Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
If you ever visit a truly old North American Church (e.g. KT above) or one in Europe (e.g. England) you will like find a copy of the 10 Commandments in the Church. (Most classic Protestant catechisms, like Luther’s and Calvin’s, included them too). In my visits to old churches in Britain you will traditionally find two things on either side of the altar: the 10 commandments and either the Lord’s Prayer or Apostles Creed (or both). The one representing The Law and the other Grace.
The Law convicts of sin and drives us to the promise of the Gospel. Once we believe the Law becomes our guide to holiness, enabled by the help of the Holy Spirit.
Once familiar to or known by most Christians, sadly today many Christians cannot even tell you the 10 Commandments. I became aware of this at a church retreat when one group activity question was to list the 10 commandments in order. I got them all but not in order. As such I resolved to learn them by heart. Our son was able to say them by the age of 2.
Jesus condensed the 10 Commandments (and indeed the whole Mosaic Law) in the Great Commandment. Consider their identical parallels:
Part of the decline of the 10 Commandments is general biblical illiteracy but part of it is a view that does not see them as part of God’s moral law, binding upon all people at all times.
However, we have every reason to affirm that they are and so cherish them.
We find pre-Law expressions of don’t murder (Cain and Abel) and the Sabbath (Creation and Manna). Abraham kept all of God’s laws too (Gen 26:5).
Each of the 10 Commandments are also reaffirmed in the New Testament (or New Covenant):
Other reasons to view the 10 Commandments as a faithful summary of the moral law include:
So let’s impress the 10 Commandments upon our heart and pray the Holy Spirit will use them to convict of sin and lead to righteousness.
What did Paul mean when he wrote to the Galatians about the “law of Christ” (Gal 6:2)?
For starters he was contrasting it with the Law of Moses, which because of the New Covenant, was no longer binding (Gal 3:15–29; 1 Cor 9:20). We never were saved by the Law (as many Jews had confused) but anticipating the Messiah, just as today one is justified through retroactive faith in Him. Was he or the Christian without a moral compass then if the Law of Moses had been fulfilled—certainly not (i.e. Gal 5:18 is not saying we can do whatever we’d like). Because the Mosaic Covenant is no more, how then shall we live?
In the Bible “law” can mean a number of things (which can make it confusing). It can mean: The Bible, God’s commands, the Mosaic Covenant or Law of Moses or the moral law.
Some have suggested antinomianism (there is no law) while others have opted for the other extreme of legalism (try to be saved by keeping the law). In the middle there are those who no longer see the Law of Moses as binding (Calvin- it is useful for wisdom) and those who see only those laws reinforced in the New Testament as binding (but some obviously sinful practices found in the OT are not found in the NT, like necromancy). Others see the moral law found in the Law of Moses still binding.
Enter the Law of Christ, or the royal law (Ja 2:8).
In 1 Cor 9:21b Paul said, “not being outside of the law of God but under the law of Christ.” Though the Law of Moses is no more that does not mean the New Covenant believer (Jew or Gentile) is left without a guide to pleasing God through obedient and right living.
Christ is the King (or Lord). The King has a law. His law is binding on His citizens and non-citizens, though only His citizens fully seek to keep it with the help of the Holy Spirit. There are some elements to this law that are unique to this Covenant (e.g. baptism), however, most of it is an encapsulation of the moral law.
Classically, Christians have understood the tri-partite (threefold) division of the Law of Moses: ceremonial (pointed to and fulfilled in Christ and useful in understanding the Gospel), legal (again, fulfilled in Christ, useful for wisdom and principles for civil governments—like Western society) and the moral law, which is universally binding on all people in all times. Christ fulfilled the whole law, ceremonially, legally and morally, and yet the moral law remains.
We get a sense of this before and after the Law of Moses. In Gen 26:5 it says, “Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes and my laws”—in other words the moral law. In Galatians Paul upholds the second half of the Great Commandment (Gal 5:14a), itself a summation of the 10 Commandments, which the New Testament cites in its entirety.
The Law of Christ are those commands unique to the New Covenant + the moral law.
May we seek to be obedient to the Law of Christ for our good and Christ’s glory.
To read more about the moral law see the 1689 Baptist Confession ch.19 and the New Hampshire Baptist Confession 1833.12.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.
(Matthew 5:17, Sermon on the Mount)
What did Jesus mean here? How did Christ fulfil the Law? What does that mean for the Law itself?
Christ Fulfilled the Law
The Law can mean: a) God’s decrees, b) Scripture, c) a Covenant, d) the Mosaic Covenant (or Covenant with Israel at Sinai), or e) God’s moral law. Given the context in the Sermon on the Mount it is almost certainly “d,” the Mosaic Law; yet with a twist.
To abolish means to unyoke, as in unyoking an animal from a cart. As such it means to break or destroy what was.
To fulfil means is to be full or to meet.
The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day feared He was a religious revolutionary who would upset their cherished possession, or rather their misinterpretations and additions (Mt 23:4; Mk 7:7), for Jesus, being perfect, never broke God’s Law. He would be much more radical and still more conservative than they thought.
Christ fulfilled the Law by doing what Adam, doing what the descendants of Abraham, and of Israel and the Kings could not do—be that perfect covenant partner. No human can by their works “fulfil the Laws demands” (“Rock of Ages”).
Christ could fulfil the Law, as Matthew is keen to point out, because He was the lawgiver greater than Moses.
The New Covenant
In fulfilling, or meeting, the demands of previous covenants, Jesus inaugurated the promised New Covenant (Jer 31:31; Ezk 36; Heb 8 et al).Jesus’ life and ministry marked a watershed or transition period between the covenants (it was inter-covenantal). When He died the veil was torn. After He ascended the Spirit was given. There is a newness in the New Covenant. New (kainos) means something new in kind, like a new invention; it isn’t new (neos) as in a new type of car but a new form of travel like a teleporter. (The NC doesn’t abolish, replace or succeed the Old, it fulfils the promises of the Law and Prophets. It is the direct continuation of God’s plans).
According to Gal 3:15–29 the Law of Moses was temporary and served the purpose of exposing our sin and making the promise to Abraham essential. It also has a guiding quality.
As such certain aspects of the Law of Moses were no longer necessary. Since Christ was the sacrifice for sin and the Holy Spirit now made believers the living temple of His presence the Temple was obsolete and hence the ceremonial system. The dietary laws (an external sign of holiness) were no longer necessary for Christ taught that holiness flowed from Christ’s imputation and through a new heart cleansed from within by the Spirit. (Scripture emphatically declares this in Mk 7:19b, “Thus He declared all foods clean,” c.f. Acts 10). Circumcision as the covenant sign gave way to baptism, the Passover to the Lord’s Supper (Lk 22:20), and so the list could go on.
A Law Remains (The Law of Christ or Moral Law)
How then could Jesus say in Mt 5:18, “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.” Likewise, how could he commend the “scribes and Pharisees” pursuit of righteousness, or holiness, (v. 19), and state this legal righteousness was needed to enter the Kingdom? (Truly, Christ is our righteousness and the Spirit enables us to live righteously, thus guaranteeing our place in the Kingdom, both present and eternal).
In saying that He would fulfil the Law of Moses and yet the law would never pass away Jesus is commending to us the Law of Christ, or the Moral Law (Gal 5:14, 6:2). While the Law of Moses as a whole has been fulfilled in Christ, a law remains which is the moral law found within it (see 2nd London Baptist Confession, ch. 19, for the classic Christian understanding of the threefold division of the Law). This is binding upon all believers to follow as our guide to holiness by the Spirit.
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