Law and Sin

By H.E. Phillips

“Whoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). Sin is related to law. Law reflects authority. Authority resides in a person or persons, and signifies the character, power and will of the person who holds the authority. That authority is expressed in law. All crime and civil disobedience is a transgression of law, which is rejection of properly constituted authority. Often some who hold some positions of delegated authority are so enamored with power that they abuse it. Generally those who disobey the law hold contempt for the person or persons who have the authority.

Meaning Of Law

“Law” (nomos) means “to divide, distribute, apportion”… “any-thing established, anything received by usage, a custom, usage, law …” In the New Testament it is used of “a command, law; and 1. of any law whatever”…”a law or rule producing a state approved of God” (Thayer). It is a rule or principle established by authority.

“Law” under consideration in this article refers to the commandments, conditions and directives from God to mankind. In the New Testament we use it to refer to the gospel given through Jesus Christ. This divine law is known as the word of the truth of the gospel (Col. 1:5). It is the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). It is called the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). It is called the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25). It is called the royal law (James 2:8). It is the law of faith (Rom. 3:27). It is the “engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). It is the faith as opposed to the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:23). It is the perfect law, converting the soul (Ps. 19:7). It is the scriptures inspired of God (2 Tim. 3:16,17). It is all sufficient to perfect a man unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:16,17). How does it perfect a man unto every good work if he does not have to obey it? It is eternal. Jesus said his word would not pass away (Matt. 24:35). It is the word of God that lives and abides forever (I Pet. 1:25). It is the word of Christ which will never pass away (Matt. 24:35; 1 Pet. I:25).The law of Christ is powerful (Heb. 4:12). It is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). How does this power work if one can be saved without obeying the word?

All Authority Is Given To Christ

The word of God is his law; he spoke to us through Christ: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Heb. 1:1,2).

In the eternal purpose of God, Jesus Christ has all authority. He said: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:18-20). He is at the right hand of God “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, … And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:21-22).

James said: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). He is guilty of all because he is separated from God as if he had rejected every point of the law. Besides, he rejects the authority behind the law, and thus becomes guilty of the whole law. He suffers the consequences of his disobedience as if he despised the entire authority behind the law.

Christ was made the lawgiver like unto Moses: “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days” (Acts 3:22-24).

Jesus said that those who reject him and his words, will be judged by his word at the last day: “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, bath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

Meaning Of Sin

Sin separates man from God (Isa. 59:1,2). If there were no sin, no one would be separated from God, and salvation through Christ would be unnecessary. Since sin is in the world, and sin has passed upon all men for that all have sinned (Rom. 5:12), it was necessary that Christ come to this world and die that men might be saved. That is the meritorious cause of our salvation. He died for all men; he died while we were yet sinners: separated from God by sin (Rom. 5:8). Law is involved in man’s salvation because if there were no law, there would be no sin. But since sin is here now, there must be law now. Since all sin is against God, the law must be of God. I do not understand why all men who acknowledge the existence of sin would not admit that divine law exists, and that man has transgressed that law. He rejected the law of Christ and thereby rejected God because he did not keep his laws.

Sin means to miss the mark. The mark is to be in harmony with the mind of God. That is possible only by knowing the mind of God. His mind is revealed by the Spirit through the words given to the apostles (1 Cor. 2:9-13). God speaks to us in this age through Christ, and we can go to the Father only through Christ (Heb. 1:1,2; John 14:6). When one fails to do that, he misses the mark. Christ gave commandments to the apostles on the day of Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ (Acts 1:2, 8; 2:1-4).

The law is not sin, but it defines sin (Rom. 7:7-14). Sin is defined by scripture as “transgression of the law.” “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). “Transgress” is to go aside, overstep, go beyond; it has reference to a breach of law. “But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors” (James 2:9).

It is “unrighteousness.” “All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death” (1 John 5:17). “Unrighteousness” is injustice, iniquity; literally, lawlessness, without law. This is called sin. Such will be cast away from Christ in eternity (Matt. 7:23).

Sin transgresses the law by not doing what the law requires of him. “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). The lesson from the judgment scene in Matthew 25:41-46 is the damnation of those who did not do what the law of the Lord required of them.

Those who have doubt about their attitude and conduct are sinning when they believe they are doing wrong. To do or say anything that one believes to be wrong, he is wrong. He is sinning. One may be wrong when he thinks he is doing right, but when he does anything that he believes is wrong, he sins. “And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).

Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 24, p. 3-4
December 16, 1993