The Great Christian Revolution 2B – The Necessity For Biblical Law

B. The Law and the Apostles:

Antinomianism is the denial of Biblical law and its sanctions in New Testament times. It threatens the judicial inheritance of the West. This, in turn, threatens the economic inheritance of the West: the increasing per capita wealth made possible by free market capitalism. Whether this antinomianism is the scholastic variety, the Lutheran variety, the Reformed variety, or the dispensational variety, the result is the same: the undermining of covenant-keeping men's faith in the positive corporate results of corporate covenantal faithfulness. This loss of faith then undermines the development of an explicitly Biblical social theory, including economics. 1

Paul and the other apostles quoted from the law, as though it was perfectly normative, to be obeyed by them and by us. (See Ro.15:4; I Cor.9:8-10;14:34; Eph.6:1-3). Paul makes it clear (see Gal.1:13-17) that Judaism had been his former way of life, before becoming a Christian. Not any more. Judaism was not the Old Testament faith. It was an attempt to implement an ancient heresy, justification by works, which is never taught in scripture.

“Abraham is chosen by God and made just by God’s grace, not by his personal merit or works. Implicit and explicit in all that Paul continues to say is what Calvin briefly summarized thus: ‘there is no place in the church for any man who is not a son of Abraham.’ 2 And we are sons of Abraham only by God’s grace through faith, not by blood or works.” 3

Five times in the Book of Galatians the apostle Paul names the issue he is vigorously contending with: Gal.2:16 (3 times); 3:11 and 5:4. Gal.2:16 says, “…a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even as we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law; since by the works of the law no flesh will be justified.”

Was Paul being critical of the law itself? No, for he said in another place, that “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” (Ro.7:12) What the apostle Paul contended with and was critical of, were attempts by some within the church, particularly the Pharisees, to turn the law of God into a means of salvation– something which it was never designed for. This helps us understand Paul’s comment, when he taught that “…you are not under law but under grace” (Ro.6:14). Judaism was a serious problem within the early church. Rushdoony is clear on this point:

Works are under a curse when they represent human activity apart from God and His sovereignty. Such works seek to vindicate man’s autonomy and to justify man before God and humanity. Such works posit the possibility of creating an order outside of God and thus represent the premise of Genesis 3:5, every man as his own god. Men can use God’s own law to attempt to justify themselves before God by uniting God’s law, as filtered through man’s hand, as a means of furthering their autonomy. 4

This explains Paul’s question in Gal.4:21: “Tell me, you who want to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?” The Judaisers were effectively refusing the notion of God’s grace, believing it seems, that their superficial obedience to God’s law would be a means of justification for them, when they should have known that noone can obey God’s law perfectly.

Judaism was thus hostle to the Christian faith, because it was:

a) Humanistic- Jesus said to the Pharisees, that “…you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” (Mat.23:15)
b) Nationalistic.
c) Hypocritical and racist-Mat.23:23-29; Jn. 4:9;8:48.
d) A works based religion, focused on the outward observance of Mosaic law, such as circumcision-Gal.6:12.
e) Religiously bigoted- Jn.9:24-34.

An Analysis of Galatians 4:21-31:

Paul utilises an allegory in this passage, as a means of contrast, to teach the Galatians. Firstly, he is not contrasting the Old Testament and the New Testament. We know this, because he refers negatively (in one part of his contrast), to “the son of the bondwoman who was born according according to the flesh” (v.23). This was Ishmael, and he was not representative of the Old Testament saints, for they were those who inherited the promises of God.

Secondly, he is not contrasting Moses and Christ. Though he refers to “Mt Sinai” twice (v.24, 25), which could be an allusion to Moses and the Ten Commandments, Paul is referring to a group of people “in slavery with her children”(v.25).

Thirdly, he is not contrasting law and grace, because law and grace are never opposed in the scripture.

Paul is contrasting two groups of people: Judaism, centred in “the present Jerusalem,” (v.25) and believers in Christ, who are members of “the Jerusalem above” (v.26). Judaism, typified by Paul as being like Ishmael, “he who was born according to the flesh,” was in a state of tension with believers in Christ, who are typified by Paul as being like Isaac,“him who was born according to the Spirit” (v.29). Originally, the natural seed of Abraham (Ishmael) had persecuted the seed of the promise, Isaac (Gen.21:9). Now in Paul’s day, it was happening all over again. The natural seed of Abraham (the Jews), were persecuting his true spiritual seed, believers in Jesus Christ.

How do we know this? Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that “you brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved…” (I Thess.2:14-16). Rushdoony’s comments here are helpful:

The covenant of works is not a Biblical concept but an invention of the Pharisees which has extensively influenced all branches of the church. As against the bondage or slavery created by such a false faith, Paul sets forth the true covenant, a covenant of grace, which requires holiness of us and therefore it is also a covenant of law. Because we are redeemed, we manifest our salvation in our law-keeping…for the Pharisees, their false covenant is bondage, “but Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all” (v.26). This true Jerusalem is the true Holy City, whereas Jerusalem in Judea was full of violence, injustice, deceit, murder, and hostility to the Lord of Glory…this new Jerusalem belongs both to this world and the world to come, to heaven and to earth, to the present and to the future. It is the City of God, the realm of freedom in Christ.5

Conclusion: Did the apostles believe in God’s law? Yes, for they taught from it. The Law is not nullified by faith. We are obliged to establish the Law (Ro.3:31), but not as an attempt to secure our justification. Not only would this be a ridiculous and impossible task; it is something totally alien to scripture, for “a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” (Ro.3:28) To suggest anything else, is to propose another gospel, which is what Judaism represented. “Phariseeism had turned Old Testament faith into a works religion and therefore paganized it.” 6

1. North, G., “Inheritance and Dominion,” 1999, ch.53.
2. Calvin, J., “Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians,” 1948, p.87.
3. Rushdoony, R. J., “Romans and Galatians,” 2000, p.344.
4. Rushdoony, ibid, p.345.
5. ibid., p.378-389.
6. ibid., p.370.

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