The Natural Law

Before examining the doctrines of Rome pertaining to the natural law, we need to examine how Rome defines the “natural law”:

“The natural law expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie: The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man, because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin . . . But this command of human reason would not have the force of law if it were not the voice and interpreter of a higher reason to which our spirit and our freedom must be submitted.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 1954

The natural law can basically be described as man’s moral conscience that is “written and engraved in the soul.” The Roman Catholic Church explains that the Decalogue, or the Ten Commandments, expresses the natural law:

“The Decalogue contains a privileged expression of the natural law. It is made known to us by divine revelation and by human reason.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 2080

Rome further teaches that the observance of the natural law, which the Ten Commandments express, is necessary for salvation:

“The authority of the Magisterium extends also to the specific precepts of the natural law, because their observance, demanded by the Creator, is necessary for salvation.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 2036

“The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandments are obligatory for Christians and that the justified man is still bound to keep them; The Second Vatican Council confirms: “The bishops, successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord . . . the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 2068

Before we go any further it is important to point out the fact that the Ten Commandments are part of the Mosaic Law, or Law of Moses, as God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. As seen above, the Roman Catholic Church declares that good works through the observance of the Ten Commandments are necessary for salvation. But is this the case today? Are we justified/saved by works of the law? Protestants will agree that the natural moral law is most definitely the standard by which all should live their lives, but are we justified by the law? Are we saved by following the law? Or is our following of the law a result of our salvation?

Throughout all of Paul’s writings, there is an overwhelming contrast between faith and the works of the law. Here are some excerpts:

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” – Romans 3:20 KJV

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” – Romans 3:28 KJV

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” – Romans 6:14 KJV

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” – Galatians 2:16 KJV

“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” – Galatians 2:21 KJV

“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” – Galatians 3:11 KJV

“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” – Philippians 3:8-9 KJV

Why did Paul refer to the law as a “yoke of bondage”?

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” – Galatians 5:1 KJV

Because the law is impossible to keep. James wrote that if we break one law, we have broken them all:

“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” – James 2:10 KJV

Conclusion

Rome has declared that observing the natural law is necessary for salvation (CCC 2036; CCC 2068). But the question remains, are we saved by keeping the law? Or are we saved by faith? The Scripture is clear: “The just shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11)