Is Abrogation of the Law the Gospel? No, We Uphold the Law

Romans 3: 25–This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles
also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.”

The law is not the gospel. The gospel is not the law. The gospel, however,  IS ABOUT THE SATISFACTION OF GOD’S LAW.. 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. Gospel says how Christ by his Death (one act of righteousness) satisfied that demand for the elect. The law never offered life off probation:. only one sin would put Adam and his seed under its curse, and no matter how many acts of obedience to the law, the law could never promise everlasting life.

The antithesis does NOT understand Romans 10:4 in terms of abrogation. The “end of the law” is Christ’s death. Romans 6: 7 a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, 9 because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, WILL NOT DIE AGAIN. Death NO LONGER rules over Him. 10 For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin ONCE for all time. 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”.  But neither does the gospel say– “no  need for Christ to have ever satisfied the law by his death.”

teele and Thomas, Romans: an interpretative outline: “In order to free believers from the guilt or condemnation of sinChrist gave Himself as a sacrifice for sin, and thereby legally put sin away and thus freed His people from its guilt. As a result of Christ’s sacrificial work, the just requirement (demand) of the law has been fulfilled (fully met) in those who are joined to His death.”

Charles Hodge—-“Romans 8:3 refers to the sacrificial death of Christ and to the condemnation of sin in Him as the sinners’ substitute, and Romans 8:4 refers to justification by Christ’s death in satisfaction of the law.”

Tom Nettles, By His Grace and For His glory—-The idea of an offer based on infinite sufficiency for all sinners involves a shift in the understanding of the sacrificial death. Although Jesus’ death is spoken of as His obedience–and though the concepts of reconciliation and propitiation are defined as activities accomplished in the Father’s setting forth God the Son–when the notion of sufficiency for the non-elect arises, the emphasis shifts from the Son’s death to what Christ actively accomplished

Lee Irons—The obedience of Christ cannot be reduced to the perfect life of Christ, as if it excluded his death. For Christ’s death, Paul teaches in Romans 5:18, was “the one act of righteousness” antithetically parallel to the one transgression of Adam. As he says in Philippians 2:8, Christ was “obedient unto death.”

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, God sort of tips the scales towards his mercy and away from his righteousness— bending the rules. God sacrifices one part of his self (holiness) in order that we might take advantage of another (love).

But the true 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 second death of the non-elect or by the wrath of the cross, every single sin is accounted for. 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.

Christians sin, and therefore their “fulfillment of the law” (see for example, Romans 13) cannot ever satisfy the law. But the law will not go unsatisfied. There is no antinomian bypass around the law.

The law, once satisfied by Christ’s death, now demands the salvation of all the elect, for whom the law was satisfied. God the Father would not be just, and God the Son would not be glorified, if the distribution of the justly earned benefits were now conditioned on the imperfect faith of sinners. Yes, faith is necessary for the elect, but even this faith is a gift earned by the righteousness of God in Christ’s work.

This is how the law/gospel antithesis explains Romans 3:31 (no, we uphold the law). The law is not nullified but honored by Christ. The only way that its requirements will ever be fully satisfied in the elect (Romans 8:4) is by the imputation of what Christ’s death

If the law were the gospel, even saying that there’s law (in the garden and now) would be “legalism”. But God is a legalist against legalism. God has told us that the law is not the gospel and that 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.”

The legalist identifies law and gospel, and then reduces the demand to including what the Spirit does in the elect. But what God does in us (by grace) must be excluded from the righteousness, because Christ’s righteousness is Christ’s death as
satisfaction of God’s law.

The comparison between Adam and Christ is that the guilt of Adam’s one act of disobedience is imputed to the elect and that the righteousness of Christ’s one act of obedience is imputed to the elect. Adam and Christ were NOT born under the same law. Christ was born under the Mosaic law, but Adam was not. Christ came to die to win immortality for the elect. Adam was threatened with death for disobedience, but was never promised immortality no matter what he would ever do.

The elect who have been justified have died to law when they are placed into the death of Christ, a death to law because of law. If on top of the death taking away sins, Christ’s law obedience also needs to be imputed, then isn’t this saying instead by the death the elect are brought to a new life under law, which then needs to be vicariously kept by Christ?

The guilt of the elect imputed by God to Christ is not the same as the guilt of Adam imputed by God to all humans, but the nature of the imputation of guilt is the same in both cases. We must teach an external (judicial) imputation. The most basic solution to all our problems is not a regeneration of our insides (though that is necessary for other reasons, for example, so that we hear and believe the gospel), because the most basic problem we have is that apart from the the death of Christ, God counts everyone’s sins against them.

Emphasis on the external and forensic must have priority when we consider II Corinthians 5:21. “Become the righteousness of God in Christ” is about having an external righteousness imputed to us. Because that is so, the “made sin” of the first part of the verse must be seen as about external guilt being imputed to Christ.

In other words, if the first part (made sin) is about some “inner corruption”, then 1. that says that Christ needed to be born again. God forbid! but 2. it would say that our righteousness is something found in us, or something in our faith, or something in Christ indwelling us.. The gospel is first of all about LOOKING to Christ outside us..

This is not denying that regeneration is important, but it’s saying that the miracle of the new birth a result of God’s legal imputation. Romans 8: 3 For God HAS DONE what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.

This doesn’t mean that Christ’s obedience to the law prior to His death is of no consequence. II Corinthians 5:21 explains that “he made him to be sin who knew no sin” . This assumes that Christ kept the law before His legally being put under the law for the sins of the elect imputed to Him. Even before His death, Christ “knew no sin”. So that’s not unimportant. But the penal satisfaction for the elect comes by Christ’s death which is what satisfies God’s law.

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12 Comments on “Is Abrogation of the Law the Gospel? No, We Uphold the Law”

  1. fuddybuddy Says:

    The law will not go unsatisfied means the law still needs to be satisfied. The fact that the law demands the resurrection of the sheep and the sheep are not yet resurrected means the demand is not yet fulfilled. But it has been fulfilled where it concerns Christ. The law demanded His resurrection. He was raised. The law was fulfilled. Now what about us? No more law for us would mean no resurrection for us.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    I think the verse to talk about here would be Romans 4:23-25 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

    I think we would agree that Christ was raised because of His justification. Indeed we could say that His resurrection was His justification. But I also think we would agree that we will be justified (for sure, the law demands) because of His resurrection and that this does not mean that all the elect have been justified already, but that it is a sure thing.

    This leaves two questions. 1. When we say that the law has not yet been satisfied (and thus the law still stands), are we talking about humans (Christ Himself) still needing to do something, or are we talking about the sanctions (blessings promised in reward for obedience to the law) that have not yet been given which the law demands.

    2. Of course, this still leaves unexplored where the resurrection fits in the gospel, other than as evidence that the law no longer demands death. And of course, fuddy, this is what you are asking about. If the law can’t demand death anymore, a. does that mean we live, and does this only mean we died once and no more death can be demanded? or b. is resurrection not something the law could ever demand, so that the rewards of vicarious resurrection cannot be parsed out or distributed according to law?

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Christ is now lifted up, raised high like the bronze serpent lifted up by Moses (John 3:14). “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he…” (John 8;28) The lifting up is mainly Christ’s death: the elect were always chosen in Christ, but Christ was not always dead. Only now has Christ been dead and risen: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. He said this to show what kind of death He was going to die.” (John 12:32-33.

    Now Christ is seated in heaven (Acts 2:34; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:13). The justified elect are not in heaven, except by legal union/imputation with Christ. The justified elect have not ascended to a place from which they never descended. (John 3:13)

    Psalm 110:1–”The Lord says to my Lord; Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” The justified elect do not share God’s throne and do not sit at God’s right hand. The heavenly glory Christ had enjoyed in the Father’s presence before His incarnation has now been “crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death. (Hebrews 2:9) Sitting there at the right hand, Christ does not simply wait but intercedes for the justified elect.

    But of course we cannot simply talk about Christ’s death that has now happened, which had not happened before. We must also talk about Christ’s exaltation and ascension. The being lifted up on the cross to die was the beginning of Christ’s exaltation but not yet the return of the now incarnate Son in embodied glory to his Father.

    Ephesians 1:20 describes God’s mighty power “which He exercised in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and enthroned Him at His right hand in the heavenlies.” See also I Peter 1:21, 3:22; Eph 4:8-10; and I Timothy 3:16 (“He was taken up into glory”)

    Luke 24:26-” Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then to enter His glory/”

    Acts 3:15–”You killed the author of life, but God raised Him from the dead.”

    Romans 8:34–”What judge will condemn us? Will Christ Jesus who died, and more than that, was raised to life, who indeed is at the right hand of God, and who is pleading our cause?”

    Now, the Holy Spirit mediates the presence of the absent Christ, the Christ who is not now on earth but who is now in heaven. John 16:7–”Unless I go away, the Paraclete will not come to you.”

  4. markmcculley Says:

    I Peter 1:11 tells us of the Spirit’s prediction of “the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” I Peter 3:21 speaks of an “appeal for a good conscience, through the resurrection.”

    The gospel is not the death without the resurrection, or the resurrection without the death. The good news about one is good news about the other. Calvin: “When in scripture death only is mentioned, everything peculiar to the resurrection is at the same time included, and that there is a like synecdoche in the term resurrection.” (Institutes 2:16:13).

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Christ has done with satisfying the law, doing what it demanded, death. I agree with what the “no more law” folks say about that specifically, but I don’t agree when they go on to say this means there is no more law period. One, we still have commands. We still sin, according to the standard of the law. Two, the law didn’t die, we did (Christ’s death counts as our death), so the law still stands but can’t demand another death from us (from Christ our surety). The law also stands to condemn the non-elect for whom Christ never died. And this last point of mine is not me just adding an obvious technicality. The “no more law” folks can’t LOGICALLY talk about the law condemning the non-elect. Of course they are not very logical.

  6. markmcculley Says:

    The basic principle in application is to know whether the passage is a statement of the law or of the gospel. For when the Word is preached, the law and the gospel operate differently. The law exposes the disease of sin, and as a side-effect, stimulates and stirs it up. But it provides no remedy for it. However the gospel not only teaches us what is to be done, it also has the power of the Holy Spirit joined to it…. A statement of the law indicates the need for a perfect inherent righteousness, of eternal life given through the works of the law, of the sins which are contrary to the law and of the curse that is due them…. By contrast, a statement of the gospel speaks of Christ and his benefits
    —William Perkins, The Art of Prophesying (1592, p 54)

  7. markmcculley Says:

    What does “For I through the law died to the law” mean? Galatians 2:19

    Machen, Notes, p 159 “The law . . . led men, by its clear revelation of what God requires, to relinquish all claim to salvation by their own obedience. In that sense, surely, Paul could say that it was through the law that he died to the law. The law made the commands of God so terribly clear that Paul could see plainly that there was no hope for him if he appealed for his salvation to his own obedience to those commands.”

    Machen: “This interpretation yields a truly Pauline thought. But the immediate context suggests another, and an even profounder, meaning for the words.”

    Machen: “The key to the interpretation is probably to be found in the sentences, I have been crucified together with Christ, which almost immediately follows. The law, with its penalty of death upon sins (which penalty Christ bore in our stead) brought Christ to the cross; and when Christ died I died, since he died as my representative.”

    Machen: “The death to the law… the law itself brought about when… Christ died that Since He died that death as our representative, we too have died that death. Thus our death to the law, suffered for us by Christ, far from being contrary to the law, was in fulfillment of the law’s own demands. “

  8. markmcculley Says:

    Lee Irons— It is the denial of the Law-Gospel paradigm that is in danger of fostering legalism. When the distinction between these two categories is denied, the meaning of “Gospel” changes. The Gospel is no longer the good news of the satisfaction, by a Substitute, of the justice of God, resulting in an imputed righteousness on account of which God justifies (the ungodly elect) Instead, the Gospel subtly begins to morph into the not-so good news that sinners are justified and judged by their covenant faithfulness. And this fidelity is usually explained within the context of so-called “grace,” which is defined as God’s gracious acceptance of our imperfect faithfulness

    What did the sacrificial system provide? A substitute who died an accursed death in the sinner’s place. The sacrificial system graphically showed that repentance alone was not enough. The Law will not let the sinner go just because he is sorry and promises to do better next time. ….if the Law wasn’t a covenant of works, the extensive sacrificial system attached to the Law wouldn’t have been necessary.

    Hebrews 10:1 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Whereas Paul most frequently and most basically uses “the Law” to refer to the Mosaic Law as a covenant (stipulations and sanctions), the author of Hebrews uses the same term to refer to the Mosaic economy as a whole, including the tabernacle, the sacrifices, and the Levitical priesthood.

    In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul does not say that the transition from Moses to Christ was a movement from glory to glory, as if the glory just kept getting brighter. Rather, Paul says the glory of the Old Covenant was fading away, and ultimately came to an end, whereas the glory of the New Covenant is permanent. The fact that both were glorious does not mean they are the same. Lee Irons

    The gospel promotes the fear of God. A person who claims to be a Christian but who has no fear of God does not have a credible profession of faith. But there is a big difference between the kind of fear that is kindled by the flames of Mount Sinai than the kind of fear that sees (the gospel of Christ’s death as the satisfaction of God’s demand)/ Legal fear arises from a consciousness of sin APART FROM an apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ. It is a fear of punishment, and causes the sinner to shrink back from God, as Israel did at Sinai (Hebrews. 12:18-21). But “Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (1 John 4:18).

  9. markmcculley Says:

    The duty to obey King Jesus is not determined by ability or lack of ability. The gospel teaches us that elect sinners who do NOT do their duties will nevertheless be “saved” from God’s wrath because of legal identity with Christ’s death for elect sinners.
    God is both just and the justifier of elect sinners. Elect sinners believe the gospel in which the sins of gospel believers are not imputed to those sinners.
    Pietists exempt non-Christians from the commands of the Sermon on the Mount on the basis of their inability. That exemption is not necessary in order to make the vital distinction between law and gospel. Christ’s law is not changed by human inability to keep it. And Christ’s law is not the gospel. Whatever ability we may claim, none of us is obeying the Sermon on the Mount. But this is no excuse.

    if we says the kingdom is only on the inside, in our hearts and in our new ability, we ignore the external commands of the King who was standing among the disciples and who is coming back to earth.

  10. markmcculley Says:

    The gospel is information, but not only information, but also the power of God unto salvation.

    The law is instruction about right and wrong, but not only a neutral standard, but also the power of God unto accusation.

    In the death of Christ, we see that the law has the right to condemn sinners. The law was right to say that the sins of sinners deserve death.

    Romans 1: The gospel is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes… For in the gospel God’s righteousness is revealed

    Romans 3: 25 God presented Christ as a propitiation[… to demonstrate God’s righteousness in order that God would be both just and justifier of the sinner who has faith in Jesus.

    Romans 4: God declares the ungodly to be righteous

    Romans 5:6 Christ died for the ungodly.

    I Corinthians 1: 18 The word, or doctrine of the cross, is to us who are saved the power of God

  11. markmcculley Says:

    If Murray is correct, and Adam was judged on the basis of grace instead of justice, then the work of the second Adam is based not in terms of justice but grace. Fesko, Last Things First, p. 109

  12. markmcculley Says:

    Gadsby– We believe that the believer’s rule of life is the gospel.Our
    belief is that the gospel contains all that is included in the law,
    but is a much higher standard.

    mark mcculley—This sounds to me like Gadsby saying that the gospel is us living right. If the gospel “includes all that is in the law”,
    then law and gospel are confused, and “doing what Christ says to do” is the gospel. But obeying the law is not the gospel. The Gospel is Christ’s atoning death for the sins of the elect as the ONLY
    righteousness which justifies sinners.

    Using law lawfully does not mean that there is no law for Christians.
    Christians also sin against Christ’s commands (God’s law) Using law
    lawfully means using the law as law, and NOT USING THE LAW AS THE GOSPEL

    Stealing is against God’s rule of life, but if Gadsby is correct
    that God’s rule of life is the gospel, then not stealing is obeying
    the gospel. But the gospel is NOT our living, the gospel is NOT God’s standard for our living. The gospel is Christ’s death as satisfaction of God’s law for elect sinners.

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