IBL02: Second Commandment (Craig Press)

Holiness and the Law


*This is an unedited and unoffical print version of R.J. Rushdoony’s lecture.

R.J. Rushdoony: 00:00 Exodus 19:1-6, Holiness and the Law.

R.J. Rushdoony: 00:08 “In the third month when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. So they were departed from Rephidim and were come to the desert of Sinai and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 00:27 “And Moses went up unto God, and the and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain and saying, “Thus shalt thou say to the House of Jacob, and tell the children the Israel, “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians and how I bear you on eagle’s wings and brought you unto myself. Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed and keep my covenant, then he shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people, for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation.” These are the words which thou shall speak unto the nation of Israel.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 01:16 Before the law was given, God as this passage makes clear, declared through Moses that the purpose was that Israel be a holy nation. Our concern today is with the doctrine of holiness in it’s relationship to the law. The word holy is an important one for us if we are to understand scripture. The word holy literally means “a cutting, a separating.” It also conveys the meaning of devotion. It is a cutting, a separating, for a purpose.

R.J. Rushdoony: 02:15 Holiness, first of all, has a reference to God, who is separate. Who is non trespassable, unapproachable. Holiness, therefore in it’s first and basic sense for us, is that of a separation, that of a cutting, means law. Now, at this point, we must recognize that a vast amount of the church today as it speaks of holiness, does not think of law.

R.J. Rushdoony: 03:06 Many evangelical churches that emphasize holiness, tend to be antinomian, that is anti law. Indeed, they will not even use some of them, the 10 commandments in any service in their church. Because, for them, the 10 commandments are not a part of God’s requirement today, which is of course, sinful on their part. But law is, according to scripture, the principle of the cutting or separation.

R.J. Rushdoony: 03:49 First God calls out the people and says, I shall make you a holy nation. Then he gives them the law, which is the principle of their holiness, of their separation, of their cutting. Wherever there is law, there is a cutting, a separation. Every law in the Bible, therefore, is a law of holiness. The minute you have a law, you have a division.

R.J. Rushdoony: 04:26 When you have a law that says, “Thou shall honor thy father and thy mother,” you have on the one hand those who obey it, and those who don’t. You made a division. When the law declares, “You shall not commit adultery,” you have a division. When the law says, “Thou shalt not steal,” again, you have a separation, a cutting, a division. And that’s exactly what holiness is. The holy person is the person who moves in terms of God’s established line of separation, of cutting.

R.J. Rushdoony: 05:14 Wherever there is law, there is an inescapable line of separation. Physical law, therefore, establishes the godly line of separation, the godly concept of the holy. Marxist law establishes the Marxist line of separation, and the Marxist line of division between that which is holy and profane.

R.J. Rushdoony: 05:50 Of course, Marx made it clear in one of his earliest writings, is what we must do is to establish a line of division and tell the people that those at the other side of the line are demonic. And we must, as it were, consign them to hell. So that Marx definitely harped back to the Biblical language, to the Biblical terminology. And with reason, he was establishing a law, Marxist law. And therefore, in terms of that law, there was a cutting. For us, true holiness is a separation in terms of God’s standards. If there is no law, there is no separation, no holiness. The antinomian talk about holiness, let’s say deny it by denying law. Holiness is not an emotional feeling. It is a cutting in terms of the law Word of God.

R.J. Rushdoony: 07:09 Thus, second we must say that every Biblical law is concerned with holiness. Every law of scripture is a holiness law. Every law makes the division between the law abiding and the outlaw. Some laws set forth the principle of separation in a symbolic as well as a literal form. Now, the mosaic law declared that God’s law Word was the principle of life.

R.J. Rushdoony: 07:50 The law Word was given to the covenant people, to the redeemed people as their principle of life. Having been redeemed from death, now they were to live in terms of light. God’s law word. And in terms of that, some of the laws set forth just exactly what was involved symbolically. For example, there was a requirement of separation from death.

R.J. Rushdoony: 08:27 The laws that called for a ritual purification, a very simple matter, from any handling of dead bodies was to set forth the fact that they as the people of the law, of the covenant had been separated by the grace of God from death. That their destiny was eternal life. And hence, they witnessed to the fact that they had a perpetual separation from death, that death itself was the darwig light for them.

R.J. Rushdoony: 09:07 By the recognition that they were to be separate from death, that they had to go through a ritual purification after touching death. Their destiny is light. Similarly, disease was to be separated from, and there was to be a washing after any handling of disease. Again, we have here the same principle affirmed. There was a principle of health involved and that all contagion was to be avoided and there had to be a washing after any contact with it.

R.J. Rushdoony: 09:49 But this again, was an illustration of the fact that life was their destiny. And hence, a wide variety of laws set forth segregation from disease, health, fullness, is the destiny of the people of God. And because wholeness, health, is the destiny of the people of God, self mutilation in any form was forbidden, including tattoos. And any kind of self willed mutilation of the body was forbidden.

R.J. Rushdoony: 10:43 Holiness, therefore, means life. It is a separation from death, from disease, in terms of God was the principle of life. Third, the laws of holiness also include laws concerning vows. A man is always bound by his vows. What is a vow?

R.J. Rushdoony: 11:10 A vow is an oath taken in the name of God. And a man is duty bound to keep a vow and only when the condition of a vow are broken by someone else, is he released from the vow. Why this absoluteness in regards to vows? It is the name of God. Now, the scripture says, “God’s word does not return unto him void, but it accomplishes that which he ordains.” So that whenever God speaks, it is done. God said, “Let there be light, and there was light. God spoke the words and creation appeared. God speaks and that which he speaks immediately comes to pass. Now, because this is what God’s word involves, the absolute certainty that a thing is accomplished, therefore, when a man vows, he is saying, “I take upon myself this authority, the authority of God, and declare in the same way that God’s Word does not return unto him void, my word shall not return unto me void. And if I vow to tell the truth, I tell the truth whether I live or I die.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 12:46 “And if vow to give something to God in return for something that I ask, then I give it, come what may.” A vow therefore, required absolute fulfillment. A man in a vow set himself apart in terms of God’s absolute holiness. God accomplishes that which he purposes. And in a vow, man links himself with this holiness of God. This, his special holiness.

R.J. Rushdoony: 13:36 A vow could be only made by a free man. A wife or a daughter, according to the scripture, can not make a vow without permission of the father or husband, because she is under his authority. A widow or a divorced woman, according to the law, can really vow, because she is now on her own, but normally, only a man, a free man, can make a vow.

R.J. Rushdoony: 14:17 A fourth aspect of holiness as it appears throughout the law, is with regard to food. The laws concerning food as they appear in the Bible, are unique in all the history of the world. Virtually everything in our modern conception of eating and of good health with respect of eating comes from the law. The law forbade, for example, the eating of any flesh torn by beasts of the field, dead animals.

R.J. Rushdoony: 14:54 These, however, could be sold to the gentiles, who had no objection to eating such animals. And, the law declared that they were not to try to force their standards on those who did not believe them, and as long as they stated honestly what it was they were selling, this was acceptable in the sight of God.

R.J. Rushdoony: 15:20 The eating of fat and of blood was forbidden. The clean and the unclean animals are extensively listed, as for example in Leviticus 11. The forbidden foods are called abominable and they must be abominable to God’s people. The foods that are permitted are spoken of as a blessing and congenial to the health of the people. And health is sited, therefore, as an aspect of holiness. Then sayeth the laws of holiness, which brings a special and symbolic attention to separation include the laws of dress. Transvestites dress, that is women dressing as men, and men dressing as women is strictly forbidden. It is called a perversion. A mixing of materials such as wool and linen is also forbidden, as is hybridization generally, because it is spoken of as an unnatural and unsterile thing. A contempt of the lines of creation.

R.J. Rushdoony: 16:44 Then again, sixth, the laws of holiness require that the land itself be considered as holy. And the land we are told, repeatedly, can be defiled. The people of God are called upon therefore, to practice soil conservation and we have laws concerning soil conservation, which we shall consider later, and a variety of other laws concerning the use of the soil, of the land. All of which have it’s purpose, that the land itself, because it is the Lords, the earth is the Lord’s, for all the earth is mine, our scripture declares, must be separated unto God.

R.J. Rushdoony: 17:41 Then, finally, they must be a holy people, or a holy nation as the sixth verse of our lesson declares. And he shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Just a few months ago, a book was published by a prominent theologian, the gist of which is, Christian conservatives are theologically defective. The book from beginning to end is the long attack on conservative Christians.

R.J. Rushdoony: 18:22 And one of the points of central attack is that these foolish people, the writer declares, believe that there can be such a thing as a holy nation. And, the writer declares, this is impossible. Holiness is only a personal attribute. Well, his position is obviously not scriptural. After all, we have here our reference to an holy nation. Holiness, is thus, more than a personal attribute. Holiness indeed can be and should be a personal attribute. Believers should be holy unto the Lord, separated unto the Lord. But holiness is not only a personal inner attribute, but it can be a personal outer attribute. For example, 1 Corinthians 7 says that the husbands or wives of believers, who themselves are not believers, are holy unto the Lord.

R.J. Rushdoony: 19:35 What is the meaning of this? Such people are not believers. They do not profess faith in Christ, but as long as they do not oppose the faith of their spouse, God regards them as separated unto himself and therefore, under a particular care and protection. They are part of his covenant people. Even though they themselves are not saved. Even though they themselves do not profess faith.

R.J. Rushdoony: 20:14 But what constitutes a holy nation? A holy nation has its principle of separateness or cutting in terms of law, God’s law. Thus, a country that, for example, establishes capital punishment. That establishes restitution for theft. That establishes the fact that godly faith is under the protection of the law. Such a people, are a holy people. Such a nation is a holy nation. Because, it has established God’s laws as the principle of separation, as the law of the nation.

R.J. Rushdoony: 21:13 Therefore, in spite of these critics, we can say that the United States was a holy nation. Not too many years ago, within our lifetime, some states said that only Christians could be citizens. Until a few years ago, some states actually said that you could not testify in any trial unless you believed in God. And if you go back to the last century or 100 years ago, in many states, you could not vote if you denied scripture and the doctrine of the trinity.

R.J. Rushdoony: 21:58 We were a holy nation. We were applying God’s law as the principle of separation. We had capital punishment. We had restitution for debt. We had all the Biblical principles of law strictly applied. And that makes a people a holy nation. We are now in process of trying to establish a humanistic doctrine of holiness. And our law is separating people in terms of a humanistic concept of cutting, or separation.

R.J. Rushdoony: 22:42 There is an old expression that very well sums up the doctrine of holiness, “The cutting edge of the law. The cutting edge of the law.” This is holiness. Law draws the line of division. And today, the law is no longer drawing God’s line of division. And hence it is, that we are fast approaching anarchy.

R.J. Rushdoony: 23:16 The book of Judges summed it up very well in it’s theme verse. In those days, there was no king in Israel, and the king it had reference to was God the king, ruling from his palace the Tabernacle, his throne the holy of holies. And those days there was no king in Israel. They had rejected him. And every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

R.J. Rushdoony: 23:48 And today, because the principle of holiness, God’s law, and the cutting edge of the law has been denied, every man does that which is right in his own eyes. We have anarchy. But God requires us, every nation, that they be a holy nation. They will either be devoted to him, or they will by God then, be devoted to destruction.

R.J. Rushdoony: 24:25 Let us pray. Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, we thank thee that though men seek to make void thy law, thy law stands. And the cutting edge of thy law shall lay low the workers of iniquity. We thank thee our God, that in thy holiness, thou dost forever decree that the line of separation must stand, and in thy judgment age after age, thou dost cut down the evil doers, and doth bring thy judgment like light upon the sons of man. We await, oh Lord, thy cutting. And we thank thee that by the grace, of thy grace in Jesus Christ, we have been separated unto thee, made a holy people unto thee. And faith, our faith, Lord, day by day that we may abound in holiness, may stand fast in terms of thy law Word. And in the day of the diversity, may triumph. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965.  His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.”  He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

Learn more about R.J. Rushdoony by visiting: https://chalcedon.edu/founder