There are few theological issues more important and more difficult than the relationship of the Christian to the law. In recent years in particular there have been a lot of conversations and controversies about the proper use of the law in the believer’s progressive sanctification. We all know we are justified by faith apart from works of the law, but what is the place for obedience to the law after we are justified?

One explanation—and the best succinct one I know of—comes from Chapter XIX of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). For Reformed Christians in general, this ought to summarize what we believe. For Presbyterian office bearers in particular, this is what you swear to uphold. For Christians at large, there are plenty of Bible references in the WCF so you can see for yourself if these things are so.

I’ll ask the questions, and let Chapter XIX give the answers. Whenever the text is in italics that means I’m quoting directly from the Confession.

*******

Me: Hey, thanks for being willing to meet with me WCF. I know you are busy and very old, so I’ll try not to take up too much of your time. I just have a few questions about the law. For starters, where did the law come from? Was it just added after the fall?

WCF: God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it.

Me: Kind of wordy, WCF, but I think I get it. God gave Adam the law from the very beginning, even before sin entered the world.

WCF: Right.

Me: Too bad Adam had no way of keeping the law.

WCF: No, God endued him with power and ability to keep it.

Me: Okay, but after the fall, man was incapable of keeping the law.

WCF: True.

Me: So what purpose did the law serve once sin entered the world through Adam?

WCF: This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments.

Me: So does that mean we have to follow everything God told Moses to do, even all the food laws and sacrifices and stuff?

WCF: No, because beside this law summarized in the Ten Commandments—let’s call that the moral law, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws.

Me: And what were those?

WCF: They contained several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly, holding forth divers instructions of moral duties.

Me: And do we need to follow these kinds of laws?

WCF: All ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the new testament.

Me: And what about all the laws for Israel as a nation. I mean, we’re not a theocracy anymore, so how are we supposed to keep those?

WCF: 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.

Me: Makes sense. So we can pretty much ignore all those laws for the nation of Israel.

WCF: Not exactly. We still have to be mindful what the general equity thereof may require.

Me: If I’m hearing you correctly, then, these ceremonial and judicial aspects of Mosaic law are not longer required, at least not in the same way.

WCF: That’s right.

Me: But what about the thing you mentioned first, the moral law, you know, the laws summarized in the Ten Commandments? What happened to those?

WCF: The moral law doth forever bind all.

Me: Even after we are justified?

WCF: As well justified persons as others.

Me: But if I’m gospel-centered I can’t be obliged to keep the law, can I?

WCF: Neither doth Christ, in the gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.

Me: Wait a second. I thought I was set free from the law. How can I still be obliged to keep it then?

WCF: Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as others.

Me: You’re talking about how the law shows us our sin. I agree that’s important.

WCF: Yes, that’s one important way to us the law. It gives people a clearer sight of the need they have for Christ, and the perfection of his obedience.

Me: That makes sense. The law is all about revealing to us our failings so we can run to Christ.

WCF: True, but that’s not the only use of the law for Christians. It is also a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly.

Me: Okay, so the law simply tells us what is right and wrong.

WCF: I wouldn’t put it quite like that. The law is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatening of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law.

Me: Wait a second. You’re saying even as believers we need to pay attention to the threats of the law and that even the regenerate may receive afflictions here and now for their disobedience? What is this, some kind of performance religion? I don’t think God wants justified believers to obey the law to try to please him.

WCF: The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof: although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works.

Me: But come on, gospel Christians don’t obey because the law tells them to.

WCF: So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and, not under grace.

Me: But if we must still listen to the warnings of the law and the promises of the law, and if we may even be blessed for obeying the law and receive afflictions for disobeying the law, and if part of our motivation for doing good is because the law encourages us to do so—how is this not all anti-gospel?

WCF: Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel do sweetly comply with it.

Me: But this is just pulling ourselves up by our moral bootstraps.

WCF: Wrong. Christians obey the law by the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely, and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.

Me: So maybe there’s more of a place for the law in my life as a Christian than I thought.

WCF: That’s what Reformed Christians thought 350 years ago.

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Comments:


40 thoughts on “A Conversation About the Law”

  1. Paul Reed says:

    “All ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the new testament.”

    What standard do you use for determining what are moral laws and which are “ceremonial” laws in the Old Testament?

  2. Alan says:

    @Paul Reed
    1. Moral Law was written on stone. Ceremonial written on parchment.
    2. Moral Law was written by the finger of God. Ceremonial written down by Moses.
    3. Moral Law affirmed by Christ and the Apostles. Ceremonial fulfilled in Christ.

  3. Aaron says:

    Why no mention James, Hebrews, or Philippians 2 in the WCF? For instance, an unwillingness to keep the law, or a desire for the opposite could show a dead faith? So, no it is not part of our justification, and in our sanctification, it is a guide. . . but if you don’t WANT to keep the 10 commandments, you may not be a Believer? To me, the works “warnings” in the NT are good enough, and don’t violate the anti-performance emphasis of Paul in Galatians and elsewhere.

  4. Aaron says:

    *no mention OF James,

  5. anonymous says:

    “There are few theological issues more important than the relationship of the Christian to the law.”

    How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers. Ps 1:1-3

    I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.” Ps 40:8

    May Your compassion come to me that I may live, for Your law is my delight.Ps 119:77

    If Your law had not been my delight,then I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have revived me. Ps 119:92-93

    Let Your hand be ready to help me, or I have chosen Your precepts. I long for Your salvation, O LORD, and Your law is my delight.Let my soul live that it may praise You, and let Your ordinances help me. Ps119:173-175

  6. Paul Janssen says:

    Just wondering — is it safe to say that GC folks, in general, tend to feel more at home in the Westminster than they do in the Heidelberg?

  7. Andrew Hall says:

    Kevin, who published your edition of the Standards? Mine doesn’t talk with me.

    Glad you wrote this. During our officer training this week, we had a spirited (dare I say heated?) discussion of the role and motivation of the law in the believer’s life, so it was helpful to read this. My wife helped point out that we get so hung up on the word “law” (mixed up with covenant of works) that we fail to see our duty to *obedience* as Spirit-led children of our Father–a holy Father who cannot be mocked (Gal. 6:7-8).

  8. Robert says:

    Me: But WCF, how is the commandment to keep the Sabbath a “moral” law and not a “ceremonial” law? Dind’t Christ fulfill that law like the ceremonial laws?

  9. Dan says:

    Robert,

    WCF 21-7: As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him.

    IE It is a creation ordinance. Not a ceremonial law added as part of the mosaic covenant.

  10. krisakson says:

    Yea verily!

  11. KG says:

    This is pretty cool– As a Catholic I’m a little surprised by the fact that early Reformed Protestants seem to use the same distinctions for the law that were used by St. Thomas in ST I-II Q90-108. Perhaps they disagreed with Catholics on the possibility of the knowledge of the moral law after the fall without special divine revelation, but it is still remarkably similar. A far cry from modern evangelical antinomian tendencies.

  12. Drake says:

    The elephant in the room: The Sabbath is nowhere changed from Saturday to Sunday. On the contrary 1 Cor 16:1-2 commands work to be done on Sunday.

  13. Nick says:

    The Old Covenant law shall not pass away until it has been fulfilled (Matthew 5:18). Yet the whole of the Old Covenant law, not just “ceremonial” and “civil” portions, was being brought to an end; Paul even specifically refers to the Ten Commandments, “carved in letters on stone” (2 Corinthians 3:7-13, ESV), as being brought to an end.

    Where Adam failed, Christ fulfilled the entirety of the law on our behalf (Romans 10:4). The law was our guardian until Christ came, but now we are no longer under a guardian (Galatians 3:23-25). The New Covenant is better than the Old (Hebrews 7:22). It is enacted on better promises (Hebrews 8:6), and the Old Covenant is now obsolete (Hebrews 8:13).

    In the New Covenant, we are not under the obsolete law of the Old Covenant; we are under the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:20-21 ; Galatians 6:2).

    As God is eternal and immutable, the underlying moral precepts of the Old Covenant law and the New Covenant law of Christ (both of which are mere extensions of the holy and righteous nature of God) are the same, though they are enforced in different ways. Under the Old Covenant, many offenses carried the death sentence to purge the sinner from the covenant community. Under the New Covenant, there is no longer execution for sin; there is church discipline and excommunication. So from a practical standpoint, the main difference between the moral law in the Old Covenant versus the New Covenant is a matter of application, and that application for the Church is spelled out in the New Testament (primarily in the epistles).

  14. Aaron says:

    Nick. . wow. That was easily understandable and helpful. I think you might be asking some different questions than Kevin, as he is going after some aspects of the current Gospel Centered sanctification movement. But, that was a very helpful summary and I fully agree.

  15. Adam Hawkins says:

    Anyone read Leiter’s book the law of Christ. I think he would probably follow Nick’s comment a bit more. I really find the whole distinction between moral, civil, and ceremonial law a tad forced. Plus, as nick points out, Paul makes no such distinction when he declares us dead to the law.

    Thoughts?

  16. Chris says:

    Well said, Nick and Adam.

    In this article, the same term “the law” keeps being used without distinction for laws that are not the same.

  17. mark mcculley says:

    The “justification is future” neonomianism of Norman Shepherd (like that of Richard Baxter of former times) does not think mere approval of commands as “normative” is enough. Shepherd thinks we need sanctions if we are going to obey the law. And Shepherd doesn’t think that “no sanctification means you were never justified” will get it done. Thus the talk of future justification based on Romans 2. And this talk has filtered down to Gaffin, Tom Schreiner, and Brian Vickers (in his new book on justification).

    The “federal vision” reads Romans 2 as saying that our future justification hangs in the balance. You can see the problem, that people like us, who keep looking at the perfect obedience of Christ (the “virtual reality”) will not be so keen to look at (and do something about) our own lack of obedience.

    We will be content (and even “relaxed”) to confess that our sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. And of course the law-gospel-law sandwich is not saying that we won’t go on sinning. It’s merely warning that an “unbalanced” focus only on imputation and justification will get in the way of us being fixed and then of us fixing the culture.

    The sandwich has law on both sides to protect the gospel in between. It’s merely warning us, and not making perfectionist claims.

    Like the Galatian false teachers, the law-gospel-law teacher never denies the imputation “equation”. He’s simply saying that there’s MORE to the Christian life than justification. You can be
    sanctified also and that happens by by a mysterious “synergism” of work (100% ours, 100% God’s).

  18. Drake says:

    Nick,

    “The Old Covenant law shall not pass away until it has been fulfilled (Matthew 5:18).”

    >>>That is a butchering of that passage. Jesus clearly stated,

    “Mat 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

    Jesus adamantly denies that his ministry is intended to do away with the law in this dispensation. That would not come until heaven and the earth pass away- i.e. new heavens, new earth.

    “Yet the whole of the Old Covenant law, not just “ceremonial” and “civil” portions, was being brought to an end;”

    >>>Which is directly contrary to Mat 5.

    “Paul even specifically refers to the Ten Commandments, “carved in letters on stone” (2 Corinthians 3:7-13, ESV), as being brought to an end.”

    >>>Even when the Ten Commandments are being written in the heart of Christians in verse 3? What was coming to an end is a certain administration of that law, not the law itself.

    “Where Adam failed, Christ fulfilled the entirety of the law on our behalf (Romans 10:4).”

    >>>You need to read the article again.

    Notice what Kevin wrote:

    “WCF: Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as others.”

    Rom 10:4 does not say that Christ is the end of the law full stop. It says he is the end of the law FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS, i.e. as a Covenant of Works. You are conflating the essence of the law, with its administration. In classical philosophy this would be a conflation between the substance and the mode.

    “The law was our guardian until Christ came, but now we are no longer under a guardian (Galatians 3:23-25).”

    >>>That is mode not essence.

    “The New Covenant is better than the Old (Hebrews 7:22).”

    >>>Now you are conflating essence and quality.

    “It is enacted on better promises (Hebrews 8:6), and the Old Covenant is now obsolete (Hebrews 8:13).”

    >>>Mode not essence. So do you believe that bestiality is no longer a sin?

    “In the New Covenant, we are not under the obsolete law of the Old Covenant; we are under the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:20-21 ; Galatians 6:2).”

    >>>And Christ did not do away with the law. Mat 5:17.

    “As God is eternal and immutable, the underlying moral precepts of the Old Covenant law and the New Covenant law of Christ (both of which are mere extensions of the holy and righteous nature of God) are the same, though they are enforced in different ways.”

    >>>Ok here you seem to be admitting that the essence of the law remains but is administered differently. This statement, which is correct, contradicts the above.

    “Under the Old Covenant, many offenses carried the death sentence to purge the sinner from the covenant community. Under the New Covenant, there is no longer execution for sin; there is church discipline and excommunication.”

    >>>Again, this is mode not essence.

    “So from a practical standpoint, the main difference between the moral law in the Old Covenant versus the New Covenant is a matter of application, and that application for the Church is spelled out in the New Testament (primarily in the epistles).”

    >>>So then is bestiality no longer a sin? Is the Sabbath Day done away with (And we all know Sunday is not the Sabbath: 1 Cor 16:1,2)? If the Sabbath is done away with, we have a radical change, and your statement,

    “As God is eternal and immutable, the underlying moral precepts of the Old Covenant law and the New Covenant law of Christ (both of which are mere extensions of the holy and righteous nature of God) are the same”

    is incorrect.

  19. Drake says:

    Adam,

    “I really find the whole distinction between moral, civil, and ceremonial law a tad forced.”

    >>>I think I have proven a very clear warrant from scripture and the early Fathers on this and I have shown that it is not the Tri-partite distinction that is forced but DA Carson’s alternative to it.

    http://olivianus.thekingsparlor.com/systematic-theology/the-tripartite-distinction-of-the-law-by-drake-shelton-part-1

    “Plus, as nick points out, Paul makes no such distinction when he declares us dead to the law.”

    >>>Because in the mode, or administration as a Covenant of Works, the distinction is not necessary. That entire mode of the law is irrelevant to mankind post-fall.

  20. Nick says:

    Drake,

    You’re talking about both dispensations and the Covenant of Works, which makes your hermeneutic difficult to follow. Furthermore, you accuse me of “conflating” essence and mode when my entire initial post clearly is based on the premise that the moral precepts of God (which are based on the very nature of Who He is) do not change, but the application thereof has changed between the Old and New Covenants.

    Christ was saying that He came not to contradict the Old Testament, but to fulfill it. He did indeed fulfill it on behalf of His covenant people, the Church universal, and as a result the debt and legal demands of the law are nailed to the cross (cf. Colossians 2:14).

    In the Sermon on the Mount (since you referenced Matthew 5), Jesus was laying down a Kingdom ethic, but He was also showing the people that they were depraved and unable to keep the law. That God regards unjust anger as murder (Matthew 5:21-22) and lust as adultery (Matthew 5:27-30) is a holy standard which no sinner can keep. Jesus even tells the people that unless they are more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees, they cannot enter Heaven (Matthew 5:20). Jesus was not teaching works salvation; He was showing the people that they could not keep the law and that they needed to receive His imputed righteousness; they needed Him to fulfill the law on their behalf (cf. Galatians 3:21-24).

    2 Corinthians 3:3 does not say that the Ten Commandments are written on the heart of the Christian (though as I said in my initial post and again above, I do not dispute that the underlying principles of the moral law of God are eternal, but the application of it changes between the Old and New Covenants). Paul is saying the transformed lives of the Corinthian believers are his “letter of recommendation” and a “letter from Christ” (ESV), and that this letter is written on the heart. Verse 7 is clearly a reference to the Ten Commandments: “carved in letters on stone” and “with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory …” (2 Corinthians 3:7, ESV) This, Paul says, “was being brought to an end …”

    Romans 10:4 can also be translated as the “end of the law, that everyone who believes may be justified.” (ESV alternate) or the “goal of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (NASB alternate) Mankind was already guilty before God at the time of the fall. As Galatians 3 says, the purpose of the law was to show us our sin and bring us to Christ, that we might receive His righteousness by grace through faith.

    The New Testament does not divide the law up into three parts. Christ referred to “the Law and the Prophets” as a singular unit. He lived a perfect life, succeeded where Adam failed (Romans 5:18-19), and kept the whole of the Law of Moses without error. His righteousness has been given to us (2 Corinthians 5:21) and we are now not under the Old Covenant law (Romans 6:14).

    Paul then goes on to explain that because we are no longer under the Old Covenant law, we are therefore to live righteously before God (Romans 6:15-18). The Church is not a-nomia (without law); we are under a law: the law of the New Covenant, which is the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:20-21). It is the eternal moral law of God being applied in a new way; this is what the New Testament epistles to the ancient churches are instructing us in. The example I gave in my initial post was that whereas in the Old Covenant certain sins were punished by execution (to cut off the sinner from the covenant community), that no longer applies. In the New Covenant, unrepentant persons are brought under church discipline or excommunicated (i.e., cut off from the covenant community, the functional equivalent of execution in the Old Covenant).

    You are correct that the Sabbath (Hebrew: shabat, the seventh day of the week) was never changed from Saturday to Sunday (the first day of the week). The New Testament does, however, tell us that at least some portion of the early church assembled on Sunday, the first day of the Hebrew week (Acts 20:7). This is a narrative passage of Scripture and not didactic (teaching/instructional/command); in other words, it tells us what they did, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s commanding the Church universal to always do the exact same thing.

    It is a hermeneutical error to therefore assume that Sunday is some sort of “Christian Sabbath,” which is an inconsistency that many of my fellow Reformed Christians often end up adhering to (yet at the same time many of them have no problem making other people work on Sundays, which is probably a form of cognitive dissonance).

    God didn’t command Adam to rest on the seventh day; the law of the Sabbath wasn’t instituted until the giving of the Ten Commandments. The law did not contain the substance (Hebrews 10:1). The law, including the Sabbath, was a shadow; Christ is the fulfillment (Colossians 2:16-17). The observance of the Sabbath day was therefore fulfilled in Christ, and no longer applies today; Christ Himself is our Sabbath rest.

  21. Hermonta Godwin says:

    The best short defense of the three fold division of the law that I have read can be found here: http://regnumpotentiae.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/categoriesofbiblicallaw/

  22. Drake says:

    Nick,

    “You’re talking about both dispensations and the Covenant of Works, which makes your hermeneutic difficult to follow.”

    >>>In what way? Christ is the end of the law as a covenant of works since the Protoevangelium.

    “Furthermore, you accuse me of “conflating” essence and mode when my entire initial post clearly is based on the premise that the moral precepts of God (which are based on the very nature of Who He is) do not change, but the application thereof has changed between the Old and New Covenants.”

    >>>I already addressed this. You contradicted yourself.

    “Christ was saying that He came not to contradict the Old Testament, but to fulfill it.”

    >>>That is not what he said. What he said was, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets”.

    “He did indeed fulfill it on behalf of His covenant people”

    >>>Which according to verse Mat 5:17 does not do away with the moral obligation of the law.

    “the Church universal, and as a result the debt and legal demands of the law are nailed to the cross (cf. Colossians 2:14).”

    >>>I believe that is the elect alone, but this is talking about the satisfaction of the law’s demands not the moral obligation the law still requires of a justified believer. The above is a pre-requisite condition before justification, not the moral standard of a Christian after justification.

    “In the Sermon on the Mount (since you referenced Matthew 5), Jesus was laying down a Kingdom ethic”

    >>>With reference to the law, he was not laying anything down that had not already been laid down. He is brushing away the false teaching and interpretations of the Pharisees.

    “but He was also showing the people that they were depraved and unable to keep the law. That God regards unjust anger as murder (Matthew 5:21-22)”

    >>>Lev. 19:17

    “and lust as adultery (Matthew 5:27-30)”

    >>>Exo. 20:17

    “is a holy standard which no sinner can keep.”

    >>>Outside of Christ. But in Christ we can do all things through him who strengthens us. Rom 8:4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    “Jesus even tells the people that unless they are more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees, they cannot enter Heaven (Matthew 5:20). Jesus was not teaching works salvation”

    >>>Do you mean works JUSTIFICATION or a mix of works and grace? If so I agree. Are you implying that I am saying he did teach works justification?

    “He was showing the people that they could not keep the law and that they needed to receive His imputed righteousness; they needed Him to fulfill the law on their behalf (cf. Galatians 3:21-24).”

    >>>I agree. Is this pointed against me? When have I ever stated that obedience to the law justifies?

    “2 Corinthians 3:3 does not say that the Ten Commandments are written on the heart of the Christian (though as I said in my initial post and again above, I do not dispute that the underlying principles of the moral law of God are eternal, but the application of it changes between the Old and New Covenants)…Verse 7 is clearly a reference to the Ten Commandments: “carved in letters on stone”

    >>>So the writing on stone tablets is the Ten Commandments in verse 7 but not verse 3?

    “Romans 10:4 can also be translated as the “end of the law, that everyone who believes may be justified.”

    >>>That is exactly my point. Christ, is the end of the law as a means to attain justification, not an end to the law as a moral guide to the justified believer.

    “As Galatians 3 says, the purpose of the law was to show us our sin and bring us to Christ, that we might receive His righteousness by grace through faith.”

    >>>Are you suggesting that that is its only purpose? Yet the Sabbath is ordained before the fall, as is monogamous marriage.

    “The New Testament does not divide the law up into three parts. Christ referred to “the Law and the Prophets” as a singular unit. He lived a perfect life, succeeded where Adam failed (Romans 5:18-19), and kept the whole of the Law of Moses without error. His righteousness has been given to us (2 Corinthians 5:21) and we are now not under the Old Covenant law (Romans 6:14).”

    >>>I already quoted my work on the Tri-partite division. http://olivianus.thekingsparlor.com/systematic-theology/the-tripartite-distinction-of-the-law-by-drake-shelton-part-1

    “Paul then goes on to explain that because we are no longer under the Old Covenant law, we are therefore to live righteously before God (Romans 6:15-18).”

    >>>But sin and righteousness is defined by the law:

    1 John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

    Romans 7:12
    Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

    “The Church is not a-nomia (without law); we are under a law: the law of the New Covenant, which is the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:20-21).”

    >>>But Christ did not come to do away with the law already given to moses and the prophets.

    “It is the eternal moral law of God being applied in a new way”

    >>>I am with you on that. But I’m not convinced you believe the above statement. You don’t keep the Sabbath.

    “this is what the New Testament epistles to the ancient churches are instructing us in. The example I gave in my initial post was that whereas in the Old Covenant certain sins were punished by execution (to cut off the sinner from the covenant community), that no longer applies.”

    >>>But that pertains to the penalty of the law, not the law itself. What has been abrogated is the Jewish administration of the law, not the law itself; the moral law the Ten Commandments.

    “In the New Covenant, unrepentant persons are brought under church discipline or excommunicated (i.e., cut off from the covenant community, the functional equivalent of execution in the Old Covenant).”

    >>>Again, this pertains to the law’s administration not the law itself.

    “You are correct that the Sabbath (Hebrew: shabat, the seventh day of the week) was never changed from Saturday to Sunday (the first day of the week). The New Testament does, however, tell us that at least some portion of the early church assembled on Sunday, the first day of the Hebrew week (Acts 20:7).”

    >>>And what is commonly left out is that they also worshiped every other day of the week as well. Acts 2: 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
    47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

    “This is a narrative passage of Scripture and not didactic (teaching/instructional/command); in other words, it tells us what they did, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s commanding the Church universal to always do the exact same thing.

    It is a hermeneutical error to therefore assume that Sunday is some sort of “Christian Sabbath,” which is an inconsistency that many of my fellow Reformed Christians often end up adhering to (yet at the same time many of them have no problem making other people work on Sundays, which is probably a form of cognitive dissonance).”

    >>>The inconsistency is yours and theirs. You say the law is eternal and yet don’t keep the Sabbath. You have no room to talk.

    “God didn’t command Adam to rest on the seventh day; the law of the Sabbath wasn’t instituted until the giving of the Ten Commandments.”

    >>>Gen 2: 3 And God blessed the seventh day, and ******sanctified it******: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

    God ordained the Sabbath in Gen. 2. And it was also recorded as being observed in Exo. 16 before the giving of the Ten Commandments.

    “The law did not contain the substance (Hebrews 10:1). The law, including the Sabbath, was a shadow”

    >>>Only the ceremonial and judicial law was the shadow. The moral law is neither a shadow or the substance. If the whole law is the shadow, all may be disregarded. The Sabbath was instituted before the Jewish Commonwealth.

    “Christ is the fulfillment (Colossians 2:16-17). The observance of the Sabbath day was therefore fulfilled in Christ, and no longer applies today; Christ Himself is our Sabbath rest.”

    >>>Col 2:16-17 is clearly speaking of the Levitical Sabbaths not the weekly Sabbath. See Lev. 23.

  23. Ben Thorp says:

    @Aaron – The WCF proofs for XIX quote extensively from James, once from Hebrews, although you’re right about no mention of Philippians 2.

    @Drake – With respect to Saturday/Sunday, I think you’ll find that there’s no specific mention of Saturday needing to be the Sabbath either. Both are the result of lengthy tradition, Saturday from the Jewish tradition, and Sunday from an early Christian tradition. What is important is not the day, but rather the principle that is laid out in the Commandment – work 6 days, and rest 1 day.

    @Kevin – Thanks for the article – really enjoyed your pulling apart of the WCF in this way. Fancy doing another 32?

  24. Drake says:

    Ben,

    Gen 2: 3 And God blessed *****the seventh day*******, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

    Exo 20:8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but *****the seventh day****** is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work

  25. Drake says:

    Ben,

    “What is important is not the day, but rather the principle that is laid out in the Commandment”.

    >>>Says who?

  26. Drake says:

    Ben,

    BTW, 1 Cor 16:1-2 rules out Sunday being the Sabbath because it commands work to be done.

  27. JAQ says:

    I am having trouble seeing work in the passage of 1 Cor 16.1-2. It appears more of a proof that they did meet on Sunday “first day of every week” and they “put aside” (Offering?) “and save, as he may prosper”. Verse 1 says the “the collection” so it appears they already knew about it. It just doesn’t sound like a work to me.

  28. JAQ,

    What part of “lay by him in store” does not sound like work to you?

    The fact they this verse is not referring to a worship meeting and public collection on Sunday is in the phrase above. In greek παρ᾽ ἑαυτῷ τιθέτω θησαυρίζων. This is private not public.

    Vincent’s Word Studies Vol. 3, commenting on this phrase on page 288 says,

    “Lay by him in store…Lit., put by himself treasuring. Put by at home.”

    http://archive.org/stream/cu31924092322548#page/n337/mode/2up

  29. JAQ says:

    What part? Pretty much the whole phrase. Take out the “meeting together: and it still doesn’t sound like work to me. I work 6 days and can “lay by him in store” on the first day – or “put by himself treasuring” – or “put by at home” because thast is where I take my wages after I have earned it somwwhere else. The last literal translation would mean everyone was self-employed. BUT, I did not study greek so I have to consider you beging right. I am just surprised so many other incredible theolgians got it wrong.

  30. JAQ,

    “Take out the “meeting together: and it still doesn’t sound like work to me.”

    >>>Do you realize what you just admitted to? You just admitted that one of the three principle texts used universally among Romanists, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Sunday keepers is wrong!

    “I work 6 days and can “lay by him in store” on the first day – or “put by himself treasuring” – or “put by at home” because thast is where I take my wages”

    >>>Who said anything about wages? Where are wages mentioned here?

    “I am just surprised so many other incredible theolgians got it wrong.”

    >>>I am greatly encouraged by your open-ness to question tradition. Good for you man.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=ZTERAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA161&dq=history+of+the+sabbath+and+the+first+day+of+the+week&hl=en&sa=X&ei=AQO0UbTjKob7rQGkr4DIDQ&ved=0CD0Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

    http://drakeshelton.com/category/sabbath/

    Just to deflect a coming objection: I am not a Seventh Day Adventist. From the links I just gave you will find that Sunday Sabbath keeping is found for centuries after the apostles and was also revived by one of the first major Reformers in the Protestant Church Andreas Karlstadt.

  31. Brian says:

    WCF: So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and, not under grace.

    Me: But if we must still listen to the warnings of the law and the promises of the law, and if we may even be blessed for obeying the law and receive afflictions for disobeying the law, and if part of our motivation for doing good is because the law encourages us to do so—how is this not all anti-gospel?

    The Law does NOT, I repeat, does NOT encourage. Its only a command…a command does not give encouragement. IE…Grace in the Gospel has to be the encouragement and POWER by the Spirit in the believers life, not the Law…The issue is not whether or not the Law is still Lawful or active, but its proper USE, and it only shows us our utter sinfulness and need for Christ. The gospel of the grace that we have in Christ produces freedom to serve horizontally…which would be the good works of Christ we are to walk in. Paul is clear about the goodness and rightful place of the law…Please read Romans 7 in its entirety, and check out his plead to young Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:8-11

    (8) Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully,
    (9) understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers,
    (10) the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,
    (11) in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

  32. Drake says:

    Brian,

    You hate the Bible and Yahweh. These are Yahweh';s laws. If you don’t keep them, you have no life in yourself. Mat. 7:21.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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