Not Under Law but Under Grace

I quote from p 143 (Stillman, Dual Citizens): “According to this view, under law means under the condemnation of God’s moral law, and under grace speaks of the deliverance from this condition. Some problems arise from this view.

First, Paul usually uses the word law to refer to the law of Moses in particular…When Paul spoke to those saints in the churches of Galatia who desired to be under the law, was he talking to people who longed to be under the condemnation of the law?…When Paul wrote that Jesus was born under the law, did he mean that Christ was born under the condemnation of the law?

Under law means under the jurisdiction of the Mosaic covenant. Furthermore, if under law and under grace are existential categories describing an individual’s condemnation or justification, then Paul’s argument is a non-sequitur.  It is not justification but sanctification that frees us from the dominion of the sin.”

Of course, that reading of Romans 6 is very common to many Reformed people.  Like John Murray, or Lloyd Jones, or Sinclair Ferguson, they tell us that “freed from sin” in Romans 6:7 cannot mean “justified from sin” because this chapter is about sanctification and not about justification.  It seems obvious to me that this is simply begging the question, and without some attention to the chapter, I will be guilty of simply begging the question the other way.

Stillman first asks: When Paul was warning the Galatians, were the false teachers wanting to be under condemnation? My answer is that Paul’s answer is that the false teachers were under the condemnation. If you go their way, Christ will be of no profit to you.

The gospel does not tell people that they want to be damned. The gospel says that they will be damned if their trust in anything else but Christ’s death for the elect.  That death alone, apart from  works enabled by the Spirit, be those works of Torah or of new covenant, is the only gospel.

Stillman’s second rhetorical question: when Paul wrote that Jesus was born under the law, did he mean that Christ was born under the condemnation of the law?  My answer is yes.

Gal 4:4: born of the law to redeem those under the law cannot mean only that Christ was born under the jurisdiction of Moses to get Jews free from that jurisdiction.  According to Gal 3:13, Christ became a curse under the law to redeem a people from the curse of the law.

The sins of all the elect were imputed to Christ, and as surety for the elect, Christ was born under the condemnation of God and God’s law. To see this, we need to attend to the first part of Romans 6 before we rush to the second part and conclude that it has to be about a sanctification that makes it ok for God to justify the ungodly. Romans 6:10 says that “the death He died to sin”.

We need to focus on Christ’s death to sin. Does this mean that Christ was unregenerate and then positionally cleansed  by the Holy Spirit? God forbid. Does it mean that Christ was carnal but then infused with the divine and became a partaker of the divine nature?  Again, God forbid.

Does it mean that Christ by being in the environment of the world and of the old covenant  needed a deliverance from “the flesh” and from the physical body? Once more, God forbid.  One more does it mean, and then I move on, lest I try your patience. Does it mean that God had to suffer intensely and infinitely before he died, because only in that way would He be “dead to sin”.  And again, no.

What does it mean that Christ died to sin? It means that the law of God demanded death for the sins of the elect imputed to Christ. As long as those sins were imputed to Christ, He was under sin, he was under law, He was under death.

Now death has no more power over Him? Why? Because the sins are no longer imputed to Him, but have been paid for and satisfied. And this is about the gospel, because the gospel is not about just about God justifying, but also about God being just and justifier.

Whatever you say about the Christian being dead to sin, this also needs to be said about Christ. If all it means is “not under Moses”, is that your gospel?

If the gospel is merely redemptive history, then all we know is that we have moved forward on the clock. Nobody is under Moses anymore. So what? How is that good news on your death bed?

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One Comment on “Not Under Law but Under Grace”

  1. Mark Mcculley Says:

    David Van Drunnen: “Justification is indeed ultimately not about whether a person is under the Mosaic law as a member of corporate Israel, but about whether a person is under the federal headship of the first Adam or the last Adam. But insofar as one of the chief divine purposes for the Mosaic law was to cause OT Israel to recapitulate Adam’s probation and fall, being under the Mosaic law was a profound illustration of the plight of humanity under the first Adam.” “Israel’s Recapitulation of Adam’s Probation”

    Donaldson—” Israel serves as a representative sample for the whole of humankind. within Israel’s experience, the nature of the universal human plight–bondage to sin and to the powers of this age– is thrown into sharp relief through the functioning of the law. The law, therefore, cannot accomplish the promise, but by creating a representative sample in which the human plight is clarified and concentrated, it sets the stage for redemption. Christ identifies not only with the human situation in general, but also with Israel in particular….”

    “The Curse of the Law and the Inclusion of the Gentiles”, NT Studies 1986, p 105

    cited in S.M. Baugh in Galatians 5:1-6 and Personal Obligation, p 268, in The Law Is Not Of Faith, P and R, 2009

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