Thou Shalt Not!

Are the TenCommandments "NEGATIVE" and therefore
a WRONG form of law?

by Herbert W. Armstrong


OFTEN we hear the basic Law of God impugned as negative, andtherefore not good. God is often conceived as a stern, wrathful God,who angrily says to us: "THOU SHALT NOT!"

God's truth is sometimes looked upon as "a religion of FEAR," andtherefore not desirable for modern, advanced, enlightened man. Itought to be POSITIVE, they say, not negative.

Thus God, the Truth of God, the purpose and plan of God, themethod of God, and the Law of God are relegated to the primitive, theimperfect - something enlightened man has now outgrown. Modern manthereupon looks upon himself as elevated to a plane of rationalthinking, and knowledge higher than God, or Christianity, or God'sLaw. Of course when we UNDERSTAND, God's TRUTH is the most powerfulreligion or philosophy there is - it eradicates fear!

It is the way of FAITH!

But is the negative form, "Thou shalt not," then,wrong? Is it outmoded? Should a PERFECT law contain only "DO's" and"DON'Ts"? Just what is TRUE CHARACTER? Just what is the perfect life?

I have defined character - that is, true, righteous, holycharacter - as

1) coming to the KNOWLEDGE of the true, as opposed tothe false values - the right, in stead of the wrong way;

2) making, of one's own free will and volition, the choice to dothe right instead of the wrong;

3) the exercise of the will in actually doing the right instead ofthe wrong.

Character, then once the true knowledge is acquired and the rightdecision made, involves SELF-DISCIPLINE. The truly educated person isa self-disciplined person.

What, then, does this SELF-DISCIPLINE involve?

Two things:

1) self-restraint to resist the lower impulsesand pulls in human nature - to restrain the self from desires,impulses, habits, or customs which are contrary to the RIGHT WAY; and

2) self-propulsion or determined initiative to drive the self todo those things which ought to be done. In other words, in truecharacter in action there is the POSITIVE and the NEGATIVE.

Suppose one rejects the negative as faulty and something to bediscarded altogether. Suppose one applies the positive only. Heimpels the self to DO those positive things to be done, but heexercises no restraint to resist those things which, by habit,impulse, desire, or custom of others ought not to be done. Becausehuman nature is what it is, the very nature in such a man will pullhim constantly in the wrong direction. Thus CHARACTER is destroyed.He is out of balance.

We find present in NATURE both the positive and the negative.Electricity functions and performs its work by use of both thepositive and the negative. All elements are either alkaline or acid.All living things and beings in this world of matter are male andfemale. There are SINS both of OMISSION and COMMISSION.

Frequently we read the pitiful, feeble efforts of a man whofancies in his ignorant egotism he is wiser than God, setting forthhis idea of TEN POSITIVE COMMANDMENTS.Ten "do's" and no "don't's." And what do we find? How muchcharacter would such a list of "commandments" produce? Just about asmuch character as an electric light bulb would produce light withmerely the one positive wire leading into it. Just about asmuch character as the male alone, without the female, could reproducehis kind. He might DO a few good things, but all his goodthings would be nullified and canceled out by the unrestrained evilhe would commit.

No basic LAW OF LIFE, forming the basis of perfect CHARACTER,could be a perfect law unless it contains, in perfect balance, bothpositive and negative.

Examine now again God's basic code, upon which all His laws,social, economic, civil, and religious, hang:

1. "THOU SHALT have no other gods before Me." This isactually stated in the positive form, implying we SHALLworship and obey the true God. In a sense, this commandment containsboth the positive and negative, directing us positively, "ThouSHALT," to the true God, and restraining us from false gods

2. "THOU SHALT NOT make unto thee any graven image, or... bow downthyself to them, nor serve them." This is negative, restraining fromeither making or worshiping any THING as a god; also from eitherworship, or obedience to, such false god. To the true God we owe bothworship and obedience. Notice the principle of GOVERNMENT in this, asin all the commands.

THE WHOLE ISSUE IS ONE OF GOVERNMENT. Adam and Eve rejected God'sgovernment, refused His rule over their lives, disobeyed fourof the Laws of His government. Christ came preaching the "KINGDOM ofGod," which is the government of God - commanding men torepent of their rejection of that government and the transgression ofits laws (sin is the transgression of the law -1 John 3:4) -providing the way of atonement for that transgression, andreconciliation to the worship and government of GOD.

3. "THOU SHALT NOT take the NAME of the Eternal thyGod in vain." This is a restraint - negative to prevent cutting manoff from the POWER and BENEFITS of the right use of GOD'S NAME. If werepent of sin, and come to God by Jesus Christ, He puts within us theimpregnating gift of His Holy Spirit, and thus we become His actualbegotten children - begotten into HIS FAMILY - bearing HIS NAME (thetrue name of His Church is Church of GOD) - and having access to allthe BENEFITS, BLESSINGS, and POWER of that name. This command is anegative, making possible the POSITIVE and vitally needed blessingsthru that NAME!

4. "REMEMBER the Sabbath Day, to KEEP IT HOLY… the seventh day isthe Sabbath of the Eternal thy GOD." Here is another POSITIVE command- the only one God specifically commanded us to 'REMEMBER," and thevery one mankind insists above all upon forgetting. Is it not anindicting commentary on the unrestrained human nature, and irrationalthinking of the self-professed RATIONALS who imagine themselvessuperior to God, and who insist His Commandments ought to be allPOSITIVE and not negative, that this most positive of all theCommandments they flout and disobey with greatest impunity. Again,notice the perfection - here again is a command including bothpositive and negative, for while it is primarily positive, yet itincludes negative restraints to make possible that positive - "in itthou SHALT NOT do any work, thou, nor thy son," etc.

5. "HONOR thy father and thy mother." Do you see any negativestatement in this command? Here is a POSITIVE command, with adefinite promise of blessing. This heads the six commands regulatingman's relationship with neighbor. However, the negative opposite isimplied, tho not stated.

6. thru 10. "THOU SHALT not kill, commit adultery, steal, bearfalse witness or covet." Here are the famous negatives, yet eachimplies the opposite POSITIVE: as, Thou SHALT love an have charitabletolerant patience toward your neighbor; BE TRUE to your wife andRESPECT your neighbor's property.

Here is a PERFECT LAW (Psalm 19: 7). It outlines, in broad detail,man's right relationship with the true GOD that be my have all theneeded guidance, help, and blessings from God; and also man's rightrelationship toward human neighbors - including parents, children,husband and wife, and all neighbors. This law provides forboth WORSHIP of God, religiously, and OBEDIENCE To God, and BLESSINGSFROM God - every need of man for his own good in living, active,continuous relationship with the all-wise, all-powerful, all-lovingGod.

This perfect Law forms the basis of ALL human relationships, aswell as man's God-relationship. It provides the wide, basic generalrules affecting every phase of his life -

a) Religious, in his relationship to GOD;

b) Family, in his relationship to parents, children, wife andhusband, and is designed to preserve the blessed sanctity and dignityof the HOME:

c) Next-door and personal neighbors and friends;

d) Civil relationships - here are found the very BASIC civil lawsrespecting murder, larceny (theft), adultery, perjury;

e) Economic life - honesty, not coveting other's money, goods, orproperty or possessions, which coveting is the very root source oftoday's economic principle of competition;

f) Social life - such commands as those respecting adultery, falsewitness against, coveting. stealing, form the foundation principle ofright social attitude and relationship with neighbors.

This Law, in its basic principles, defines THE WHOLE DUTYOF MAN (Eccl. 12:13). It is the basis, in principle, for ALL THEBIBLE. The entire Bible is, so far as its TEACHING is concerned, amagnification in specific detail of these basic principles.

This Law is COMPLETE. It contains in brief summation-principle,all the positive and negative obligations of the PERFECT,rightly-balanced life. It expresses and reflects the very characterof God.

The whole law is summed in one word, LOVE. It is like God, for Godis LOVE. Just as His law is LOVE. It was given in love for us,and LOVE is the fulfilling of the law - LOVE IN ACTION.

It is love to GOD, and love to NEIGHBOR. It is PERFECT. It iscomplete.


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