Many people today are very confused about the meaning of the word love. It is mistakenly thought to refer to a wonderful romantic feeling or sexual passion, but it actually refers to a spiritual condition that multitudes of people desire but do not seem to experience.
There was a time when Moses, the man of God, made a request of the Lord. He said, “Show me Your glory” (Exodus 33:18). We read in Exodus 33 and 34 that the Lord would reveal as much as it was possible for him to see and live. It says, “And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.’ ” (Exodus 34:6, 7). On this occasion it was His character that the Lord revealed to Moses; He was gracious, and merciful, and longsuffering, and He kept mercy for thousands. These principles of the kingdom of heaven were enunciated when the Lord spoke His law to the children of Israel upon Mount Sinai. That law is a pronouncement of the principle of love, but what is that really like?
The Bible mentions many times that the person who has love in his heart will keep God’s commandments. (See I John 5:2, 3; Romans 13.) The giving of the commandments was a Revelation to the children of Israel, as well as to all the people of this earth, a reiteration of the law that governs the kingdom of the heavens. This law was ordained in the hand of a mediator, spoken by Him Who has the power to change the hearts of men and bring them into harmony with its divine principles.
Before God had given His law on Sinai, He had revealed His purpose for the children of Israel. He said, “…you are to be holy men to Me …” (Exodus 22:31, literal translation). Without holiness no one can ever see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14 clearly states that none can have eternal life and see the Lord if they are not holy.
Israel’s problem was and probably still is that she did not perceive the spiritual nature of the law. The people looked at it as a list of things they were not to do. Paul however, when writing to the Romans referring to the law said, “For we know that the law is spiritual …” (Romans 7:14). He goes on to say that he is not spiritual, but, he says, the law is spiritual.
Too often their professed obedience was simply an observance of forms, rituals, or ceremonies instead of a surrender of the heart to the sovereignty of love. In Jesus’ character, teachings and work, He represented to men what God was like—the holiness of His character, His benevolence and His paternal attributes. And at the same time, Jesus presented to them the worthlessness of mere ceremonial obedience. When He did these things the Jewish leaders did not understand or receive what He was talking about. They thought He was dwelling too lightly upon the requirements of the law, when He was actually setting before them the foundational principles on which the law is based.
So, looking at the externals without understanding the principles underlying those externals, the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of trying to overthrow the law. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus revealed in unmistakable language that that was not His purpose at all. In Matthew 5:17, 18, He said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”
It was Jesus Christ, the One Who created the world and upholds everything by the word of His power, the One Who gave the law on Mount Sinai Who declared that it is not His purpose to set aside any of its precepts, not even the smallest letter or part of a letter of the law. Whatever you study in science or nature, no matter what it is, from the smallest microscopic insect to the study of planets requiring the use of a telescope, everything in the natural world operates under law. Upon obedience to these natural laws, the order and harmony of the natural world depends.
In the same way that natural laws govern nature, there are also great principles of righteousness that control the life of all created beings. Upon conformity to these righteous principles, the well-being of the entire universe depends. Before this world was ever called into existence, God’s law existed. The angels of heaven were governed by it and in order for earth to be in harmony with heaven, man also must be obedient to the divine statutes.
Psalm 103:20 tells us that the angels obey God’s commandments. To man in Eden, Christ made known the precepts of the law. When Jesus came to earth His mission was not to destroy the law or to remove even the smallest part of a letter from it. His purpose, by His grace, was to bring man back into obedience to the precepts of the law. Many decades later when writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, His beloved disciple, John, speaks of this law as a perpetual obligation. He says, “Sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4, last part, KJV). And He says that “whoever commits sin transgresses also the law” (verse 4, first part, literal translation).
Not only that, he makes it very clear that the law Jesus spoke of is not some new commandment but an old commandment that has been in effect from the beginning, at creation, which was later reiterated on Mount Sinai. (See I John 2:7).
A study of the first book of the Bible will reveal that the people in the times of Genesis understood every single one of the commandments. They knew that to violate those principles was wrong and worthy of death. All the principles therein expressed can be found in the book of Genesis.
Those of that generation knew those things that were wrong and they called the breaking of them sin. So, speaking of the law, Jesus said, Don’t think that I’ve come to destroy it, or take it away. I have come to fulfill it. He uses the word “fulfill” in the same sense that He declared to John the Baptist when He said in Matthew 3:15, literal translation: “Allow it to be so now, that we might fulfill all righteousness,” that is, fulfill the measure of the law’s requirement, to give an example of perfect conformity to the will of God.
In the Old Testament we see in prophecy that the mission of the Messiah would be to magnify the law and to make it honorable (Isaiah 42:21). The Messiah was to show mankind the spiritual nature of the law. He would present its far-reaching principles and make plain its eternal obligation. Jesus did this in His Sermon on the Mount. This sermon is primarily a sermon about the spirituality of the law. He talks by name of different commandments and shows that they extend not merely to outward observances, but to the heart and to the mind, revealing thoughts and feelings.
When we look at the character of Jesus, we see in His character a divine beauty, of whom the most noble and the gentlest among mankind are but a faint reflection. Concerning His character, the wise man wrote in prophecy concerning Him, in Song of Solomon 5:10, 16, that He is the chiefest among 10,000; yes, He is altogether lovely.
When David saw Him in prophetic vision, he wrote, “You are fairer than the children of men …” (Psalm 45:2, literal translation). Jesus is spoken of in the New Testament as the express image of the Father’s person, the effulgence of His glory (Hebrews 1). And the self-denying Redeemer, throughout all of His pilgrimage of love on earth, was a living representation of the character of the law of God. To keep the law in its purpose and intent from your heart is to reveal the character of Jesus Christ. He said, “I have kept My Father’s commandments” (John 15:10). “I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29 KJV).
So, He made manifest in this world what heaven-born love is like, how it reveals itself, how it lives. Christ-like principles underlie the principles of the ten commandments. Jesus said, “… until heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle will in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18, literal translation). His own life and character showed the unchangeable nature of God’s law. He proved that by His grace God’s law can be perfectly obeyed by every son and daughter of Adam. He said, not the smallest letter, not even a part of a letter can be changed. Notice how it is recorded in the gospel of Luke 16:17 ASV: “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tittle (part of a letter) of the law to fail.”
So Jesus proved, and showed, and taught that the law of God, the ten commandments, is unchangeable and will last forever.
Jesus did not teach that the law would ever be abrogated. He fixes the eye of the human race upon the most distant object that we can focus on, and He assures us that until that point is reached, the law will retain all of its authority and that none need suppose that it was His mission to do away with even part of it. As long as heaven and earth continue, the holy principles of God’s law will remain. Because the law of the Lord is perfect, therefore it cannot be changed. It is impossible for sinful men, of course, in themselves, to meet the standard of its requirement. That is why the apostle Paul said in Romans 7:14: “… the law is spiritual, but I am carnal (fleshly), sold under sin” (Romans 7:14).
For that reason, you and I need the gospel. That is why Jesus came as our Redeemer. It was His mission, not only to pay the price in His own body for our sins, but to make us partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3, 4). It was His mission to bring us back into harmony with the law that governs the entire universe of heaven. Remember—sin is the transgression of the law, 1 John 3:4, the law that we have had since the beginning, I John 2:7.
When we forsake our sins; in other words, when we choose to quit breaking God’s law and choose to come to Jesus, and see Him as our Saviour from sin and Lord of our life, then the law is not done away with, but exalted.
Remember, sin is the transgression of the law, 1 John 3:4, and when we choose to forsake our sins and accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and choose to follow Him, then He gives to us the Holy Spirit and enables us, by His grace and power, to live a life that is in harmony with His law. Notice what the apostle Paul said about this in Romans 3:31: “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.” Why is the law established? When a person repents of his sin and comes to Jesus forsaking his/her sin, then the law of God is exalted. That person realizes that he/she needs to come into harmony with the law that governs the whole universe of God. And Jesus gives to him the Holy Spirit and enables him to keep the law (Romans 8). That is one of the main reasons that the Holy Spirit is given to the believers.
In fact, if you receive the Holy Spirit and do not begin to obey God, then you are insulting the Holy Spirit. Notice what Hebrews 10:16 says is the new covenant promise: “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord. I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them.”
It is true that the systems of types and ceremonies that pointed to Christ as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world were to pass away at His death. But the principles of righteousness embodied in the commandments are just as unchangeable as God’s throne. Not one command has ever been annulled. Not one precept has been changed. Those principles were made known to man in paradise as the great law of life and will exist unchanged in paradise restored.
When Eden will again bloom on the earth, God’s law of love will be observed by all beneath the sun. The book of Genesis makes it very clear that those living in those generations knew the precepts. The 7th commandment says, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). This commandment is one of the most widely broken all over the world today. But even before the ten commandments were ever given, the people in the times of Genesis knew that it was wrong to commit adultery.
Notice what Joseph said about it. Joseph was the enslaved manager of Potiphar’s house. “It came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, ‘Lie with me.’ But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’ So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her” (Genesis 39:7–10).
As a result, he landed up in prison for his refusal to commit adultery. Joseph would rather go to prison than sin against his God. He said, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”
The Bible says that in heaven, God’s word is forever settled (Psalm 119:89). Nobody in heaven has any question about God’s law. We also read in Psalm 111:7, 8: “All His precepts [commandments] are sure. They stand fast forever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness.”
Again in Psalm 119:152 KJV, it says, “Concerning Thy testimonies, I have known of old that Thou hast founded them for ever.” If you really love God, you will keep His commandments. Notice what the apostle John said about this in I John 4:7, 8: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
How do you know that you really love God? I John 5:2, 3 says, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”
The apostle John had the same problem in his day that we see in the Christian world today. People claimed to love God while hating their neighbor and refusing to keep God’s commandments. He addresses that over and over again in his book. He said in I John 3:7–10: “Little children, let no one deceive you …” on this point. “He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose, the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.” Then he goes on to say, “… this is the message that you heard from the beginning …” (verse 11).
O, friend, is the love of God really in your heart?
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.