Discerning the Laws of God and Man
“Our enemy is not people, but the spiritual powers which sow confusion and delude the minds of those who lack understanding. An outright refusal to seek the truth of God leads to depravity of mind and rebellion to His ways.”
Is the Bible Really the Infallible Word of God?
Understanding the scriptures can be a challenge. This is especially true when there are so many differing opinions out there about certain topics, from marriage to legal matters. How do we know what interpretation is correct? How can we be sure of what the Bible says is “right and wrong?” How can we know what’s really in the Word unless we ourselves are living in it daily?
Penn and Teller, a popular comedy duo, challenged the whole of Christianity a few years back by enumerating several “laws” mentioned in the Bible. Their point was that, if you call yourself a Christian and you say you believe in the Bible, then you can’t cherry-pick what you believe and ignore the rest of what it says in scripture. However, they were actually cherry-picking verses and presenting those as things the Bible says is “okay.” This is the very kind of misrepresentation that we have to be learned enough to correct when we encounter it.
While we indeed believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, we say that in reference to the truths that the Bible teaches. We also must recognize that the Bible is a collection of books written by men. Much of what those books contain are historical accounts, while others are prose and songs to God (psalms), and still others are letters written by spiritual leaders such as Paul to various churches. While some of it is instructional, not all scripture is to be perceived that way.
Laws Written By Man
I recently saw a friend’s post on social media that illustrated a lack of biblical understanding, and I felt compelled to respond. The post claimed the Bible said something that it doesn’t. It stated, “The Holy Bible says that a woman can be sold to her rapist after he violates her.” When I asked for chapter and verse, my friend obliged, and I saw right away from where the flaw in perception had stemmed.
28 “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found,
29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.”Deuteronomy 22 [ESV]
First, those two verses alone speak of a punishment to the man for violating the young woman. He had to pay the father and then become the woman’s husband for the rest of his life. She wasn’t being sold to her rapist, he was forced to make restitution for his act.
Second, this was part of the old law, written by man, and does NOT suggest in any way that these actions are truly just or right, much less acceptable by God. Man has had some very screwed up views of right and wrong throughout history, and this chapter of Deuteronomy gives a historical account of some of man’s old laws. These are not to be taken as “instructional” precepts.
God’s Laws Written By His Hand
Too many people have a very wrong view of the Bible and what it actually “teaches” us. Like Penn and Teller, they often take passages like this out of context, equating the old laws of man to God’s laws. But that’s not at all what Christians believe, nor is it what the Bible says.
The only recorded laws written by the actual hand of God are the Ten Commandments. Those have stood the test of time, unlike many of man’s imperfect laws. God’s laws are perfect, and they center around love. They require us to love God and our fellow man.
The love we are supposed to have for God is demonstrated by not having any other gods before Him, not worshiping idols, not taking the Lord’s Name in vain, and by remembering and keeping the Sabbath Holy. The love we should have for our fellow man is demonstrated by honoring and respecting them, not killing them, not defiling by adultery, not stealing or bearing false witness, and by not coveting their stuff.
Fulfillment of the Law
Now, God saw that mankind had become corrupted by sin. He knew that we could not, on our own, live up to all the laws He’d given – much less the old Mosaic laws of man. His love for us and His desire to redeem us is why He made a way for our salvation. God came in the flesh as Jesus, and through Christ, the law and all its requirements were fully met. His sacrifice for our sins set us free from the penalty of death.
While Jesus came to fulfill the law for us, that does not mean that we can just live any way we want and expect to keep God’s favor. He is still a Holy God, and if we choose to live in sin knowing what He has done to save us, we are rejecting His offer of salvation. Accepting that gift with respect for Who He is means showing our love and appreciation by making an actual effort to live according to Jesus’ teachings.
If we stumble, we know that God provides forgiveness when we confess and repent. Again, this indicates a conscious effort on our part – to repent means to turn away from our fleshly failings and to do right. But all this goes back to understanding God’s Word and knowing the truths the Bible is teaching us. Without that, it’s too easy to be led astray.
Recognizing the Enemy
When you read or hear something that causes you to question your understanding of scriptures, what do you do? If you see a social media post like the one I mentioned, do you know how to respond? Let me assure you, the only reason I saw the correct way to refute the false claim as I did was that God showed me. It’s not that I’m some wise theological scholar – I am most definitely not. But when you purpose yourself to read the Word and seek understanding, God honors that.
If you aren’t sure how to respond, you probably shouldn’t. At least, not until you’ve prayed, studied the Bible, and sought God’s wisdom on the matter. But if you do respond to a similar situation, be sure not to take it personally OR make it personal in your reply. It should be a teachable moment, and so your remarks needn’t come from an air of haughtiness or disdain, lest they be perceived as an attack and you be viewed as pompous and self-righteous.
Remember who the enemy really is. Our enemy is not people, but the spiritual powers which sow confusion and delude the minds of those who lack understanding. An outright refusal to seek the truth of God leads to depravity of mind and rebellion to His ways. So know that your efforts may not seem well-received, but make your goal to spread the seeds of truth for the Holy Spirit to water and grow over time. And ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS proceed with an attitude of love.
Consider the following scripture:
1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.
2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,
4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.2 Timothy 3 [ESV]
There will be those who have already rejected God and His ways. They will speak evil of that which is good and good of that which is evil. Refuting falsehoods with the truth is one thing, but we are warned that there are some who will not receive the truth because they have instead chosen a lie. They love themselves rather than God and others, they are slanderous rather than upright, and they give the appearance of godliness while denying the truth of God and His power. Those people are to be avoided.
The apostle Paul goes on in this 2nd letter to Timothy to say this:
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it
15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.2 Timothy 3 [ESV]
We are to continue living according to the teachings of Christ. Being acquainted with the scriptures comes through study and seeking understanding. From this comes wisdom. The Bible is indeed “breathed out by God” – God’s Word – and it teaches us, reproves, corrects, and helps train us in the ways of righteousness. Through it, we are made complete (mature) and equipped to do God’s work here on Earth.