Posted by: chuckbumgardner | June 6, 2012

The Christian and the Law

File:The Ten Commandments (Bible Card).jpgI’ve doing personal study on the relationship between the Mosaic Law and the Christian. Many helpful resources have crossed my path, but I wanted to commend a couple that, while arguing for discontinuity (law not legally binding upon Christians; Christian not “under law”), state the discontinuity in such a way so as to account well (in my opinion) and concisely for the positive statements in Scripture regarding the law and its value for the Christian.

First is Kevin Bauder’s brief essay “The Law”. Among other things, he notes

First, the law delights me. It is a great and glorious revelation of the character of God, as well as a revelation of certain aspects of His plan. Even when God’s commands are not addressed to me, they show what is consistent with His character. In the case of the moral law, the commands are a direct revelation of God’s moral nature. By studying the law as a whole, I learn a great deal about who God is. I learn what sort of thing pleases Him and what sort of thing disgusts Him. I gain a picture of true justice in all of its white heat. As the law discloses God and His nature, and as the law shapes my understanding of justice, I respond with joy, for the law tells me that the moral universe actually is as it truly ought to be.

Second, God’s law inspires me. It shapes within my mind a picture of the good life, and it grips my heart with yearning to live such a life. The more that the law shows me God’s nature, the more I wish to emulate that nature. The more it discloses true justice, the more I wish to be truly just. I am convinced that the life of a person who genuinely lived by God’s law would be a magnificent life indeed. By describing that life, the law makes me want to live it. When I read the commandments and see them as holy and just and good, I wish to make them my own.

A second resource is David Dorsey, “The Law of Moses and the Christian: A Compromise,” JETS 34 (1991): 321-34.  In a similar vein as Bauder (although he wrote the essay quite a few years earlier), he notes

Even without supporting statements from the NT it should be apparent to Christians that the Mosaic laws, though not legally binding, comprise a treasure of insights and information regarding the very mind and ways of God and therefore, a priori, will be binding upon Christians in precisely the same sense as are all other portions of the OT, such as God’s messages to Israel in the prophetic books. If it is true that these stipulations are not our stipulations, it is equally true that they were issued by our God, who does not change. If the corpus was tailor-made for another people in another situation, it was tailor-made by the One we seek to know and serve.

It is here that the point of profound applicability for the Christian is found. A law reflects the mind, the personality, the priorities, the values, the likes and dislikes of the lawgiver. Each law issued by God to ancient Israel (like each declaration by God through the prophets) reflects God’s mind and ways and is therefore a theological treasure. Moreover the theological insights we gain from a particular OT law will not only enhance our knowledge and understanding of God but will also have important practical implications for our own lives if we are patterning them after our heavenly Father and modifying our behavior and thinking in response to our knowledge of him and his ways (Paul argues along these very lines in 1 Cor 9:9—10). It is in this sense that every one of the 613 laws or Moses is binding upon the NT Christian. (332)

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  1. [...] 6/6/12  David A. Dorsey, “The Law of Moses and the Christian: A Compromise,” JETS 34 (1991): 322-24.  I found this to be an excellent article.  (See The Christian and the Law) [...]


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