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When I was young, the church taught me the Ten Commandments. Among these, I learned the Ninth Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Deuteronomy 5:20). Through this, I learned not to lie, especially when appealing to the parental authorities in a dispute with my friends.
Years later, when I was in my 20’s, I learned that the law was still relevant today. I finally grasped the truth of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17,
17 Do not think that I came to abolish the law or the prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
Paul confirmed this in Romans 3:31,
31 Do we then nullify the law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the law.
Paul tells us further that his flesh served the law of sin, while the mind of his new creation man served the law of God (Romans 7:22, 25). Hence, those who serve the law of God show themselves to be spiritual; those who reject the law and serve the law of sin are yet fleshly.
The Law of the Double Witness
Once I gained respect for the law as a whole, I began to discover deeper truths about the double witness principle. Deuteronomy 19:15 says,
15 A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.
This broadened the purpose of the double witness law and gave me greater understanding of the ways to apply it in my life. We are not to accuse anyone of “any sin” or even “any iniquity.” Iniquity is one’s mortal condition, which is the cause of our outward sin. In other words, it deals with one’s character. We must have more than one witness (or piece of evidence) before accusing someone of sin or demeaning their character.
The Law of Witnesses
The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:19,
19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.
Obviously, Paul had not put away the law but used it as his source of instruction for the church. In the previous verse he quoted Deuteronomy 25:4, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and he applied it as a law of labor: “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” Paul’s application of this law shows that this law was not just about oxen or animal rights. It was about being paid for one’s labor. He tells us this directly in 1 Corinthians 9:9, 10, 11,
9 For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? 10 Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. 11 If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?
This is a good example of how “the law is spiritual” (Romans 7:14). We must understand the basic principle of law, instead of just applying it narrowly to oxen. This does not put away the law; it gives us a greater understanding of the law. There is no excuse to ignore the law and remain ignorant of it; we are to study it with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Recall that the law says, “on the evidence of two or three witnesses, a matter shall be confirmed.” Paul quoted this in 2 Corinthians 13:1, telling the church that this was his third letter to them. He used the law to establish truth.
Truth stands on its own, whether men believe it or not, but to confirm truth requires witnesses. Truth exists in heaven by the word of God, but to bring that truth into the earth requires witnesses to speak it into the earth. These witnesses are Amen people who hear the word of truth from heaven and then speak faithfully what they have heard.
Hence, Paul was implying that the truth he was setting forth in his letters to the Corinthians was what he had heard or discerned from God. He was thus confirming truth from heaven, not creating his own truth. Many today teach people to create their own reality (truth) by speaking it. Others teach that we can have anything we want if just have sufficient faith to believe that we will always get what we want.
Both of these teachings attempt to bypass the law of the double witness. Those who do such things are trying to create their own reality by their own power, instead of speaking only what they hear their heavenly Father say. Even if they were to find someone on earth to be their double witness, it is a violation of the law of the double witness, because in the end the two authorized witnesses are heaven and earth (Deuteronomy 4:26).
Two witnesses on earth are only valid witnesses if they independently bear witness to something the Father has spoken in heaven. We are not called to create our own truth but to confirm the truth of God.
Two Ways to Save Mankind
But I’m getting ahead of myself. It took me many years to plumb the depths of this law. I certainly did not learn this all when I was in my 20’s. I first had to learn that the law had not been set aside by Christ’s death on the cross. I had to learn that His death fulfilled the law. In other words, the law prophesied of His death, and so He actually fulfilled those prophecies.
In doing so, He upheld the law and gave it respect. The law condemned all mankind, because all men fell short of His glory. God had great expectations for mankind. He was not about to leave them in their corrupted state but devised a plan of salvation that would bring everyone back into alignment with His own nature—as expressed in the law.
Because the law’s standard of measure was unattainable after Adam’s sin, the law itself prevented the salvation of mankind. Paul says in Romans 3:19,
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the [judgment of the] law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God.
To be “under the law” means that the law has sentenced men to labor as slaves to sin, and until their debt to sin is paid, they are forced to work to pay their debt. The whole world finds itself in this condition, Paul says.
You might say that God had two methods of salvation at His disposal. He could simply put away the law and set all men free. But to do that would disrespect the law. God must remain true to Himself, that is, to His own nature, as expressed in the law. So God chose a second method of salvation that would be compatible with His nature. He chose to pay the debt Himself by sending His Son to die for the sin of the world. By doing this, He would save mankind without violating His own nature.
This plan was built into the law itself, largely through the laws of sacrifice. The sacrificial laws prophesied of Christ’s own death as the great Sacrifice for sin—all because He refused to put away His own law. His nature is love, and this was expressed by His willingness to pay the full penalty for the sin of the world (1 John 2:2).
The Law as Prophecy and Promise
The Ten Commandments are commands under the Old Covenant but promises and prophecies under the New Covenant. The Old Covenant is man’s promise to be obedient to God in order to align with His nature. That covenant failed, of course, because righteousness cannot be attained by men’s works or by “the will of man” (John 1:13). His best intentions are inadequate.
God knew this from the beginning, of course, but He always gives the flesh the first opportunity to succeed. His intent is to cause us to lose all confidence in the flesh or in one’s ability to make good on his promises. We are then ready for a better alternative, which is called the New Covenant. This is based on the promise of God to men, not on men’s promise to God.
When we view the law through New Covenant eyes, the Ten Commandments read differently. You will not steal; you will not murder; you will not commit adultery; you will not bear false witness; you will not covet. These are now promises of God that prophesy of man’s ultimate destiny, because the promises of God cannot fail.
But again, I am getting ahead of myself. It took many years of more foundational studies in the law to learn this. I would never have learned the deeper things without first gaining respect for the law. As long as I had put away the law (through my childhood training), I did not have the ears to hear the revelation in the law.
After a few years of gaining respect for the law, I finally embarked on a serious study of the laws themselves.