MM00073 Moral law vs civil law
Mentoring Manna: Moral law or civil law?
© 2003 Pastor Keith Hassell
Acts 4:19-20 “But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.’” In our culture we are facing an ongoing tension between what the Scriptures declare as right and wrong and what our culture says is right and wrong. Whereas at one time our civil laws reflected the moral principles of God’s word, increasingly now they do not. What is our responsibility when civil laws contradict the moral laws of God?
The answer is found in understanding the distinction between God’s moral law and man’s civil law. God’s moral law is His unchanging establishment of what is right and what is wrong. Civil law, on the other hand, is the law of man. It is man’s attempt to determine and legislate what he believes to be right and wrong. Every law comes with judgments and consequences for violating it. God’s moral law might be compared to the law of gravity. The law of gravity works the same for everyone regardless of age, gender, or social class. Why? It is a natural law. We can live by it, but we cannot change it. Civil law, on the other hand, can change based upon cultural and philosophical trends.
Moral law is a higher law than civil law. God never intended that civil law violate His moral law. Man’s civil law was meant to establish God’s moral law. It is spiritual treachery for a leader to use his God-given authority to establish laws contrary to God’s moral law. In fact, our founding fathers appealed to God’s natural law to justify their decision to cast off the king of England’s tyrannical rule over their lives. In the Declaration of Independence they brought a list of indictments against the king who used his authority to ignore God’s laws in order to oppress the colonies. Our founding fathers felt that it was their duty as citizens to stand on the side of God natural law rather than on the side of the king. Thus the United States of America was born.
Sadly, a country that appealed to God’s natural law as justification in its creation has now cast off God’s moral law through its own legislatures and courtrooms. How does an unrighteous civil law affect God’s moral law? Imagine passing a law declaring that gravity no longer exists and can no longer be acknowledged. No matter how popular that law might be, it will never change the reality or nature of gravity. Surely no one would be foolish enough jump from a fifty-story building because a civil law has outlawed gravity!
No matter how hard we try to ignore or change God’s moral law, we cannot change its reality, judgments, or consequences. The consequences of violating God’s moral law are still the same. We can pretend that God does not exist, but it changes nothing. We can pass laws that declare acceptable what God calls an abomination, but we change nothing. God’s established judgments and consequences are still the same. Our world is filled with the rubble of devastated lives among those who insist on ignoring and defying God’s moral law. God’s moral law is unchangeable. It is no respecter of persons. The only rational choice is to acknowledge God’s moral law and to live accordingly. To establish laws to the contrary is no more effective than to outlaw the law of gravity.
Application: Our culture has attempted to change the moral laws of God. We call living together apart from marriage a marriage alternative. God calls it fornication. We call divorce for any reason “okay.” God calls it adultery. We call pornography “freedom of speech.” God calls it lust and adultery in the heart. We call abortion “pro-choice.” God calls it murder. We call homosexuality an “alternate lifestyle.” God calls it an abomination. We have banned prayer from the classroom, the Bible from education, moral standards from the office, and the Ten Commandments from our courtrooms. We have passed legislation that in effect declares that God does not exist. His moral standards are no longer to be acknowledged or allowed into our classrooms, our schools, our businesses, our courtrooms, and even into some churches! Don’t fall into this deception. God will allow no one, not even His church to change His moral laws. Don’t follow the cultural crowd to the edge of the moral abyss and jump with them. The judgments and consequences upon those ignoring God’s moral law are still intact!