Vol.II No.X Pg.7
November 1965

Queries And Answers

Robert F. Turner

Dear bro. Turner:

Please discuss the meaning of the "moral" law.


The term "moral" is evidently undergoing some changes -- at least in the minds of brethren -- so much so that without adequate definition many discussions are ambiguous. The term is not used in the Bible (in any version I have seen) although there are passages which seem to refer to that which is "right" by its nature.

Webster defines "moral" as "springing from, or pertaining to, man's natural sense or reasoned judgement of what is right or proper". Thus morals exist among people who have had no access to revelation, but their standards of morality will vary according to the people who develop them. These standards, enforced individually by the conscience, and upon the society by regulations self-imposed, make "moral law," apart from revelation.

But when we consider the laws of God (i.e., God's revealed will) we must carry our definition of "morals" much further. Divine regulations have to do with man's conduct in society as well as in his relation to God. It is inevitable that God's regulations will overlap, and perhaps even duplicate laws of such a nature as man has or would make for himself -- without revelation (Ex.: murder, theft, etc). Thus some revealed (Bible) laws may be classified as "moral" in nature, and yet occupy a different position from that of morals of society. When God gives a "moral" regulation the source of that law is such as to put it above human judgement. Changes in the customs and practices of men can not affect God's laws. They remain as given unless or until He sees fit to alter or remove them. Division of God's laws into "moral" and "positive" (while serving some good in study) is a man-made distinction, and must not be used as a rule for judging any of God's laws (JAM.4:11-12).

Space forbids a study of ROM.1:ff. here, but please note that the basic sin of the Gentiles ("without law") was their refusal to recognize and respond to the information God made known to them in creation -- ("things that are made") namely: (1) God's eternal power; and (2) His Godhead, or Divinity -- Deityship. Because they "glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful" (ROM.1:21). He "gave them up" to immoralities (1:24,26,28).

Apparently God expected these Gentiles to (1) recognize the existence of a Creator; (2) accept this Creator as something more than man -- worthy of worship and service -- and (3) within the imposing boundaries of such a conception, to live discreet, moral ("by nature" "conscience" ROM.2:14-f.) lives, until the time came to further reveal unto them His will.

We are in deep water here (let us hope we do not confuse "muddy" water with depth) and it is wise to move with caution. I fear that some have jumped boldly into discussions of the "moral law" without making adequate preparations. Personally, I feel my inadequacy on this great subject.