When an entire assembly, denomination, nation, or culture rejects their obligations to the positive aspect of God’s Law, is there justification for a proclamation of guilt after proper corrections are attempted? Multiple examples from the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, and our Lord show that a covenantal proclamation of guilt is justified in such cases.
Although individuals were not often condemned in these passages for violations of the positive aspect of God’s Law, Scripture does speak often of a covenantal obligation and a covenantal guilt. These are corporate realities in addition to individuals. Deuteronomy 21:1–9 clearly indicates a corporate guilt that comes about by perpetual violation of the positive aspect of the Sixth Commandment:
“If in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess someone is found slain, lying in the open country, and it is not known who killed him, then your elders and your judges shall come out, and they shall measure the distance to the surrounding cities. And the elders of the city that is nearest to the slain man shall take a heifer that has never been worked and that has not pulled in a yoke. And the elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with running water, which is neither plowed nor sown, and shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley. Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come forward, for the Lord your God has chosen them to minister to him and to bless in the name of the Lord, and by their word every dispute and every assault shall be settled. And all the elders of that city nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley, and they shall testify, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it shed. Accept atonement, O Lord, for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, and do not set the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of your people Israel, so that their blood guilt be atoned for.’ So you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right in the sight of the Lord.
Public pronouncements of guilt when the positive obligations of the Church have been neglected are not only justified, but necessary. A widespread, accepted, and institutionalized neglect and apathy for the positive duties of God’s Law should rightly demand prophetic warnings, calls for repentance, and declarations of God’s judgment over such corporate bodies.
Justice is turned back,
And righteousness stands afar off;
For truth is fallen in the street,
And equity cannot enter. So truth fails,
And he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.
Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him
That there was no justice. He saw that there was no man,
And wondered that there was no intercessor;
Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
And His own righteousness, it sustained Him (Isa. 59:14–16).
The neglect of the positive aspects of God’s Law is a grievous thing. Although individuals should not regularly be institutionally disciplined for violations of the positive side of God’s Law, it is a terrible thing to be judged by God. The obligations we have before God as His Body must not be diminished or de-emphasized. God will take his lampstand away from assemblies that do not teach and practice true and vital Christianity, including the positive commandments.
Furthermore, mature men within the Bride of Christ have a duty to preach and teach these positive commandments prophetically to the Church. Elders have an exceptional responsibility to ensure that their local assemblies are not neglecting justice and failing to show mercy to those in need. To reiterate and emphasize what Rushdoony said regarding the Sixth Commandment,
The unwillingness in many instances of witnesses to act in cases of assault or murder may mean no entanglement on earth, but it incurs fearful entanglement and guilt before God.
All states and churches should deny the temptation to rule and punish according to the positive aspect of the law, but any state, local church, or individual that rejects the positive obligations of the Law should tremble in fear before the Living God.