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Which Laws Apply?

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    Which Laws Apply?

    by R.C. Sproul
    To this day, the question of the role of the law of God in the Christian life provokes much debate and discussion. This is one of those points where we can learn much from our forebears, and John Calvin’s classic treatment of the law in his Institutes of the Christian Religion is particularly helpful. Calvin’s instruction comes down to us in what he calls the threefold use of the law with respect to its relevance to the new covenant.

    The law, in its first use, reveals the character of God, and that’s valuable to any believer at any time. But as the law reveals the character of God, it provides a mirror to reflect to us our unholiness against the ultimate standard of righteousness. In that regard, the law serves as a schoolmaster to drive us to Christ. And one of the reasons that the Reformers and the Westminster divines thought that the law remained valuable to the Christian was because the law constantly drives us to the gospel. This also was one of the uses of the law that Martin Luther most strongly emphasized.

    Second, the law functions as a restraint against sin. Now, on the one hand, the Reformers understood what Paul says in Romans 7 that in a sense the law prompts people to sin—the more of the law unregenerate people see, the more inclined they are to want to break it. Yet despite that tendency of the law, there still is a general salutary benefit for the world to have the restraints upon us that the law gives. Its warnings and threats restrain people from being as bad as they could be, and so civil order is preserved.

    Third, and most important from Calvin’s perspective, is that the law reveals to us what is pleasing to God. Technically speaking, Christians are not under the old covenant and its stipulations. Yet, at the same time, we are called to imitate Christ and to live as people who seek to please the living God (Eph. 5:10; Col. 1:9–12). So, although in one sense I’m not covenantally obligated to the law or under the curse of the law, I put that out the front door and I go around the back door and I say, “Oh Lord, I want to live a life that is pleasing to You, and like the Old Testament psalmist, I can say, ‘Oh how I love Thy law.’” I can meditate on the law day and night because it reveals to me what is pleasing to God.

    Let me give you a personal example. Several years ago, I was speaking in Rye, N.Y., at a conference on the holiness of God. After one of the sessions, the sponsors of the conference invited me to someone’s house afterward for prayer and refreshments. When I arrived at the house, there were about twenty-five people in the parlor praying to their dead relatives. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I said, “Wait a minute. What is this? We’re not allowed to do this. Don’t you know that God prohibits this, and that it’s an abomination in His sight and it pollutes the whole land and provokes His judgment?” And what was their immediate response? “That’s the Old Testament.” I said, “Yes, but what has changed to make a practice that God regarded as a capital offense during one economy of redemptive history now something He delights in?” And they didn’t have a whole lot to say because from the New Testament it is evident that God is as against idolatry now as He was then.

    Of course, as we read Scripture, we see that there are some parts of the law that no longer apply to new covenant believers, at least not in the same way that they did to old covenant believers. We make a distinction between moral laws, civil laws, and ceremonial laws such as the dietary laws and physical circumcision. That’s helpful because there’s a certain sense in which practicing some of the laws from the Old Testament as Christians would actually be blasphemy. Paul stresses in Galatians, for example, that if we were to require circumcision, we would be sinning. Now, the distinction between moral, civil, and ceremonial laws is helpful, but for the old covenant Jew, it was somewhat artificial. That’s because it was a matter of the utmost moral consequences whether they kept the ceremonial laws. It was a moral issue for Daniel and his friends not to eat as the Babylonians did (Dan. 1). But the distinction between the moral, civil, and ceremonial laws means that there’s a bedrock body of righteous laws that God gives to His covenant people that have abiding significance and relevance before and after the coming of Christ.

    During the period of Reformed scholasticism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Reformed theologians said that God legislates to Israel and to the new covenant church on two distinct bases: on the basis of divine natural law and on the basis of divine purpose. In this case, the theologians did not mean the lex naturalis, the law that is revealed in nature and in the conscience. By “natural law,” they meant those laws that are rooted and grounded in God’s own character. For God to abrogate these laws would be to do violence to His own person. For example, if God in the old covenant said, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” but now He says, “It’s OK for you to have other gods and to be involved in idolatry,” God would be doing violence to His own holy character. Statutes legislated on the basis of this natural law will be enforced at all times.

    On the other hand, there is legislation made on the basis of the divine purpose in redemption, such as the dietary laws, that when their purpose is fulfilled, God can abrogate without doing violence to His own character. I think that’s a helpful distinction. It doesn’t answer every question, but it helps us discern which laws continue so that we can know what is pleasing to God.

    Source: Which Laws Apply? by R.C. Sproul

    #2
    Well written. There are some wonderful passages out there in the old covenant for praise and worship.
    Comment>

      #3
      Willian, regardind to what you wrote "we are called to imitate Christ and to live as people who seek to please the living God" > I think that's exactly why we should obbey most of the moral law we can, to please God and to imitate Christ. He was a Jew and because of that he accomplished all the law. What do we have to do?

      I am sure that we are under the Christ' s Grace and that we are saved only by faith in him. But the point is that he told us to keep obbeying his commandments and not to commit sins anymore (Matthew 5:16-48, John 8:3-11, Isaiah 56:1-7).

      Therefore, I am sure that the moral law (all the 10 commandments) in the old testament is worth to keep it, and obviously all the Jesus's commandments that we find in all the new testament. If we just focus on the teachings about Grace, we run the risk of relativizing every moral aspects of the word of God, like many who accept homosexuality, immoral behaviour, necromancy, and the list goes on, based just on the doctrine of Christ's Grace and Love (as I see in many chuches, including one that once I was part of it). It is a fact that the bible teaches that if you remain in sin you will inherit death (Rm 6:23, I Co 6:9-10, Revelation 21:7-8).

      Nowadays I am part of a jewish messianic congregation in Brazil, but as I am currently living in China, I am going to the only church that offers service in English (it's a Christian Fellowship Metting without denomination). And I still believe that any theologian or church have the truth (including the jewish messianic movement), only Jesus has the Truth and he promised to teach us through the Holy Spirit! We have to ask directly to him how we must live and find the answers in the Bible. ***I know you all do that, but I think that is important to reafirm the truth, because sometimes we focus on human dogmas. He is the Way, the Word and the Sword of the Spirit that we must wield every day (Psalm 149, John 1:1, Ephesian 6:17).

      Let's keep up the good work, studying his word and serving God until the day of the Lord!

      Maranata!






      Comment>

        #4
        same old religious globally-goop of morality. if you are in a agreement to do something then its immoral to refuse to do it. if you are in agreement with the Almighty through His Son then whatever the agreement says is law or "commandment" or "covenant". and in the case of OT law the agreement says

        Mat 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

        so, not one jot or tittle has changed, now what has been fulfilled is the question. things like sacrifices have been fulfilled, therefore not for anyone else to fulfill it, but anything other than that still stands as far as anyone can tell. how does Paul say it?

        Rom 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.


        but man isn't made for law is it, the law is made for man.
        Comment>

          #5
          Matthew 5:17-18
          (17) Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
          (18) For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (NASB)

          Some insist that "the Law" only refers to the Decalogue or "Moral Laws" but this is not true:
          1. BDAG (3rd Edition): The Sacred Scriptures (OT) referred to as a whole in the phrase the law and the prophets Mt 5:17 (nomos, page 678)
          2. J. P. Louw and Eugene Nida write that 'the Law and the Prophets' refer to: all of the sacred writings of the OT, including the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings - 'the sacred writings, the Law and the Prophets' (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, 33.58, page 396).

          The Lord Jesus came to fulfill the whole law through His life, teachings and sacrificial death. Unless it is commanded in the New Covenant all of the Old Covenant laws are obsolete.
          All of the Old Covenant commands are obsolete (Herews 8:13) -Christforums
          Comment>

            #6
            Originally posted by Vivian Delfini View Post
            Therefore, I am sure that the moral law (all the 10 commandments) in the old testament is worth to keep it, and obviously all the Jesus's commandments that we find in all the new testament.
            Christians are not under any command to obey the 7th day Sabbath rest.
            See post #24
            Why do most modern Christians only follow 9 of the 10 commandments? [Sabbath Day] -Christforums

            Furthermore, some of the commands of the Lord Jesus we find in the New Testament are not meant for Christians. One such example concerns the Pharisees. They would have commanded physical circumcision and the Lord Jesus told His followers to obey them (Matthew 23:3) but obviously physical circumcision is not a command for Christians in which they must obey.

            Comment>

              #7
              Dear Faber,

              I think we all agree that our salvation in ONLY through faith in Jesus, and that it leads to repentance and completely submission to his will. It's just not possible to achieve salvation through works.

              I, personally, just want to live as much as possible as my Savior, and it is a fact that he kept the sabbath, but he put it in another level of understanding: the sabbath was created to men, and not men to the sabbath. Also He told us that the law would not pass until the end of the world (mt 5), and that the appearance of morality does not matter, but the true intention of our hearts, in order to please God and love our neighbor.

              As long the 7th day was separated by God before the first covenant was made with Abraham and before the law was given to Moses, I firmly believe that it's not even a matter of observing the law, but it has a meaning to God as an act of praise, if your heart is sincere while doing it.

              I was raised in Presbyterian church and I used to think that the sabbath dind't matter to God, and also that the bible does not contradict itself. But as I have been reading the Bible over and over, I suddenly struggled with one bible passage in particular, Isaiah 56:

              “Don’t let foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord say,
              ‘The Lord will never let me be part of his people.’
              And don’t let the eunuchs say,
              ‘I’m a dried-up tree with no children and no future.’
              4 For this is what the Lord says:
              I will bless those eunuchs
              who keep my Sabbath days holy
              and who choose to do what pleases me
              and commit their lives to me.
              5 I will give them—within the walls of my house—
              a memorial and a name
              far greater than sons and daughters could give.
              For the name I give them is an everlasting one.
              It will never disappear!
              6 “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord,
              who serve him and love his name,
              who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest,
              and who hold fast to my covenant.
              7 I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem
              and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer.
              I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices,
              because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations."

              So, 1. God almighty said that sabbath has some value to the foreigners who are not circumcised. And 2. Jesus didn't bring us to his holy mountain of Jerusalem yet, it is a prophecy that will occur when He returns.

              Then back to Genesis 2:

              "1 So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. 2 On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested[a] from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation."

              and Mathew 5:

              "17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
              20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!"

              If the Word of God shall never pass and it does not contradict itself, so every little thing he said is important and shows us the nature of His character.

              But it's clear that we don't have to convert to judaism, circumcise all our man and keep the law to achieve salvation, that's impossible because we never ever could fulfill it all and also God doe not require it from us. Let the jews continue being jews, and also continue with the circumcision. What he have to do is accept Jesus as our savior, and as children of God, we have to search for holiness, even though we can't achieve this level yet, asking for God's mercy upon us until the second coming ("Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."Mt 5:48).

              Therefore, if you have surrendered to Christ and believe like me that keeping the sabbath is important to God, regarding the scriptures, why not trying to do that?

              But if you are firmly convinced that it doesn't have any importance, please continue doing what you are doing to glorify God with sincere heart. I do respect the different comprehensions of the scriptures and I don't expect to convince anybody.

              Finally, let us all, the children of God, return only to his word, and not to man's doctrines, without judging our brothers -

              "Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone." (Rm 14: 4-6)


              God bless you all!
              Last edited by Vivian Delfini; 09-19-2017, 10:58 PM.
              Comment>

                #8
                Originally posted by Vivian Delfini View Post
                I was raised in Presbyterian church and I used to think that the sabbath dind't matter to God, and also that the bible does not contradict itself.
                G'evening Vivian,

                Curious as to which Presbyterian church you belonged? I am Reformed Presbyterian from the Orthodox Presbyterian church, and our Westminster Confession of Faith states:

                VII. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in His Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, He has particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him:[34] which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week: and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week,[35] which, in Scripture, is called the Lord's Day,[36] and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.[37]

                VIII. This Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations,[38] but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.[39]

                [34] EXO 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. ISA 56:2 Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil. 4 For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant. 6 Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; 7 Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.

                [35] GEN 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. 1CO 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. ACT 20:7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

                [36] REV 1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.

                [37] EXO 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. MAT 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

                [38] EXO 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. EXO 16:23 And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. 25 And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the Lord: to day ye shall not find it in the field. 26 Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none. 29 See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. 30 So the people rested on the seventh day. EXO 31:15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. 16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed. ISA 58:13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words. NEH 13:15 In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. 16 There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. 17 Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? 18 Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath. 19 And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day. 21 Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath. 22 And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy.

                [39] ISA 58:13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words.


                For further reading and Scriptural references: Westminster Confession of Faith
                God bless,
                William
                Comment>

                  #9
                  Originally posted by Vivian Delfini View Post
                  I, personally, just want to live as much as possible as my Savior, and it is a fact that he kept the sabbath, but he put it in another level of understanding: the sabbath was created to men, and not men to the sabbath.

                  But it's clear that we don't have to convert to judaism, circumcise all our man and keep the law to achieve salvation, that's impossible because we never ever could fulfill it all and also God doe not require it from us. Let the jews continue being jews, and also continue with the circumcision.
                  Hello Vivian,
                  I already addressed Matthew 5:17-18 in post #5.

                  Your first point seems to say that since you want to live as much as possible as your Savior that you want to keep the Sabbath. That is fine but it is not a requirement for others to do so.
                  If a man today wants to live as much as possible as his Savior (Jesus) would this mean he must be physically circumcised as well?

                  Lord willing in the coming days I will address more passages used by some that we must obey all the Old Covenant Laws - like the 7th day Sabbath.

                  My wife is a former Seventh Day Adventist and years ago I had plenty of discussions with her and several people from her church about it. I can still recall she told them to bring the most knowledgeable people from her church and discuss the 7th day Sabbath with me because she wanted to hear both sides at the same time. Interestingly, 7 7th Day Adventists showed up at my home (7 against 1). By the end of the conversation I could sense their leader was really agitated with me because he tried at one point to mock me because even though I responded to all their questions and asked some they couldn't answer there was one passage I couldn't recall at the time but thank God He put it in my heart to remember it just before the end of the conversation which made their leader really annoyed. I felt an evilness from him. I hope and pray he wasn't hardened.
                  Comment>
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