The “Misunderstanding” View of the Law

John Armstrong’s Reformation and Revival Journal (Luther 2) endorsed the conditional theology of Daniel Fuller. It has a review essay on Fuller’s “Unity of the Bible” by Chuck Huckaby. Though Fuller accused Calvin of being too unconditional , Huckaby spends much of his time trying to say that Calvin was also conditional.

Huckaby writes that Fuller’s quoting of Calvin is selective, and that we should refer to the creeds which are conditional. Both Piper and Fuller quote Calvin selectively. Piper only quotes that with which he can agree; I give Fuller more credit for at least quoting and disagreeing with Calvin..

Huckaby writes (p220) that the only issue here is the conditionality of faith and “nothing of works”. But “works” are at the very heart of Daniel Fuller’s concerns.

Since the old covenant and the law command faith, Fuller claims, what we need to do is avoid MISUNDERSTANDING so that our works are “works of faith” and not a “legalism of merit without faith.” It’s not “nothing of works”. Rather, it is of works, and besides that, the works must be of faith. So instead of trusting only the finished work of Christ, we must constantly suspect ourselves, and look to see if we have works, and to see if these works are properly motivated. This may be a puritan emphasis but it is not consistent with the gospel.

Here is Huckaby’s defense of the “conditionality” of the gospel–“The law is not the “letter” of 2 Corinthians from which we are released.” Then he quotes a puritan: “The spiritual law of Romans 7:12 cannot be the same as the ‘letter’ of II Cor 3:6. The ‘letter’ from which we are released is the one without the Spirit…and thus is the very opposite of the spiritual law of Romans 7.”

This is the “misunderstanding” reading:—neither Romans 7 or II Cor 3 are seen as being about redemptive history or about the change brought by the new covenant. They are only warnings, proper for any time or covenant, to NOT MISUNDERSTAND, to not be a “legalist with wrong motives”.

Huckaby quotes Cranfield to support his reading of II Cor 3:
“Paul does not use ‘letter’ as a simple equivalent of ‘the law’.” “Letter” is rather what the legalist is left with as a result of his misunderstanding, and misuse of the law in isolation from the Spirit is not the law in its true character….”

This “misunderstanding” view is what many other Reformed folk are doing
to minimize the difference between law and grace. If you get the law back to its “true character”, then salvation is also by law. If you get works back to being enabled by sovereign grace, then justification is by works. They don’t want to us say anymore that God DID what the law could NEVER do (Romans 8:3). That sounds too “antinomian” and “dispensational”.and “Lutheran”.

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17 Comments on “The “Misunderstanding” View of the Law”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    some proponents of the continuity view described above have claimed that Calvin believed Paul only spoke of the law in the narrow sense when he was interacting with the way it was used by those who rejected Christ. But this is not the case at all. As Hesselink puts it,

    Calvin recognizes fully the negative function of the law. Moreover, he acknowledges that this is a proper function of the law in so far as the ministry of Moses is opposed to the ministry of Christ and the gospel. This is, of course, not the complete picture; only one aspect or part of the law is dealt with when the law is so portrayed. On the other hand, the origin of this concept of the law is not to be traced to a mere misunderstanding or misuse of the law; nor can these strong words of Paul be dismissed simply as a polemic against an abuse of the law.

    There are many, many places in Calvin to which I could point to illustrate this approach (just as there are many, many places in which Calvin emphasizes the relation of law and gospel as being one of continuity). Here let me simply offer a couple of them.

    In his commentary on Romans 10:5 Calvin writes,

    The law has a twofold meaning; it sometimes includes the whole of what has been taught by Moses, and sometimes that part only which was peculiar to his ministration, which consisted of precepts, rewards, and punishments… But as evangelic promises are only found scattered in the writings of Moses, and these also somewhat obscure, and as the precepts and rewards, allotted to the observers of the law, frequently occur, it rightly appertained to Moses as his own and peculiar office, to teach what is the real righteousness of works, and then to show what remuneration awaits the observance of it, and what punishment awaits those who come short of it. For this reason Moses is by John compared with Christ, when it is said, ‘That the law was given by Moses, but that grace and truth came by Christ’ (John 1:17). And whenever the word law is thus strictly taken, Moses is by implication opposed to Christ.

    In his commentary on 2 Corinthians 3:6 Calvin writes,

    The Apostle says that the law was but for a time, and required to be abolished, but that the gospel, on the other hand, remains forever. There are various reasons why the ministry of Moses is pronounced transient, for it was necessary that the shadows should vanish at the coming of Christ, and that statement – The law and the prophets were until John (Matthew 9:13) applies to more than the mere shadows. For it intimates that Christ has put an end to the ministry of Moses, which was peculiar to him, and is distinguished from the gospel. Finally, the Lord declares by Jeremiah that the weakness of the Old Testament arose from this, that it was not engraven on men’s hearts (Jeremiah 31:32-33). For my part, I understand that abolition of the law, of which mention is here made, as referring to the whole of the Old Testament, in so far as it is opposed to the gospel, so that it corresponds with the statement – The law and the prophets were until John. For the context requires this. For Paul is not reasoning here as to mere ceremonies, but shows how much more powerfully the Spirit of God exercises his power in the gospel than of old under the law.

    For Calvin, then, understood in its broader covenantal context the Mosaic covenant is part of the covenant of grace. Taken more narrowly, however, it is a covenant of law, opposed to the gospel. Paul usually refers to the law in its narrow sense, while a passage like Psalm 119 focuses on the law in its broader sense.

    If Calvin is right, perhaps the problem driving the debate in Reformed circles today is that each side is grasping on to half of the truth and fighting for it as if it were the whole truth. Calvin clearly doesn’t solve all of the hard questions about the meaning and use of the law in Christian theology (I, for one, have several important disagreements with him), but on this point his general framework seems very helpful. The question is, does Calvin’s dual understanding of the Law in broad/narrow terms provide a way out of the impasse?

    http://matthewtuininga.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/calvin-on-law-and-gospel-a-way-out-of-the-impasse/#comment-5158

  2. markmcculley Says:

    The legalists object:

    “Everything depends on the inward attitude of the heart, with the great contrast lying between the unregenerate flesh and the indwelling, regenerating Spirit. Those indwelt by the Spirit are disposed to comply with the spiritual law of faith…”

    I suppose we could at this point discuss possible discontinuities about the Spirit and regeneration between the covenants. But notice what has happened—- justification by grace part from works has disappeared. The either/or that Paul had between faith and works has disappeared.

    For some “sort of people” the law of Moses becomes only a law of sin and death.” But for other “sort of people”, the law of Moses “WAS SAVING” if their obedience was an “obedience of faith” (p223).

    Works are not ruled out as means of justification. The only problem is “legalism” as defined as boasting. If you work without boasting and with faith, then you will be justified. If you do not work (enough), then you are an antinomian (so much so that you will not be justified?).

    After we get done saying all those pretty words about the cross and justification apart from our works, we get scared of grace ,and we say that “however” it all DEPENDS on God’s secret regenerating work in our hearts ALSO.

    But is there a real “tension” here? Perhaps, but what are we are to tell nonChristians—the gospel is a tension? Is the gospel a “balance” between what God did at the cross and what God does in your heart? Or is that only the gospel we tell people who we think are already Christians?

    I quote Fuller (Unity of the Bible, 143): “NOT ONLY must we trust that His death on the cross enables God to forgive our sins, but to believe properly we must also…continually believe in God’s promises as an indispensable component of genuine faith…”

    See the tension? While “unconditional” election supposedly is not part of the gospel but only that which secretly makes the gospel work, the gospel is not only the work of Christ outside of us but also the work of Christ in us. But what happens if I do not “continually believe as much as I should”?

    What is Huckaby’s gospel? He tells us “not to be overscrupulous”. He writes: “nor must justifying faith be perfect or flawless, or superhuman faith. It is the imputed righteousness of Christ alone that makes the difference, not our faith. p227”

    The new perspective/ federal vision accentuates the “in the family now” character of the law. Now that the law can’t kill us, we are told, the law-gospel antithesis has been removed, and it’s not “strict” but fatherly retribution now.

    So we are told. But the confessional gospel says that all saving faith is the fruit of the righteousness obtained for the elect AND that justification is not a future thing dependent on our future works or future faith or future works of faith. This is what we learned when we are taught the gospel: it is the very thing Huckaby and Fuller leave behind when they start saying the faith doesn’t need to be perfect.

    Huckaby agrees with Fuller that “Calvin’s exegesis of key passages in Romans and Galatians can be seen as positioning the law of Moses as a ‘law of works’ not based on faith at all. (p231). I would like to see much more discussion of this: I think Calvin got it right!

    Gal 2:16-3:13 are not about a “misunderstanding” of works. Galatians puts works in antithesis to faith in a way that Daniel Fuller will not allow.

    In a footnote, Huckaby says that he “does not agree with certain theological conclusions Fuller draws”, but he never tells us about those disagreements. He seems to agree with the “single covenant” unity approach which incorporates the legal aspects of the old covenant into the new covenant.

    What is the one major difference between those of us who are submitted to the gospel and those who are not. Many would say the biggest difference is regeneration. I think the issue is “law and the gospel”.

    What bothers some puritans is any talk of “unconditionality”. Of course election is unconditional, they consent, BUT HOWEVER everything DEPENDS on THE COVENANT which of course to many (but not all!) Reformed scholars is conditional, depending on us “doing our part”. To them, the law is gospel after all.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    The neonomianism of Norman Shepherd simply doesn’t think mere approval of commands as “normative” is enough. He thinks we need sanctions if we are going to obey the law. And Shepherd doesn’t think that “no sanctification means you were never justified” will get it done.

    The “federal vision” reads Romans 2 as saying that our future justification hangs in the balance. You see the problem, that people like us, who keep looking at the perfect obedience of Christ (the “virtual reality”) will not be so keen to look at (and do something about) our own lack of obedience. We will be content (and even “relaxed”) to confess that our sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake.

    But the law-gospel-law sandwich always has two views in “tension” or “balance” It is not saying that we won’t go on sinning. It’s merely warning that an “unbalanced” focus only on imputation and justification will get in the way of fixing the culture. The sandwich has law on both sides to protect the gospel in between. It’s merely warning us, and not making perfectionist claims.

    Like the Galatian false teachers, the law-gospel-law teacher never denies all of the imputation “equation”. He’s simply saying that there’s MORE to the Christian life than justification. “Union with Christ” means that there is mysterious “synergism” of work (100% ours, 100% God’s).

    The apostle Paul was concerned that some in Galatians were not Christians. If you —– ,“Christ will be of no profit to you.”.Thus his command to not condition salvation on the sinner.

    Galatians 2:21— If justification is by grace but sanctification is by works, then Christ died in vain for sanctification? No, that’s not how the apostle sees it. If any part of our salvation is by our works, then Christ died to NO purpose.

    Paul does not seem to be a “ two perspectives” kind of guy. Paul does not agree to disagree “Well, some of us are a little more “gospel awake” and others of us are somewhat more “covenantal nomists”……

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Here’s a classic statement of the “misunderstanding” view, by a federal visionist, Doug Wilson, Reformed is not Enough—-p 65

    “A central part of our problem is caused by the New Testament refutations of the Pharisiacal DISTORTIONS of the law of Moses. ..But the contrast in the New Testament is not between old and new; the contrast is between Old DISTORTED and Old Fulfilled.”

  5. markmcculley Says:

    The Bible asserts that the man who actually kept all God’s commandments would be rewarded with salvation, because he had met the condition of salvation, absolute perfection. One intention of the statement in Leviticus 18:5 is to make sinners aware that they cannot keep the law and therefore cannot obtain their salvation by their keeping of the law. Another purpose is to point to the Perfect Man who not only can but does keep the commandments perfectly. No mere man has kept or can keep all God’s commandments. Only one Man has done so, Jesus Christ, and he is God the Son incarnate, not a mere man. The Man Christ Jesus has freed us from the curse of the law by fulfilling the condition of salvation as our representative and in our place.

    But Shepherd denies that there is any works-merit principle taught in Scripture. When Paul quotes Leviticus 18:5, Shepherd says, he is not saying that Moses taught this principle, but that he was “quoting Scripture according to the sense which his opponents understand it,” that is, Paul’s opponents misunderstood what Moses was saying, and Paul is quoting their misunderstanding.

    Shepherd writes: God does not tempt his children to try to earn their salvation by the merit of their works. Nor does he tease them by offering a way of salvation that he knows will not work. More pointedly, the very idea of merit is foreign to the way in which God our Father relates to his children.

    The subtlety of the Serpent is in these words, and it will take some time to understand what Shepherd is saying. First, he loads the language by saying “God does not tempt,” counting on us to recall James’ phrase and to agree with Shepherd’s conclusion. But James says that God does not tempt to sin, and Shepherd says God does not tempt to salvation. The two are not quite the same, but the use of James’ phrase is very cunning. Then Shepherd writes, “nor does God tease them,” again suggesting that the orthodox understanding of Moses and Paul impugns God’s righteousness by suggesting that God tempts and teases his children. Shepherd wants us to conclude without argument that the orthodox view is wrong, for any view that blasphemes God in such a way must be wrong. Then Shepherd calls the works-merit principle “a way of salvation that God knows will not work.”

    But God knows no such thing, and Shepherd has failed to demonstrate from Scripture that he does. In fact, God declares repeatedly through his prophets that it will work: Meet my condition, keep all my statutes and my judgments, and you will be saved. This is precisely what the Man Jesus Christ did for his people: Christ alone met God’s condition for salvation; Christ alone kept the statutes; Christ alone kept the covenant. Christ did not obtain our salvation freely; he paid in full; but salvation is freely given to all those for whom he fulfilled the condition by his perfect life and death. Not only does this “way of salvation” work, it is in precisely this way that Christ met God’s condition and accomplished the salvation of the elect.

    Finally, Shepherd writes, “the very idea of merit is foreign to the way in which God our Father relates to his children.” . By discarding merit, Shepherd also discards justice and holiness.

    – See more at: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=118#sthash.Pvp9LNz7.dpuf

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Paul Helm: “Referring to those who are considered in Romans 1.16 Wright claims ‘These people are Christians, on whose hearts the spirit has written the law, and whose secrets, when revealed 2.29) will display the previously hidden work of God.’ (p 166) Gathercole claims that ‘the gentiles who have the Law written on their hearts will be justified on the final day’ (p 126). …An equivalence being claimed here between the law being written on the heart and regeneration. But in Romans 2, regeneration, the work of the Spirit, and so forth – these factors are not in view. Paul is referring to the matter of the law, ‘not isolated parts but the Torah in its entirety’…. The replacing of the heart of stone with the heart of flesh and all such associated matters do not arise here. Paul is simply maintaining the symmetry between the situation of the Gentile and the Jew, blocking the possible inference that since the Gentiles do not have the Torah they will escape the judgment of God.”

    Paul Helm: “The Gentiles’ consciences bear witness to the ‘matters’ of that law, in its commands and prohibitions, and sometimes they observe that law and are excused, they experience an internal relief; and sometimes they disobey it and are rightfully self-accused….Paul is not discussing inner motivation, but the equity of an arrangement according to which both Jew and Gentile are judged by the law Such judgment will reveal hypocrisy in the lives of all men, including those of the Jews,…In fact Paul is saying nothing about actual outcomes, but stating how law operates, what its demands are and how these are satisfied.”

    Paul Helm: “Does what Paul goes on to say in 2.25-29 overthrow this older view, showing us that when the chapter is taken as a whole he has a class of Gentile Christians in view throughout? In my view, to go in this direction is to misunderstand the force of 2.27-9, which is answering the question, how is true Jewishness to be defined? Deuteronomy 30:6 answers in terms of the circumcision of the heart. Paul concludes (1) If a person who is uncircumcised kept the law he would in effect be circumcised And (2) If a person is physically circumcised but breaks the law that physical circumcision is cancelled, made null and void.”

    Paul Helm: “There is a different method of justification about to be set forth than the method of works-righteousness. But Paul is not yet ready to make that move. One step at a time. At this point he sets out the scheme of salvation by works. He follows this by setting out what true circumcision is. The implication of these definitions is that the Jews, because of their hypocrisy (2.17-24) are condemned, as were the Gentiles earlier. (1.18-2.11, 2.1-5)

    http://paulhelmsdeep.blogspot.com/2011/07/romans-2-and-3-one-step-at-time-dear.html

  7. markmcculley Says:

    David VanDrunen, ISRAEL’S RECAPITULATION OF ADAM’S PROBATION UNDER THE LAW OF MOSES, WTJ 73 (2011): 303-24

    In Gal 3:10 Paul says that those who are of the “works of the law”32 are under a curse, and proves it by quoting Deut 27:26: “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Paul follows the LXX in adding the word “all” to the Hebrew text of Deuteronomy, hence emphasizing the entirety of the obedience that the Mosaic law demands. For this
    verse to prove his point (that all people who are under the law are also under a curse), Paul must be working with an implied premise: no one actually keeps the law perfectly. In light of Paul’s view of human depravity outside of Christ, presented explicitly in later epistles (e.g., Rom 3:9-21; 8:7-8), this implied premise is eminently Pauline. The apostle expands his point in the following verses. In 3:11 he quotes Hab 2:4 (“the righteous shall live by faith”) to show that no one can be justified by the law. The law, he adds in 3:12, “is not of faith.” He proves this claim by quoting again from the law, this time Lev 18:5: “The one who does them shall live by them.” While faith promises life by believing, the law promises life by
    doing. Paul’s larger point in Gal 3:10-12, therefore, is that the Mosaic law demands perfect obedience, promising life, but that it inevitably brings a curse because sinful human beings disobey it. Paul echoes these sentiments in Gal 5:2-4, where he says that those seeking to be justified by the law are “obligated to keep the whole law”—a strong demand for perfect obedience—and find no benefit from Christ. In context, Paul obviously does not consider this a viable option, but one that ends inevitably in failure.

    interpreters (many of them commonly associated with the so-called New Perspective on Paul) take a different view of Gal 3:10-12 and 5:3 and deny that Paul is really setting up a contrast between faith and obedience to the law and teaching that the law requires perfect obedience. At this point I note briefly that a number of recent Reformed commentators acknowledge that Paul is sharply contrasting faith and works of the law in these and parallel passages, yet deny that the Mosaic law itself can be contrasted with faith (in this sense adopting a similar conclusion to many New Perspective advocates). Instead, these Reformed commentators
    believe that when Paul quotes Lev 18:5 or refers otherwise to the law so as to contrast it with faith he thinks not of the Mosaic law itself but of the law as misinterpreted in a legalistic way by his Jewish contemporaries.36 In my judgment this line of interpretation should also be rejected.37 That Paul dealt with people whom he judged to have misinterpreted the purposes of the Mosaic law is unquestionable, but that the law itself stood in contrast to faith, at least in certain respects, was Paul’s own view. That Paul would concede the interpretation of Lev 18:5 to legalistic Judaizers both in Gal 3:12 and Rom 10:5 (where he introduces his quote by saying, “Moses writes” about the righteousness of the law) is farfetched. Furthermore, in Gal 3:19 Paul asks a rhetorical question, understandable in light of the contrast of law and faith in previous verses: “Why then the law?” His explanation in 3:19-4:7 is that God’s own purpose in giving the Mosaic law was to keep his people imprisoned under sin for a time, a condition from which Christ released those who believe in him. In this same section of Galatians Paul speaks of Christ himself being “born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (4:4-5), which must be speaking of the Mosaic law in the light of preceding verses. As Israel was under the Mosaic law so Christ came under the Mosaic law. Yet Paul could hardly have been asserting that Christ, whom he says elsewhere “knew no sin” (2 Cor 5:21), lived under a subjective misinterpretation of the law. Both Christ and the Israelites came “under the law” in an objective sense that reflected God’s own purposes in giving it—but where the Israelites failed Christ prevailed. (pp 316-18)

    • markmcculley Says:

      Crucial for understanding 5:38–42 is Jesus’ programmatic statement in 5:17 that introduces his subsequent commands: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” A common reading of this verse in my own Reformed tradition is that Jesus is about to clarify the Mosaic law in response to Pharisaical corruption of Moses.9 While this reading has the virtue of guarding against denigration of the Mosaic law, it is not an adequate interpretation of Jesus’ words. A general difficulty with this reading is that it fails to reckon with the radical, eschatological newness of the coming of Jesus and his kingdom so emphasized in the preceding texts in Matthew considered above. Matthew 5:17 itself reinforces this sense of eschatological newness. The first use of the key Synoptic phrase, “I have come,” for example, hints at Jesus’ heavenly origin (and hence his authority to say what he is saying) and indicates that Jesus is about to reveal a central purpose of his ministry.10 In addition, Jesus’ denial that he has come to abolish the law or the prophets indirectly offers further evidence of the spectacular newness of the kingdom of heaven: apparently what has transpired thus far in Matthew’s story has given some people the impression that Jesus has come to abolish something in the OT.

      More concretely, the way in which Jesus’ commands unfold in 5:21–48 is ultimately incompatible with reading them as clarification of the Mosaic law over against corrupt Jewish interpretation. For one thing, all six of Jesus’ “You have heard” statements either quote or paraphrase the actual teaching of the Mosaic law, not contemporary Jewish interpretation of it.11 Jesus presents his exhortations in comparison with those of the Mosaic law itself. Second, however much the first two antitheses are amenable to the view that Jesus is purifying the interpretation of the law, the last four antitheses cannot reasonably bear such a reading. Jesus does show the inward demands of the prohibition of murder and adultery in the first two antitheses, but whereas the Mosaic law prescribed procedures for divorce, oath-taking, just retaliation, and destruction of enemies, Jesus proscribes these very actions. To say, for example, that what Moses really intended by writing “keep your oaths” was that the Israelites should not swear at all strains the imagination. Jesus’ statement about divorce in 5:31–32, furthermore, cannot be an elaboration of the OT law since it presumes that the death penalty is not applied against adulterers.

      A better reading of 5:17 is that Jesus fulfills the law and the prophets by accomplishing all of the things that the OT prophesied. To this point in his gospel Matthew has already labored to show that Jesus’ actions constitute a turning of the ages and bring to pass what the OT foretold and anticipated (1:22–23; 2:5–6, 15, 17, 23; 3:3, 15; 4:4, 6–7, 10, 14–16), and this theme continues in all sorts of ways subsequent to the Sermon on the Mount.12 Jesus’ words in 5:18 confirm an historical and eschatological interpretation of “fulfill” in 5:17 by saying “until heaven and earth disappear” and “until everything is accomplished” (or “comes to pass”). Jesus therefore indicates in 5:17 that he is neither abolishing the Hebrew Scriptures nor simply purifying them from corrupt interpretation. By his deeds and here also by his words, Jesus brings the law and the prophets to historical and eschatological fulfillment.13

      Thus, as the kingdom of heaven is something strikingly new, so the Sermon on the Mount, the ethic of this kingdom, proclaims a way of life that is eschatologically new. It is different from the way of life under Moses, though in a manner that accomplishes rather than thwarts God’s larger purposes in giving the law and the prophets. How, exactly, does this shape our interpretation of Jesus’ handling of the lex talionis in 5:38–42?

      First, we must consider how Jesus’ commands in 5:38–42 are different from the lex talionis as imposed in the Mosaic law. The “eye for an eye” formula appears three times in the Mosaic law and is evidently a cornerstone of its jurisprudence. It was likely not intended to be applied in an overtly literal way, but represented a key legal principle: justice was to be strict, proportionate, and retributive.14 As such it encapsulated, on a personal level, the central Mosaic theme that Israel would be justly rewarded in the land if they faithfully obeyed God’s law and would be justly (severely) punished if they disobeyed.15 However exactly one interprets Jesus’ command not to resist the evil-doer (5:39–42)—to which I return below—Jesus is certainly not instructing his disciples in the most effective way to impose strict retributive justice against those who harm them. Jesus is legislating a principle different from the principle of proportionate justice.

      In fact, matters of justice and OT judicial life are raised by all six of the Mosaic commands that Jesus mentions in Matt 5:21–48. The one who murders will be liable to judgment (5:21). A legal bill or certificate is required for divorce (5:31). A central purpose of OT oaths was to secure truth-telling in court (5:33; see Exod 22:11; Num 5:19–21). And the command to hate one’s enemy—throughcherem warfare against the Gentile occupants of the Holy Land—was the ultimate expression of God’s retributive justice against the abomination of sin. Jesus even seems to ratchet up the forensic tension as Matt 5 moves along. Oaths ensured that trustworthy evidence would be presented to the court; the lex talionis provided a basic standard of justice for rendering the verdict; and cheremwarfare was the implementation of strict, merciless justice on a macro level.

      Jesus’ commands stand in sharp contrast. His kingdom is marked by the absence of judgment.16 Its citizens’ way of life is so pure that there is no possible ground for anyone to bring judgment against them, and when others are in conflict with them they seekreconciliation with the wrongdoers, not judgment against them. The Mosaic law occasionally touched upon internal matters of the heart, but its primary focus was on external matters. Its purpose was to establish and regulate a theocracy, a geopolitical entity in which justice was maintained among its inhabitants. But this radically new kingdom that Jesus has announced is of a very different nature. It does not break into history as a theocratic, geopolitical realm and thus focus on external conduct and seek the strict enforcement of justice.

      The disciples of Jesus certainly do not murder or commit adultery, but they also shun sinful anger and lustful glances, matters which are beyond the jurisdiction of any civil justice system. Instead of seeking legal termination of troublesome marriages, they seek to maintain marital relationships. Instead of going to court to establish truth by oath, they tell the truth at all times. Instead of implementing just retaliation against the tortfeasor, they themselves bear the proportionate payback. Instead of wiping out the foreigner from the holy land, their love extends indiscriminately. The Mosaic law, it should be noted, required theocratic Israel to pursue precise and proportionate justice in external matters through oath-taking, the lex talionis, and cherem warfare. These commands were bound up with the nature and purpose of the old covenant community. But Jesus announces that in his kingdom there is perfect and holistic righteousness and no pursuit of precise and proportionate justice in external matters through these various means. Jesus’ kingdom is of a radically new and different nature and these things have no place within it.

      My interpretation of 5:17, however, indicates that Jesus’ commands in 5:38–42 not only are different from the Mosaic lex talionis but also reflect the eschatological fulfillment (rather than simple abrogation) of it. How is this the case? It is significant to note that Jesus does not tell his disciples to ignore and walk away from the person who harms them, but to take a second slap, to give up a second garment, to go a second mile. The lex talionis prescribes a second action that is proportionate to the first action: the person who causes the injury is to receive the same injury in return. Jesus’ words in 5:38–42 preserve the twofold action and the proportionality of the lex talionis. The difference is that he exhorts his disciples to bear the second, retaliatory action themselves.17 A proportionate penalty is still borne, but the wronged party rather than the wrongdoer endures it. This reflects the larger Matthean theme that Jesus’ disciples must imitate Jesus in his suffering at the hands of sinners. Jesus has already told them that suffering is their lot in the present age (5:10–12), and later he explains that as he will go to the cross so also they must bear the cross (16:24–26). Matthew’s gospel alludes to, though does not explain in detail, the substitutionary atonement, Jesus’ dying on behalf of his people to secure the forgiveness of their sins (see 20:28; 26:28).18 Human beings, as it were, slapped God in the face through their sin, and God responded with the lex talionis—not by justly slapping them back but by bearing that retaliatory slap himself through Jesus. God’s saving action in Jesus satisfies retributive talionic justice once and for all. By bearing in their own bodies the just penalty due to wrongdoers in order to bring healing and reconciliation, Jesus’ disciples are privileged to show forth God’s gracious action toward them in Christ. In this way Jesus’ words in Matt 5 reflect not the abolition but the fulfillment of the lex talionis. The way of life of Jesus’ kingdom is, quite literally, marked by refusal to seek just retribution against the wrong-doer and willingly suffering for the sake of Christ.

      http://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/article/bearing-sword-in-the-state-turning-cheek-in-the-church-a-reformed-two-kingd

  8. markmcculley Says:

    http://www.upper-register.com/papers/law_gospel_10args.pdf

    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:

    Christ does not do away with the law, the law does not die
    Christ does what the law demands, which is to die
    the law is still there—saying, nothing more required

    Romans 7: But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, in order that you belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we bear fruit for God

  10. markmcculley Says:

    Matthew 5 is not teaching that the Mosaic covenant was misunderstood and that Jesus is giving the right understanding.

    Matthew 5 is saying that Jesus is not only Savior but also Lord and Lawgiver. The new covenant is not the same covenant as the Mosaic covenant, or the Abrahamic covenant.

    Matthew 5: 38 “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 39 But I tell you, don’t resist in kind an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

    http://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/article/bearing-sword-in-the-state-turning-cheek-in-the-church-a-reformed-two-kingd

  11. markmcculley Says:

    Daniel Fuller (Unity of the Bible, 143) focuses on commands of God to those “already in the covenant” and explains that people don’t need to be exactly perfect to meet the conditions of “staying in the covenant”. But the gospel teaches that all saving faith is the fruit of the righteousness obtained for the elect AND that justification is NOT a future thing dependent on future works of faith.
    Ted Darmon defends Dan Fuller’s reading of Galatians 3:18
    http://www.quodlibet.net/articles/dorman-luther.shtml
    Daniel Fuller—”Obedience to God’s commands, not simply faith in Christ for salvation, is the condition of justification….none of the commandments of God is ever to be understood as a ‘law of works,’ a job description, but as a ‘law of faith’ (cf. Rom. 3:27; 9:32), a doctor’s prescription. In declaring that God shows ‘love [“mercy” in the original] to a thousand generations of those who love [him] and keep [his] commandments,’ Exodus 20:6 clearly proves that all of God’s commands are a law of faith, calling for an obedience of faith (Rom 1:5) and subsequent works of faith (1 Thess. 1:3; 2 Thess. 1:11). Mercy, or grace, is therefore conditional, though never meritorious”.
    Daniel Fuller–“The conclusion, then, is that instead of two sets of promises in the Bible—conditional and unconditional—there is only one kind of promise throughout Scripture, and the realization of its promises is dependent upon compliance with conditions which are well characterized as ‘the obedience of faith.”
    Matt Perman—Dr. Fuller teaches that obedience is a means of justification by distinguishing works into two kinds and excluding one kind (which is sinful) but not the other (which is righteous) from the means of justification.
    Daniel Fuller—“In what sense, then, are works to be excluded from that attitude which is indispensable for receiving God’s grace? Depending on the context, the word ‘works’ in Paul’s vocabulary means either (1) those actions such as a workman like the supermarket checker would perform, or (2) the things done by a client, customer, patient, or employer in order to benefit fully from the expertise of the workman”
    (Mark McCulley–this is somewhat like Machen’s distinction between faith before justification and faith after justification.)
    Daniel Fuller—“By citing Deut. 30:11-14 in Rom. 10] Paul was showing that the righteousness set forth by the law was the righteousness of faith. Since the wording of the law can be replaced by the word ‘Christ’ with no loss of meaning, Paul has demonstrated that Moses himself taught that Christ and the law are of one piece. Either one or both will impart righteousness to all who believe, and thus the affirmation of Romans 10:4 is supported by Paul’s reference to Moses in verses 5-8” (p. 86.4)
    http://davekoo.blogspot.com/2005/09/concern-over-daniel-fullers-view.htm

    • markmcculley Says:

      Daniel Fuller, Gospel and Law— To maintain an adversative relationship between Romans 10:5 and 10″6-8 necessitates either conceding that the Pentateuch can state
      such opposites or that Paul, while holding to the intended meaning of Leviticus 18:5 in Romans 10:5, nevertheless ignored the intended meaning of Deuteronomy 30:11-14

  12. markmcculley Says:

    If someone is innocent, then perhaps they can earn a reward. However, if they are not innocent, if they have a guilt that must be paid, then they cannot earn anything until that guilt is paid. So they can’t earn anything to pay the debt until the debt is paid !

    But Leviticus 18:5 says that the Mosaic Covenant, which is made with fallen sinners, operates upon the principle of “if you do this, then you will get this.”
    The problem is not only that fallen sinners are unable to earn anything, but also that fallen sinners deserve only God’s wrath and death. Yet somehow they continue to eat and breathe and live. it looks like God is willing and able, while maintaining his justice, to give them gifts they do not deserve.

    God blesses the elect on the ground of the righteousness of the atoning death of Christ. Since Christ did not die for the non-elect, God has no righteous basis for blessing the non-elect.

    On what basis would God bless the ungodly, who are reprobate by God’s own decree?

    Galatians 3: 12 But the law is NOT of faith, rather “The one who does them shall LIVE by them.” (Leviticus 18:5)

    The logic of “if” is the logic of “or”.

    Galatians 2:21 if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

    Christ died for a purpose (all for whom Christ died will be saved) OR righteousness is through our keeping the law. No synthesis possible, Christ did not come to help us get around that antithesis i

    Galatians 3:18 For IF the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise

    Galatians 3:21 For IF a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.

    Romans 3: 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.

    Paul is not about “catholic inclusion” or” balance” or “overcoming antithesis”. If by our works, then faith in Christ’s finished work is EXCLUDED. If by faith alone in Christ’s death alone, then exclude our works. Faith means “not works”.

    This is why we cannot say that works after faith factor into final salvation. We are not saved by works. Faith means “not works”.

  13. markmcculley Says:

    Murray’s Appendix B “Leviticus 18:5” from his Romans commentary

    John Murray–The problem that arises from this use of Lev. 18:5 is that the latter text does not appear in a context that deals with legal righteousness as opposed to that of faith.]Lev. 18:5 is in a context in which the claims of God upon his redeemed and covenant people are being asserted and urged upon Israel… It refers NOT to the life accruing from doing in a legalistic framework but to the blessing attendant upon obedience in a redemptive and covenant relationship to God.”

    john Murray—If the Scripture teaches that the Mosaic administration is an administration of the covenant of grace, as the Westminster divines affirm (7.5), then how could Paul have interpreted Lev 18:5 as he has? How could he have taken a passage which, in context, appears to refer to the sanctificational works of a redeemed person within the covenant community, and apply this text to individuals seeking the righteousness of justification on the basis of their performance?… Has Paul misquoted Leviticus 18:5 at Romans 10:5?

    The works principle applied to Adam prior to and apart from God’s condescension to reward his obedience –“All that Adam could have claimed on the basis of equity was justification and life as long as he perfectly obeyed, but not confirmation so as to insure indefectibility.” “Life” according to this principle is not “eternal life” but merely “not death.”

    Brandon Adams– Paul does NOT say “according to a mistaken conception entertained by the person who espouses a law righteousness that no longer applies, the person who does the commandments shall live by them.” Rather, Paul says “Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.”

    If Leviticus 18:5 “refers NOT to the life resulting from doing in a legalistic framework” then Moses did not “write about the righteousness that is based on the law.” Paul did not merely “allude” to Leviticus 18:5, nor did he merely “use the terms of Lev. 18:5.” Paul quoted Moses’ teaching on law-righteousness

    Lecture titled “Justification” contained in his Collected Writings, Murray on extra rewards—While it makes void the gospel to introduce works in connection with justification, nevertheless works done in faith, from the motive of love to God, in obedience to the revealed will of God and to the end of his glory are intrinsically good and acceptable to God. As such they will be the criterion of reward in the life to come. This is apparent from such passages as Matthew 10:41; 1 Corinthians 3:8–9, 11–15; 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:7. We must maintain therefore, justification complete and irrevocable by grace through faith and apart from works, and at the same time, future reward according to works. In reference to these two doctrines it is important to observe the following:

    (i) This future reward is not justification and contributes nothing to that which constitutes justification. (ii) This future reward is not salvation. Salvation is by grace and it is not as a reward for works that we are saved. (iii) The reward has reference to the degree of glory bestowed in the state of bliss, that is, the station a person is to occupy in glory and does not have reference to the gift of glory itself. (iv) This reward is not administered because good works earn or merit reward, but because God is graciously pleased to reward them. That is to say it is a reward of grace. (In the Romish scheme good works have real merit and constitute the ground of the title to everlasting life.) The good works are rewarded because they are intrinsically good and well-pleasing to God. They are not rewarded because they earn reward but they are rewarded only as labour, work or service that is the fruit of God’s grace, conformed to his will and therefore intrinsically good and well-pleasing to him. They could not even be rewarded of grace if they were principally and intrinsically evil.

    Murray’s commentary on Romans 2:5-16 rejects the hypothetical view held by older reformed theologians–” The apostle thus speaks, not in the way of abstract hypothesis but of concrete assertion… He says not what God would do were He to proceed in accordance with the primal rule and standard of the law, but what, proceeding according to that rule, He will actually do.’… The determining factor in the rewards of retribution or of glory is not the privileged position of the Jew but evil-doing or well-doing respectively.”

    Murray on Romans 2:13—It is quite unnecessary to find in this verse any doctrine of justification by works in conflict with the teaching of this epistle in later chapters. Whether any will be actually justified by works either in this life or at the final judgment is beside the apostle’s interest and design at this juncture. The burden of this verse is that not the hearers or mere possessors of the law will be justified before God but that in terms of the law the criterion is doing, not hearing. The apostle’s appeal to this principle serves that purpose truly and effectively, and there is no need to import questions that are not relevant to the universe of discourse. …Although the word justify is not used here with reference to the justification which is the grand theme of the epistle, the forensic meaning of the term justify is evident even in this case

    Samuel Waldron—http://www.cbtseminary.org/cbts-blog-original/is-there-a-future-justification-by-works-at-the-day-of-judgment–10/

    Murray’s lecture on justification contained in the Collected Writings affirms that works only have to do with the degree of reward in glory, while in his Romans commentary he affirms that the judgment by works which has the twin consequences of eternal life and wrath is not hypothetical. I see no way to evade the fact of some contradiction between the two statements…

    http://www.cbtseminary.org/cbts-blog-original/is-there-a-future-justification-by-works-at-the-day-of-judgment–8/

    http://feedingonchrist.com/paul-the-law-and-eschatological-justification-three-views-on-romans-213/

    The original Westminster Confession did not cite Leviticus 18:5 anywhere. In light of the resolution that Murray arrived at, he added Lev 18:5 as a proof text to WCF 19.6.

    VI. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned;[a] yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs, and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives;[c] so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin; together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of His obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof;[s] although not as due to them by the law, as a covenant of works. So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and not under grace.

    Ex. 19:5–6. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. Deut. 5:33. Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess. Matt. 19:17. And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
    OPC Westminster Confession
    (compare with 1646 WCF)

    John Murray-In connection with the promise of life it does not appear justifiable to appeal, as frequently has been done, to the principle enunciated in certain texts (cf. Lev. 18:5; Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:12), ‘This do and thou shalt live’. ….From the promise of the Adamic administration we must dissociate all notions of meritorious reward. The promise of confirmed integrity and blessedness was one ANNEXED TO AN OBEDIENCE THAT ADAM OWED and, therefore, was a promise of GRACE

    John Murray– All that Adam could have claimed on the basis of equity was justification and LIFE AS LONG AS HE PERFECTLU OBEYEDi but not confirmation so as to insure indefectibility. Adam could claim the fulfillment of the promise if he stood the probation, but only on the basis of God’s GRACE, not on the basis of justice.

    John Murray–Te Mosaic covenant wasredemptive in character and was continuous with and extensive of the Abrahamic covenants.

    According to this view, in quoting Leviticus 18:5, Paul abstracts the law from its context in the Mosaic Covenant of Grace and applies it to his situation with the Judaizers. Guy P. Waters, in his chapter in The Law is Not of Faith

    http://feedingonchrist.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Guy-Waters-Rom-101.5-Version-2.0.pdf

    https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2016/10/17/murray-on-lev-185-why-did-john-murray-reject-the-covenant-of-works

  14. markmcculley Says:

    Luke 6: 7 The scribes and Pharisees were watching Him closely, to see if He would heal on the Sabbath, so that they could find a charge against Him. 8 But He knew their thoughts and told the man with the paralyzed hand, “Get up and stand here.”So he got up and stood there. 9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do what is good or to do what is evil, to save life or to destroy it?” 10 After looking around at them all, He told him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored.11 They, however, were filled with rage and started discussing with one another what they might do to Jesus.

    Jesus Christ was not negotiating with these religious people about if the law needed to be more or less conservative. Jesus was telling them that He was God, that He has the prerogatives of God. Jesus can take up or not take up the Mosaic law. Jesus can take up or not take up a man’s paralyzed hand.

    Luke 6: 9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do what is good or to do what is evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

    Jesus does not merely ask if it’s lawful to do what is good or save life on the Sabbath. Jesus also asks if it’s lawful to do what is evil or destroy life on the Sabbath. But what kind of question is that? Of course we are not permitted to do evil or destroy life. Or even to overcome evil with evil. But God by His Holy nature can and does do what we should not do. But God by His Sovereign nature can do what we cannot do. We cannot do miracles. We cannot forgive other sinners of their sins against God. By our death we cannot satisfy for the sins of other sinners.

    But Jesus is God. God’s sovereignty means that we cannot control God. Because these religious people could not control Jesus, they “were filled with rage” and started discussing with one another how to kill Jesus.


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