Google+ Followers

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Law and Grace # 3

The Law in New Testament Usage (continued)

Some of the ablest commentators concur in this view. Meyer, writing on Matthew 5:17, says, "In "nomos," however, to think merely of the moral law is erroneous; and the distinction between the ritualistic, civil and moral law is modern". Peak declares, "This distinction between the moral and ceremonial law has no meaning in Paul". The same view is expressed by Godet, "In general, the distinction between the ritual and moral elements of the law is foreign to the Jewish conscience, which takes the law as a divine unity." Thus he argues that Paul must have held this view.

In his able article on New Testament law, J. Denny points out an interesting fact in the New Testament use of the term. With one exception, he maintains, a quotation from the Septuagint Version of Jeremiah 31:33 in Hebrews 8:10 and 10:16, the word "law" in the New Testament  is always found in the singular. Another commentator claims, "The law of God ... is the style of Scripture: a classical writer would say "the law" of  Athens or of Solon." This almost invariable singular form points to the unity of divine law as opposed to merely human laws.

The passage in Romans 2:15 may be cited as a possible exception to the general usage of "law" as referring to the total law of God. Paul speaks here of "the work of the law written in their hearts," that is, the Gentiles. Would not "the law" in this case be limited to its moral element? I do not think so. The very heart of the Old Testament ceremonial law was sacrifice, and the urge to offer sacrifice is universal, found among all peoples.

3. This one law of God includes appropriate penalties as an integral part in order to enforce its demands. The law of God cannot be separated from its sanctions, as some have assumed. "As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse" (Galatians 3:10). "The law worketh wrath" (Romans 4:15). The apostle also refers to the law as "the ministration of death," and "the ministration of condemnation" (2 Corinthians 3:7, 9). And again he designates it as "the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2). As Bishop Moule remarks, "It is the divine law ... by its very holiness the sinner's doom."

That law cannot be divorced from its proper penalties is also the view of the greatest human legal authorities. John Austin defined law as embodying three essential ideas - command, obligation and sanction." Daniel Webster is reported to have said, "A law without a penalty is simply good advice." In the state of Indiana there was an instructive lesson on exactly this point. The legislators passed a law against the use of daylight saving time but attached no penalty for breaking the law. With tongue in cheek the state officials left their public clocks on standard time (to set the proper example) and went to work an hour earlier. The rest of the people set their watches ahead and laughed at the law. Thus law tended to be brought into contempt.

To emasculate the law of God of its divine penalties and still call it "law" is a serious misnomer. It can only confuse the minds of men and finally bring all law, whether human or divine, into a contempt or indifference. Moreover, eventually such a procedure tends to empty the Cross of Christ of its deepest meaning. The law loses its absolute holiness, sin loses its awful demerit and Calvary loses its moral glory.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 4)

No comments:

Post a Comment