This Mystery

reflections on theology and life

Category: Grace

The law of Christ is not a set of laws

law-books-291676_1280The fol­low­ing is adapted and expanded from a por­tion of my July 28, 2009 pre­sen­ta­tion, “I Did Not Come To Abol­ish” given at the New Covenant The­ol­ogy Think Tank in Evans, N.Y.

Despite its brief men­tion and a lack of a far-reaching or biblically-explicit con­text to sup­port the notion, there have been whole the­olo­gies and there have been whole NCT doc­trines built around a sys­tem­atic, rather than an exeget­i­cal and bib­li­cal the­ol­ogy approach to “the Law of Christ.”

Covenant The­olo­gians would typ­i­cally refer to it as iden­ti­cal to the moral law or Ten Com­mand­ments, and would con­sider as the impri­matur, “I have not come to abol­ish the Law,” full stop. Con­tinue reading


17 “Do not think that I have come to abol­ish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abol­ish them but to ful­fill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accom­plished. (ESV)

An audacious statement

Studies in the Sermon on the MountOne of the most trea­sured the­o­log­i­cal tomes on my book­shelf is D. Mar­tyn Lloyd-Jones’ Stud­ies in the Ser­mon on the Mount, a work col­lected from 60 ser­mons by the Doctor.

In a recent dis­cus­sion on the role of law in the believer, I was reminded of some quotes from that book.

First, is the auda­cious state­ment of in which Jesus declares Him­self to be the ful­fill­ment of the Hebrew Scriptures:

It is, in other words, that all the law and all the prophets point to Him and will be ful­filled in Him down to the small­est detail. Every­thing that is in the law and the prophets cul­mi­nates in Christ, and He is the ful­fill­ment of them. It is the most stu­pen­dous claim that He ever made. (p. 163)

Is the Ser­mon on the Mount cod­i­fi­ca­tion, or is it a descrip­tion of the believer?  The “blessed are” state­ments of the Beat­i­tudes are indica­tive in the Greek; they are descrip­tive of the new crea­ture that is the believer.

About the Law — which Paul calls our pedagogue/tutor/guardian, Lloyd-Jones wrote:

The gospel of Jesus Christ does not treat us like that. It does not treat us as chil­dren. It is not another law, but some­thing which gives us life. It lays down cer­tain prin­ci­ples and asks us to apply them. Its essen­tial teach­ing is that we are given a new out­look and under­stand­ing which we must apply with respect to every detail of our lives. That is why the Chris­t­ian, in a sense, is a man who is always walk­ing on a kind of knife edge. He has no set reg­u­la­tions; instead he applies this cen­tral prin­ci­ple to every sit­u­a­tion that may arise. (p. 216)

Lloyd-Jones fur­ther explains:

What is of supreme impor­tance is that we must always remem­ber that the Ser­mon on the Mount is a descrip­tion of char­ac­ter and not a code of ethics or morals. It is not to be regarded as law – a kind of new “Ten Com­mand­ments” or set of rules and reg­u­la­tions which are to be car­ried out by us – but rather as a descrip­tion of what we Chris­tians are meant to be, illus­trated in cer­tain par­tic­u­lar respects. It is as if our Lord says, “Because you are what you are, this is how you will face the law and how you will live it.” (p. 21)

It is not a new set of let­ters (“For the let­ter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” ESV).

Ulti­mately, the eter­nal stan­dard of right­eous­ness is Christ Him­self, the rev­e­la­tion of and reflec­tion of God, the per­fect image (Greek eikon) of the Father. He is and always has been the right­eous­ness that the Law pointed to. And He is the stan­dard of our right­eous­ness. No law has ever encom­passed His holi­ness, the only stan­dard that mat­ters.  No law, no let­ters can encom­pass the right­eous­ness that exceeds the scribes and the Phar­isees.  Only the liv­ing Torah, Christ whom the writ­ten Torah pointed to, is that righteousness.

Christ’s teach­ing, Paul’s exhor­ta­tions, all point to being that which we as new crea­tures are recre­ated to be.

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; lis­ten to him.” ( ESV)

The Spirit of Christ, indwelling the believer and inform­ing him in His word is not a set of rules. Look­ing at God’s law merely as rules to fol­low inher­ently misses the heart and focuses on the exter­nal. What the Law pointed to was ful­filled in Him and in is being ful­filled in us. While it is shrouded in this body of death now, it is real­ized fully in glory.


17 “Do not think that I have come to abol­ish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abol­ish them but to ful­fill them. (ESV)


He was still speak­ing when, behold, a bright cloud over­shad­owed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; lis­ten to him.” (ESV)

How amazing is grace

A clip of Tul­lian Tchvid­jian explain­ing why grace is so amaz­ing … and why it angers people.

Wallowing in darkness is a form of self-righteousness

Erik Ray­mond has a great post today about what hap­pens when we as believ­ers wal­low in our own sin­ful­ness. The quote from Spur­geon is price­less. Read more here: The (poten­tial) Stinger in the Tail of All that Sin Talk | Ordi­nary Pas­tor.

Not the time for NCT to build fences

As one of many in New Covenant The­ol­ogy cir­cles who is try­ing to push the dis­cus­sion for­ward while see­ing a stronger Bib­li­cal Theology/Redemptive His­tory case made for what we believe to be the best under­stand­ing of Scrip­ture, it grieves me to see those who advo­cate NCT — even some of its pio­neers — aim to shut down the dis­cus­sion, ostra­cize broth­ers, or toss peo­ple out of the movement.

On one hand, there are those in what has been called the “Clas­sic NCT” camp who would like to shut down any dis­cus­sion of what is the nature of the Law of Christ. So-called Clas­sic NCT wants to find a new set of statutes in the teach­ings of Jesus and the apos­tles. I’m among those who would respond that Jesus did not come to die for sin, rise from the grave and ascend to the Father only to bind peo­ple to a more strin­gent law, but that He came as the One with all author­ity to free us to walk in the light, live with­out fear, and love with­out limit. Christ is the enflesh­ment of the law.

Fur­ther­more, He gave us His Spirit to dwell in us as the ful­fill­ment of ff and ff; the Holy Spirit is Him­self the promise fulfilled.

(Pas­tor Todd Braye has sum­ma­rized this argu­ment well in a recent out­line at Christ My Covenant, Five Rea­sons Why I Object to Clas­sic NCT’s Def­i­n­i­tion of the Law of Christ.)

I’m con­vinced that this under­stand­ing lays great ground­work for the pio­neer­ing thought and study that has pre­ceded us. Unfor­tu­nately, instead of open­ing up dia­log, it has caused those who advo­cate this under­stand­ing to be made tar­gets by some of those who cham­pion so-called Clas­sic NCT.

Cer­tainly dis­cus­sion and cri­tique of any view should be wel­comed. But putting peo­ple out­side of the camp should not be tolerated.

Sim­i­larly, another assault has been made — unnec­es­sar­ily — on those in NCT who hold to a pre­mil­len­nial view, sug­gest­ing that they should not be part of NCT. I’m not a pre­mil­len­nar­ian myself, but I see no need to push peo­ple out of the dis­cus­sion who are.

This move­ment is too new and its foun­da­tions still are being con­structed. It is sin­ful to ostra­cize those work­ing to grow the move­ment and build its foun­da­tions. And it is most egre­gious to see those who have them­selves been ostra­cized take part in it.

 


33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my peo­ple. (ESV)


25 I will sprin­kle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your unclean­nesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. (ESV)

The greatest threat

I’ve been fol­low­ing Tul­lian Tchividjian’s pas­sion­ate advo­cacy of the suf­fi­ciency of the gospel and the dis­cus­sions he’s had with oth­ers who want to drive peo­ple to law for sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion. Two peo­ple at our church have brought up Tchividjian’s lat­est book,Jesus + Noth­ing = Every­thing, so I thought it was about time I read it. This snip­pet is from a sec­tion of the book sub­ti­tled, “The Great­est Threat”:

The Bible makes it clear that the gospel’s pre­mier enemy is one we often call “legal­ism.” I like to call it per­for­man­cism. Still another way of view­ing it, espe­cially in its most com­mon man­i­fes­ta­tion in Chris­tians, is moral­ism. Strictly speak­ing, those three terms — legal­ism, per­for­man­cism, and moral­ism — aren’t pre­cisely iden­ti­cal in what they refer to. But there’s so much over­lap and inter­con­nec­tion between them that we’ll basi­cally look at them here as one thing.

And what really is that one thing?

Well, it shows up when we fail to believe the gospel. It shows up when behav­ioral oblig­a­tions are divorced from gospel dec­la­ra­tions, when imper­a­tives are dis­con­nected from gospel indica­tives. Legal­ism hap­pens when what we need to do, not what Jesus has already done, becomes the end game.

Our per­for­man­cism leads to pride when we suc­ceed and to despair when we fail. But ulti­mately it leads to slav­ery either way, because it becomes all about us and what we must do to estab­lish our own iden­tity instead of rest­ing in Jesus and what he accom­plished to estab­lish it for us. In all its forms, this wrong focus is anti-gospel and there­fore enslaving.

Tchivid­jian, Tul­lian.Jesus + Noth­ing = Every­thing. Wheaton, IL: Cross­way, 2011. Print. (p. 45–46)

I haven’t com­pleted the book yet, but I’d rec­om­mend it on hav­ing read the first third of it alone.

Addicted To Law?

Tul­lian Tchvid­jian is one of the best voices for grace and the Gospel out there. He writes today:

But while I’m not sur­prised when I hear ven­omous rejoin­ders to grace, I am sad­dened when the very pack of peo­ple that God has uncon­di­tion­ally saved and con­tin­ues to sus­tain by his free grace are the very ones who push back most vio­lently against it.

Read the whole thing at The Gospel Coali­tion: Might As Well Face It, You’re Addicted To Law.

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