Proverbs 14:34 says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” The word righteousness in this passage is not referring to an individual’s right standing with God but to a nation that adheres to God’s righteous standards as found in His moral law. Notice it is not democrats or republicans who exalt a nation but righteousness.
The righteous ethical standards this passage is referring to is based upon God’s moral law. 1 Timothy 1:8-11 shows the purpose of the law in civil government:
But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for homosexual offenders, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.”
This passage shows that the law was given to be a standard for righteousness. Since the law cannot save anyone, in this passage the law is shown to be applicable as a righteous standard for both the church and civil society. Paul even connects this purpose of the law to the gospel in this passage and also states in Galatians that the law is a schoolmaster that leads us through conviction to Christ (read Galatians 3:24).
Also, without the righteousness standards of the law permeating society, it is harder to get people saved because there is a lack of the knowledge of sin. Romans 7:7 shows that the law brings the knowledge of sin.
The hyper grace message prevalent in the church today has no use for the law because they do not have a framework of the Kingdom of God, which starts with the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:28. This mandate obligates believers to influence culture and not only view the law as an individual moral code. Unfortunately, hyper grace individuals would not know what to do with 1 Timothy 1:8-10. They also do not understand the civil purpose of the moral law (The 10 Commandments) which the context of Exodus 20 illustrates. Exodus chapter 20 shows in the context that the main purpose of the 10 commandments was to give the nation of Israel a framework of laws so they can be blessed and to keep them from going back into slavery.
These Ten Commandments, also known as the moral law is transcultural, multi generational and always relevant because they are a reflection of the character, nature, and holiness of God. This is why the ten commandments were repeated many times in the new testament for the church (EG Romans 13:9; Ephesians 6:1-3). The law cannot save us, but it is a standard for righteousness and ethics. Additionally, Deuteronomy 28:1-15 teaches the national blessings that will come to the nation that keeps the law.
Furthermore, the prophet Amos showed that elements of the moral law of God were embedded in the created order which is why God even holds secular nations accountable to His law code. If not, how can Jesus be called the King of kings and by what standard of ethics could Jesus judge the world? (Acts 17:30,31). In Amos chapters 1,2 , God judged the nations of the Philistines, Edom, Ammon, and Moab for war crimes, cruelty, murder, kidnapping, and killing the unborn even though they were not circumcised, why? Because all nations are under the covenant of creation even if they are not in the salvific covenant.
All nations are under natural or common law which is imbedded in the created order and is a reflection of God’s ethics which are expressed in the moral law of God. This is why God accepted the repentance of Nineveh in the book of Jonah even though that nation never accepted the covenant of circumcision or practiced the ceremonial law. They were still intuitively able to understand aspects of the moral law.
Applying the Moral Law
For the sake of time we will only summarize it by two categories. Commandments 1-4 are vertical and obligate all nations to favor the God of Israel and put Him first as a nation even if they cannot force conversions in a pluralistic society. Commandments 5-10 are horizontal, having to do with our obligation to our fellow humans. Based on these 6 moral laws we have to mandate legislation that empowers traditional marriage and families, honors the sanctity of human life, fights oppression and racism, values private property, as well as the implementation of a judicial process that values justice and eschews injustice.
When any nation turns from these moral laws they will be under the negative sanctions of God according to Deuteronomy 28 as we can see by reading the biblical history of Israel and the nations (read, I and II Kings).
It is interesting that the nations under judgement mentioned in the book of Amos as well as Nineveh in the book of Jonah violated the horizontal section of the 10 commandments. God never mentioned their worship of false gods nor did He mention aspects of the first four commandments when He judged the gentile nations mentioned in the first two chapters of the book of Amos as well as the Ninevites in the book of Jonah.
So what needs to be done now? There are four things:
First, the people of God have to repent from their loose living and lack of commitment and seek God as never before as it teaches in 2 Chronicles 7:14. The church needs to base their standard of ethics on the 10 commandments once again both inwardly and outwardly.
Second, the church needs to function again as salt and light by preaching the Kingdom of God and placing godly leaders in every facet of society to change systems and not just focus on individual salvation.
Third, the church needs to once again equip the saints for every aspect of culture including the media and entertainment industries, and not just focus on politics.
Fourth, we need to have CHRISTIAN professors in universities to recapture the biblical worldview in institutions of higher learning so we can influence the masses of young people in society.
Overall, we need a multi-generational plan of nurturing our biological and spiritual children to be the gatekeepers and problem solvers of culture so that the church again becomes the center of the town and the town the church.
To read more about this subject click the title of the book to order: Understanding the Wineskin of the Kingdom.