Chapter 3: Christ and God's Law
Last time in chapter three we took an extended look at Matthew 5:16-20. More time, perhaps an entire series, could be spent on that text. I might even attempt to do that after I am done reviewing Mr Gentry's book. After establishing the foundation that Christ came to restore and fulfill the law in His disciples, Mr Gentry moves to show how Christ's subsequent teaching only goes further to defend the continuation of the law.
Remember, these are not final proofs or conclusive texts. This remains the slow buildup of a rather cohesive argument against the way the modern church interprets the Scriptures.
Christ Emphatically Teaches the Law's Relevance
The only passage worth mentioning here is Christ's half handed approval and full handed rebuke to the pharisees at the close of Matthew 23. There Christ agrees that the ridiculous tithing practices of the scribes and Pharisees was correct! But they neglected "the weightier matters of the law" (Matt 23:23). Not of grace. Not of the dismissal of the law. Not of faith. But of the very law itself. Interesting huh?
Now re-read all the critical conversations from Christ about legalism. They are almost never about the true God meaning purpose of the law. It is about the traditions and values of men. Christ instead sums up the whole law as love. This is something that Paul reflects on constantly (1 Cor 13:13). Some might stop there and think that is enough. But how do you know if you are being loving in any given situation? This is where Mr Gentry would argue that the case laws of the Old Testament are your clear examples and helpers.
Christ Uphold the Law's Civil Function
Here Mr Gentry starts playing with fire. Not that he is in any kind of trouble. But this is where the hearts of many turn cold against theonomy. Here he brings up Christ's defense of capital punishment (Matt 15:3-6). Many use capital punishment as the end of the line thought about God's law. But Mr Gentry brings up some interesting point's that I will quote at length,
In this passage our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ defends the application of this law and rebukes the Pharisees for circumventing it. He complains that such people "invalidated the word of God," calling them "hypocrites" who merely "honor Me with their lips" (Matt 15:7). In aligning these two laws from the Mosaic code Jesus specifically declares that they are God's law. Not that he states: "For God said..." (pg 29)
This capital sanction is in fact actually found in the Bible, which we are called upon to believe, defend, and promote. To mock a command found in God's Word as absurd or disgusting is simply not an option for the Christian. In fact, such a response reminds us of Adam and Eve;s reaction to God's prohibition in Eden: God commands them not to eat (Gen 2:16-17); but they see that it was "good for food" -- so they reject his command (Gen 3:1-6).
Now, many stand against this understanding for poor and better reasons. I am sympathetic to theonomy in part because of the broken heart and spirit by which I was introduced to it. Greg Bahnsen in discussing this issue admitted that it was a hard thing to believe and have faith in and yet we are called to do it. Mr Gentry does provide some valuable insight here that I'd again like to quote,
Contrary to popular opinion, this capital punishment legislation applies to a son that is: (1) old enough to be a threat to the community...(2) mean enough to be turned over to the authorities by his own parents.
This is not a five year old kid. It may not even be a young teenager. A follow on passage calls this son "a glutton and a drunkard". This is an individual who is a danger to his society by his reckless abandon and refusal to obey. An example today? Perhaps a man prone to drink and drive.
Christ Saves Us in Terms of the Law
Mr Gentry did have a section of how Christ kept the law perfectly but it wasn't long or helpful to the defense of theonomy. So this section will close out chapter three. The Law has a horribly kept secret. It speaks typologically of the death Christ needs to fulfill. You say "how is that a secret?" Well its because the law already judged everyone as being under the law (Rom 2:1-11). Christ died to fulfill the law because the law spoke of the truth death, separation and divine holiness that the Law typified. Those Christ redeems those under the law (Gal 4:5) through His blood (Heb 9:22).
Thus our faith in Christ does not nullify the law. The law spoke typologically. Our faith in Christ's fulfillment of the law in fact fulfills the law in us (Rom 3:31; 8:4) . So Christ's work does little to abrogate the law as much as it is fulfilled in its purpose in the Christian with the Spirit.
The question becomes, if the law is fulfilled through the Spirit does the Spirit call us to live the truth the law proclaims?
Joshua Torrey is the sole proprietor of Torrey Gazette (don't tell Alaina) and the fullness of its editorial process. That means everything wrong with TG can legitimately be blamed on him.