In the Bible we find two kinds of law. We are not speaking of the old Law of Moses and the law of Christ, for they are not two kinds of law, but instead, two distinct laws. Found within both of these laws are two kinds of laws. They have at times been designated as positive divine law and moral law.
Let us first briefly examine moral laws. Moral law relates to that which is right within itself. It has always been right and will ever be right. The things moral law requires can be seen to be right by the very nature of things. For instance, it has always been right to speak truth and has always been wrong to speak lies. Everyone readily recognizes this and never questions such law that would command truth. In the New Testament we are commanded to speak truth (Eph. 4:15). God has commanded it, but it is the right thing to do anyway. Because moral law is so understandable, we shall not spend any more time on it, but will turn our attention to positive divine law.
Positive divine law has the force of making something right that is not right within itself and is a real test of one’s faith in God and one’s respect for the authority of God. There are basically three “degrees” of this kind of law. The first degree would be law that one cannot see how it can do any good within itself. The second is a law that one can see clearly that it cannot do any good within itself. The third and the greatest test of the faith of man is a law that not only can one see that it cannot do any good within itself, but also one can clearly see that the thing commanded is wrong within itself, morally speaking. We shall look at some examples of such positive divine law as a means of illustrating and clarifying positive divine law.
When the children of Israel “spake against God, and against Moses” the “Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died” (Num. 21:5-6). After they confessed their sin and asked Moses to pray for them, the Lord told Moses, “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live” (Num. 21:7-8). No man can find anything about looking upon a fiery serpent that would cure the bite of a serpent. If we were bitten, we would think someone had gone crazy to even suggest such a thing. However, looking upon that fiery serpent on the pole was what God commanded. It was positive divine law. It was right only because God said so.
A second good example of positive divine law is seen in the falling of the walls of Jericho. Jericho was the first city to be taken upon the arrival of Israel to the promise land. God’s command for the taking of the city was for them to march around the city once a day for six days, seven times on the seventh day. The priest would bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns. After compassing the city seven times, the priest would blow the trumpets and all the people would shout with a great shout and the wall of the city would fall (Josh. 6:3-5). They did so and the wall fell. There is no doubt that such a command would test the faith of the one commanded. The Hebrew writer stated, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days” (Heb. 11:30). There was nothing intrinsic in itself in following the instructions given that would cause the wall of a great city to fall. But when God commands anything, it is the right thing to do.
A third example is of that greatest degree of faith needed, and is found in the offering of Isaac by Abraham. God told Abraham to take Isaac and offer him for a burnt offering (Gen. 22:2). This flew in the face of what God had previously told Abraham. He had told Abraham that His covenant would be established with Isaac (Gen. 17:21). It would not make sense to kill the son through whom the covenant would be established while he yet had no offspring. Not only would it not make sense, it would be a violation of two moral laws, not to murder and not to offer human sacrifices. Offering Isaac was the right thing to do, but only because God said so. Upon attempting to do just as God had commanded, he was stopped and the angel of the Lord told him, “now I know that thou fearest God” (Gen. 22:12). No wonder Abraham is called “faithful Abraham”.
There are positive divine laws found in the New Testament as well. We will mention but one, but it is a prime example. The Bible clearly teaches that one must be baptized in order to be saved (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). Yet, one would be hard pressed to find anything in being immersed in water that would alleviate sin. In fact many have made the argument that water will not wash away sin. Yet, Paul was told to be baptized to wash away his sins (Acts 22:16). On Pentecost, Peter said that it was required in order to have ones’ sins remitted (Acts 2:38). There is nothing in or about the water that will cause ones’ sins to be removed, but there is something in obeying the positive divine law that God has made concerning being baptized.
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