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Chapter 65 - James 4:12 - The One Lawgiver and His Power Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius
The One Lawgiver And His Power.
"There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy."-James 4:12.
It is of God as Lawgiver that the apostle here writes. He is not only a lawgiver, but He is the Lawgiver, he is the one Lawgiver. He is the maker, the giver, the executor of the law. None of these three functions has He left to us; nor has He made any creature, man or angel, partner with Him in any of them. If, then, we attempt to usurp any of these functions, we are interfering with the prerogatives of the one Lawgiver; and we make such an attempt every time we speak evil of another. For in that case we pronounce the law unfit and inadequate for its intended purpose without our help, and so sit in judgment on, and speak evil of both the law and the Lawgiver.
It is a solemn thing to interfere with such a Lawgiver. He is one; there is not another to whom we can fly should we provoke Him. He is in heaven, and we are on the earth; He is the Creator, we the creature; He is infinite, we finite. Who are we, then, that we should find fault with Him? But the special thing in Him to which the apostle points is His omnipotence. Who are we that we should do battle with Omnipotence? What hope of success in such a case? And this omnipotence is twofold in its character, for salvation and for destruction: 'He is able to save and to destroy.' It thus embraces everything that can concern us. Let us look at both these aspects:-
I. Able to save.-It is as God the Lawgiver that He is able to save, not merely as the Almighty One. He is mighty to save; able to save to the uttermost. Our salvation comes from the Lawgiver. In what, then, lies His ability to save?
(1.) His power.-For salvation, it is required that the Saviour be powerful,-all-powerful, in the usual sense of the word,-that His hand be 'strong,' His right hand 'high,' and His arm 'full of might;' for the work is so great, the enemies so mighty, the difficulties so arduous, the number to be saved so many, and the duration over which salvation is to extend is so vast, even the eternal ages.
(2.) His righteousness.-Mere power in the common sense would have been unavailing where law is concerned; for law makes little account of power. There must be righteousness! The salvation must be righteous, the process righteous, and He who saves must be the righteous One. In dealing with sin and pardon, righteousness must have full scope.
(3.) His love.-Power and righteousness would not originate or carry out salvation. Love must begin, and love must actuate all from first to last. Love sets power and righteousness in motion, and keeps them ever at work. The free love of God, though, strictly speaking, it does not constitute ability to save, yet it is that without which salvation would have been unthought of, would have been impossible.
II. Able to destroy.-Yes, able to cast both soul and body into hell. It is the Lawgiver, the one Lawgiver, that is able to destroy. The destruction of a sinner is from the hands of the great Lawgiver. Thus, in some respects, His ability to destroy resembles His ability to save.
(1.) His power.-He is irresistible. Who can withstand the almighty arm? Who can contend with the Almighty? All created power is but an emanation from His uncreated and infinite power, and cannot avail for resistance, far less for victory. Of no creature can it be said, he is able to destroy; for a creature can only injure, or deface, or change. The power to destroy belongs to God alone. He only knows what destruction is, and He only can effect it.
(2.) His righteousness.-It is the righteousness which dwells in Him that makes destruction so sure and terrible, inevitable and everlasting. A righteous avenger or destroyer is an awful word. Many here, when they suffer, comfort themselves with the thought that they are innocent martyrs. There will be no such feeling hereafter. No martyrdom in hell. It is all righteous punishment; and the power of the destroyer is that of law and righteousness, which is infinitely terrible.
(3.) His wrath.-It is no longer love, but wrath; it is this that gives such weight and terribleness to the blow. The wrath of God! the wrath of Omnipotence! the wrath of righteous Omnipotence! God's wrath kindling, how terrible! Ah, this is destruction. For this Christ comes the second time, 'to take vengeance.' Yes; God is not weak, or soft, or indifferent. The Lawgiver is inflexible, when once His wrath is kindled but a little.
How do we measure this ability to save and to destroy? What is the extent of it? We measure it by Himself. He is the infinite Jehovah. What an ability for both must be in Him! Is there any one that He cannot save? any one that He cannot destroy? We measure it by His law, for law is power; divine law is divine power. That law, through means of the cross, can now take the sinner's side, or be against the sinner to destroy. Blessed to have law upon our side, terrible to have law against us. In the one case we are absolutely safe; in the other, hopeless.
But God has given some facts by which to measure His ability to save and destroy. He has shown us what, and how many sinners He can save. He has shown us what a horrible pit He can save from. He has shown us how He could deliver our Substitute, when all our sins were upon Him. What sinner can He not deliver, when He could deliver Him who was bearing our sins? Ah, He is able to save to the uttermost. Come and be saved! Jesus Christ came to save sinners. Which of you is beyond His power?
He has given us facts by which to measure His power to destroy. He cast out the angels. He cast out Adam. He poured down fire on Sodom. He overwhelmed our race with the flood. He fills our world with pain and death. He has prepared His throne for judgment. Is He not able to destroy? And will He refrain in the day of His wrath?