C. O. Rosenius – The Purpose of the Law

“Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” — Romans 5:20

Nothing else helps! Man can never be made to pay the right homage to the Taker-away of his sins if he is not driven and compelled by the sin and the Law. God is reconciled. He says: “I will not remember thy sins” (Is 43:25). His merciful heart burns with love towards all those He has bought so dearly. But they cannot be saved, they cannot be made to flee to the cities of refuge, unless they are chased by the avenger of blood. Therefore He must always plague, frighten, and exhaust us with the commandments and judgments of the Law. As Joseph burned with love when his brothers came to Egypt, and immediately decided to do good to them, though via his interpreter he still “spake roughly” (Gen 42:7) to them, and let his men bind and imprison, frighten and grieve them in order to make their hard hearts soft, so also the Lord must frighten, imprison, compel, and grieve us through His servant and interpreter, Moses. “But he does not grieve willingly the children of men” (Lam 3:33). “What things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the Law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom 3:19) — in order that sin may
abound.

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Jeff Robinson – Some Reasons Personal Holiness has been Neglected in American Churches

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“Good works, performed in obedience to God’s commandments, are these: the fruits and evidences of a true and living faith. By these believers express and show their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, stop the mouths of adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that having their fruit unto holiness they may have the end eternal life.” — Second London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, Chapter 16, Paragraph 2

One of the most frightening verses in the entire Bible is Hebrews 12:14, particularly the final phrase: “…and pursue holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” Yet, like Aragorn’s dramatic words to Frodo Baggins in their encounter at the Prancing Pony in The Fellowship of the Ring, I don’t think we’re frightened enough.

The author’s words are an imperative, and the holiness he is commanding is not the spotless righteousness of Christ imputed to the believer at conversion. Rather, he is speaking of purity of life. Essentially, the writer is telling his audience to pursue Christ-likeness, for without ongoing transformation into the image of Christ, a sinner has no rightful claim on the grace of God. In real life, this means we can go to church, read our Bibles daily, pray regularly, and yet, if we are not being transformed so that our lives reflect Christ’s, as Spurgeon put it, we may prove to be unconverted at last and go to hell on a feather bed.

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Charles Spurgeon – Grace Abounding Over Abounding Sin

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“Moreover the Law entered, that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Romans 5:20

The first sentence will serve as a preface. The second sentence will be the actual text. “Moreover the Law entered, that the offense might abound.” Man was a sinner before the Law of Ten Commandments had been given. He was a sinner through the offense of his first father, Adam. And he was, also, practically a sinner by his own personal offenses. For he rebelled against the light of nature and the inner light of conscience. Men, from Adam downward, transgressed against that memory of better days which had been handed down from father to son and had never been quite forgotten.

Man everywhere, whether he knew anything about the Law of Moses or not, was alienated from his God. The Word of God contains this truthful estimate of our race — “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable. There is none that does good, no, not one.” The Law was given, however, according to the text, “that the offense might abound.” Such was the effect of the Law. It did not hinder sin, nor provide a remedy for it. But its actual effect was that the offense abounded. How so?

It was so, first, because it revealed the offense. Men did not in every instance clearly discern what was sin. But when the Law came, it pointed out to man that this evil, which he thought little of, was an abomination in the sight of God. Man’s nature and character was like a dark dungeon which knew no ray of light. Yonder prisoner does not perceive the horrible filthiness and corruption of the place wherein he is immured, so long as he is in darkness. When a lamp is brought, or a window is opened and the light of day comes in, he finds out to his dismay the hideous condition of his den.

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Tom Hawkes – Holiness is Our Goal

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You shall be holy, for I am holy.

Recently Dr. Ed Welch, a man for whose ministry I have great respect and have benefited from immensely, wrote a blog post entitled, “https://www.ccef.org/resources/blog/holiness-not-goal” I wish to respectfully, and carefully, disagree. I wish to disagree, not so much with the sentiment of his article, to which I can say a hardy amen, but to the title and some of what I think are misunderstandings about holiness, which this article unfortunately propagates.

But first let me express my agreement with a core sentiment of his article. He invites his readers to consider holiness as “progressive nearness” to God. This is an excellent understanding of holiness. Holiness is rightly seen as a relational category and to the extent that Dr. Welch intends to clarify that truth, more power to him. Holiness is in large part a heart that turns to God and away from the world, the flesh and the devil. A mind that delights in the beauty of God. A soul that runs toward the Father’s love, not away from it.

Similarly, his caution against thinking of Christian faith as simply the to-do-lists of Scripture is abundantly correct and helpful. Christ did not call us to a mere external obedience to the Law. Indeed, the Law was never meant to be a list of external to-dos. Jesus made that clear when he declared in his summary that the Law was to be fulfilled by our love for God and neighbor, relational categories.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:37-39 ESV)

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Greg Bahnsen – God’s Unchanging Holiness and Law

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There is a sense in which the aim of every man’s life is to be like God. All men are striving to imitate God in one way or another. Of course not all attempts to be like God are honored by the Lord and rewarded with His favor, for there is a radical difference between submitting to the Satanic temptation to be like God (Gan. 3:5) and responding to Christ’s injunction that we should be like God (Matt. 5:48). The first is an attempt to replace God’s authority with one’s own, while the second is an attempt to demonstrate godliness as a moral virtue.

The basic character of godly morality was made manifest in the probation or testing placed upon Adam and Eve in the Garden. God had granted them permission to eat of any tree of the garden, save one. They were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil not because its fruit was injected with some literal poison that was not good for them, but as a test of whether they would live solely under the authority of God’s word to them. God had forbidden it. Would they, despite their empirical research and personal desires, submit to His command on His simple say-so? Would they do their duty on the sheer basis that it was their duty? Or would they evaluate the command of God on the basis of some external standard of reasonableness, practicality. and human benefit? The outcome of the story is all too well known. Satan beguiled Eve, denying what God had told her, and thereby leading her to assume the authoritative, neutral position of determining for herself whether God’s “hypothesis” or Satan’s “hypothesis” was true. Satan implied that God’s commands were harsh, too stringent, unreasonable. He in effect condemned the supreme, absolute, and unchallengable authority of God. He went on to suggest that God is in fact jealous, prohibiting Adam and Eve from eating of the tree lest they become like Him — lest they become rivals to Him in determining what is good and evil. Thus our first parents were led to seek a lifestyle which was not bound by law from God; thus they were tempted into deciding for themselves what would count as good and evil. Law would not be laid down to them by God, for they would lay it down for themselves. Demonstrating sin’s lawlessness (I John 3:4) they became “like God” — law-givers of their own making and authority. God’s law, which should have been their delight, became burdensome to them.

By contrast, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, lived a life of perfect obedience to the laws of God. When Satan tempted Him to depart from the path of utter obedience to God’s commands, the Savior replied by quoting from the Old Testament law: you are not to tempt the Lord your God, you are to worship and serve Him alone, and you are to live by every word that proceeds from His mouth (Matt. 4:1-11). Here we have the very opposite of Adam and Eve’s response to Satan. Christ said that the attitude which in genuinely godly recognizes the moral authority of God alone, does not question the wisdom of His dictates, and observes every last detail of His word. This is man’s proper path to God-likeness. To live in this fashion displays the image or likeness of God that man was originally intended to be (Gen. 1:27), for it is living “in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Genuine godliness, as commanded in the Scripture, is gained by imitating the holiness of God on a creaturely level — not by audacious attempts to redefine good and evil in some area of life on your own terms.

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Sinclair Ferguson – Oh How I Love Your Law!

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At a PGA Tour tournament in October 2015, Ben Crane disqualified himself after completing his second round. He did so at considerable financial cost. No matter — Crane believed the personal cost of not doing it would be greater (encouraged by a devotional article he had read that morning by Davis Love III, the distinguished former Ryder Cup captain).

Crane realized he had broken one of the more recondite rules of golf. If I followed the story rightly, while in a hazard looking for his ball, he leaned his club on a stone. He abandoned the ball, took the requisite penalty for doing so, played on, and finished his round. He would have made the Friday night cut comfortably; a very successful weekend financially beckoned. Then Ben Crane thought: “Should I have included a penalty for grounding my club in a hazard?” Sure enough (Rule 13.4a). So he disqualified himself.

(Got it? Hopefully, no readers of Tabletalk will lie awake tonight now knowing the trophy was won illegally.)

Crane has been widely praised for his action. No avalanche of spiteful or demeaning attacks on cyberspace or hate mail for being narrow-minded. All honor to him. Intriguingly, no one seems to have said or written, “Ben Crane is such a legalist.”

No, Tabletalk is not starting a new sports column this month. But how odd it is to see so much praise for his detailed attention to the rules of golf, and yet the opposite when it comes to the rules of life, the (much more straightforward) law of God, even in the church.

There is a problem somewhere.

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John Frame – Law and Gospel

John Frame

It has become increasingly common in Reformed circles, as it has long been in Lutheran circles, to say that the distinction between law and gospel is the key to sound theology, even to say that to differ with certain traditional formulations of this distinction is to deny the gospel itself.

Sometimes this argument employs Scripture passages like Rom. 3:21-31, emphasizing that we are saved by God’s grace, through faith alone, apart from the works of the law. In my judgment, however, none of the parties to the debate questions that justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, by the imputed righteousness of Christ alone. But it is one thing to distinguish between faith and works, a different thing to distinguish law and gospel.

1. The Traditional Distinction

The distinction between law and gospel is not a distinction between a false and a true way of salvation. Rather, it is a distinction between two messages, one that supposedly consists exclusively of commands, threats, and therefore terrors, the other that consists exclusively of promises and comforts. Although I believe that we are saved entirely by God’s grace and not by works, I do not believe that there are two entirely different messages of God in Scripture, one exclusively of command (“law”) and the other exclusively of promise (“gospel”). In Scripture itself, commands and promises are typically found together. With God’s promises come commands to repent of sin and believe the promise. The commands, typically, are not merely announcements of judgment, but God’s gracious opportunities to repent of sin and believe in him. As the Psalmist says, “be gracious to me through your law,” Psm. 119:29.

The view that I oppose, which sharply separates the two messages, comes mainly out of Lutheran theology, though similar statements can be found in Calvin and in other Reformed writers.1 The Epitome of the Lutheran Formula of Concord, at V, 5, recognizes that gospel is used in different senses in Scripture, and it cites Mark 1:15 and Acts 20:21 as passages in which gospel preaching “correctly” includes a command to repent of sin. But in section 6, it does something really strange. It says,

But when the Law and the Gospel are compared together, as well as Moses himself, the teacher of the Law, and Christ the teacher of the Gospel, we believe, teach, and confess that the Gospel is not a preaching of repentance, convicting of sins, but that it is properly nothing else than a certain most joyful message and preaching full of consolation, not convicting or terrifying, inasmuch as it comforts the conscience against the terrors of the Law, and bids it look at the merit of Christ alone…

I say this is strange, because the Formula gives no biblical support at all for this distinction, and what it says here about the “gospel” flatly contradicts what it conceded earlier in section 5. What it describes as “correct” in section five contradicts what it calls “proper” in section 6. What section 6 does is to suggest something “improper” about what it admits to be the biblical description of the content of gospel, as in Mark 1:15 and Acts 14:15.2 Mark 1:15 is correct, but not proper.

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Ryan Reeves – What is Antinomianism and Who Teaches It?

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Steve Furtick used a bad sermon analogy, saying ‘God broke the Law for love’. Blogs have come out about it. At this point it is unclear to me if this is a case of sloppy sermonizing or bad theologizing (the two are not always the same). Let’s assume it’s the latter. At the very least let’s use this as an opportunity to clarify how we speak of the Law, since we are all capable to sloppy analogies.

For context, the two blogs I would recommend are from Jared Wilson and Tim Challies. Jared doubles down on the the problem of Antinomianism and how grace corrects this; Challies takes this same path and is especially good at the end where he points to the work of Sinclair Ferguson. Both will give you the lay of the land.

I won’t rehash those points. Instead, I want to explore our modern use of the language of Law, legalism, and Antinomianism. I think there is a helpful clarification on this issue, one at least that has shaped my language.

But let me start, too, by stating that I have no particular target in the following comments—or maybe the target is my younger self. I find this is a problem I first noticed in my own studies, then in my own writing, and finally in my own teaching. I am grateful for my teachers and colleagues who have helped me work through these thorny issues and corrected my own bad analogies.

HOW ANTINOMIANISM IS DESCRIBED TODAY

The basic jargon on the Law and legalism rests on the ‘3 Uses of the Law’ (which I describe here). Essentially, the Law first shows us our sin and points us to the Gospel (2nd Use). However, for some, the Law can be used post-conversion to stress the need for obedience (3rd Use). The problem is how to use the Law in two seemingly contradictory ways, one contrary to our nature and the other seemingly as honey in our mouths. Reformed and Lutheran perspectives have differed on this answer almost from the beginning.

The inverse of this problem is found in the term ‘Antinomianism’. This word can be equally confusing, as it is a catchall for a variety of issues, not all of them similar. Here are the ways I’ve seen the word Antinomianism used:

1) Antinomianism is described as being those who preach sex, drugs, and rock and roll—a neo-Corinthian, living in ‘chambering and wantonness’ (old KJV). In Furtick’s video, he says nothing like this. Rather he seems to teach a bad hermeneutic of the relationship of the Old and New covenants. But he does seem to speak against the Law in a way that preps the soil for Antinomian seeds: God broke the Law because it was a stupid set of rules. This first use of Antinomianism, then, is those who wish to still live as prodigals.

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John Colquhoun – The Establishment of the Law by the Gospel

John Colquhoun

Although in the preceding chapter I have anticipated some of the thoughts which will be expressed here, yet the subject of this chapter is of such inexpressible importance that I cannot forbear considering it by itself. After the Apostle Paul had, in the third chapter of his epistle to the Romans, asserted and proved that all mankind are sinners, and that the justification of believing sinners in the sight of God is utterly unattainable by their own righteousness, and is entirely founded on the surety-righteousness of Jesus Christ, imputed by grace and received by faith; he has in the following words obviated an objection which he foresaw would be made to that fundamental doctrine: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31). One of the objections then made, and still urged, by the enemies of the gospel against the doctrine of a sinner’s free justification for the righteousness of Christ received by faith is that it derogates from the honor and obligation of the law, nay, that it annuls or abrogates the law. “Do we then,” says he, by asserting that a man is justified by faith only, and not by the works of the law, “make void,” or nullify the obligation of the moral law? With deep abhorrence of such an insinuation, he replies, “God forbid”; far be it from us; on the contrary, we, by that doctrine, “do establish the law.”

It is as if he had said, “We are so far from making void or annulling the law through faith that we thereby establish and make it stand in all its force.” By the law here, the apostle cannot mean the ceremonial law; for by the word of faith as preached by the apostles of Christ this was made void, but the moral law, and that both as a covenant of works and as a rule of life. By faith, in this place, the apostle seems to mean both the doctrine of faith and the grace of faith. The doctrine of faith is the gospel strictly taken as distinguished from the law. The grace of faith is that grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of regenerate persons by the exercise of which they receive that doctrine, and the righteousness and salvation exhibited in it.

It will be proper here, in order to prevent mistakes concerning what is afterwards to be advanced, to remark that to make the law void is so to abrogate, abolish, or set it aside as to prevent it from being any longer binding on the conscience. It is to annul the divine authority and obligation of its precepts and penalties. The moral law, as the law of the infinitely glorious Jehovah, is enforced by all His sovereign and immutable authority. His infinite authority enforces every precept of it, and lays every rational creature under the firmest obligations possible to yield perfect obedience to it. Now to make this law void is to set aside its high authority and obligation, or to decline the authority and dissolve the obligation of its righteous precepts. Not that any man can do this effectually, but his attempting either directly or indirectly to do it is as criminal as if he could accomplish his design. To make it void is also to attempt setting aside the perfection, spirituality, and great extent of it. A man may be said to make void the law when he practically declares that the perfection, spirituality, and vast extent of it are not to be regarded, or when he puts it off as a covenant with imperfect and even with carnal, selfish, superficial, and partial obedience. Every sinner is guilty of this who goes about to establish his own righteousness in order to his justification; or endeavors to satisfy the law with imperfect instead of perfect obedience; with carnal instead of spiritual performances, and with partial instead of universal obedience.

To make the law void is likewise to invalidate the perpetuity of it. Not that any sinner has it in his power effectually to do this — for the moral law continues to be of immutable and eternal obligation upon all who are under it — but he attempts to abolish the perpetuity of it, with respect to himself, by persuading himself that although it originally obliged him to perform perfect obedience, yet now, in consequence of the mediation of Christ, it obliges him to yield such obedience no longer (Jude 4), and by presuming to satisfy the requirements of it as a covenant with sincere instead of perfect obedience, as if it ceased to require perfection of obedience any longer. Moreover, when sinners under the curse of it labor to persuade themselves that it cannot now exact from them perfect and perpetual obedience on pain of its tremendous curse, or when they stifle their convictions and try to keep their consciences easy under the condemning sentence of it, they do what they can to make it void. In few words, they may be said to make the law void when they deliberately set aside any of the uses of it. Though it cannot, since the entrance of sin into the world, justify sinners on the ground of their own obedience to it, yet, as was observed above, it is of standing use to sinners as well as to saints. Now if sinners set aside any of its uses, or refuse to “use it lawfully,” they thereby treat it with contempt, as if it was useless and insignificant. It is in these ways especially that self-righteous men attempt to make void the law of God.

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