Theonomy Thursday: God's Law Made Easy Reviewed (Part 5)
The treacherous march of theonomy continues. We have put chapter two in our rear view mirror. We are now moving forward into a section that is fairly exegetical. Because of this fact the blogs on this chapter might flow quite differently.
Chapter 3: Christ and God's Law
Mr Gentry starts the chapter out by affirming the Biblical truth that the whole of prophecy and gospel finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. We may discuss how much prophecy remains to be fulfilled but we cannot deny that Christ is the source and power of all fulfillment.
Given this assumption, we must confirm Christ's relationship to the law as He fulfills prophecy and establishes the gospel. His perspective on the law is a crucial starting point. However, His perspective is also pre-crucifixion and resurrection. It is possible for dietary rules and gentiles association to change after the work of Christ.
Christ Expressly Affirms the Law
Here is where the exegesis starts. It is time to evaluate Christ's words during the sermon on the mount as recorded by Matthew. This passage will be the major make or break point in the theonomist premise. The foundation for interpreting the rest of the New Testament scriptures can be found here.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 5:15-20
The early arguments about this passage will stem around the word "fulfill". This is a crucial word to understand properly lest we lose what Jesus is trying to say. Mr Gentry argues that far from undercutting the law, Christ is stating that He will do the opposite of what the legalistic Jews had been doing. Instead of creating traditions that took people away from the intent of God law, He would "restore or fill back up the Law."
Now some of us may struggle with this concept. The word fulfill is used often early in Matthew (1:22; 2:15, 17, 23; ect.). The word really means "filled to the full". The idea of completion is quite far from the original intent. Christ can then be seen as saying that His purpose is to restore the law to its proper function in the people of God (aka being a little on a hill - Matt 5:13-15).
With this restoration being the fulfillment of the context, the Greek word gar (for) then takes on the meaning of explanation in Matt 5:18. The created order will end before God's law loses its purpose in setting God's people apart. A strong argument can be made against Mr Gentry's point in that the text does state "until all is accomplished". Some will want to point this to the fulfilled ministry of Christ on the cross. That is a fine argument but struggles with the context of the text.
Part of the reason this is a struggle is that Christ turns around and makes a practical application of this truth. Most Christians understand "the kingdom of heaven" to extend beyond just the earthly ministry of Christ. And yet here Christ says those that keep and teach the law find themselves the greatest in the kingdom. This may seem a stretch, but this should be strange for a grace-and-gospel raised Christian to hear that the law follower is the greater in the kingdom.
Christ concludes the chapter with a string of rebukes for incorrect teaching of the law. But Christ Himself is not repealing this laws. He is fleshing them out and restoring to them God's full intent. If Mr Gentry's analysis is correct, then the Christian has the Biblical pattern for the Old Testament law. Each command is to be fulfilled and restored to it God-intended fullness.
This is a string of strong arguments from Mr Gentry. Far from being conclusive, Christ is still speaking pre-Easter mind you, it is a major foundation that remains fought over by theonomists. We'll continue in chapter three next week with some smaller sections that are less exegetically based.