as that which was established by the redemptive work of Jesus.

President Adams also said, “The Church is the moral compass of society.” An interesting statement, and I’ve heard many authors talk about “the Moral Compass;” but what is it, and why would the Church, the Body of Christ, be deemed such? 

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a moral compass is (a) An inner sense which distinguishes what is right from what is wrong, functioning as a guide (like the needle of a compass) for morally appropriate behavior; (b) A person, belief system, etc., serving as a guide for morally appropriate behavior and (c) The full range of virtues, vices, or actions which may affect others and which are available as choices (like the directions on the face of a compass) to a person, to a group, or to people in general.

It sounds a great deal like Merriam-Webster is describing the human ‘conscience.’

I believe what John Adams as well as the Apostles of Christ were saying is: those who have heard and received the truth of the gospel of Christ have a responsibility, an obligation, to be the messengers who take the gospel to all those in the world who are blindly struggling to find the real meaning of life. We are to be the compass that shows the way to that meaning, and it is found only in Jesus Christ.

He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life…” (John 14:6).

The law now, as it pertains to all those who claim to be Christians, is The Law of Love.

As Jesus stated in Matthew 22:36-40, when asked by a Pharisee, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

What Jesus was conveying to the Pharisee was the simple fact that, when one loves as God loves, no evil will be done to another person. Since Jesus completely fulfilled the Mosaic Law by living a perfect sinless life, He established The Law of Love whereby the believer, by living and walking “after the Spirit and not after the flesh,” becomes a new creature who need not be concerned with the old law; because, by living as Jesus did, the Law of Love determines all his earthly actions, and he will not do any harm to his neighbor.

What a wonderful place this earth would be if even the Christians lived that way. Unfortunately, many Christians, especially young and immature ones, are injured by “friendly fire” from those within the Church who should know better. We will finally be able to experience that kind of life when Jesus returns to set up His earthly kingdom and bring the “peace that passes all understanding.”

Until then, we must continue to walk in the truth that we know, and endeavor to bring into the Light as many as possible. After all, we were told that we are to be the light shining in the darkness, lighting the path for all those who are still struggling in the darkness of a law that cannot be obeyed without The Law of Love residing within.

Only when the Church, the Body of Christ, begins to fulfill our purpose for being on this earth will the world know what true freedom and peace are. Only then will we specifically, as Americans, see a return to the place where the moral compass of our nation and society points in the direction of that freedom and peace, to Jesus. Only then will we once again be known as a nation under the rule of law, not the old Mosaic Law, but The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, The Law of Love.