Monday, April 17, 2006

I Fought the Law and the Law Won

What started out as an innocent discussion about the traditional understanding of the Lord's Day has quickly devolved into a full-blown teaser about the role of the law itself. I will make a few comments about that, and then try to steer the discussion back to a discussion of the supposed "Christian Sabbath."

Here is one of the quotes from the comments that really took me aback, and it is from one that I consider a stalwart defender of truth in the blogospher. Here it is:

To magnify the law, is to belittle Christ, since His coming abolished not only the law, but fulfilled the purpose for which the law was sent.

Let's be positive first. I certainly agree that the law was and is a schoolmaster to bring us to Jesus Christ. How could I not believe that? But Daniel, to say that magnifying the law belittles Christ? That's a very strong statement. I certainly do not believe that to be the case anymore than it belittles Christ to magnify Scripture.

Do we consign David's "Ode to the Law", aka Psalm 119, to the belittling trash heap? Certainly not, and I do not believe Daniel thinks so either. Behold the words of Paul, "So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good" (Romans 7:12). Phooey on Paul for magnifying the law by calling it holy, righteous, and good.

Let me play fair with this for a minute. If Daniel meant by his comment, "To magnify the law over Christ is to belittle Christ," then I totally agree. If, however, he means that any admiration for the beauty of God's law is wrong, I heartily disagree. I love God's law, and we know that the law is good as long as one uses it lawfully (1 Timothy 1:8). So in point of fact, the question is not whether or not we can use the law in regards to Christian Sabbath keeping, but rather whether it is a lawful use of the law. The burden of proof, I believe, rests on us to prove that there is no Christian Sabbath. Why does the burden lie with us, you say? Because it is we, not the writers of the 1689 London Baptist Confession, who are breaking with tradition in not holding to Sunday being the "Christian Sabbath." I will try to argue as they argued in that document that it is a day God has ordained for our rest and worship. Then we can examine their argumentation and reach a more informed conclusion. But to dismiss them as Pharisees and legalists is folly for us. We should take these men seriously.

I want to leave you with these thought about law in general. It is true that no flesh will be justified by dutiful law keeping or else Christ died in vain. However, isn't it true that the law has a sanctifying effect on the believer? Jim and Daniel have argued (and can argue well) that breaking one law makes one a total law-breaker. In the context of 1 Timothy 1:8, Paul writes that the "law" is for "the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, for the sexually imooral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine" (1 Timothy 1:9-10). I have no idea why Paul made such a long list when it would have sufficed to say that the law is for lawbreakers. But he did, and if we hold to the idea that Jim has said that we are breaking every commandment every day, then the law is indeed for us.

It for for us, the believer/sinner, to convict us of our ungodliness and bring us closer to Christ. In this, we magnify the law, just as an adult praises parental discipline in the forming of their character. This does not exalt law into the place of Christ, but rather it makes law a glorious instrument to the end of knowing Jesus Christ. That is a glorious end, and the means is good and just and holy.

Perhaps, if the 1689 LBC writers are correct, observing Sunday as the Christian Sabbath will grow us into further Christ-likeness and not lead us into a dead-end Pharisee trap. Hopefully, we shall see. Personally, I hope that they are right and I am mistaken. I am loathe to disagree with those who I so admire.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

If Daniel meant by his comment, "To magnify the law over Christ is to belittle Christ," then I totally agree.

In the context of the meta, at that point, I was suggesting that to magnify the law beyond its biblically stated purpose, is to belittle Christ.

The law had a purpose, and if we impose more purpose into the law than scripture - we do so (necessarily) at the expense of something else. In this case, it is at the expense of what Christ does in the life of a new covenant believer.

I hope that sheds some light on my thoughts. I posted a rather long blip on one of the older posts regarding what I was talking about.