The Law and the Christian

Vaclav's picture

"He who looks at his own character and position from a legal point of view, will not only despair when he comes to the end of his reckoning, but if he be a wise man he will despair at the beginning; for if we are to be judged on the footing of the law, there shall no flesh living be justified.

How blessed to know that we dwell in the domains of grace and not of law! When thinking of my state before God the question is not, “Am I perfect in myself before the law?” but, “Am I perfect in Christ Jesus?” That is a very different matter. We need not enquire, “Am I without sin naturally?” but, “Have I been washed in the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness?” It is not “Am I in myself well pleasing to God?” but it is “Am I accepted in the Beloved?”... " - C.H. Spurgeon in Morning and Evening

It can also be said, that we broke the law as sinners, therefore Christ died in our place. And he died in our place that we might be united to him through his Spirit, and indirectly the law be kept by us/by the power of the Spirit within us. And "...I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts..." (Jeremiah 31:33)

So we love the Lord from within, which is the promise of the New Covenant - God in us, and we in God, through Christ. Christ died, " order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:4)

Or as Charles Price put it, "the commandments have become God's promises - it's no longer "you shall NOT" do this or do that, but "you SHALL not" do this or do that. Therefore the fruit of the Spirit is the evidence that the "...Holy...Righteous...good." (Romans 7:12) law is kept in our lives, if we walk, live and are led by the Spirit. "...against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:23b)

The law was fulfilled by Christ in our place - in life and death. And now God's holy law is kept by us, as if to say indirectly by the power of the Spirit within us. But to clarify it, we do not look to the law, but to Christ, for grace to enable us to be good children, and for mercy to forgive us our shortcomings and cleanse us from them by his precious blood. Our relationship is not with the letter of the law, but with the living person - namely Christ Jesus, who died for us and lives within us.

"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16)


Law, Covenants and Obedience

7thBlessing's picture

Often the distinction fails to be made that two bodies of law were delivered to the fresh-out-of-Eqypt Hebrews: the Decalogue written by the finger of God in stone (is He trying to tell us something here...?), and the ceremonial law known as the Book of the Law.

The Decalogue, described as "eternal," "perfect," and "good," and which Jesus said He came to fulfill (Matt. 5:17), placed directly under the Mercy Seat in the Ark of the Covenant, is a Divine statement of the moral behavior required of us. It has no enabling power to impart to the reader. Only statements of eternal reward to the obedient and eternal loss to the disobedient. As God is unchanging, so also is His Law. It decries all reason that He who unequivocally has declared "the soul that sinneth [sin is the transgression of the Law, we are told elsewhere] it shall die" (Eze. 18:4), when His Son died the second death for the transgressors, would then lightly toss the Decalogue to the side as irrelevant.

The Book of the Law, quite unlike the eternal Decalogue, was described as a "shadow of things to come" (Heb. 10:1), and in the context of that statement the law being spoken of is identified by reference to "sacrifices" and "the blood of bulls and of goats", i.e. the Book of the Law. This body of law was distinguished from the Decalogue not only in name, but was stored less prominently on the side of the Ark of the Covenant. It's function as given by God, was to connect the pre-Messianic worshiper––through faith––with "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world."

The Divine initiative to save lost humanity rested wholly up God for its accomplishment. This we see graphically portrayed when God is making the Covenant with Abram that "in thy seed" "shall all the families of the earth be blessed." As God reveals Himself and His intentions to us in ways that can be understood, God made His covenant with Abram employing the rituals of Abram's day: carving animals in half, laying them on each side of the path, then walking together along that pathway, essentially committing that "may what has been done to these animals be done to me if I fail of keeping my part of this covenant." Interestingly and deeply significant though, once the sacrifices were divided and distributed along the pathway, a deep dreadful sleep fell upon Abram while "a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp"––the manifestation of the presence of LORD––passed alone between the divided carcasses. In this unilateral act on God's part we see that the success of the Covenant rested solely upon God. Reason for this is found in Romans 8:3 in the words "what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh..."

This misnomered "Abrahamic" covenant of Genesis 15 is actually the New Covenant, for it is the Divine pledge that God would, through its accomplishment, bless all the families of the earth; it is manifestly the New Covenant that extends a blessing that reaches all, as witnessed by Romans 5:18: "even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men..." This New Covenant (as we call it) actually came first, right at the gate of Eden in the hearing of the guilty pair, indicated by the prophetic "he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Here we see God recommitting (not to be understood as meaning His commitment had begun to slip) to "the mystery that was hid from ages," i.e., "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world–– that the Innocent would trade rewards with the guilty.

So what is the Old Covenant? We find it in the self-confident promise of the Hebrew throng at the foot of Sinai: "All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient." Not yet done learning of their utter moral incapacity, and being yet unregenerate––"in the flesh"––, the speakers forged out a covenant that would prove impossible to keep, as they would have to depend upon their own powerlessness to keep it. The playing rules in this covenant would be "The man that doeth them shall live in them...", essentially, though obedience, earning life, and thus making God a debtor to provide it!

The relationship of law keeping to grace is not to be mistaken as antagonistic; law keeping results from an experience in grace––read that as a restored standing with the Father ("it is the goodness of God that leads to repentence")––it simply is not the basis for that standing. Law keeping is only antagonistic to grace when entered upon as the basis for right standing with God.

And surely we see that the grand goal of grace could not possibly be to populate heaven with an unruly, lawless redeemed throng... No; theirs will be hearts made willing to obey through seeing the love of God poured out prodigally upon the guilty in the act of the Father rejecting His innocent Son on Calvary, that He might accept the guilty sinner and treat him as the Son deserves to be treated.

Romans 4:5 clearly states the truth, "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." This belief takes in territory we may not fully comprehend initially, but which includes identification with Christ in His death, i.e. He died AS ME, I died IN HIM. The identification with Christ that results in the benefit of righteousness and an eternal home with God includes just as surely in our being slain, co-crucified essentially, "put to death in the flesh..." This is actually a welcome eventuality to the sin-sick, self-sick sinner, whose past indulgence of self has led to broken relationships, financial ruin, broken health, and loss of eternal hope. Once we get fully sick of self, the Cross, where we find a way provided to die "unto sin" and self, is truly a place of rejoicing. It is liberation at long last.

As we embrace our position in Christ in His death, the "life...of Jesus" is "made manifest in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor 4:11). It is, indeed, the obedience of Christ in the believer that is manifest. It is the obedience of Christ in me, for me, through me, instead of me, just not in spite of me... I must reckon myself "dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto God," sharing with Christ His resurrected, triumphant life!

Worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain...!

Romans 8:4a

Vaclav's picture

I love what F.F.Bruce says on the first part of this verse,

" order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us...",

"Christian holiness is not a painstaking conformity to the individual precepts of an external law-code; it is rather a question of the Holy Spirit's producing His fruit in the life, reproducing those graces which were seen in perfection in the life of Christ."..."God's commands have now become God's enablings." (F.F.Bruce, Romans, Tyndale NTC, p.162)

The fruit of the Spirit is...

7thBlessing's picture

It is the Holy Spirit actually communicating the resurrection life of Jesus into the mortal flesh of the believer.

Amazing truth, how can it be?

...with God all things are possible..!!!

Deut 10:19 Love ye therefore

Deut 10:19
Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Ok I see what you are saying. No man shall be justified by the law though.

Hey Stevie

Sorry, hope this is not like we are trying to gang up on ya.. Im not really Vaclav's supporter but I do think the Law is done away with to the extent that It has served its purpose In bringing us to Christ (Romans 7)

Maybe my OT justification is off.. I thought that it was through ordinances, laws and commands by faith. I appreciate correction.

Surely there are points about Reformed theology and Calvin that are suspect. Not to mention Augustine. Off the top of my head Infant baptism.. These were just people though yes a lot can be learned from them maybe, though maybe not.. Maybe we should make up our own minds by the Word alone. Can you imagine quoting Jown Owen to the devil? Id rather qoute scripture (if you see my point thats good, no need to blow up on it I know there is value in Owen but not for everyone, Reformed Theology is not cannon)

Anyways no need in us all have a discussion like a bunch of clanging cymbals..

The whole book of Galatians and Romans 7 has settled the issue (for me), I am dead to the Law, alive in the Spirit. After we die the only thing that will last is Love. Faith will be solidified and Hope will be settled.

'I will have mercy and not sacrifice'

Vaclav, Quote: Dear Steve,


Quote: Dear Steve, I'm sorry you've misunderstood my plain and uncomplicated language.

Dude, you might want to consider dropping the innocent white dove routine. Your two supporters (JohnnyBoy and Andrew) have drawn from your ‘plain and uncomplicated’ language the following propositions (being, as Andrew said, 100% with Vaclav on this one):
- “Holiness in the Old was defined in terms of external obedience” (Andrew)
- “this is what keeping the Law produces. Self justification, self righteousness” (JohnnyBoy)
- “The Old Covenant is justification through ordinances” (JohnnyBoy)

Is this a correct or have your supporters in fact “misunderstood your plain and uncomplicated language.” If they are off (which they are), you should clarify and correct.

Quote: I do not follow any standard either Reformed, Lutheran or Anabaptist strictly, but the Bible.

How pious of you. I wish I could learn to just follow the Bible (lol). Seriously, that is a silly remark. It presupposes that Reformed theology (or Lutheran, etc.) does not itself follow the Bible, or that my reasons for affirming this or that theological tradition does not derive from my own personal study of scripture. Also, you affirm all kinds of things derived from existing theological traditions/formulations. It’s not like you discovered that that there was a Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – three distinct hypostases in one undivided nature/essence, and then to your total surprise you came across the ‘doctrine of the trinity’ which confirmed the findings of your private study. Nobody is exempt from historical theology. Nor should they be, for that matter. We don’t recreate Christianity each time each person opens their Bible. Ironically, this renegade attitude of ‘Its just me and my Bible,’ ‘No creed but Christ,’ etc. is actually unbiblical!

Quote: “Even your favorite commentator on Romans Dr.Moo”

Wouldn’t say he is my favorite. Moo, Schreiner, and Murray offer excellent modern(-ish) commentaries on Romans. But the best, and the ones with which I would find the greatest theological agreement, would be Calvin, Hodge, and Haldaine.

Quote: “I think Paul has it right”

Of course he does!?! So does Peter, Moses, David, John, Matt, Zephaniah…

Steve, you've misread me

Vaclav's picture

Steve, you've misread me again! I said I don't follow any standard strictly. Implying I embrace from creeds what I believe to be biblical. You really surprise me sometimes with your harsh and accusatory spirit.

Response to JohnnyBoy:I

Response to JohnnyBoy:

I would like to interact a little with your comments/questions:

Quote: “this is what keeping the Law produces. Self justification, self righteousness”

Incorrect. Paul’s argument in Romans teaches that justification apart from Law (3:21) and keeping the Law (3:31) are compatible. The strongest refutation of your comment comes in Romans 9:30-10:5. Why is it that the unregenerate Jews did not achieve justification? Note what Paul says “they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” They were ignorant of the Old Testament scriptures. It’s not that they rightly interpreted the Law, the misinterpreted the Law! Paul says that there self justification (10:3) came from ignorance of the Law and its end (10:4) not a proper understanding! A powerful thing to note (which many miss) is the connection between Paul’s seeming antithetical language about the Law and Jewish ignorance (Romans, Galatians, and 2 Cor). If the Old Covenant was truly about self-justification than Paul would not have said that they were ignorant of the Old Testament (as Jesus did also; John 5:46-47).

The problem with the Jews was that there desire for self-justification made them take the ‘do this and live’ principle which had reference to temporal blessings for the already redeemed. They took a horizontal principal and tried to erect it as a vertical one. As H.C.G. Moule put it: “Thus the code, feasible and beneficent indeed on the plane of national and social life, which is its lower field of action, is necessarily fatal to fallen man when the question lies between his conscience and the eternal judge.” (H.C.G. Moule, The Expositors Bible: Romans, 268)

Quote: “Do you think that the Law can teach you how to be a neighbor unto him that few among thieves?”

Yes: Deut 10:19

Andrew, You offer some good


You offer some good thoughts. However,

Quote from Andrew: “Holiness in the Old was defined in terms of external obedience.”

With all due respect, this is definitely NOT correct! I think what we have here is the exact problem that Christ was trying to remedy in the sermon on the mount. The Pharisees are the ones that restricted the Law to externals! Christ’s teachings corrected the erroneous rabbinical interpretation and restores the Law to its proper depth and splendour. I think a lot of Christians would be surprised to discover that the Law required sacrificial love (Deut 15:11), mercy (Mic 6:8), faith (Deut 32:20; Hab 2:4), and divine dependence (Hosea 14:8). What we see in Christ is the fulfillment of the Law, not the surpassing of it. The only reason we think that Christ surpasses it, is because we know so little of it. Christians today will do well to read more of the ‘black lettered’ bits of the Bible.

Also, to say that Christ’s example goes beyond the Law makes Vaclav’s correct claim that Christ fulfilled the Law superfluous. If Christ’s example surpasses the Law, then Christ’s fulfillment of it is not all that important. Do you follow? If our righteousness is Christ’s fulfillment of the Law, and yet that Law is lower than the perfect standard of divine holiness and love, than to have Christ’s imputed fulfilment of the Law is not adequate to meet God’s standard. That may be a bit hard to follow. However, this is crucial to the doctrine of Justification. Christ fulfilling the Law and Christ’s holiness must be the same thing or the doctrine of Justification will be at stake.

Quote from Andrew: The Reformed view is that the New Covenant is just another administration of the Old. However the New is *not like* the old because of the gift of the Spirit.

You have incorrectly characterized the Reformed position (although in fact there is some difference within the Reformed camp. Nevertheless, the view I am articulating is the ‘standard’ Reformed view). The Reformed position sees all the Biblical covenants as administrations ‘of the THE promise’ (Greek of Eph 2:12). One promise of salvation is administrated in variegated ways throughout redemptive history. No Reformed scholar that I have ever heard of says that the New and the Old are identical in particulars. Note the following section of the Westminster Confession of Faith (section 20:1):

20:1 The liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the Gospel consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin; the condemning wrath of God, the curse of the moral law (Gal_3:13; 1Th_1:10; Tit_2:14); and, in their being delivered from this present evil world, bondage to Satan, and dominion of sin (Act_26:18; Rom_6:14; Gal_1:4; Col_1:13), from the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grave, and everlasting damnation (Psa_119:71; Rom_8:1, Rom_8:28; 1Co_15:54-57); as also, in their free access to God (Rom_5:1, Rom_5:2), and their yielding obedience unto Him, not out of slavish fear, but a child-like love and willing mind (Rom_8:14, Rom_8:15; 1Jo_4:18). All which were common also to believers under the law (Gal_3:9, Gal_3:14). But under the new testament, the liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish Church was subjected (Act_15:10, Act_15:11; Gal_4:1-3, Gal_4:6, Gal_4:7; Gal_5:1); and in greater boldness of access to the throne of grace (Heb_4:14, Heb_4:16; Heb_10:19-22), and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of (Joh_7:38, Joh_7:39; 2Co_3:13, 2Co_3:17, 2Co_3:18).

As you can see, the Reformed acknowledge the fuller measure of the Spirit in the New Covenant. Also, as I mentioned in my previous response, the Spirit was still the sanctifier in the Old Covenant. If he wasn’t then evidently the uprightness of Job, Noah, etc., can be achieved by our own strength. This would make the ministry of the Spirit unnecessary (which is clearly false and heretical).

I would just encourage everyone to plumb the depths of Reformed theology. Most of your criticisms are based on misrepresentations. You are really missing out on an interpretative tradition that can offer much in terms of getting a grasp of the mind of God in scripture.

Blessings in your studies.

I am 100% with Vaclav on this one

Andrew's picture

The Reformed view is that the New Covenant is just another administration of the Old. However the New is *not like* the old because of the gift of the Spirit. God not only commands our obedience, but in the N.C. he brings the command to pass, doing what the Old failed to do in creating a Holy People.
Holiness in the Old was defined in terms of external obedience, although of course God was still interested in a change of heart. However, in Jesus Christ, God has revealed a radically new understanding of what holiness looks like. (It does not contradict the Old, but goes way beyond it.) Jesus on the cross is the epitome of what God desires--self-sacrificial love. And through the gift of the Spirit he is creating that love within us.

Vaclav, This is not the


This is not the standard view of the role of the Law (in either Reformed or Lutheran theology). Your view comes from the Anabaptist sects. Every thing you said about Christ is correct (he fulfilled the Law, we look to him for the power to live a Christian life, etc.). However:

The Law written on our minds still goes into our minds by reading it! Malachi announced the coming of the New Covenant in the same breath as saying “Remember the Law of Moses” (Mal 4:4)
Christian sanctity is “fulfilment of the Law” (Rom 8:4). We fulfill the Law, not Christ in us. Again, Paul is very clear in 8:4 that the Law is fulfilled in us (and by us), albeit, the power to do so comes from the power of Christ in us by the Spirit.
The New Testament repeatedly instructs us to keep the commandments. As Paul puts it in 1 Cor 7, “what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.”
We must not put a wedge between sanctity in the Old Testament times and in the New. Though they differ in degree, they cannot differ in nature. Otherwise, the uprightness of Job (for example) was achieved outside of the fullness of Christ. That would make Christ’s fullness redundant and unnecessary. This cheapens the power of Christ; it does not exalt it.
In your exegesis of 2 Cor 3 (and similar texts) you should really interact with other commentators besides the ‘higher life’ guys. There is much better stuff out there that you will have to reckon with before waving your hand against the Law. For example, you should read Ridderbos and George Eldon Ladd on the role of the Law in the New Covenant. Not only should your read this material, you should state why and where they are wrong. To simply, in a cavilier fashion, dismiss the Law’s validity in the life of the believer today, is inadequate.

Dear Steve

Vaclav's picture

Dear Steve, I'm sorry you've misunderstood my plain and uncomplicated language.

I do not follow any standard either Reformed, Lutheran or Anabaptist strictly, but the Bible. The things I wrote I haven't copied from anyone, accept where I quote. These are my own meditations on the Word. In no way have I dismissed the law in the life of the believer. I just don't talk about it the way you do. I have never said not to read the law, the commandments or the Old Testament. In fact I encourage meditation on all the Scriptures, but especially the New Testament, because "in the New the Old is revealed", as Augustine nicely said it in a nutshell.

Also I didn't mean that Christ automatically fulfils the law in us, without our will and activity involved. I did say we do it/Spirit in us. And this is where I disagree with you where you say "We fulfill the Law, not Christ in us", but later you say "the power to do so comes from the power of Christ in us by the Spirit." , which is what I have been saying in similar words to yours. I think Paul has it right in Philippians 2:12b,13, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Even you favourite commentator on Romans Dr.Moo says, "...the Spirit...secures complete fulfilment of the law on our behalf" (New Bible Commentary, p.1139) But I prefer to say that, through the union with Christ, we who believe in him are empowered by his Spirit to fulfil the law in our life, so "the law might be fulfilled in us." Rom.8:4.

This is the new age, the age of the Spirit, promised in the OT and fulfilled/revealed through Christ in NT. " that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code." Rom.7:6b It's not do this and you shall live, but live - trusting and depending on Christ, and you shall do. Or, "...but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." 2 Cor.3:5b,6

Dear brother, to avoid any further misunderstanding, if you don't understand what i mean by what I said, next time please ask me, and I'll tell you.

May we all come to be zealous with knowledge and understanding for the Lord Christ, and the New Covenant in his blood.


The Law is agape love


Well this is most interesting and Godly and fruitful topic unlike Calvinism / Arminianism black hole debate. This is really something to nail down, and I would like to participate with your feedback.

My view of the Word and what Christ wants us to focus on is not the Law as Vaclav as basically stated. A doctorate of the Law is unnecessary, but to become a living sacrifice for Christ. And the only way you can do this is through agape love given from on high.

A couple parables come to mind
1) The Good Samaritan
2) The Prodigal Son

1 - The care and love of the Samaritan is what Jesus said to 'Go, and do thou likewise'. He didn't say 'You don't understand the law of Moses! Even the Samaritan understood the law of Moses!!!!'.
Do you think that the Law can teach you how to be a neighbour unto him that few among thieves?

2 - The son who stayed at home was perfect in his own eyes and this is what keeping the Law produces. Self justification, self righteousness,
'Lo these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment'.

That being said we are not lawless but we are bound unto the LAW OF LIBERTY. We are bound to love and the law of Moses cannot teach you to love. Besides living by the law is not good enough for if you transgress at one time any part of the law your are disqualified. Do you think that changes after you accept Christ, now we live by the law again never to transgress? But if we transgress ONCE we are disqualified from the path of the law.

The Law can only show us where we fail. The commandments are summed up in love too. You say the sanctity of the Old and New T. cannot differ but God is approaching justification from opposite sides. The Old Covenant is justification through ordinances resulting in showing their need and dependence on God. The New is GRACE. Ordinances point to the need for God but Israel did not learn that lesson. New Covenant is all and completely GRACE lest any man should boast.

Anyways there is heavier artillery for this argument in the book of Galatians and Romans 7. As well as throughout the Psalms.

I appreciate criticism and rebuttal

Lord Bless us all with wisdom and understanding!