LAW IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Law in the synoptic gospels.
Throughout His public ministry, Jesus severely criticized the scribal misuse of the law. He utterly denounced those who would interpret it mediatorially, setting it forth as a means whereby man could gain acceptance with God (cf. the parables of Luke 15). He further opposed the Pharisaical externalization of the law, by which one would have supposed that a man’s relationship to God was determined simply by an outward conformity to its stipulations.
In contrast to these errors Jesus insisted that a man’s relationship to His own words and deeds determined his relationship to God. Not the law, but Jesus Himself was the mediator between God and man.
Jesus also criticized that use of the law whereby it served to protect man’s disobedience to God. Keeping individual commandments is no necessary evidence of a readiness to give oneself completely to Jesus Christ. He demanded that the true disciple set aside even the fifth commandment if it blocked obedience to His will (Matt 8:21f.; cf. also Luke 12:52f.).
Again, Jesus warned against those who would obey the law in order to gain recognition by men (Matt 23:5ff.) To those whose obedience is motivated by a desire for the approval of men He declared, “they have their reward” (“they have signed the receipt of their reward in full,” Matt 6:1ff.).
Jesus not only condemned the wrong use of the law, He also confirmed its validity and pointed the way to its right use. Although He negated it mediatorially He affirmed it ethically. Those who have become the recipients of His forgiving mercy find in the law a pattern for right conduct. The Sermon on the Mount, for example, has been appropriately called “A Pattern for Life,” for the life of the disciple. Jesus cannot accept as good any motive or action not governed by the will of God revealed in the law. There is no other acceptable standard of goodness.
Jesus’ way of dealing with the sinner shows His recognition of the law’s validity. He forgives sins and rejects those who as His professed followers practice lawlessness (ἀνομία, G490, Matt 7:23). To be lawless is to be loveless (Matt 24:12, NASB). Concretely, the law demands agapaic love for God and neighbor (Mark 12:28ff.; Matt 22:40). True discipleship to Jesus is evidenced in loving acts of obedience to the law.
Law in the early Christian community.
When the early Christians first began the move out to a largely Gentile world conflict arose concerning the law. The first clear record of this controversy is that found in Acts 15, the so-called Jerusalem Council, and Galatians 2.
The following information concerning this issue may be set forth from Galatians 2. First, there was essential agreement between Paul’s message and that proclaimed by the early Christian community (Gal 2:2, 6). Second, despite essential agreement, there were some practical questions about which there would yet be controversy (Gal 2). One concrete question was how far Jewish Christians could go in respect to living together in fellowship with Gentile Christians who did not keep the law. In particular, this matter might also have raised the question as to whether they could have fellowship at table and in the Lord’s supper.
According to Acts 15, the Apostolic Council concluded three things: (1) that the law is not to be kept as a means of acceptance before God, (2) that only faith in Jesus brings salvation to both Jews and Gentiles, (3) that the law is still applicable to Jews within this new theological perspective. It is important to understand here that the obedience rendered to the law by Jewish Christians was rendered out of love to God for His redeeming grace. Fulfillment of the law was not regarded as a presupposition for belonging to the kingdom of God.
In the further unfolding of beliefs in the Early Church conflicting views persisted despite the Council’s pronouncement. The radical party (Judaizers) insisted that the Gentile Christians must keep the law, including circumcision, if they expected to belong to the redeemed community. From Paul’s writings, esp. his epistle to the Galatians, we learn that these Judaizers attempted to promote their view with great zeal among Pauline churches. Among the means employed to support their teaching were efforts to discredit Paul’s apostleship (Gal 1f.) and to expose his view of the law as leading to antinomianism (Rom 5:20-6:1).
The orthodox party (represented by James, Peter, and those of the community controlled by them) seem to have followed the decisions laid down by the Jerusalem Council (Acts 21:18ff.). Those of this position believed that the law was to be obeyed by Jewish Christians and that such obedience would enable them to have an effective witness to the Jewish world. They did not believe that obedience made them righteous before God, and they were prepared to accept believing Gentiles into their fellowship without requiring them to keep the law. In mixed congregations Gentile Christians were advised to observe such points of the law as would make the fellowship of Jewish Christians defensible before the eyes of the Jewish world (Acts 15:19-21).
Law in Paul’s writings.
It is most important to note that the demanding will of God is ultimately a matter of personal communication not abstract formulation. In Romans 3:19 the law is referred to as if it were personal, “whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law,” one might substitute the word “God” here for the word “law.” (Cf. Rom 4:15; 7:1; 1 Cor 9:8.)
Paul’s concept of the law is decisively determined by the cross of Christ. From this perspective he both negates and affirms the law. The negation of the law as a consequence of the cross is stated clearly in Galatians 2:21, “I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose.” In this, and similar statements in other of his writings, the apostle repudiates the law as the basis for justification. The law is the mediation of God’s will for fallen man but precisely because of his fallenness he is totally unable to keep it.
From the positive perspective the apostle teaches that the law prohibits that which is sinful (Rom 6:15). He strongly emphasized the negative character of the law, stressing that it is God’s Word directed against sin, though all the negatives may be summed up in the one positive of love (Rom 3:19).
Through the law the sinfulness of sin is exposed. The law shows it to be rebellion against God. Though sin is always there it comes to life through the law (7:8, 9). It is the law which first makes sin real rebellion (5:20). Law drives the fallen man to Christ by revealing the enormity of his sin; it completely unmasks him before a Holy God. Man is shut up by the law under sin (Gal 3:22ff.). Properly understood then, the law prevents man from attempting to secure a righteous standing before God in any other way than by faith in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.
God’s eternally abiding standard of acceptance before Him is that of obedience to His will. The story of God’s grace centers just in this, that that obedience which fallen man is unable to render has been rendered by another in his place. Paul states, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Rom 5:19). Through faith in Christ, His obedience is accounted as ours.
The second positive affirmation of Paul regarding the law is found in such a passage as Romans 8:4, where he states that Christ fulfilled the law in our place precisely “in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us” through the dynamic of a new power, even that of the Spirit. Though the Christian is not under the law as a means of acceptance with God he nevertheless seeks to obey the will of God in conformity to the pattern provided in the law. The gift of justification leads to a recognition of the task of obedience.
In this epistle νόμος, G3795, is used almost without exception to refer to the OT law, and more specifically to those laws which pertain to the priestly ministry and the priesthood. The law is viewed from a different perspective in the epistle from that found in either the thought of Jesus or Paul. While in the teaching of Jesus and Paul the law is primarily expressive of the will of God as regulatory of human conduct, in Hebrews it expresses that upon which the OT priesthood is based. The theme of this epistle is not the relation of law and Gospel but the relation of the priestly ministry of the OT to that of Christ’s.
The author of this epistle argues that though the OT priesthood finds its strength and authority in the law, it cannot bring perfection. This can be achieved only by the distinguished High Priest, even Christ. For Paul the law is weak because man does not do it, for the author of Hebrews it is weak because man does it.
Paul and the author of Hebrews agree that the true purpose of the law is to point the sinner to Christ in order that through Him he may find access to God. It is only through the high-priestly ministry of Jesus that man may approach the Holy God.
The author employs νόμος, G3795, in only three passages: 1:25; 2:8ff.; 4:11f.
In 1:25, νόμος, G3795, would seem to be best understood as pointing to that total evangelical message as it makes claims upon the conduct of the believer. In contrast to the OT law it is a perfect law of liberty.
In 2:8ff., νόμος, G3795, means “commandment” in the strict sense. The crucial question here is whether it is used for the whole of the OT law with all its commandments or only for the summary of this law in the law of love. Verse 10 might suggest that the whole of the OT law is intended but the context would seem to argue against this interpretation. Verse 8 states that if one really fulfills the law of love he does well, and that in terms of summarizing individual commands (v. 9f.)
In 4:11f. As “the law of freedom,” νόμος, G3795, is the will of God conceived of in terms of its validity for the individual. From the Christian standpoint the law of liberty is that which binds the individual not to specific commandments but to the obedience of love. This conception of law does not force the freedom of obedience into a schema after the matter of law.
Summarizing, it should be clearly understood that James agrees with the teaching of both Jesus and Paul that law is to be interpreted in terms of the obedience of faith.
John uses νόμος, G3795, fourteen times. The meaning is the usual one, the Pentateuch, though it is used more generally for the whole of the OT. Sometimes it is used to denote a specific commandment (7:19, 23) or a legal ordinance (7:51).
John does not use νόμος, G3795, to suggest principally that which is regulatory of human or Christian action; rather he views it as meaning revelation (1:17) set in comparison or contrast to Jesus. John’s point is that it is only in Jesus that God is most adequately revealed. Only in Him is there a full manifestation of God’s grace and truth.
Throughout this gospel the Torah is contrasted as word of revelation with the Son who is the perfect revelation. This is the distinctive contribution of John as respects the meaning of the law, though he does in a few instances view it as also regulative of human action (13:34f.).
D. E. H. Whiteley, The Theology of St. Paul (1964), 76-86; G. Kittel, ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. IV (1967), 1059-1085; W. Elert, Law and Gospel (1967).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
The Term "Law"
Austin’s Definition of Law
I. LAW IN THE GOSPELS
1. The Law in the Teaching of Christ
(1) Authority of the Law Upheld in the Sermon on the Mount
(a) Christ and Tradition
(b) Sin of Murder
(c) Adultery and Divorce
(f) Love to Neighbors--Love of Enemies
(2) Other References to the Law in the Teaching of Christ
(a) Traditions of the Elders and the 5th Commandment
(b) Christ’s Answer to the Young Ruler
(c) Christ’s Answer to the Lawyer
(d) References in the Fourth Gospel
2. The Law in Relation to the Life of Christ
(1) In His Infancy
(2) In His Ministry
3. The Law in Relation to the Death of Christ
(1) Christ Charged with Blasphemy under the Jewish Law
(2) Christ Charged with Treason under the Roman Law
4. How Christ Fulfilled the Law in All Its Parts
II. LAW IN THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
1. Stephen’s Witness
2. Practice of Peter and Paul
3. Allusions to the Roman Law
III. LAW IN THE EPISTLES
1. In Romans
2. In Galatians
3. In the Other Pauline Epistles
4. In the nodetitle
5. In the Epistle of James
6. In the Epistles of Peter and John
The Term "Law":
The Greek word for "law" is nomos, derived from nemo, "to divide," "distribute," "apportion," and generally meant anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, usage, law; in the nodetitle a command, law.
Austin’s Definition of Law:
It may not be amiss to note the definition of law given by a celebrated authority in jurisprudence, the late Mr. John Austin: "A law, in the most general and comprehensive acceptation in which the term, in its literal meaning, is employed, may be said to be a rule laid down for the guidance of an intelligent being, by an intelligent being having power over him." Under this comprehensive statement, he classifies "laws set by God to His human creatures, and laws set by men to men." After analyzing the three ideas, command as the expression of a particular desire; duty or obligation, signifying that one is bound or obliged by the command to pursue a certain course of conduct, and sanction, indicating the evil likely to be incurred by disobedience, he thus summarizes: "The ideas or notions comprehended by the term command are the following:
(1) a wish or desire conceived by a rational being that another rational being shall do or forbear;
(2) an evil to proceed from the former and to be incurred by the latter in case the latter comply not with the wish;
(3) an expression or intimation of the wish by words or other signs."
This definition makes it clear that the term "laws of nature" can be used only in a metaphorical sense, the metaphorical application being suggested as Austin shows by the fact that uniformity or stability of conduct is one of the ordinary consequences of a law proper, consequently, "Wherever we observe a uniform order of events, or a uniform order of coexisting phenomena, we are prone to impute that order to a law set by its author, though the case presents us with nothing that can be likened to a sanction or a duty." As used in the New Testament it will be found generally that the term "law" bears the sense indicated by Austin, and includes "command," "duty" and "sanction."
I. Law in the Gospels.
Naturally we first turn to the Gospels, where the word "law" always refers to the Mosaic law, although it has different applications. That law was really threefold: the Moral Law, as summed up in the Decalogue, the Ceremonial Law, prescribing the ritual and all the typical enactments, and what might be called the Civil or Political Law, that relating to the people in their national, political life. The distinction is not closely observed, though sometimes the reference emphasizes one aspect, sometimes another, but generally the whole Law without any discrimination is contemplated. Sometimes the Law means the whole Old Testament Scriptures, as in Joh 10:34; 12:34; 15:25. At other times the Law means the Pentateuch, as in Lu 24:44.
1. The Law in the Teaching of Christ:
The Law frequently appears in the teaching of Christ. In the Sermon on the Mount He refers most specifically and fully to it. It is frequently asserted that He there exposes the imperfection of the Law and sets His own authority against its authority. But this seems to be a superficial and an untenable view. Christ indeed affirms very definitely the authority of the Law: "Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets" (Mt 5:17). Here the term would seem to mean the whole of the Pentateuch "I came not to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished" (Mt 5:17,18). A similar utterance is recorded in Lu 16:17: "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tittle of the law to fall."
(1) Authority of the Law Upheld in the Sermon on the Mount.
The perfection and permanence of the Law as well as its authority are thus indicated, and the following verse in Mt still further emphasizes the authority, while showing that now the Lord is speaking specifically of the moral law of the Decalogue: "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (5:19). These impressive sentences should be borne in mind in considering, the utterances that follow, in which there seems a contrast between the Law and His own teaching, and from which has been drawn the inference that He condemns and practically abrogates the Law. What Jesus really does is to bring out the fullness of meaning that is in the Law, and to show its spirituality and the wideness of its reach. He declares that the righteousness of His disciples must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (Mt 5:20). Their righteousness consisted largely in a punctilious observance of the external requirements of the Law; the disciples must yield heart obedience to the inner spirit of the Law, its external and internal requirements.
(a) Christ and Tradition:
Jesus then proceeds to point out the contrast, not so much between His own teaching and that of the Law, as between His interpretation of the Law and the interpretation of other teachers: "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time" (the King James Version), "to them of old time" the Revised Version (British and American) (Mt 5:21). Either rendering is grammatically allowable, but in either case it is evidently not the original utterance of Moses, but the traditional interpretation, which He had in view "Ye have heard that it was said"; Christ’s usual way of quoting the Old Testament is, "It is written" or some other formula pointing to the written Word; and as He has just referred to the written Law as a whole, it would be strange if He should now use the formula "It was said" in reference to the particular precepts. Evidently He means what was said by the Jewish teachers.
(b) Sin of Murder:
This is further confirmed by the citations: "Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment." The second clause is not found in the Pentateuch as a distinct statement, but it is clearly the generalization of the teachers. Christ does not set Himself in opposition to Moses; rather does He enjoin obedience to the precepts of the scribes when, sitting in Moses’ seat, they truly expound the Law (Mt 23:1-8). But these teachers had so expounded the command as if it only referred to the act of murder; so Christ shows the full and true spiritual meaning of it: "But I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment" (Mt 5:22).
(c) Adultery and Divorce:
Again, "Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt not commit adultery" (Mt 5:27). The traditional teaching confined this mainly to the outward act, `But I say unto you,’ says Christ, `that adultery pertains even to the lustful thought’ (Mt 5:28). In dealing with this matter He passes to the law of divorce which was one of the civil enactments, and did not stand on the same level with the moral precept against committing adultery, nay, the very carrying out of the civil provision might lead to a real breach of the moral precept, and in the interests of the precept itself, in the very desire to uphold the authority of the moral law, Christ pronounces against divorce on any ground, save that of fornication. Later on, as recorded in Mt 19:3-9, He was questioned about this same law of divorce, and again He condemns the light way in which divorce was treated by the Jews, and affirms strongly the sanctity of the marriage institution, showing that it was antecedent to the Mosaic code--was from the beginning, and derived its binding force from the Divine pronouncement in Ge 2:24, rounded upon the nature of things; while as to the Mosaic law of divorce, lie declares that it was permitted on account of the hardness of their hearts, but that no other cause than fornication was sufficient to dissolve the marriage tie. This civil enactment, justified originally on account of the inability of the people to rise to the true moral ideal of the Decalogue, Christ claims authority to transcend, but in doing so He vindicates and upholds the law which said, "Thou shalt not commit adultery."
He next touches upon the "law of retaliation": "an eye for an eye" (Mt 5:38), and consistently with our understanding of the other sayings, we think that here Christ is dealing with the traditional interpretation which admitted of personal revenge, of men taking the law into their own hands and revenging themselves. Such a practice Christ utterly condemns, and inculcates instead gentleness and forbearance, the outcome of love even toward enemies. This law, indeed, finds place among the Mosaic provisions, but it appears there, not as allowing personal spite to gratify itself in its own way, but as a political enactment to be carried out by the magistrates and so to discountenance private revenge. Christ shows that the spirit of His gospel received by His people would supersede the necessity for these. requirements of the civil code; although His words are not to be interpreted quite literally, for He himself when smitten on the one cheek did not turn the other to the smiter (Joh 18:22,23), and the principle of the law of retaliation still holds good in the legislative procedure of all civilized nations, and according to the New Testament teaching, will find place even in the Divine procedure in the day of judgment.
See also PUNISHMENT.
(f) Love to Neighbors--Love of Enemies:
The last saying mentioned in the Sermon clearly reveals its rabbinical character: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy" (Mt 5:43). The first part is indeed the injunction of the Law, the second part is an unwarrantable addition to it. It is only this part that Christ virtually condemns when He says, "But I say unto you, Love your enemies" (Mt 5:44). That the interpretation of these teachers was unwarrantable may be seen from many passages in the Pentateuch, the Prophets and the Psalms, which set forth the more spiritual aspect of the Law’s requirement; and as to this particular precept, we need only refer to Pr 25:21,22, "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat." Christ while condemning the addition unfolds the spiritual import of the command itself, for the love of neighbor rightly interpreted involves love of enemies; and so on another occasion (Lu 10:25-37) He answers the lawyer’s question, "Who is my neighbor?" by the parable of the Good Samaritan, showing that everyone in need is our neighbor.
See also FORGIVENESS; WRATH.
The last reference in the Sermon on the Mount to the Law fully bears out the idea that Christ really upheld the authority while elucidating the spirituality of the Law, for He declares that the principle embodied in the "Golden Rule" is a deduction from, is, indeed, the essence of, "the law and the prophets" (Mt 7:12).
(2) Other References to the Law in the Teaching of Christ.
We can only glance at the other references to the Law in the teaching of Christ. In Mt 11:13, "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John," the Law in its teaching capacity is in view, and perhaps the whole of the Pentateuch is meant. In Mt 12:1-8, in rebutting the charge brought against His disciples of breaking the Sabbath, He cites the case of David and his men eating the showbread, which it was not lawful for any but the priests to partake of; and of the priests doing work on the Sabbath day which in other men would be a breach of the Law; from which He deduces the conclusion that the ritual laws may be set aside under stress of necessity and for a higher good. In that same chapter (12:10-13) He indicates the lawfulness of healing--doing good--on the Sabbath day.
(a) Traditions of the Elders and the 5th Commandment:
In Mt 15:1-6 we have the account of the Pharisees complaining that the disciples transgressed the traditions of the elders by eating with unwashed hands. Jesus retorts upon them with the question: "Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?" citing the specific case of the 5th commandment which was evaded and virtually broken by their ingenious distinction of qorban. This is a very instructive incident in its bearing upon the point which we have sought to enforce--that it was the traditional interpretation and not the Law itself which Jesus condemned or corrected.
(b) Christ’s Answer to the Young Ruler:
To the young ruler (Mt 19:16-42) He presents the commandments as the rule of life, obedience to which is the door to eternal life, especially emphasizing the manward aspect of the Law’s claims. The young man, professing to have kept them all, shows that he has not grasped the spirituality of their requirements, and it is further to test him that Christ calls upon him to make the "great renunciation" which, after all, is not in itself an additional command so much as the unfolding of the spiritual and far-reaching character of the command, "Love thy neighbor as thyself."
(c) Christ’s Answer to the Lawyer:
To the lawyer who asks Him which is the great commandment in the Law, He answers by giving him the sum of the whole moral law. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second like unto it is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Mt 22:35-39). In Mark’s report (Mr 12:31), He adds, "There is none other commandment greater than these," and in that of Matthew He says, "On these two commandments the whole law hangeth, and the prophets" (Mt 22:40); both utterances showing the high estimation in which He held the Law.
(d) References in the Fourth Gospel:
In His discussion with the Jews, recorded in Joh 7, He charges them with failure to keep the Law: "Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you doeth the law?" (7:19). And referring to the healing of the impotent man on the Sabbath day, a deed which had roused their ire, He shows how one law may conflict with another. Moses had enjoined circumcision, and sometimes the time for circumcising would fall on the Sabbath day. Yet with all their reverence for the Sabbath day, they would, in order to keep the law of circumcision, perform the rite on the Sabbath day, and so, He argues, it is unreasonable to complain of Him because on the Sabbath day He had fulfilled the higher law of doing good, healing a poor sufferer. In none of all Christ’s utterances is there any slight thrown upon the Law itself; it is always held up as the standard of right and its authority vindicated.
2. The Law in Relation to the Life of Christ:
The passages we have considered show the place of the Law in the teaching of Christ, but we also find that He had to sustain a practical relation to that Law. Born under the Law, becoming part of a nation which honored and venerated the Law, every part of whose life was externally regulated by it, the life of nodetitle could not fail to be affected by that Law. We note its operation:
(1) In His Infancy.
On the eighth day He was circumcised (Lu 2:21), thus being recognized as a member of the covenant nation, partaking of its privileges, assuming its responsibilities. Then, according to the ritual law of purification, He is presented in the temple to the Lord (Lu 2:22-24), while His mother offers the sacrifice enjoined in the "law of the Lord," the sacrifice she brings pathetically witnessing to her poverty, "a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons" being the alternative allowed to those who were not able to provide a lamb (Le 12). The Divine approval is set upon this consecrating act, for it is while it is being done concerning Him after "the custom of the law" (Le 12:27), that the Spirit of God comes upon Simeon and prompts the great prophecy which links all the Messianic hopes with the Baby of Bethlehem.
Again, according to the Law His parents go up to the Passover feast when the wondrous child has reached His 12th year, the age when a youthful Jew assumed legal responsibility, becoming "a son of the Law," and so Jesus participates in the festal observances, and His deep interest in all that concerns the temple-worship and the teaching of the Law is shown by His absorption in the conversation of the doctors, whose questions He answers so intelligently, while questioning them in turn, and filling them with astonishment at His understanding (Lu 2:42-47).
(2) In His Ministry.
In His ministry He ever honors the Law. He reads it in the synagogue. He heals the leper by His sovereign touch and word, but He bids him go and show himself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded (Mt 8:4). And again, when the lepers appeal to Him, His response which implies the healing is, "Go and show yourselves unto the priests" (Lu 17:14). He drives out of the temple those that defile it (Mt 21:12,13; Joh 2:15-17), because of His zeal for the honor of His Father’s house, and so, while showing His authority, emphasizes the sanctity of the temple and its services. So, while claiming to be the Son in the Father’s house, and therefore above the injunctions laid upon the servants and strangers, He nevertheless pays the temple-tax exacted from every son of Israel (Mt 17:24-27). He attends the various feasts during His ministry, and when the shadows of death are gathering round Him, He takes special pains to observe the Passover with His disciples. Thus to the ceremonial law He renders continuous obedience, the motto of His life practically being His great utterance to the Baptist: "Suffer it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" (Mt 3:15). If He obeyed the ceremonial law, unquestionably He obeyed the moral law. His keenest-eyed enemies could find no fault in Him in regard to His moral conduct. His absolute sinlesshess attests the translation of the moral law into actual life.
3. The Law in Relation to the Death of Christ:
We enter not upon theological question as to the relation of the death of Christ to the penal inflictions of the Law Divinely enforced on behalf of sinners--that touches the doctrine of the Atonement--we only note the fact that His death was brought about in professed accordance with the Law. The chief priests, in hatred, sent officers to take Him, but overawed by His matchless eloquence, these officers returned empty-handed. In their chagrin, the chief priests can only say that the people who follow Him now not the Law and are cursed (Joh 7:49). Nicodemus, on this occasion, ventures to remonstrate: "Doth our law judge a man, except it first hear from himself?" (Joh 7:51). This sound legal principle these men are bent on disregarding; their one desire is to put an end to the life of this man, who has aroused their jealousy and hatred, and at last when they get Him into their hands, they strain the forms of the Law to accomplish their purpose. There is no real charge that can be brought against Him. They dare not bring up the plea that He broke the Sabbath, for again and again He has answered their cavils on that score. He has broken no law; all they can do is to bribe false witnesses to testify something to His discredit. The trumpery charge, founded upon a distorted reminiscence of His utterance about destroying the temple, threatens to break down.
(1) Christ Charged with Blasphemy under the Jewish Law.
Then the high priest adjures Him to say upon oath whether or not He claims to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Such a claim would assuredly, if unfounded, be blasphemy, and according to the Law, be punishable by death. On a previous occasion the Jews threatened to stone Him for this--to them--blasphemous claim. Now when Jesus calmly avows that He is the Son of God, the high priest, rending his clothes, declares that no further proof is needed. He has confessed to the blasphemy, and unanimously the council votes Him worthy of death (Mt 26; Mr 14; Lu 22). If Jesus Christ were not what He claimed to be, then the priests were right in holding Him guilty of blasphemy; it never occurred to them to consider whether the claim after all might not be true.
(2) Christ Charged with Treason under the Roman Law.
Not only is the Jewish law invoked to accomplish His death, but also the Roman law. On one other occasion Christ had come into touch with the law of Rome, namely, when asked the ensnaring question by the Herodians as to the lawfulness of giving tribute to Caesar (Mt 22:17; Mr 12:14; Lu 20:22). Now the Jews need the Roman governor’s authorization for the death penalty, and Jesus must be tried before him. The charge cannot now be blasphemy--the Roman law will have nothing to say to that--and so they trump up a charge of treason against Caesar.
In preferring it, they practically renounce their Messianic hopes. The charge, however, breaks down before the Roman tribunal, and only by playing on the weakness of Pilate do they gain their end, and the Roman law decrees His death, while leaving the Jews to see to the carrying out of the sentence. In this the evangelist sees the fulfillment of Christ’s words concerning the manner of His death, for stoning would have been the Jewish form of the death penalty, not crucifixion.
See JESUS CHRIST, III, E), ii, 3, 4.
4. How Christ Fulfilled the Law in All Its Parts:
Looking at the whole testimony of the Gospels, we can see how it was that Christ fulfilled the Law. He fulfilled the moral law by obeying, by bringing out its fullness of meaning, by showing its intense spirituality, and He established it on a surer basis than ever as the eternal law of righteousness. He fulfilled the ceremonial and typical law, not only by conforming to its requirements, but by realizing its spiritual significance. He filled up the shadowy outlines of the types, and, thus fulfilled, they pass away, and it is no longer necessary for us to observe the Passover or slay the daily lamb: we have the substance in Christ. He also cleared the Law from the traditional excrescences which had gathered round it under the hands of the rabbis. He showed that the ceremonial distinction between meats clean and unclean was no longer necessary, but showed the importance of true spiritual purity (Mt 15:11; Mr 7:18-23). He taught His disciples those great principles when, after His resurrection, "beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (Lu 24:27). And as He opened their mind that they might understand the Scriptures, He declared, "These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me" (Lu 24:44). John sums this up in his pregnant phrase, "The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (Joh 1:17). The grace was in contrast to the condemnation of the moral law, the truth was the antithesis to the shadowy outline of the types and ceremonies.
II. Law in the Ac of the Apostles.
Without considering questions of authenticity and historicity in relation to this book which professes to be the earliest church history, we briefly note the place of the Law therein indicated. In the book we have an account of the transition from Judaism to fully developed Christianity, and the Law comes into view in various ways. The disciples, like other Jews, observe the feast of Pentecost, and even after the descent of the Spirit, they frequent the temple and observe the hours of prayer.
1. Stephen’s Witness:
The full-orbed gospel proclaimed by Stephen arouses the suspicion and enmity of the stricter sects of the Jews, who accuse him before the council of speaking blasphemous words against the holy place and the Law. But this was the testimony of suborned witnesses, having doubtless its foundation in the fact that Stephen’s teaching emphasized the grace of the gospel. Stephen’s own defense honors the Law as given by Moses, "who received living oracles" (Ac 7:38), shows how disloyal the people had been, and closes by charging them not only with rejecting and slaying the Righteous One, but of failing to keep the Law "as it was ordained by angels" (Ac 7:53).
2. Practice of Peter and Paul:
3. Allusions to the Roman Law:
In the Ac we find several allusions to law other than Jewish. In Ac 16 Paul comes into collision with the Roman law. Beaten and imprisoned by the magistrates of Philippi, he is afterward offered the opportunity of quietly slipping away, but standing on his dignity as a Roman citizen, he demands that the magistrates themselves, who had violated the law by publicly beating uncondemned Romans, should come and set them free. This same right as a Roman citizen Paul again asserts when about to be scourged by the command of the centurion (Ac 22:25), and his protest is successful in averting the indignity. His trial before Felix and Festus well illustrates the procedure under the Roman law, and his appeal, as a Roman citizen, to Caesar had important results in his life.
III. Law in the Epistles.
The word is used both with and without the article, but though in some cases the substantive without the article refers to law in general, yet in many other places it undoubtedly refers to the Law of Moses. Perhaps, as has been suggested, it is that, where it does refer to the Mosaic Law, the word without the article points to that law, not so much as Mosaic, but in its quality as law. But speaking generally, the word with and without the article is used in reference to the Law of Moses.
1. In Romans:
(1) Law as a Standard.
In Romans Paul has much to say about law, and in the main it is the moral law that he has in view. In this great epistle, written to people at the center of the famous legal system of Rome, many of them Jews versed in the law of Moses and others Gentiles familiar with the idea of law, its nature, its scope and its sway, he first speaks of the Law as a standard, want of conformity to which brings condemnation. He shows that the Gentiles who had not the standard of the revealed Law nevertheless had a law, the law of Nature, a law written upon their heart and conscience. Roman jurisprudence was familiar with the conception of a law of Nature, which became a law of nations (jus gentium), so that certain principles could be assumed as obtaining among those who had not the knowledge of the Roman code; and in accordance with these principles, the dealings between Romans and barbarians could be regulated. Paul’s conception is somewhat similar, but is applied to the spiritual relations of man and God.
(2) Gentiles Condemned by the Law of Nature.
But the Gentiles, not having lived up to the light of that law, are condemned. They have violated the dictates of their own conscience. And the Jews, with the fuller light of their revealed law, have equally failed. In this connection Paul incidentally lays down the great principle that "Not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified" (Ro 2:13). His great aim, in the epistle, is to show that justification is by faith, but he here asserts that if anyone would have justification through law, then he must keep that law in all its details. The Law will pronounce the doer of it justified, but the mere hearing of the Law without doing it will only increase the condemnation. "As many as have sinned without the law shall also perish without the law: and as many as have sinned under the law shall be judged by the law" (Ro 2:12). Paul does not pronounce upon the question whether a Gentile may be saved by following the light of Nature; he rather emphasizes the negative side that those who have failed shall perish; they have light enough to condemn, is his point.
(3) All Men under Condemnation.
Having proved that both Jews and Gentiles are under sin, he closes his great indictment with the statement: "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it speaketh to them that are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God" (Ro 3:19). Thus the Law shuts up into condemnation. It is impossible for any sinner to be justified "by the works of the law"; the Law not only condemns but "through the law cometh the knowledge of sin" (Ro 3:20). It shows how far short men have come of God’s requirements. It is a mirror in which the sinner sees his defilement, but the mirror cannot cleanse, though it shows the need of cleansing.
(4) The Redeeming Work of Christ Providing Righteousness Apart from the Law.
Then setting forth the great redemption of Jesus Christ, the apostle shows that it provides what the Law had failed to provide, a righteousness which can satisfy the requirements of the Law; a righteousness that is indeed "apart from the law," apart from all men’s attempts to keep the Law, but is nevertheless in deepest harmony with the principles of the Law, and has been witnessed "by the law and the prophets" (Ro 3:21). (In this passage the "law" seems to mean the Pentateuch, and in Ro 3:19, in view of the preceding citations from the Psalms, it appears to mean the whole Old Testament Scriptures.) Since the righteousness secured by Christ comes upon the sinner through faith, manifestly the works of the Law can have nothing to do with our obtaining of it. But so far is faith-righteousness from undermining the Law, that Paul claims that through faith the Law is established (Ro 3:31).
(5) Abraham’s Blessings Came Not through the Law.
Proceeding to show that his idea of justification by faith was no new thing, that the Old Testament saint had enjoyed it, he particularly shows that Abraham, even in his uncircumcised state, received the blessing through faith; and the great promise to him and his seed did not come through the Law, but on the principle of faith.
(6) Law Worketh Wrath and Intensifieth the Evil of Sin.
Indeed, so far from blessing coming to sinners by way of the Law, the "law worketh wrath" (Ro 4:15); not wrath in men against the Law’s restrictions as some have argued, but the holy wrath of God so frequently mentioned by the apostle in this epistle. The Law worketh wrath, inasmuch as when disobeyed it brings on the sinner the Divine disapproval, condemnation; it enhances the guilt of sin, and so intensifies the Divine wrath against it; and it, in a sense, provokes to sin: the sinful nature rebels against the restrictions imposed by the Law, and the very fact of a thing being forbidden arouses the desire for it. This seems what he means in a subsequent passage (Ro 5:20), "And the law came in besides, that the trespass might abound"; as if the very multiplying of restrictions intensified the tendency to sin, brought out the evil in human nature, showed the utter vileness of the sinful heart and the terrible nature of sin, and thus made the need for salvation appear the greater, the very desperateness of the disease showing the need for the remedy and creating the desire for it; the abounding of sin preparing the way for the super-abounding of grace. That the presence of Law enhances the evil of sin is further shown by the statement, "But where there is no law, neither is there transgression" (Ro 4:15); transgression--parabasis--the crossing of the boundary, is, in the strict sense, only possible under law. But there may be sin apart from a revealed law, as he has already proved in the 2nd chapter.
(7) Law in the Light of the Parallel between Adam and Christ.
In Romans 5, dealing with the parallel between Adam and Christ he says: "For until the law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law" (5:13). He cannot mean that men were not held responsible for their sin, or that sin was not in any sense reckoned to their account, for he has in that 2nd chapter proved the opposite; but sin was not so imputed to them as to bring upon them the punishment of death, which they nevertheless did suffer, and that is traced by him to the sin of Adam. These, he says, had not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression (5:14); they had not transgressed a positive command as he did, although they had undoubtedly violated the law of conscience, and knew that they were sinners. In drawing out the parallel between Adam and Christ, he plainly indicates that as Adam’s transgression of law brought condemnation on the race, so Christ’s obedience to the Law brings justification.
(8) Law and Righteousness.
So far he may be said to have spoken of the Law in regard to the sinner; and it is mainly the Law in its judicial aspect, the Law in relation to righteousness. The Law reveals righteousness, the Law demands righteousness, the Law condemns for unrighteousness. Redemption is a working out of righteousness. The Law witnesses to the perfect righteousness of Christ. The righteousness secured by Christ meets all the requirements of the Law, while gloriously transcending it. The righteous penalty of the Law has been borne by Christ; the righteous requirements of the Law have been fulfilled by Christ. That perfect righteousness secured apart from the Law, but satisfying to the Law, comes to men not through their relation to the Law, but through faith. Now he proceeds to consider the Law in relation to the saint.
(9) The Saint and the Law.
The believer justified through Christ has died with Christ. The "old man"--the sinful nature--has been crucified with Christ; the condemning power of the Law has terminated in the death of Christ, and through the death of the believer with Christ he has freedom from the condemnation of the Law. "He that hath died is justified from sin" (Ro 6:7). But though in one aspect the believer is dead, in another he is alive. He dies with Christ, but he rises spiritually with Him, and thus spiritually alive he is "to yield," "to present" his "members as instruments of righteousness unto God" (Ro 6:13), and for his comfort he is assured that in this new sphere of life sin shall not have power to bring him under the condemnation of the Law--"Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace" (Ro 6:14). His relationship to the Law has been altered through his union with Christ, and this fact the apostle proceeds to illustrate. He enounces the principle that "the law hath dominion over a man for so long a time as he liveth" (Ro 7:1). Death dissolves all legal objections. The believer, spiritually dead, is not under the dominion of the Law.
(10) Illustrated by the Law of the Husband.
The specific case is then given of a married woman bound by law to her husband, but freed from that law through his death, and in the application, he says, "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ" (Ro 7:4). If the Law in this metaphorical description is the husband while the soul is the wife, as has been most generally understood by commentators, then the application is based on the general thought of death dissolving the legal obligation, the death of the husband involves the death of the woman as a wife, and so he can speak of the death of the believer rather than of the death of the Law. Another explanation of the metaphor is that the old sinful state is the husband to which the ego, the personality, was bound by the Law, but that the sinful state being brought to death through Christ, the personality is free to enter into union with Christ. Whatever view is adopted, the leading thought of the apostle is clear, that through the death of Christ the believer is free from the Law: "But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were held" (Ro 7:6).
(11) The Purity and Perfection of the Law in Its Own Sphere.
The question is then raised, "Is the law sin?" (Ro 7:7). The thought is repudiated as unthinkable, but he goes on to show how the law was related to sin, giving from his own experience the exemplification of what he had stated in the 3rd chapter, that by the Law is the knowledge of sin. The Law revealed his sin; the Law aroused the opposition of his nature, and through the working of sin under the prohibition of the Law, he found the tendency to be death. Nevertheless, there is no doubt in his mind that the Law is not responsible for the sin, the Law is not in any manner to be blamed, "The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good" (Ro 7:12). Sin in the light of the holy Law is shown to be exceeding sinful, and the Law itself is known to be spiritual.
We need not deal with the difficult passage that follows concerning the inner conflict. There has always been much discussion as to whether this is a conflict in the soul of the unregenerate man or of the regenerate--we believe it is in the regenerate, setting forth the experience of the believer--but whatever view is taken, it is clear that the law cannot bring deliverance; the higher part of man’s nature, or the regenerate nature according to the interpretation one adopts, may "consent unto the law that it is good" (Ro 7:16), may even "delight in the law of God" (Ro 7:22); but there is another law at work, the law of sin in the members, and the working of this law means captivity and wretchedness from which deliverance can only come through Jesus Christ (Ro 7:23-25). The word "law" in these verses is used in the sense of principle, "the law of my mind," "the law of sin," "the law in my members"; but over against all is the law of God.
(12) Freedom from the Penal Claims of the Law.
The description of the Law as holy, righteous and good, as spiritual, as the object of delight to a true heart, is enough to show that the deliverance which the Christian enjoys is freedom from the penal claims and condemning power of the Law. This is borne out by the exulting conclusion: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus" (Ro 8:1). The Law’s claims, satisfied by Christ, no longer press upon those who are in Him. When the apostle adds, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death" (Ro 8:2), he is using "law" in the general sense as a principle or power of producing ordered action, and "the law of the Spirit of life" may be taken to mean the method of the Spirit’s working, and indeed may well be a way of describing the gospel itself--the new law, through which the Spirit operates. The other phrase, "law of sin and death," is not to be taken as meaning the Law of Moses, but the law, the principle of sin producing death mentioned in the previous chapter, unless we think of it as the holy Law which gives the knowledge of sin and brings the condemnation of death. The failure of the Law to produce a satisfactory result is definitely attributed to the weakness of the flesh, which is in effect reflecting the statement of the previous chapter, but all that the Law could not accomplish is accomplished through the work of Christ. In Christ sin is condemned, and in those who are brought into union with Him the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled.
(13) The Law Remains as a Rule of Life for the Believer.
Thus, the Law is not abrogated. It remains as the standard of righteousness, the "rule of life" for believers. The utmost holiness to which they can attain under the influence of the Holy Spirit, is still the "righteousness" which the Law requires. That the apostle’s teaching is far removed from Antinomianism is shown, not only by all that he says in these chapters about the believer’s new life of absolute spiritual service, but by the specific statement in Ro 13:8-10, which at once prescribes the commandments as rules of life (in Eph 6:2 he cites and enforces the 5th commandment) and shows how true obedience is possible. "Owe no man anything, save to love one another: for he that loveth his neighbor hath fulfilled the law." Then, after specifying several of the commands, he declares that these and all other commands are "summed up in this word, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." The man in Christ has found the true principle of obedience. He has entered into the true spirit of the holy law. That is all summed up in love, and he having received the love of Christ, living in His love, sees the Law not as a stern taskmaster condemning, but as a bright vision alluring. He indeed sees the Law embodied in Christ, and the imitation of Christ involves obedience to the Law, but he fulfills the Law not simply as a standard outside, but as a living principle within. Acting according to the dictates of the love begotten at the cross, his life is conformed to the image of Christ, and in so far is conformed to the Law--"Love therefore is the fulfillment of the law." In Ro 13:1-7, though the word "law" does not occur, Paul indicates the relation of the Christian to the Roman law, to the sovereignty of Rome in general, showing that "the powers that be are ordained of God" and that in the ideal they are reflections of Divine authority, and as such are to be obeyed.
2. In Galatians:
In the Epistle to the Galatians, Paul has also a great deal to say about the Law, but as we have dealt so fully with the conception given in Romans, we can only briefly note the teaching of the Galatian Epistle.
(1) Law in Relation to Grace and Spiritual Liberty.
In general, we may say that as the Law in relation to righteousness was the prominent feature in Romans, in Galatians it is the Law in relation to grace and spiritual liberty, and while it was almost exclusively the moral law that Paul had in view in Romans, in Galatians it is rather the Law of Moses in its entirety, with special emphasis upon the ceremonial. He introduces the subject by referring to the episode at Antioch, when he had to rebuke Peter for his "dissimulation" (2:13). He shows the inconsistency of those who knew that they had been "justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law" (2:16), compelling the GentileChristians to live according to the Law, and sums up with the striking statement, "For I through the law died unto the law, that I might live unto God" (2:19). The Law in revealing his sin and pronouncing condemnation, drove him to Christ for justification. Crucified with Christ he has entered into such vital union with Christ that his whole self-life is dominated by the Christ-life: "It is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me" (2:20). Here we have the same line of thought as in Romans; then Paul goes on to show that all the blessings of grace which these Christians enjoy have come to them not by way of the Law, but "by the hearing of faith" (3:2-5). Again, citing the case of Abraham as an instance of justification by faith, he shows how utterly opposed the Law is to the grace that brings salvation, "For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse" (3:10), but in gracious contrast, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law" (3:13), having Himself borne the curse, and so the blessing of Abraham can come upon the Gentiles through faith (3:18).
(2) The Function of the Law Not to Give Life, but to Guide Life
As in Romans, he shows that the promise of the inheritance was apart from the Law, was given 430 years before the Law was promulgated, and answers the question as to the purpose of the Law, by saying, "It was added because of transgressions" (Ga 3:19), the thought already noted in Romans. Yet the Law was not in its nature opposed to the promise. If any law could have given life, "could make alive," then so perfect was the Law of Moses that it would have served the purpose; "Verily, righteousness would have been of the law" (Ga 3:21). The Law was never meant to give life to those who had it not. "He that doeth them shall live in them" (Ga 3:12), but the doing implies the possession of life, and the Law only guarantees the continuance of life while it is perfectly obeyed. Law controls life, but cannot confer life. It regulates life, but cannot restore life. It may impel to righteousness, but it cannot impart righteousness.
(3) The Law Our Schoolmaster.
The Law, he shows, was our schoolmaster, our pedagogue, "to bring us unto Christ" (Ga 3:24). The Grecian youth was under the charge of a pedagogue during his minority, one part of the pedagogue’s duty being to take the boy, unwilling enough sometimes, to school. In the sense already shown in Romanans, the moral law by showing us our sinfulness leads us to Christ; but here we may take the Law as a whole, including all the ceremonial and typical observances which were designed to lead the people to Christ.
(4) The Bondage of the Law.
But while there was undoubtedly much of privilege for the people under the Mosaic dispensation, there was also something of bondage. And so Paul says, "We were kept in ward under the law" (Ga 3:23), and in the next chapter, he speaks of the child, though heir to a great estate, being "under guardians and stewards until the day appointed of the father" (Ga 4:2), which seems to be the same thought as under the pedagogue, and this he calls a state of "bondage" (Ga 4:3). The Law guarded and tutored and restrained; the great typical observances, though foreshadowing the grace of the gospel, were yet, in their details, irksome and burdensome, and the mass of rules as to every part of the Jew’s conduct proved to be, speaking after the present-day manner, a system of red tape. Little was left to the free, spontaneous action of the spirit; the whole course of the Jew from the cradle to the grave was carefully marked out.
(5) Sonship and Its Freedom from the Law’s Restrictions.
But in the fullness of time "God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Ga 4:4 f). The gospel of the grace of God embodied in Christ shows its gracious character in that it not only answers the requirements of the moral law and removes its condemnation; fulfills, and by fulfilling abrogates the typical observer of the ceremonial law, but also abolishes all the directions and restrictions given to the Jews as a separate people, and brings its subjects into a condition of liberty where the renewed spirit under the mighty love of Christ can act spontaneously, the great principles of the moral law remaining as its guide, while the minute rules needed for the infancy of the race are no longer appropriate for the "sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus" (Ga 3:26). And so Paul warns these Christians against turning back to the "weak and beggarly rudiments" and observing "months, and seasons, and years" (Ga 4:9,10).
3. In the Other Pauline Epistles:
In the remaining Epistles of Paul, little is said of the Law, and we need only indicate the connections in which the word occurs. In 1Co 7:39 there is a reference to the wife being "bound by the law as long as her husband liveth" (the King James Version). The word "law," however, is omitted from the critical texts and from the Revised Version (British and American). In the same epistle (1Co 9:8,9; 14:21,34) the word is used of the Pentateuch or the Scriptures as a whole. In 1Co 9:20 Paul refers to his practice of seeking to win men to Christ by accommodating himself to their standpoint, "to them that are under the law, as under the law"; and in 15:56 occurs the pregnant statement, an echo of Romans, "The power of sin is the law." In 2 Corinthians the word does not occur, though the legal system is referred to as the ministration of death, in contrast to the gospel ministration of the Spirit (2 Corintians 3). The word "law" is once used in Eph 2:15, in reference to the work of Christ not only producing harmony between God and man, but between Jew and Gentile: "abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances," also spoken of as "the middle wall of partition," and referring especially to the ceremonial enactments.
In Php 3:5,6,9 we have the fine autobiographical passage wherein we see the self-righteous Pharisee reckoning himself "blameless" in the eye of the Law, until convinced of his sin, and led to find in Christ the righteousness "which is through faith," instead of his own righteousness "which is of the law" (3:9). The word does not occur in Col, but the thought is found of the spiritual circumcision in contrast to the physical, the blotting out through the work of the cross, of the bond written in ordinances and the consequent deliverance of the believer from the bondage of ceremonial observances (2:11-17), those being affirmed to be "a shadow of the things to come," Christ being the glorious substance. In 1Ti 1:8,9, we have the two pregnant statements that "the law is good, if a man use it lawfully," and that "law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless."
4. In the Epistle to the Hebrews:
The word "law" occurs 14 times in this epistle, and a great deal of attention is given to the subject, but it is generally the law in its ceremonial and typical aspect that is in question. It is not necessary to look at the matter in detail, but simply to indicate the line of teaching.
(1) Harmony with the Pauline Teaching.
The ancient doubt as to the authorship of the epistle seems today to have crystallized into certainty, albeit the grounds for a conclusion are no stronger than formerly, but in the desire to prove the non-Pauline authorship, too much emphasis is perhaps laid upon the supposed un-Pauline character of the teaching. There is, after all, profound harmony between the teaching of the Pauline Epistles and the teaching of He, and the harmony applies to this matter of the Law. While Paul, as we have seen, gives prominence in Romans to the moral law, in Galatians and elsewhere he deals with the ceremonial law, in much the same way, though not so fully, as the writer to the Hebrews. Such utterances as, "Our Passover also hath been sacrificed, even Christ" (1Co 5:7); "The rock was Christ"; "Now these things were our examples" (types of us) (1Co 10:4-6); "Which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ’s" (Col 2:17) are exactly in line with the teaching of Hebrews.
(2) The Law Transcended by the Gospel.
The author shows how the Law, which was a word spoken through angels, is transcended by the gospel, which has been spoken by the Lord of the angels, and so demands greater reverence (Heb 2:2-4), and all through the epistle it is the transcendent glory of the gospel dispensation introduced by Christ and ascribed to Him, which is made to shine before us.
(3) Law of Priesthood.
The author deals specifically in Hebrews 7 and 8 with the law of priesthood, showing that Christ’s Priesthood, "after the order of Melchisedek," surpasses in glory that of the Aaronic priesthood under the law; not only surpasses but supersedes it; the imperfect gives place to the perfect; the shadowy to the real; the earthly to the heavenly; the temporal to the eternal. And as Paul justifies his doctrine of justification apart from the deeds of the Law by reference to the Old Testament teaching, so here the writer finds in the Old Testament prediction of the New Covenant, the basis for all his reasoning, and in his reference to the description of the New Covenant, he is at one with Paul in regard to the moral law, seeing it as now written on the heart, and becoming an internal power, rather than an external precept.
(4) The Law of the Sanctuary and the Sacrifices.
He next deals with the law of the sanctuary, and in connection therewith considers the law of the sacrifices (Hebrews 9-10), and in the same way shows that Christ makes good all that the tabernacle and its services typified, that His one, all-perfect eternal sacrifice takes the place of the many imperfect temporary sacrifices offered under the Law. At the best the Law had "a shadow of the good things to come" (Heb 10:1). The shadow was useful for the time being, the people were greatly privileged in having it, it directed them to the great Figure who cast the shadow. The whole ceremonial system was really a system of grace at the heart of it; in spite of its external rubrics which might well be abused, it made provision for satisfying for the time the breaches of the law; the sacrifices themselves could not take away sin, but periodical forgiveness was conveyed through them, by virtue of their relation to the Coming One. Now the great sacrifice having been offered, eternal redemption is secured, perfect forgiveness obtained, free access into the heavenly Holy Place assured, and the eternal inheritance provided. The Substance of all the shadows has appeared, the shadows pass away, and the great truth indicated by Christ Himself is now fully made known through His Spirit-taught servants. Christ, who "is the end of the law (the moral law) unto righteousness to every one that believeth" (Ro 10:4), is also the end of the ceremonial law, the full realization of all its types and shadows.
5. In the Epistle of James:
James mentions the "law" 10 times in his epistle, and in each case it is the moral law. The influence of the Sermon on the Mount is seen throughout the epistle, and some distinct echoes of it are heard, as e.g. the injunction, "Swear not (at all)" (5:12). James has nothing but good to say of the Law, and that fact in the light of the influence of the Sermon on the Mount is enough to show that Christ, in that wonderful discourse, did not disparage the Law, far less abrogate it, but rather exalted and reinforced it. James taught by Christ exalts the Law, glorifies it, in fact seems almost to identify it with the gospel, for in James 1, when speaking of the Word and the importance of hearing and doing it, he in the same breath speaks of looking into "the perfect law, the law of liberty" (1:25). And indeed, it is just possible, as some think, that he means the gospel by the epithet, although it seems better to take it as the Law translated in the gospel, the Law looked at in its spirituality, as the guide of the Christian man who has entered into the spirit of it.
Even in the Old Testament, as Psalms 19 and 119 specifically show, it was possible for spiritually-minded men to see the beauty of the Law and find delight in its precepts. In James 2:8 he speaks of the "royal law," and that here he does mean the Mosaic Law is beyond doubt, since he cites the particular requirement, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," in this agreeing with his Master and with Paul, finding in love of neighbor the sum of the Law and its true fulfillment. Respect of persons, he affirms, is a breach of this "royal law," and leads to those indulging in it being "convicted" by the law of transgression (2:9). He then affirms the solidarity of the Law, so that a breach of it in one particular is a breach of the whole, and makes a man "guilty of all" (2:10), a far-reaching principle which Paul had also indicated when quoting in Ga the words, "Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them" (Ga 3:10), and when in Ro 7 he showed that the conviction that he had broken the 10th commandment made him realize that he had broken the whole Law. James then exhorts his readers to speak and act as those who are to be judged by "a law of liberty" (2:12), so that he sets no limit to the range of that law. Finally, in 4:11, he warns them by implication against speaking against the Law or judging the Law, that is, to assume the place of judge instead of "doer of the law." James could not have used such language unless he had a profound conviction of the perfection of the Law. And it is the perfection of the Law as a rule of life for spiritual men redeemed from its condemnation that James considers it, and so we can call it the perfect law, the law of liberty, the Royal Law.
6. In the Epistles of Peter and John:
In the Epistles of Peter and John, the word "law" does not occur, but Peter shows that the holiness of God remains as in the Pentateuch the standard of life, and the example of Christ shows the way (1Pe 2:21), while in the church is found the spiritual realization of the sanctuary, priesthood and sacrifices of the old economy (1Pe 2:5-9). Peter has one reference to the Roman law, enjoining upon his readers obedience to it in the political sphere. John enjoins the keeping of the commandments, these being apparently the commandments of Christ (1 Joh 2:3,4; 5:2), and the test of keeping the commandments is love of the brethren, while hatred of a brother is, as in the Sermon on the Mount, murder. All sin is "lawlessness" (1 Joh 3:4), and the sum of all law-keeping is love of God and love of the brethren, and so the summary of the old Law is echoed and endorsed.
Chiefly the works on New Testament theology (Weiss, Beyschlag, Schmid, etc.), and on Christian ethics (Martensen, Dorner, Harless, etc.), with commentaries on Pauline Epistles (Romans, etc.); Ritschl, Entstehung der altk. Kirche (2nd edition); Zahn, Das Gesetz Gottes nach der Lehre und der Erfahrung des Apostels Paulus; J. Denney, in HDB.