Not Under the Law, but Under Grace–An Existential or A Redemptive-Historical Assertion?

In a post entitled “Are Calvinists Saved?” Paul Dohse recently asserted that “the very definition of a lost person in the Bible is one who is ‘under the law'” I tried to post a response on his blog, but my response was blocked. I also emailed the following response to him, but he has not yet responded.


I would like you to reconsider your assertion that “the very definition of a lost person in the Bible is one who is ‘under the law.’”

There are several problems with this position.

1. The use of hupo nomon (under Law) in the New Testament is always a covenantal designation that refers to Israel’s relation to God under the Mosaic covenant.

2. Paul makes it clear that “sin was in the world” (Rom. 5:13) prior to the entrance of the Law. Certainly, there were lost persons prior to the giving of the Law. How, then, can one argue that the definition of a lost person is “one who is under the law?” Are we to assume that these people were not lost?

3. If you argue that the Law was given to everyone at creation, then everyone must have been lost since “the very definition of a lost person in the Bible is one who is under the law.”

4. David, Isaiah, Jeremiah and many others were “under the Law” as a covenant. Were they lost because they were under the law?

5. Paul wrote that Jesus was “born of woman, born under the law”. (Gal. 4:4) If the definition of a lost person is one who is under the law, are you suggesting that Jesus was a lost person since he was born “under the law?”

The reality is, “not under law but under grace” is not an existential distinction that reflects the situation of an individual but a redemptive-historical distinction that reflects the cataclysmic change that occurred through the redemptive work of Christ.

This is an important issue in the debate about New Covenant Theology. If we misunderstand the contrast Paul was drawing between “under grace” and “under law,” we will completely misconstrue his teaching relative to the vast superiority of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant.


5 Responses to “Not Under the Law, but Under Grace–An Existential or A Redemptive-Historical Assertion?”

  1. October 12, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    Let me guess, Paul set out to somehow ‘prove’ that Calvinists are NOT saved? I’ll have to go check the article.

  2. October 12, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    Its really hard to fathom how a believer with a functioning brain, who has ever read John 3:18 (and no other passage is required to define who is lost) would even think such a thing, much less pontificate about it. And actually, I could extend that sentiment to anyone who can read and understand the meaning words. He is totally consumed by something that has blinded him to really simple truth.

    I could say that theres a good chance that someone under the law is in fact lost, but he/she could be a deceived believer. Only God knows for sure. Is Paul claiming to be God?

    I actually found the blog post, but couldnt stomach much of it without becoming angry.

    So the Reformation was all a parlor trick? The theology of the Reformers was identical to Rome? What was the point just dump the Popes and the Catholic authority structure?

    Your eschatology is your gospel. HUH? Maybe he has a brain tumor?

    I would also add that the issues of free will and predestination, while not the core issues, are really close to it. Its the view of the nature (will) of Fallen men that lies at the very core, in my opinion.

    Thats all for now.

    Romans 3:19

    • October 12, 2012 at 6:09 pm

      I have no idea why some characters got mistranslated in the above comment.

    • October 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm

      Well said. I am about to post something about straw men reproducing themselves in Paul’s hatchery. Not sure about the brain tumor. I think it is more likely he suffers from cranial vacuity. I can deal with people disagreeing with my views and offering carefully considered arguments to support their points, but I cannot abide deliberate misrepresentation.

      • 5 Born4Battle
        October 12, 2012 at 7:55 pm

        Deliberate misrepresentations demand replies, if for nothing other than setting other readers straight, if that is possible.

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