The law in the hand of Christ

There is a stream within the Reformed tradition which holds that the believer is not bound to the moral law as given by Moses but as taken up, renewed, and handed to us in Christ. It was for holding this view that I was disciplined by the OPC. (For more information on my judicial case, read my paper defending myself against their false charges.) I have even heard that some in the OPC still consider me to be an “unrepentant offender.” I cannot imagine ever repenting of this glorious doctrine. If I must be labeled an “unrepentant offender,” I am glad to bear the reproach of Christ.

To put it very simply, the issue is this: the Mosaic Covenant is not the covenant under which we as Christians stand. Although all (let me repeat:  all) of the moral teaching of the Old Covenant continues over into the New, it comes to believers in a new covenantal context, mediated by Christ himself. The authority has changed — not Moses but Christ. The covenantal motivation has changed — not a covenant of works, “Do this and live” (Lev 18:5), but a covenant of grace with its indicatives and imperatives. None of the moral stipulations has changed, but they have been deepened and intensified in Christ – see the Sermon on the Mount and John 13:34.

Anyway, here are some Reformed theologians who would apparently be regarded as “unrepentant offenders” by the OPC were they alive today.

Samuel Bolton, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom (Edinburgh: the Banner of Truth Trust, 1994), p. 57:

We are freed from the law, as given by Moses, and are only tied to the obedience of it, as it is given in Christ: and though … we are subject to those commands and that law which Moses gave, yet not as he gave it, but as Christ renews it, and as it comes out of His hand and from His authority: “A new commandment I give you, that ye love one another” (John 13:34).

Edward Fisher, The Marrow of Modern Divinity with notes by Thomas Boston (1645; repr., Edmonton, Canada:  Still Waters Revival Books, 1991), pp. 173-75:

Seeing that you are now in Christ, beware that you receive not the ten commandments at the hand of God out of Christ, nor yet at the hands of Moses, but only at the hands of Christ; and so shall you be sure to receive them as the law of Christ.

Thomas Boston comments at this point:

The receiving of the ten commandments at the hands of Christ, is here opposed, (1) To receiving them at the hands of God out of Christ. (2) To receiving them at the hands of Moses, namely, as our Lawgiver … The first is a receiving them immediately from God, without a Mediator; and so receiving them as the law of works … The former manner of receiving them is not agreeable to the state of real believers, since they never were, nor are given in that manner to believers in Christ … The latter is not agreeable to the state of New Testament believers, since the true Mediator is come … However, the not receiving of Moses as the lawgiver of the christian church, carries no prejudice to the honour of that faithful servant.

John Colquhoun, A Treatise on the Law and the Gospel (1819; repr., Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1999), pp. 26-27:

This law issues to true Christians from Christ, the glorious Mediator of the New Covenant, and from God their Creator, Proprietor, Benefactor, and covenant God. It proceeds immediately from Jesus Christ, the blessed Mediator between God and men. It is taken in under the covenant of grace, and, in the hand of Christ, the Mediator of that covenant, it is given to all who believe in Him, and who are justified by faith, as the only rule of their obedience. The Apostle Paul accordingly calls it ‘the law of Christ’ (Galatians 6:2).

I’m glad to join the ranks of such godly, Christ-centered men, even if it is costly to do so.

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