“Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” (Revelation 14: 12)
By Peter C. Coker
In modern Christian thought, reasoning from man to man very often gets confused with certain modes of “god-speak;” if it sounds as though it may or should be loving, it must therefore be godly. This attitude, however, does not always consider the true nature of God, and the nature of His holy and righteous standards as comprehensively expressed in His law-word. This is why we are taught to be like the “Bereans,” reasoning from the scriptures — and to “examine the scriptures daily whether these things are so.” Without this reasoning from the Scriptures, Christianity can end up adopting traditions of men and developing unscriptural commandments that are based on human philosophy, psychology, and false faiths.
For example: In considering the notion that Old Testament law was only intended for the Ancient Jews, we need to examine biblically how the commandments revealed to Moses, affected other nations and peoples as well. Some have said that God’s Law and commands applied only to Israel; and, have further stated, “nowhere in the Bible are Gentiles (or nonbelievers) ever condemned for not keeping the law of Moses.” In other words, the Mosaic Law and God’s government was meant for Israel alone. Further extended, the implication is that modern governments have no accountability to God’s divine laws today.
It should first be noted that even prior to the Law being revealed to Moses, the conduct of the “ungodly,” was condemned by God according to the standards of the law that He later revealed through Moses. The most glaring example of this is the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, and their surrounding cities. This dramatic and momentous event was a judgment upon Gentiles who engaged in unrighteous wicked conduct, which was a daily torment (2 Ptr. 2: 7) to Abraham’s nephew, Lot. In the New Testament [the Apostle] Peter described the wicked behavior of the Sodomites as “lawless works” and described the men’s behavior as, “the lawlessness of the city.” God charged that their sexual immorality was an abomination and the entire region was ultimately condemned and judged for behaving contrary to God’s divine law.
St. Jude adds that God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah also serves as an example to all. As the Apostle Paul reiterated, even the Gentiles “know the ordinance of God that those who practice such things are worthy of death” (Romans 1:32).
After God revealed His law and statutes to Moses, He also declared He would hold the Gentile tribes of Palestine accountable to the same Mosaic Law given to the Israelites. Consider what Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen observed about Leviticus 18:
[The chapter begins with God speaking to Israel through Moses and prohibiting the Israelites from doing the kind of things which are done in Egypt and in Canaan: “After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein you dwelt, you shall not do; and after the doings of the land of Canaan where I will bring you, you shall not do; neither shall you walk in their statutes. You shall do My ordinances…”(vv. 3-4). God then issues a series of specific prohibitions of things done by the Gentile Palestinians. He commands the Israelites that they must not engage in incest, polygamy, adultery, child sacrifice, profaning Jehovah’s name, homosexuality, or bestiality (vv. 6-23).]
The Mosaic Law forbade all such conduct and it was to be severely punished. Immediately following the long list of prohibitions, God’s word in Leviticus 18 goes on with these pointed words:
“Do not defile yourselves in any of these things for in all these things the nations are defiled which I cast out from before you; and the land is defiled. Therefore, I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land shall vomit out her inhabitants. You therefore shall keep My statutes and My ordinances, and shall not do any of these abominations… (for all these abominations have the men of the land done that were before you, and the land is defiled), lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, even as it vomits out the nation which was before you (vv. 24-28).”
God’s divine punishment, judgment, and expulsion of the Gentiles from the land of Palestine were due to their abominable actions which God’s law condemned and prohibited. The very law God revealed to Israel was the same law with which God judged the Gentiles; as well as the same punishments and penalties for violating it. Violation to God’s law is universal as is a duty to obey it.
God’s law was not only a judgment to the Gentiles, it was also a witness to wisdom and light (Deut. 4: 6-8; Isaiah 51: 4). Because God was the supreme governor and judge of the world, King David desired to speak God’s law before the Gentile kings and declare that God reproves nations according to His law (Ps. 119: 46; 94: 10,12). King David also condemned “all the wicked of the earth” who “stray from (God’s) statutes” (Ps. 119: 118, 119).
The universality of God’s law was also presupposed by Ezra’s praise of Artaxerxes for having God’s law taught and enforced in lands exceeding the boundaries of Israel: “And whosoever shall not do the law of God and the law of the king, let judgment be executed upon him with all diligence, whether it be unto death or banishment or confiscation of goods or imprisonment” (Ezra 7:14-26).
J.H. Bavinck has said this about the universality of God’s law:
“It is striking how frequently the other nations are called upon in the Psalms to recognize and to honor God, and how complete is the witness of the prophets against the nations surrounding Israel. God does not exempt other nations from the claim of His righteousness; he requires their obedience and holds them responsible for their apostasy and degeneration” (Air Introduction to the Science of Missions [Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1961, pp. 12-13).
The Prophets of God proclaimed and longed-for the Gentile nations to turn to the true God and his law. As the law of Jehovah became the recognized standard by which God would judge among the nations, it would bring them to the way of international peace (Isaiah 2: 2-4). As proverbs says: “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Prov. 14: 34).
The prophet Amos condemned the Gentile nations that surrounded Judah for their overall brutality and cruelty, as well as: (1) engaging in slave trafficking; (2) violations against protecting pregnant women; (3) and for defiling the corpse of a criminal.
The prophet Nahum preached against the wickedness of the city of Nineveh, capital of the Assyrian empire. Nahum denounced their sin of witchcraft, repeatedly condemned in the scriptures.
Habakkuk prophesied against Babylon for: dishonesty, exploitation, violence, debauchery, and its idolatry in making graven images.
New Testament Examples
In the New Testament, we see John the Baptist condemn territorial ruler Herod Antipas for his violation of the scriptural marriage laws. Herod had married the wife of his half-brother, Philip, and both were already married. John the Baptist openly confronted and condemned Herod’s violation of God’s law despite the fact that Herod was a Gentile.
In the Book of Revelation, St. John refers to the Gentile ruler known as “the Beast” whom the Lord will punish for trying to replace God’s law with his own law (Rev. 13: 16-17). The Apostle Paul also referred to this same Gentile ruler as a “lawless” man (2 Thess. 2: 3). God’s judgment came upon this man in spite of the fact that he was a Gentile – because he would not keep the law of God – which both John and Paul recognized as revealed through Moses.
In the Scriptures there are many examples of Gentiles, those outside of the faith, who are still held accountable to the moral obligations of the Mosaic Law. These examples cannot be refuted by claiming they are under general revelation or natural revelation; these are clearly, case examples that fall in the category of God’s special revelation.
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whomever has been born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments. For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” (1 John 5: 1-4)
“For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.” (1 Corinthians 7: 19)