In these bulletin articles, we’ve been going through a list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. Today we begin to look at the law of God by asking, ‘What does God require of humans?’
The Bible teaches us that God requires obedience to his revealed will. The prophet Micah says: ‘He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:8).
But what is God’s revealed will? What is acting justly? What has God revealed that he would have you do?
The first rule of obedience God gave to the first humans was the command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We read in Genesis: ‘And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die’ (Genesis 2:16-17).
Since the garden of Eden, God has continued to reveal how humans are to live. For example, God gave his law to Moses, and then Moses declared God’s law to Israel. In Deuteronomy we read: ‘Moses summoned all Israel and said: Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them’ (Deuteronomy 5:1).
Moreover, Jesus affirms the law given to Moses and requires obedience to it: ‘25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:25-28).
Even those who have never heard of Moses or Jesus are expected to obey God’s laws. In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul speaks about the obligations towards God that are upon the Gentiles (non-Jews): ‘Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them’ (Romans 2:14-15).
So God requires humans to keep his revealed laws. It doesn’t matter if the law comes by direct revelation, through a mediator (such as a prophet) or through the conscience.
But sadly, humans have not done what God requires. All of humanity has broken God’s laws repeatedly. Except for one human. Jesus Christ kept the law of God perfectly. And then Christ died as a perfect substitute for those who haven’t kept the law of God, but do trust in him.
So have you recognised that God has required you to keep his law? Have you recognised that you have failed to do what God has asked you to do? Have you fled to Christ as your law-abiding substitute so that God is no longer wrathful toward you?