The Laws of the Kingdom
The laws of the Kingdom are simply defined as anything God says for man to do. To be obedient to the King is to obey His laws. The laws of the Kingdom are merely the expression of the King’s righteous character. They are the standard by which righteousness is measured. To violate the character of the King is called sin.
The Hebrew term for sin is khataw, which means “to miss the mark, or to fail to achieve the goal.” For example, Rom. 3:23 says,
23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
That is, all have fallen short of the target, or the goal. All have fallen short of the righteous character of God. All have failed.
The purpose of law is to deal with sinners. As long as there are sinners, there must be laws to restrain men from harming their neighbors. To enforce tranquility in the land, these laws must have penalties for disobedience, by which the lawful order may be restored when men violate the rights of others.
Paul tells us the purpose of the law in 1 Tim. 1:8-11, saying,
8 But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.
In the beginning, prior to the introduction of sin in the world, there was no need for laws imposed upon men from higher powers. But when men began to sin, law became necessary to deal with that new reality. And in the end, when God is “all in all,” there will again be no need for laws as such, because the law of God will be written on the hearts of all men. Men will do what is right by nature and will not need any coercive law-enforcement agency to restrain men from doing evil things to each other.
The laws of God have been revealed progressively as man has degenerated morally. The first law is given in Gen. 2:16, 17,
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it, you shall surely die.”
No other law was necessary at that time. Yet this one law was sufficient to provide opportunity for Adam and Eve to fail. Once they sinned, mankind began a long degeneration, and more laws needed to be revealed so that men would know the mind of God in these matters.
After the flood, God revealed to Noah other laws by which to govern the earth. Noah was the legitimate king of the earth, for the Birthright from Adam had been passed down to him. Noah already knew the difference between clean and unclean animals, because this knowledge was necessary in bringing animals into the ark before the flood (Gen. 7:2).
After the flood, God revealed more in Gen. 9:1-7. They were not to eat the blood with the meat (9:4), because blood was not created to be food for man. And if a man murdered his neighbor, his life was to be forfeited as well (9:6). No doubt there were many other attributes of God’s righteous character revealed by inspiration during the centuries to come, for we read in Gen. 26:5 that God blessed Abraham:
5 because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.
So it is plain that long before the time of Moses, there were divine laws by which Abraham lived. Abraham’s faith was shown by the fact that he obeyed when God told him to leave Ur of the Chaldees and travel to the land of Canaan. Abraham was a man of great faith, but his faith was evidenced by his obedience.
Four centuries after Abraham, Moses led Israel out of the land of Egypt and brought them to Mount Sinai, where God gave them a more complete set of laws for the Kingdom. These laws were to govern relationships between God and men and between men and their neighbors. These laws defined absolute justice in that the judgments were always to fit the crime. Restitution payments were to be directly proportional to the crime. When restitution was not possible, the offense constituted the death penalty.
These laws, like all the previous laws of the Kingdom, were designed to restrain man’s fleshly tendency to prey upon one another. The laws included judgments, which defined the precise penalties for violating the rights of others. These judgments not only protected the rights of the victims, but also protected the rights of the lawbreakers, for history has shown that men tend to enact judgments that far exceed the crime itself.
The Apostle Paul says of the law of God in Rom. 7:12,
12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
He goes on to tell us in verse 14 that “the law is spiritual.” Many have taught that the divine law is carnal or fleshly, as if it came from the carnal mind of man. But this is not true. “God is spirit,” (John 4:24), and any law coming from Him is spiritual.
The administration of the law, however, is easily tainted by carnally-minded judges, if they do not know the mind of the law’s Author. This became a problem in Israel’s later years, and Jesus found it necessary to correct their interpretations of the law in His well-known “Sermon on the Mount.”
Man’s interpretations of the law were known as “the traditions of men.” These correspond to modern legal precedents, or case law, by which men have interpreted the Constitution. Yet it is a natural tendency to deviate from the original intent of the law when men disagree with the intentions of the earlier lawmakers. This may be desirable when dealing with the laws of imperfect men, but it ought not to be done with the laws of God.
However, the rabbis re-interpreted biblical law in ways that nullified the law. Jesus came to show us the true meaning of the law, as intended by God. But in later years, the Church fell into the same error when it developed its own traditions according to the mind of men. The more that men disagreed with the mind of God, the more they reinterpreted it to conform to their own ideas of what was right and wrong.
The rabbinic “traditions” were written down in later years and are known today as the Jewish Talmud. The Talmud is not the Bible. The Talmud is a compilation of the traditions of men. In Mark 7, we read,
5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” 6 And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. 7 But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ 8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the traditions of men.” 9 He was also saying to them, “You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.”
Notice the difference between the commandment of God and the traditions of men. Jesus had only good things to say about the law and the commandments of God. He had little good to say about the traditions of the elders. One must know the distinction in order to know the truth behind this disagreement.
The Apostle Paul made it clear that God had not set aside His law. Jesus had paid the full penalty of the law for our sin and for the sin of the whole world. This “fulfilled” the law—that is, it satisfied the law’s demand for justice.
Jesus could have avoided the cross by setting aside the law, but instead, He upheld the law’s demands for justice by dying on the cross for our sin. In going to the cross, He showed that He agreed with the law’s demand for justice. In paying the penalty, He saved the world from death. And so, Paul tells us in Rom. 6:14,
14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.
To be “under law” means that one is guilty before the law and is liable for its penalty as a sinner. Any time a person sins, he comes under law on account of that sin, and the law will not release the sinner until the penalty is paid. When Jesus paid the penalty demanded by the law, the sinner was released, for the law was satisfied. No longer was the law a threat to the sinner. He was now “under grace,” not because the sin was legalized, but because the penalty (or the fine) for the sin was paid.
In no way, however, did this make sin any less sinful. Theft is still sin. Murder is still sin. Adultery is still sin. Sin was not legalized in any way by Jesus’ death on the cross. The law against these injustices was not repealed. Theft did not become a righteous act after Jesus died on the cross.
The law remains an expression of God’s character. The prime difference is that when Jesus paid the penalty for our sin that was demanded by the law, the law could not demand more penalties over and beyond its mandate. Thus, we are “under grace.”
But Paul makes it clear that we ought not to “continue in sin that grace may abound” (Rom. 6:1). He says in Rom. 6:15,
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? May it never be!
In other words, if I were to violate a speed law on the highway, the law-enforcement officer may give me a ticket, and I may have to pay a fine (penalty). If the fine is too great for me to pay, I would be “under the law” until the law could be satisfied. Perhaps I might go to jail for 30 days. But if my uncle were to pay my fine, I would come “under grace,” and the law would release me.
What would my uncle think of me if I then continued to violate the speed laws, knowing that my uncle would always pay my fines for me? Would that honor him? Of course not. And yet many Christians have been told that they now have the right to sin (violate the law) as if Jesus had legalized sin by paying its penalty.
Christians have no right to continue in sin. John tells us that “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Jesus said that many will stand before Him in the day of judgment and claim to have done many wonderful miracles in His name; but Jesus will say, “Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matt. 7:23).
The laws of the Kingdom were given in order to restrain the lawless tendency in man. There are two ways in which God has dealt with this problem of lawlessness. The Old Covenant method instituted under Moses was to restrain lawlessness by external force of law. The New Covenant method instituted under Christ is to change one’s nature by an internal force by the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer.
The Old Covenant method is only partially successful, but history has shown that external restraints through fear of the law enforcement will always fail in the end. Human nature is such that men will always find ways to get around the law or to seek ways to practice injustice without getting caught.
For this reason, nations tend to pass more and more laws which are more and more restrictive. Penalties are gradually increased in the attempt to restrain lawlessness and deter crime. Eventually, the penalties far exceed true justice and yet crime runs rampant.
The New Covenant does not merely restrain lawlessness. The Holy Spirit indwells our hearts and works from the inside. Instead of ruling by fear, the Holy Spirit works by love to write the law in our hearts. The result of this inner work is that we begin to conform to the righteous character of God, not by compulsion, but because we come into agreement with God. It is accomplished by reading the Word (law), being led by the Spirit, knowing the intent of the Author, and seeing the law through the eyes of Christ.
In this way, God’s law becomes the expression not only of the character of God, but also of the believer’s character. He would not steal, murder, or commit adultery even if the laws of the land permitted him to do these things without penalty. External laws are not his motivation. His motivation is internal.
This is the New Covenant method by which God is currently bringing righteousness into the earth. The laws of the Kingdom are being written on the hearts of its citizens. God is training people to be good citizens of the Kingdom and to bear witness to others of His righteous character.