Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee. ~ Deuteronomy 6:17
In Deuteronomy 6:17–25, Moses again tells Israel, as if to make it a point of repeating himself over and over, that if they were to successfully conquer and inherit the land of Canaan, they had to keep the commandments of the Lord diligently. Apparently, Moses feared that if this new generation was not self-consciously mindful to apply the commandments of the law to the culture they were about to inhabit, they too would perish in the wilderness like their fathers before them.
It should have been obvious to Israel, at this point, that strict obedience to the commandments of God was extremely important, even urgent, if this new generation was to construct a God-honoring civilization. That was the goal. The construction of a God-honoring, scripturally-structured civilization was the goal for Israel then, and remains the goal for the Christian church today.
It was God’s intention that, through an obedient generation, He would reform and reconstruct the old pagan, disobedient, and unbelieving human race, along with its myriad of social institutions. This was to be a comprehensive reformation in order to subdue all things in obedience to His ethical law standard.
Moses is commanding this new generation to reform their thinking by diligently adhering to God’s ethical law-precepts in every area and institution of life, first in the life of the individual, then the family, certainly the church, but especially in the arena of governance. God’s ultimate goal was, and still is today, to raise up an obedient people in righteousness for the express purpose of civilization-building. As Deuteronomy 4:5–8 clearly points out:
Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?
The Hebrew republic was to be the universal model for all nations. It was to be the template of national righteousness, justice, and peace. Israel was commanded to have a working knowledge of the law of God and its express application to all things. It was by this policy that they would establish a righteous social order. Through the application of righteousness, equity, and justice, they would establish a God-honoring nation. They would build a civilization which would not only honor God and conform to the Biblical standards of the Almighty, but it would warrant the blessings of God, and by those blessings their culture would prosper and be at peace. The opposite is also true. Every civilization that is built upon the precepts and law-standard of man will not prosper. That model will be cursed. Ultimately God will bring about its demise and final destruction if it continues in rebellion.
Since all of life can be boiled down to religious assumptions, based upon certain theological presuppositions, every reformation is actually a religious reformation. Every civilization model is based upon some religious idea or assumption. It will be either a humanistic, man-centered reformation or a theo-centric, Christ-honoring reformation. A common ground is impossible. All spheres of life, therefore, are conformed and structured according to a religious ideology.
Mankind will think, act, and live according to his own particular religious presuppositions. Men will either be covenantally mindful of the supreme God, or covenantally rebellious before Him. God has not created a dualistic universe where there are things secular and things sacred. Nor has He created the universe and then left it to some naturalistic mechanism of law, as the Deists would suppose. There isn’t any situation whatsoever, where theological neutrality is an optional way of life. Every soul holds to some form of theology. Mankind’s philosophies, laws, politics, and traditions are all theologically grounded. The operating principle for man is either man is god or God is God.
If our nation (or any nation) is to experience a Biblical reformation, it must be comprehensive, as all reforms must be; otherwise, over time it will unravel. A Biblical reformation requires a strict adherence to the law-word of God in its ethical and juridical principles. Since all reformation is based upon a theological/religious presupposition, Biblical reform must first begin at the church.
Since the pulpit is the place where God meets with His people, teaching them and calling them to action, the church must be faithful in all of its teaching, equipping, and empowering its members in that task of civilization building. The church must lead in the revitalization and reformation of the American, even the international, culture.
Once the church fails in its prophetic and judicial obligations, the entire culture falls apart. Without the application of Christianity to all of life, the church withers and dies under the pressure of a pagan culture. The culture is the report card of the church. This is an essential lesson.
All reforms are fundamentally religious in nature, and therefore if America is to experience a Biblical reformation, it must begin at the house of God. The problem is that most churches are not even aware that a reformation is needed.
Even when it comes to a reformation of the legal system, and of the so called “God-given rights,” the church is central.
R.J. Rushdoony explains: “The source of all law in any system is not only the locale of sovereignty, but also the god of that system. God only is the true sovereign and the true source of law.”1
But an understanding of a thing without the application of it is useless. Israel was admonished to “keep” the Commandments, indicating the application thereof, with the statutes and the ordinances. The entire nation was to function within the parameters of a theo-centric matrix. Only in this way could they be assured God’s blessings. Moses explains that the people of God are to be culturally relevant by applying the Word of God to every area of life.
“Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” (Isa. 1:17)
These commands require action: cultural action to be performed within the real world in order to conform the real world to the image of God by His law.
“God’s purpose for us is not abstract knowledge of all things, but the knowledge of His revelations and for a specific purpose, that we may do all the words of this law.”2
There was to be an applied ideological, theological, and philosophical standard based upon God and His Word. Israel was to live under that presupposition. They could not be neutral. Since neutrality is a myth, that was impossible. Men will either adhere to the God of Scripture (the God of Sinai), or they will not. There is no middle ground.
Van Til declares:
“Either presuppose God and live, or presuppose yourself as ultimate and die. That is the alternative with which the Christian must challenge his fellow man.”3
The pressing question of the day is “What is the major problem facing the human race?” What has derailed the progress of Christendom? The answer: Man desires to be as God, and that problem is rampant even within the walls of the church.
Every aspect and sphere of life has its root and reason in God. There is nothing outside of His dominion. Scripture declares Him the undisputed Creator, Lord, and owner of all that exists. He has created all things, by Him all things exist, and therefore He defines all things. Man does not and is, in fact, unable to rightly define anything. All of man’s efforts are tainted by sin, fallible, unreliable, and exist in a whirlwind of flux. As a result, whenever man seeks to redefine reality according to his own fallen and fallible, rebellious reason, God brings negative sanctions in the form of judgment. The world then turns to anarchy, then chaos, and as a response to chaos the culture falls to tyranny. This is the path of our own nation and every nation that forgets God.
Obedience to God’s law-word was then for Israel, and remains even now for us, the core and kernel of a Biblical witness and the only security for liberty under God.
Moses insists that obedience to God’s law is something that must be done diligently.
Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee. (Deut. 6:17)
This diligence is a self-conscious act requiring spiritual fortitude and stamina which can only be accomplished by the infusion of God’s grace. In this verse, God introduces a very specific and descriptive word into the admonition. He uses the word “testimony” to indicate that it, too, is part of the law. It is the word which literally means “witness.” God is comparing His law to the witness of Himself, which is also another name for the witness of His covenant. Whenever the word “testimony” is used, it is simply another name for the law of God, in the very same way, the terms, “statutes,” “judgments,” “ordinances” and “commandments” are used. All these are synonymous, varying only slightly, but all generally referring to the law and the covenant of God.
David uses these words interchangeably to point back to the law of God:
ALEPH. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. (Psa. 119:1–7)
And so Moses, in repeating the commandments of God in Deut. 6:17, includes the term “testimonies” to add further luster to the scope of the law. In this way Moses explains that the law is the explicit testimony of God in all His holy character and attributes. It is the mind of God expressed in written propositions called the Holy Scriptures. The law of God bears an accurate witness of Him, in all His righteousness, goodness, mercy, and judgment. To repudiate God‘s law is to repudiate His witness. To repudiate God’s law is to blaspheme God. Therefore, whenever the law of God is forgotten, neglected, repudiated or rebelled against, God brings negative sanctions of judgment. (cf. Deut. 28; Lev. 26)
Consider What It Means to Bear Witness
To bear witness, or to have a Biblical testimony, is to be obedient to the ethical standards of God’s law, the statutes, testimonies, ordinances, and commandments, whether applying to an individual, family, church, or nation. An entity will either bear a faithful witness to God or it will not. God testifies that His elect are commissioned as His witnesses, to bear testimony of His divine being and His holy Commandments, as the God of all Creation.
Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord. (Isa. 43:10)
As part of the Great Commission, Jesus confirms the role of the elect as witnesses of God:
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
Notice the extent of the witness: unto the uttermost part of the earth.
The intent of the Great Commission is righteous civilization-building under the law of God. This is what the word “Christendom” means. It is the establishment and maintenance of a righteous system of government, laws, and comprehensive social order under God’s sovereign decree. It is the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ—ChristenDOM. In other words, Christ’s Kingdom, Christ’s dominion.
And yet that word is no longer used as it should be even within the church, or within the evangelical and Reformed community. Why? Because the message of the church is no longer geared to Kingdom-building. It has become myopic. Self-centered. Salvation-only oriented. It is now all about “Me”: “My salvation,” “My family,” “My pietism,” “My Intellectualism,” “My this or My that,” but rarely, if ever, about the Kingdom of Christ which is far bigger and grander than the self. In this way not only has the church fallen to idolatry, but so has the gospel message. We might even say that the message has made God an idolater in that His focus is only upon man’s happiness and glorification and not upon God’s eternal Kingdom and His own glory. And so a Christian witness is one which bears the testimony of God in all His precepts and commandments and which seeks to advance the Kingdom of Christ. It is not about what God has done or will do for “Me”!
For a nation, the true witness of God is made evident in its law code and societal structure. If the law code departs from God’s law, then it has embraced another god. As R.J. Rushdoony observes, “The source of law in any society is the god of that order.”4
Henry Van Til adds, “Culture then may be either godless or Godly depending upon the spirit which animates it.”5
Moses then tells Israel:
And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the Lord: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers. (Deut. 6:18)
To “do that which is good and right in the sight of the Lord” requires a number of things. First, it requires a working knowledge of God’s law standard as to what is good and acceptable and what is evil and unacceptable. This means that the Christian must be able to accurately think God’s thoughts after Him, in order to apply Biblical ethics to every situation that arises. He cannot act autonomously, defining good and evil for himself apart from God, but rather he must act “reflectively” to God’s Word. This is basic to every Reformation strategy. The first principle of any Reformation requires a careful study and an accurate understanding of God’s Word. It is only then that the law can be rightly applied to the culture. If, however, the comprehensive application of God’s law to every institution and area of life is neglected, all the learning and understanding in the world will not advance the Kingdom of God. Christendom cannot then be built. True wisdom is the application of the Word of God to the world at large without compromise and without apology.
John Gill comments:
“And what is right and acceptable is that which appears from the declaration of His Mind and Will in the commandments He has given, and obeying, which is therefore doing what is right and good; for His commandment is holy, just and good, being agreeable both to His nature and His will.”6
The Scriptures are not for the academic community only. They are God’s call to action which must be carefully structured by a Biblical paradigm. They alone must provide the foundation of action and every attempt at cultural reformation. In other words, all strategies and tactics must have a moral foundation based in Scripture if they are to have any legitimacy and lasting impact. It also must be understood that the visible church is a governing entity with certain prophetic and judicial rights and powers which heretofore have not been exercised, but must be exercised by the faithful church and her members. Furthermore, it must be understood that according to the covenant’s stipulations, for every action there is a reaction. For every decision there is a consequence either good or evil.
This is the cause and effect of life under the providential decree of God.
This is the world in which we live. Everything that happens is a result of either man’s obedience or man’s rebellion. All of life revolves around ethics. Matthew Henry says it in a clear and direct way: “In short; do well and it shall be well with thee.”
This aspect of God’s covenantal relationship with mankind, including every nation, is called covenant predictability. Moses is telling Israel that if they obey they can be assured, i.e., they can predict with certainty that God will bless them. The positive covenant sanction of blessing could be predicted. The inverse is also true. If Israel rebelled they could also predict the outcome: judgment and destruction.
In Leviticus 25:18–19, God tells Israel:
Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety. And the land shall yield her fruit, and ye shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety.
Commenting on Leviticus 25, Gary North observes:
The theocentric meaning of this passage is that God sustains His people, and more than sustains them; He offers them plenty. They are required to acknowledge this fact by trusting in His promises. They display this trust through their obedience to His Law. This passage begins with a re-statement of the familiar cause and effect relationship between corporate external obedience to God’s covenant law and corporate external blessings.7
It was the duty of the priesthood to keep the nation in check. Acting prophetically as teaching prophets, they were to expound the law to the people with all of its intended application. As judges, they acted judicially in certain disciplinary actions. Working alongside of the civil rulers, they were the voice of God to the magistrates. It must be pointed out that there is a very important dynamic in relation to the priesthood and the civil ruler. According to Leviticus 4, whenever the priest sinned, he had to go through a very detailed and rigorous cleansing ceremony. In contrast to this rigorous ceremonial cleansing of the priest, the sin of the civil magistrate was dealt with as if he was simply one of the common people.
While the sins of the priest, people, and civil ruler had similar consequences, there is a very distinct link between the priest and the covenant society. In fact, there is a more intense and intimate link between the priest and the social order than there is between the civil ruler and the social order. Dr North explains.
[T]here was a much closer judicial link between the priesthood and the covenanted society than there was between the civil ruler and the covenanted society. This is why we must conclude that the church was Covenantally more important in Israel than the State. The unintentional sin of the priest was treated by God as comparable to the unintentional sin of the whole congregation, while the unintentional sin of the ruler was treated on par with the unintentional sin of the average citizen … Conclusion: the laxity of the priesthood regarding their personal sins threatened greater direct negative consequences for the citizens of Old Covenant Israel than the moral or judicial laxity of the civil authorities.8
James Jordan comments:
It was the job of the Levites to keep Israel pure by setting forth the true faith. They were to guard Israel as representatives of her True Husband. When they failed, the result was apostasy, idolatry and corruption … When the church drifts into error, she is indeed at fault, but the primary blame lies with the pastors. Judgment begins at the house of God, and reformation must begin with the Levites.9
As priests of God, they were given specialized divine authority as God’s special witness, delegated to them by virtue of their calling and office. So, too, were the civil rulers given a specialized delegated authority so as to guide and govern the people according to the law of God. Yet, there were greater social consequences when the priest apostatized.
If the magistrates failed to call the clergy back to fidelity, they too would eventually fall since by silence they affirmed the ecclesiastic apostasy. If both spheres of government were compromised, by falling into corruption and apostasy, no longer being able to discern between good and evil, they no longer acted as faithful witnesses and arbiters of God’s justice. As a result they could not rightly guide or govern the people. That is where the people were to interpose themselves. Whenever the ordained representatives of God fail in their covenantally-defined roles, the people are called to take responsible action. In times of great civil and ecclesiastic apostasy, the representative authority of the people must be activated.
Again Dr North comments:
God delegates authority to the people to serve as His Covenantally sovereign agents, meaning those who bring lawful sanctions in His name. If the people refuse to act as God’s representatives, then He acts in His own behalf against both the rulers and the people. This covenant threat is to serve as their motivation for imposing positive and negative sanctions against their rulers. Even Revolution is lawful, when led by faithful lower civil magistrates against lawless higher magistrates. This is the traditional Calvinistic doctrine of interposition.10
This doctrine of interposition is the doctrine that moved the Continental Congress of the United States to move against the tyranny of England’s King George III and Parliament in the eighteenth century. George was to be America’s kingly representation. He was to protect them and nurture them. When he broke that covenant oath, refusing to re-establish his sworn relationship with America, and establishing Parliament’s abusive oversight, the colonists had no other choice but to declare their independence from tyranny and set up their own governing societal order. They were simply recognizing Leviticus 25:17 where God commands, “Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord your God.”
The reason why our twenty-first century America is crumbling is because the people are so desperately ignorant of both Biblical doctrine and world history that they cannot identify the root causes which are destroying the nation. This is mostly due to the indoctrination methods of the National Education Association and the government schools. With arrogant impunity the NEA declared,
“Education … involves the use of education as a force for conditioning the will of the people.” Education for International Understanding in American Schools (1948), p. 33
“Schools will become clinics whose purpose is to provide individualized, psycho-social treatment for the student, and teachers must become psycho-social therapists.” “Education for the ‘70s,” Today’s Education, January 1969.
If the last line of defense against tyranny lies in the people, and if the people fail to embrace their duty to stand against such ecclesiastic apostasy and government oppression, either through ignorance or rebellion, God brings judgment. That is precisely where we are at this juncture in history. North gives this insight:
Again and again in the Old Testament, God’s capital sanctions fell on the people rather than the kings and the priests. This indicates that it was the people who possessed primary institutional authority, not their representatives. This is why Israel was a theocratic republic … In this civil covenant, the corporate people possess primary responsibility and therefore primary authority. In this sense the republican ideal is Biblical. Authority extends downward from GOD to the people and upward from them to their representatives. God validates rulers in the name of the people.11
This is why voting is so important and why voters need to be taught the Biblical principles concerning civil rulers. An ignorant and rebellious people will validate wicked rulers. North continues:
Modern democratic theory (i.e., popular sovereignty) is a secularization of this Biblical Holy covenant idea (i.e., delegated sovereignty) in which the people exercise judicial authority under God … (in conformity to His Law Word).12
Whenever a political order is viewed as divine and beyond earthly appeal, politics, government, and law will become increasingly tyrannical no matter which governing structure the state adopts. In Puritan America, the knowledge of God’s will was paramount since the Puritans were concerned with the proclamation and application of the whole counsel of God, and for the subjection of the whole of human life to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. According to C. Gregg Singer:
At the heart of [Puritan] political, social and economic philosophy lay a theology—Calvinism. Puritanism was thus a theological interpretation of life, and in Calvinism, the Puritans found the guide for their economic, social and political conduct.13
This is what Moses was striving to accomplish by bringing Israel out of her bondage from Egypt. And this is what he wanted for the new generation which would enter into the land of promise. The Puritans of Colonial America sought for a cooperation between the realms of church and state to advance God’s ultimate goal of righteousness in the societal order. They were seeking to establish a Christian culture. They were seeking to establish Christendom. It was their sacred and sworn duty to establish this type of God-fearing culture.
Like Moses and like the Puritans, we, the people of God, also need a sacrificial zeal for the advancement of the Kingdom. We too need to make this our sacred and sworn duty if we are to see any reformation God-ward in our time.
What is needed is a comprehensive plan to first educate so as to reintroduce, reaffirm, and reinforce Biblical truths to the masses. Then, at the same time, there needs to be a systematic plan of implementation of God’s law and the principles of His Word to all spheres of life by training the people of God for action. The Body of Christ needs to be recalibrated for action.
Singer again observes,
The Puritans of New England went there for the express purpose of setting up a commonwealth which would give full expression to that world and life view inherent in their Calvinistic theology. This was to be reflected not only in their political activity, but in the economic and social life as well.14
In light of the great ecclesiastic apostasy, another very important tactic is the establishment of faithful churches, by educating, training, and calling a faithful clergy who are not afraid to both speak God’s truth and implement God’s law. This may mean abandoning apostate churches and starting new churches that are ready to reconstruct both the church and the culture along Biblical lines. In addition to a targeted Biblical plan for achieving the advancement of His Kingdom we need God’s grace to provide diligence, devotion, consistency, and tenacity in the execution of these plans. The Scriptures must once again take their rightful place in furnishing a framework for Biblical Reform and Reconstruction. The dictates of God’s law must be applied to the whole of life.
1. R. J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing Co., 1973), n.p.
3. Cornelius Van Til, A Letter on Common Grace (Phillipsburg, NJ: Lewis J. Grotenhuis, 1953), 36.
4. R. J. Rushdoony,Sovereignty (Vallecito, CA: Chalcedon/Ross House Books, 2007), 69.
5. Henry Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture (Ada, MI: Baker Academic Books, 1959), 23.
6. See commentary on Deut. 6:18: http://www.ewordtoday.com/comments/deuteronomy/gill/deuteronomy6.htm
7. Gary North, Commentary on Leviticus (NP: Institute for Christian Economics, 1994), 448.
8. North, Commentary on Leviticus, 93–94.
9. James Jordan, Judges: A Practical and Theological Commentary (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Pub, 1999), 290.
10. North, Commentary on Leviticus, 94.
11. North, Commentary on Leviticus, 95.
12. Gary North, Commentary on Leviticus, 95.
13. C. Gregg Singer, A Theological Interpretation of American History (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing Co., 1964), 9, 14.
14. Singer, ibid..
- Paul Michael Raymond
Rev. Dr. Paul Michael Raymond is the pastor of the Reformed Bible Church (RBC) in Appomattox, Virginia, since relocating there from NY in 1998. He has initiated many educational projects including the RBC in-house Home-Educators’ Academy, the New Geneva Christian Leadership Academy (college) with its extensive research library, and a Theological bookstore and café. He also continues to be an influential figure in the local community, and interactive among various Virginia state venues, as well. He has been a guest speaker on a number of radio programs, news interviews, and conferences, in addition to writing articles and opinion pieces in various newspapers, magazines, and internet blogs.
Dr. Raymond and his wife, Jane, have been married for 32 years and have three children and two grandchildren.