Dan Popp
Law is for the lawless
By Dan Popp
May 27, 2015

There's a marvelous passage of Scripture that reveals how far we've drifted from the true understanding of law.
    But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. (1 Timothy 1:8-11, NKJV)
The context is this: Once again false teachers were preaching legalism in order to kill grace in the lives of believers (see verses 3-7 of this chapter). Paul writes, as he writes in so many of his letters, that if Christians try to incorporate the ceremonial Jewish laws – circumcision, feast days, kosher diets and all that – then we've stepped out of the New Covenant of grace. In order to make this argument he goes back to the most basic facts about law – all law.

But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully...

Not only can we humans write unjust laws, we can enforce good laws in such a way that they work evil.

...knowing this...

We're about to read the premise of Paul's argument, not the argument itself. He assumes that all Christians, all Jews, all pagans – all civilized adults – agree on the following:

...the law is not made for a righteous person...

It is patently absurd, Paul says, to authorize force against a moral person. And yet this insane type of wickedness is the operating principle of many leftist programs, from Social Security to Obamacare mandates.

...but for the lawless...

Please ponder that. Law is made for (or set against) the lawless. The remedy for a lawless person is to feel the full weight of just laws. Many conservatives make a self-refuting argument against gun control laws: Criminals don't obey laws, therefore [gun control] laws are useless. I complained about this in an article called Conservatives arguing badly. No, God says, law is for the lawless. If there's anything an evil person needs, it's the law, and if there's any justification for law it's that lawbreakers exist.

...and insubordinate.

Other translations render this unruly, or rebellious. Authority is a big thing with the Almighty. If you just can't seem to submit to the people God has placed over you, you're one of the people on whom the hammer of the law must fall.

...for the ungodly and for sinners...

"The word used here is the common word to denote sinners. It is general, and includes sins of all kinds," wrote commentator Albert Barnes.

...for the unholy and profane...

William F. Beck translates this poetically, those who live unholy lives and insult holy things. In this list we can see a vague outline of the Ten Commandments. The preceding types of criminals are violators of the first tablet of the Law, Commandments 1 through 4 – the statutes pertaining to God. From here on out, we'll read about offenders against man, violators of the second tablet.

...for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers...

This is where some people would begin the list. Here we finally read of a crime involving physical force against another human being. To these uncivilized folks, God doesn't count, you see? When you feel that all the offenses on this list are as easy a case for the application of law as murder, you'll be receiving the impression that the writer intended.

...for fornicators, for sodomites...

Oh, my. "Consenting adults" can be the proper objects of the force of law. Says God. Says civilized people.

...for kidnappers...

Some translations read enslavers or slave traders.

...for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.

Now, someone will say that I'm advocating a theocracy (ignoring the fact that we're living under an anti-Christian theocracy at the moment); that I want to have people stoned for making a sandwich on Sunday and so forth. No, of course there can be ecclesiastical laws enforced by the church and civil laws enforced by the state. But if we leave to the church the first six types of transgressors – the lawless, the insubordinate, the ungodly, sinners, the unholy and the profane – that leaves the state to afflict murderers, fornicators, sodomites, kidnappers, liars and perjurers, as well as thieves, coveters and more.

When the United States was a Christian nation we had laws against fornication and sodomy. Adultery, too. Why? Because those are rightful occasions for the imposition of law. Americans once believed that, if the threat of the wrath of the state could spare a person some measure of the wrath of God, that was a good and legitimate use of government power.

If we want to renew America, we can only do it by renewing our minds to the revelation of God, and restoring the ancient moral markers. We can't renew something that has never been, and can never be.

Thus says the LORD: "Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.' (Jeremiah 6:16)

© Dan Popp


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