This Mystery

reflections on theology and life

Category: Law (page 1 of 4)

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)

Schreiner on the law of Christ

There are some on the edges of New Covenant The­ol­ogy who wish to make the law of Christ into a new cod­i­fied law, which may make log­i­cal sense from a sys­tem­atic approach, but which goes beyond the con­text of the phrase in .

Thomas Schreiner points to lov­ing one another as the iden­tity of the law of Christ:

It seems most promis­ing to iden­tify the law of Christ with the admo­ni­tion to love one another (), for there is a clear link between and 6:2. The Old Tes­ta­ment law “is ful­filled” (peplērō­tai) in the injunc­tion to love one’s neigh­bor as one­self ( in ). And the law of Christ “is ful­filled” (anaplērōsete) when believ­ers ful­fill one another’s bur­dens (). If we carry the bur­dens of other believ­ers, we show our love for them. Sac­ri­fi­cial love for fel­low believ­ers, then, ful­fills the Old Tes­ta­ment law and the law of Christ. Such a read­ing fits with –10, where the Old Tes­ta­ment law is cap­sulized in the admo­ni­tion to love one another. We also could say that Christ’s life, and the sac­ri­fice of his life in his death, exem­pli­fies to the utter­most the law of Christ. That is, Christ’s life and death are the par­a­digm, exem­pli­fi­ca­tion, and expla­na­tion of love. How­ever, –10 guards us from over­sim­pli­fy­ing the nature of Christ’s law, for love is expressed when believ­ers ful­fill moral norms. The law of Christ is exem­pli­fied by a life of love, but such love is expressed in a life of virtue.

Schreiner, Thomas R. 40 Ques­tions About Chris­tians and Bib­li­cal Law (40 Ques­tions & Answers Series). Ed. Ben­jamin L. Merkle. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Aca­d­e­mic & Pro­fes­sional, 2010. Print. 40 Ques­tions Series.

 


Bear one another’s bur­dens, and so ful­fill the law of Christ. (ESV)


14 For the whole law is ful­filled in one word: “You shall love your neigh­bor as your­self.” (ESV)


18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own peo­ple, but you shall love your neigh­bor as your­self: I am the Lord. (ESV)


Bear one another’s bur­dens, and so ful­fill the law of Christ. (ESV)


Owe no one any­thing, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has ful­filled the law. (ESV)


Owe no one any­thing, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has ful­filled the law. (ESV)

Loving God, loving neighbor

In Defense of Jesus, the New LawgiverI was revis­it­ing John G. Reisinger’s In Defense of Jesus, the New Law­giver tonight, par­tic­u­larly his dis­cus­sion of .

He is pretty much on the mark (more on that after the quote.) And it’s why in our sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion, we look to Christ and not a check­list, because it’s not a check­list writ­ten on our hearts.

[W]e are just as emphatic that it does not mean that God inscribes a New Covenant list of rules on the heart of a Chris­t­ian. We are skep­ti­cal of any attempt to cre­ate a new list to replace the old list. There is no New Covenant Deca­logue. We dis­avow the way some NCT peo­ple use the term law of Christ. We do not think there is a con­crete, unchang­ing, all-inclusive, revealed list of the spe­cific laws of Christ any more than there was a con­crete, unchang­ing, all-inclusive list of God’s moral law revealed at Sinai. Under the New Covenant, God puts “love God, love neigh­bor” into the heart of every per­son in Christ by the Spirit. There is a sense in which the com­mands to love God and love neigh­bor are as suf­fi­cient as a com­plete list would be.

– Reisinger, John G. In Defense of Jesus, the New Law­giver. Fred­er­ick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2008. Print. p. 117–8.

I say “pretty much on the mark,” because it is the giv­ing of the Holy Spirit to dwell in the heart of the believer that ful­fills . The very nature of God — His love — in the Spirit of Christ is His law writ­ten on our hearts.


31 “Behold, the days are com­ing, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their hus­band, declares the Lord. 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. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neigh­bor and each his brother, say­ing, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the great­est, declares the Lord. For I will for­give their iniq­uity, and I will remem­ber their sin no more.” (ESV)


31 “Behold, the days are com­ing, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their hus­band, declares the Lord. 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. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neigh­bor and each his brother, say­ing, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the great­est, declares the Lord. For I will for­give their iniq­uity, and I will remem­ber their sin no more.” (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)

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.

Completed by the Spirit Part 22: A Summary

This is the 22nd and final part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

The apos­tle Paul writes through­out his epis­tles that the law was given for a dif­fer­ent covenant and that believ­ers are not under its juris­dic­tion. He makes no qual­i­fi­ca­tions in this: he does not sep­a­rate the law into com­po­nent parts – moral, civil and cer­e­mo­nial – and he does not pre­scribe com­mands of the Torah for our Chris­t­ian walk.

Paul warns us of the power of the law to pro­mote sin in the flesh and implores us not to sub­mit to its yoke of slavery.

While John is often referred to as the apos­tle of love, love is a major focus of Paul’s teach­ing. (A search for “love” in the Pauline epis­tles returns 115 results in the ESV.) It is love that ful­fills the law in the Chris­t­ian; it is a per­fect love of God and of neigh­bor that is a reflec­tion of the rela­tion­ship among the Trin­ity and it is a per­fect love of God and of neigh­bor that is the out­work­ing of our com­pleted Christ-likeness in glory.

Until then, an increas­ing reliance upon the love of Christ – given to us by His Spirit –molds us more and more into His image.

No law can pro­duce the fruit of the Spirit. All that the law can do is pro­duce sin, despair, self-condemnation and self-righteousness in our remain­ing imperfection.

It is our union with Christ through His Spirit that results in our sanctification.

“I have come to real­ize,” writes Jerry Bridges, “that the deep work of spir­i­tual trans­for­ma­tion of my soul has been what the Holy Spirit has done, not what I have done. I can to some degree change my con­duct, but only He can change my heart.”[1]

Thus, while Paul gives us imper­a­tives in his expo­si­tion of what it means to be a fol­lower of Christ in our hearts and in our con­duct, those imper­a­tives have their basis only in the indica­tive of what Christ has done in us.

“[1] There is there­fore now no con­dem­na­tion,” self or oth­er­wise, “for those who are in Christ Jesus. [2] For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” ().

Next: Com­men­tary on this series, the after­math of the paper, and fur­ther thoughts on the Gospel vs. Law sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion debate — per­haps sev­eral posts!


[1] Jerry Bridges, The Dis­ci­pline of Grace (Col­orado Springs: Nav­Press, 2006), 106.

 


8:1 There is there­fore now no con­dem­na­tion for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit Part 21: Do Not Submit Again to a Yoke of Slavery

This is the 21st part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Given all that we’ve stud­ied in this series, how do we apply what is shown to us about sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion in Scripture?

How do we grow in holi­ness or coun­sel those who are com­bat­ing sin by rely­ing on the Holy Spirit and fol­low­ing imper­a­tives grounded in the indica­tive of the gospel and the gift of the Spirit of Christ to dwell in us?

Our study has pro­vided us two answers: one pos­i­tive and one negative.

We do focus on the gospel.

We do not focus on the law.

When we set our eyes on Christ and look at His per­son and work, we behold more and more what it is that our union with Him has granted to us. Con­tinue reading

Older posts

© 2016 This Mystery

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑