Hell is like the chasm at the bottom of a mountain pass, God’s Law (as understood from the entire Bible) is guard rails, and we are like a man or woman careening down the pass in a car with no brakes. Avoiding the chasm of Hell requires heeding the warning implied by every single rail, an impossible task in a car with no brakes. In fact, the thicker the guard rail, the more our sin nature provokes us to augment our out of control motion by flooring the gas. (see Romans 7.8)
That is the effect of God’s Law on humanity. If, with unstained hearts (an impossible thing), we kept every Law perfectly, we’d deserve Heaven. The fact that each commandment stirs up the desire to break it proves that our hearts crave Hell. Reading the scripture “don’t commit adultery” could mark the beginning of an illicit pursuit. Reading the command to put a sorcerer to death could very well launch our experimentation with wicked spirits. Sin makes every command have its opposite effect. The speed trap was supposed to make us slow down, but we squealed our tires and shot off recklessly down the street. On the brink of eternity, it will dawn on us that God doesn’t let people off with warnings.
This lengthy recap of my first article on this subject is intentional. Our lawless era makes it difficult to understand the weight of the Law, so I feel compelled to pound it in until we finally despair of our own righteousness and turn to Christ.
In his book, “Parables,” John MacArthur explains that Our Lord’s requiring the rich young ruler to sell all, highlighted the young ruler’s misunderstanding of God’s Law. “All the commands I’ve kept from my youth up!” was the young man’s thought, but he hadn’t yet been struck with the full gravity of the Law. And upon his first glimpse of the Law’s true weight, the thought of selling all he had and giving to the poor made him go away sorrowful.
In light of our inability to keep the Law, we must also go away sorrowful. Before knowing God’s remedy, we should feel the crushing weight of having no remedy.
But the law goes even deeper. There was once a man who succeeded in keeping all the commandments, and would later credit himself with being “blameless in the righteousness of the law.” His name was Saul. But even Saul (to paraphrase Francis Schaeffer) got tripped up by the tenth commandment, which forbids a man to covet. If Saul could keep all the external rules perfectly, there remained sins, like covetousness, that had nothing to do with action and could stay hidden in the heart. Christ alluded to the same thing when He warned His hearers that God would not forgive their sins if they did not forgive their brother, “from the heart,” and speaking of how men are defiled, said, “out of the heart come evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander…”
It’s not just the plunge over the cliff that lands the soul in Hell. It’s the wish to plunge over the cliff. Perhaps we slowed down for the speed trap, only to be damned by the mere wish to accelerate through it. Let that sink in. And next time, I promise, the Good News of Jesus Christ.