Humans cannot live indefinitely without order. As families and nations disintegrate before our eyes we need a message from heaven. We are floundering in our own folly; there is a need of wisdom from on high.
The breakdown of societies and the growing chaos highlight the human need for order. Where will restored order come from? It can only come from either outside or inside the individual. If people order their own lives, an increase in external order is unnecessary. But when people are lawless, when their own lives are in chaos, external order is required to suppress the chaos. More government, more laws, more police officers are required to impose order. In a word: tyranny.
The only alternative is revival and reformation, free citizens learning to govern themselves internally based on the word of God and the Spirit of God. The order is sourced in heaven. David reminds us of this in his beautiful Psalm 19. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), the Dutch theologian, lawyer and educational reformer, spoke bluntly about the need for Christian internal-self-government:
“He knows not how to rule a kingdom, that cannot manage a province; nor can he wield a province, that cannot order a city; nor he order a city, that knows not how to regulate a village. Not he a village, that cannot guide a family; not can that man govern well a family that knows not how to govern himself; not can he govern himself unless his reason be lord, will and apatite be vassals; nor can reason rule unless herself be ruled by God, and be obedient to Him.”
Here’s another way to put it: citizens must practice virtue. The American lexicographer, Noah Webster, defines virtue:
Moral goodness; the practice of moral duties and the abstaining from vice, or a conformity of life and conversation to the moral law….The practice of moral duties from sincere love to God and his laws, is virtue…. Virtue is nothing but voluntary obedience to truth (Noah Webster 1828).
Only as individual citizens and nations are self-governed will chaos be held at bay and freedom restored. Nations are to obey all that Jesus commanded. In Matthew 28:20 Christ calls for citizens to be free and self-governing. Paul remind us that nations are to obey the gospel (see Romans 16:25-27).
Note that Jesus says people are to obey all that He commanded. The comprehensive nature of this command is reflected in His accompanying claim to have “all authority in heaven and earth” (Matthew 28:18). Accordingly, the comprehensiveness of the Great Commission in that the church is to disciple all nations, teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded.
What is included in “all that [Jesus] commanded”? Rules of holy living? The Ten Commandments? Yes, and much more. Jesus has in view an expansive, comprehensive picture of revealed truth. His expression “all that I commanded” is to be understood in keeping with other statements he makes, including, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Mat 5:17-18 ESV)
As the great English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon put it, this is “not merely the law of Moses, but the doctrine of God, the whole run and rule of sacred Writ.” Likewise no less than John Calvin himself has said:
… under the term law, he not only means the rule of living righteously, or the Ten Commandments, but he also comprehends the covenant by which God had distinguished that people from the rest of the world, and the whole doctrine of Moses, the parts which he afterwards enumerates under the terms testimonies, statutes, and other names. … in short, the whole body of doctrine of which true religion and godliness consists.
This comprehensive understanding of the laws of God may be called the Ordinances of the Kingdom of God or the “House Laws” by which we, as God’s vice-regents, steward creation. It is these ordinances that create the infrastructure upon which individual lives and nations are built and flourish. These include:
- Physical laws – the physical world
- Moral Laws – human lives
- Metaphysical and Aesthetic laws
Into the midst of our broken world springs the beautiful and instructive Psalm 19 of David. Here we will find hope for our own healing and the healing of our nations.
- Darrow Miller
This post is second in a series of ten on Psalm 19.