The Christian and the Law
1. Several answers, all evasive in character, have been given to the question: Is the Christian believer under the law? For the most part they are based upon wrong or inadequate definitions of law.
a. Some argue that the believer is under the moral law, but not under the ceremonial law.
b. Others say that we are under the moral law, but not under its penalties.
c. Still others assert that we are under the moral law as a rule of life, but not as a way of salvation. Another way of saying the same thing is that we are under the law for sanctification but not for justification.
d. Another view is that we are under the Sermon on the Mount, but not under the law of Sinai.
e. A rather curious view advanced recently is that the Christian believer is under "the law of God," but not under the "law of Moses." According to this scheme the "law of Moses" is the entire system of law recorded in the Pentateuch, whereas the "law of God' is limited to the Ten Commandments! That such a distinction between the "law of God" and the "law of Moses" cannot stand is clear from the Scriptures. See Luke 2:21-24, 39 where the same law is called variously the "law of Moses' and the "law of the Lord," and that law under consideration is ceremonial in nature. See also Mark 7:8-13 where what "Moses said" is also identified as the "commandment of God", and the material quoted from the Pentateuch includes one of the Ten Commandments and also a death penalty from the civil code. We will not be misled by any of the above erroneous views if we hold fast to that complete definition of the divine law, namely, that the law of God in the Bible is one law, including moral, ceremonial and civil elements, and inseparable from its penalties.
2. The meaning of the Biblical phrase "under the law." This expression occurs twelve times in the King James Version, fourteen times in the American Standard Version, Twice the Greek preposition is "en" (Romans 23:12; 3:19), eleven times it is "hupo" with the accusative case (Romans 6:14-15; 1 Corinthians 9:20; Galatians 3:23, 4:4-5, 21, 5:18). In the remaining passage the English phrase "under the law" represents a very dubious translation of a single Greek word (1 Corinthians 9:21), which will be discussed later.
According to Green the "en" of the above texts refers to the "sphere" in which the subject is dwelling and acting. This would correctly describe the Jew in relation to the divine law. He was not only under the law, but also "in" the law as the sphere of his existence and actions.
The preposition "hupo" with the accusative in the other texts means "subject to the power of any person or thing." Thayer cites as examples the very references under consideration in this study. An excellent illustration may be found in Matthew 8:9, where the Roman centurion says, "For I am a man under [hupo] authority, having soldiers under [hupo] me." Just as the centurion was absolutely under Roman military authority, both as to its laws and its penalties, so also were his soldiers under his authority.
In summary we may say that for one to be "under the law" in the Biblical sense is to be under the law of God - the entire Mosaic legal system in its indivisible totality - subject to its commands and liable to its penalties.
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 14)