The Authority of God’s Law Today

Antinomianism – 1. lawlessness, 2. in theology, it is the idea that members of a particular religious group are under no obligation to obey the laws of ethics or morality as presented by religious authorities or by the religion’s holy book.

Josiah Reading the Newly Found Book of the Law

The manner in which the Old Testament speaks to New Testament ethics is a object of great dispute in the Reformed world. It would frankly be a waste of time for this post to honestly become involved in unpacking how the Law is handled in different contexts within Christendom. That is why I would like to focus on the charge, made by both some in the Reformed camp themselves and by those outside who condemn Justification by Faith Alone as being anathema to the vision of James, ergo “Faith Without Works is Dead”. Those who do make this charge within the Reformed world often are members of the heterodox New Perspectives and/or the Federal Vision theologies which make the charge that those of us who hold to the Biblical understanding of Justification allow for a faith that denies the necessary nature of our own works in justification. As opposed to the traditional and orthodox belief that Christ’s Active Obedience to the Law (both its positive and negative declarations) during his earthly life is/was imputed to us in order that we might be saved from God’s wrath. Jesus thereby fulfilled the Covenant of Works and received the covenant blessings that result from this Active Obedience. Through the Covenant of Grace we partake in this (both active and passive sense) Christ is our substitutional covenant head, we are subsumed under Christ’s reign as his sheep and are saved by His righteousness alone and his advocation for us at the throne of judgment.

But what does this all have to do with the authority of God’s Law today?

We as members of the “New” Covenant of Grace are now no longer held under condemnation by the Law but are free to follow its precepts. Simply put Paul in Romans 6 begins by saying, “May be continue in sin that Grace may abound? May it never be!” continuing his discussion in chapter 5 on the benefits of this union with Christ, in other words the results of our justification which closes with:

The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as (sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” — Romans 5:20-21

So what is the Law then? Paul in Romans 3:20b & 7:7 says:

…for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”… “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.”

So the Law not only acts as a convicting agent but also as a moral guide for how the born Christian is to live under the New Covenant. The curse of the Law has been removed so we could now follow the Law as an act of obedience. However we must be clear to say it i not our obedience that saves but as Martin Luther is reported as remarking Good Works does not a righteous man make but a righteous man will not fail to do Good Works. Westminster Larger Catechism question # 24 defines sin as “…any want or conformity unto, transgression of any Law of God, given as a rule to the reasonable creature.” and Question # 91 defines the duty of man to the Law as “…obedience to the revealed will [of God].”

Now what is this “revealed will” to which if we transgress it is seen as a disobedient act towards the Holy person of God?

Well that will be the purpose of tomorrow’s post. See you then.


4 thoughts on “The Authority of God’s Law Today

  1. Ben:

    You write, “Those who do make this charge within the Reformed world often are members of the heterodox New Perspectives and/or the Federal Vision theologies which make the charge that those of us who hold to the Biblical understanding of Justification allow for a faith that denies the necessary nature of our own works in justification.”

    That’s confusing. I can’t tell if you are saying that ‘our own works are necessary for justification,” or something else? I trust not!
    I take you you read the FV proponents as saying that we are justified by works? I’m not able to figure out what you’re saying here.

    The charge I understand FV folks to be making against *some* who have placed the Covenant of Works and the imputation of the active obedience of Christ at the very heart of the gospel (i.e. as central to the framework for justification, or as justification itself) is that they define faith in such a way as to exclude faithfulness as part of its meaning. Faith is merely passive. Understanding, assent and reception. I’m not sure what some folks are saying about the nature of faith in justification, but I’ve heard some strange things.
    In other words, I’ve not gotten my mind fully around this debate, but I’m not connecting the dots between your topic and the FV/NPP issues.
    Most FVers are, or have been, Theonomists. They are all theocratic. They’re happy with the three uses of the law.
    I don’t see any of these theocratic FVers condemning Justification by Faith Alone (have you seen them doing that anywhere?). The debate is on the nature of that faith which justifies. Is it an obedient faith, or some other kind of faith? Neither faith nor works is the ground of our jusitifcation. Christ’s rigtheousness and Gods Grace are the grounds of our being justified by faith, and faith only. In other words, we are not jusfified by virtue of the works which do necessarily accompany and follow from true saving faith. Faith is our receiving and resting on Christ alone for Salvation. Being united to Christ by effecutal calling all the other graces follow, but faith is trust, understanding and assent, reliance and reception of Jesus Himself. And, this faith is a faith which works itself in love.

    Anyway, I’m not sure what you’re saying about FV and the Law. Help me out.

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