Watching live or recorded sessions of the national Assembly in Nigeria, many times, remind me of my classes in secondary school and in the university; having to attend classes in the same room with all the people that looked strange in the first week, and are hard to part with in the last week. These men and women, people’s parents, sometimes play and have fun and joke with one another in ways that are not different from how we did it back in school. Strangely, they also argue and fight sometimes in ways not different from how we did it back in school. It seems to me that some things never change. Bring middle aged men and women together in a lecture theatre setting, resuming in the morning and closing in the afternoon, and sometimes going on holidays, over a period of four years; and you might just bring back the playful spirit in them which their children have never seen. Perhaps Friedrich Nietzsche was right when he said “In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.”
These men are there as legislators to make new laws or change and amend old laws because man-made laws can be changed. This knowledge is not alien to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who proposed to send a bill to the Nigerian National Assembly in July 2011, a few months after he was sworn in as president; According to a statement issued by the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, the proposed bill “is borne out of a patriotic zeal, after a painstaking study and belief that the constitutionally guaranteed two terms for Presidents and Governors is not helping the focus of governance and institutionalization of democracy at this stage of our development.” It was also contained in the statement that the President is “concerned about the acrimony which the issue of re-election every four years generates both at Federal and state levels.”[i]
Every country in today’s world has a constitution; i.e A “statement of fundamental laws: a written statement outlining the basic laws or principles by which a country or organization is governed”[ii] The laws in a constitution can be amended by whatever means, depending on the system of government the country runs; so that something that was not a crime previously becomes a punishable crime under the law or something that used to be a crime then becomes a practice that attracts no punishment or fine under the law. In the same vein, a law that previously allows an incumbent president to participate in an election can also be amended to restrict him/her from participating or vice versa. The simple deduction from this fact is that men make and change laws because man’s wisdom is finite. Man made laws sometimes favour one class or race over the other, and when the less favoured class or race discovers the law which undermines their rights, there will be agitations for an amendment.
It is a popular saying that where there is no law, there is no offence but man-made laws do not adequately cover all offences, in some cases, it silently permits some offences. There is population explosion in China being the most populous nation on earth; continuing at their rate of reproduction, that explosion might be injurious to that nation therefore it becomes an offence for a Chinese to have more than one child. Ought not other nations like Nigeria to emulate this step in dealing with things like smoking? Statistics abound on how tobacco smoking can mean suicide, such that even the cigarette pack tells the smoker that he’d likely die young; if an attempt of suicide is an offence under the law, shouldn’t tobacco smoking and the likes? Just my thought.
In actual fact, a society without laws is headed for chaos, because such a society gives room for everyone to do what is right in his own eyes. Trust me. You don’t want to be a victim of what some people might feel like doing. And that is why the universe has invisible laws governing it; the most popular, of course being the law of gravity. The law of gravity is why whatever goes up must come down except it is suspended by another kind of force.
These laws have been put in place by the Master Designer who created the universe. The world did not happen by chance. God created the world and everything in it. And just as He made laws to govern unintelligent beings in the universe, He also gave laws to the intelligent creatures which He made—mankind.
The Master Designer made a perfect world, which was in perfect beauty and order until mankind broke the law given to him. He had been forewarned, that in the event that he breaks this law, the consequences would be grave. He would surely die (cf. Gen. 2:17). Mankind eventually broke that law, but God even though merciful had another law governing Him which perhaps mankind took for granted; God’s Word does not change. His Word does not change even as He does not change. As an eminent preacher C.D Brooks puts it “when God tells us something, He gets it right the first time! He doesn’t have to edit or adjust”[iii] God’s does not change, that is why he forewarns. His character is such that He will say “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deut. 30:19). If God changes, it will be absolutely irrational for anyone to trust Him completely as He asks us to. It is why Joshua’s parting words to the children of Israel in asking them to trust God was based on God’s unchangingness. He says “You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” (Joshua. 23:14).
The problem of the world which God created perfect began when sin came in. With sin came ruin and damnation as God had forewarned. Sin is an act which means breaking a law. If sin still exists today, and it does, then the law still exists. If Jesus Christ’s death on the cross has abolished God’s ten commandments as some Christians preach and believe today, then sin does not exist today and we can all stop preaching the crucified and resurrected Christ. Because Jesus came to save His people from their sins not in their sins (cf. Matt. 1:21). Sin is the problem and Christ is the solution as promised in genesis chapter three verse fifteen which reads “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Satan bruised Christ’s heel at the cross, but on the third day, Christ arose to bruise his head, triumphing over all principalities and powers. (cf. Col. 2:15).
Some things never change. Humanity’s problem in the beginning was sin and it still is. The solution was Christ and He still is. And as always “sin is the transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4).
At a mountain called Sinai, God gave his ten commandment law to Israel. Not as a new constitution He had just drafted, but an articulation of His age long law for the universe which had existed from the beginning. Murder had been a sin before Cain killed his brother. Sodom and Gomorrah were found guilty of adultery, fornication and homosexuality long before it was placed in number seven in the list of ten. Abraham was called out from among his idol worshipping heritage before it was penned down in the first and third commandments. It is obvious that the law was not formulated at Sinai. It existed from the beginning. And not just for the Israelites alone did God give the law at Sinai, it was for the whole intelligent race. White writes:
The law was not spoken at this time exclusively for the benefit of the Hebrews. God honored them by making them the guardians and keepers of His law, but it was to be held as a sacred trust for the whole world. The precepts of the Decalogue are adapted to all mankind, and they were given for the instruction and government of all. Ten precepts, brief, comprehensive, and authoritative, cover the duty of man to God and to his fellow man; and all based upon the great fundamental principle of love.
God gave the law so that He would introduce the saviour Jesus Christ to them. Thus, afterwards, He gave them the laws of ceremonies and feast which contained how they would atone for their sin and reconcile with God, should they break the moral law. These ceremonies found their fulfilment in the ministry of Jesus Christ.
“If the law of God could have been changed or abrogated, then Christ need not have suffered the consequences of our transgression. He came to explain the relation of the law to man, and to illustrate its precepts by His own life of obedience.”[iv] The faith which Christ came to impart is not devoid of works; hence the saints in the book of revelation are referred to as they “who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” (Rev. 14:12). Christ did not die on the cross to endorse murder and fornication and lying; or any of the requirements of the law, rather, He came, so that by faith in Him, we may have strength to live a life of obedience to the law. Loving God with all my heart and soul and mind as well as loving my neighbours as myself.
When God was to give the law at Sinai, the scene was filled with terror for the children of Israel so that they would know how serious the law which God was about to give them is. Moses reminded them of the event thus: “The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.)” (Deut. 5:4, 5). He also added:
And you said, “The Lord our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a man can live even if God speaks with him. But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer. For what mortal man has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey.”(Deut 5:24-27)
If God would 1,500 years later tell the children of Israel and indeed the entire world that “those commandments which I spoke to you in the midst of so much drama has been abolished and don’t matter anymore, I will now introduce an era of lawless grace”, we should indeed be permitted not to take God, His actions and His Word seriously. And in effect, the death of Jesus Christ which we take with so much seriousness could just be another drama whose purpose could be abolished by the church fathers or the pope or anyone that comes many years later. But God can be trusted because He testified of Himself saying: “I the Lord do not change.” (Mal. 3:6).
After giving the moral law—the Ten Commandments—God also gave Moses the civil laws, the laws of ceremonies and feasts as well as health laws, contained in consequent chapters of Exodus and Leviticus. The civil laws were to govern Israel as a nation without a human king at the time, which God was their King (a theocracy). While the laws of ceremonies and feasts were for the worship of God and atonement for their sins. They were a type of Christ’s ministry on earth which one by one finds their fulfilment in the ministry of Christ. All the ceremonies of the feast were types of the work of Christ. The deliverance of Israel from Egypt was an object lesson of redemption, which the Passover was intended to keep in memory. The slain lamb, the unleavened bread, the sheaf of first fruits, represented the Saviour.[v] That was why John the Baptist would point to Christ saying “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:36). When Christ says he came to fulfil the law and the prophets (cf. Matt. 5:17), a cursory reading of the Bible could help to find which law He fulfilled. Christ died on the very day of the Passover as the Passover lamb. When He died “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Mark 15:38). The priest could no longer kill the lamb because the Lamb of God had been slain putting an end to the sacrifices whose whole essence of existence were to point to Christ.
Ceremonies were abolished that pointed to Christ. These are no more. Also, the civil laws of the nation of Israel are not the civil laws of any nation today and so have no force. But the moral laws and health regulations of the Jews are specifically enforced on New Testament Christians. (cf. Acts 15:28-29).[vi]
Some things never change. Worshipping idols (whether mental, physical or spiritual) is still an offence to God. Stealing is still a sin; murder is still a sin and so is forgetting to keep the seventh-day of the week holy as God’s Sabbath. (cf. Exo. 20:3-17). The pen of inspiration says “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom”. (James 2:10-12).
Some things never change. In the words of Pastor C.D Brooks
Fifty-four years ago I joined this church. I’ve been somewhat educated, illuminated, experienced. I’m getting ready to retire. But I want to tell you, nothing’s changed. We’ve matured, and we’ve been enlightened. People are meaner, more immoral. But nothing’s changed. God’s law is still a transcript of His character. It’s too high for us, so He gave us a ladder called grace that we might climb up….Judgment is still going on. God still hates pride. Men are still born in sin. Men must be born again. Dead folk are still dead. Christ is still our only Savior. None but the righteous shall see God. We’ve got to be without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. We’ve got to be covered with His righteousness alone. He still sends the Holy Ghost. And He is still seeking the lost. He is still saving sinners[vii].
And Jesus is still coming soon. About the time of the end, near His coming, Jesus said: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man.” (John 17:26). The 21st century world with all its sophistication is not strange to God. The fundamental problem of the world from the beginning is still the same. It is sin. And the solution is still the same. Jesus Christ. “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8).
Some things never change, and the gospel of Jesus Christ leads that pack.
[ii] Microsoft® Encarta® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
[iii] C.D Brooks, I Want My Church Back (sermon)
[iv] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 307
[v] Ibid, p. 77
[vi] Eugene Prewitt, Health in the End Times (www.bibledoc.org)
[vii] C.D Brooks, I Want My Church Back (sermon)