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Not under the Law, seriously, no really I mean it

Testimony time around the campfire

I once set off a fire alarm at church camp but that’s not important right now. I’m always interested to see how expositors handle the issue of the Law, especially the Decalogue. About six years ago I preached through Exodus 2o which personally brought enormous clarity to me on many issues. I became convinced that as an expositor I cannot strip the commands of their penalties, stipulations, and context and still remain faithful to the text. The Law is a unit that stands or falls together and squinting my eyes while trying to read through and around Leviticus won’t help. Most of the sermons that I have read or heard tend to run to so-called modern day applications without dealing adequately with the meaning and resulting purpose of the Law. This series was a watershed for me and the more I studied the issue the more I saw in Scripture how Jesus really is the fulfillment of the Law (Matt 5:17). Furthermore, this wonderful truth doesn’t require me to cross my fingers behind my back.

In short, with apologies to my Truly Reformed brothers who are praying for my conversion, I generally agree with Doug Moo who wrote that “the entire Mosaic law comes to fulfillment in Christ, and this fulfillment means that this law is no longer a direct and immediate source of, or judge of, the conduct of God’s people” (“Law of Christ as the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses,” in Five Views on Law and Gospel, ed. Wayne Strickland, 319-76, 2nd ed. [Zondervan, 1996], 343. I have friends who respond to such quotes like an out of control patient with turrets syndrome. Outwardly they say “that doesn’t square with the Bestminster Official Catechism of Orthodox Reformed Belief” but inwardly they’re probably thinking “you’re a filthy antinomian, away with you.” By the way, hurling the charge of antinomianism does not close the case.

A test case

Next time this subject comes up among your circle of preacher buddies ask this question: “how should we understand Exodus 20:8-11?” Some are “all in” (e.g. seventh day adventists) but they conveniently cross their fingers on the “you will die if you violate this command” part (e.g., Ex 31:15). The next group responds with a “that’s an easy one” glimmer in their eye and remind you that the Law is divided into three parts: ceremonial, civil, and moral, the moral being the only part we are still under in some mysterious way. After you ask your friend to show this neat division in Scripture he quickly gets a call and has to visit someone in the hospital.

I recently received a review copy of Al Mohler’s new book Words from the Fire: Hearing the Voice of God in the 10 Commandments. Immediately I turned to chapter four wherein Mohler works through the sabbath question in relation to Ex 20. He does a good job of summarizing the various applications of this particular command. Option 1 is to observe the sabbath on the seventh day, option 2 is observe the sabbath on the first day, and then he offers a third option which is participate in worship on “The Lord’s Day” (87-90). Most folks I know would fall under Mohler’s third option where the Lord’s Day (Sunday) replaces the Sabbath because the Sabbath has been transformed by its fulfillment in Christ. However there’s something unsettling about this “option.” Here’s how Mohler concludes:

Are there things we ought not to do on the Lord’s Day? Certainly there are. Anything that would detract from our worship should not be done on the Lord’s Day. Anything that would rob the Lord’s Day of priority of worship should not be done. Anything that would be on our minds when we are worshipping, as if we can only get done with this in order to go do that, is a matter of sin, no matter what it is.

While most evangelicals and Chick-fil-A employees would nod in agreement there’s still something that doesn’t square here. How is this conclusion justified in light of passages like Romans 6:14, 14:3-4; Colossians 2:16; Hebrews 7-9; James 1:25 just to name a few? I’m not bringing this up because I’m against meeting on Sunday’s for congregational worship but the difference between “we do” and “we must do” is a massive theological issue that directly points to how we truly understand what Christ has indeed accomplished for us on the cross. What say you?

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