Christianity and Divine Law

QUESTION: Christianity and Law – Divine Law


Divine law, based on these two foundations, provides a definite means for evaluating human laws. Legal positivists, however, have no criterion for judging the appropriateness of a law other than the sense of a perceived or evolving need. As Christians, we can and must refer to divine law as the basis for declaring a human law just or unjust. Whitehead argues that the very term legislator does not mean one who makes laws, but one who moves them “from the divine law written in nature or in the Bible into the statutes and law codes of a particular society.”1 Thus governments exist not so much to create laws as to secure laws—to apply divine law to general and specific situations and to act as an impartial enforcer of such laws.

According to God’s plan, the responsibility of governments is to encourage people to obey divine law by punishing wrongdoers and protecting those who live in accordance with God’s laws (Romans 13:3–4). The Apostle Paul tells us that the righteous need not fear the law, but that the law is designed for those who do wrong. Rebels and lawbreakers need the law to keep them within the boundaries of acceptable behavior, thereby protecting the innocent from lawlessness.

The concern of courts, rather than the creation of laws, should be the application of laws so that God’s justice is served. In the past, this concept was implicit in legal theory, although today that line is blurred. Whitehead emphasizes the need for a return to the original conception of the function of courts when he says, “The fact that courts were once seen as institutions of justice (not legislating bodies) cannot be underscored enough.”2 God does not condone false law making, including conceding to the largest factions or those with the loudest message as a basis for the legalization of abortion, homosexuality, pedophilia, or incest. A society that consciously turns away from divine law will suffer consequences. Montgomery says, “The clear pattern throughout Scripture is that those who do God’s will live and those who flaunt His commands perish.”3 The Bible tells us clearly that the wages of sin is death.

Christianity and Law – Five Basic Precepts
Grounding our legal system in divine law paves the way to true freedom because all disobedience results in personal and/or political enslavement. Paul asserts, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life” (Romans 6:22).

Christian law consists of five basic precepts:
  1. That the source of all divine law is the character and nature of God. Schaeffer says, 1) “God has a character, and His character is the law of the universe.”4 Not all things are the same to God. Some things conform to His character and some do not.
  2. That the moral order proceeds from and reflects the character of God—His holiness, 2) justice, truth, love, and mercy. God’s moral order is as real as the physical order.
  3. That we are created in God’s image and thus are significant. Our life is not an 3) afterthought or an accident. God established human government to protect human life, rights, and dignity (Genesis 9:6; Romans 13).
  4. That when Jesus Christ took on human form, human life assumed even greater 4) significance. God the Creator became God the Redeemer (John 1:14).
  5. That God through Christ will judge the whole human race according to His standard 5) of good and evil (Acts 17:31; Romans 2:16; 2 Corinthians 5:10).


Rendered with permission from the book, Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews (Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

1 John W. Whitehead, The Second American Revolution (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988), 76.
2 Ibid., 87–8.
3 John Warwick Montgomery, The Law Above the Law (Minneapolis, MN: Dimension Books, 1975), 47.
4 Francis Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, 5 vols. (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 2:249.

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