The Need for Law- Summary

When one wishes to have the gospel in their lives, but not its laws, it is often due to an image of an exacting and punishing taskmaster God versus that of a loving and forgiving father. There is no question that the law of Moses given in the Old Testament was strict and severe, and yet we say that it was given by the same God who stated “as I have loved you, so you must love one another.” One tries to resolve these two images, and finds themselves asking so does God hate the sinner? Or does He love His wayward child?
In the process of this study I have come to the conclusion that this is a false dilemma. Strict commandments do not preclude the caring compassion of a father, and the giving of commandments is a greater act of love than sweeping misdeeds under the rug. There is probably more to be explored on the matter, but for the topic of this study it is enough to know that the laws of God are given as an act of kindness.
Having a proper understanding of these laws puts to rest so many of the fears related to them. Our concerns stem more from misinterpretation than disagreement. Let’s take a look at some of the fundamental principles of law, and how they truly are designed for our benefit.

Law is Inevitable

Societies have experimented with anarchy from time to time, and always to disastrous effect. Notably, anarchy does not survive. There never has been a successful and lasting nation that was not structured on some sort of government or law. Even on the most basic level, it is in our nature to band together under clans and tribes, to submit to a set of rules, and to function as a society.
Even more than this, though, we belong to a world of order and rigidity. Physical laws govern every material interaction of our lives, and provide us a sense of dependability. Were it not for the presence of natural law, all would be chaos, and life would be impossible. Our very existence depends on there being a set of universal rules.
And there is still more. For we are not only material bodies, but also composed of an immortal spirit. These spirits are the creation of God, and therefore inherently bound to the laws of heaven. That is their natural place to dwell, and so must adhere to its commandments or else divorce themselves from it.
Thus it is necessary for us, first and foremost, to recognize the parts that we are made of, and from the recognition of our nature, then accept the laws that inevitably apply to us. To live without law would be to stop being what we fundamentally are.
John 3:5-6- Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Mark 12:14, 17- And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, or not?
And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.

Laws Inherently Divide

Inherent in law is the division between those that adhere to its commandments, and those that defy them. To be a law, there must be two states of recompense defined and exacted: reward for those that obey the law, and penalty for those that do not. If these qualities are absent, then there are not any laws, only a list of suggestions.
Thus the laws of our government have punishments defined for those that break them, and securities promised to those that follow. Those that respect the laws of physics will enjoy a life far freer from pain than those that pay them no mind. And so, too, our spirits suffer or thrive dependent on our adherence to divine law.
Our problem, of course, is that we are all doomed to fall on the wrong side of natural and divine law. If we possessed a never-ending source of power we could stave off entropy, and maintain our body’s vitality forever. But we do not. And if we had perfect self control we could resist every temptation, and maintain our spirit’s purity forever. But we do not. Instead we are all bound for the grave and bound for hell. The temporary benefits of predictability and structure that these laws give us in mortal life, come at the cost of eternal woe afterwards.
2 Nephi 2:5- And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.
2 Nephi 2:13- And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.

The Law of Christ Spares Us

However, if the terms of these first laws have been satisfied, then a new law can be erected in their place. Thus, to our fallen state came Jesus Christ, sent to atone for our sins, sent to die the death of our mortality, who then turned and offered us resurrection and forgiveness instead. He did so, under the domain of a new law, his law.
But as we have already noted, for this to be a law it must have terms and commandments, which provide reward for their fulfillment, and punishment for their transgression. The rewards for Christ’s law are resurrection and forgiveness, the punishment is simply to default back to the hell required by our inability to perfectly follow divine law.
But this new law could only be beneficial to us if we are aware of it, and knew how to make use of it. And thus the gospel was written out and given to us in the form of scripture. Thus our conscience was instilled in our hearts. Thus teachers and guides were inspired to direct and educate us. All of these were provided for the express purpose of teaching us us the terms and conditions of this new law. In these sources we find every stipulation laid out in exhaustive detail. We learn over and over again that the law of Christ requires us to have faith in him, to repent of our sins, to enter into a covenant by baptism, and ever recommit to following him when we fall short of his example.
If we do these few things, then the saving of our souls is sure.
Luke 4:18- The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.
Isaiah 51:4-5- Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.
My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust.

Romans 8:2- For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

The Need for Law- 1 Timothy 2:5, Ephesians 2:13-15

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

COMMENTARY

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus
We have considered how Jesus Christ came between humanity and the damning consequences of our laws to offer a mediation. Having fulfilled all of the requirements of mortal and divine law, one can only assume that Jesus was free to make the terms of his new law be whatever he wished.
If it had been his intention to still surrender us to the torment of damnation, who could deny that he had the right? Or if it had been his intention to liberally grant salvation to everyone regardless of their behavior, again who could deny that he had the right? Or if his intention had been anywhere in between, who could question it?
Obviously not all of these possibilities can be true, but the point is that Jesus was free to set his own terms, and whatever terms he chose, they would become our new immutable law if we chose it. Whatever he thinks it is that we need to do to achieve salvation, that is what we need to do.

He hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us
For to make in himself of twain one new man

So what is it that Jesus wants to do? Does he want to save us all? Well yes, of course, but that is not all. As we see in these verses from Ephesians, Jesus wants to bridge the gap between us and God. He wants to break the wall between frailty and perfection, and teach us flawed souls the way to be pure. He wants to make new men and women out of us, so that we do not only live in heaven, but belong in heaven.
And as we review the terms that Christ did ultimately choose for his law, we will see that they were selected specifically for their effect of changing sinful people into something holy.

The Need for Law- The Three Laws

I’ve spent these last few posts discussing a different laws, their origins and their destinations, and it has been a pretty organic, free-flowing conversation. And while everything I wrote made sense in my own head, I imagine it might have been a bit confusing to follow. Having muddled out all the details for myself, I think it would now be worthwhile to spell things out more clearly.

These are the three different laws that govern our lives as I understand them. The scriptural references to support them are included throughout my previous posts. It is, of course, entirely possible that I am misaligned in some way though. Spiritual study, after all, is a process of constant refinement.

Mortal Law

What I mean by mortal law is the balance of nature that rules our world. These are the purely physical forces that define gravity, magnetism, chemical and nuclear reaction, and all the other natural interactions that make our universe the way that it is. These laws are observable with our physical senses, and can be measured and studied. They are consistent and reliable, as every universal law is.

These laws provide wonderful benefits to us. They allow the matter of our planet to have coalesced into a singular body, they keep it moving in a steady orbit, they retain a breathable atmosphere around us, and they also maintain every other requirement to make our lives possible.

These laws are fair in that they apply equally and universally to all. However they give no assurances for social, moral, or karmic justice. That is entirely outside of their domain. And so the lazy might prosper and the industrious come to ruin. The guilty might be exonerated and the innocent condemned. The unhealthy might survive and the healthy die young.

But whether rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy, good or evil, wise or foolish…the mortal law brings all to the same conclusion. Death, entropy, eternal silence. Under this law we all share the common destiny of ceasing all existence forever.

Divine Law

Divine law is where the influence of God enters the mortal realm. As such, it directly addresses the limitations of the mortal law. While the wicked may still prosper under the worldly domain, divine law now requires that they will be stung in their conscience. While the pure-hearted may still die young, divine law assures that they can pass in peace.

To put it simply, where mortal law governs our bodies, divine law’s domain is that of the spirit and soul. And just as how mortal law applies the same rules to each body equally, divine law weighs on each spirit equally, too. No good deed goes without a sense of fulfillment, no evil deed goes without a stinging of the conscience.

And where mortal law consigns us all to the grave, divine law picks us up from that one destiny and turns it into two. It ushers the immortal spirit either into a paradise or into a hell, depending on whether its precepts and commandments were obeyed or not. The problem here is that we, given our fallen nature, have each disobeyed the commandments of divine law, and thus are destined for hell.

Christ’s Law

And here we see the need for one more law. From mortal law our bodies are destined to die, and from divine law are spirits are destined to hell. The final act of everyone’s story is an inescapable tragedy.

Christ’s purpose is to answer the demands of both laws and to offer us a third in their place. He accomplishes this in three steps.

First, he adopts us as his children. To everyone that is willing, he takes us under his wing, and makes himself culpable for our errors, and us worthy of his virtues. Any punishment we receive he may take for us, and any reward he receives he may give to us.

Second, he pays for our crimes. He died to the mortal law and he was condemned by divine law. In Gethsemane he suffered the pain of a soul damned to hell. On Calvary he suffered the death of his body.

Third, he rises above his own death and condemnation, so that he can continue as our adoptive father, able to govern us and give grace as he sees fit.

Unlike the first two laws, this third one from Christ is entirely optional. We may refuse it if we wish. That is fine, we will simply remain under the purview of divine law, still consigned to hell. On the other hand, we may accept his law, and as a result our destination can be changed to life and paradise. He resurrects our bodies back from the grave, and he rescues our spirits from the clutches of hell*.

Of course accepting his law now means living that law’s precepts and commandments. Unlike divine law, those commandments are not total perfection, but they do expect particular behavior from us. The good news is that they are behaviors which we actually can satisfy. We will begin examining exactly what they are with the next post.

*Because the mortal law was not chosen by us, but by our first parents Adam and Eve, Christ provides an escape from it for everyone. Even those that reject Christ’s law will have the benefit of resurrection. This is only fair.
Our individual failure to fulfill divine law, however, is on our own heads, and so reclamation from hell is dependent on whether we accept Christ’s law or not.

The Need for Law- Romans 8:2-4

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

COMMENTARY

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
Yesterday we considered how God gave us His Law, which took us from the destiny of the grave, and split that into two paths, one towards salvation and one towards damnation. The problem, though, was that each of us breaks God’s Law, which consigns us to the path of damnation, an even worse situation that what we were in before.
But God’s plan did not end here. In addition to putting His Law upon us He provided a Savior as well. In a previous study we examined how Christ is able to pay for the demands and punishments of every law. Yes, each of us breaks God’s Law, but now it is Christ who is consigned to our damnation, having taken that burden upon himself as part of his atoning sacrifice.
Thus, as Paul suggests, we are free at last from both the law of death (required by mortal law) and the law of sin (required by divine law).

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.
It is important for us to acknowledge and appreciate the doom of mortality’s law and the strictness of divine law, but now we do not have to regard them or their condemnations as our own. Now, if we will allow it, we can subscribe to the law which Paul called “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ.” And if we satisfy the demands of this third law (and this one, thankfully, we can satisfy the terms of!), then we avoid the two terrible destinations of death and hell, and may instead access the third destination, the one that we desire.
It took the quite process to get here, but at last we have the option to obtain resurrection, forgiveness, and salvation with God.

The Captive Heart- Summary

The purpose of this study was to consider all the different ways in which we become lost or broken, and how the atonement of Jesus Christ addresses each of these issues. Through this study I have gained a greater appreciation for how multifaceted that sacrifice was, and how it fulfills many laws and overcomes many challenges and defeats many enemies all at once in order to rescue us.
For each one of us has been lost and broken in many and unique ways, and your remedy must be different than mine. We require a surgeon who is prepared to care for every kind of wound, and every combination of wounds.
I was also struck during my study by how deeply aware the gospel is of this situation. I found that the scriptures, which written millennia ago, already held the answers to questions that I only thought to ask today. Let us review what those questions and answers were.

We Are Broken and Lost in Diverse Ways

As suggested above, we are each wounded in unique and diverse ways. During the course of this study I broadly described those wounds under three categories: wounds that we inflict upon ourselves, wounds that are inflicted on us by others, and wounds that are inflicted on us by the fallen world. Without exception, each of us is broken under each of these categories.
But, of course, each category can itself be expanded into innumerable instances, each of which comes with its own individual heartache. The regret of telling a lie is different from the guilt of giving in to lust, which is different from the pain of being insulted, which is different from the shock of losing a loved one, etc.
Heaven is a place of perfect cleanliness, perfect peace, and perfect joy. And as such, we are ill fitted for it if we are filthy, or conflicted, or even sad. Which, of course, we all are. Not only that, but we are filthy without the power to clean ourselves, conflicted without the power to mediate our own peace, and sad without the power to give ourselves lasting joy. We are not only lost, we are lost without any power to find the path back.
Isaiah 53:6- All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.
John 5:6-7- When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.

Being Broken is Mandatory in a Fallen World

Our hubris is that we so often think we can do something about this brokenness. We believe that if we exercise enough self control, we will never sin. We think that if we wall off our heart, we will never be hurt by another. We hope that if we take enough precautions, we will never fall to the misfortunes of the world. And if we have already suffered any wounds, we tell ourselves that we can work around them, or else that we’ve cured them by sheer force of will. In other words, we live in supreme denial.
Mortals trying to defy gods. Just who do we think it is that we are trying to bowl over with our grit and spunk? Our foes are Satan, human nature, and the very world, beings and forces that are immortal, that have broken men long before our birth and will continue to do so long after our death.
Which death we should make special note of. Each of us was born, and therefore subscribed ourselves to entropy and deterioration. We will decay until everything is broken. We must. It is not that it is hard to resist, it is that it is impossible. We were born into it, and the frantic way in which we try to control this world only proves how fully we live under its fear, and therefore under its power.
Isaiah 2:22 (TLB)- Puny man! Frail as his breath! Don’t ever put your trust in him!
Job 38:31-33- Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?

The Laws of the World Must be Fulfilled

But then, perhaps we aren’t as foolish as all that. Perhaps all of our hustle and bustle is due to a true intuition that burns inside. Even though this world is unfair, in our hearts we know that there should be order and balance. Even though others hurt us, in our hearts we know that there should be healing. Even though we let ourselves down, we know that there should be second chances. There is a seed of divinity in us, and it refuses to accept the terms of fallen mortality.
And this is not wrong. We were given that fire in order to seek our own better nature, and to be agitated into seeking salvation from our own brokenness. We just need to stop trying to save ourselves by our own power, and start looking for a method that actually works.
Jesus Christ is the mediator between the laws of the fallen world, and the divine law that burns in our hearts. He is uniquely capable to satisfy both without denying either.
And so, even though we will sin and that sin must be matched with damnation, Christ has already endured the depths of hell in Gethsemane, that law is therefore fulfilled, and we can have the second chance that our heart knows we should. And even though we will be hurt by others, which our mortal justice requires retaliation for, that retaliation is given to Christ instead, that law is fulfilled, and we obtain healing for our hurt and forgiveness for our hurter. And even though we will suffer sickness and death, Jesus has also endured that death, that law is fulfilled, and we will obtain a resurrection.
In this life, all the demands of mortal law have been fulfilled, and whether in this life or the next, all the expectations of our divine soul will be fulfilled as well.
Luke 4:18- The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.
John 16:33- These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Revelation 21:4- And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.