The Law and Love – An Introduction to 2014b lessons

by Keith Augustus Burton

Image © Steve Creitz from

Image © Steve Creitz from

From the very beginning of the great controversy in heaven it has been Satan’s purpose to overthrow the law of God.”-Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 582.

Why? Because the law, as the foundation of God’s government, expresses the moral integrity of the cosmos; and to overthrow that law would be to overthrow the moral order of the creation itself.

Think about it. If no god existed, and no life either, the universe would be amoral. Not immoral, as in having bad morals, but amoral, as in having no morals, because nothing in it-such as lifeless rocks hurling through a godless cosmos-could manifest moral qualities.

However, God exists, and humans do as well, and we have been created as moral beings with the capacity to give and to receive love. For this love to exist, however, freedom, moral freedom, must exist too, because love is a moral concept that couldn’t arise in an amoral universe (such as one composed of only rocks and cold space).

Morality, though, means the ability to choose right or wrong, good or evil-and the only way for the universe to be moral, to allow the potential for good or evil, for right or wrong, would be for it to have a law that defines right or wrong.

And, of course, it does have such a law.

What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, Do not covet. (Rom. 7:7, NIV).

Is it sinful to have red hair? Why not? Because God’s law doesn’t forbid red hair. If it did, as the law forbids covetousness, then having red hair would be sin. But it cannot be sin if no divine law defines it as such.

Morality without law is as impossible as is thought without mind. Our universe is moral because God created free beings answerable to His law. If there were no law against coveting, there would be no sin of covetousness; if there were no law against red hair, there would be no sin of red headedness-no matter how many red-haired coveters populated the cosmos.

God created humans as creatures who can love. Love, though, can’t exist without freedom, moral freedom. And moral freedom can’t exist without law, moral law. Love rests on freedom, and freedom rests on law. Hence, the core of God’s government, the foundation of that government-a government of love-has to be His law. That’s why Ellen G. White wrote what she did about Satan’s desire to overthrow the law of God. The attack on the law is an attack not just on Christ’s character but on the moral order of the creation itself.

Hence, the topic for our quarter: Christ and His law. We will study the law, especially the question of why so many Christians-misunderstanding the relationship between law and grace-have fallen into the trap of denying the continued validity of the Ten Commandments, thus, unwittingly helping the attempt to overthrow God’s law.

The Bible, though, is clear: For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments (1 John 5:3, NKJV). The link between our loving God and the keeping of His commandments is stronger than we realize. We can love God because we live in a universe where love can exist, and it can exist because the universe is moral. That morality is based, at least for us as created beings, on God’s moral law-the subject we will now explore.

Keith Augustus Burton is a professor of religion at Oakwood University where he also serves as the coordinator of the Center for Adventist-Muslim Relations. His doctoral dissertation from Northwestern University focused on the role of the law in Paul’s letter to the Romans.



The Law and Love – An Introduction to 2014b lessons — 10 Comments

  1. [Moderator's Note: Please remember to use your full name for comments]

    The freedom which God has given us to obey His law is a strong indication that He is allowing us to demonstrate love greatly. He said in His word, "If you love me keep my commandment." A further look points out that there is a great call to love. The commandment itself requires us to love God and to love man, and by following these instructions we of ourselves become great lovers.

    The commandment reflects who God is and helps us to appreciate Him.

  2. Adam was created without sin, formed from the ground by the creator? Made a living soul by the breath of Christ. He was given authority over all earth by God himself, God to Adam. He walked with God in the Garden face to face. Adam didn't have to pray he didn't have to hide his face from God. He didn't know wrong. But he was given a command by God not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil. He was given a choice, but to Trust and Obey the creator. Then Eve was created without sin? Seduced by satan, she chose to disobey God. Adam still perfect in God's sight. Now loved Eve so much that he made a conscience CHOICE to eat as Eve had eaten. Maybe the Angels knew right from wrong but Adam didn't? He didn't know about it until "Disobedience to God" corrupted God's creation.

  3. Satan wants to do away with the law because the law is the expression of God's character. To do away with the Law is to do away with God. Without God we have no freedom to choose. It is God that gives us freedom. Anything that takes away choice is not of God.

  4. This is just a question about the principal contributor to this lesson which is being studied worldwide, Keith Burton. He is the Coordinator of the Center for Adventist-Muslim Relations. What are these relations about? We know that the Muslims do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and our Savior. We do. They do not believe that the Bible is the word of God, we do. We do not consider Mohamed to be a prophet, they do. We do not consider the Koran to be the word of God as they do. What is the basis of these relations? What are the objectives? What is the place of Christ in these relations between Christian Adventists and Muslims who do not believe in Christ?

    Is the Center for Adventist - Muslim relations a SDA church Center? is it a Oakwood University Center or is is it a private center? Could anyone help me as I do not know how to reach the Coordinator of the Center?

    Thank you and God bless you.

    • Joseph, all the statements you make in your first paragraph point up the need for us to learn how to relate to Muslims so that we may share the "Good News" with them. We are told that

      Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow Me.” (Ellen White, Ministry of Healing, p. 143)

      You can visit Center for Adventist - Muslim relations online by clicking on this link.
      And you can visit its Facebook page here.
      You can see Dr Burton himself in this news article about the opening of the Center for Adventist-Muslim relations.

      If you wish to contact him directly, I'm sure you can do so through one of the contact links.

    • Dear Bro, Nzabamwita,

      I’m sorry you feel this way. The Center for Adventist-Muslim Relations at Oakwood University is committed to showing and sharing the love of Christ with our Muslim brothers and sisters. We believe that the Gospel of the Kingdom is best demonstrated by lifting Christ up rather than tearing other faith systems down.

      We are fully aware of the differences between the Muslim and Christian faiths in general. We are also aware that there are even more differences within Christianity and Islam. While acknowledging these differences, we firmly believe that an overemphasis on issues that separate is a hindrance to genuine conversation and obstructs efforts to build community.

      In John 13:34-35, Jesus reminded those who are called by his name that all people will know that we are His disciples by the love that exudes from our fellowship. The Center for Adventist-Muslim Relations takes this admonition very seriously and we pray that others will embrace the ethos that characterized the ministry of our beloved Christ.


      Keith Augustus Burton, Director
      The Center for Adventist-Muslim Relations at Oakwood University

    • I read your comment regarding Muslim Relations and felt prompted to write this, hope you will get a moment to check it out on and listen for yourself,probably.

      On the issues of what Muslims believe and what they don't, you may not know and many Muslim masses (unfortunately) may not know but all well conversed and top Muslim leaders know that Jesus is supreme over Mohammed, that Mohammed (on his death bed) cautioned his followers to look to and think about Jesus and what is written "in the book" (meaning the bible) because judgement lies with Jesus not him (Mohammed).

      In case you know or can hear Luganda (Ikigande)well, please visit the website and listen to those messages (below on home page and more under the menu Former Muslim Sheikhs). We have very prominent and once fire brand Muslim Sheikhs who have now converted to Adventism and you will never get a clear, genuine, informed and emphatic explanation of the Quran in relation to the Bible than what you will hear these guys say.

      These were Muslim Sheikhs specifically trained/sponsored by an Arab country (Iran) to refute all Bible teachings/christianity and promote the Quran through public crusades. But as it was with Paul on the way to Damascus, God has turned their knowledge and "firebrand" preaching method to promoting Jesus and how He died for all men including Muslims! Believe me.

      Muslims, like many leading world religions (leading does not mean truth by the way), are so blindly led to believe falsehoods that are beyond imagination...yet the Quran clearly recognises that only those who believe in Jesus will be saved from this world for the paradise. Did you know that Islam like Catholicism has teachings "suitable" for the masses (Exoteric knowledge)and others for the real insiders (Isoteric knowledge). I was a Muslim and am telling you what i know is real and true, brother.

      You can only get a full understanding and clarity of what am telling you if you listen to the messages i have referred you to on

      Shaka umuntu wagusobanurira ibyo bavuga niba Ikigande utacunva at all. You will be astounded to hear how Jesus is hidden by top Muslims leaders and the well schooled in Islam yet the Quran throws light to the importance of Muslims recognising Jesus as saviour.

  5. The Adventist church and its institutions operate a number of centers such as the one mentioned here. Essentially we have a mission to preach the Gospel to all the world and it is most appropriate that we preach to Muslims, Jews, Hindu, Buddhists, as well as Christians, and the unchurched. In order to be effective we need to understand these religions and how best to approach them with the good news of the Gospel. In the past we have been terribly insensitive in the way we have talked about the Gospel to others; often turning them away from Christianity with our efforts.

    There is much that we can learn from those engaged in these centers of study, even when we are approaching other Christians, and especially the unchurched. I have been exposed to some of the work of those working in the area of Buddhism and I am appreciative of the understanding that they have given me.

  6. I do not know how is the organization conducted between the two but what I know I will mention. My brother stated "In order to be effective we need to understand these religions and how best to approach them with the good news of the Gospel" while this may be true, we cannot study all the 10,000+ religions and 34,000+ Christians religion to understand them. We have to stick to the truth at all times. But what I knew is, their is a mission group from the church who published a magazine known as "ADVENTIST FRONTIER MISSIONS" in the Feb edition it says "Praying for Muslims". The group works with Muslins is Europe, Africa and Asia and we are told to pray for them, all should obtain a copy for reading, it is interesting.

    • Marva, we don't have to "study all the 10,000+ religions," because we'll never meet people belonging to all of those. However, we should study how to best approach people with the good news of the Gospel.

      When Jesus wanted to share the Good News with us, He become one with us. As much as possible, we need to do the same with the people we want to reach.


Please leave a comment long enough to say something significant and considerably shorter than the original post. First and last name required.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *