Law is a set of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. The rules can be written by a legislature and enacted into a statute, decree or regulation, enacted by the executive through orders or decrees, or established through judicial decisions and case law (common law jurisdictions). Governments, private individuals, businesses and organizations may create legally binding agreements or contracts. The legal system can also provide a mechanism to settle disputes without violence by determining the rights and obligations of parties involved in the conflict.
The word “law” evokes a number of different ideas depending on the context. In the Bible, the term typically refers to the commandments and regulations commanded by God in Scripture. Thus, when Jesus talks about “keeping every ‘iota’ and ‘dot’ of the law” or when Paul says that people must obey the commands of Moses, they are referring to the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament.
In modern use, the word law has more generally come to mean a system of rules designed by human beings to govern their lives. The societal goals of law are to protect and promote the well-being of individuals and groups, and ensure that all members of society live within an orderly and secure environment. Laws can achieve these objectives by providing a system of justice that is transparent, publicized and stable, and applies to everybody equally.
This broad concept of law has given rise to an enormous variety of different fields. Each area of the law can be further subdivided into specific disciplines, such as labour law that covers a tripartite relationship between worker, employer and trade union, or criminal law that deals with a citizen’s right to a fair trial and hearing.
Other areas of the law include space law, which addresses international relations in Earth orbit and outer space; tax law, which concerns how much a business must pay in taxes; and banking and financial regulation, which sets minimum standards for capital banks must hold, as well as best practices for investment to insure against the risk of economic crises like that of 1929.
There are also specialized fields such as medical jurisprudence, competition law, property law and family law. Each of these areas is a vital part of the legal system and serves to protect the health, welfare and rights of people in societies around the world.