A Catechism on God’s Law (Part 16)

Based on Greg Bahnsen’s “By This Standard,” (1991).

  1. What would the obedience of God’s people show?

Obedience to the law is their token of redemption, proof of their love, and sign of their dedication to the Lord.

The Old Testament taught that the very meaning of God’s law and obedience to it was that God had delivered His people (Deut.6:20-25; for example, 5:15). Indeed, not keeping the commandments of God was identified as forgetting one’s redemption (Deut.8:11-17), and it was clear that salvation was far from those who did not desire God’s statutes (Ps.119:155). Similarly in the New Testament, where life eternal is to “know Christ” (Jn.17:3), we indicate that “we know Him if we keep His commandments,” and it is a lie to say that one knows Christ who does not keep His commandments (I Jn. 2:3-4).

The Old Covenant said that those who love the Lord will obey His commandments (Deut.10:12-13), and New Testament love for the Lord is proved in the same way (Jn.14:15; I Jn.5:3). Dedication to God and His purposes was signalled in the Old Testament by adherence to God’s law (Deut.26:17; Joshua 22:5). Things are not different in the New Testament, where those who choose to follow Christ rather than the beast are identified as “those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev.12:17; 14:12). In either Old or New Testament it would be unthinkable for a redeemed saint, who loved the Lord and was dedicated to Him, to spurn, criticise or disobey the law of God (p.148-149).

  1. Is God’s law for eternity?

In a day when many view the law of the Lord as arbitrary, expendable, or temporary in its authority for the life of man, it is highly valuable to observe the outlook of the inspired writers. Moses wrote that forever it would go well with God’s people to observe the commandments which He revealed (Deut.12:28). David exclaimed that “All his precepts are sure; they are established forever and ever” (Ps.111:7-8; cf. 119:152).

Indeed, the eternal authority of God’s commands characterises each and every one of them: “Every one of thy righteous ordinances endureth forever” (Ps.119:160). Looking unto the fearful day of the Lord when the wicked will be consumed with fire (Mal.4:1), the prophet Malachi pronounces as one of the final words of the Old Testament, “Remember the law of Moses my servant” (4:4).

…No man has the prerogative to tamper with the requirements laid down by God. Only God himself, the Law-giver, has the authority to abrogate or alter His commandments. Yet the testimony of God incarnate in the New Testament is that the law is not to be changed, even with the momentous event of His coming (Mat.5:17, 19). God’s eternal and righteous law is unalterable, according to the joint teaching of the Old and New Testaments (p.150-151).

  1. What should New Testament believers keep?

Anyone who suggests, without authorisation from the word of God, that some law of the Old Testament is not binding upon our behaviour today would fall under the double censure of both the Old and New Testament writers. Such a suggestion would contradict the perpetuity and extent of God’s law as taught in both Testaments; it would evidence forgetfulness of God’s mercies, violate the covenant, and deprive God’s people of one of their delights… To challenge the law without Biblically revealed direction from the Lord is to grieve and challenge Him, so that those who do so will be demoted within God’s kingdom.

Unless Scripture itself shows us some change with respect to God’s law or our obedience to it, the principle which governs out attitude and behaviour should be the same as the Bible’s categorical assumption: namely, that our instruction in righteous behaviour is found in every Old Testament scripture (I Tim.3:16-17), every point of the law (James 2:10), even the least commandment (Mat.5:19; 23:23), every word (Mat.4:4), and every letter (Mat.5:18). This is clear from the major points, to which both Old and New Testament give assent, that have been reviewed about the law above. Given these agreed-upon points, we have no reason to expect that the New Testament would categorically or silently release the believer from his moral duty to God’s law.

…To summarise: we must assume continuity of moral duty between Old Testament and New Testament. Accordingly, by operating by this Biblical assumption, the burden of Scriptural proof lies directly and heavily upon anyone who would deny the validity or the relevant authority of some particular Old Testament stipulation for our day (p.152-153).

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