Posted By Joshua S. Bryant on February 15, 2010
“The ‘rule of law’ refers to a principal of governance in which all persons, institutions, and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards.” – The United Nations
The rule of law is a principal every lawyer and lover of democracy must believe in. I certainly believe in the rule of law. But this blog post and its progeny will discuss the role of law. The law, while necessary, is mortal. It had a beginning and it will have an end. The need for law will one day pass away, and all that will remain is the adoration of The One who destroyed it. The book of Romans discusses the role of law. It poignantly exalts the law and its purposes while balancing its current role with, and future destruction by, sovereign grace. We begin in Romans chapter 1.
Paul was a bond-servant of Christ. To use a legal term, Christ had bailed him out like a bondsman posts a bond for an accused criminal. As believers, we have all been bailed out by Christ, but Paul was more than that. He was an apostle – one who speaks with authority having actually seen Christ. God used Paul for the good news – a plan that was prepared in eternity past, promised through the Jewish prophets, and fulfilled in the man Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus was fully human – descending from King David; and fully divine – being eternal and powerful in nature having unequivocal power over life and death. Through Christ we received grace – the law’s counterpoint – so that we might share this good news with the world. Romans was written by Paul to the church in Rome, which Paul eagerly desired to visit and for which he often prayed. The faith of the parishioners in Rome was known throughout the known world.
So what is this good news to which Paul was enslaved? To understand good news requires us to understand the dismal nature of the status quo in which news may be good, and the status quo is this: we are dead. We never lived. Morbid as it may be, we must understand our condition – we have never tasted, never loved, never perceived. We are dead and will be forever. Why? Because we have not and could not maintain the standard of living which God has called us to. Therefore, the good news can be nothing short of the power of God for salvation from this eternal death. In the good news, God’s righteousness is revealed both to the one who has the faith to hear it and for the strengthening of that faith. And the good news is one purpose of the Law – without the Law, we would not need this good news.
Violations of the Law incur the wrath of God, and there isn’t a human who has not violated the law. The wrath of God will result in making our death irrevocable. Our actions against the Law suppress the truth. We cannot say that we cannot know the God who wrote this law. Look around! God’s eternal power and divine nature are clear in the things He has made. If that were not enough, He gave us the law through Moses. But we do not follow it either. We are conceited and place undue emphasis on our own logic and thinking. We think we are wise and understanding, but we have only made ourselves unwise – we lack understanding. Among humans you will find the unrighteous, evil, covetous, malicious, envious, murderers, quarrelsome, deceitful, gossips, slanderers, God haters, insolent, arrogant, disobedient, foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless. We all are guilty of at least one of these from an early age, hence we are dead.
Because of our inability to follow the Law, we are all under a sentence of death – both physical and spiritual. We have become accustomed to both to a degree. Physical death is painful because of the perceived finality of death. But we have become immune to the sting of spiritual death because we are already spiritually dead (see Colossians 1, Ephesians 2, and Romans 3). Once irrevocable, spiritual death is still perceived by the dead in a place known as Hell. Many today would disagree on the grounds that we are all in essence good people. That may be so, depending on your definition of what is good. But according to the Law, no one is good enough because the measure of “good enough” is perfection. No one is perfect.
Others would say that the bar is too high; but us being human and God being God, who are we to complain? The all powerful God of the universe created everything that we see and things we cannot see or even possibly imagine. Can we really argue with His Law? We are merely nothing compared to Him. Where to set the bar is certainly His prerogative, and we are charged with meeting that bar. The consequences of certain failure demand death.
This is the Law. Under the circumstances, our faith in the Rule of Law may seem misguided. But like it or not this Law rules and we must follow it. No rebellion or revolution can overthrow it, for it is divine in origin. This Law has been publicly promulgated through the scripture. It is equally applied to and enforced on all humanity. It was created by God and adjudicated by Christ who will fairly judge the living and the dead by this one standard of perfection. But good news! The Law is mortal, and when its end comes a new Law will reign. In the new Law we must now place our trust and hope, because only under this new Law is our death revocable.