Either Gross Ignorance or Malignant Opposition

John Murray, “Law and Grace:”

It is symptomatic of a pattern of thought current in many evangelical circles that the idea of keeping the commandments of God is not consonant with the liberty and spontaneity of the Christian man, that keeping the law has its affinities with legalism and with the principle of works rather than with the principle of grace. It is strange indeed that this kind of antipathy to the notion of keeping commandments should be entertained by any believer who is a serious student of the New Testament. Did not our Lord say, ‘If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments’ (John 14:15)? And did he not say, ‘If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love, even as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love’ (John 15:10)? It was John who recorded these sayings of our Lord and it was he, of all the disciples, who was mindful of the Lord’s teaching and example regarding iove, and reproduces that teaching so conspicuously in his first Epistle. We catch something of the tenderness of his entreaty when he writes, ‘Little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and truth’ (I John 3:18), ‘Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God” (I John 4:7). But the message oi John has escaped us if we have failed to note John’s emphasis upon the keeping of the commandments of God. ‘And by this we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that says, I know him, and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keeps his word, in him verily the iove of God is made perfect’ (I John 2:3-5). ‘Beloved, if our heart does not condemn, we have confidence toward God, and whatsoever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do those things that are well-pleasing in his sight . . . And he who keeps his commandments abides in him and he in him’ (I John 3:21, 22, 24). ‘For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments’ (I John 5:3). If we are surprised to find this virtual identification of love to God and the keeping of his commandments, it is because we have overlooked the words of our Lord himself which John had remembered and learned well: ‘If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love’ (John 15:10) and ‘He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me’ (John 14:21). To say the very least, the witness of our Lord and the testimony of John are to the effect that there is indispensable complementation; love will be operative in the keeping of God’s commandments. It is only myopia that prevents us from seeing this, and when there is a persistent animosity to the notion of keeping commandments the only conclusion is that there is either gross ignorance or malignant opposition to the testimony of Jesus.

~originally a part of  the Payton Lectures delivered by Professor Murray in March of 1955 at Fuller Theological Seminary. The entire lecture series was expanded and reprinted by Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1957 in book form with the title, Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics by John Murray.

Read more of what John Murray has to say on how the law and the gospel interrelate here: http://www.the-highway.com/lawgrace.html

Under a Fearful Delusion

I am much troubled by the rampant antinomianism and blatant disrespect for God’s moral law amongst professing Christians today.  Here a quote from J.C. Ryle that should give people pause:


“Genuine sanctification will show itself in habitual respect to God’s law, and habitual effort to live in obedience to it as the rule of life.  There is no greater mistake than to suppose that a Christian has nothing to do with the law and the ten commandments, because he cannot be justified by keeping them.  The same Holy Ghost who convinces the believer of sin by the law, and leads him to Christ for justification, will always lead him to a spiritual use of the law, as a friendly guide, in the pursuit of sanctification.  Our Lord Jesus Christ never made light of the ten commandments; on the contrary, in his first public discourse, the Sermon on the Mount, he expounded them, and showed the searching nature of their requirements.  St Paul never made light of the law: on the contrary, he says, “The law is good, if a man use it lawfully.’ – ‘I delight in the law of God after the inward man’ (1 Tim. 1:8; Rom 7:22).  He that pretends to be a saint, while he sneers at the ten commandments, and things nothing of lying, hypocrisy, swindling, ill-temper, slander, drunkenness, and breach of the seventh commandment, is under a fearful delusion.  He will find is hard to prove that he is a ‘saint’ in the last day!”

~J.C. Ryle, Holiness, Chapter 2

We Delight To See The Law In The Hand of Christ

Ernest Reisinger on dispensationalism and the moral law:

“The fourth pillar or root of this erroneous teaching [dispensationalism] is on the biblical relationship between the law and the gospel. The Moral Law (the Ten Commandments) to dispensational teaching today is nothing but the cold ashes and the dying fire of the religion of another day. However, the Moral Law carries permanent validity and goes straight to the root of our modern problems. It lays its finger on churches’ deepest needs in evangelism and in the Christian life, namely, sanctification. We live in a lawless age. Lawlessness in the home, school, land and in the church. We must find the same rules for our actions, the same duties required, the same sins forbidden in the gospel as in the law. The law by which God rules us is as dear to Him as the gospel by which he saves us.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, that great preacher and soul winner, in a sermon called “The Perpetuity of The Law of God,” said: “Very great mistakes have been made about the law. Not long ago there were those about us who affirmed that the law is utterly abrogated and abolished, and they openly taught that believers were not bound to make the moral law a rule for their lives. What would have been sin in other men, they counted as no sin in themselves. From such Antinomianism as that, may God deliver us. We are not under the law as the method of salvation, but we delight to see the law in the hand of Christ, and desire to obey the Lord in all things.”

Read more: http://founders.org/fj08/lordship-non-lordship-and-dispensationalism/

We Desire To Obey The Lord In All Things

“Very great mistakes have been made about the law. Not long ago there were those about us who affirmed that the law is utterly abrogated and abolished, and they openly taught that believers were not bound to make the moral law the rule of their lives. What would have been sin in other men they counted to be no sin in themselves. From such Antinomianism as that may God deliver us. We are not under the law as the method of salvation, but we delight to see the law in the hand of Christ, and desire to obey the Lord in all things.”

~Spurgeon, “The Perpetuity of the Law of God,” http://www.angelfire.com/va/sovereigngrace/perpetuity.spurgeon.html

The Threefold Use of the Law

THE THREEFOLD USE OF THE LAW
by R.C. Sproul

Every Christian wrestles with the question, how does the Old Testament law relate to my life? Is the Old Testament law irrelevant to Christians or is there some sense in which we are still bound by portions of it? As the heresy of antinomianism becomes ever more pervasive in our culture, the need to answer these questions grows increasingly urgent.

The Reformation was founded on grace and not upon law. Yet the law of God was not repudiated by the Reformers. John Calvin, for example, wrote what has become known as the “Threefold Use of the Law” in order to show the importance of the law for the Christian life.1

The first purpose of the law is to be a mirror. On the one hand, the law of God reflects and mirrors the perfect righteousness of God. The law tells us much about who God is. Perhaps more important, the law illumines human sinfulness. Augustine wrote, “The law orders, that we, after attempting to do what is ordered, and so feeling our weakness under the law, may learn to implore the help of grace.”2 The law highlights our weakness so that we might seek the strength found in Christ. Here the law acts as a severe schoolmaster who drives us to Christ.

A second purpose for the law is the restraint of evil. The law, in and of itself, cannot change human hearts. It can, however, serve to protect the righteous from the unjust. Calvin says this purpose is “by means of its fearful denunciations and the consequent dread of punishment, to curb those who, unless forced, have no regard for rectitude and justice.”3 The law allows for a limited measure of justice on this earth, until the last judgment is realized.

The third purpose of the law is to reveal what is pleasing to God. As born-again children of God, the law enlightens us as to what is pleasing to our Father, whom we seek to serve. The Christian delights in the law as God Himself delights in it. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). This is the highest function of the law, to serve as an instrument for the people of God to give Him honor and glory.

By studying or meditating on the law of God, we attend the school of righteousness. We learn what pleases God and what offends Him. The moral law that God reveals in Scripture is always binding upon us. Our redemption is from the curse of God’s law, not from our duty to obey it. We are justified, not because of our obedience to the law, but in order that we may become obedient to God’s law. To love Christ is to keep His commandments. To love God is to obey His law.

Summary

1. The church today has been invaded by antinomianism, which weakens, rejects, or distorts the law of God.
2. The law of God is a mirror of God’s holiness and our unrighteousness. It serves to reveal to us our need of a savior.
3. The law of God is a restraint against sin.
4. The law of God reveals what is pleasing and what is offensive to God.
5. The Christian is to love the law of God and to obey the moral law of God.

Biblical passages for reflection:
Psalm 19:7-11
Psalm 119:9-16
Romans 7:7-25
Romans 8:3-4
1 Corinthians 7:19
Galatians 3:24

1. Calvin, Institutes, bk. II, 1:304-310.
2. Calvin, Institutes, bk. II, 1:306.
3. Calvin, Institutes, bk. II, 1:307.

Excerpt from Essential Truths Of The Christian Faith by R. C. Sproul © (Tyndale 1992)