The Moral Law as a Rule of Life. Dealing With Objections - Part One
In Volume Three of The Christian's Reasonable Service, Wilhelmus a Brakel sets out the moral law as continuing as the rule of life for New Testament believers. Brakel also deals with a number of antinomian objections to the application of that law to believers.
Over our next three posts we shall look at a Brakel's answers to these objections, beginning with the most common - 'we are not under the law but grace'.
These arguments are summarised in our posts, and can be found in their entirety at pages 59-68, Vol 3, The Christian's Reasonable Service (Reformation Heritage Books).
Objection 1: Many texts declare that believers in the New Testament are not under the Law.
The answer is given under two headings: (1) General; and (2) An interaction with each text.
General Answer - in three points.
(i) Paul had to deal with individuals who combined the moral and ceremonial laws, seeking their righteousness and justification in the performance of those laws, not being able to harmonise the shadows with their embodiment. When the Apostle declares that believers are not under the law, he at times speaks of the ceremonial laws due to Christ having come, and at times the moral law as condition of the covenant of works - this being the manner in which such individuals viewed the law.
Conclusion: There is nothing in these texts from which one could conclude believers of the NT are not under the moral law as a rule of life.
(ii) The law must be viewed either in regards to its demands, or in reference to the objective for which it was given upon Sinai.
Looking at its demand we must remember that the image of God is but one, and there is but one holiness. The law that proposes perfect holiness is identical in its demand to the law which Adam had before the fall as a condition of the covenant of works.
The objective of the issuing of the moral law was not that it be a condition to the covenant of works, but a rule of life to partakers of the covenant of grace, who on the basis of Christ's satisfaction are justified.
In respect to the demands believers are not under the law, but they are under the law in respect of its objective.
All unbelievers though free from the ceremonial law are still under the covenant of works and subject to the demands of the law as a condition of this covenants.
(iii) Believers of the OT were subject to the ceremonial law not as judgment for sin but as a loving guide to bring them to Christ, so that believers rejoiced in this and observed it with great delight. Again they were not under the demands of it because they were under the covenant of grace. They had Christ, who is the same yesterday and today, as their justification and had the same sanctification for which the law was their delightful rule of life.
Interaction with the Texts
Text 1 -"For sin shall have no dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace" Rom 6:14
Answer: Who is this contrast between?
Old and New Testament Believers?
There is no contrast here between the Old and New Testaments, for all the ungodly are also not now under the old dispensation, but under the new. There is no contract between believers of the Old and New, for according to the text, believers of the Old Testament must all have been under the dominion of sin. This nullifies the argument, for the entire proposition rests upon the fact that the believers of the New Testament are free from the law. If they wish to include believers of the Old Testament with all believers of all time being under grace, then all believers of the Old Testament have likewise not been under the law. But this they will not admit and their proposition unravels.
The Converted and Unconverted
The unconverted are under the law as the demand of the covenant of works, and thus under its curse.
The converted are under the covenant of grace , in which they are freely justified by grace through redemption by Christ Jesus. They are free from the curse of the law and dominion of sin being regenerated so that life has dominion over death.
Thus, not to be under the law is equivalent to not being under the covenant of works, not to be under the demands of the law as a condition upon which salvation os to be acquired.
There is no connection here that those not under the covenant of works (and thus not under the demands of the law as its condition) are therefore free from the rule of law according to which one lives a life of holiness.
Text 2 -"But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter" Roma 7:6
Answer: Again there is no contrast here between the Old and New Testaments nor between believers from each era. The covenant of works is the first husband under which believers were under prior to conversion. However, Christ has delivered them from their first husband and translated them into the covenant of grace. They are now under a different husband, Christ, having received Him by faith. Being set free and by reason of a new spiritual principle, serve in newness of spirt, in true holiness - and not in the oldness of the letter, that is unconverted, under the covenant of work, and motivated to external religion by fear of damnation.
Thus to die to the law does not set one free from the law as a rule of life, but obliges one to live according to it in the newness of spirit.
Text 3 - "But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster." Gal 3:23-25
Answer: It is expressly stated here that those who believe are no longer under the law as a schoolmaster. This refers to the ceremonial law and not the moral law.
The moral law independently makes no mention of Christ. It does not reveal Christ and cannot lead to Christ. Paul has the ceremonial law in view, which the Jews mingled with the moral law as if they were of the same nature. They sought to be justified by observing it. These Jews being converted wanted to return to the ceremonies in order to be justified thereby. Paul deals with them in reference to their view and demonstrates one cannot be justified by the works of the law. That prioir to the coming of Christ the Jews needed the ceremonial laws (which typed Christ) to lead them to Christ, but Christ having come we no longer need the ceremonies.
Text 4 -"But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law" Gal 5:18,23
Answer: To be under the law is to be under the covenant of works, that is, to seek justification by the works of the law - which is not to be obtained in this manner. Therefore those under the law are under a curse. Thus believers under the Old Testament were no more under the law than we are in the New Testament. They who are led by the spirit of God are partakers of Christ and are thus free from the covenants of work and the curse. The law is not against such persons and cannot condemn them. It is without foundation to allege that those "not under the law" and "against such there is no law", that one must not live according to the law and one ought not to deem it a rule of life. The law is written on their hearts by the Spirit and the Spirit causes them to live according to that law.
Text 5 -"Knowing this, that the law is not made for the righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient," etc 1 Tim 1:9
Answer:The Apostle contrasts the righteous and unrighteous. He says that the law has been made for the unrighteous; that is, made to condemn them and terrify them. The righteous, however, being in the covenant of grace, are free from the condemning power and curse of the law.