In the Bible the law is spoken of in two different ways. The law can mean rules and restrictions enforced by means of judgments and punishments meted out by another or it can mean an unavoidable and unchanging definition of reality. The former is what I refer to as expedient law; it serves a temporal and often local purpose. The latter is what I call natural law. Expedient law is the basis for a legal system with all the attendant trappings: an interpretive system, a judicial system, and an enforcement system. Natural law, on the other hand, is universal, unchanging, and requires no such ancillary support systems. Natural law is woven inexorably into the fabric of creation and is, in the elemental sense, a reflection of the very nature of God. The word principle is perhaps a better term for natural law.
An analogous situation exists in our every day experience. We live under numerous laws which involve human judgments and punishments. Man declares a rule and enforces compliance by attaching negative consequences which are enacted through human intervention. Then there exist other laws, which are instilled in the fabric of the physical universe which man had no voice in establishing and that require no human enforcement action. These laws just are and their consequences are unavoidable and sure.
The consequences of violating the rules enforced by men are uncertain at best. You might not get caught. The jury might see reasonable doubt. The judge could grant mercy. You could be wrongly accused and suffer anyway. The natural laws, which define reality, are very different. Their operation is fixed and their outcomes never vary. One can have perfect faith in operating in accordance with these principles.
In the Bible, the Law of Moses is an example of expedient law. It clearly constrained man with all the elements of a conventional legal system as noted above. This law applied directly only to the nation of
Man has always had two choices in constraining and motivating human behavior, love or fear. Largely man has chosen fear as his tool. The results of that choice are the true lessons of history. Jesus said that love was the proper choice, being in agreement with the natural law governing humanity’s ultimate potential. The ethics expounded in the Sermon on the Mount are a synopsis of the message which Jesus came to deliver and the “natural law” that He revealed.