THE RULE OF LAW
by Edward A. Powell
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion .. . and replenish the earth, and subdue it ... (Gen. 1:26-27).There are two aspects of God's revelation of Himself. One is His General Revelation of Himself in creation, and the other is His Special Revelation of Himself to Adam. God's revelation of Himself in creation is His revelation of His laws that govern the physical realm. Since all things are upheld by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3), all things testify to God's nature and person. This can be understood from the fact that the world was created ex nihilo (out of nothing). Because there was no neutral medium through which God created the heavens and the earth, only His personal world can govern creation. Creation is not a wound up clock as the deist would like to believe. It cannot be. God cannot go on "vacation" and leave the world to continue to function on its own. It cannot because God's personal revelation (law) upholds all of creation. For God to go on "vacation" would require Him to take His personal law-word, or power, with Him. Once He "walked away" from his "job" of upholding all things, all things would cease to exist. This means that there are no neutral laws governing creation and, therefore, there are no neutral areas of creation. Without exception, every particle of creation testifies of Him and of His active rule. Every governing principle within creation is God's personal revelation of His personal law-word which reveals to man His personal power and nature. This is why all things, without exception, come to man as the personal blessings or cursings of God.
God's General Revelation of Himself is the governing principle in nature. In order for man to develop nature, he must do so by applying God's revelation, or law, to both himself and creation. Man cannot perform any effectual work such as constructing a building, growing crops, etc., without conforming his thoughts and activities to God's personal law that rules nature. Man simply cannot deny God's law in nature, and thus deny God, and expect to live. He cannot eat stones and expect to be properly nourished by them. He cannot because such eating is in violation of God's dietary laws in nature. Man cannot do any effectual work if he violates the physical laws of creation. Thus, the basis for all of man's effectual activities for the furthering of his life, and the development of the earth's potential, begins with his knowledge and trust of God.
But man cannot have either knowledge or trust of God apart from God revealing Himself to man. He cannot because he is part of creation. He cannot rise above his creaturehood nor above creation. Man cannot ascend into heaven to pull God down to earth that man might establish for himself the knowledge of who is Lord of creation (Rom. 10:6). Man is solely a dependent creature of God. As such, he cannot have knowledge that God is Lord over nature apart from God revealing this fact to him. Man's knowledge of God's General Revelation of Himself in creation is solely dependent upon God revealing Himself to man as Lord. This revelation of God to man is the image of God that God created in Adam. God created Adam to think His thoughts after Him. Adam was required by God to "see" all of creation through God's "eyes." This means that in every area of life and thought Adam was required to acknowledge God as Lord. Since God and man are not of the same essence, the image of God in man is a legal concept. In order for Adam to think God's thoughts after Him, Adam had to think and act solely in terms of God's revealed Law-word to him. For him to acknowledge God as Lord required that Adam apply God's Special Revelation, i.e. God's revealed Law, to every area of life and thought. Thus, God's revealed Law was Adam's basic presupposition for his interpretation of God's rule of law, or General Revelation, in nature. God's revealed Law to Adam was the tool by which he was to obtain knowledge of the "laws of nature," and to use them for developing the earth's potential.
Prior to the Fall, all of Adam's work was geared to glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. By thinking God's thoughts after Him, he was able to comprehend God's laws in nature, and then use these laws to till the soil, and to name (classify) the animals, in Eden. Every labour of his was effectual, since all his work stemmed solely from his desire to conform himself to the Will and Word of God. After the Fall, however, every labour of his was aimed at establishing himself as the law-maker of creation. Instead of seeing nature as a realm ruled by God, Adam now saw it as a realm to be ruled by him. Since nature is ruled directly by God, Adam's attempt to rule nature as his own god and his own law was, in reality, his attempt to rule over God. God, through nature, was now at war with Adam for God could not allow Adam to rule over Him via His creation.
God refused to allow Adam to make the laws that governed the created realm. If Adam was to survive, he had to conform himself, at least in part, to God's laws in nature. In order for Adam to obtain the material necessities of life, he had to think God's thoughts after Rim even when this was against his own will. God's Law, and God's Law alone, made it possible for Adam to labour in harmony with the laws of nature, which in turn produced the material necessities of life necessary for his continuing survival. Just as with Adam, the labours of all men, regardless of whether they are redeemed or lost, can only produce tangible results as they conform themselves to the revealed Law or Word of God. Since the basis for all effectual work is conformity to God's Law, man's call for godly dominion is not a call for work per Se, but for obedience to "every word that proceedetb out of the mouth of the Lord" (Deut. 8:3).
*Reprinted from: Chalcedon Report, September, 1977, No.145, P.O. Box 158, Vallecito, CA. 95251