The Law

NickOfTime

Dispensationalists are sometimes accused of holding a contemptuous attitude towards God’s law. Sometimes this accusation is warranted. Certain versions of dispensationalism treat the law as irrelevant or even downright harmful.

While I am a dispensationalist, I do not share this attitude. When I read the New Testament, I find exactly the opposite view of the law. While legalism is condemned, the law itself is held up as a thing of glory, a thing that is holy and just and good.

Recent conversations have led me to look within and to ask myself, “How do I see God’s law? How do I feel about it?” In the following paragraphs I am going to try to answer that question. Therefore, this essay should not be taken as a normative statement. I am not arguing that my attitudes are exactly the correct ones. Rather, I am attempting a more-or-less phenomenological description of the attitudes that I discover within myself. Perhaps these attitudes need to be corrected—in fact, I am sure that they do. Both dispensationalists and non-dispensationalists are welcome to bring the Scriptures to bear so that my view of God’s law can become more accurate than it is now.

Before I describe these attitudes, however, perhaps I should say a word about the notion of “law.” In the narrower sense, I use the term to refer to the 613 commands and prohibitions of the Sinai code. These commands and prohibitions are of three kinds. Some of them directly reflect the immutable character of God. Others, while certainly consistent with God’s character, reflect His plan for Israel as a nation. Still other commands reflect God’s intention to prepare His people for the coming of His Son. These three categories correspond roughly to the ordinary distinctions between moral, civil, and ceremonial law.

When I approach the law, I do not begin by asking which part of it I must keep today. If I understand 1 Corinthians 3 correctly, even the Decalogue has been rendered inoperative as a rule of life. This abolishing of the law does not mean that I am free to live in any sinful way that I please. It simply means that the mechanism for progressive sanctification is not to be found in legal commandments. It is found in the Spirit.

The life of one who is led by the Spirit will reflect the fruit of the Spirit. That fruit results in a life that looks very much like law-keeping, even though the focus is not on the commandments. This is probably part of what Paul means when He says that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us who walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.

So, how do I perceive the law? When I look within myself, I discover that I respond to God’s law in several ways.

First, the law delights me. It is a great and glorious revelation of the character of God, as well as a revelation of certain aspects of His plan. Even when God’s commands are not addressed to me, they show what is consistent with His character. In the case of the moral law, the commands are a direct revelation of God’s moral nature. By studying the law as a whole, I learn a great deal about who God is. I learn what sort of thing pleases Him and what sort of thing disgusts Him. I gain a picture of true justice in all of its white heat. As the law discloses God and His nature, and as the law shapes my understanding of justice, I respond with joy, for the law tells me that the moral universe actually is as it truly ought to be.

Second, God’s law inspires me. It shapes within my mind a picture of the good life, and it grips my heart with yearning to live such a life. The more that the law shows me God’s nature, the more I wish to emulate that nature. The more it discloses true justice, the more I wish to be truly just. I am convinced that the life of a person who genuinely lived by God’s law would be a magnificent life indeed. By describing that life, the law makes me want to live it. When I read the commandments and see them as holy and just and good, I wish to make them my own.

Third, God’s law also provokes me. Part of me wishes to be less a law-keeper and more a law unto myself. That part of me hates to be crossed. I confess that often, when I read “Thou shalt not,” something within me responds, “I shall so!” In fact, this part of me is so bad that it even takes God’s commands as suggestions for sins that I would have never thought of on my own. Sadly, though I delight in the law of God according to the inner person, I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind.

Fourth, God’s law terrifies me. The law is not merely a description of the way I ought to act, think, and feel. It constitutes a demand that I actually live in those ways, and it attaches severe penalty to any failure. Worst of all, it gives me no help in achieving the righteousness that it describes. My lofty aspirations crash repeatedly into the dust of my own depravity, and then the law mutters its curses in my ear. At such moments it fills me with such dread that I cannot bring myself to look upon the face of the Law-giver. I feel the law hovering between myself and Him as a monstrous bludgeon to strike out at my rebellion and failure.

Fifth, the law drives me to Christ. Since I am a convicted sinner, He offers the only possible refuge for my desperate soul. In Him I find deliverance from the law’s threatening, for the curse of my sins fell upon Him. But I also find more. In Him I discover the perfect law-keeper, the truly righteous man. Without the law, I would never have appreciated the beauty of His righteousness, and without my failure I would never have understood the magnificence of His victory. He kept the law, and what is more, He kept it for me. His righteousness has been credited to me. All of my hope rests upon His blood and righteousness.

Sixth, I find that the law is being written on my heart. I am not doing that writing myself. No amount of self-discipline could ever lead me genuinely to honor God’s law. Instead, I am trusting the Holy Spirit to keep changing me inwardly (to circumcise my heart, or to take away my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh) so that I do by nature the very things that the law requires. The law is more like a travel brochure than it is like a road map. It shows me a desirable destination (righteousness), but it does not tell me how to get there. The Holy Spirit actually gets me there, and He does this by inwardly conforming me to the image of Christ.

Indeed, the righteousness of the law presents a vague and hazy picture that snaps into crystal clarity in the person of Christ. Now that Christ has come, I find that He is the fulfillment of the law. All of the beauties that I see dimly in the law are disclosed with brilliant precision in Jesus Christ. It is not that the law has become less glorious. Instead, its glory has been eclipsed by the greater glory of Christ. If the law is like a travel brochure with little, grainy pictures, Christ is Himself the destination.

All that I love about the law, I love about Christ to an exponentially greater degree. My delight in the law feeds directly into a delight in Christ. In a manner of speaking, Christ has taken over the place of the law for me, in the fullest, most forgiving, and most enabling sense. He himself has become my law insofar as reflecting His person and character has become my rule of life. This “law of Christ” (take that as apposition) has displaced the law of commandments and rendered them inoperative, not by canceling them, but by fulfilling them and enabling the righteousness to which they point.

In sum, I cannot despise God’s law because it offers a preliminary (if somewhat obscure) picture of Christ. I love the law for His sake. At the same time, to be fascinated with the picture rather than the person would not honor either one. Christ offers me the beauties of the law without its terrors because He has endured its terrors for me. Ultimately, He is my law (not as a different law, but as the fulfillment of all divine law). As the Holy Spirit transforms my character to resemble His, I hope for my practice to take on the majestic contours of a life that truly honors the law.

Mercy Tempering Justice

John Quarles (1624-1665)

Had not the milder hand of Mercy broke
The furious violence of that fatal stroke
Offended Justice struck, we had been quite
Lost in the shadows of eternal night.
Thy mercy, Lord, is like the morning sun,
Whose beams undo what sable night hath done;
Or like a stream, the current of whose course,
Restrained awhile, runs with a swifter force.
Oh! let me glow beneath those sacred beams,
And after bathe me in those silver streams;
To Thee alone my sorrows shall appeal:
Hath earth a wound too hard for heaven to heal?

Kevin BauderThis essay is by Dr. Kevin T. Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). Not every professor, student, or alumnus of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.
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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Thanks for this!
Since I preached on the final 1/3 (or so) of Romans 7 yesterday, the topic holds special interest for me at the moment. Found Rom.7 fairly difficult (from about v.14 on). I look forward to reading this article again more slowly.
What I concluded about Rom. 7 (so far) is that "the law" in this chapter does not refer specifically to the law of Moses, or a component "moral law," but simply to the concept of law as the standard of God's righteousness. And so Paul is adamant there that law is "holy, just and good" as well as "spiritual."
So I found myself completely unable to accept McClain's view (among others) that Paul is talking about the "wrong way" to live the Christian life in this section. He simply has nothing bad to say about "law" in the text beyond what sin does with law.
But I believe it will be a while before I feel I fully understand the place of law in the believer's life.

Mike Durning's picture

Dr. Bauder wrote:
If I understand 1 Corinthians 3 correctly, even the Decalogue has been rendered inoperative as a rule of life. .

Great article. But what am I missing in I Cor. 3? I don't see it. Is it possible Dr. Bauder meant II Cor. 3?

Charlie's picture

Jeremiah 31:33-34 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."

The age of the New Covenant is not lawless, but internalized law. The Spirit does not replace the law; He empowers us to keep it. For this to be true, there must be some continuity between OT law and NT Spirit-living. Since the ceremonial law is clearly abolished, I would submit that the Decalogue stands as a timeless exposition of the moral law.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Greg Long's picture

Can someone please point me to the biblical evidence for the tripartite division of the OT Law?

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Greg Long wrote:
Can someone please point me to the biblical evidence for the tripartite division of the OT Law?

I don't think there is any.
OK... I'll grant that there is a hint of it in the fact that the decalogue (have I spelled that right? My browser thinks not), is set apart as "these ten commands/words" somewhere. So there seems to be an elevation there above the rest of the covenant stipulations. But it's pretty hard, IMO, to extrapolate three divisions from that (much less, determine what goes in what division).

Edit: And of course, there is always all that historical theology!

Ed Vasicek's picture

Greg Long wrote:
Can someone please point me to the biblical evidence for the tripartite division of the OT Law?

That the Law contains three sorts of commands seems clear to the observer, I believe; but what is unclear is sorting them out and categorizing them. Take these questions, for example. Does God expect a Christian man to:

(1) wear clothing only made of one fabric? Is that a moral issue or a ceremonial one? (I think we can rule out civil).
(2) not sleep with his wife when she is having her period? (is that a moral issue?)
(3) get a tattoo?
(4) trim his beard (men only!)
(5) work on the Sabbath?
(6) boil a young goat in goat's milk
(7) eat blood sausage or a product made with blood (note: this is even prohibited in Acts 15).

The Jewish concept of Torah was somewhat fluid. Torah is best translated as "instruction." It is my belief that Jesus respected the Torah, and that the Sermon on the Mount is a midrash (application teaching) of Torah portions. I understand Christians to be trans-cultural Messianic Jews who, morally, follow the Covenant of Noah but gain wisdom from the Law.

"The Midrash Detective"

Charlie's picture

Greg Long wrote:
Can someone please point me to the biblical evidence for the tripartite division of the OT Law?

It is a necessary, and not terribly controversial until recently, consequence from Scripture. God's unchanging character, and the creation of man in the image of God, provides a basis for a "moral" or "eternal" law. Adam did not receive a specific command 'Do not kill Eve' but no one doubts that, in his upright state, he naturally knew not to do that. The "work of the law," meaning some innate knowledge of the law, is written on every heart.
Romans 2:14-16 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
This cannot be identified with the Mosaic law, since not all of the Mosaic law is "natural." The fact that some parts of it did pass away is proof that it is not, in its entirety, eternal. Also, the uniqueness of the New Covenant is not that there will be no law, but that the law will be written on the heart in such a way as to be obeyed. Since all who partake in the body and blood of Christ are participants of the New Covenant, this passage speaks to us. Jeremiah 31:31-34 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."

So, the civil and ceremonial portions of the Mosaic law are those which are more or less unique to the Mosaic dispensation. Some of the ceremonial/typological elements had already been present (sacrifice, circumcision), but they received systematization through the Torah. The book of Hebrews deals with them in terms of shadow/substance. The civil laws are those which are uniquely fitted to the needs of Israel as a political body. Acts 15 is probably the clearest passage showing that these have passed away.

Now, the tricky part for all theologians is the recognition that all of God's laws are "moral" in the sense that they reflect his moral nature. So the civil laws do reflect the moral nature of God and are specific extrapolations of "Thou shalt not kill" and other commands. For example, Paul appeals to "Thou shalt not muzzle an ox while he is treading" to argue for a paid ministry. He even says that the Scripture is primarily about men, not oxen. The Westminster divines reconciled this by appealing to a "general equity" which is taught in the law, even if the specifics are somewhat irrelevant to our present situation (as per Acts 15). The failure to always be able to articulate exactly how OT commands apply does not in any way negate the system.

In other words, I don't see how you could try to approach the concept of law and not come up with something of a tripartite division. This warns us against throwing out the entire Mosaic covenant, because there are eternal moral absolutes expressed alongside temporary commands.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Charlie,
I think my own view is not vastly different from the time honored one you describe.
The differences would probably be these...
1 - I see the timeless moral law (God's standard of righteousness) as underlying the entire mosaic law, not just part of it
2 - I see the entirety of the mosaic law as having passed away (in a binding sense), not just what seems ceremonial or civil

So rather than saying "part of the Sinai covenant law is moral and timeless," I would say "all of the Sinai law expresses timeless moral principles" (some parts much more obviously than others... and some in ways that we cannot identify at all with any certainty).

I don't think the difference is really that huge since the timeless character of most of the ten commandments is easy to see (the Sabbath being the only difficult one). But to me, relating the temporary to the enduring in the terms I've described above presents the fewest problems in reading the NT.

As for "natural," (in the pre-fall sense), I'm not sure I'm ready to say it corresponds precisely to the timeless moral law but there's got to be a whole lot of overlap.

Bill Toothman's picture

I have enjoyed reading the artlcle by Dr. Bauder and the comments on "The Law". It has been very timely for me. We just started a study of the Christian and the Law in our Adult Sunday School. We we were studying the book of Acts and I had to promise a future study of the law so we could get through chapter 15 and move on. We are using the book by Dr. Ken Casillas "The Law and the Christian". The book covers the subject well, but is not to deep that I lose all of my class. I was wondering if any one may know of some other good books to reference. Not necessary looking for one specific view, but I am looking for recommendations of good works by trusted men.

Mike Durning's picture

Greg Long wrote:
Can someone please point me to the biblical evidence for the tripartite division of the OT Law?

Greg, I'm not sure I could substantiate a tripartite division, but I'm sure that there are different levels of importance. Matthew 23:24-25.

Greg Long's picture

Mike Durning wrote:
Greg Long wrote:
Can someone please point me to the biblical evidence for the tripartite division of the OT Law?

Greg, I'm not sure I could substantiate a tripartite division, but I'm sure that there are different levels of importance. Matthew 23:24-25.


No one's arguing that there aren't differentiations and distinctions among the OT commands. That's why some of them are grouped together with other similar commands, for example.

But I see no biblical evidence for dividing them into moral, ceremonial, and civil. They are all moral. And the OT Law, as a code of law, has been abolished in its entirety.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Mike Durning's picture

Greg Long wrote:
Mike Durning wrote:
Greg Long wrote:
Can someone please point me to the biblical evidence for the tripartite division of the OT Law?

Greg, I'm not sure I could substantiate a tripartite division, but I'm sure that there are different levels of importance. Matthew 23:24-25.


No one's arguing that there aren't differentiations and distinctions among the OT commands. That's why some of them are grouped together with other similar commands, for example.

But I see no biblical evidence for dividing them into moral, ceremonial, and civil. They are all moral. And the OT Law, as a code of law, has been abolished in its entirety.

If some are less important than others, how can both be moral?

Mike Durning's picture

Greg Long wrote:
Mike Durning wrote:
Greg Long wrote:
Can someone please point me to the biblical evidence for the tripartite division of the OT Law?

Greg, I'm not sure I could substantiate a tripartite division, but I'm sure that there are different levels of importance. Matthew 23:24-25.


No one's arguing that there aren't differentiations and distinctions among the OT commands. That's why some of them are grouped together with other similar commands, for example.

But I see no biblical evidence for dividing them into moral, ceremonial, and civil. They are all moral. And the OT Law, as a code of law, has been abolished in its entirety.

If some are less important than others, how can both be moral?

Greg Long's picture

Mike Durning wrote:
Greg Long wrote:
Mike Durning wrote:
Greg Long wrote:
Can someone please point me to the biblical evidence for the tripartite division of the OT Law?

Greg, I'm not sure I could substantiate a tripartite division, but I'm sure that there are different levels of importance. Matthew 23:24-25.


No one's arguing that there aren't differentiations and distinctions among the OT commands. That's why some of them are grouped together with other similar commands, for example.

But I see no biblical evidence for dividing them into moral, ceremonial, and civil. They are all moral. And the OT Law, as a code of law, has been abolished in its entirety.

If some are less important than others, how can both be moral?

Are you saying some are immoral or amoral?

Is murdering someone more of a sin than eating pork? Perhaps. But God called eating pork an abomination. And all of the laws were reflections of his moral character and his desire for His people to be holy as He is holy.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Charlie's picture

"Moral" law is that category of law to which redemptive-historical localities are not added, or at least not primary. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" is not a "statute" applicable only to a certain time period or group of people. It is not restricted to a special redemptive-typological or civil-political function.

This "division" of law is apparent even in the Old Testament. Read the Minor Prophets and you will find oracles against the other nations, indicating that they stand in moral obligation to God. They are not indicted, though, for things like eating crabs or wearing mixed-fiber garments.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Mike Durning's picture

Greg Long wrote:
Are you saying some are immoral or amoral?

Greg, I'm not saying much. I'm more probing with questions so others can help me clarify my thinking.

A few thoughts:
1). Initially it seems to me that all of them are moral in the sense that obedience to God's commands is a moral act, whereas disobedience to God's commands is an immoral act. However, when one asks the question whether or not all of God's laws possess a univeral morality, I would answer "no." For example, I have no prohibition against eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I would think that not even Cain, Abel, or Seth did, and they probably knew where it was. That tree was almost certainly not evil in character, sinister in some batonical sense. Partaking of the fruit was declared forbidden (and thus, immoral) for Adam and Eve because having such a prohibition served God's eternal purposes. Similarly, the Sabbath was a limited application law -- a part of an everlasting covenant between God and Israel. We do not feel obligated to worship particularly on that day above all others. A Google search on the words "sabbath suzerainty treaties" (without the quotes) will yield much interesting reading supporting the idea that the command should be viewed as the "seal" on Israel's obedience to God -- a committment that He is their Lord based on simple obedience to a command with no clear purpose other than respect for His rule. That does not mean that taking a day to worship and rest is not wise, or right. It just means that we don't have to do so on Saturday in particular.

2). I'm completely comfortable with the idea that the entire Mosaic Law is gone -- no longer in force for we modern believers. This, of course, does not leave us lawless, for reasons already clearly stated by others. I'm just not certain that trying to deny divisions in the law is the most effective way to prove the point. For instance, I would argue that ceremonial law has the character (from our NT perspective) of being that which taught us things about God's coming Messiah and His sacrifice, His church and His order. These teachings behind the Ceremonial Laws have a universal character the Ceremonial Laws themselves did not possess. In that way, it is different in character from the "Thou Shalt Not" statements of the decalogue, which have an eternal and universal moral code reflective of God's Holy Nature behind them. The result: I now can muzzle the ox that treads out my corn if I want to, but I can't forbid pastors to draw a salary.

3). In terms of the law of Moses being gone, no longer binding on we New Testament believers, I would illustrate using Gilligan's Island. Now, decades later, after Gilligan has clumsily foiled yet another clever plan for the castaways to get off the island, they have had enough. The Skipper gives a speech, in which he declares that Gilligan is no longer his "little buddy", but an obstacle to their very survival. He announces that since he is the law on that island, and they are not bound by the laws of the U.S., being outside the U.S. Territorial waters, that murder of those who endanger the colony is now permissible. They murder Gilligan by bashing his head in with coconuts, and bury him in the cave. In this scenario, the Skipper is both right, and wrong. He is correct in suggesting that they are no longer "under the law" of the U.S., being outside its jurisdiction. But he is wrong in that morality itself has not changed, and murder is still a wrong thing to do. As such, U.S. authorities should not be able to try them in a U.S. Court for murdering Gilligan. But a higher authority (God, and perhaps international law) can try and find them guilty.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Mike Durning wrote:
Greg Long wrote:
Are you saying some are immoral or amoral?

Greg, I'm not saying much. I'm more probing with questions so others can help me clarify my thinking.

A few thoughts:
1). Initially it seems to me that all of them are moral in the sense that obedience to God's commands is a moral act, whereas disobedience to God's commands is an immoral act. However, when one asks the question whether or not all of God's laws possess a univeral morality, I would answer "no." For example, I have no prohibition against eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I would think that not even Cain, Abel, or Seth did, and they probably knew where it was. That tree was almost certainly not evil in character, sinister in some batonical sense. Partaking of the fruit was declared forbidden (and thus, immoral) for Adam and Eve because having such a prohibition served God's eternal purposes. Similarly, the Sabbath was a limited application law -- a part of an everlasting covenant between God and Israel. We do not feel obligated to worship particularly on that day above all others. A Google search on the words "sabbath suzerainty treaties" (without the quotes) will yield much interesting reading supporting the idea that the command should be viewed as the "seal" on Israel's obedience to God -- a committment that He is their Lord based on simple obedience to a command with no clear purpose other than respect for His rule. That does not mean that taking a day to worship and rest is not wise, or right. It just means that we don't have to do so on Saturday in particular.

2). I'm completely comfortable with the idea that the entire Mosaic Law is gone -- no longer in force for we modern believers. This, of course, does not leave us lawless, for reasons already clearly stated by others. I'm just not certain that trying to deny divisions in the law is the most effective way to prove the point. For instance, I would argue that ceremonial law has the character (from our NT perspective) of being that which taught us things about God's coming Messiah and His sacrifice, His church and His order. These teachings behind the Ceremonial Laws have a universal character the Ceremonial Laws themselves did not possess. In that way, it is different in character from the "Thou Shalt Not" statements of the decalogue, which have an eternal and universal moral code reflective of God's Holy Nature behind them. The result: I now can muzzle the ox that treads out my corn if I want to, but I can't forbid pastors to draw a salary.

3). In terms of the law of Moses being gone, no longer binding on we New Testament believers, I would illustrate using Gilligan's Island. Now, decades later, after Gilligan has clumsily foiled yet another clever plan for the castaways to get off the island, they have had enough. The Skipper gives a speech, in which he declares that Gilligan is no longer his "little buddy", but an obstacle to their very survival. He announces that since he is the law on that island, and they are not bound by the laws of the U.S., being outside the U.S. Territorial waters, that murder of those who endanger the colony is now permissible. They murder Gilligan by bashing his head in with coconuts, and bury him in the cave. In this scenario, the Skipper is both right, and wrong. He is correct in suggesting that they are no longer "under the law" of the U.S., being outside its jurisdiction. But he is wrong in that morality itself has not changed, and murder is still a wrong thing to do. As such, U.S. authorities should not be able to try them in a U.S. Court for murdering Gilligan. But a higher authority (God, and perhaps international law) can try and find them guilty.

Sounds like you hold a view similar to House and Ice, a view I respect, and one that is easy to explain and understand. They suggest that there are national laws and state laws. The national law would be applicable throughout the U.S., much like the moral law based in God's character transcends eras, cultures, or people groups. Then you have state laws which vary from state to state. These represent laws based upon local, cultural, or regional needs.

When it comes to the Law of God, the overlap between God's rules/law for Israel and for the church expose the "national laws" for all of God's people for all time. The differences expose the "state laws" which are adapted to situations (regulation of slaves, God's unique purpose for Israel, God's unique purpose for the church).

I don't know that I completely agree with House and Ice on this point: they say -- along with you -- that the Mosaic Law was totally eliminated for the church, and that the parts of the Law that are repeated for the church are the only ones that apply and are actually a new package. Lewis Sperry Chafer called this new package the "teachings of grace." House and Ice suggest that there are roughly 613 commands for church-age believers, just as there were 613 for Israel. They do not suggest that the former number is exact.

My viewpoint is a little different. I think NT believers do not relate to God on the basis of Law; although salvation by grace through faith has always been God's way to save people, the way humans on earth relate to God is a different issue. Both regenerate and unregenerate Jews were under the Mosaic Law. In the New Covenant, only the regenerate are under the covenant.
The Mosaic Law dealt with matters restricted to a single culture and a single nation.

In my understanding, Christians are trans-cultural Messianic Jews. Just as gentile God-fearers in the first century were not held to all of the 613 commandments of the Law, so Christians are held only to the "moral law." Yet it can be hard to sort out the "moral" from the other laws. That is where House and Ice's perspective comes in handy. When can tell what the "moral law" is because that is what is repeated for NT believers.

The end result is about the same. It is in the process of getting there that I would beg to differ from House and Ice and Mike.

"The Midrash Detective"

Greg Long's picture

Charlie wrote:
"Moral" law is that category of law to which redemptive-historical localities are not added, or at least not primary. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" is not a "statute" applicable only to a certain time period or group of people. It is not restricted to a special redemptive-typological or civil-political function.

This "division" of law is apparent even in the Old Testament. Read the Minor Prophets and you will find oracles against the other nations, indicating that they stand in moral obligation to God. They are not indicted, though, for things like eating crabs or wearing mixed-fiber garments.


So, is "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy" moral, civil, or ceremonial?

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Mike Durning's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Sounds like you hold a view similar to House and Ice, a view I respect, and one that is easy to explain and understand.

Pardon my ignorance, but unless you are talking about the TV Doctor, which seems unlikely, I'm unfamiliar with "House". I'd be grateful if you would identify him and his book(s) on this topic. Wink

Ed Vasicek's picture

Mike Durning wrote:
Ed Vasicek wrote:
Sounds like you hold a view similar to House and Ice, a view I respect, and one that is easy to explain and understand.

Pardon my ignorance, but unless you are talking about the TV Doctor, which seems unlikely, I'm unfamiliar with "House". I'd be grateful if you would identify him and his book(s) on this topic. Wink

H. Wayne House is a professor at Faith Seminary I think he was also at Dallas). Here is a list of his books: http://www.bookfinder.com/author/h-wayne-house/
Thomas Ice writes mostly on prophecy; here are his books: http://www.bookfinder.com/search/?keywords=Thomas+Ice&st=sh&ac=qr&submit=
I believe Ice is now at Liberty.

They worked together on "Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse" in which they addressed the Law.

"The Midrash Detective"

Mike Durning's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
H. Wayne House is a professor at Faith Seminary I think he was also at Dallas). Here is a list of his books: http://www.bookfinder.com/author/h-wayne-house/
Thomas Ice writes mostly on prophecy; here are his books: http://www.bookfinder.com/search/?keywords=Thomas+Ice&st=sh&ac=qr&submit=
I believe Ice is now at Liberty.

They worked together on "Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse" in which they addressed the Law.

Thank you!