What place does the law of God have in the Christian life?

Miguel Núñez & 2 others
2 Min Read

NÚÑEZ: The law shows us the character of God, and the law also shows us what pleases God. That is not going to save us, and it’s not going to give us any additional credit, but it does play a role in our lives because it’s going to show us better the pure character of the God who gave us the law and what pleases Him. If I transgress the law, I’m getting a signal that I’m not pleasing Him.

It is the third use of the law, to use the language of the Reformers. Of course, the first use of the the law is that it points to Christ. It shows us how incapable we are to fulfill its commands, and therefore we should run to Christ. But that should not make us antinomians to reject the law, because the law still plays a role in our lives, but it is not salvation.

GODFREY: It is helpful to use the classic distinction when we’re reading the Bible that the law comes to us in a moral form, a ceremonial form, and a judicial form, particularly in the Old Testament. We are not bound to keep the ceremonial law that was given to Israel—we’re not bound to circumcision or dietary laws, for example. So, there are certainly Old Testament laws that were binding on Israel that are not binding on us. Yet, the basic moral law remains a guide and the truth of God’s will for our living that we need to pursue and understand.

FERGUSON: A couple of verses are helpful here. One is that the promise of the new covenant includes that the law will be written in your heart (Jer. 31:33). So, is the law relevant, and do we obey it? Well, the quintessence of what happens in regeneration is that the law is written on your heart, and there is only one divine law, which is encapsulated in the Decalogue. When you’re regenerated, you’re restored motivationally to live according to that law. From that point of view, it is extraordinary that a Christian would think that the law of God is irrelevant.

Second, the New Testament teaches us that love is the fulfillment of the law. It doesn’t teach us that love is the fulfillment of just anything; it teaches us specifically that love is the fulfillment of the law (Rom. 13:8–10). The words about the law written on the heart are cited twice by the author of the letter to the Hebrews (Heb. 8:10; 10:16). So, that’s not just an Old Testament preview of something that is realized in a different way; Hebrews teaches us that the law is written on the heart.

The third passage, among others, is Romans 8:3–4. God did what the law couldn’t accomplish because it was weakened through our flesh, sending His own Son in the likeness of flesh, of the flesh of sin and for sin. He condemned sin in the flesh in order that the requirements of the law might be fulfilled in those who walk according to the Spirit rather than according to the flesh.

However we apply God’s law in different situations, there is no doubt whatsoever that the teaching of the New Testament affirms a place for the law of God in the life of the Christian. Think about Jesus in Matthew 5:17–20. The idea that the law has no role in the Christian life and that love replaces it is an expression of someone who has not listened carefully to even the surface teaching of the New Testament, and our world is awash with that kind of thinking.

This is a transcript of Miguel Núñez's, Robert Godfrey’s, and Sinclair Ferguson’s answers given during our 2018 National Conference and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email ask@ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.