Christian Theology

August 17, 2009

Legalists & Libertines: Both Imbalanced – Part 2

Psalm 119:4 Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.

The Right Side

Considering the ending of the previous post then, we might ask, “What is the proper balance?” The Biblical understanding of God’s Law.

Let us briefly examine a role/some roles in which God’s Law ought to act in the life of a believer. I find this necessary becausethe errors of the Libertines stem from a misunderstanding of what it means to be “under the Law.” Respectfully, though I believe their intentions are sincere and positive, I fear they have fallen prey to the idea that those of us who are under grace can only be out from “under the Law” by casting it aside. Such a belief is unfounded in Scripture and, I believe, a revolt against God’s provision of goodness He has given us in the Law.

First, what does God’s Word say about God’s Law? Many things. My personal favorite follows thus from Psalm 19:

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

I am certain that Biblical Christians would all agree that we can trust Scripture, no? Not only can we trust in Scripture, we can love and obey it wholeheartedly, without fear of it leading us astray. Hence, it follows we can also believe in and trust what the Psalmist says here. Let us consider a few of the Psalmist’s descriptors of the Law.

1. God’s Law is Perfect (v.7)

Hebrew: תמים –Transliteration: tamiym — which means:

1) complete, whole, entire, sound
a) complete, whole, entire
b) whole, sound, healthful
c) complete, entire (of time)
d) sound, wholesome, unimpaired, innocent, having integrity
e) what is complete or entirely in accord with truth and fact

Accidental is certainly no way to characterize the Psalmist’s placing of perfect as the first descriptor of God’s Law in this passage. Rather, it lays the foundation for all those which proceed thereafter. Because God’s Law is perfect, we can be confident that to the “revived soul” it:

-is sure, bringing wisdom to the simple
-is right, rejoicing the heart
-is pure, enlightening the eyes

So not only is the Law all these perfect things, but it does and brings good things! Wisdom, Joy, Illumination, and Rewards. That doesn’t sound scary, nor is it something I mind living “under.” ;) Now, considering the given definition of perfect, I believe we are safe to proclaim that God’s Law is perpetual. If it is perfect (and it is), how could one even imply that it is bad, deficient, or whatever one wishes to say, enough that we need to be finished with it? I mean, it is complete, not lacking in anything, sound, etc., thus it has no need to be abolished. Next, allow me to quote that Esteemed Apostle, when he writes:

So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. – Romans 7:12

Having briefly touched the surface, let me say that I, in no way, would think the sincere Libertines would disagree thus far with what I’ve said. “So, then, what is the purpose, Josh?” To point out that when the Apostle says “you are not under law but under grace,” he does not mean that the Law is bad, or that it is no longer in effect. Granted, there are certain Mosaic, Ceremonial, and Judicial laws which are no longer in effect, but not without reason. The ceremonial laws no longer have any typological use, having been fulfilled in Christ. The judicial laws have passed with the passing of the nation-state of OT Israel*. No, what I speak of is God’s Moral Law.

What was Paul saying, then? The same thing that is true for every believer in all times in all ages ranging from Adam to present. That, before God so graciously regenerated and justifies a sinner, he is condemned by the Law. Not because the Law is in any way deficient. NO! Because men are deficient. The Law stands as a condemnation against those who have not been saved by the Law Giver. However, once the sinner is graciously brought into the Law Giver’s family, he is no longer condemned by that Law, but saved by the Law Giver’s grace.

Therefore, since it is nothing inherent within the Law that is condemnable, deficient, etc. Paul does not mean that the Law is no longer authoritative, binding, or important for the Christian. We know that the Law is perfect, good, holy, just, rewarding, etc. How, then, could we say it is abolished? The Law, for the unbeliever, serves one of two purposes: Either, his condemnation unto everlasting hell, or his conviction unto repentance, conversion and everlasting glory.

For the Christian, though, the Law is still authoritative, binding, and important. It cannot condemn the Christian, for there is now no condemnation for those in Christ. Why is that? For Christ took the condemnation, not because of some magical pixie dust that is applied to believers when they are converted. The Law is a measure for the Christian. The Law ought to be a delight for the Christian. The Law serves as a means unto holiness (not perfectionism, mind you). Thus, it is not the Law that is bad, but men. The Law is not a Boogey-Man.

Lord willing, in a future post, we can look at the “Right Side” in the context of the Legalists. Until then, Godspeed and Grace to all of God’s People!

*Although the judicial laws have expired with the nation of OT Israel, the general equity of said laws still remains (this will be discussed and expounded upon in a future article, Lord willing).

Josh

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7 Comments »

  1. Thanks Josh, looking forward to pt.3. Good discussion on the law. I think I was a Christian 10 years before I heard such a discussion on God’s law. Such is current climate in American Christianity. Just an aside from the main point, I can see how the ceremonial law is typological, for that info. comes directly from the N.T. pointing to Christ, but exactly how is the judicial/civil law typological and fulfilled in Christ? Thanks, keep blogging.

    Comment by mic — August 23, 2009 @ 10:50 pm | Reply

  2. Hey, Mic. Thanks for droppin’ a line.

    The judicial laws have been fulfilled in that the *exact* application and execution of those laws are not required for every nation – state. The Westminster Confession of Faith says it much better than I:

    IV. To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

    This line can seem a bit smeared, but I think, if you have a chance to listen to a few of the sermons I’ve listed in the 3rd Installment, my Pastor does a great job in “proving” the expiration of the judicial laws.

    I hope that somewhat answers your question.

    Comment by Josh Hicks — August 24, 2009 @ 11:31 am | Reply

  3. [...] Previously, we discussed the Right Group (as opposed to the Wrong Group) within the context of the Libertines. Today I’d like to explore the Right Group within the context of the Legalists. It will really be quite brief, because I’d like to simply reference some sermons from Pastor Todd Ruddell that go into detail concerning the relationship of God’s Law to the believer. [...]

    Pingback by Legalists & Libertines – Part 3 « Christian Theology — August 24, 2009 @ 11:40 am | Reply

  4. Thanks Josh, I will try and get a chance to listen to those sermons. To say that a law is fulfilled, it would seem to me that they would have to have a very particular role that is no longer needed. The ceremonial laws are fulfilled in Christ so we no longer sacrifice goats and bulls. I’m sure you would not say that criminal don’t need to be punished because the N.T. say that they do (Rom. 13:4). But how do we fairly punish our criminals today and not violate equity? If the crime of say rape was committed back during the time of the O.T and the same exact crime was committed today in the same way, would there not have to be the same penalty as in the O.T. to remain fair? The confession may prove more than you give it credit when you speak of equity. I can see using concepts of equity when speaking of stealing SUV’s since Israel never had such things. But, were there not some crimes in the O.T. so detrimental to society as a whole that they carried harsh penalties… fairly? And are those crimes less detrimental today? Certainly other laws beside the ceremonial laws were particular to national Israel, i.e. land laws,tribal laws, etc, for there would be no way to apply them to us today, but what of murder, rape, incest, and the like. Things that we see in our own society. And do the laws of God proceed from His nature or were they just tutorial? It appears it is your view that every nation gets to decide their own equity. That seems funny to me, that God would be o.k. with the punishment for murder to be 5 years in jail in one part of the world, and 10 years or death in other parts of the world, almost like He doesn’t really care? Again, who gets to define equity, the loudest voice or the strongest arm or the biggest wallet or the majority party? If we don’t have something pretty close to the law of God then aren’t we left with a kind of penal relativism? Also, it seems like Israel got the stiff deal and we have it much easier with our current views of equity as I have heard them. I just don’t see the judicial laws of Israel abrogated in the N.T, like I do the ceremonial laws. Perhaps I’ve missed something perhaps not. Well thanks, and if you have any more insight I’d love to put them in the mix while I’m learning more on the subject. Again, I know this was an aside from the main point of your edifying article so I appreciate you spending your valuable time.

    Comment by mic — August 25, 2009 @ 4:37 am | Reply

  5. Hey, Mic.

    Thanks for droppin’ another few lines.

    I’m not expert, which is why I ended the polemics of my posts by deferring to sermons on the subject by my Pastor. I can say that I’m “strictly” Confessional in regard to the original Westminster Standards. So, that being said, I don’t hold to the American Revisions, and I’m Establishmentarian. However, I’m not what has been recently called a Theonomic Reconstructionist (of the Rushdoony sort).

    So while I agree that the Magistrate should enforce both tables of the Law, I do not believe that the punishments must be exactly as they were in the nation-state of Israel. However, that doesn’t mean I think a Magistrate *couldn’t* implement such. I understand that it’s not a clear line, and not even all the Westminster Divines would have agreed 100% on precisely *what* was “general equity.” However, it should be noted that there were no major disagreements about it either (historically speaking).

    My primary concern in these articles is to combat the blatant Antinomianism in some circles and the Latent Antinomianism in others. I am not prepared (yet) to debate, or expound upon in a polemical manner, all the implications of the fulfillment/abrogation of the Judicial Laws that were applicable to the nation state of Israel. So, thanks for bearing with me, and the Lord bless your endeavors as you seek these things out. For now, I am happy to defer to the Standards on the things which I need to further study, but while being heavily involved in the more pressing matters of my particular circumstances and station in life.

    Comment by Josh Hicks — August 25, 2009 @ 8:51 am | Reply

  6. I understand Josh. Thanks for your time.

    Comment by mic — August 26, 2009 @ 3:25 am | Reply

  7. Mic,

    I did just realize the (mis)statement from which your question arose. The passage wherein I lumped all the ceremonial and judicial laws together, then tied them to mere typological use. I wasn’t paying the well-needed attention when I wrote that portion, apparently, because I should have made a distinction. Sure, the judicial laws are *not* typological;thus,I should have made a separate sentence distinguishing those from the ceremonial. My apologies, I will amend that statement soon. For those who haven’t read it yet, here’s that particular passage from the original piece:

    Granted, there are certain Mosaic, Ceremonial, and Judicial laws which are no longer in effect, but not without reason. Those very things no longer have any typological use, having been fulfilled in Christ.

    For what it’s worth, and just in case I haven’t clarified already, I don’t believe in the autonomy of nations to execute law and punishment however they so choose. So I apologize for appearing seemingly fickle on the matter; I assure you I’m not. I do believe that the Magistrate should enforce both tables of the Law, but, for example, I don’t think, necessarily, the state must stone disobedient children (I am also *not* imputing that to Theonomic Reconstructionists as many are wont to do). Of course, in all things judicial, I’m still hammering out my scruples on the matter.

    As for what I’m not:

    1. Dispensationalist
    2. Klinean Two Kingdomer
    3. Theonomic Reconstructionist

    Well, I hope that was clearer than mud. The Lord bless you, Sir.

    Josh

    Comment by Josh Hicks — August 26, 2009 @ 7:30 am | Reply


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