Various Views on Law and Gospel…
Terry Dashner……………..Faith Fellowship Church PO Box 1586 Broken Arrow, OK 74013
How does a believer reconcile ostensible antithesis of Grace and Law of Moses? The Church has struggled with this marriage (or divorce, depending on what camp you’re in) since Church was birthed on Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two. What does Bible say? I will share with you some of relevant scriptures and let you sort out continuity or discontinuity between two—law and grace.
Wayne G. Strickland, professor of theology and co-chair of Bible and theology department, Multnomah School of Bible and ardent dispensationalist states, “The resolution of Law/Gospel debate is no simple exercise, but neither is it a trivial issue. Among theological issues raised by Paul, this one has perpetually been regarded as one of great significance.” I certainly agree. And why?
Strickland continues, “There are compelling reasons to understand a basic discontinuity between Old and New Testaments. The justification stems from entrance into new covenant and various New Testament passages where discontinuity is clearly presented.” He then sites a number of scriptures, underscoring discontinuity. For example, Hebrews 7:12, says he, “states plainly that a drastic change has occurred because a different priesthood has been placed into operation.”
He continues, “The clearest evidence for discontinuity position derives from many passages in New Testament that suggest cessation of Mosaic law as binding for church-age saint: Romans 3:21-31; 4:5, 13-25; 5:13; 6:14-15; 7:6; 10:4; I Corinthians 9:19-23; 2 Corinthians 3:3, 6-18; Galatians 2:19; 3:1-5, 10-29;…”
Nevertheless just when you think Bible frees you from Law of Moses based upon proof texts like these mentioned above, you read other scriptures that swing to other end. These scriptures are Matthew 5:17-19; Mark 7:1-23; Romans 7:12, 14, 22; and I Timothy 1:8 which are marshaled in evidence of continuity of Law and Gospel. What is a believer to do (or believe)?
There are five views regarding Law and Gospel.
Zondervan Publishing House of Grand Rapids, Michigan, has put together a book entitled, Five Views on Law and Gospel. Five scholars present their views regarding Law and Grace and then each one in turn critiques writer’s stated view. It’s a slow read because of material presented, but I have persevered and waded through book for you. I’d like to make just a few comments regarding Willem A. VanGemeren’s Reformed perspective and Wayne G. Stricland’s Dispensational view. These two views make most sense to me.
First allow me to state five views as listed in subtitles. One view is—the Law which takes on perfection of righteousness in Jesus Christ: A Reformed perspective. The second view is—the Theonomic Reformed approach to Law and Gospel. The third is—the Law as God’s gracious guidance for promotion of holiness. The fourth is—the inauguration of Law of Christ with Gospel of Christ: A Dispensational view. And finally, Law of Christ as fulfillment of Law of Moses: A modified Lutheran view. For sake of brevity, I will attempt to state what each view has in common and refrain from dissents. (The dissent goes on and on and on for pages on end).
What each view has in common.
Each of five views holds this in common. The Mosaic Law was not means of salvation in Old Testament. Salvation has always been by faith in God and not in observing an external law. For example, scholar Greg L. Bahnsen, regarding his critique of VanGemeren states, “For VanGemeren, Mosaic covenant was ‘not antithetical to’ nor a ‘substitute’ for Abrahamic promise, but it looked ahead to unique Redeemer and Mediator of covenant, Jesus Christ. Even ‘the Mosaic covenant is a sovereign administration of grace.’ He insists that ‘the law was never intended to be means of salvation’ (even at Lev. 18:5). To all of this we reply with a hearty ‘amen.’”
VanGemeren’s Reformed view wraps up with these words, “Moreover, knowing deceptions of our hearts, we must constantly check ourselves by moral law to see whether we truly love our neighbor as ourselves. Love for neighbor is thermometer by which we check extent of our love for God, obedience to his law, and our dependence on Lord for life.
“Let me end on a personal note. I cannot keep God’s law unless I live by grace of God, in light of gospel of Jesus Christ, and by power of his Spirit. I need his grace every day to help me in discipline of my heart and in imaging perfections of Lord Jesus. It is my prayer that by God’s grace I may enhance order where there is harmony and promote order where there is discord. Come, Lord Jesus, come!”
Therefore, salvation in God has always been—even for Abraham who came before Mosaic Law—by faith in God. Faith is connection, and God is object of our faith. The Mosaic Law had its “special place” in educating Nation Israel regarding coming of Messiah. The Law was to ready them for atoning work of Jesus Christ. The “blood of bulls and goats,” as stated in book of Hebrews, was only a temporary covering (Atonement) which was repeated every year. Faith in Christ is permanent and everlasting as Atonement for sinner. Thank God!
Final remarks from each author
Noting Reformed view, VanGemeren concludes his essay by saying, “Ethical integrity is a wholeness of life. As we keep moral law, pursue perfection of righteousness in union with Jesus Christ, and walk by power of Spirit, we develop wholeness, a wholeness that involves integration of our heart, speech, acts, and manners with mind of Christ.” The Reformed view seems to favor a balance between moral law and Gospel. It is by grace alone that we are justified, but sanctification (growing up in Christ) requires obedience to moral law of God. This makes sense to me; however, it is not without criticism.
Moreover, noting Theonomic Reformed View, Greg L. Bahnsen concludes his essay by stating, “Beyond this, Christians should use lawful means that are available in any particular society to work toward reconstruction of legal, judicial, and political framework of that society. Christian legislators, judges, magistrates, and aides ought to work for progressive amendment of statutes and legal proceedings of state, bringing them more and more into harmony with principles of God’s law for political authorities.”