Gods Law: Answering Objections to its Binding Validity.

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward (Psa 19:7-11).

The above passage speaks volumes to the attitude a believer should have toward the law of God. But instead, God’s law has become so unpopular in christian churches today. Not only is the law seen as irrelevant but is often times greeted with dislike; and anyone who advocates for the binding validity of the law to govern every human institution such as: the individual, family, church, and state is usually considered deviated in their theology or worse, a legalist or a heretic.

But despite the testimony of Scripture that Christ did not come to abolish the law (Matt 5:17), and that Christians should uphold the law rather than nullify it on account of faith (Rom 3:31), there are still objections frequently being raised to the idea that God’s law is binding today. Let’s examine the most common ones.  

“Christ came to fulfill the Law.”

This objection is taken from Matthew 5:17 where so many interpret the word “fulfill” to mean {abrogate, repeal, cancel, revoke, rescind, nullify, void, invalidate, or even abolish}. The problem with this interpretation is that it creates a rather obvious  contradiction. If the word “fulfill” means to abolish, then the passage would read this way: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to abolish them. As we can see, this interpretation does not work. Christ did not fulfill the law by abolishing it.

However one interprets this passage, the word “fulfill” cannot mean abrogate. The Greek word for “fulfill” is πληρόω which means to fill up to full measure much like a cup of water that is topped off to the brim but was never empty. This fits the sermon as a whole for the reason that Jesus never once does away with any law, but instead explains their demands down to the most intrinsic level or “full measure.”  

“We are under grace not law.”

This fragment of a verse has become the catchphrase of some who reject God’s law as the standard of obedience. Their sentiment toward this verse partially taken from Romans 6:14 is that those who belong to the New Covenant are no longer obligated to obey God’s law because of a particular dispensation of grace.

But this cannot be referring to two diverging dispensations because law and grace were no more antithetical in the Older Testament than they are in the New Testament. Both have always existed in conjunction with one another throughout redemptive history. If the entire verse is read it becomes clear what Paul is getting at, “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” To be “under law” means to be under its condemnation with sin as the master, whereby to be “under grace” is to be alive in Christ and free from the domain of sin.

So the natural question for how the believer is to live then arises, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!” (v.15). Ironically, the apostle John defines sin as “lawlessness” (1 John 3:4), so to understand Paul better we might rephrase the question to, – “what then? Shall we commit lawlessness because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!” Paul’s phrase is perfectly consistent to what he has already stated earlier in the book, “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law” (Rom 3:31).

“Theocracies never work, just look at the middle ages.”

This objection points to a time in history where predominantly religious people ruled nations and consequently drove them into oppression, violence, and poverty. The objection fails for the reason that it equivocates the concept of a Biblical Theocracy (or more preferably, Christocracy) where God’s law rules a nation with what would be more appropriately called an “ecclesiocracy” where the institutional church rules a nation. This design is antithetical to the design laid out in God’s law where the duties of the civil magistrate are separate from the duties of the priesthood. The civil government carries the sword of iron and the Church carries the sword of truth which is the Word of God. Both are separate institutions with different responsibilities, yet both are instructed and commanded by God’s law.

The political economy of the middle ages exemplified deviance and disinterest in God’s law. Had the governments during that time upheld God’s law as a governing principle, we would not have seen some of the immoral practices such as: religious wars, excessive taxes and punishments, or torture. All of which would have been prohibited by the law of God.        

“The Mosaic law was only given to Israel”

The reasoning behind this objection is that since the Mosaic Law was given to a unique people during a specific time in a particular context, God did not intend for it to be followed by the New Covenant Christians. What is being overlooked in this objection is that God has transferred His law over to the New covenant. God says in the book of Jeremiah, ‘“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people”’ (Jer 31:31). Notice how God did not say “put a new law on their hearts,” only that His pre-existing law would now be written on their hearts. Why should Christians neglect what is now written on their hearts?

Moreover, one function of God’s Spirit in the New Covenant is to move His people to decree-following and law-keeping. In the book of Ezekiel God says, “… I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Eze 36:27). We agree that the law was given to Israel, however, according to the testimony of Scripture God continued the establishment of His law in the New Covenant.  

“That sounds like sharia law to me.”

This objection is saddening more than anything else because it displays disrespect not as much toward the theonomist (i.e. one who believes in the binding validity of God’s  law) but toward God Himself. To compare God’s law which is righteous, pure, just, and holy to Islamic law which is a false religion is insulting to God’s own character.

Moreover, God’s law and sharia law hold vast differences such as: (1) the penalties for offending God’s law are proportionate to the crime (Deut 25:1-3), whereby sharia law in some cases are extremely excessive and lack justice (e.g., chopping off a hand for thievery). (2) God’s law recognizes equality in everyone regardless of ethnicity, gender, or citizenship (Lev 24:22), where as sharia law recognizes Muslim men as superior citizens. (3) And most importantly, the Older Testament law was written by God’s own divine finger (Exo 31:18; Deut 9:10). Whereas, the god who supposedly wrote sharia law does not exist.  

“It would be wrong to enforce Christian values upon non-Christians.”

It would be naive to otherwise think that all legislation is imposing someone else’s values on everyone else. Every piece of legislation is derived from a worldview or belief system and dictates human behavior according to its principles and ethics. The question is not whether we want a worldview to dictate human behavior in society (that is already at work), but rather which worldview do we want to rule society? Do we want an atheistic worldview that generally says, “there are no moral absolutes” to dictate how society is to behave, or a humanistic worldview that says depraved man is the measure of all things, and not the righteous God of the Bible? Can anyone really expect Christians or non-Christians alike to receive justice from such worldviews?

God’s Law, on the other hand is just (Heb 2:2) and good (1 Tim 1:8). Every one of His rules are righteous (Psa 19:9). As image bearers of God and lights on a hill, Christians should want justice for both the believing and unbelieving community as a testimony to the Gospel and to show the world who God is.  

“Obligation to God’s law is legalism”

The general meaning of the term legalism is simply – misusing God’s law contrary to what it is originally intended for, such as: adding to or distorting the law’s demands, substituting God’s law with artificial rules, or using the law as a means of salvific justification. The Pharisees and Judaizers made all of these errors making them the epitome of legalism. Contrary to the aforementioned objection, God’s law correctly used cannot be legalistic, but rather as the apostle Paul says, the law is not sin (Rom 7:7), “the law is good, if one uses it lawfully,” and the law is “in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God …” (1 Tim 1:7,11).

Furthermore, Jesus uses the law to correct misuses of the law. After Christ and the apostles were accused of breaking the traditions of the elders, Jesus accuses them with “rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition” (Mark 7:9). In the next verse Jesus quotes Exodus 21:17 and Leviticus 20:9 concerning honoring one’s father and mother, the law they should have been upholding rather than the illegitimate corban vow which nullified the commandment of God.

Moreover, Obeying God’s law cannot be legalistic per se, otherwise those who refuse to commit murder on the basis that God forbids it should be accused of legalism by the same logic. Contrarily, the law of God protects believers from legalism by laying out what our sovereign God’s will is for us, His subjects.  

“What about the woman caught in adultery in John chapter 8?”

The story of the woman caught in adultery doesn’t weaken the theonomic position, it strongly confirms it! Much should be said about this passage that cannot be covered here satisfactorily, but a few brief points ought to be made to relinquish the gross misinterpretation of this narrative.

In response to the trap presented by the Pharisees Jesus says, “… Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). This phrase refers to two criterion for execution specified in the law: (1) the first to cast stones must be the accusers (Deut 17:7), and (2) these same people must be guiltless of the same crime committed by the offender (Deut 19:15). So by interpreting this passage by the standard of the Mosaic law it becomes clearer that Jesus is upholding the laws that are meant to protect the innocent from wrongful or corrupt accusations. As a result of His statement, the charges are dropped. The reasons might be multitudinous. Either there weren’t enough witnesses or the witnesses where themselves adulterers, to which the only thing they could do is drop the accusation and let the woman go.

“Isn’t it enough to love our neighbor.”

The thinking behind this objection is that Christ gave two commands, to love God with one’s entire being and love neighbor as oneself (Matt 22:37-39), and by doing these two things one can vicariously obey all the law and the prophets successfully. But notice what Jesus says right after, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (v.40). In other words, the two greatest commands (taken from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18) are a summation of all the law and the prophets. A summation cannot depreciate or void its content otherwise it would cease to be a summation. And so, if the two greatest commandments are going to be pursued we must study and obey all of scripture, including the law and the prophets.

No More Excuses

There are no more excuses. The Law of God which He revealed as good (1 Tim 1:8), just (Heb 2:2), righteous (Psa 19:9), and perfect (Psa 19:7) is still binding upon the repentant believer. The law shows us how to love God and our neighbor (Matt 7:12; 22:40). By obeying it one is walking in accordance with the very character of God. Although impossible apart from the grace of God and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, Christ now lives in us (Gal 2:20) to restore us to His image as the perfect law keeper.

 

Published by Ben Moore

Hi, I'm Ben Moore, a Christian worldview writer. This site is committed to seeing Christ's kingdom permeate throughout all of life, including the social institutions that God has designed; family, church, and civil government. While Christian churches have been focused on applying the Bible to the heart of the individual, its application to society is often neglected, lost, or even rejected. The content of this site predominately speaks into these issues and wants to discover how God's word applies beyond the life of the individual Christian and to the public square.

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