How Is It That We Are “Not Under Law?”

Romans 6:14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

When St. Paul writes about not being “under the law,” he is not at that point teaching us that being Christian means being antinomian. The not being under the law that Paul is referencing here has to do with the freedom from the condemnation of the law that is a reality for all those outside of Christ. Man, as being mortal is always governed by some law and so it is literally not possible to be free from law in the sense of having a lawless existence.

Freedom from the condemnation of the law is the good news the Gospel brings. Outside of Christ, we are forever burdened by the accusation of God’s law that we are guilty of not keeping God’s law. In Christ, we are free from that accusation (and the condemnation following) that we are guilty of because of our violating God’s law, and we are free from the condemnation of God’s law precisely because Christ is the one, in His crucifixion, who, as our substitute, already received in Himself the penalty and condemnation that was properly designed for us due to our breaking of God’s law.

Having been set free from the condemnation of God’s law we are now at liberty to walk in terms of God’s law without any fear because there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We are those who no longer walk consistent with our sinful former appetites but who now walk according to our law honoring desires as we are new creations.

That God’s law still functions in our life is the great presupposition of Scripture. After all, how could we ever successfully honor the call to lay aside sin

in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.  (Ephesians 4:22)

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us … (Hebrews 12:1)

unless there was a standard by which we could know whereby that sin is determined? If we are not under law in the sense that the law no longer exists for the Christian then there is no possibility for us to sin, since without law sin does not exist. If we are not under law in the sense that the law no longer exists for the Christian then right and wrong and good and bad really are only existential social constructs with the result that every Christian does what is right in their own eyes. 

Observations Surrounding the Cross …. Forgiveness

Luke 23:27 And following Him was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him. 28 But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”…

33 When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. 34 But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.

Note the difference responses of our Lord relating to the different participants in the Crucifixion narrative. In the context of the weeping and wailing of the “Daughters of Jerusalem,” Jesus doesn’t ask the Father to “forgive the Jews for they know not what they do.” In point of fact we know from earlier encounters with the Jews Jesus said that the vengeance of God upon the Jews for the killing of the Son of the Vineyard owner came at the cost of their very lives,

What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.” When they heard it, they said, “May it never be!” 17 But Jesus looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written:

The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief corner stone’?

18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”

For the Romans crucifying Jesus, Jesus pleads for the Father to forgive them. For the Jewish women lamenting the crucifixion of Jesus, Jesus, in a likely prophetic reference to AD 70, warns about the coming wrath of God.
This distinction between these two kinds of speech for two different kinds of people is also captured in the difference of Christ towards Judas and Peter. To Peter Jesus says,

31″Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

While to Judas, Jesus says,

“What you are about to do, do quickly.”

The difference between Judas and Peter is one was the son of perdition while the other was one of the elect. One wonders if that might not be the discriminating difference also in the way Jesus does not plead forgiveness for the Jews who crucified Him but does plead forgiveness for the Romans who served as those executioners who would do the bidding of the Jews in crucifying Jesus Christ?

Addendum

Some have insisted upon reviewing Christ’s request for forgiveness for the Romans soldiers that at that point the Roman soldiers would have been forgiven at that moment, in the sense of sins forgiven, since the Father and the Son are in agreement. This overlooks one meaning of the word forgiveness.

One meaning of the word “forgiveness” can be deferment or temporary suspension of the charges. Sanday advocates for this in his commentary on Romans when reviewing vs. 25 of chapter 3 he notes that forgiveness (remission — paresis) may be a “temporary suspension of punishment which may at some later date be inflicted.” So, when the Lord Christ prays, “Father forgive them (suspend the charges for the time being) for they know not what they do,”  the request is for a deferment or temporary suspension of the charges. As such, when Jesus prays this I don’t think it is proper to think that at that point the Roman soldiers’ sin is forgiven in the sense of the debt canceled.

We should end here by noting that usually when forgiveness is used in the Scriptures it has reference to a legal and not emotional / psychological resolve. Forgiveness occurs after there has been a debt incurred followed by the legal satisfying of that debt. For example, when we are forgiven by God it is not because God has a warm fuzzy towards us and is willing to let bygones be bygones. God forgives us because our indebtedness to Him as violators of His law as been satisfied for us by the work of Jesus Christ in our stead on the Cross. Our forgiveness is thus a juridical (legal) reality. God forgives us because our debt has been paid by our surety.

(Surety — a person who takes responsibility for another’s performance of an undertaking, for example, their appearing in court or the payment of a debt.)

Modern man would do well to re-examine his idea of forgiveness. We tend to think that forgiveness is an emotional or psychological disposition towards someone who has committed offense when in point of fact forgiveness is a legal term that requires, when necessary, restitution before forgiveness can be extended.

What we typically call “forgiveness” is perhaps better termed charity or mercy.

 

 

Progressive Reduction … Progressive Advance and the Postmillennial hope

The movement of Scripture seems to require a postmillennial eschatology.

Think about it. The Old Covenant moves from the Universal to the Particular after the fall. After the fall God’s salvation design is towards all men, but after the flood and after Babel that design is particularized to one people (Israel). From there the failure of Israel, like the failure of mankind prior to the flood, means an even more progressive reduction moving to “the remnant” and then finally culminating in this progressive reduction in the election of Jesus Christ to be God’s representative for the Redemption of His people. However, with the resurrection of Christ, we find the reversal of the previous progressive reduction to a progressive advance and broadening of redemption. What had been, prior to the arrival of Christ, a redemptive movement of the many to the one, with the resurrection the redemptive energy reverses and is now from the one to the many. We are still looking at election and representation, but the further salvific development unfolds so that from the center reached in the resurrection of Christ the way no longer leads from the many to the One but rather, as seen in the incorporating of the Nations, the movement of Redemption is progressively advancing from the one to the many. Consistently traced out this pattern and trajectory requires a belief in postmillennialism.

This hour-glass movement of Redemption (progressive reduction and narrowing to progressive advance and broadening) is most clearly articulated in Galatians 3:6 – 4:7. In that passage St. Paul begins with the promise to Abraham and his seed and reveals how ultimately the promise is to the Christ (3:16) who effectuates the ransom by His substitutionary death (4:5). This vicarious atonement results in the broadening of Redemption’s reach as all men and people may now become descendants of Abraham (3:26, 29) by faith alone in Christ alone.  All may become “sons and heirs” (4:4-7) through baptism.

Maybe Warfield’s “Universal Postmillennialism” was correct?

In an interesting aside one can also see this double helix hourglass movement in the Christian measuring of time by way of metaphor. Before Christ (BC) the years are numbered in a progressive reduction. However, with the arrival of Christ (AD) the numbering of the years continues to climb progressively year by year. This becomes an excellent illustration for the way that the first Christians measured redemptive time. The center and focal point is Christ and with Christ time is reoriented with the Christ event. 

 

Reformation Day 2016 Homily

I Cor. 10:31 — So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.

Colossians 3:17
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
 
1 Peter 4:11
If anyone speaks, he should speak as one conveying the words of God. If anyone serves, he should serve with the strength God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

________________

With these passages we are taught that there is a distinctively Christian way to lean into life … to do all that we do from the most mundane matters to the most exalted. For the Christian nothing is done from a neutral position. For the Christian all is done to glorify God.

This mindset was captured in the Reformation byword of Sola de Gloria. To the glory of God alone.

The Reformed desired to re-order all of life in ways consistent with God’s Word for the purpose of glorifying God alone in ALL they did.

Increasingly that mindset … the mindset of doing all we do for the glory of God is absent in our thinking. The very few that remain that seek to employ that in their thinking and writing are met with the catcalls of their “brethren” saying that Christianity has nothing to do with those areas that they are thinking about how one might live for the glory of God.

There was a time for example when it was routinely understood among Reformed folk that Christianity had a doctrine that had implications for our social order.

It was not thought that Christianity was to be applied only to the matter of salvation of souls. It was understood widely that Christianity created a whole unique social order.

And so with this cry of Sola Dei Gloria Reformed Christianity reshaped the West. This is so true that

World renowned German Historian Leopold Van Ranke could write,

“John Calvin was virtually the founder of America.”

“He that will not honor the memory and respect the influence of Calvin knows but little of the origin of American liberty”

George Bancroft — Historian
History of the United States of America — Vol. 1 — pg. 464

These men were not speaking of the fact that Reformed Christianity had particular doctrines of Grace that were unique. They were speaking of the Doctrines of the Reformation that created a unique social order and way of living as a people.

So, in seeking to do whatever they did to the glory of God they approached a social order that maintained distinctions and which denied egalitarianism. They saw passages such as “Honor thy Mother and Father,” as passages that taught social hierarchy.

Westminster Confession

Q. 124. Who are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment?
 
A. By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents,[649] but all superiors in age[650] and gifts;[651] and especially such as, by God’s ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family,[652] church,[653] or commonwealth.[654]

Calvin echoed this,

“All are not created on equal terms … This God has testified, not only in the case of single individuals; He has also given a specimen of it in the whole posterity of Abraham, to make it plain that the future condition of each nation was entirely at His disposal.” – John Calvin

And so wanting to do all they did to the Glory of God and believing in social hierarchy the Reformation created a social order that was opposed to both a static hierarchy and the kind of egalitarianism that the much of the visible Church promotes today.

But it did not stop here. All along the social order the Reformation did all it did for the glory of God.

As another example … The idea of covenantal solidarity that we find communicated in Reformed understandings of Baptism found its way into our Constitution when the Founders wrote they were seeking to,

“secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,”

This is a very Reformed and covenantal way of thinking.

And so the Church has become silent and in becoming silent a vacuum has been created so that other worldviews have achieved a cultural hegemony that would never have been possible in cultures that were epistemologically and self consciously Reformational.

Where the Reformation once called for social heirarchy, the Church has now retreated and  so soul killing egalitarianism is all the rage. Where Reformation thinking called for a social order with Limited Governments, the modern Church has retreated and so no tocsin is sounded warning about the rise of Tyrants and Usurpers. Where the Reformation talked about the effects of man’s original sin, the modern Church has retreated and no word is spoken of how original sin manifests itself in our political, educational, aesthetic or economic programs.

In the name of saving souls the Church has become silent about doing all that is done Sola Dei Gloria. As a consequence, we have lost our social order and it is now informed and shaped by pagan religions with the effect that the Church can in no way compete with an alien messaging that is being drummed into people 24-7. Further, because Christianity has surrendered the social order people are now shaped by that social order and bring that shaping into the Church with them with the result that Christianity ends up being reinterpreted in a pagan direction.

We should not be surprised that the Church, with a Reformational message, is largely seen, by a now alien culture, as being hateful, mean, and not nice. We should not be surprised that the Church that does not carry a Reformation message are seen as the haunts of the Simpson’s Rev. Lovejoys of the world.

And God’s people love it so.

What other examples besides the few we already communicated demonstrate this Reformation desire to do all that was done to the glory of God get in and create our social order?

We could talk of checks and balances in Government. We could speak of limited and diffuse Government. We could speak of ordered liberty. We could speak of the Protestant work ethic. We could speak of the idea of male and female roles. We could speak of how the Reformation affected views of Art in the West. We could speak of the formation of a vast network of volunteer societies that sought to ameliorate the hardships of the indigent and the poor. We could speak of adoption agencies and orphanages. We could speak of the pressing need for schools and education so as to teach children to think God’s thoughts after Him. We could speak of the valuing of human life that informed our Doctors and nurses for generations. We could speak of the Trustee family and how it informed generations of family life in the West.

Some of this existed before the rise of the Reformation but all of it was reinvigorated by the Reformation and all of it and a host of other unmentioned issues worked to form a Reformed culture that existed in order to do all that was done to the glory of God.

But now we are told, even by many of the Church, that all this must be shoved aside. It is whispered that all of this is the result of cultural bigotry…. white privilege … institutional racism even. Many in the Church are insisting that this concern about the Reformation in terms of how it leaves a decided stamp on cultures and social orders is something that the Church need not be concerned with.

But as for me and my house, it remains sola deo gloria whether we eat or drink … in word or deed, in every area of life.

Baptism Charge … Psalm 22:9-10

Psalm 22:8″Commit yourself to the LORD; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.” 9Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb; You made me trust when upon my mother’s breasts. 10Upon You I was cast from birth; You have been my God from my mother’s womb.…

First, note here that the Psalmist emphasizes that the relationship between himself as an infant and His God was a relationship totally established by God.

“You made me trust when upon my mother’s breasts”

The Psalmist had a redemptive relationship with God from the time he was in the womb. And this was so because God made it so.

When we baptize infants it is not primarily about what the infant has done. In Baptism we are merely echoing the Psalmist that God owns our children from birth.

Some would contend that Baptism should not be done since babies cannot have faith and yet we find here the Psalmist saying that He was made to trust when upon His mother’s breast. Clearly, if God’s revelation says that the child upon His mother’s breast trusted God, then who are we to say that such an infant trust is impossible?

But the idea of infant trust or faith is not as ridiculous as Baptists and others like to make it sound. The reasoning goes that since infants can’t trust … can’t “have faith” therefore infants should not be baptized until they can trust and can have faith.

Before unraveling this line of thought do keep in mind again that Baptism is not primarily about our actions. Baptism is about God’s actions and God’s claim upon us and our children. To argue that we should not Baptize our children because they don’t understand is like arguing that we should not give our children’s names because they don’t understand.

Having said that, we would contend however that children can have faith, can trust, and do understand. Observe the newborn who knows his mother’s voice. If an infant knows and trusts the voice of His parents and finds security in that voice and in that presence why would we think it impossible that an infant knows and trusts His covenant King?

Now, as that child grows their trust will increase as they get to know the parents but what grows must first exist in seed form. It is just so with a child’s trust in God. The child who was made to trust God upon His mother’s breast will grow in that trust of God as the years fall away.

Baptism of infants merely recognizes this reality. Baptism demonstrates that God’s claim on us is always prior to our claim on Him. Further, infant baptism does no violence to the idea that salvation is by faith alone. The God who makes us to trust upon our Mother’s breast is the God who works in infants that very real trust. God doesn’t need our expanded capacities of understanding in order to work “trust” in us. God doesn’t need for us to be older in order to be saved by faith alone. All of our experience should teach us that the passage of years most certainly does not automatically make one a riper candidate to put faith in God. Indeed, as Trust in God only happens in people who are resurrected from being cognitively and spiritually dead in their sins it seems altogether appropriate to say that Babies are prime candidates to be made to put their Trust in God from their mother’s womb and so be Baptized.

Let’s look at this infant Baptism from another angle. Nobody, I know of, argues that since infants cannot understand their parents therefore, their parents should not speak to them. When the baby is fussy, the mother will make a promise saying, “I’ll be there in just a second honey.” The mother understands that at some level her child intuitively understands. Well, in Baptism God is speaking to His and Our babies.

We might speak promises to our babies such as,

“Mommy will be there to change your diaper in a second,” or,
“Just be patient a second, and I will feed you,” or,
“I know, you’re so tired, I will put you down for a nap in just a second.”

In the Waters of Baptism God is similarly speaking His promises to His covenant seed,

“I shall be your God…”
“Lo, I am with you always,”
“I will never leave you nor forsake you,”
“Nothing shall separate you from the Love of God.”

Would any of us dare tell either a Mother or God that she or He is silly for talking to babies who don’t understand? Of course we wouldn’t and yet that is precisely what those who deny God’s sign of the covenant to His and Our babies are saying at some level.

“Those babies can’t understand, so why bother giving them the sign of the covenant?”

And yet the Psalmist contradicts such people by saying,

“You made me trust when upon my mother’s breasts. 10Upon You I was cast from birth; You have been my God from my mother’s womb.…”

And one wonderful thing about a Baptism service is that we hear again God lisping to us as Adults those same fundamental truths that He coo-cooed to us when we were babies. Though now we are advanced in years, and perhaps a little beaten up by the wear and tear of life, we hear again those delightful and soul-stirring promises as they are spoken to another generation….

“Fear not, for I am with you little flock.”

Of course, this is only the beginning of the Baptismal journey. As the years pass the children are to be spoken to repeatedly throughout their lives of God’s promises. These promises are to be spoken to them by their parents at every turn, and they are to be spoken to them by Word and Sacrament Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day. They are to be trained to continue to Trust in the God who made them to Trust Him. Baptism is not a magical talisman that relieves us from attending to a diligent usage of God’s means of Grace. Baptism is that first Grace that anticipates all future grace.

For those who deny infant Baptism, if I could I would awaken in you how backward a Christian faith it is that insists that a man must be old enough to appeal to God before God can claim a man in Baptism I would. But, alas, I do not have that capability. Only God can teach you that.