CAN HUMANITY OBEY MORAL ABSOLUTES WITHOUT GOD’S HELP?
Sermonette 6-3-06 Ann Arbor, MI UCG Eric Snow
When were the Ten Commandments given? We know from Scripture that they were given in the third month after Israel left Egypt. We know Jewish tradition says they were given the law on what we call Pentecost. But was having knowledge of God’s will from the law enough to morally transform people? We know the Bible’s answer to that question. How well did Israel obey God’s law historically? Normally pretty miserably.
Since Pentecost starts tonight, we should look at why God had to promise a new covenant would come to replace the old covenant.
S.P.S. Because knowing right from wrong isn’t enough by itself to ensure we obey God’s law, God had to send the Holy Spirit to give us the power to help us obey it also.
V. 6: Old covenant: Israel promised to obey God’s law in exchange for material promises of prosperity. Not about eternal life.
V. 8: Fault found with people in particular.
V. 9: Disobedience causes need for new covenant.
V. 10: Says nothing about changing the contents of the law, incidentally. So far as reveals, could say, “Law against eating unclean meat written on heart.” Must look elsewhere to know that.
Why bring this up? Problem of lack of obedience even to laws known by human reason. Natural law’s limits:
In making the case against what two moral relativists wrote, C.S. Lewis observed: “Their scepticism about values is on the surface: it is for use on other people’s values: about the values current in their own set they are not nearly sceptical enough.” (Abolition of Man, p. 41) Deep down, everybody believes in moral absolutes and rejects moral relativism. You just have to ask enough questions of an alleged relativist to prove this. For example, suppose a cultural relativist someone argues that because a certain tribe in the South Pacific has sex outside of marriage, therefore, we can too. Their culture’s heritage, tradition. I would respond they had a culture or tradition in South Africa in the past of racism that was codified into apartheid. Does that mean we can bring back Jim Crow, and legal segregation?
Victorian vs. contemporary inversal of racism and sexual immorality as main thing to condemn obsessively. Term “racism” not coined in English until 1930s.
God doesn’t let us just struggle on our own, but helps us actually obey.
V. 3: Since flesh weak, knowledge of God’s law not enough. Need spiritual help from God to obey it also.
V. 11: Holy Spirit is promise of eternal life conditionally.
V. 13: Spirit helps us to literally obey God. Not imputed righteousness here, but imparted.
If unbaptized, shouldn’t be surprised if you have trouble in obeying God’s law. Although changing life before baptism is good, you’ll soon hit a “wall” beyond which further improvement difficult or impossible.
Conclusion: On Pentecost, God gave to a small called-out section of humanity the power to obey Him. We couldn’t obey His law on our own, but we need the Holy Spirit to do so. The failure of people in the world to obey the laws they know by human reason shows humanity needs spiritual power to obey even the moral absolutes known by human reason. Ancient Israel proved by human experience that knowing the law isn’t enough to obey it. Fleshly Israel failed where spiritual Israel will succeed. Therefore, let us turn to God, such as by being baptized and receiving the laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit, to get His help in obeying His law.