Article 5: The Inadequacy of the Law
In this respect, what is true of the light of nature is true also of the Ten Commandments given by God through Moses specifically to the Jews. For man cannot obtain saving grace through the Decalogue, because, although it does expose the magnitude of his sin and increasingly convict him of his guilt, yet it does not offer a remedy or enable him to escape from his misery, and, indeed, weakened as it is by the flesh, leaves the offender under the curse.
Having dealt with the fact that the purpose of natural revelation is not to redeem but to provide a natural knowledge of God as well as to further expose fallen humanities’ sinfulness, the authors of the Canons now turn to the question of the ability of Adam’s fallen race to satisfy God’s righteous requirements as they are revealed in law.
Though it is absolutely clear from Scripture that the law is written upon the hearts of all humanity—Paul makes this point in Romans 2:14-15—it is equally important for us to take note of the fact that the Ten Commandments give concrete and explicit content to that which is implicitly revealed in natural revelation. God’s revelation of the law to Moses at Mount Sinai (which is a republication of the terms of the covenant of works God made with Adam in Eden) is God’s act in making explicit (through publication) what had been only implicit (i.e. in the human heart) in general revelation.
It has been argued by some that even after the fall, humanity can earn sufficient merit to attain a right standing before God on the basis of obedience to the law of nature (i.e. the light which God has given to all). But if the purpose of natural revelation was to give a natural knowledge of God and further expose humanities’ sinfulness, the same is certainly the true purpose of the law, only more so! The law can only condemn, not give life.
Consider the brief survey of the following texts from Romans and Galatians which address the true purpose of the law. In Romans 3:19, Paul argues that the law was given, not as a way of salvation, but in order that every mouth might be shut and the whole world held accountable to God. According to Romans 3:20, the purpose of the law is to give us a knowledge of sin. In fact, in Romans 5:20, Paul tells us that the law makes sin increase! Furthermore, the law serves to bring us under judgement (4:14) and no one will be justified by law (3:20). According to Paul, sin brought about all kinds of lust, aroused by the commandment, and says Paul, sin is dead apart from the law (7:8). It was “through the commandment” that sin deceived and brought Paul under condemnation and death (7:11). Our sinful passions work through the law (7:5) and the law is weak because of the flesh (8:3).
In Galatians, Paul says the same thing. The law never justifies people (Galatians 2:16; 3:11), because the law is sin’s strength (1 Corinthians 15:56). The law was given to lead people to Christ (Galatians 3:24); those under the law were in need of forgiveness, and Jesus Christ came as one under law in order to redeem those under the law (Galatians 4:5). As is the case with natural revelation, the law was given not as a means of salvation, but as to show us our sinfulness and need of a Savior.
According to John Murray’s helpful summary of this (Principles of Conduct, 184-186), there are a number of things the law can do and cannot do, and it might be helpful to summarize them here.
First, what the law can do:
1. Law commands and demands; it propounds what the will of God is. The law of God is the holiness of God coming to expression for the regulation of thought and conduct consonant with his holiness. We must be perfect as God is perfect; the law is that which the perfection of God dictates in order to bring about conformity with his perfection.
2. Law pronounces approval and blessing upon conformity to its demands. The commandment was ordained to life (Romans 7:10), and the man that does the things of the law will live them (Galatians 3:12). Law not only enunciates justice; it guards justice. It ensures that where there is righteousness to the full extent of its demand there will be corresponding justification and life. Only when there is deviation from its demands does any adverse judgement proceed from the law.
3. Law pronounces the judgement of condemnation upon every infraction of its precept. The law has nought but curse for any person who has once broken its sanctity; he who is guilty at one point is guilty of all. `Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them' (Galatians 3:10).
4. Law exposes and convicts of sin. It exposes the sin that may lie hid in the deepest recesses of the heart. The law is spiritual and as the word of God it is living and powerful, searching the thoughts and intents of the heart (cf. Romans 7:14; Hebrews 4:12). It is this discriminating and searching function of the law that Paul describes when he says `I had not known lust except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet' (Romans 7:7); the law lays bare the self-complacency that blinds us to the depravity of our hearts.
5. Law excites and incites sin to more virulent and violent transgression. Law, of itself, so far from renewing and reforming the depraved heart, only occasions more intensified and confirmed expression of its depravity. `But sin taking occasion through the commandment wrought in me all manner of lust' (Romans 7:8; cf. verses 9, 11, 13). The law, therefore, instead of relieving or relaxing our bondage to sin, intensifies and confirms that bondage. The more the light of the law shines upon and in our depraved hearts, the more the enmity of our minds is roused to opposition, and the more it is made manifest that the mind of the flesh is not subject to the law of God, neither can be.
Second, what the law as law cannot do:
1. Law can do nothing to justify the person who in any particular has violated its sanctity and come under its curse. Law, as law, has no expiatory provision; it exercises no forgiving grace; and it has no power of enablement to the fulfillment of its own demand. It knows no clemency for the remission of guilt; it provides no righteousness to meet our iniquity; it exerts no constraining power to reclaim our waywardness; it knows no mercy to melt our hearts in penitence and new obedience.
2. It can do nothing to relieve the bondage of sin; it accentuates and confirms that bondage. It is this impossibility to alleviate the bondage to sin that is particularly in view in Romans 6:14. The person who is `under law', the person upon whom only law has been brought to bear, the person whose life has been determined exclusively by the resources and potency of sin. And the more intelligently and resolutely a person commits himself to law the more abandoned becomes his slavery to sin. Hence deliverance to the bondage of sin must come from an entirely different source.
This is exactly what the authors of the Canons intend, when they declare: “For man cannot obtain saving grace through the Decalogue, because, although it does expose the magnitude of his sin and increasingly convict him of his guilt, yet it does not offer a remedy or enable him to escape from his misery, and, indeed, weakened as it is by the flesh, leaves the offender under the curse.”
The law exposes our sin and should point us to Christ!
Living in Light of Two Ages
Article 5: The Inadequacy of the Law
We've all heard the quip from Martin Luther, who, when (supposedly) asked "what would you do if you knew that the Lord was returning tomorrow?" replied, "I'd plant an apple tree today." This guy has a different answer. He wants to blow stuff up! Click here: 01/31/2009 - St. Charles County man charged with stealing explosives for 'end of the world' - STLtoday.com
Speaking of end-times confusion, here is a rather distressing "O be careful little hands what you do" approach to our Lord's return. Instead of telling people why they shouldn't waste time watching TV when they could be witnesses of Christ, why not stress the glories of the blessed hope. Remember, for a Christian, our Lord's return is pure gospel, not law. Click here: Jesus is coming – where are your children?
Gay marriage is not only a denial of the creation order, it makes for very bad law. One of the happy couples who pushed for gay marriage in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is now divorcing. While that comes as no surprise whatsoever, the cynic in me wants to know, "who gets the car, the blender, and the cat?" Which one will have to pay alimony? Even worse, this will create a whole new specialized field of lawyers--"Gay divorce lawyers." Swell, just what we need. Click here: My Way News - Mass. couple who led gay marriage fight to divorce
With a given name like "Kimball" Riddlebarger, its a wonder (according to a new study) that I haven't lived a life of crime. Well, I have, I've just kept in my heart. Click here: FOXNews.com - Boys With Unusual Names More Likely to Break Law - Science News | Science & Technology | Technology
Here's the link to the audio from my discussion with Todd Wilken (Tuesday, February 3, 2009) about the differences between Lutheranism and Calvinism. As always, Todd did a great job and asked some great (and key) questions.
We discussed our differences regarding the "five points" and the sacraments.
Note: The link has been updated
The Thirty-Fifth in a Series of Sermons on Paul's Epistle to the Church in Rome
Having made the case that God justifies the wicked through faith in Jesus Christ, at some point in this epistle Paul must address the subject of Christian liberty. The issue is simply this: Since we justified by the merits of Christ, who fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law by his perfect obedience, this means that we are not bound in any sense to those things not commanded in God’s word. But how do we relate to those who still think it wrong to do certain things, even when such things are not forbidden in Scripture? Paul discusses this matter using the categories of weak and strong, the weak being those who have scruples about things not forbidden in Scripture.
The fact that there are both weak and strong in the church in Rome is the reason why in Romans 14, Paul pronounces all foods clean. Paul must prevent the weak (the Jews) from trying to force Gentile converts to Christianity to live as Jews and keep a kosher diet, in effect, speaking of good things as though they were evil, something the apostle forbids. The feuding between the weak and strong is also why Paul exhorts the Christians in Rome to keep the particulars of their Lord’s Day observance as a matter between themselves and God, before going on to exhort them not to judge their brothers and sisters when it comes to any disputable matter. Since we all belong to the Lord, who alone is judge of all things (including our personal behavior), let us not bicker about such things as food and drink, or what we do or do not do on the Lord’s Day. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but a matter of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
In Romans 12, Paul began the so-called practical section of this letter by exhorting Christians to stop being conformed to the pattern of this world and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. As we learn to think like Christians and stop thinking like pagans, our conduct will change accordingly. As Paul has pointed out, this change in our behavior will manifest itself in a number of ways: genuine humility, love for our brothers and sisters, submission to legitimate governing authorities, prompt and full payment of our debts, and a biblical sexual ethic in which fornication and adultery are regarded as sins. Paul speaks of this change in our thinking as clothing ourselves in Jesus Christ. While are already clothed with Christ by virtue of our baptism and union with Christ, we also are to clothe ourselves with Christ on a daily basis. We do this by putting to death the deeds of the flesh and as we daily rise to newness of life. As we are clothed with Christ we will begin to manifest the kind of behavior described throughout these final chapters of Romans.
To read the rest of this sermon, click here
I will be a guest on "Issues, Etc.," tomorrow talking with Pastor Todd Wilken about some of the differences between Calvinism and Lutheranism. If you know the "Issues" program and our history, you'll know that this will not be a debate but a discussion among friends about where we agree and where we don't.
You can listen tomorrow (Tuesday, 1-2 p.m. PT): Click here: Issues, Etc. Radio Program
I'll post the MP3 here when I get the link (probably Wednesday).
I just looked at the "Issues, Etc.," website. I'm on the same day as Miss America and one my former (and favorite) professors, John Warwick Montgomery. Quite a line-up, I'd say.
"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."
OK, who is responsible for this rant? Leave your guess in the comments section below. Please, no google searches or cheating. I'll post the answer next week.
As many of you correctly guessed, this quote comes from Richard Dawkin's God Hypothesis (2006), p. 31.
Here's the audio from today's sermon: http://links.christreformed.org/realaudio/KR20090201-1John.mp3
Here's the audio from Ken Samples' Academy lecture (1/30/09) "Confucius & Lao-Tzu," part four of Ken's series, "Jesus and the Other Religious Faces in the Crowd.”
Mike Horton's People and Place (my personal pick for the best book of 2008) won the 2009 Christianity Today book award for the best theology/ethics text.
Ken Samples continues his lecture series, "Jesus and the Other Religious Faces in the Crowd.” Ken's lecture tonight will be entitled: "Confucius & Lao-Tzu"
Here's the course Synopsis again: This lecture series will compare and contrast the historic Christian portrait of Jesus Christ with the world’s great religious leaders, including Gautama (Buddha), Confucius, Krishna, Lao-Tzu, Mahavira, Muhammad, Nanak, Baha’ullah, and Zoroaster. The series will explore the religious leader’s distinct status, mission, and legacy in comparison with Christ.
Textbooks: Neighboring Faiths by Winfried Corduan, Without a Doubt by Kenneth Samples