Moses’ Law is not God’s Law

In the beginning, there is God, and God has a Law. God’s Law is a natural expression of his perfect, constant, and holy character. All men, in all times, Old Covenant, New Covenant, in covenant, out of covenant — All men are subject to God’s Law. And we have sin, which is any transgression or want of conformity to God’s Law. Sin earns death, and God is the judge and executioner. But there’s a problem: God’s Law is not written, and thus it is hard for man to know what it is, so that he can obey it. And when he fails to obey it, man earns for himself death. But God loves man, and wants to give him life.

So one day, God gives Moses some law. More accurately, he chooses a people, and establishes with that chosen people a covenant, which includes laws, as well as a promised land in which the chosen people can isolate themselves and remain pure; and this whole covenant is revealed to Israel via Moses. Although Moses’ law is less than God’s law, what there is of it does reflect God’s perfect and holy nature, and is consistent with God’s Law. Moses’ law is full of types and shadows of God’s underlying Law.

Also, unlike God’s Law, Moses’ law is a concrete, objective thing, laid out in a finite set of words (which happen to be built out of letters (which happen to be built out of jots and tittles (the point being that it is a tangible reference (not an ethereal, spiritual, unknowable thing)))). Better yet, not only does Moses’ law include concrete instructions on what to do, but it also includes instructions on how to handle failure to do what needs to be done: penalties, as well as provisions for restoration! Surely this is a big step forward in man knowing how to obey, and thus avoiding death. But there’s a new problem; Moses’ law is written. And the letter kills.

It’s not the law’s fault. It’s not even God’s fault. It is inherent in the nature of written law that it kills, in that it causes man to recognize sin, without enabling him to conquer it. The resulting death is all still man’s responsibility, because man still commits sin. Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But God could not make a written law that gives life any more than he could make 2+2 not equal 4 — and so I repeat, if it were possible for God to make a written law that could give life, then he would have!

God being omniscient, he surely was not surprised when Israel (despite having been given concrete instructions) continued to sin with abandon and relish. As a matter of fact, he knew that was exactly what would happen, and immediately after finishing giving the law to Moses, God told Moses that was exactly what would happen.

It turns out that the covenant God made with his chosen people was not directly for the purpose of giving life to Israel, but part of a larger plan to give life to a chosen people that included elect members of all nations and tribes. Turns out, just like Moses’ law didn’t give life, Moses’ provisions for restoration from sin didn’t actually take away sin. So the real plan required not only a perfect sacrifice, but also giving man the ability to obey God’s Law. In place of the covenant with Israel, God would establish a New Covenant in which his law would be written on the hearts and minds of the people, and their sins would be truly forgiven.

Upon the completion of the perfect sacrifice, the covenant God had made previously with Israel completed its purpose of being a temporary prison and tutor; thus the old covenant was declared obsolete, and it was set aside because of its weakness and uselessness. And as the covenant went out, so did Moses’ law, and so did the chosen status of God’s people (although they have the right to join the New Covenant, possibly even more right than others!)

So looking back from the perspective of the New Covenant, there is a lot we can understand better about Moses’ law (better, I mean, than the members of the Old Covenant could understand from the inside):

God had given to Israel a covenant through Moses, but every letter (and jot and tittle) of that covenant expired together with the state of that people; not obliging under any now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

One part of Moses’ law is known as the moral law, delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables: the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man. It turns out that the general equity of the ten commandments is virtually indistinguishable from the ten commandments themselves, since God wrote them almost completely without specific cultural references (except for the fact that most people I know don’t have livestock or servants).

Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, His graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly, holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the New Testament. And the general equity of the ceremonial laws consists of

To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which although expired in the letter, are — inasmuch as the Holy Spirit reveals God’s true, underlying Law through the type and shadow of the letter — profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, and are of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions.

But the most important thing is that members of the New Covenant understand that they no longer live according to the law of Moses, indeed, we have been set free from the law of sin and death, and in order that the righteous requirement of [God’s] Law might be fulfilled in us, [we] walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. This is the way that God has given us life.

So it all worked out great for those God has elected to be in his New Covenant. Not so much for those not in the covenant. Since God planted his Image in all men, and is mirrored in his creation, men are intrinsically wired to write laws for themselves. Being sinful, though, it is not surprising that through the ages they have done a pretty lousy job of it. Some New Covenant people are understandably grieved by the amount of sin against God’s true Law due to the messed-up laws of the non-covenant people. In addition, since they are forced to live together with the non-covenant people, they are tired of being negatively affected by the consequences of messed-up laws.

So one potential solution readily presents itself to many such New Covenant members: Hey! We’ve got this old Mosaic law laying around. We’re not really using it anymore (we’ve sucked the general equity all out, and we’re done with the empty shell of jots and tittles), but it’s got a lot of good ideas about how to run a society. I mean, it came from God, so it’s got to be good! Let’s give it to the non-covenant people, and we can all use it to run our earthly society. Being such awful sinners (and not generally up for death penalties that will fall mostly on them, not us), they probably won’t like the idea too well right now, but if we keep working on them, and if we can bring in enough of them into the New Covenant with us, then we can all use Moses’ law again. Won’t that be nice?

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66 Responses

  1. This is still kind of a work in progress. I am open to suggestions of how to improve the wording, more and/or better verses to link in, etc. Plus I don’t have an ending yet. But that’s because, after the gospel, I tired of the exercise (not to mention, by 11:30, I had also tired of being awake).  Other than the missing ending, the two biggest problems are the absence of resurrection and faith.  This is largely due to the original intent of the post being to discuss Law.  But as any good FV will tell you, Law is the same as Gospel is the same as the New Covenant is the same as the Old Covenant.  All is one.  Ommmm. 

  2. I love this wrapup:

    So one potential solution readily presents itself to many such New Covenant members: Hey! We’ve got this old Mosaic law laying around. We’re not really using it anymore (we’ve sucked the general equity all out, and we’re done with the empty shell of jots and tittles), but it’s got a lot of good ideas about how to run a society. I mean, it came from God, so it’s got to be good! Let’s give it to the non-covenant people, and we can all use it to run our earthly society. Being such awful sinners (and not generally up for death penalties that will fall mostly on them, not us), they probably won’t like the idea too well right now, but if we keep working on them, and if we can bring in enough of them into the New Covenant with us, then we can all use Moses’ law again. Won’t that be nice?

  3. Well unfortunately, that’s not the wrapup, but just the beginning of the intended wrapup. Theonomists read that as a happy ending, but my point was to continue on to demonstrate why it is well-intentioned but wrong.

  4. Wow, you really hate God’s er, uh I mean Moses’ Law, don’t you? So much do you hate it that you now try to disassociate it with God, whom you claim to love. Whose Law is it then? Where do we find “God’s Law” if not in the Bible? This gives me another idea for the heading of your Blog: “Man of Lawlessness”

    You say, “In place of the covenant with Israel, God would establish a New Covenant in which his law would be written on the hearts and minds of the people, and their sins would be truly forgiven.”

    Was no one truly forgiven under the Old Covenant? How is it that some of God’s people obeyed HIS Law under the Old Covenant? Was it by their own strength? No, it was by the same grace God’s people receive today. The Law was written on their hearts too. (Psalm 37:30-31, Psalm 40:8)

    Either you have to admit that God has always written His Law on the hearts of His people, or you have to assert that the faithful remnant before the New Covenant obeyed God with their human nature.

    So many errors, so little time. I don’t know how you can read the whole Bible and come to such a negative view of God’s Law. Perhaps you should get yourself one of those New Testament only Bibles that the Gideons hand out. No, even those have the Psalms and Proverbs

  5. Oh, my bad. Those references to the delightfulness, perfection, wonderfulness, etc. of the Law in the Psalms and Proverbs weren’t talking about God’s Law. They were talking about Moses’ Law.

  6. I am starting to see why FV guys are against the Covenant of Works.

  7. Theonomists read that as a happy ending, but my point was to continue on to demonstrate why it is well-intentioned but wrong.

    Don’t worry, I didn’t take it as sincere. The ironic tone comes across clearly enough, which is why I like it.

    No good deed goes unpunished, and so we have Ron stating, “So many errors, so little time” … to which I say, I don’t know how you can read RubeRad’s whole post and come to such a negative view of RubeRad’s view of Moses’ Law. He couched everything in context, which you notably did not (Psalms and Proverbs referred to Moses’ Law before anything better had been revealed).

  8. Being married is better than being engaged. Therefore, being engaged is bad. Stone cold logic, that is.

  9. Wow Ron, you really hate God’s er, no, actually God’s Word, don’t you? Every one of those negative statements links to scripture, so if you don’t like it, take it up with God.

    Either you have to admit that God has always written His Law on the hearts of His people, or you have to assert that the faithful remnant before the New Covenant obeyed God with their human nature.

    I admit that God says:

    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, 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. 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. 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.

    I also admit that God said:

    For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

    I’ll cede you this point, though: Heb 10:4 does technically allow that it might be possible for the blood of turtledoves to take away sins.

    I don’t know how you can read the whole Bible and come to such an infatuation with an obsolete law.

  10. Being married is better than being engaged. Therefore, being engaged is bad. Stone cold logic, that is.

    Being engaged was better than dating, sure enough … but now that I’m married, there is no way I would even consider returning to being engaged. That stunk! We couldn’t live together, couldn’t have sex, had different last names and legally separate finances. Why in the world would I ever leave marriage to return to such a pathetic state?

  11. No, I love God’s word. All of it. Even those pesky little tid-bits about what He requires of His children. “Oh NO! He said ‘requirement’. That’s opposed to grace! Can’t compute! Can’t compute!…”

  12. I’m not worried about requirements:

    There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in 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.

  13. Rube,
    There is a requirement in that verse you cite as evidence that we ought not concern ourselves about requirements.

    God has told you, oh man, what is good! And what does the Lord require of you if not to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God? Are you not concerned with these requirements? What about this one? Not everyone who cries out to Jesus, “Lord, Lord!” will enter the kingdom. Only those who do the will of His Father in heaven.

    “But Lord, I blogged in your name!”

    “Depart from Me into eternal fire, you who practice lawlessness!”

  14. Sorry, unclear — what I meant by “not worried about requirements” was (a) I can compute the word (even in relation to the Bible), and (b) I’m not worried about the weakness of my flesh wrt requirements, because God has taken the initiative and ensured by His Spirit that the requirements of the law will be fulfilled in me.

  15. Ron, why have you crafted such an extremely personal attack against RubeRad?

    “But Lord, I blogged in your name!”

    “Depart from Me into eternal fire, you who practice lawlessness!”

    By using the word “blogged” you are directly applying this Scripture to RubeRad’s writing efforts here. You then follow that up with God’s everlasting judgment and suggest that RubeRad is lawless.

    Is this really your intent? Do you not see in RubeRad a fellow believer and a brother in Christ? What are you about here?

    May I respectfully suggest a ceasefire?

  16. Don’t worry about it forester; Ron & I are buds from church, and like Albino Hayford & myself, we enjoy digging each other with theological trash talk. Although from your perspective, he must have appeared as a sudden hostile invader!

  17. Don’t worry about it forester; Ron & I are buds from church, and like Albino Hayford & myself, we enjoy digging each other with theological trash talk.

    In that case, all the more reason for a ceasefire, since you can mututally agree to keep the trash talk between you through email. This is public, readable by all — and it’s not the best representation of the body of Christ.

  18. Ron and RubeRad, the tone of your interaction does seem a little hot. I’m sure that Ron, after cooling down a bit, realized that RubeRad is not lawless at all. These blog postings are not always fully developed thoughts and are sometimes provocative. I’m sure RubeRad loves the whole Word of God, just like I’m sure Ron doesn’t mean to publicly accuse RubeRad of heresy and of being damned to eternal fire. I did have to carefully re-read Ron’s postings to make sure of it though. Ditto theforester’s comments above in #17. I enjoy engaging in and reading other’s good natured jabs, but they have to be good natured to be enjoyable.

    Now on to the subject of the blog. I’m even more intrigued, RubeRad. This can be developed into a serious essay. I think you might have something here that could spur a lot of fruitful discussion in the body of Christ. Whether your idea holds out or sputters out as you develope it futher, I think it deserves more development.

    Of course, not being as well read as I wish, I’m ignorant of previous work along this vein. For all I know, it’s already been developed and the author already tried and convicted of heresy centuries ago.

  19. We have natural law, we have the covenant stipulations given to Israel (indeed, the whole Bible is the canonical document of God’s covenants with his people) and we have Jesus Christ, the fulfiller and consummator. So, no, I don’t believe RR is onto something new or heretical. He is just very good with words and thinking in general. He’s not even Klinean yet. Wait till he reads Kline. It will help clarify where he is going with this line.

    However, his exegesis of 1 Cor 5 is the ruination of Theonomy in its most extreme form. Whether that passage has been launched as the ultimate Theonomy defeater before, I can’t say.

    As for Forrester’s observations, I covet his participation on RR’s work. I hope he doesn’t take a hike. (It’s happened before). I truly believe God was strongly at work by pairing RR and he together in college.

    In general, I would like to see RR’s fellow church members make a better attempt to engage RR’s thesis, rather than just lob seemingly difficult passages in his direction. How interesting it is to have their elder show up and referee this cage match.

    Speaking of cage fighting, Theonomy reminds me of some UFC fights I have seen where the guy getting beat up badly is so bloody and sweaty that the ultimate victor has a very hard time getting a good grip on him.

  20. BTW, You’re right, Rube. I owe you a beer.

  21. Rube and Forrester,

    I confess that this post angered me. My response was not even close to charitable and I have no excuse. For this, I require God’s mercy and your forgiveness. Please forgive me.

    Now, assuming that my plea for mercy will be heard and accepted, please grant me another try.

    It has been said that I am infatuated with an obsolete law. Needless to say, I do not agree with that characterization. First, the word “infatuation” is not strong enough to describe my attitude toward God’s Law. (I realize that what constitutes “God’s Law” is the matter currently up for discussion. Read on…) I would use the word “devoted”. I love God and I find His Law to be lovely and gracious. How blessed are we to serve a God who tells us how to live rightly before Him. When the pagan nations were (and still are) mystified as to how men could live at peace with one another, Yahweh spelled it out for His children.

    Secondly, I do not believe the thing that I am devoted to is obsolete. I believe that which is spoken of as obsolete in Hebrews is the levitical priesthood as much of the author’s labors in writing the book are devoted to demonstrating that the priesthood of Israel has been transfered from the Levites to Christ.

    As for Moses’ Law vs God’s Law, I believe a short look at how many times the holy scriptures refer to the Law given to Moses as “God’s Law” (Law of God, Law of the Lord, His Law, Your Law, My Law, etc.) should lay the notion to rest. God’s Word (including books 2, 3 and 5) is a perfect expression of Himself, and Christ is the perfect expression of God’s Word, made in the likeness of sinful flesh. I don’t see any call for severing that union.

  22. MOSES’ LAW IS GOD’S LAW WRITTEN (Part 1)

    The Law of Moses is identified time and time again as the Law of Jehovah:

    Deut 30:10 if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

    Joshua 24:26 Then Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD.

    2 Kings 10:31 But Jehu took no heedto walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart; for he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin.

    2 Kings 17:13 Yet the LORD testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets.

    2 Kings 21:8 and I will not make the feet of Israel wander anymore from the land which I gave their fathersonly if they are careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that My servant Moses commanded them.

    1 Chron. 22:12 Only may the LORD give you wisdom and understanding, and give you charge concerning Israel, that you may keep the law of the LORD your God.

    2 Chron. 6:16 Therefore, LORD God of Israel, now keep what You promised Your servant David my father, saying, You shall not fail to have a man sit before Me on the throne of Israel, only if your sons take heed to their way, that they walk in My law as you have walked before Me.

    Ezra 7:6 this Ezra came up from Babylon; and he was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given. The king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him.

    Ezra 7:12 Artaxerxes, king of kings, To Ezra the priest, a scribe of the Law of the God of heaven: Perfect peace, and so forth.

    Ezra 7:14 And whereas you are being sent by the king and his seven counselors to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, with regard to the Law of your God which is in your hand;

    Ezra 7:21 And I, even I, Artaxerxes the king, issue a decree to all the treasurers who are in the region beyond the River, that whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven, may require of you, let it be done diligently,

    Nehemiah 8:8 So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.

    Nehemiah 8:18 Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day there was a sacred assembly, according to the prescribed manner.

    Nehemiah 9:3 And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for one-fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the LORD their God.

    Nehemiah 10:28-29 (28)Now the rest of the peoplethe priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Nethinim, and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, everyone who had knowledge and understanding (29) these joined with their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in Gods Law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes:

    Psalm 78:1 Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

    Psalm 81:4 For this is a statute for Israel, A law of the God of Jacob.

    Psalm 89:30 If his sons forsake My law And do not walk in My judgments,

    Psalm 119:34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.

    Psalm 119:77 Let Your tender mercies come to me, that I may live; For Your law is my delight.

    Psalm 119:92 Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction.

    Psalm 119:97 Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.

    Psalm 119:109 My life is continually in my hand, Yet I do not forget Your law.

    Psalm 119:174 I long for Your salvation, O LORD, And Your law is my delight.

    Isaiah 1:10 Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the law of our God, You people of Gomorrah:

    Jeremiah 6:19 Hear, O earth! Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people The fruit of their thoughts, Because they have not heeded My words, Nor My law, but rejected it.

    Jeremiah 9:13 And the LORD said, Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice, nor walked according to it,

    Jeremiah 16:11 then you shall say to them, Because your fathers have forsaken Me, says the LORD; they have walked after other gods and have served them and worshiped them, and have forsaken Me and not kept My law.

    Jeremiah 26:4 And you shall say to them, Thus says the LORD: If you will not listen to Me, to walk in My law which I have set before you,

    Jeremiah 31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

    Jeremiah 44:10 They have not been humbled, to this day, nor have they feared; they have not walked in My law or in My statutes that I set before you and your fathers.

    Jeremiah 44:23 Because you have burned incense and because you have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD or walked in His law, in His statutes or in His testimonies, therefore this calamity has happened to you, as at this day.

    Daniel 6:5 Then these men said, We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.

    Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.

    Hosea8:1 Set the trumpet to your mouth! He shall come like an eagle against the house of the LORD, Because they have transgressed My covenant And rebelled against My law.

    Please see next comment for continuation of this rebuttal

  23. Now, for those that want to just flippantly dismiss this as “Old Testament,” saying that the New Testament somehow just decided to use a completely different definition for the same term, I provide here some NT scripture showing that that just isn’t the case:

    Matthew 5:17-19

    17 ìDo not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

    Now, I realize that there are those that want to define “fulfil” and “fulfilled” as something other than “affirm, establish, confirm.” I would like to leave that debate for a different post for the time being and point out first that Jesus IS talking about ‘Moses’ law. He says he didn’t come to ‘destroy.’ So, whatever fulfill means, IT DOESN’T MEAN DESTROY. This post on Moses law is ‘DESTROYING’ any validity for it.

    Secondly, look at verse 19. Verse 17 already established with the phrase “the Law or the Prophets” that we are talking about Moses’ law, but verse 19 clearly tells us the in the new kingdom order, those that break and teach to break even the least of “THESE” commandments will be called least in the kingdom.

    I am amazed at the length of effort one will go through to fight for a pre-committment because one doesn’t like the repurcussions of the truth (theonomy). Do you see what has happened here in just two posts? (I am still getting to my rebuttal of the Paul wasn’t a Theonomist post). You have to argue from silence in the first post, and then you have to totally divorce Moses’ law from some etherial “God’s law” in order to hold on to your committment. What’s to come next?

    Let’s now look near the end of the sermon on the mount:

    Matthew 7:12 Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

    Jesus is saying to do this because this is “the Law and the Prophets!!!!!” For somebody that is going to destroy Moses’ law, I find it interesting that he would appeal to it as support for an ethical directive he just gave.

    Since we’re in the same neighborhood, I might as well point out Matthew 7:23 “And then I will declare to them, ëI never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”

    So far Jesus hasn’t referred to any law other than Moses’ law in Matthew as far as I can tell. Here we have Him condemning those that ‘practice’ lawlessness, i.e. those who don’t practice the law.

    To wrap up The Sermon on the Mount, we have Jesus giving us these words: Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:…”

    To summarize, He starts The Sermon on the Mount saying “Don’t think I came to destroy Moses’ law…” and then he ends it by saying “Whoever heeds My words is wise.”

    Matthew 22:34-40 says: 34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 ìTeacher, which is the great commandment in the law?î 37 Jesus said to him, ì ëYou shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.í[a] 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ëYou shall love your neighbor as yourself.í 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

    Again, why is Jesus appealing to Moses’ law if it was just a shadow and not to remain valid? There are so many problems with this idea that Moses’ law is not God’s law! Why wasn’t He just referring to “God’s law?” Well, actually, even if He were referring to “God’s law,” the hearers of that day (and Paul’s day for that matter) only had the Hebrew scriptures to refer to and as we’ve seen, the Hebrew scriptures readily and naturally interchanged the term “God’s law” with “Moses’ law.” So, in context and in their culture, even if Christ spoke of “God’s law,” it would still refer to “Moses’ law.”

    This following verse comes from a chapter where Jesus is pronouncing judgement on the scribes and pharisees for mis-appropriating God’s er Moses’ law. But it is interesting to note this specific excerpt: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

    Again, Jesus is affirming Moses’ law.

    John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

    Well, our pastor has taught those of us learning Greek not to put too much stock in the articles when it comes to theology, so I’m not using this argument as the foundation here, but I find it interesting how we see that this is translated “the law” and not “a law” or “a shadow of the law.” You get my point, I’m sure.

    Here’s another one with the article “the law” instead of “a law.”Romans 9:4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;

    Israel was given “the law

    I’d like to conclude with a discussion about Galations 3:19-25

    “19 What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. 21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”

    I think that volumes of commentary can be and have been written just on these 4 verses alone, so obviously, being part of a comment in a blog, this is NOT going to be an exhaustive treatment of this section of scripture. Please keep that in mind as I set forth this point.

    First of all, from verse 17, we know that we’re talking about “Moses’ law.” Paul is telling us that the law was added because of ‘transgressions.’ We also read earlier in verse 10 that those who ‘transgress’ (paraphrase) the law is cursed. What does one need when one has transgressed the law? I submit that we need restoration. Christ is our ultimate sacrifice and His sacrifice is the way in which God ordained for His people, who have transgressed, to be restored. But, Christ hadn’t come yet, but there were transgressions. So, God gave His people ‘ordinances’ or ‘works of the law’ because of transgressions. I submit that these are the animal sacrifices, the burnt offerings, etc. It was the ceremonial, or restorative (as I like to refer to it) that “kept us (Israel) under guard.” This “tutor” taught us (Israel) to recognize the sacrifice that Christ’s crucifixion was. It is the reality of the shadow, the sacrificial system.

  24. I might as well comment on the previous post at least briefly while I’m here. If I take too long, then I’ll probably be way too far behind to catch up since Rube seems to be speed writing new posts. The problem with Rube’s argument from 1 Corinthians 5 is manyfold. Though I’ll have to admit, so far I think that is his best work on this entire of issue with Theonomy, I still feel very strongly that it is lacking in the substance necessary to be a valid argument.

    First of all, we have the same type of argument that Baptists use against PaedoBaptists (I should know since I was a ‘studied’ and ‘informed’ Baptist). “The NT doesn’t give us examples of baptizing infants, so it must not be valid” is one thing they’ll say. This is an argument from silence and proves NOTHING. Similarly, Paul didn’t tell the church to bring this adulterer to the civil magistrate, so it must not be the civil magistrate’s duty.” Again we see an argument from silence, and so even though it was written with a vast amount of words and paragraphs, and used grammar in an expert way, IT PROVES NOTHING! What’s really sad for me is that this is a group of reformed Christians that are definitely aware of the fallacy of arguing from silence, and yet we have many cheering this argument NOT EVEN RECOGNIZING IT FOR WHAT IT IS! :(

    Secondly, even though we see an OT description of execution being used to instruct the modern covenant community to excommunicate, it doen’t necessarily mean that this instruction is some sort of fulfilled reality to a ‘shadow’ and that the (alleged) ‘shadow’ has no more purpose at all. This argument does not follow the same logic that the argument regarding the ceremonial shadows uses. We have the book of Hebrews constantly telling us that the ceremonies were but a type and shadow. Where is it that the NT tells us in the same way that capital punishment is a shadow that has no more validity except in excommunication? I submit that it doesn’t. Notice in Hebrews 10:1 and the surrounding context we are told “the law, having a shadow of the good things to come…” You see, the writer of Hebrews is careful to show us that the law ‘had a shadow’ and then speaks of the sacrifices, that they could not be the permanent because they could not take away sins. My point being that SCRIPTURE ITSELF is telling us what is a shadow. We don’t have the same with Rube’s argument out of 1 Corinthians 5.

    Next, Rube goes on to point out that Christians should treat sinners outside of the covenant community differently from sinners inside of the covenant community. He then quotes Paul’s conclusion on this matter: 1 Corinthians 5:12-13

    “12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore ìput away from yourselves the evil person.”

    My reply: SO WHAT!!??? Okay, so we Christian’s deal differently with those outside. We leave the business of judging them to God. Great. No problem. Nothing here that conflicts with Theonomy yet. You see, I know that I MUST be repeating myself here, but maybe one of these times it will get through, Theonomy recognizes the different ‘spheres of authority’ that God has ‘ordained’ when it comes to His law. There is:

    The Family
    The Church
    The State

    God gives certain distinct and separate responsibilities to each sphere. Rube has admitted in answering my question to his “Paul Wasn’t a Theonomist” that 1 Corinthians was written to the Corinthian church. So, it’s no wonder why we don’t see Paul giving explicit instructions to the civil magistrate. But, does that mean we can’t still find some instruction for such an entity? I would say “no.” There are many truths that the NT writers can reveal to us in writing their letters, gospels, and prophecies, that don’t necessarily have to be written specifically to the group with which the truth applies. I will give an example in the next paragraph. But before I do, I want to point out that the Hebrew scripturs have commands to the civil magistrates. Oh yeah, and that our very idea for the separation of church and state here in the States came from the Hebrew scriptures.

    Let’s take a look at Romans 12:19 – 13:6

    12:19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ìVengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord. 20 Therefore

    If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
    For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.

    21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    13:1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is Godís minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is Godís minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscienceí sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.

    Please note in verse 19 of chapter 12 Paul is telling the Roman Church not to avenge themselves, but to ‘give place to wrath.’ I highlight in bold the words “avenge” and “wrath” for a reason. Next we see that “vengeance” is the LORD’s and He WILL repay.

    Next we see one of those places that Paul is writing to the Romans, but in so doing he is stating truths about an entity to whom he is NOT speaking. Nevertheless, we can learn what is true about “governing authorities” and “rulers.” Please pay careful attention here.

    Truth 1: (verse 1) the authorities that exist are APPOINTED by God

    Truth 2: (verse 2) resisting the autority IS resisting the ORDINANCE of God
    (Ordinance, interesting word choice)

    Truth 3: (Verse 3) rulers are a terror to EVIL (or at least are to be)
    (or maybe that’s non-religious evil)

    Truth 4: (verse 4) rulers are (or at least are to be) God’s MINISTER (same word used for pastors)

    Truth 5: (verse 4) rulers bear the sword (or are to bear the sword)

    Truth 6: (verse 4) rulers are (or are to be) AVENGERS (is this word familiar? chp 12:19)

    Truth 7: (verse 4) rulers are (or are to be) executing WRATH (familiar word? chp 12:19) against evil doers

    Let’s rephrase: Christian, do not avenge yourself regarding the evildoer, for God will take care of that himself. And the way God has ORDAINED to take care of AVENGING HIS WRATH upon evildoers, is by appointing rulers to bear the sword. These rulers are ministers or servants of God.

    Now, one more thing to point out here. If there is no death penalty, then there is no reason to “bear the sword.”

    There are many issues that this leaves open of course, such as what evil is avenged? What punishments do these different evils deserve? But, that will have to wait for a different discussion.

    In Summary:

    1. Jesus IS a Theonomist
    2. Paul was a Theonomist
    3. Moses’ law is God’s law revealed (written) for us

  25. I don’t have the time you fellas do to invest in this discussion — I haven’t read all of the above, nor all of the previous posts. Has anyone commented yet on Col 2:20-23?

    Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. – from Colossians chapter 2

    In my own walk with Christ, these verses nailed home for me the reality of grace, and what it means for the gospel to be full of both grace and truth:

    For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. – from John chapter 1

    Maybe I’ve missed it, but has anyone mentioned the role of grace in theonomy? If not — if there is no role — then why should theonomy deserve one whit of my attention?

  26. I have not yet invested the time to do any more than skim Jeff’s posts (and delete his test posts — sorry for the hassle getting your comments up, Jeff!)

    Just one tiny note, since Forester mentioned John 1:17 again: if the ‘the’ in John 1 is questionable as a Greek article, I wonder about the ‘but’ (which was in Jeff’s translation, but not Forester’s). In any case, this verse sets Moses’ law in opposition (or at least tension) with Jesus’ grace and truth.

  27. Theonomy is about the role of God’s law for today. It is not contrary to God’s Grace, and actually embraces it wholly. There is no dispute or controversy that Theonomy holds toward the reformed doctrine of the Sola Gracia, hence not much discussion about it in this setting. Theonomy does not teach Grace plus Law, or that you must keep the law to be justified, etc.

    Regarding Collossians chapter 2 that you sight above, look closely at the ‘type’ of rules Paul here is representing “handle, taste, handle.” Also, note that he mentions that they are based on ‘human’ commands and AS A RESULT are “destined to perish.” So, these are commands that God did NOT give in the first place. In the second place, handling, touching, and tasting are most likely in the “ritualistic” or “ceremonial” category, thus shadows that have been replaced with the reality of Christ’s sacrifice and the real altar in heaven and so on.

    Theonomy deserves your attention because it is the only rationally consistent system of doctrine regarding God’s law in the NT age. :)

    Blessings,

    Jeff

  28. I agree that sola gratia is outside the bounds of the Theonomy discussion, and Theonomists everywhere heartily endorse it. But the real question is, what are the negative implications to grace that come from an overemphasis of law? One of the concepts I have heard from more than one Theonomist that really disturbs me is that “turn the other cheek” is not an overturning of “eye for an eye”, but merely practical advice in terms of submitting to hostile Roman authority.

    Theonomy is about two things: (1) fighting antinomianism in the church by searching more rigorously to discern the general equity of God’s law from behind the veil of Moses’ law, and (2) applying Moses’ law in the civil sphere. I have little problem with (1); Theonomists understand that it is not the actual words of Moses that bind us today, but only the underlying principles (i.e. you don’t see Theonomists wearing tassels, or wearing special beards, or being kosher (much)), and there is much discussion that can be had about those principles. But (2) I see as misapplication of God’s covenant with Israel to modern nations today.

  29. Now, for those that want to just flippantly dismiss this as “Old Testament,”

    I do dismiss it all as Old Testament, although hopefully not flippantly.

    First of all, until the New Covenant, nobody had any reason to call it “Moses’ Law”; as a matter of fact, out of respect to God, they probably shouldn’t call it Moses’ Law, but God’s Law. Also, the mere fact that Moses’ Law needs extra thinking and discussion and interpretation in order to be complete, shows that the set of words constituting Moses’ Law is not God’s law itself.

    Every Jew who read (or wrote) the Talmud understood this (although they perhaps applied this understanding wrongly), and every Theonomist understands this, but is afraid to say it, because Theonomy is about concentrating on the letter of the law (and before you start typing a rant about not being addicted to the letter of the law, realize you are proving my point — Moses’ Law is a collection of letters, which need to be put in their proper context in relation to God’s true Law.)

    It is apparently necessary for me to clarify: when I say “Moses’ Law is not God’s Law”, I don’t mean, for instance, that “Moses’ Law is Baal’s Law”. Certainly Moses’ Law is from God. But it is not all of God’s Law. It is not as big as God’s Law. It is not the same as God’s Law. It is not identical to God’s Law. In short, blog-title form, Moses’ Law is not God’s Law.

  30. Forester,

    Just to add to this mornings comment (I was on my way to church):

    Ephesians 2:8-10

    8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

    I’m sure we all can agree that it is the Grace of God that enables us to walk in the Spirit, or to walk in these good works that Christ Jesus prepared beforehand. Theonomy offers a rationale that is consistent to answer the question: “What good works?”

    Jeff

  31. Rube, in reply to comment #29, did you actually read my whole rebuttal in comment #23? You need to overcome those arguments to “dismiss it all as Old Testament.” All you’ve done here is give us an arbitrary decision with no foundation.

    And, you’ve also come up with a theory or idea and then tried to fit it within the scripture where you can, instead of let scripture dictate to you what is true. You should have seen pastor’s face when he was told the title of this blog. Not good.

    I suggest you abandon this reckless path of philosopy! :)

    Jeff

  32. Next I turn to quotes from Jesus concerning the authority of Moses’ Law.

    First, note that during Jesus’ lifetime, God’s covenant with Israel (including Moses’ Law) was still in force. It was not until the Last Supper that Jesus instituted the New Covenant with his blood. That explains everything except Matt 5:17, which I will get to.

    Second, Jesus understood well that God’s true underlying law was bigger than Moses’ law. That is why he (with the authority of the Word of God in flesh himself) interpreted the law in such shocking and novel ways (hate=murder, lust=adultery, do not divorce except for adultery, even though Moses gave provision for it).

    Finally, Matt 5:17- yet again. It is a paradox. Nobody has ever explained it to my satisfaction; no theonomist, no (what do you call a reformed non-theonomist?), not even myself! Let me go slowly here, because I’m not going to do it again:

    * One of Moses’ laws is “sacrifice sheep for atonement.” (Not those exact words, not in English, etc., but it suffices to make my point.)

    * The law “sacrifice sheep for atonement” is composed of words, which are composed of letters, which are composed of ‘strokes’, the smallest of which are ‘jots and tittles’

    * God’s underlying law looks more like “there is no forgiveness of sins without shedding of blood,” but could never actually be captured fully in written (word, letter, jot&tittle) form.

    * God’s underlying law is the reality.

    * Moses’ written law is the shadow.

    * In the New Covenant, the shadow has passed away. It is fulfilled. It is completed. There is no more sacrificing of sheep.

    * Yet Jesus said “not a jot or tittle will pass away from the Law until heaven and earth pass away”

    So what has passed away, the shadow or the reality? The shadow. But what is the shadow but the jots&tittles, which Jesus said would not pass away?

    Because we’ve been around this tree so many times, I know the next thing you’ll say is that the jots & tittles are not passed away, they’re fulfilled in Christ’s sacrifice. Here’s the point. There was a law. That law had letters. People used to have to obey those letters. Now people don’t. The letters are passed away, gone, finito. To borrow a turn of phrase: ‘However you want to interpret “not pass away”, it can’t mean “pass away”‘! Another way to put it: Mr. Theonomist, you’ve got a paradox on your hands. Like I said. Like I’ve been saying.

  33. Now to rebut Jeff’s rebuttal of I Cor 5.

    First of all, I never said “Paul forbids the death penalty”. The state happens to be competent to judge a case of, say, murder, so I (and Paul (and God)) have no problem with laws against murder, even to the death penalty. Indeed, as Jeff notes vociferously, God has appointed earthly authority to bear the sword in execution of God’s wrath against the wrongdoer.

    And I never claimed (or relied in my argument on an assumption) that I Cor was written to civil magistrates.

    What I actually said was that Paul forbids the church from judging outside the church. That, coupled with the fact (agreed with by Jeff and Theonomy and WCF) about “the state not being able to determine cases of heresy or blasphemy”, means that the state cannot make laws (death penalty or otherwise) restricting heresy or blasphemy. To do so would be to overreach their God-given authority.

    I’m still waiting for an answer to this, which is my whole argument from I Cor 5. I don’t think I can make it any shorter, but maybe I can turn the question around: Jeff, please draft a death-penalty blasphemy law that the state can justly administer without the aid of the church.

  34. I’m sure we all can agree that it is the Grace of God that enables us to walk in the Spirit, or to walk in these good works that Christ Jesus prepared beforehand. Theonomy offers a rationale that is consistent to answer the question: “What good works?”

    Without offering any rationale to requiring these good works of the unbelieving world, who are not enabled by the Spirit to walk in these good works.

    You should have seen pastor’s face when he was told the title of this blog. Not good.

    Tattletale! Has the pastor read the entire blog? If he doesn’t have the time, I’m sure elder ME can vouch for my orthodoxy.

  35. I’m still intrigued, RubeRad, but with a few questions and observations…

    If we dismiss the Law of Moses in the NT age, how do we define or distinquish between sin and righteousness? Absent the letters which form a written expression of God’s Law, how is He to communicate His Law to us? It seems to me He has done so in the decalogue, and I assume you agree with me here, or do you expouse some sort of “Law of Christ” apart from the 10 Commandments, as Lee Irons did (or does)? Although you are not a member of an OPC church, I’m sure you’re familiar with what happened to Mr. Irons as a result of his teachings along that vein in the OPC.

    Like I said, I’m intrigued, but I think your idea needs refinement and more development.

  36. If we dismiss the Law of Moses in the NT age, how do we define or distinquish between sin and righteousness? Absent the letters which form a written expression of God’s Law, how is He to communicate His Law to us?

    Answer 1: The New Covenant Christian has the Spirit to aid his discernment when reading Moses’ law, to understand what are types and shadows, applicable only to Israel, and what is the reality of God’s law, applying to his own sanctification. It is in this spirit that above that I qualified the abrogation of all of the letters of Moses’ law with the continuation of their general equity, or the reality of God’s law which is shadowed by all of those letters. And in particular, that the general equity of the ten commandments is exactly the ten commandments.  Also see here for an excellent exhortation to both Theonomists and non-, that for any part of Moses’ law, they should be able to identify the underlying principle, and the resulting application.

    Answer 2: Without the assistance of Spirit, the unbeliever is unable to discern between outer applicability of Moses’ law only to Israel, and the hidden inner Law of God, but the Spirit may well use reading of Moses’ law (and the rest of the Old Testament) to convict an unbeliever that he is sinful (especially if a believer is present to aid their interpretation (like Philip with the Ethiopian), who can, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, interpret to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Jesus”).

    Answer 3: Without the assistance of the Spirit, and since the assistance of the church is prohibited, the state has no business trying apply Moses’ law in the civil domain.

    Answer 4: There are plenty of commandments in the New Testament, if you’re having any problems distinguishing between sin and righteousness.

  37. Rube,

    I’m going to assume that you’re still working on your real reply to my posts. I was under the impression that you wanted a serious discussion about these matters and wanted to get to the truth of what God’s word really has to say about these things.

    Your replies above are quick, short half baked, off the cuff type of replies that do not come close to the reflection and effort I put into my rebuttals for you. If you’ve decided that nothing I can say can persuade you or have any bearing on your thoughts in this matter, then that’s fine with me, just don’t waste my time any more.

    If you look closely at how I answer you (in my long posts that don’t refer to my need to be quick), you’ll see quite often I’ll take a comment and start from beginning to end, trying to repeat what your saying so as not to misrespresent what you’re saying, and to try and touch on each of your major points.

    How about the same type of treatment here so we can have a serious and intellectually honest discussion? Taking one quote and discussing it as if you’ve completely ignored the rest of the argument is quite an insult.

    Oh, and maybe if you take that time to think my arguments out, you’ll stop mis quoting me too. I’m not even going to point out your mistakes this time, with the hope that you’ll find them yourself.

    I do, btw, have answers to some of the ‘new’ things you brought up, but I’m not even going to address them until you’ve gone back and fully address the issues I”ve brought to bear.

    So which is it? A serious discussion? Or should I just stop now?

    (The fun actually is wearing out at this point now, in case you can’t tell)

    Jeff

  38. I’m sorry you think that my response was off-the-cuff, but I seriously think that my #29, #32 did fully respond to your #22, #23 (except for Galatians, in which I submit that ESV 3:23 “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed”, sounds a lot more like judicial laws than restorative law).

    But my (attempted) point to explain how all those verses you painstakingly quoted do not erase the distinction between God’s Law and Moses’ law is perhaps best explained by yourself:

    the hearers of that day (and Paul’s day for that matter) only had the Hebrew scriptures to refer to and as we’ve seen, the Hebrew scriptures readily and naturally interchanged the term “God’s law” with “Moses’ law.” So, in context and in their culture, even if Christ spoke of “God’s law,” it would still refer to “Moses’ law.”

    It was not until after the Resurrection (or the Crucifixion? (or the Last Supper?)) that God’s covenant with Israel became obsolete, and was set aside, becoming the Old Covenant, making way for the New Covenant; note not just the law, which is part of the covenant, but the whole covenant was set aside and made obsolete, thus Moses’ law, as well as Israel’s chosen status and promised land, plus probably some more elements. Thus it is natural to expect that the distinction between Moses’ written law, and God’s real Law would not be made explicit until the epistles set Moses’ law against “the law of the Spirit”, and “the law of Christ”. And I am still waiting for more than just a hunch about how these N.T. terms are distinct from the law of Moses.

    Would it make you happier if I changed the title of this post to “Moses’ Law is Not the Same as God’s Law”?, or “Moses’ Law is Not as Big as God’s Law”?, or “Moses’ Law is Not, in Itself, God’s Law in All Fullness”? You’re acting as if I were trying to argue that “Moses’ Law Has Nothing To Do With God’s Law”

    I can take another try at your #24, but in fairness, you still have not addressed the I Cor 5 argument, which demonstrates that the civil authorities cannot legislate 1st table offenses, because the church is prohibited from helping (look — I did make it shorter!)

    But right now #2 wants to ride his tricycle around the block…

  39. I think you’ve morphed your 1 Cor 5:12,13 passage reference somehow over to 2 Cor 5. No? [Yes, thanks!  I think I fixed them all now!]

  40. That is why he (with the authority of the Word of God in flesh himself) interpreted the law in such shocking and novel ways (hate=murder, lust=adultery, do not divorce except for adultery, even though Moses gave provision for it)

    I believe this is a misunderstanding of Christ and His ministry. Christ did not set about to change what God had already said. What He did was call the nation Israel to repent and return to God’s Law. The problem with Israel was not that they were obeying God too much in an effort to earn righteousness before Him. The problem was that they were not obeying Him. They majored on outward religious excercizes (many of which were not even out of God’s (or Moses’) Law, but were out of the Talmud) but they neglected the weightier matters of the Law. Well did the profit speak of them that they worshipped God with their mouths, but their hearts were far from Him. God always wanted the inward circumcision of the heart, not just mere outward obedience to ritual. The instruction not to lust (a sin of the heart), for instance, is found in the commandment, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” Christ did not come to give new revelation. Everything He taught was consistent with the Law of God (and Moses), as He Himself was the Word (including the Law) made flesh. I believe the distiction between the old and new testaments can be summed up in this: What the Law and prophets foretold, Christ and the apostles proclaimed had come (and is coming) to fulfillment. But as they both pertain to instruction, they are consistent. So when the Christian comes upon an imperative in the old testament, the wrong question is, “Does this apply to me?” The correct question is, “How does this apply to me?”

  41. Amen! I 100% agree that that is the proper response of the Christian to all imperatives in the Bible, Old Testament and New. I refer you again to my enthusiastic endorsement of this statement about Principle and Application. But Theonomy’s critical error is jumping outside of God’s covenant people, desiring to enforce all of God’s holy Law in a secular context.

    And I’ll say it again (and probably again later) — it all comes down to a postmillenial view of the church temporally triumphant, rather than a biblical view of the church as an exiled remnant, citizens of two kingdoms (oops, I said it!) and more concerned with God’s kingdom than with man’s kingdoms.

  42. Welcome to the dark –

    biblical view of the church as an exiled remnant, citizens of two kingdoms

    – side.

  43. Here I reproduce a comment thread from a future post. It all started when Forester blatantly threadjacked a comment applicable to this thread over thar. I’m not sure why he did it (perhaps he thought that post looked lonely with its one angry little comment from Jeff?), but I’ve copied the thread here where it belongs. I trust that copy&paste has preserved the original text, and I apologize if you lost any of your originally intended formatting, but that’s what you get, attempting to apply letters to a domain where they are not truly applicable!

    Saith Forester:

    From another this thread:

    Regarding Collossians chapter 2 that you sight above, look closely at the ‘type’ of rules Paul here is representing “handle, taste, handle.” Also, note that he mentions that they are based on ‘human’ commands and AS A RESULT are “destined to perish.” So, these are commands that God did NOT give in the first place. In the second place, handling, touching, and tasting are most likely in the “ritualistic” or “ceremonial” category, thus shadows that have been replaced with the reality of Christ’s sacrifice and the real altar in heaven and so on.

    I disagree strongly, and think that you’ve reacted to the passage out of context. When I read Colossians chapter 2 before the passage I quoted, I see Paul addressing law in verse 13:

    “He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphingo ver them by the cross.”

    That written code is clearly the law of Moses. Paul then continues to discuss rules and regulations:

    “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.”

    Still the law of Moses. I’m not sure about the New Moons, but the law of Moses definitely includes regulations about eating and drinking, about religious festivals, and above all about the Sabbath.

    With that law in the crosshairs, Paul immediately continues:

    “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

    Reality is preferred to shadow, just as marriage is preferred to engagement. Notice Paul’s immediate warning about those who prefer, instead, the shadow:

    “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.”

    How do I know this warning is about people who prefer shadow, the old law? Notice the phrase used in the first line: “false humility.” Now notice that Paul uses the same phrase in the passage I originally quoted (and which immediately follows the previous):

    Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

    Paul maintains a fluid train of thought in this chapter. “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” These refer to the law of Moses. It would be very difficult, in fact, to argue that the law of Moses does not fall under Paul’s criticism here, because it certainly does contain regulations about what can and cannot be handled, tasted, and touched!

    I respond here because I think a principle of Christian liberty may be at stake. Earlier in Colossians chapter 2 Paul says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Again this is a warning against the “basic principles of the world” — “later identified as “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” — because they tend to disconnect us from our Head, who is Christ.

    Paul emphasizes, in Colossians chapter 2, the “fullness” of Christ, and that fullness echoes for me the fact that the Gospel is full of both grace and truth. It was especially liberating for me, as a Christian, to realize that my struggle against the personal sins in my life would continue to fail as long as I focused on rules: “Don’t look at this, don’t say that.” How much more empowering to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit, to be filled with the love and joy that is accessible to us, and therefore to avoid sin simply because we’re too busy doing right. As Paul continues in Colossians chapter 3:

    “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

    Normally we would look at this verse out of context and believe that “earthly things” are houses, cars, movies, maybe even friends and family members. But in context, “earthly things” is set in opposition to Christ just as “the basic principles of this world” is set in opposition to Christ. Paul is telling us to focus not on law, but on Jesus.

    Just so, in Galatians chapter 4 Paul warns us against returning to the law of Moses:

    “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!”

    We’re not supposed to retrogress once we make progress. Like Paul’s exhortation in I Corinthians chapter 13, we leave behind the imperfect once perfection arrives; we put childish ways behind us once we reach maturity. I loved engagement when I was engaged. Now that I am married, I would never revert to it.

    I haven’t read Bahnsen’s work, and most likely won’t. I don’t have questions or struggles over the role of the law of Moses in my life. From that law I can learn about God’s character and His desires for us, but it does not bind me. I have a greater inheritance (from Romans chapter 8):

    “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”

    Amazingly, the requirements of the law have already been met in me, thanks to Jesus Christ.

    So what remains? What role does law still play in my life? I’d say it’s aptly summarized in I Corinthians chapter 10 — a glimpse of which is here:

    “Everything is permissible” — but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible” — but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

    I’m no theologian, and I certainly haven’t addressed this issue in any systematic way. Consider this one layperson’s working concept of the Gospel.

    Saith Jeff Kazules:

    Forrester,

    What translation are you using please.

    Thanks,

    Jeff

    Saith Forester:

    NIV. If it was good enough for Paul, it’s good enough for me! ;-)

    Saith Jeff Kazules:

    Nevermind, sorry. I guess that’s the NIV. I use that one the least. 11:10pm at night, so reply will have to wait.

    I will say I think you rightly are wanting to protect what we have through God’s grace. But, in doing so you go too far. There is a mystery and tension that scripture gives us quite often between Grace/Faith and good works.

    One reason the New Covenant is better is because God has given us the Grace that enables us to walk in righteousness. He has written the law on our hearts. You quote Romans 8 and specify verse 4. I know that I went through Romans with Rube near the beginning of these threads, but I can’t remember if that was via e-mail or if it is on the posts. But, look more closely at verse 4:

    Paul tells us the reason He condemned sin in the flesh was “SO THAT the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who WALK not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

    My point being that even in this verse, we tend to read into it a passiveness on our part, but when reading carefully, we see an ACTION of WALKING on OUR part, of course being enabled by the SPIRIT. Can you agree with me on this here? I don’t think that is a theonomically specific point. I’m just trying to find some common ground here.

    The law was unable to make us obey it. The Spirit now gives us the power to obey it. What hasn’t changed is God’s moral absolutes of right and wrong that He revealed in writing (from His own finger). If it was wrong then, it is wrong now.

    Do you live in the SD area? Do I have a chance of meeting you in person some time? Maybe at the next hoagies and stogies?

    Jeff

    Saith RubeRad:

    I will say I think you rightly are wanting to protect what we have through God’s grace. But, in doing so you go too far.

    I will say I think you rightly are wanting to protect what we have through God’s law. But, in doing so you go too far. You want unbelievers to obey God’s Law (or even just Moses’ law), but as you correctly note, “the law was unable to make us obey it.” Any project designed to legislate God’s Law in the civil sphere is doomed from the outset to failure, because it is not accompanied with the Spirit’s enabling power to obey!

    My point being that even in this verse, we tend to read into it a passiveness on our part, but when reading carefully, we see an ACTION of WALKING on OUR part, of course being enabled by the SPIRIT. Can you agree with me on this here?

    I don’t agree. “Walk not after the flesh” means it is not an “ACTION of WALKING on OUR part”, and this verse is telling us not to think of it in those earthly terms.

    The law was unable to make us obey it. The Spirit now gives us the power to obey it. What hasn’t changed is God’s moral absolutes of right and wrong that He revealed in writing (from His own finger). If it was wrong then, it is wrong now.

    Written laws do not empower us to obey them. God’s Spirit now gives us the power to obey God’s true, spiritual law, which was hidden behind the written words God gave to Moses. What hasn’t changed is God’s moral absolutes of right and wrong that He revealed in writing (from His own finger, onto tablets of stone). The ten commandments bound then, the ten commandments bind now.

    Unfortunately for you (and how much more for me!), Forester lives on the East Coast, and the blessing of their son has made it all the less likely that he will easily be able to visit. Maybe if I could devise a H&S topic for which Forester would be a natural expert, the church could pay to fly him out as a special guest… Naw, that would hurt too much, to have all those pigs flying out of my butt.

    Saith Forester:

    The ten commandments are no longer binding. They were the written code that was against us and opposed us — and God “took it away, nailing it to the cross” (from Colossians chapter 2). So now, according to I Corinthians chapter 10, everything is permissible for me — including murder, adultery, stealing, false testimony, abusing the Lord’s name, even worshipping other gods. They certainly are not beneficial, nor do they in any way further the kingdom of God or even comport with the Spirit we have been given. But they are permissible.

    Why? Because it is not my obedience to law, not even the ten commandments, that makes me a child of God — it is the faith He has given me. Disobedience to law does not jeopardize my status as His child. From Romans chapter 8:

    “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

    That old code is gone. Jesus died the death of a murderer, the death of a ten-commandment breaker, so that we would be free of that old system. From it we can learn God’s character, we can understand what he desires of us — but no part of it is binding, nor should it in any way be codified in a compulsory system above us, because we are to be bearing fruit that is spiritual, not legal — positive, not negative:

    “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (from Galatians chapter 5)

    I see only one requirement at work for Christ’s followers, and that is more principle than law — to remain rooted in Christ:

    “If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (from 2 Timothy chapter 2)

    All of what I am saying must be tempered with Paul’s exhortation in Romans chapter 6 against sinning so that grace may increase. Here I am only arguing the one side, which is that grace has radically changed our relationship with law — every bit of it, right down to the ten commandments.

    Saith RubeRad:

    Well hold on there, cowboy, I think you’ve gone too far. I know you are “only arguing the one side”, but your argument proves too much — to the point of declaring sin nonexistent. There is still sin, Christians still struggle with sin, and must constantly rely on Christ’s one and only sacrifice for fresh forgiveness of sin, and the church is still required to discipline unrepentant sinners within the covenant body. And I Cor 10, when Paul discusses the fine distinction between permissible and beneficial, he is not talking about anything that is obviously sin. With all his talk of idols not being real gods, he makes the point that eating ‘defiled’ meat is not actually a sin (even under Moses?), even though some would condemn it as a sin.

    So this I think is an excellent illustration of the distinction I am trying to draw between Moses’ and God’s law (I don’t know what we’re doing over here — Forester, why did you jump to this thread?): according to the letter of Moses’ law, it’s not a sin to eat meat that somebody else happened to have used in support of idolatry. But in God’s underlying law, it is a sin to flaunt your Christian liberty to eat such meat, if it undermines the faith of your brother.

    So the closest I’ll go to “The ten commandments are no longer binding” is what I put in the original “Moses’ law is not God’s Law” post: “the general equity of the ten commandments is virtually indistinguishable from the ten commandments themselves, since God wrote them almost completely without specific cultural references (except for the fact that most people I know don’t have livestock or servants).” I think the specialness of the ten commandments, is illustrated by the fact that (unlike the bulk of the letters of Moses’ law) these were inscribed by God’s own finger (twice!).

  44. Rube,

    Again, forgive me for my tone. I did allow myself to get overly heated after reading your response. I see many more arguments in your post here other than just that “the church is prohibited from helping” and those are the arguments I spent my time rebutting. I don’t know how I left off rebutting that point, I had it underlined in my notes and all. I guess after spending an entire day working on it, I blurred. I’ll add to that later I guess. Maybe I just left it off thinking that it was silly and pulled out of context to make a point that the context doesn’t lend itself to. Don’t bother commenting on that yet, I’ll do a rebuttal on that more justice later.

    Regarding my arguments in comment #23 and #24, I wonder if someone wouldn’t mind reading through and trying to fairly represent the train of thought with the major points summarized. I’m just trying to figure out what is wrong with my communication. So, can someone tell me what ‘they’ are reading, when they read ‘me’ please? Thanks.

    Jeff

  45. RubeRad, your correction is well taken. In arguing both passionately and quickly, I misappropriated I Corinthians chapter 10, leading me to apply the “permissable” principle too far. My fault — I appreciate the correction.

    I still insist, however, that there’s little difference between the ten commandments and the rest of the law of Moses, finger-of-God-inscribed though they are. They are a written code, and in Colossians chapter 2 we see that the written code, the law of it, even that part that God wrote Himself — is clearly overthrown by Christ:

    “He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”

    If the written code in this passage does not include the ten commandments, then anyone who has broken any one of them is hopelessly damned, and no possibility of salvation for that person exists, with or without Christ.

    In this ongoing debate about the role of law I fear we might lose sight of the fact that the Gospel was not given to upstanding, career-oriented, middle class folk like us. It was given to drunkards, to prostitutes, to murderers — in other words, to lawbreakers. We would sorely miss the point if we acted as though Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross so that all those people could become lawkeepers. As Christians we were all lawbreakers, yes — but we are not lawkeepers now. I would never describe us that way, nor do I think the apostles did. Wasn’t it Paul who emphasized that he was the worst of all sinners?

    So I cringe to hear any talk of extending the influence of law in church or, especially, in the civic sphere. Although the law of Moses was unique in the world, law itself, as evident from Colossians chapter 2, is not unique. Jews have law, Muslims have law, Shintoists have law, even Jedis have law. Aside from the fact that we have from God the truth, imposing the law of Moses on the world would make us no different from the Muslims — and would present a second stumbling block to unbelievers on top of the first (Jesus Christ). What we have to offer the world is so much greater: not law, but grace. In fact, a grace unimagined by every other religion — a grace that does not dismiss or ignore sin, but that completely accounts for and conquers it.

    Isn’t this a better way of accomplishing the postmil eschatological vision of Christ’s return to earth — civic conformity to God’s Word through willful conversion of the people, rather than through legislative codification by politicians?

  46. To be fair to Jeff (who is probably composing a lengthier reply as I sneak in this little one — that’s how these things apparently work), he has always maintained to me (although I’m not sure how often it shows up here at Blogorrhea) that Theonomy does not advocate any form of the church bearing the sword, enforcing God’s law on an unwilling populace. Holy civic laws are supposed to flow out of the hearts of, and be a reflection of, a righteous nation. And that’s a long way in the future.

    Practically speaking, I’m not sure whether it can be quantified just how holy a nation has to be to legislate the death penalty for blasphemy. 90% Christian? 75%? 60%? 51%?

    The interesting question is to consider the microcosm of the Puritans, landing in Massachusetts, being 100% Calvinist — did they have the right to rule themselves politically with Moses ‘s law? Was isolating themselves in the first place a violation of the Great Commission? How do the natives fit into this question? What about dissenters (like whatsisface that got kicked out and founded Rhode Island)? Or what if a group of Theonomists colonized Mars (a not completely inconceivable situation)?

  47. Just finished watching Star Wars Episode I with the kids. So, nope, not composing a thing! :)

    Thanks for being fair to me. You are right on the money in your first paragraph (finally!). LOL

    I’m, uhh, getting the impression that theforester is from a pretty different persuasion than even you and I meaning that practically speaking, there actually is a whole lot you and I agree on in this debate, but he’s playing a different game or at least the same game but on a different team. Am I correct?

    theforrester, you can’t just base a whole doctrine on God’s law with just one verse from Colossions. Taken so rigidly, it makes the scripture, and even Jesus Himself contradictory. Deal with Matthew 5:16-19, 28:20, John 14:15&21, James 2:26, 1 John 5:2&3 for example. Keep in mind that Jesus told us the greatest commandments were love toward God and to fellow man. If you perfectly love God and Man, then you’d be keeping the whole law (for all the Law and Prophets hang on these two). These two were actual laws in the written revealed law, yet not in the 10 commandments. Also, if lawkeeping isn’t important, then why would God write it on our hearts?

    Anyway, I think there is a different discussion to be had with you, forrester, before even broaching theonomy. I could be wrong, Rube will enlighten, I’m sure.

    Jeff

  48. he has always maintained to me (although I’m not sure how often it shows up here at Blogorrhea) that Theonomy does not advocate any form of the church bearing the sword, enforcing God’s law on an unwilling populace. Holy civic laws are supposed to flow out of the hearts of, and be a reflection of, a righteous nation. And that’s a long way in the future.

    If so, then I definitely missed that in these discussions. Thanks for the clarification.

    theforrester, you can’t just base a whole doctrine on God’s law with just one verse from Colossions.

    My intent wasn’t to present a whole doctrine but to interject a line of thinking I wasn’t seeing in this discussion. You are quite right that we need to read Scripture in the context of other Scripture. I would also encourage you not to neglect Colossians chapter 2 in favor of other passages. You began by dismissing Paul’s criticism of “Do not taste / handle / touch” principles as a criticism of false religions, but as I argued from the context it appears that Paul is referring there to all law, including the law of Moses (what is the proscription against adultery, if it is not “Do not handle / touch”?). The weakness of the finger-of-God-inscribed commands, either to redeem or empower, is underscored by the fact that Paul identifies them as among “human commands and teachings” — and that, I believe, needs to be taken into account in any discussion of the role of the law of Moses in the lives of Gospel dwellers like us.

    I’m not sure what Bruce was referring to when he said

    I hope he doesn’t take a hike. (It’s happened before).

    but it wasn’t my original intent to contribute here, and now that I’ve put forward my one unique thought, I’ll kick back and rejoin the audience … except for this one quick vote:

    The interesting question is to consider the microcosm of the Puritans, landing in Massachusetts, being 100% Calvinist — did they have the right to rule themselves politically with Moses ’s law? Was isolating themselves in the first place a violation of the Great Commission? How do the natives fit into this question? What about dissenters (like whatsisface that got kicked out and founded Rhode Island)? Or what if a group of Theonomists colonized Mars (a not completely inconceivable situation)?

    1) No. 2) No. 3) Field ripe for harvest. 4) Excommunication and grace, but not exile. 5) Still no. :-)

  49. Forrester, the

    I hope he doesn’t take a hike. (It’s happened before)

    referred to my fear of a repeat of what happened way back in the baptism argument where you ducked in for a quick admonition to maintain an irenic tone and thereby teased us (me) by not showing up again in the discussion at all.

    From this

    now that I’ve put forward my one unique thought, I’ll kick back and rejoin the audience

    I gather that Elvis has left the building.

  50. Well, at least this time I put forward some content worth criticizing. I’m still in the building, just enjoying the show.

    By the way, what’s your role in these discussions, beyond simply joining Statler and Waldorf in the balcony? :-)

  51. “…it all comes down to a postmillennial view of the church temporally triumphant, rather than a biblical view of the church as an exiled remnant, citizens of two kingdoms (oops, I said it!) and more concerned with God’s kingdom than with man’s kingdoms.”

    Your view of the Christ’s failure on earth is disheartening, Rube. I think it comes down to a lack of faith in God’s promises.

    The incarnation disproves amillennialism. Heavenly truths are earthly manifested. The invisible God became flesh. The spiritual truths of the church’s righteousness and unity will manifest themselves in this earthly reality. (Eph 5, John 17) Amillennialism is inherently gnostic. You might as well deny the incarnation of Christ. All that really matters is what happens in heaven in God’s kingdom, right? “Everything in heaven and on earth has been subjected to me.” – King Jesus

    Long Live the KING! His will be done one earth as it is in heaven! May He strengthen the faith of our premil/amil brethren! May He vanquish His and our enemies by subduing their hearts to Himself, but if not, may he cause their wicked schemes to fail and their persons to perish. Glory be to God. Amen.

  52. This amillenialism stuff sounds pretty serious — you better alert the elders that there are people running around that actually hold to this heresy!

  53. Consider them alerted.

  54. Hey, ME, is that an admission that you agree that the “them” in that sentence are holding “to this heresy!”

    LOL :0

    Jeff

  55. I was surfing around reformed.org and came across this article entitled: For Whom Was God’s Law Intended? by Dr. Greg Bahnsen. I have never seen it before and thought it was interesting.

    I’m sure that Rube won’t like the tone, and he’ll strongly disagree with the logic, but it’s worth a look. Took me about 10 minutes at the most to read it.

    Question for all: Was Ninevah part of Israel? If not, then why was one of God’s prophet’s going to tell them to repent if God’s law (sorry Moses’ law) wasn’t for them? Before you answer, take a look at what Bahnsen says in the article I reference above.

    Jeff

  56. Hello all. In a separate email, Jeff asked me to review and respond to his statements in posts #24 of this thread and I will endeavor to do so in this space.

    FIRST, let me say that I think all of us are not far apart here, as much as we’d like to pretend we are. One of the most frustrating aspects (to me) of the Reformed side of the house is our ability to argue and anathemetize each other. We really have raised it to an art. I think at our core, most Reformed people like — and I do mean LIKE — to argue. It is one aspect that repels some Christians about us. We can take contending for the faith to the extreme, and trod on unity like nobody’s business. I guess what I am trying to say is that we have a growing friendship among us and a “threefold cord is not quickly broken.” My hope and prayer would be that we would remain a Godly encouragement to each other and prompt each other to good works.

    Second, my view of the Law is simple. Whenever I get confused (which is often), I run home to the the old Reformers. If find their designation of the three uses of the Law to be profoundly helpful and extremely biblical. The Law reveals God’s holy and immutable character (I stray a bit from RubeRad here, I believe God asks us to meditate on his written law because it is all we need in this world). Second, the Law acts as a restraint in godless society (even the darkest Muslim country is constrained by some form — however muted — of God’s holy law, it is, after all written on every heart.) Third, it sanctifies us. Hallelujah! This is to God’s glory.

    My concern is one of allocation of resources. Our primary goal — in my view — is to strengthen Christ’s church. This notion that “Christianizing” America has eternal value, I believe, distracts us from creating a worldwide postmillenial church. Patriotism and godliness are not synonymous.

    All that said, here is my promised response to Lord Jeff :)

    Reply to #24:

    Your “first of all” states that, like Baptists, your opponents are using an argument from silence. You’ve leveled this charge at me as well. I believe that Baptists are in grave error in leveling this charge. And their error, ironically, is one that a self-proclaimed theonomist should see a mile away. They are completely ignoring the OT and the nature of God’s covenants. When Peter said that “the promise is for you and your children” he was using covenental language. Just as circumcision (given to infants) was the outward symbol of entrance into the old covenant, so baptism is the entrance into the new. The new testament church assumed this because they knew their OT and how God does — and has always — dealt with his people. In every way, the new covenant is superior to the old.

    As for anyone else arguing from silence with regard to theonomy, I’d have to reject that as well. Jesus himself said “Render unto Caesar …, etc.” Paul exhorted us to submit to authorities. The book of Revelation cited the oppression of Christians by godless nations/peoples. God Himself used Rome to execute judgement against 1st century Jerusalem. My point is, the NT is hardly silent on the issue of the civil authority. At any of these junctures, the Holy Spirit could have given us marching orders about how to subsume the worldly powers. The fact is, He didn’t. The onus is on you to prove where we are commanded to do so. That said, the Almighty has given us many, many other ways to assault the broader culture, “taking over” the civil authorities isn’t one of them. We are above and beyond them, they should quake in their boots everytime we rumble awake. Sadly, the American church is more like a country club.

    In your “Secondly … ” paragraph, you state that excommunication cannot be proven to be a shadow of execution. I’d grant that, but that was not my point at all. Perhaps others have attempted this line of reasoning, but I didn’t, at least not purposely. My point is that Paul was dealing with the problem of blasphemy in a church body. By OT law, the offenders should have been driven to the edge of town and stoned to death by the congregation. Yet, Paul did not do this. He drove them from the body of believers. Why? To teach them, or, failing that, to leave their eternal destinies to the Lord. Again, stoning is the easy way out, which is why Christ admonished us not to fear the one who can kill the body, but do fear He that can destroy the body and cast the soul into Hell. Excommunication, then, is a fate worse than death. Paul was using the authority Christ gave when he said what you loose on earth, etc. etc. We should absolutely tremble before the discipline of the church. Again, this is something which has vanished from American Christianity and it would be a better use of our time to restore that kind of church rather than running Christians for gov’t positions.

    In the broadest sense, I don’t disagree with anything in the remaining paragraphs. However, there is one item that I want to make sure I understand. Jeff, you say that “the Hebrew scriptures have commands for the civil magistrates …” What I understand you to say is that God commanded ancient Israel to undertake certain duties in the civil sphere. I have a problem with this line of thinking, if I am understanding where you are going with it (which I may not). Israel was altogether unique in God’s economy. We don’t get to jump in — as America — and say, “Guess what! We (the United States) are Israel now! Let’s create a theocracy.” Now perhaps this is putting to much weight on what you were saying, but the idea that what God told the civil government in Israel is somehow transferrable to our modern democracy I think is wrong. God’s Israel is the only nation he has uniquely called forth. His relationship and covenant with them is once for all. By His fantastic grace, we take part in this “nation” through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The “dividing wall of hostility” between Israel and the pagan nations has been broken down by our Savior. As a result, we partake in the new Israel, as do any Jews who are chosen by God to find salvation in the Lord Jesus. As such, our eternal home is this new Israel (which we should struggle to create by taking dominion but whose final “architect and builder” is God). This new Israel includes children from every language and nation. Now, if you’d like to talk about how to build up this new Israel: I’m all ears. As for America — to paraphrase the Sex Pistols — we’re just another country.

    It is a subtle but important difference. We take dominion for both an earthly hope (the spread of the Kingdom of God on earth, culminating in a glorious postmillenial existence) and for the final coming of the Lord (at which time the true heavenly kindgom will be instituted for all eternity.).

  57. Chilli, thank you so much for weighing in. Your perspective is a breath of fresh, sane, air, and if you had been with us from the beginning, I have no doubt you would have saved us all a lot of time!

    most Reformed people like — and I do mean LIKE — to argue. It is one aspect that repels some Christians about us. We can take contending for the faith to the extreme, and trod on unity like nobody’s business.

    We have amply demonstrated that in these environs, that’s for sure! Here’s a snippet from Machen’s Warrior Children:

    Under [Machen’s] leadership, conservative Calvinists made a strong stand against liberal theology. But having lost that theological battle in the Presbyterian Church, U. S. A., they turned inward to battle among themselves about issues less important—in some cases, far less important—than liberalism.

    Dr. Tom recommended this article during our OPC-PCA brouhaha, but I have yet to read it. Must…make….time…

    the idea that what God told the civil government in Israel is somehow transferrable to our modern democracy I think is wrong.

    Me too.

  58. Things have gotten pretty complex around here; just a gratuitous comment to say that comment 24 on this thread actually belongs to Paul was not a Theonomist

  59. Reply to Chilli

    1. Rube’s Argument from Silence
    2. Excommunication
    3. Israel was special therefore fallacy

    1.
    First off chilli – Argue from silence. What are you trying to say here? I’ve read it a couple of times and don’t see how it applies to what I said. I wasn’t referring to how a baptist accuses a paedobaptist of arguing from silence. I was referring to how a baptist ASSERTS a PROHIBITION from the lack of a positive command (silence).

    Example:

    Daddy: “Eat your bread”
    Child: “Daddy says ‘don’t eat your meat'”

    God: “Baptize those who confess”
    Baptists: “God says ‘don’t baptize those who don’t confess'”

    Paul: “deliver this man to satan”
    Rube: “Paul says ‘don’t deliver this man to the state'”

    There is NO WAY that you can PROVE a positive prohibition by Paul by citing that “he didn’t say to deliver him to the state.” It reminds me of little disobedient children, “Well, Mommy didn’t tell us to stay away from the cookies…”

    Now, with risk of getting off focus here, I am NOT necessarily asserting the opposite here. I am NOT necessarily saying that the church at that time should have delivered the man to the state. But really, that is beside the point. I’m just trying to point out the VERY SIMPLE LOGICAL FALLACY WE HAVE HERE, which is arguing a prohibition from silence.

    2.
    Excommunication – No real problem here. Okay.

    3.
    I think that I have dealt with this in many places already on this blog. I’m not about making a particular nation the kingdom of God or “Israel.” It is putting too much weight on what I say. I am saying that (the moral directives which include the penal sanctions) for ‘crimes’ are binding on all nations then and now. Please see Rube’s post “Jesus is not a Theonomist” and look for my comments on Theocracy. Also, please look at comment #55 on “Moses’ Law is not God’s Law. (I hate even writing that wretched statement!)

    Let’s see what you think after reading those (including the short article of Bahnsen’s that I link to).

    Summary
    Chilli, I think there is much more similarity in thought between you and I on this topic than between Rube and I. But, this conversation is about an extremely small point of theoretical contention that it really doesn’t matter too much to me or him right now. You are right, we have fun “fighting.” But it isn’t really “fighting” so much as “sparring.” I think it is iron sharpening iron. We get good at arguing with each other and then when it really matters, we’ve had a lot of experience.

    Blessings,

    Jeff

  60. 1. Was I that unclear? Well, I had a beer tonight with dinner, maybe that will help me organize my thoughts. My point is simply that if the marching orders of God’s church included transforming society by political means than the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Father, Paul, both Johns, Peter, Jude, James, Luke, Mark, Matthew and whoever wrote Hebrews, et. al., all passed up perfectly good opportunities to tell us so plainly. How come? Maybe because it is not the church’s duty to transform society by political means. This is hardly an argument from silence. None of the above individuals were shy about telling us what our Christian duty was or is. There is no mystery. Nothing to fill in. The NT is perfectly plain, in my view. The Lord gave the Church the authority to bind the enemy. No other entity has that authority. There is no “silence”. Our duties are clear. The NT has told us to clean our porch. That doesn’t mean that we go to clean our neighbor’s first. Or that we make civil laws demanding that everyone’s porch should always be clean. There is absolutely no logical fallacy to state: God’s word does not command us to do such and such, so let’s get about doing what he actually commanded us to do.

    2. Agreement? You must have had a beer too. :)

    3. I’ll read that material and get back with you. I still have plenty of CDs to listen to and multiple books to read.

  61. Let me come back to my first point. If the church as whole in America practiced church discipline I think American Christianity would look radically different. This is a fantastic and holy use of the Law and we are not doing it (and by “we” I mean American Christianity as a whole, I know our church practices it). Imagine if the American church as a whole preached a full and powerful Gospel of repentance, had a sound view of the importance of delivering the sacraments and the Word, and practiced robust church discipline. Forget Godless America, there is no pagan nation in the world that could stand before that kind of church. We’d shake the world. My opinion: This kind of church — not the “Christianization” of America through politics — is what we should be striving for.

  62. Chilli,

    But that’s not what Theonomy is asserting. You state in the comment above that the church wasn’t given marching orders to transform society by political means. Okay, fine. No problem.

    There is a lot of catching up you need to do, that’s all. We are saying that there are certain standards of civil law that the magistrate needs to adhere to in his responsibility toward God.

    Westminster Confession Chapter 23 Paragraph I:

    I. God, the Supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under him over the people, for his own glory and the public good; and to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil-doers.

    So this discussion is simply a question of HOW is the magistrate supposed to live up to his “ordination” that God gave him to “encourage them that are good” and to “punish evil-doers.”

    I have an idea, tell your wife and kids that you’re going to take a couple days off, go to a hotel with Internet, and read all of Rube’s blogs here. ;) Just kidding of course.

    See ya,

    Jeff

  63. To your newest comment #61: AMEN!!!!

    :)

  64. @Jeff (1.):

    If you’re going to get all ticky-tacky about exactly what is and is not a logical consequence of this statement or that, let’s take a closer look. You said:

    There is NO WAY that you can PROVE a positive prohibition by Paul by citing that “he didn’t say to deliver him to the state.”

    Here’s what I actually said, in the original post:

    Is there any hint here that Paul thinks that, after excommunication, this case will be (should be) taken up by civil authorities, to result in execution (as the Theonomist would argue)? No, he says “deliver this man to Satan.” That’s it.

    How does that say that the church is prohibited from delivering the man to the state? The first sentence is all about what the state might or should do, not what the church might or should do. The second sentence is the positive command for what the church should do, which is cut him loose and be done with him.

    I did not try to prove, nor do I assert, that the church is prohibited from delivering people to the state.  I do assert, and did prove a positive prohibition to the church from JUDGING those outside the church.

    Submission to the civil authorities I think means that if somebody has broken civil laws, then the church probably does have to deliver them up to the state for God-ordained swordliness (within the limited, God-ordained jurisdiction of the state, of course). In short, the church can deliver somebody up to the state’s judgment, and that’s the end of it.

    You are saying, however, exactly the opposite. You are advocating laws that would require the state to solicit JUDGEMENT from the church. Which is functionally equivalent to the state delivering the man right back to the church! For JUDGMENT.

    Chilli, I think there is much more similarity in thought between you and I on this topic than between Rube and I.

    No way man, Chilli is MY friend on this blog! You can’t have him!

  65. Rube says: “The first sentence is all about what the state might or should do, not what the church might or should do. ” ARGUMENT FROM SILENCE (See Comment #24, paragraph 2 above). This isn’t the same argument from silence I mentioned in comment #59, but another one.

    Summary of Rube: “We don’t read anything here about the civil magistrate, so he must have no jurisdiction over this type of matter.”

    The lack of Paul mentioning anything positive or negative, active or passive, toward the magistrate in 1 Corinthians 5 does not give us permission to draw conclusions to “what the state might or should do.” You MUST go to other areas of scripture to answer this question.

    But I digress for now. I’m just glad to see that Rube is okay with the church turning over (civil) law breakers to the state.

    Now, you state: “You are advocating laws that would require the state to solicit JUDGEMENT from the church.”

    No, I AM NOT SAYING THAT. Okay, you are trying to show that as a logical conclusion of what I am saying. I can see that’s what you’re doing here, even though I didn’t ‘say’ that, nor am I ‘inferring’ that.

    Look at what Lawstudent wrote in comment #2 of “Paul…”

    “The Old Testament sends law breakers to the judges to receive punishment, not to the priests. Sure, the priests can serve as fact finders, but the judgement was not for them. There was a separation of power/authority in Israel. The church today maintains the same power that it has always had.”

    I agree with Lawstudent here. Do you see the difference in “judgement?” I am not saying, nor was the confession saying, that in each and every case against a blasphemer or idolater, etc. that the state needs to defer to the church with a church court or church judges or the like. It seems like that is what you are inferring has to be a result of the state asking the church for direction on what blasphemy is, etc.

    Lawstudent also says in comment #8 of the same post:

    “Judging sins is not the same as judging crimes. The church judges the sins of insiders (of the chuch) and the civil magistrate judges crimes (of both insiders and outsiders). The question is what defines a crime. Who gets to define the sanctions that will bring civic justice?”

    I once again agree with Lawstudent and want to stress the point being made here. There is a difference between “defining” the crime and presiding over a court function to “judge” a specific incident of that crime.

    You ask: “and then it ends?” Sure, it certainly can end right there. But still, if the state were to ask the church to help with a specific understanding of a blasphemy law in regards to a specific case, the church can still “teach” or “communicate” on that matter without “judging” that particular person. Again, this “judging” I still say you are taking out of context. It is not a matter of “Is this man guilty or not guilty.” The judging Paul is referring to is “Pass THIS sentence upon this man…” That’s a big difference.

    Once the state has been instructed ‘in general’ on the issue of blasphemy (for example), THEN the state is competent to judge a specific case. I never intended to infer that the state needed to have the church’s opinion in each and every specific case or trial. That’s just ridiculous. The WCF talks of the state calling for synods so as to learn God’s direction. Certainly they didn’t mean for each individual trial.

    It’s still equivocation.

    Now, hopefully I made it more clear what I mean by the state/church interaction on the states laws that reflect God’s requirement to punish the first table. If that is (hopefully) so, do you still think that the church even in this “better explained light” can’t even do that?

    Jeff :)

  66. One “FOOL” blessed upon another fool Even so too art you ,gather together with the like and follow the ways of the Gods of others, and you bear upon you and yourselves the curse Go read Devarim Deuteronomy 17 chapter READ IT SLOWLY !!there art you ole cursed one ole servant malech ha hastan

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