By Elias Ayala (M.A.T & MDiv)
When Christians assert that God is “ex lex”, we mean that He is outside of the Law. One of the important features of properly understanding the Creator/Creature distinction is comprehending the fact that God stands in different relation to the “Law” that He has established than we do. As creatures, we are subject to God’s law, which flows from His holy, good, and perfect character. When a creature violates God’s law we call it sin (1 John 3:4). For created beings, there is no higher court of appeal than that of God and His law. God’s law governs his creatures and teaches them about the character and nature of the God whose image they are created. Furthermore, God’s law also demonstrates His holy perfection, and our inability to perfectly live up to that perfection; hence, the law demonstrates God’s perfection, and our need for God, given human sin. Our sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2); and because of this separation, God takes the initiative by providing for us a mediator; one whose perfect work reconciles us to our Maker.
God on the other hand is not subject to any law. There is no higher standard to which God must appeal. Rebel sinners do not like the idea of a God who is outside of the law. They prefer a “god” that is manageable and accountable to human standards. If we are not permitted to perform certain actions, than God should not be able to perform those actions either. However, the scriptures do not paint a picture of such a “god”, that is watered down and brought low to human standards. Rather, the scriptures paint us a picture of a God who is supremely sovereign over His creation; a God who “does what He pleases among the host of heaven” (Daniel 4:35). While God forbids man to unlawfully take the life of another, God takes the sovereign prerogative to take life (Matthew 10:28) because it is He who gave it. “The Lord gives and He takes” (Job 1:21). Unlike the heart of man, that is filled with evil continually (Genesis 6:5), God’s actions flow from His perfect and righteous nature, such that all of God’s actions are right and just because they are consistent with who He is.
In light of the profound truth that God is “outside of the law”, we should rejoice in that while God is able to do what He pleases, He will only do that which is consistent with what He is. For the believer, He will have your good in mind as He molds you into the image of His Son. For the unbeliever, know that while God is merciful, it is also an aspect of who He is that He is a righteous judge; and while the unregenerate man may disobey God’s law, the judge of all the earth will do what is right by executing His perfect judgment against all unrighteousness. The One who is above the law will keep man accountable to His law, and those not found in the One who has fulfilled the law will feel the full force of His righteous indignation.