No End Runs Around God’s Laws

In our day many folks think they have escaped legalism by simply eliminating any antithesis between law and gospel. Thus they want to divide up Christ’s righteousness to BOTH the “instead of us” AND also to the “in us”.

They instruct us to stop looking only at the past and at the cross, and begin to look also to the salvation of the Holy Spirit in us (and thus the future work of Christ in our “activity”)

Though law and gospel are not the same thing, they are not opposed because they never claim to have the same function. Law says what God demands. The gospel says how Christ satisfied that demand for the elect.

The law never offered life off probation. Only one sin puts you under its curse. No matter how many acts of obedience you have to the law, the law never promises everlasting life.

The “end of the law” is Christ completing all that the law demanded, so that there is no remainder left for the Spirit enabled Christian to do. The gospel says DONE. The gospel does not say “to be done by the life of Christ in the elect”.

We must not attempt to eliminate the law/gospel antithesis by the abolishment of law or by saying that God now has a new and easier law. That kind of “dispensational adjustment” is not only antinomian but also still legalistic. –

The idea of some kind of “end run” around God’s law, so that God now changes the game and “cuts us some slack” and calls that grace, this misses what the gospel says about Christ’s satisfaction of the law for the elect.

Christians sin, and therefore their activity cannot ever satisfy the law. But God’s laws will not go unsatisfied. God is not a prisoner of His laws, but God does have a Holy nature and His laws are an expression of that nature, and God will always act justly. Only Christ therefore could ever satisfy God’s laws. The wages of the sins of the elect was Christ’s death. God’s law demanded that death.

The law is not the gospel and it never was the gospel. Romans 11:5–”So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is not on the basis of works; otherwise grace would not be grace.”

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6 Comments on “No End Runs Around God’s Laws”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Romans 2:13For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified….
    17But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

    25For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision

  2. markmcculley Says:

    A modern dictionary defines “gift” as something delivered to a recipient “gratuitously, for nothing.” Yet, according to John Barclay’s new book Paul and the Gift, It is Paul—not intuition or common sense or objective, timeless instinct—who is almost single-handedly responsible for making it seem obvious to most of us in the modern West that God’s grace excludes human working.
    For many 1st-century readers, God upheld his fidelity to Israel by distributing his grace to those who are worthy of it. For them this did not make God’s grace any less gracious. To define grace otherwise—to say that God gives it in disregard for the worth of its beneficiaries—they thought would be to open the door to moral chaos and anarchy, to snip the thread that links human pursuit of virtue with the deep structures of creation and providence.
    It was not “Lutheran theology” but Paul who undermined human religion’s quest to climb its way into divine favor. Opposing the “Judaizers” of his day, Paul in the 1st century anticipated Martin Luther’s struggles against a petty and fastidious medieval Catholicism in the 16th.
    Barclay grants that Luther mistakenly thought that Paul’s target in his Galatians epistle was self-reliant boasting (if that were the burning issue, “it is hard to see why Paul would discount both circumcision and uncircumcision”).
    Over against the “new perspective,” Barclay understands Paul to be unleashing a “bizarre,” even “dangerous” definition of grace . For Paul, grace is incongruous—it is a gift that does not “fit” or “match” the worth of those to whom God gives it. In defiance of human achievement, God gives grace to a supposedly successful but actually bankrupt person like Paul (the acme of Paul’s human “achievement” had actually set him against God’s church).
    In defiance of human failure, God gives grace to the utterly unworthy idol worshipers of Gentile cities around the Mediterranean. Because grace erupts, cause-less, in the event of Jesus’ death and resurrection, it can therefore be given to anyone ….No preparation is necessary, and no conditions must be met before the gift of Christ may be received.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Generalization by Phil Johnson, the ghostwriter– All those who deny Christ’s active obedience are teaching that redemption is accomplished by the setting aside of the law’s absolute demands, not by Christ’s perfectly fulfilling the law on our behalf. That overturns the clear teaching of Christ in Matthew 5:17: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    There was no Jewish law that commanded Christ or anyone else to be baptized with water . Christ was not offering obedience to the Jewish law, His water baptism was necessary, but the question is: In what way was it necessary? The answer cannot be that His water baptism merited righteousness for himself or anyone else – even though that is the claim of proponents of Christ’s law-keeping imputed.
    Vicarious in a representative or in his substitution (replacement, instead of) sense? If Christ was water baptized for us in that sense, why would believers need to be water baptized today?
    mark answers—I don’t think that Christ was watered as our substitute, but I do think there could be other motives for our being watered (don’t ask me which, I don’t care). My point is this—I don’t think Christ’s law keeping is a substitute for our obeying the law, but I do think that Christ’s death is a substitute for our being motivated to keep the law as a means of obtaining blessings, because i do think Christ’s death means our not being under the law. But I do NOT think that our not being under the law means that we cannot sin by disobeying the law of Christ.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Reformed people think that the cross without “active obedience imputed” is doing an end-run around the law

    Reformed person—Many people tend to think that when the Father sent the Son to die on the cross to forgive sins, he was in some sense “breaking the law.”Like, because of Jesus, God is letting our law-breaking somehow slide. The god preached in this kind of scenario can only forgive sins by in some way compromising his holiness. In other words, he sort of tips the scales towards his mercy and away from his righteousness. A lot of Christians tend to think of God’s work like that — bending the rules. He sacrifices one part of his self (holiness) in order that we might take advantage of another (love).

    Reformed person—God has declared that he will by no means clear the guilty So God instead makes guilty people righteous! But to do this in a way that is just, God must make a righteous person guilty. And he accomplishes this, the Bible reveals, by punishing our sin by punishing his son Jesus. In this way, all sin is accounted for. Whether by the wrath of hell or by the wrath of the cross, every single sin is accounted for. W hen you do a bit of “reverse engineering” on the atonement, you can see that it wouldn’t be very loving at all for God to have broken his own laws to save us. An atonement made by a law not perfectly satisfied is no atonement at all. If God broke his law to save me, I am not saved.

    Mark—sounds good, correct? It is good. But because the person is confessional Reformed, he can’t stop there, but goes on to add vicarious law-keeping into the mix. Sure, all wrath for the sins of the elect have been taken care of by Christ’s death. But then however, there are still the sins of omission, the sin of not doing what Adam was supposed to do to earn his own immortality. Despite all the talk of the cross, that additional merit is not added to the equation by the Reformed formula. Because, at the end of the day, the law given to Adam did not demand anybody’s death, and even if you die, or if somebody dies for you, the law still expects you to produce.

    Reformed person—The Christian God is both just and justifier, not only forgiving sinners but also by making them righteous not by their obedience (because they could never obey well enough) but by Christ’s obedience, which is perfect and thus perfectly fulfills the perfectly holy law of God. Christ’s perfect obedience to the law of God is considered as my own perfect obedience to the law of God.

    So much for Christ and Him crucified.

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