The Law is Not a Boogey-Man

Recently, it has been asserted that I am living too much “under the Law.” But the assertion does not cease there. Pitted against me living too much “under the Law” was the presumption that I was not living enough “in the Holy Spirit.” Now all of this was, to be honest, confounding and news to me. How one who does not know me could, with any intellectual honesty whatsoever, impute such sentiments to my state of being left me with only two logical possibilities.

Either:

1. Said person has obviously not taken the time to read even just a small portion of my blog entries of substance, thus appreciating the greater context in which I discuss God’s Law.

Or:

2. Said person has textual evidence from my own hand (keyboard) by which he could expose and indict me, proving such allegations to be, in fact, true.

Since no evidence was laid forth, I suppose I will opt for the first. It is apparent that whilst I have put many an emphases in my blog concerning God’s Law, portions in which I have discussed the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, the Gospel of Grace’s saving power, et al have been selectively passed over. However, before addressing the neglect of my accuser in considering the exhaustive context of my writings, let us briefly examine a role/some roles in which God’s Law ought to act in the life of a believer. I feel this is necessary because I believe that said person’s allegations stem from a misunderstanding of what it means to be “under the Law.” Respectfully, though I believe his intentions positive, I fear he has 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. Thus, 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, think my accuser 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. Those very things no longer have any typological use, having been fulfilled in Christ. 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? Because 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.

So, as I have said before time and again here, man is justified by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) in Christ alone (soli Christo) according to Scripture alone (sola Scriptura) to the glory of God alone (soli Deo gloria). Sinners are not, I repeat, are not salvifically justified by the Law. Thus, in light of what I have written concerning justification and man’s salvation, the burden of proof is on my accuser to show wherein I have asserted any sentiment that I am living under the Law, or that I think such is somehow right, and that I am not living enough “in the Holy Spirit.”  

-Josh-

10 thoughts on “The Law is Not a Boogey-Man

  1. Far too legal for me, but I would be the last to accuse you or anyone of anything. Judge not works pretty well for me.

    You certainly know your Bible.

    Stay blessed.

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  2. I wonder if your accuser has some law in particular that he or she dislikes. Generally, I’ve found that people who make such accusations have fallen into the trap Paul discusses when he talks about those who think that they can sin more because grace abounds more. (I do miss that emphatic “God forbid!” from the old King James version.)

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  3. My understandng of legalism or being legalistic is that one is looking to the adhereance of the law to be justified. Stating that the law of God is good and wise and sets God’s will before our eyes in no way suggests that one is seeking justification based on the obeying of the law, for all of us break it.

    I would say that our righteousness is based upon one’s adhereance to the law though, but that would be Christs perfect righteousness, in His sinless life. The standard of God to obey the law perfectly never ceased, before or after Christ, it’s just that after Christ there is a lawkeeper to look back to, a righteousness to substitute for our filthy rags, a replacement of the first Adam as the believers head.

    I suppose what I’m getting at is that if we are looking for a model to follow and were to ask “What would Jesus do” the answer would be He would obey the law. Perhaps that answer should persuade us to try and do the same.

    Clay

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  4. With some of these people that want to replace obedience to the moral will of God (the law) with the leading of the Holy Spirit, it’s as if they think that the Spirit of God would lead them to something other than be obedient to the moral will of God. What will He lead them to do? Murder, steal, and lie? Worship other gods? Covet our neighbor’s rightful possessions and relationships?

    Jesus taught that to Love God and to love your neighbor is the essence of the Law, so if anyone has the temerity to teach that we should disregard the moral Law for some flimsy leading of a supposed Spirit, we might think that the spirit they speak of is not the same one that we know in Christ.

    We are not under the law as a mode of our justification before God (contra N.T. wright and whomever) because that aspect of the legal relationship has been fully satisfied in the work of Christ as a vicarious substitutionary atoning sacrifice. But as to both the measurement and source of Christian behavior in this life, we would not know what sin was in order to avoid it apart from the laws of God, nor how to live a life pleasing to God.

    The law is love, and faith, hope, and love remain inviolable.

    Christopher Neiswonger

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  5. “Legalism” is often used in contradistinction to the popular dictum, oft attributed to Augustine, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”

    It is not usually a reference to antinomianism. This notion of legalism usually involves some set of behaviors someone else doesn’t like, (you know, dancing, drinking and the like) and as a result the prescription in Romans 14, the “weaker brother doctrine,” (WBD) is invoked:

    “21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.”

    By this means one’s freedom to enjoy a nice 18 year old single-malt scotch is curtailed.

    The accusation of legalism in modern, popular parlance is more often of this kind than of the kind that impacts Justification.

    Lindsay

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  6. hughstan wrote:

    Far too legal for me, but I would be the last to accuse you or anyone of anything. Judge not works pretty well for me.

    You certainly know your Bible.

    Stay blessed.

    What’s too legal for you? Forgive my density, Brother. Thanks for the kind words, but I think you assume too much about my Bible knowledge. 🙂

    waltzingaustralia (aka Cynthia) wrote:

    I wonder if your accuser has some law in particular that he or she dislikes. Generally, I’ve found that people who make such accusations have fallen into the trap Paul discusses when he talks about those who think that they can sin more because grace abounds more. (I do miss that emphatic “God forbid!” from the old King James version.)

    I’m not sure of any particular he had in mind. His problem, of course, is Anti-nomianism. Which, in effect, is a crazy way (and as Mr. Neiswonger so articulately pointed out in his response above) of separating the Spirit’s work from the Law of God. Which, of course, makes no sense at all.

    Doug, thanks for the word of encouragement.

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  7. Chris,

    LOL! I can hear Joseph now, “Mary, you’ve got to let the boy grow up!”

    The phrase that pays in the Romans 14 quote is, “…cause your brother to fall.” Many will in praxis make it “…cause your brother to be uncomfortable,” or “…cause your brother to bristle at a perceived impropriety.” Not that we ought to be deliberately offensive to a brother’s sensibilities, but that I don’t think that’s what is in view. Taking the guy who’s neglecting his family by hanging out in a tavern, making him a Christian and then giving him the impression that he can now neglect his family by hanging out in your refinished basement complete with wet bar is more like it.

    My only feeble point was to say that we ought to ask what people mean when they say, “You’re living too much under the law.” They could be saying, “Hey man, you don’t have to be circumcized to have salvation,” or they could be saying, “Dude, let me enjoy my Cohiba in peace!” or they could be saying, “I want to join a swingers club.”

    Wouldn’t it be fun if we could say that being “under grace” means we can now rob the Kwik E Mart when we’re a little low on funds? ‘Scuse me while I go make a little “withdrawal.”

    Lindsay

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