Hello Guest

Christ and the Law

  • 5 Replies
Christ and the Law
« on: Sunday February 10, 2019, 05:06:12 PM »
Christ and the Law

From: The Institutes of Biblical Law (Volume 1 ), by: Rousas John Rushdoony

pg. 302-308

The cross of Christ is often cited as being the death of the law, and it is commonly stated that in Christ the believer is dead to the law. Romans 7: 4 - 6 is cited as evidence for this opinion, although nothing is said about Romans 8 : 4. St. Paul's point is that we are free from the law, or dead to the law, as a sentence of death against us, but we are alive to it as the righteousness of God. Christ, as our substitute, died for us, and we are dead unto the law in Him, and also alive unto the law in Him. The very death of Christ confirmed the law: it revealed that God regards the death penalty as binding for violation of His law, so that only the atoning death of Christ could remove the curse of the law against sinners.

In Ephesians 2 : 1 - 10, St. Paul makes clear again the meaning of the law in relationship to the cross. In commenting on St. Paul's description of sinners as "dead in trespasses and sins" (vs. 1), Calvin stated:

He does not mean that they were in danger of death; but he declares that it was a real and present death under which they laboured. As spiritual death is nothing else than the alienation of the soul from God, we are all born as dead men, and we live as dead men, until we are made partakers of the life of Christ,—agreeably to the words of our Lord, "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live" (John v. 25 ).

In this condition of spiritual death, men are governed by demonic forces and impulses in fulfilment of their own sinful nature (vss. 2, 3 ) as "children of disobedience"; Calvin commented on this latter phrase, "Unbelief is always accompanied by disobedience; so that it is the source—the mother of all stubbornness." Very bluntly, Calvin affirmed after St. Paul "that we are born with sin, as serpents bring their venom from the womb."

What then is the remedy for man? Clearly, the remedy is not the law. Man has broken the law, is dead in sin and cannot keep the law. Calvin pointed out, of Ephesians 2 : 4, that "there is no other life than that which is breathed into us by Christ: so that we begin to live only when we are ingrafted into him, and begin to enjoy the same life with himself." Our salvation is entirely of God's grace, totally His work (vs. 8 ). In Calvin's words, "God declares that he owes us nothing; so that salvation is not a reward or recompense, but unmixed grace. . . . If, on the part of God, it is grace alone, and if we bring nothing but faith, which strips us of all commendation, it follows that salvation does not come from us." The faith itself is the gift of God (vs. 8 ). All Scripture is emphatic: God is man's only redeemer; the law is not given as man's way of salvation but as God's way of righteousness, His law for His chosen people, His kingdom. The law therefore came "through Moses" (John 1 : 17 )—from God through Moses—because it is the law for God's kingdom. Where converted into a way of salvation, the law is perverted. Where the law represents the government and obedience of faith, there the law fulfils its God-given purpose. In Calvin's words again, "man is nothing but by divine grace."
In Ephesians 2:10, St. Paul declares, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Calvin noted,

He says, that, before we were born, the good works were prepared by God; meaning, that in our own strength we were not able to lead a holy life, but only as far as we are formed and adapted by the hand of God. Now, if the grace of God came before our performances, all ground of boasting has been taken away.

Plainly, therefore, we are regenerated "unto good works," that is, unto obedience to God's law-word, and the purpose of our salvation, ordained beforehand by God, is this obedience.

But, some object, the law is called "carnal" in Scripture, as witness Hebrews 7 : 16. Calvin stated, "It was called carnal, because it refers to things corporeal, that is, to external rites." When St. Paul summons believers to "temperance," he is asking for obedience in a "carnal," that is, corporeal matter as well as with respect to an attitude of mind (Gal. 5:23).

The calling of believers is unto liberty, which means, St. Paul said, to love one another, i.e., to fulfil the law in relationship to one another (Gal. 5:13-14). In relationship to our fellow men and to God, the works of our fallen human nature are these:

Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law (Gal. 5:19-23).

St. Paul attacked the law as a saving ordinance, as man's way of salvation; he upheld the law as man's way of sanctification rather than justification. After citing lawless behavior, beginning with adultery, he cites godly behavior and says of it, "against such there is no law." Obviously, against the other catalogue of actions, beginning with adultery, there is a law, the law as given by God through Moses.

Thus, clearly, the law still stands. The implication of St. Paul's words is that there is a law against the catalogue of sins of Galatians 5 : 19 - 21 ; moreover, in terms of Ephesians 2 : 10, we are God's new creation for the purpose of keeping His law and performing good works. In what sense, then, is the law dead, or even wrong, and in what sense does it still stand?

First, as we have seen, the law as a sentence of death is finished when the guilty party dies or is executed. For believers, the death of Christ means that they are dead in Him to the death sentence of the law, since Christ is their substitute (Rom. 7 : 1 -6 ). This does not permit us to call the law "sin," for the law itself made us aware of our sinfulness before God, and our need of His Savior (Rom. 7 : 7 -12 ).

Second, our salvation in Jesus Christ sets forth the salvation by God's gracious act which is the only doctrine of salvation all Scripture sets forth. The sacrificial and ceremonial law set forth the fact of salvation through the atoning act of a God-given substitute, an animal whose innocence typified the innocence of the one to come. The Messiah, the Lamb of God, having come, the old, typical laws of sacrifice and their priesthood and ceremonies were succeeded by the atoning work of Christ, the great High Priest (Heb. 7 ). It is a serious error to say that the civil law was also abolished, but the moral law retained. What is the distinction between them? At most points, they cannot be distinguished. Murder, theft, and false witness are clearly civil offenses as well as moral offenses. In almost every civil order, adultery and dishonoring parents have also been civil crimes. Do these people mean, by declaring the end of civil law, that the Old Testament theocracy is no more? But the kingship of God and of His Christ is emphatically asserted by the New Testament and especially by the book of Revelation. The state is no less called to be under Christ than is the church. It is clearly only the sacrificial and ceremonial law which is ended because it is replaced by Christ and His work.

Third, the law is condemned by the New Testament as a means of justification, which it was never intended to be. The law is not our means of justification or salvation, but of sanctification. Phariseeism had perverted the meaning of the law and made it "of none effect," according to Christ's declaration (Matt. 15 : 1 -9 ). What the Pharisees called the law was "the commandments of men" (Matt. 15 : 9 ), and against this Christ and St. Paul levelled their attack. The law in this sense never had any legitimate status and must in every age be condemned. The alternative to antinomianism is not Phariseeism or legalism. The answer to those who want to save man by law is not to say that man needs no law.

Phariseeism or legalism leads to statism. If law can save man, then the answer is that society must work to institute a total law order, to govern man totally by laws and thus remake man and society. This is the answer given by statism, which invariably draws its strength from Pharisaic religion. Socialism and communism are saving law orders, and the call by preachers of the social gospel for a "saving society" is an expression of faith in man's law as savior. This latter point is important: God's law does not permit itself to be assigned a saving role, and as a result man devises a humanistic law-order for the total regeneration of man and society by means of total government. Biblical law has a limited role; a saving law must have an unlimited power, and as a result, Biblical law is replaced by Phariseeism with a total law. The modesty of God's law was an offense to the Pharisees. Thus, whereas the law required only one fast a year, on the Day of Atonement, and then only until sundown, the Pharisees fasted twice a week (Luke (18 : 12 ). A yearly fast which ended in a banquet involved no government over man; a twice-weekly fast both governs man and becomes a means of self-commendation before God and man.

The law is thus to be condemned when it is made into more than law, when it is made into a savior, or a favor done to God rather than man's necessary obedience and response to God's mandate and calling. Law is law, not salvation, and the law as savior leads to statism and totalitarianism.

Antinomianism, on the other hand, leads to anarchism. Religious antinomians are usually practical rather than theoretical anarchists. Their disinterest in law leads them to surrender the civil order to the enemy and to further the decline of law and order. Although antinomians would be shocked if called anarchists, they must be so designated. The logical implication of their position is anarchism. If Christ has abolished the law, why should society maintain it? If the Christian is dead to the law, why should not the Christian church, state, school, family, and calling be also dead to the law? A consistent faith on the part of antinomians would require them to be anarchists, but perhaps consistency is itself too much of a virtue, too much of a law, and too intelligent a position to ask from such stupidity.

The law in every age sets forth the holiness of God. The holiness of God is His absolute distinction from all His creature and creation, and His transcendent exaltation above them in His sovereign and infinite majesty. This separation of God is also His moral separation from sin and evil and His absolute moral perfection. As Berkhof noted,

The holiness of God is revealed in the moral law, implanted in man's heart, and speaking through the conscience, and more particularly in God's special revelation. It stood out prominently in the law given to Israel.

There can be no holiness, no separation unto God, without the law of God. The law is indispensable to holiness.

The law is also basic to the righteousness of God. Again, Berkhofs phrasing is to the point:

The fundamental idea of righteousness is that of strict adherence to the law. Among men it presupposes that there is a law to which they must conform. It is sometimes said that we cannot speak of righteousness in God, because there is no law to which He is subject. But though there is no law above God, there is certainly a law in the very nature of God, and this is the highest possible standard, by which all other laws are judged. A distinction is generally made between the absolute and the relative justice of God. The former is that rectitude of the divine nature, in virtue of which God is infinitely righteous in Himself, while the latter is that perfection of God by which He maintains Himself over against every violation of His holiness, and shows in every respect that He is the Holy One. It is to this righteousness that the term "justice" more particularly applies.

The righteousness of God is revealed in the law of God, and the norm by which men are declared to be sinners is their violation of God's law. The sin of Adam and Eve was their violation of God's law, and the criterion of a man's faith is the fruit he bears, his works, in brief his conformity to the law of God, so that the law is his new life and nature (Matt. 7:16-20; James 2:17-26; Jer. 31:33). In the neglect or defiance of God's law, there can be neither righteousness nor justice. To forsake God's law is to forsake God.

The law is also basic to sanctification. Sanctification cannot be confused, as Berkhof pointed out, with mere moral rectitude or moral improvement.

A man may boast of great moral improvement, and yet be an utter stranger to sanctification. The Bible does not urge moral improvement pure and simple, but moral improvement in relation to God for God's sake, and with a view to the service of God. It insists on sanctification. At this very point much ethical preaching of the present day is utterly misleading: and the corrective for it lies in the presentation of the true doctrine of sanctification. Sanctification may be defined as that gracious and continuous operation of the Holy Spirit, by which He delivers the justified sinner from the pollution of sin, renews his whole nature in the image of God, and enables him to perform good works.

According to St. Paul, "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10 : 17 ) ; the law is written into every fiber of that word. If this law-word is basic to faith and to hearing, it is clearly basic to the believer's growth in sanctification. Sanctification depends on our law-keeping in mind, word, and deed. The perfection of the incarnate Word was manifested in His law-keeping; can the people of His kingdom pursue their calling to be perfect in any way other than by His law-word?

If the law is denied as the means of sanctification, then, logically, the only alternative is Pentecostalism, with its antinomian and unbiblical doctrine of the Spirit. Pentecostalism does, however, represent a very logical outgrowth of antinomian theology. If the law is denied, how is man then to be sanctified? The answer of the Pentecostal movement was an attempt to fill this lack. Protestant theology left man justified but without a way to be sanctified. The holiness movement, with its belief in the instant perfection of all believers, ran so clearly counter to common sense: any observer could see that the holiness people were and are extremely far from perfection! The answer of Protestant Pentecostals and Roman Catholic ascetics and ecstatics has been this doctrine of the Spirit. Ostensibly super-normal and antinomian manifestations of the Spirit place the believer on a higher plane. Many parallel movements, like Keswick, cultivate this higher way as the alternative to law for sanctification. These movements at least represent a logical concern for sanctification, although an illicit one. Deny the law, and your alternatives are either indifference to sanctification, or Pentecostalism and similar doctrines.

The disinterest in or contempt for canon law is a part of this anti-nomianism. To separate the law from the gospel is to separate oneself from the law and the gospel, and from Christ. When God the Father regarded the law as so binding on man that the death of God's incarnate Son was necessary to redeem man, He could not regard that law as something now trifling, or null and void, for man. Man is saved "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled" in him (Rom. 8 :4 ). To say that man is no longer under the law, and yet obliged to avoid murder, adultery, theft, false witness, and other sins, is to play with words. Either a law is a law and is binding, or it is no law, and man is not bound but is free to commit those acts.

The commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," means that man's life cannot be taken. Is not the perversion of the word of life a means of taking or injuring life? Must not false preachers be termed murderers? In an age when the foundations of law are under attack, the faithful servant of God will most zealously and clearly proclaim that law. In Martin Luther's words,

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proven, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.

With Adam's fall, man fell, and God's law-order was broken. With Christ's victory, man in Christ triumphed, and God's law-order was restored, with its mandate to exercise dominion under God and to subdue the earth. Can any man of God proclaim less?

Re: Christ and the Law
« Reply #1 on: Sunday February 10, 2019, 05:48:21 PM »
Thanks for the post!

You said, “With Adam's fall, man fell, and God's law-order was broken. With Christ's victory, man in Christ triumphed, and God's law-order was restored, with its mandate to exercise dominion under God and to subdue the earth. Can any man of God proclaim less?”

100%. The fall of man happens twice. The first fall with Adam is DOWN, a fall from grace...he became the fallen angel. And every human born after, fallen angels. The second fall is UP as the carnal law in use dies off, that is, falls away with the resurrection of Christ through us. Now the perfect law of liberty is the invisible Father himself as seen by the declaration of his Son through us. These two together allow us to walk in the Holy Spirit.

Father + Son = Holy Spirit (replica of the Father)
Word+ Works = Holy Spirit
Law + Prophets = Transformation of the invisible Father (Word/Law/Voice) into a visible realm. The only way to move from invisible to visible is by the Son. “I AM the way.”

As far as the cross of Christ is concerned. When we follow Jesus the Word then Christ is no longer on the cross. The cross itself is a type of Christ which the instrument used to crucify fallen man. Therefore, it’s man on the cross...at least it supposed to be.

It cannot be disputed, those things we do are a direct result of the thoughts we follow. Jesus said, Follow me.

Re: Christ and the Law
« Reply #2 on: Sunday February 10, 2019, 07:32:40 PM »
Disliking the message I posted, but liking the one reply to the message makes no sense to me (marking as such). Please explain. Thanks. neverfear

Re: Christ and the Law
« Reply #3 on: Sunday February 10, 2019, 07:51:56 PM »
Are you saying you don’t like your own post and don’t understand my comment?
It cannot be disputed, those things we do are a direct result of the thoughts we follow. Jesus said, Follow me.

Re: Christ and the Law
« Reply #4 on: Sunday February 10, 2019, 08:10:01 PM »
I'm saying your reply compliments the message. I love em both!

Re: Christ and the Law
« Reply #5 on: Sunday February 10, 2019, 10:46:12 PM »
Me too Bro...they’re noteable!
It cannot be disputed, those things we do are a direct result of the thoughts we follow. Jesus said, Follow me.