A Conversation On The Law


What do you mean by ‘God’s Law-Word’? I suspect you mean Moses’ Covenant, or at least that’s how you’ve used it in the past.


There is only one covenant of Grace, of which the Mosaic covenant is an extenuation and development of consistent with, yet not identical to, the covenant of Grace’s initial inauguration.

That the Mosaic Law was gracious, take for example, the preamble to the Mosaic covenant law,

“I am the Lord Thy God who brought thee out of the Land of Egypt, out of the House of bondage.”

Notice here that before the stipulations of the covenant are incarnated onto the tablets that God pronounces how His grace had been already extended to His people by covenantal deliverance. It was not the case, for the Israel of God, in the Mosaic covenant, that they had to keep the law and so earn saving grace but rather it was the case, as the preamble to the covenant Law shows, that God remembered His gracious covenant with Abraham (Ex. 2:24-25) and so led His people out of Sin (Egypt) with the expectation that they would obey out of grateful hearts (Ex. 19:4-5). It was only those who were not of the Israel of God who tried to use the Law as a means to put God into their obligation by an attempted obedience that refused to take into consideration God’s prior graciousness.

Your ongoing error, Judy, is to think that God ever offered, in His covenant of Grace, a period of time where His people could be saved by their own obedience. In the Mosaic covenant those Christians who were saved were saved by a grace alone that was consequentially marked by ever increasing, though never perfect, obedience.

Judy comments,

The Westminster Confession of Faith defines the Mosaic Covenant as the original covenant of works — see the relationship between WCF 19.I and II: “This law, after [Adam’s] fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables…”

Bret responds,

And that is entirely true and I don’t disagree with a word of it. The Law was (and is — even for the Christian) a perfect rule of righteousness. The Law was never given in the Mosaic covenant so that God’s covenant people could think they could keep it. The Law was given to show people their sin and a need to look outside of themselves for deliverance (hence the OT sacrifices which proleptically gave them Christ). However, for the Israel of God who was looking away from themselves to Christ, the Law was God’s gracious instruction (think third use of the Law here) in all righteousness.

So, those who were not of the Israel of God looked to the Law as an end in itself for Salvation in a covenant of works type of fashion and so were condemned by the Law whereas those who were the true Israel of God looked to the Law as an end for glorifying the God who had freely and graciously saved them and as a means for incarnating that free salvation into every area of their living.

This twofold working of the law in both condemnation and salvation is consistent with how that theme plays itself out through Scripture. The waters of the flood were both God’s condemnation upon the wicked and God’s salvation upon the righteous. The extreme picture of God’s wrath and blessing found in the prophets are presented together because the one and same action of God leads to different consequences for people depending upon the relationship they stand to God.

This is why the Apostle can say in the Holy Scriptures that the Law is Holy, Just, and good and that His Gospel establishes the Law.

Judy offers,

Then WCF 19.III says that to the timeless moral law God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, all of which are now abrogated under the New Testament.

Bret responds,

Yes, I fully agree that the ceremonial law is abrogated. What Reformed person doesn’t believe that? Still, we must keep in mind that the ceremonial law is only abrogated because all that it was employed to communicate was fulfilled in the Messiah, Jesus. So, its not as if the ceremonial law was capriciously cast aside, rather the ceremonial law is deleted because all that it anticipated and promised was fulfilled.

And I believe that the timeless moral law remains timeless and that the Moral law was given both in its pure documentary form (The Decalogue) and then God was pleased to give us another aspect of His Moral law, sometimes known as case law. This was based upon the Moral law in order that we might know what the propositional law looked liked when it was incarnated into specific situations. Another way of saying this is that the case law illustrates the application or qualification of the principal laid down in the general commandment. The general equity of the commandment remains timeless, and this is why the Psalmist could say, “In thy law I meditate both day and night,” and it is why Jesus could say that, ‘heaven and earth would pass away but his word would never pass away’, and it is why Jesus said he came ‘not to abrogate the law but to fulfill it.’

The proper analogy is our own Constitution. There is the Constitution proper and then there is the case law that exemplifies what the Constitution means in concrete situations.

Judy offers,

Then 19.III says that to Israel also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

Bret responds,

And what I, and all Theonomists are arguing for is the general equity thereof. Allow me to give the classic example….

Because one of the sundry judicial laws that have expired is building a fence around ones rooftop, I no longer argue for rooftop fences. However, the general equity of that law remains and so I might argue for fences around swimming pools.

So, I am, and all theonomists are arguing for the general equity and are in perfect alignment with the WCF.

Judy offers,

The Larger Catechism limits the moral law to the Ten Commandments (LC, Q.98).

Bret responds,

Go back and re-read it Judy.

What it says is that the moral law is summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments.

The answer does not say that the moral law is limited to the 10 commandments. It says that it is summarily comprehended in the 10 commandments. In other words, when one look to the Ten Commandments one finds the Moral law comprehended therein in summary form.

Besides, even should you should choose to use the word ‘limit’ it wouldn’t negate anything I am saying. All of the case law is not different law then the 10 commandments but rather only the Decalogue concretely applied to different situations. I hope that all that I contend for is nothing but that which is summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments.

Judy offers,

So the WCF says that all the ceremonial laws were abrogated (I thought only the terrible dispensationalists used that term), and that the judicial laws of Israel oblige no one, except in the sense that they might illustrate how a general principle of equity worked in a given case. But this exception presumes that a general principle of equity has been derived from someplace else.

Bret responds,

The judicial laws oblige no one except where the principle that they are articulating (general equity) is applicable. When that is the case then the judicial law, because it is an instantiation of the Moral law remains binding because God’s never revoked His moral law. It seems Judy that you desire the Moral law in the abstract but don’t desire it when its thrust is instantiated in space and time. With all due respect, it seems you want a Moral law that gives you the ability to interpret it, as you will. All, I’m asking for is that God be allowed both the Moral Law itself and whatever interpretations with which He saw fit to incarnate it.

Now as to your comment regarding ‘the general principle of equity’ allow me to offer that God Himself often gave the general principle of equity in the case law as the case law provides concrete examples of how the principle of the Moral Law was to be applied to different settings.

Judy offers,

The Westminster Divines sure weren’t Theonomists.

Bret responds,

The Westminster Divines were proto-Theonomists Judy. They certainly were. You’re problem is that you are reading the WCF through your lenses. I have read Samuel Bolton (one of the Westminster Divines) on this very subject. Believe me Judy, you would be shocked by Bolton and would be accusing him of hyper Theonomy. I must take the interpretation of Bolton (A Westminster Divine) over your interesting interpretation of the Westminster.

Judy offers,

Bret, you said that the old-time dispensationalists were only Christians after a fashion? How can you be an ‘after-a-fashion Christian?’ You mean they only had the objective markers of covenant membership? You’re saying they weren’t real Christians.

Bret responds,

Only God and the individual concerned with this question regarding their own position relative to Christ knows who ‘real’ Christians are Judy. I am content with saying that Dispensationalists stood in some type of proper relation to Christ and His Church and as such should be spoken of with Charity as Christians. I hope that people will speak with such Charity of me some day.

Judy asks,

Bret are you saying that if we’re not a Theonomist like you, then we don’t believe in Scriptural morality at all?

Bret answers,

Now, come, come, Judy. How many times have you heard this type of line from unbelievers in your witnessing efforts?

For example,

“Judy, are you saying that if we don’t believe just like you then we are going to hell.”?

And your response no doubt is…

“No, I am not saying, ‘if you don’t believe just like me you are going to Hell, I am saying that if you don’t believe as Scripture requires you are going to Hell.’”

And so I say to you,

” No, I am not saying that if you’re not a Biblical Christian like me, then you don’t believe in Scriptural morality at all, I am saying that if you don’t believe as Scripture requires then you need to know the way more perfectly”[/quote]

As do we all,


Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

4 thoughts on “A Conversation On The Law”

  1. “All of the case law is not different law then the 10 commandments but rather only the Decalogue concretely applied to different situations.”

    “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matt. 22:37-40

    Antinomians might comfort themselves believing that this is the only law they must uphold and I suppose technically they would be right, yet how do we even begin to comprehend what it means to love God or our neighbor unless we look to the law and prophets (the OT)? Do we get to define love for ourselves? Or should we, as fallen sinful beings, look outside of ourselves to a greater Law to understand *how* we must act in order to love God and our neighbor?

    I don’t know many people who have parties on their rooftops anymore, but as a case law it certainly points to the upholding of the sixth commandment and making reasonable efforts to keep your family and neighbors safe from harm.

    I don’t know many people with bulls either, but I think it is reasonable to expect that owners of dogs who maul children to death ought to be held responsible for such things.

    But, then again what antinominism always refuses to admit is that they are merely replacing God’s law with their own. (I don’t know of any self-consistent anarchists and especially among confessing Christians.) This is why instead of seeing thieves restore seven-fold unto the property owner, they are thrown in jail to repay their debt to “society”, whatever that means.

  2. Thanks, Bret, for the contrast and comment. I was blessed by it, and your continued faithfulness and service to your readers.

    I’ve always said that if you can’t show that someone is a Theonomist (capital T), you can surely know that if they worship God the King and go forth to teach men in all spheres of life to observe whatsoever He’s commanded, that they are a theonomist (which is content and not label).

    The Westminster Divines may not have claimed the label, but they certainly claimed the content.

  3. Bret,

    I have read Samuel Bolton (one of the Westminster Divines) on this very subject. Believe me Judy, you would be shocked by Bolton and would be accusing him of hyper Theonomy. I must take the interpretation of Bolton (A Westminster Divine) over your interesting interpretation of the Westminster.

    Got a link? Or is that a book I’ll have to buy or check out from the library?


  4. Jeff,

    It is a book. “True Bounds Of Christian Freedom.”

    There are differences between Bolton and theonomists but there remains a high view of the law for today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *