On “Theology Thursday,” we feature short excerpts on various areas of systematic theology, from a wide variety of colorful (and drab) characters and institutions. Some are orthodox, but decidedly outside the Baptist orbit. Others are completely heretical. Regardless of heresy or orthodoxy, we hope these short readings are a stimulus for personal reflection, a challenge to theological complacency, and an impetus for apologetic zeal “to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).
“Those who believe that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone recognize that the role of the law is to show sinners that they are, in fact, sinful and that they need a Savior. Once the law has accomplished this purpose, it ceases to function as a part of salvation: ‘Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes’ (Rom 10:4).
This use of the law in showing the lost their need of a Savior becomes a hermeneutical principle. Any passage that makes demands by causing the reader to be afraid of God, whether in the Old or New Testament, is to be considered law. By the same token, any passage that offers God’s free forgiveness apart from demands, whether in the Old or New Testament, is to be considered gospel.”1
“[T]he word ‘law’ can be used in several different ways in Scripture:
- the Ten Commandments (Rom 7:7-13),
- the civil law of the Old Testament (Lev. 11:16, cf. vv. 1-45),
- the ceremonial law in the Old Testament (Lev 6:9, 14),
- the first five books of the Bible (Rom 3:21c),
- any statement in Scripture that condemns or makes a person feel guilty (Rom 4:14, 15),
- God’s Word in general (James 1:25),
- the righteous standard of moral law (Rom. 8:4),
- a principle or fact (Rom 8:2a), and
- Christ’s command for believers to love one another (Gal 6:2).
I previously mentioned these in the context of the Reformed theology articulated in the Westminster Confession, which teaches that numbers 2 and 3 of this list do not apply to the believer today. However, I mention them again to show that in my understanding of dispensational theology, numbers 1-5 do not apply to the believer today. The believer is not under law when ‘law’ is used in the first five ways listed above. However, one can still affirm the meanings of law as described in numbers 6-9: the role of God’s Word in the life of the believer, the role of moral law’s righteous standard, the law as a principle, and the role of Christ’s command for believer to love one another.”2
“Is the believer today under the law? We have seen that the law makes demands, shows us our guilt, manifests God’s wrath, and terrifies us of Him. The gospel, however, does not make demands, but shows us God’s promise of salvation and forgiveness based upon Christ’s death and resurrection. But we know that the New Testament Epistles clearly make demands under believers today. If Law and Gospel are the only two categories available, the believer must be placed under Law. To me, there is another category: Grace. While grace in the form of Gospel does not make demands, grace as guidelines for managing a believer’s life does make them. So, rather than placing today’s believer under the law, since Paul stated in Romans 6:14 that today’s believer is not under law but under grace, it seems better to view believers as under grace as a set of guidelines that makes demands upon them.”3
“The charge has been made that in affirming the believer is not under the law we are rejecting a part of Scripture. This slanderous charge has been answered already by the Biblical evidence presented earlier, but I wish to deal with it more specifically.
First, we deny categorically any rejection of the law. On the contrary, we accept the law of God in Scripture in its totality, including all its elements—moral, ceremonial and civil—not merely a small part of the law stripped of its penalties, as our opponents are accustomed to do. They, not we, are the real rejecters of the law!”4
“To summarize: In relation to the Christian, the law, as law, having been completely fulfilled and satisfied in Christ, has been “done away.” But as law it still remains to operate as an external restraint upon the ungodly. On the other hand, the law, as inspired Scripture, abides for all the saved and as such is ‘profitable’ in all its parts. Only the soul is saved by grace, understanding clearly what took place at Calvary, can truly delight in the law of the Lord. Such a one has seen in the cross the awful severity and doom of the law and rejoices in the assurance that its demands have been satisfied to the last farthing by the Lamb of God.”5
“If Christ ended the Law, then why does the New Testament include some laws from the Mosaic Law in its ethic? How could the unit end and yet have specifics in it still binding on the Christian? …”6
“The only solution (which I have never seen proposed by anyone else) that seems to do full justice to the plain sense of these various Scriptures distinguishes between a code and the commandments contained therein … The Mosaic Law was done away in its entirety as a code. It has been replaced by the law of Christ. The law of Christ contains some new commands (1 Tim 4:4), some old ones (Rom 13:9), and some revised ones (Rom 13:4 with reference to capital punishment). All the laws of the Mosaic code have been abolished because the code has. Specific Mosaic commands that are part of the Christian code appear there not as a continuation of part of the Mosaic Law, or in order to observed in some deeper sense, but as specifically incorporated into that code, and as such they are binding on believers today. A particular law that was part of the Mosaic code is done away; that same law, if part of the law of Christ, is binding. It is necessary to say both truths in order not to have to resort to a nonliteral interpretation of 2 Corinthians 3 or Hebrews 7 and in order not to have to resort to some sort of theological contortions to retain part of the Mosaic Law.”7
1 Myron Houghton, Law & Grace (Schaumberg, IL: RBP, 2011), 115.
2 Ibid, 116-117.
3 Alva McClain, Law and Grace: A Study of New Testament Concepts as They Relate to the Christian Life (reprint; Winona Lake, IN: BMH, 2011), 120.
4 Ibid, 70.
5 Ibid, 72.
6 Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1999), 350.
7 Ibid, 351-352.