A Response to C. H. Spurgeon on the Perpetuity of God’s Law

Joel Taylor over at 5ptsalt posted the following article by C.H. Spurgeon concerning the perpetuity of God’s Law. I left a response, but, as yet, it hasn’t made the moderator’s cut. I thought it might be nice to post both the Spurgeon article and my response just in case someone would like to engage in a meaningful discussion.

I have noticed that, more often than not, though people are willing to cite partial proof-text, they are quite hesitant to engage in an exegetical examination of this issue that might actually lead to unity in the Christian community. I have profited greatly from Spurgeon’s sermons. If he were alive today, I would be delighted to have this discussion with him. Having been affected as he was by his reading of the Puritans, I would have been surprised if he had written or spoken anything different from what he wrote. Still, I think there are a number of issues that need further discussion if we are to reach a consensus. To that end I have written a brief response to the article.

This is what Spurgeon said:

The law of God is no more than God might most righteously ask of us. If God were about to give us a more tolerant law, it would be an admission on his part that he asked too much at first. Can that be supposed? Was there, after all, some justification for the statement of the wicked and slothful servant when he said, “I feared thee, because thou art an austere man”? It cannot be. For God to alter his law would be an admission that he made a mistake at first, that he put poor imperfect man (we are often hearing that said) under too rigorous a regime, and therefore he is now prepared to abate his claims, and make them more reasonable. It has been said that man’s moral inability to keep the perfect law exempts him from the duty of doing so. This is very specious, but it is utterly false. Man’s inability is not of the kind which removes responsibility: it is moral, not physical. Never fall into the error that moral inability will be an excuse for sin. What, when a man becomes such a liar that he cannot speak the truth, is he thereby exempted from the duty of truthfulness? If your servant owes you a day’s labor, is he free from the duty because he has made himself so drunk that he cannot serve you? Is a man freed from a debt by the fact that he has squandered the money, and therefore cannot pay it? Is a lustful man free to indulge his passions because he cannot understand the beauty of chastity? This is dangerous doctrine. The law is a just one, and man is bound by it though his sin has rendered him incapable of doing so. The law moreover demands no more than is good for us. There is not a single commandment of God’s law but what is meant to be a kind of danger signal such as we put up upon the ice when it is too thin to bear. Each commandment does as it were say to us, “Dangerous” It is never for a man’s good to do what God forbids him; it is never for man’s real and ultimate happiness to leave undone anything that God commands him. The wisest directions for spiritual health, and for the avoidance of evil, are those directions which are given us concerning right and wrong in the law of God. Therefore it is not possible that there should be any alteration thereof, for it would not be for our good. I should like to say to any brother who thinks that God has put us under an altered rule: “Which particular part of the law is it that God has relaxed?” Which precept do you feel free to break? Are you delivered from the command which forbids stealing? My dear sir, you may be a capital theologian, but I should lock up my spoons when you call at my house. Is it the command about adultery which you think is removed? Then I could not recommend your being admitted into any decent society. Is the law as to killing softened down? Then I had rather have your room than your company. Which law is it that God has exempted you from? That law of worshipping him only? Do you propose to have another God? Do you intend to make graven images? The fact is that when we come to detail we cannot afford to lose a single link of this wonderful golden chain, which is perfect in every part as well as perfect as a whole. The law is absolutely complete, and you can neither add to it nor take from it. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.” If, then, no part of it can be taken down, it must stand, and stand for ever.

In my view, this article suffers from several flaws. First, it fails to distinguish between God’s Law as absolute and God’s Law as covenantal. God’s absolute law, on which all covenantal expressions of that law hang, never changes. That is to say, it ignores that though God does not change his mind, he does change the way he deals with his people under differing covenants. God’s righteous standard never changes. No human being has ever been or will ever be without that standard. Yet, the apostle Paul described the Gentiles as those who are “without Law.” Does that mean they are free to kill, steal, commit adultery, etc? Of course not! It simply means they are not under the Covenant, the Ten Commandments, God made with Israel on Mt. Sinai. As God’s created beings, we have two responsibilities–To love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The way in which that love is expressed under differing covenants may change, e.g., I no longer express my love for God by refraining from eating certain foods, but those two requirements of God’s law never change. Second, it assumes that the Ten Commandments are not only the sole expression of God’s Law, but the highest expression of God’s Law. Jesus’ expression of God’s Law requires much more than Moses’ Law required. Which is easier, to pluck out your brother’s eye, or to turn the other cheek? Third, it assumes the Mosiac Law can be divided into distinct parts, moral, judicial, and ceremonial. You will search in vain to find any biblical writer who makes such a distinction. This is a distinction of systematic Theology, not a biblical distinction. Biblical writers always refer to the Mosaic Law as a unified whole. When Paul stated that he was not under the Law, he referred to the whole Mosaic legislation. That did not mean he was no longer under God’s Law; simply that he was no longer under it as covenant. Jesus, the consummate Israelite, has fully obeyed and fulfilled all the conditions of that Old Covenant so that all the blessings of that covenant now flow to those who, in the New Covenant, are united to him by faith. Forth, it suggests the idea that Law can effect obedience, an idea the apostle Paul clearly denies. The idea is, if there is law, you don’t need to lock up the silverware when I come to visit your house. Where I live in Costa Rica, unconverted people clearly know stealing is wrong, but I dare not leave the silverware or anything else unguarded if they should come to visit. Finally, the implication is that God’s people who have been brought by the Spirit to love God supremely and to love their neighbors as themselves need an external rule to prevent them from working ill to their neighbor. The New Testament injunctions to obedience are more descriptive than prescriptive. My duty under the Law of Christ is to love my brother as Christ has loved me. How may I know if I am fulfilling that commandment? The answer is that the NT Scriptures describe what loving and self sacrificing behavior is like. Can I know that without the Ten Commandments? Of course! All I need to do is read the New Testament Scriptures.


29 Responses to “A Response to C. H. Spurgeon on the Perpetuity of God’s Law”

  1. November 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    You write:
    “It simply means they are not under the Covenant, the Ten Commandments, God made with Israel on Mt. Sinai. ”

    Or it could mean what the reformers say it means, and what the text seems to indicate, that they were missing the text: that the text had not been given to them. That they were left with the law as revealed by nature (Romans 1) and their own consciences (Romans 2) and had not that holy and perfect transcription of it which God gave to Moses.

    While your basic point may be sound: in that even in I Cor 11 we see the same underlying law (of headcoverings and authority) expressed in two different ways (worn and forbidden) by two different groups of people (women vs men)… you seem to take it the wrong direction in the above quote. Nothing about the nature of the covenant itself makes a difference in the law. Even in the OT Gentiles were not required to abstain from shellfish or from wearing clothes of different cloths. And even in the NT (Acts 21) Jewish Christians continued to circumcise their children.

    • November 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, though I am not sure I understand you point completely. It seems to me what I wrote is in agreement with your comment. The point I made is that even if we are not under the Law as given to Israel as covenant, we are nonetheless under God’s universal law that predated the giving of the Law on Mt. SInai and will continue until the end of time.

      I think where we disagree may be in our definition of God’s Law. My view is that God’s law has two commandments. The evidence of obedience to those commandments may differ from covenant to covenant, but the law does not change. My disagreement with Mr. Spurgeon is that he identifies God’s law with the Mosaic codification of that law. The Gentiles never possessed that codification. They were nevertheless required to love, glorify and worship the God who has revealed himself in the creation around us. As believers in Christ, we have been given, by prescription, a very similar, but more demanding expression of what our behavior will be like if we truly love God and our neighbor. One difference is that whereas the OC demanded such obedience, it did not produce the obedience it demanded in the lives of the Israelites, most of whom appear to have been recalcitrant rebels. Consider the heifer thing in Hosea. Under the terms of the NC, God not only demands obedience but produces the obedience he demands by the work of his indwelling Spirit.

      To argue that the Law as covenant, the Ten Commandments, was ever given to Gentiles and that that those Ten Commandments as such are the highest expression of God’s Law ever given, is simply an argument that cannot be sustained from Scripture.

      It seems to me, when Paul states that the Gentiles are not under law, we can understand him in one of two ways: 1. The Gentiles are completely without divinely imposed moral restraint altogether or 2. The Gentiles were never under the Law, as covenant, as was Israel. I think we agree that the first alternative is unacceptable. Both Israel and the Gentiles were and continue to be under God’s overarching righteous standard. Though we are not under the Law, we are not without law toward God, but under the law of Christ.

      • November 17, 2012 at 4:39 pm

        I am proposing:
        3) That the Gentiles were never blessed by having been given the written codification of the eternal law of God.

        That the Gentiles, never having been given that codification, were nonetheless obligated to it.

        My caveat, which you seem to take much broader than I do, is that their were, and are, laws which only apply to some people, at some times, in some ways. The example I use is the headcovering: which applies to men and women differently.

        But Scripture is quite clear that the law is ‘holy, righteous, and good’, and that sin is a violation of the law. Paul even speaks of those without the law nonetheless doing what the law requires. As Spurgoen points out, any deviation from a perfect law is less than perfection.

        The ‘not under the law’ that applies to Christians is not a freedom from following the law, but freedom from the curse of the law; the penalty of the law. Christ paid that penalty for us.

  2. November 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    OK, we are in agreement that the Gentiles were never blessed by having been given the codification of God “eternal” law. By that, I assume you mean the law will continue until the end of time, not that it is actually eternal.

    We do not agree that the Gentiles were obligated to observe that codification of God’s law. Does he require them to keep commandments that are not clearly given to them ? And, if they have been as clearly revealed to them as to the Jews, why will they be condemned apart from judgment based on disobedience to those commandments? The Mosaic codification of God’s Law was far broader than Ten Commandments, one of which was the ceremonail sign of the covenant, the Sabbath commandment. Failure to observe the dietary laws God had given was as much an evidence of lack of love for God as was, for example, murdering or committing adultery. Think of the scruples of Daniel and his companions.

    Perhaps the question we need to discuss is, Of which law is sin the violation? As you know, the 1 John verse does not say “Sin is the transgression of the Law,” but “Sin is lawlessness.” The greatest sin one can commit is failure to love God. The reaction of the Gentiles to God’s self-disclosure in the creation and in conscience gives ample evidence that they are guilty of lawlessness. Not only that, the result of this impiety was unrighteousness. In other words, not only does thier behavior demonstrate a failure to love God. It also demonstrates a failure to love their neighbor. On these two, not on these TEN, hang all the Law and the Prophets [OT Scripture]. It is those two commandments to which all are obligated.

    The presuppositons both you and Spurgeon seem to share are 1. that the Decalogue is all and exclusively “Moral Law” and 2. that it is the hightest and final expression of God’s righteous standard. I believe the Law of Christ, the New Testament Scriptures provide the believer with everything needed for life and godliness.

    You also no doubt know that when Paul states that the Gentiles which do not have the Law, do by nature what the Law requires, he does not mean that the Gentiles fulfill the Law. He simply means the Gentiles do certain things that are contained in the Law. If he meant they do what the Law requires, they would not need Christ’s redemptive work. So that a proper rendering of Paul’s words would not be “The things contained in the Law” but rather “Things contained in the Law.” This is only logical since the image reflected in creation, conscience and the commandments is the same image.

    I am certain you also know that when Paul wrote “the Law is holy, and just and good.” it was not in a context in which he was commending the Law as profitable for godly living. His argument at that point is not “because the Law is holy, just and good” but “although the Law is holy, just, and good.” His point is that only grace in union with Christ can produce sanctification. We believers are dead to the Law by the body of Christ so that we might bring forth fruit unto God. His argument is that there is nothing wrong with the Law as a covenant. It is simply that the legal covenant could not enable its subjects to bring forth fruit. The Law cannot do what grace alone is intended to do.

    It is an interesting distinction you mention between being under the curse of the Law and being under the Law.
    Where does any NT writer ever suggest that we are to keep the Mosaic Law? Correct me if I am wrong, but it appears to me you are presupposing that we can separate that covenant into neat categories. I am aware that systematic theology has made such a distinction, but where does any biblical writer ever make such a distinction.

    The Old Covenant, and that is what the Law was, has been fulfilled and replaced by the New Covenant. Additionally, the message of the New Testament throughout is that the New Covenant is better and more glorious than the Old. When Paul talks about the Old Covenant passing away, he describes it as “the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone.” That should ring a bell.

    • November 17, 2012 at 6:47 pm

      >>When Paul talks about the Old Covenant passing away, he describes it as “the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone.” That should ring a bell.

      A whole lot to deal with in the post but a quick answer to this: Yeah, it sure does.

      2Co 3:6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
      2Co 3:7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:
      2Co 3:8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?
      2Co 3:9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.

      We see here exactly what I am talking about. The law, even the ministration of death, was glorious. The law even as it condemened was glorious… how much more so what Christ did for us?

      Paul speaks of the law as a schoolmaster, to lead us to Christ. It is the law which condmens us, that Christ may save us. But this is the law of two parts: the part that says ‘thou shalt not kill’, and the part that tells us the penalty for murder is death. Having killed, we are under the condmentation to death. And it is this condmentation from which Christ saves us.

      • November 17, 2012 at 7:24 pm

        Read the verses you cited. The Letter about which Paul wrote was the Law. I do not question that Law, Old Covenant was glorious, but as Paul stated, it now has NO GLORY AT ALL (v. 10)
        Paul does not say the curse of the Old Covenant is passing away and has been eclipsed by the glory of the New Covenant. He says the Old Covenant is passing away. Then he makes it clear that the Old Covenant was that which was inscribed on stones. What was inscribed on stones?

        I don’t accept the “school master” translation of paidagogos. The one described in that verse was not a teacher, but a rigid disciplinarian whose task it was to keep the underaged child in line, not to give him instruction. I am quite well acquainted with the Reformed position on this verse but have rejected it. As you know, the words “to bring us to” are supplied by the translators. I think it is better to understand eis in that verse in its temporal sense, i.e., until. The Law was our disciplinarian boy leader UNTIL Christ. . . . but since the faith (objective revelation of divine truth in Christ) has come, we are no longer under the Law as a strict disciplinarian. That arrangement belonged to our nonage. It no longer obtains. We are now under the leadership of the Spirit who is the promised blessing of the New Covenant. I have written about this more extensively in a book on Galatians, The Fullness of Time. If you are interested I will send it to you in PDF format.

        Where does Paul or any other NT writer suggest that New Covenant believers continue under the Law, by this I mean the Mosaic Law, in any sense? Where does he ever say though we are free from the condemnation of the Law, we continue under it as a rule of life? It seems to me his message is consistently that the Old Covenant has no more ability to sanctify us than it does to justify us. It is the salvation bringing grace of God that teaches us sanctification (See Titus 2:11ff.

        By the way, thanks for the discussion.

        By free grace alone,

        Sent from my iPad

      • November 17, 2012 at 7:39 pm

        NP for the discussion. Wish I had more time/energy.
        Where do the NT writers speaks positively about the law in the life of the believer? Pretty much everywhere!

        Jas 4:11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

        More later if I have time.

  3. November 17, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Correct me if I am wrong, but you seem to believe that whenever the word law occurs it refers to the Ten Commandments. The word “law” has many different references in the Scriptures and we must not simply plug in decalogue everytime we find the word. It may, and often does, refer to the Old Testament Scriptures. When James wrote, there was no other written revelation of God’s will. Since he wrote to Jewish believers, he would naturally have referred them to the only written revelation they possessed. Still, he makes no reference to being under the Mosaic covenant. Nor does he in any way suggest to his readers that having that law extermally can enable them in the sanctification process. It is interesting that James refers to the “perfect law of liberty.” Paul referred to the OC as ” a yoke of bondage” He says it is the “bondwoman” and those it produces are children of bondage. Additionally, he instructs us to “cast out the bondwoman and her offspring.” Now if the bondwoman is the Law, and we are told to cast out the bondwoman, what is he telling us about the Law, i.e., Mosaic covenant? It seems Paul and James must have been referring to different revelations of God’s universal law.

    One of the main points of the New Testament Scriptures is that the grace of God in the New Covenant establishes the righteousness and holiness set forth by the Law. I am not asking if the Law was a helpful reflection of God’s righteous standard or not, but whether the NT writers speak positively of the Law in terms of its ability to produce what it demanded.

    Clearly, as I mentioned before, Paul spoke positively of the Law in saying “the Law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good,” but he did so in a context in which he was arguing that the Law is unable to produce the fruit of sanctification. I am not in any way suggesting that there was anything wrong with the Law or that the New Testament writers spoke negatively of the Law, as such. My question is whether they ever spoke positively of the Law in terms of its ability either to justify or sanctify us.

    • November 17, 2012 at 8:22 pm

      No, I do not conflate all uses of the law with the two, the ten, or the case laws. Indeed I denied that above. When the law is spoken of as a ‘curse’ or ‘death’ I believe it is clearly speaking of the curse of death provided first to Adam and then in each law thereafter: Adamic, Noahide, Mosaic, Prophetic, or that proclaimed by Christ.

      However neither do I make a distinction between the Adamic, Noahid, Mosaic (including the two Christ cites, as well as the others he cites elsehwere, or the ones Paul sites) in so far as they represent righteousness.

  4. November 17, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    I believe there is only one law of God. The two commandments which Christ brings forth from the Old Testament are summaries of the Ten commandments in the Old Testament, which are, themselves, shown worked out in the various ‘case laws’ of the Old Testament.

    This law is used by God to do several things, typically divided up into four separate categories:
    1) To convict of sin.
    2) To moderate the sin of a society
    3) To teach the believers how to live and…

    4) To try to justify one self before God.

    The first three of these are taught explicitly, and the last explicitly condemned.

    • November 17, 2012 at 9:45 pm

      Where are we told explicitly that the Law is currently used to convict of sin, as in the necessity of preaching the Law as a precursor to gospel proclamation?

      Where are we told the law moderates sin in a society? Didn’t work very well for Israel. In fact, Paul wrote, “the strength of sin is the Law.” It is true that through fear of punishment law may restrain outward crime, but it does nothing to cure sin. Law is not the cure for lawlessness; grace is.

      Where in the NT Scriptures are we told that the Law is to be used to teach believers how to live? In fact, Paul told Timothy specifically, “The law is not made for a righteous man.”

      If there were no Decalogue, what would NC believers in terms of life and godliness? We have the New Testament Scriptures and the indwelling Spirit to guide us. Paul states clearly that if we follow his lead, we will no fulfill the desires of the flesh. Why do we need a covenant that was made with Israel?

      And by the way, Jesus did not say the two commandments are a summary of the Decalogue. He says the entire Old Testament Scriptures depend on the two commandments. Paul wrote, “He that loves, has fulfilled the Law [not will fulfill the Law]. How do we know if the love is genuine? Because it is described by whatever covenant we find ourselves under. Sent from my iPad

      • November 19, 2012 at 10:57 pm

        Over the weekend I have been thinking about this conversation, and I think there are two things going on ‘in the background’ which would be good to bring to the foreground.
        1) When you say “I do not see…” or “Where is…” and ask a question about the law, I think what you are saying is ‘That I do not explain in some other way’.
        2) Conversely, where I see ‘the law’ being used is where I see even a part of the law being used. For example if a friend and I agree I might just say ‘Great minds…” and leave it up to him to say, in his head, “… think alike’. In that same way I see Christ/Peter/John/Paul etc., when they invoke a part of the law, as invoking the whole law. When they repeat a part of the law, I see them as invoking all of the law.
        So for example: “1Jn 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
        1Jn 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. ”

        I see this as indicating all of God’s commandments.

        BTW the two commandments are not new. They are from the Old Testament. Even the wise Jews knew that they were a summary of the entire law:

        Luk 10:25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
        Luk 10:26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
        Luk 10:27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
        Luk 10:28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

        Scripture does not say that all of the law ‘depends’ on these two commandments, but that they ‘hang’ on them (G2910
        A prolonged form of a primary verb; to hang: – hang.
        But it would not matter. All three of these make the same point. The perfect Law that God gave in the Old Testament does not ‘contradict’ the two most important statements of them. One cannot ‘love one’s neighbor’ while engaging in the activities that God condemns. they contradict.

      • November 19, 2012 at 11:40 pm

        Of course the two commandments may summarize the whole Law because the law of God under whatever covenant those two commandments express themselves is the same. But Love God and Neighbor is not always expressed completely the same under every covenant. The commandment to love neighbor is heightened under the New Covenant. It is no longer simply, love one another; now it is love one another AS I HAVE LOVED YOU. That my dear friend is a higher standard than the Mosaic law. Not only must I not commit adultery; I must love my wife AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH AND GAVE UP HIMSELF FOR IT.

        My point is that we now have the highest expression of God’s eternal law ever given. The Mosaic covenant does not compare. Additionally, grace is able to produce what Law could never produce. We simply are not only that Old Covenant and people need to stop glorifying the Ten Commandments as if they are the final word from God. They aren’t! They are a part of the fragmentary and incomplete revelation that was pointing forward to the fulfillment. “The Law made nothing perfect.” We have a better hope, by which we draw near to God.

        A non-negotiable for me is that the Mosaic Law was a national covenant that cannot be divided as if a person could break certain commandments and still love God, but if he broke one of the big ten, he was in real trouble. When I say “Law,” think whole Law too. When Jesus fulfilled the Law, he fulfilled the whole Law and replaced it with a new and better covenant. We do keep his commandments, but those commandments are now stated in the New Testament Scriptures as Laws of the New Covenant, the Law of Christ. I ask again, what do we lack in terms of life and godliness if we seek to obey everything the Law of Christ requires in dependance on the Holy Spirit?

        I am not sure I see a huge difference between “hang on” and “depend on,” but whatever trips your trigger.

        I don’t have a clue what you are saying in your number one. If you would like to say it more explicitly, I’ll be happy to listen.

        I think we both agree that there is a perpetuity to God’s Law. I believe we disagree on what that Law is. My disagreement with Spurgeon, whom I greatly appreciate in many other areas, is not over whether we can now be lawless and live as we please, which he seems to assume if we are not under the Decalogue. My problem is that he identified the Law of God with the Decalogue as if to say if we are not under the Decalogue we are lawless. That simply isn’t true.

        I believe we are under God’s law in the hands of our Savior. Are many of those commandments the same as those expressed in the Old Covenant? Of course they are. They are the Laws of the same God. Should we consider ourselves under that covenant any longer? Not in any sense. May we learn something about God’s holiness, what he loves and what he hates from reading that covenant? Of course! Should we impose that covenant on Gentiles? The apostles at the Council of Jerusalem didn’t seem to think so.

        Grace and peace,


        Sent from my iPad

      • November 19, 2012 at 11:49 pm

        You use language in such a different way it is almost as if we are speaking a different language 🙂

        I do not see several different covenants in Scripture, but only one: the covenant of Grace. From Adam, who was graciously created, given a wife, and put in the garden… all the way to Paul, who persecuted and killed Christians and was graciously redeemed by Christ, we all depend on God’s eternal grace.

        I would summarize my position as above: not making any distinction in the law of God between the two, the ten, the case laws, and Christ’s perfect obedience to and explanation of the Perfect and Holy (and unchanging) Law of God.

        That has been the position of the reformers, generally, and it is the position I hold.

      • November 20, 2012 at 12:12 am

        I’ll just make one additional comment and we can agree to disagree. Though I believe God established a unilateral agreement with Adam and constituted him the head of his race, when the New Testament writers speak of two covenants, they don’t refer to that covenant and an unmentioned, overarching covenant of grace [by this I am not denying God’s purpose of grace], but to the Mosaic Covenant, Old Covenant, Law inscribed on tables of stone and the New Covenant. See Gal 4:24-31 for example. I like the New one better. The question is not whether we all depend on God’s eternal grace. The issue is that the NT Scriptures clearly define the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. One is a conditional covenant of works “the man who does them shall live by them” and the other is an unconditional covenant of grace. The blessings of the Old Covenant are ours because our substitute, the consummate Israelite, fulfilled all its conditions and earned all his blessings. In him, we enjoy the blessings of the New Covenant.

        Enjoyed the discussion, but I suspect we have chewed all the life out of it.

        Thanks for stopping by.


        Sent from my iPad

      • November 20, 2012 at 12:32 am

        Agreeing that there are two covenants mentioned in Galatians 4, I will add the note that Isaac (hint: Great… grandfather of Moses) was part of the covenant of Promise. Thus we cannot be talking about God’s Perfect Law, given to Moses.

        I believe that what Galatians is talking about is the FALSE idea that we can be saved by works: which is refuted by Paul in many places.

        Rom 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

        Rom 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
        Rom 8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

  5. November 20, 2012 at 1:28 am

    Ishmael was included in the covenant of promise as well. The heir who really matters is Christ. We are heirs because we are united to him by faith. The Old Covenant was a typical parenthesis that was intended to provide a stage on which the drama of redemptive history might be played out. In codifying God’s Law, it fully defined why Abraham and others needed to be justified. It exacerbated the problem of sin.

    Nothing that can be said of the nation established by the covenant of Sinai, is equal to the same language used of the church. Israel was not an embryonic form of the chruch. It is merely a typical representation of the church. It was elected, adopted, redeemed, called etc., but none of those terms is used in the same way when applied to the church.

    I know your position on these issues. I agree that Paul fought against legalism, but he doesn’t talk about not being under legalism. He talks about casting out the bondwoman which he identifies as the covenant, and the covenant was the law inscribed on tables of stone.

    I have rejected your position. If you have some new and pursuasive information for me that I have not read and considered, I will be happy to respond to it.

    I have written a ton of stuff that you can read here and at http://www.new-covenant-theology.org. I invite you to read what I have written and interact with it. It really serves no purpose for me to have to repeat what it there to be read. I repeat my offer to send you my book on Galatians.

    I think the reason we seem to be speaking different languages is that I have opted to move away from much of the standard CT language and concepts that though common among the Reformed are nowhere to be found in Scripture.

    I believe Calvin was nuts when it comes to infant baptism and government. Both those errors flowed from his concept of the covenants. If you are a Theonomist, you probably like his views. If you aren’t you are inconsistent with your views. But that is a whole other can of worms.

    I’m not trying to brush you off. It is just that I think I have written enough that I don’t need to have to repeat it.

    This has been fun and I think we understand each other’s positions, but I’m old and tired. If you come up with something I haven’t heard, I’ll be happy to listen to it.

  6. November 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    >> I agree that Paul fought against legalism, but he doesn’t talk about not being under legalism.

    BTW I never said, nor would I say, that ‘Paul fought against legalism’. Not sure where you got that from my writings. I don’t use the word ‘legalism’.

    Oh, and I think Calvin was wrong on infant baptism, and inconsistent with his own views.

    • November 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm

      Please forgive me for using an unauthorized word. I don’t care what you call it, Paul was fighting against legalism. The FALSE idea that we can be saved [or gain any kind of favor with God] by works, usually works of the Law, is what I would refer to as legalism. If you don’t like the term, don’t use it. I like the term and I will use it. If you feel I have in some way misrepresented your position, I ask for your forgiveness.

      Frankly, I don’t care a lot about Calvin. I love the truth of sovereign grace, but I think the Reformers were pretty much a bunch of jerks. The more history I read, the more I am thankful to be alive now.

  7. November 22, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    No apology necessary. I agree that Paul fought against the idea that one could be saved by works… indeed that anyone, ever, was or could have been saved by works. I also believe that he fought against the idea that, in order to be saved, one had to become a Jew.

    My issue with the word ‘legalism’ is that it is not a Biblical word; and that it tends to get filled with whatever definition one likes. The logic goes like this:
    1) We all know that legalism is wrong
    2) This thing I don’t like is ‘legalism’
    3) Thus this thing is wrong

    And then you spend the whole day arguing about whether or not ‘this thing’ is ‘legalism’… as if the word actually had a Biblical definition… instead of discussing whether or not it is wrong (ie condemned by Scripture).

    • November 22, 2012 at 2:37 pm

      OK, so let’s not ever use terms in theological discussion that don’t occur in the Bible.

      Sent from my iPad

      • November 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm

        Wow, is that what you think I said?
        The word ‘legalism’ is particuarly problematic but, I would argue, any non-Scriptural word could be subject to the same problem. One would not want to find himself arguing about ‘the meaning of the word Trinity’ instead of what is the actual nature of the godhead, eh what?

      • November 22, 2012 at 2:54 pm

        No, I said that. I didn’t say you said that. Now, it looks as if you did say that. ” I would argue, any non-Scriptural word could be subject to the same problem.” I don’t think we need to stop using the terms; we simply need to be sure everyone understands the way we are defining them.

        Sent from my iPad

      • November 22, 2012 at 2:59 pm

        It depends upon the term. While ‘trinity’ can be used that way, it seldom is. Most debates about ‘trinity’ that I have seen do focus more on what the actual truth is than what the word means.

        But I avoid the term ‘legalism’ for exactly the reason I stated above: It is often argued in that way. I have seen literally dozens of discussion where something was condemened as ‘legalism’ without any proof, because everyone agreed that ‘legalism’ was wrong.

        What is wrong is attempting to be saved by works, or attempting to be saved by being or becoming a Jew.

      • November 22, 2012 at 3:03 pm

        OK, cool. As I said, the only thing that is important is to be sure we are using terms for which everyone in the discussion understands the definition. This is why I said I disagreed with Spurgeon. If he had defined “Law” differently, I might have agreed with him.

        Sent from my iPad

      • November 22, 2012 at 3:12 pm

        Actually, I was thinking more about terms like “free will.” Everyone knows that is in the Bible.

        Sent from my iPad

  8. November 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Ah, I don’t get that much. Most of the words I spend most of my time talking about are in the Bible. One word I would add to the mix, that not only isn’t in the Bible but contradicts what the Bible has to say, is ‘courtship’.

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