What Does It Mean to Keep God’s Law from the Heart?
In the last Q&A, we discussed the fact that even though God’s law is written in the heart of a true Christian, that does not mean that he or she can ignore written rules defining and explaining God’s law. We concluded by saying that we must follow God’s law, including its written rules, from the heart (Romans 6:17), and that we can only do so if God’s Spirit dwells in us.
In this Q&A, we will discuss the practical consequences when God’s law is written in our hearts.
In Old Testament times, God revealed the law of the Ten Commandments to the people, but since they did not have the Holy Spirit, they were unable to keep the spiritual intent of the law. However, God expected them to keep at least the letter of the law, but they were also disobedient in that regard. They sinned gravely, and sin is the transgression of the spiritual law (1 John 3:4). Because of their sinful conduct, God introduced a sacrificial system of ritual laws and regulations to remind them of their sins and to make physical amends (Hebrews 10:1-4). This system of ritual laws was only temporary (Hebrews 10:8-10). It included the laborious task of offering animal sacrifices, and sometimes it included very rigorous physical penalties, such as death by stoning. Dealing with carnal human beings, God knew that only harsh measures could prevent them from totally rebelling against Him and from living a terrible life of depravity and violence (compare Ecclesiastes 8:11). Nevertheless, even those measures did not help, and they ultimately became totally and completely corrupt (Ecclesiastes 9:3).
It was never God’s desire to “force” people to obey Him. It was never His desire to introduce harsh physical penalties for disobedience. He never wanted a sacrificial system. He did not desire animal sacrifices, but rather, that men lived in a way that such sacrifices [and penalties] would not be necessary (Psalm 40:6; 50:8-14; 51:16-17).
God had created man as free moral agents, with the faculty of deciding for himself whether or not to follow God’s rules. God had offered Adam and Eve the gift of the Holy Spirit (symbolized by the Tree of Life), but they rejected that gift and ate instead from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, representing the concept of determining and deciding for themselves what seemed right to them. The consequence was that man began to call good evil, and evil good (Isaiah 5:20), ending up in his unspeakable depravity and his destruction in a worldwide flood (Genesis 6:5-7).
God is a Kingdom—the Family of God ruling over creation. At this point, the God Family consists of the Father and the Son. God wants to enlarge His Family through man. God cannot sin because He does not want to sin. It is totally against His character to sin. He is love (1 John 4:8), and love is the keeping of His commandments (1 John 5:3). God does not keep the law because of fear of punishment for violating His law. He keeps the law because of love, KNOWING that His law is the only way to happiness and peace. He has purified His words (His law) seven times (Psalm 12:6) so that He can be absolutely sure that His law is perfect, right, good and complete (Romans 7:12). It cannot be improved (compare Psalm 18:30).
God wants His people to develop the same attitude towards His law. They too must become convinced that it is always right, and when they disagree on a given point, they are always wrong. When we have reached that conclusion and become persuaded of the goodness of God’s Word, we will want to follow it from the heart. But we won’t be able to do so automatically or obey without fail, because there is still a war going on in our members (Romans 7:14-24). Many times, we may want to do what is good, but the evil within us has not completely died.
However, to the extent that we embrace God’s law and have it written in our hearts, we will begin to do what is right, without having to be forced to do so, or because we are living in fear of punishment. When we have fear, then God’s law in us has not reached perfection, because God’s perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
When that point is reached, then we do not need to have anyone teach us the law anymore because we have now internalized it (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:11). We will do what is right, and we don’t need to have someone to tell us what is right (1 John 2:27; compare John 14:26). When God’s law is written in our hearts, then we will not listen to and follow those who want to deceive us and teach us that the law has been done away with (1 John 2:26). However, we will not always obey (there is no one who does not sin, compare 1 John 1:8, 10; 1 Kings 8:46; and Ecclesiastes 7:20 in the Living Bible), and we may not always be totally and perfectly firm in our conviction, and then it is needful and necessary that God’s ministers point out to us and remind us again as to what is the truth about sin, and how to avoid sinning on our way to perfection (Ezekiel 44:23-24; Ephesians 4:11-16). Even though we are taught by God to love one another (1 Thessalonians 4:9), this teaching was communicated to us through God’s ministers (Romans 10:14-15), and it sometimes needs to be reiterated by the ministry; further, we would not understand this teaching unless God had given His Holy Spirit into our hearts (1 Corinthians 2:12).
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible states to 1 John 2:27:
“…and ye need not that any man teach you; not that they were perfect in knowledge, for no man is absolutely, only comparatively so, in this life; or that they needed not, and were above and exempt from the instructions of Christ’s faithful servants; for John himself taught them, and to teach and instruct them was the end of his writing this epistle to them; but the sense is either that they needed not the teachings of these men before mentioned, the antichrists, liars, and seducers, being better taught, and having an unction by which they knew all things; or they needed not to be taught as if they were babes in Christ, as unskillful in the word of righteousness, but so as to increase in spiritual knowledge, and go on to perfection, and be established in the present truths, at least so as to be put in remembrance of them… this passage does not militate against the external ministry of the Gospel, or human teachings according to that perfect rule and declaration of the whole mind and will of God…”
When God writes His law in the hearts of men, then they will respond. In the Millennium, Christ will teach the people about the horrors of war (Isaiah 2:3), but that teaching alone will not necessarily convince everyone that they should stop going to war. At the beginning of the Millennium, hordes from the East will still want to fight. And so, God will supernaturally intervene and stop that potential fight (Ezekiel 38:1-13). People will be led to the understanding that war is wrong and also completely unnecessary, as God will fight our battles for us (compare Exodus 14:14). And to the degree to which God’s law against murder, war and killing is being written in their hearts, they do not want to learn war anymore, and they will destroy their weapons of war and exchange them with useful agricultural tools (Isaiah 2:4).
They do not do this because they are forced to do this; rather, they will do so because they accept the fact that God’s law tells them that this is the only right way; and since God’s law has become part of their character, they will be following it willingly and joyfully. This, in turn, will motivate others to do likewise, and we will not see war throughout the remainder of the Millennium, until Satan is released from prison for a short while (Revelation 20:7). When this happens, then those human beings, who are alive at that time, will follow Satan’s evil devices and his deception, and they will be wanting to fight again in war (Revelation 20:8-9). They never had God’s law against war written in their hearts. They might have refrained from fighting in war because nobody else did, but when they will be given an opportunity, they will choose to fight.
God wants us to embrace and internalize His law of love (Romans 13:8-10). God desires that we obey His law willingly and cheerfully—without compulsion or fear of punishment. God will not bring us into His Family, if we only obey Him because we have to. God lives the Way of give, because love is the outgoing concern for the welfare and benefit of others. And so, God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7)—someone who loves to give willingly (compare Exodus 25:2). God loves someone who understands that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). God has always loved His Son (Matthew 3:17), but He GAVE Him for the salvation of the world (John 3:16). In addition, Christ laid down and GAVE His life for us (John 10:17; Mathew 20:28). Nobody forced the Father and the Son to do this; they did it willingly and joyfully for our benefit. We are to be living sacrifices as well (Romans 12:1), giving of ourselves to others. Somebody who gives, but does it grudgingly and under compulsion, does not really live the WAY of give and does not really have God’s love in his heart (compare Romans 5:5). Such a person wants to really live the way of get, and he will do so once the opportunity presents itself.
When God’s law is written in our hearts, then we will live the Way of love and of give, and we will do so joyfully and happily. We will love the truth (compare 2 Thessalonians 2:10) and we will love God’s law (Psalm 119:97). We will love to honor and praise God as our ONLY God, rather than choosing other gods and using God’s Name in vain; and we will love to keep God’s weekly and annual Holy Days. We will love to honor our parents; to always tell the truth; to give to others rather than stealing from them; and to respect the marriage of others rather than committing adultery with our neighbor’s husband or wife. We will love to give others joy and happiness rather than killing them; and to rejoice when others are blessed, sharing actively in their joy, rather than envying them and being willing to take from them what they have.
God owns everything, and He wants to give and share everything with us. His law is written on His heart, and He wants to write it on our hearts too. We must allow Him to do so, and then we will be fulfilling God’s law by loving Him with ALL of our heart, and our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40).
Lead Writer: Norbert Link