Mankind has such inertia toward lawlessness that we have become accustomed to highly specialised laws. We have an innate ability to invent nuances ways of disobedience, and seem completely incapable of categorical, uncompromising obedience. Consequently, we live in societies with countless laws that are forever being customised for every possible situation. For example, a traffic law of “drive safely” is ineffective, so speed limit laws are created for every different kind of road, 60 kph for some roads, 80, 100, 120 kph for other kinds of roads, stop signs and yield signs are added, traffic lights and vehicle indicators are invented, traffic police and road blocks are deployed, and fines are dished out for breaking laws more than you could ever remember. All this because the original law of “Drive Safely” could not be kept.
God, the original Lawgiver, has done the same for mankind ever since the Fall. The Scriptures do not inform us of many of the customised laws given to the sons of Adam, Noah, and Abraham, for example, but when the nation of Israel is established in the days of Moses, we find one of the most detailed customisations of God’s Law for the particular situation, circumstances, and temptations that would arise for God’s nation in the Promised Land. But again, that was customised for that situation and differs from the laws in the New Testament given to the Church. When we consider the Law of God, we should not confuse the customised laws of God for various contexts with the timeless Law of God for all mankind.
You might ask then, what is the “timeless Law of God for all mankind”? How do we see through the customisations and look at the universally applicable law of God for all mankind throughout the ages? What is the Law of God that governed the behaviour of Adam and Eve in the Garden, that governed the lives of Abel, Noah, Job and Abraham in the first thousand years of human existence, that governed the regulations of the nation of Israel for most of the OT record, that governed the practices of the Church of the NT, that govern your life and mine?
The answer is actually easier than you might think, for throughout Scripture we have been given clues as to what Law of God governs all the customisations. In the words of Jesus Himself,
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.Matthew 22:37-40
Jesus couldn’t have said it any clearer! We think of “love God; love neighbour” as the summary laws of the laws given to Israel, but in fact these two commandments are the foundational laws of all the customised laws. These two laws alone stand in God’s mind as His instruction for mankind. Every other law every given are depending on these two.
It is like putting clothes on hanger. Depending on the annual seasons you might hang a short-sleeve shirt or a long-sleeve shirt on the hanger, but both shirts are still depending on the already-existing hanger to remain upright. If we could perfectly obey “love God” and “love neighbour”, then we would not need any customised laws and we could live in any context remaining fully pleasing to God.