God's Severity About Positive Law
By Fred O. Blakely
Because positive divine law is set before people as a demonstrable test of their submission to God, its ignorement or disobedience evokes the utmost severity from Him. At the very threshold of acceptance with the Father is the matter of absolute surrender to His will. In the positive commandments applicable to them, as distinguished from the moral ones, all are presented with the opportunity to render this unreserved and complete obedience. They will spend the rest of their time in the flesh struggling with the moral demands made upon them. In the positive requirements, however, they have something that they can do perfectly, and in so doing show the love for and devotion to God which they profess. Thus, to withhold such obedience constitutes the height of effrontery, and is so regarded by the heavenly Monarch.
Its Demonstration Against Adam and Eve. That God takes this view of the situation is clearly evidenced by the severity with which He through the centuries has dealt with disregard of His positive ordinances. The awful curse, as viewed from the flesh, laid on Adam and Eve was the first display of this severity. It was a positive command—"ye shall not eat of it" (Gen. 3:3) which they disobeyed. And for that one act of rebellion against God, they incurred the penalty of sin for themselves and their posterity, which penalty is suffering and death.
Its Display in Succeeding Generations. Succeeding generations continued to taste of the divine wrath because of light regard for legalistic demands of God upon them. Nadab and Abihu, the eldest sons of Aaron the high priest, "died before the Lord" because they presumed to offer "strange fire" before Him (Lev. 10:1-3). Moses and Aaron were banned from entrance into the promised land as a result of their having disobeyed one specific commandment (Deut. 32:49-51). Achan and his sons and daughters were summarily stoned to death for infraction of a positive ordinance (Josh. 7:1-26). The kingdom was rent from King Saul and given to David, his neighbor, for Saul's disobedience in offering sacrifices to God and in disregarding His command for slaughter of the Amalekites (I Sam. 13:8-14; 15:3, 9-23).
It was similar with the men of Bethshemesh. Because. in defiance of the law against such an act (Num. 4:20), they "looked into the ark of the Lord," which had been returned by the Philistines, God "smote" them, and they died (I Sam. 6:19). In tragic sequence of this frightful outpouring of divine wrath, Uzzah later was cut down for disregard of the legal instructions for handling of the ark. "God smote him" for his "error" when he "put forth his hand to the ark" to steady it under the shaking by the oxen which drew it (II Sam. 6:1-7). At first consideration, perhaps, it seemed as though Uzzah had "good intentions" in attempting to steady the ark of God. Be that as it may, he nevertheless was disregarding an express commandment given by the Lord, not to touch it.
Despite the otherwise good reign over Judah, King Uzziah likewise transgressed in the matter of the positive ordinance. He attempted to burn incense in the temple. which it was unlawful for any but the priests to do, and was instantly smitten by God with leprosy, and remained "a leper unto the day of his death" (II Chron. 26:16-21).
Its Application under the New Covenant. In this day when a great surge of "formless" religion is sweeping the land, these considerations are especially relevant. [The faith of the Lord Jesus Christ has been “morphed” by evil religious men into multitudinous forms that cater to the diversity of men’s lusts. Nevertheless, “there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him” (I Cor. 8:6). "Here, O Israel; the LORD our God is one LORD" (Deut. 6:4; Mk. 12:29)]
Under the new covenant, there are some positive commandments to be obeyed, as well as under the old one. The command to believe in the Father and the Son is itself such a requirement—certainly it is not a moral exaction (Mk. 11:22: Jn. 14:1; Acts 16:31). Whatever people may do about an external morality, they stand condemned before God until they have met this first and inexorable demand from Him (Jn. 3:18).
Confession of Christ with the mouth is also a positive requirement (Rom. 10: 9-10). A mere grunt of assent or the affirmative nodding of the head in response to a question concerning one's faith clearly does not meet this demand. The eunuch, it will be recalled, opened his mouth and declared, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:37).
Baptism climaxes the positive demands of God upon those who would flee to Jesus for refuge from "the wrath to come" (Matt. 3:7; Heb. 6:18). Those who make great claims of faith in and love for God and Christ and either defer their baptism or refuse to submit to the ordinance are on extremely dangerous ground. God is still the same. Certainly, He feels no less strongly about His positive ordinances under His Son than He did of those under His servant Moses.
The weekly communion of the body and blood of Christ which He enjoined upon His people is the family ordinance falling into the category of the positive. A casual or negligent attitude toward it cannot but provoke in God the same kind of wrathful attitude which He has so often demonstrated with regard to such disdainment.
Its Proper Ministry for Us. Seeing that we have these revelations of God, it is incumbent upon us to walk becomingly of them. Let us, as did the Apostle Paul, hasten to immediately do that which we can in obedience to God (Acts 26:19). It should rejoice our hearts, not burden them, that in this way we are able to wholly obey our Master and so please Him. With our commitment to Him thus publicly demonstrated, we are in a good way to begin and continue the advance in the grace that will be necessary to comply with those strict moral requirements which He makes of us. In disregard of the positive laws, however, we are publicly committed as rebels against God. And the whole of divine revelation warns awesomely of the wrath that will fall from heaven upon those who continue in such a state.