Brought Up to Show Respect to God

Sometimes, people don’t believe what the Bible says about the natural (unregenerate, dead in sin) man being an enemy of God. The biblical teaching that man is depraved and totally in opposition to the true God is not attractive.

Especially when so many unbelievers appear to honor God. In our context, God is everywhere. The name of Jesus is everywhere. You walk into some stores or restaurants, and there’s Christian music playing. The public schools have religious values class. There’s even public prayer at certain times of day! How can it be that the natural person, apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, is at enmity with God?

The society has a religious atmosphere. It is very hard to find open hostility to God. Rather, there is apparent respect.

As a result, Christians are tempted to blur the antithesis between believers and the unregenerate. It does not appear that people are hostile to their Creator, as Scripture says. God’s revealed diagnosis of humanity does not appear to be true. It doesn’t seem to reconcile with what we observe.

Jonathan Edwards deals with this objection. His analysis is ever-relevant. I recommend reading the entire discourse:

The objections, that they show respect to God . . .

NATURAL men may be ready to object, the respect they show to God, from time to time. This makes many to think that they are far from being such enemies to God. They pray to him in secret, and attend on public worship, and take a great deal of pains to do it in a decent manner. It seems to them that they show God a great deal of respect. They use many very respectful terms in their prayer. They are respectful in their manner of speaking, their voice, gestures, and the like. — But to this I answer, that all this is done in mere hypocrisy. All this seeming respect is feigned, there is no sincerity in it. There is external respect, but none in the heart. There is a show, and nothing else. You only cover your enmity with a painted veil. You put on the disguise of a friend, but in your heart you are a mortal enemy. There is external honor, but inward contempt; there is a show of friendship and regard, but inward hatred. You do but deceive yourself with your show of respect; and endeavor to deceive God; not considering that God looks not on the outward appearance, but on the heart. — Here consider particularly,

1. That much of that seeming respect which natural men show to God, is owing to their education. They have been taught from their infancy that they ought to show great respect to God. They have been taught to use respectful language when speaking about God, and to behave with solemnity, when attending on those exercises of religion, wherein they have to do with him. From their childhood, they have seen that this is the manner of others, when they pray to God, to use reverential expressions. and a reverential behavior before him.

Those who are brought up in places where they have, commonly from their infancy, heard men take the name of God in vain, and swear and curse, and blaspheme; they learn to do the same; and it becomes habitual to them. And it is the same way, and no other, that you have learned to behave respectfully towards God. [It is] not that you have any more respect to God than they; but they have been brought up one way, and you another. In some parts of the world, men are brought up in the worship of idols of silver, and gold, and wood, and stone, made in the shape of men and beast. “They say of them, Let the men that sacrifice, kiss the calf,” Hos. 13:2. In some parts of the world, they are brought up to worship serpents, and are taught from their infancy to show great respect to them. And in some places, they are brought up in worshipping the devil, who appears to them in a bodily shape; and to behave with a show of great reverence and honor towards him. And what respect you show to God has no better foundation; it comes the same way, and is worth no more.

—Jonathan Edwards, “Men Naturally Are God’s Enemies“, The Works of Jonathan Edwards vol. 2, pg. 136

What Edwards says should also guard us from another error: assuming that all the seeming respect shown to God means all those people are actually Christians. This is especially important in a culturally Roman Catholic country.

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Man Will Necessarily Have a God

Man will necessarily have something that he respects as his god. If man do not give his highest respect to the God that made him, there will be something else that has the possession of it. Men will either worship the true God, or some idol: it is impossible it should be otherwise: something will have the heart of man. And that which a man gives his heart to, may be called his god: and therefore when man by the fall extinguished all love to the true God, he set up the creature in his room. For having lost his esteem and love of the true God, and set up other gods in his room, and in opposition to him; and God still demanding their worship, and opposing them; enmity necessarily follows.

—Jonathan Edwards, “Men Naturally Are God’s Enemies“, The Works of Jonathan Edwards Kindle loc. 60837-60843

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New Year’s Resolutions

Top these 70 resolutions (which Edwards began writing at age 18).


“Being sensible that I am unable to do any thing without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him, by his grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved, to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved, so to do, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.

2. Resolved, To be continually endeavouring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the forementioned things.

3. Resolved, If ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, Never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God, nor be, nor suffer it, if I can possibly avoid it.

5. Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.

6. Resolved, To live with all my might, while I do live.

7. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.

8. Resolved, To act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings, as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God. Vid. July 30.

9. Resolved, To think much, on all occasions, of my dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

11. Resolved, When I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder.

12. Resolved, If I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.

13. Resolved, To be endeavouring to find out fit objects of liberality and charity.

14. Resolved, Never to do any thing out of revenge.

15. Resolved, Never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings.

16. Resolved, Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

17. Resolved, That I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

18. Resolved, To live so, at all times, as I think is best in my most devout frames, and when I have the clearest notions of the things of the gospel, and another world.

19. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour before I should hear the last trump.

20. Resolved, To maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.

21. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him.

22. Resolved, To endeavour to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigour, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.

23. Resolved, Frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs, and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the fourth Resolution.

24. Resolved, Whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavour to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.

25. Resolved, To examine carefully and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and so direct all my forces against it.

26. Resolved, To cast away such things as I find do abate my assurance.

27. Resolved, Never wilfully to omit any thing, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.

28. Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

29. Resolved, Never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession which I cannot hope God will accept.

30. Resolved, To strive every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.

31. Resolved, Never to say any thing at all against any body, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honour, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said any thing against any one, to bring it to, and try it strictly by, the test of this Resolution.

32. Resolved, To be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that, in Prov. xx. 6. ‘A faithful man, who can find?’ may not be partly fulfilled in me.

33. Resolved, To do always what I can towards making, maintaining, and preserving peace, when it can be done without an overbalancing detriment in other respects. Dec. 26, 1722.

34. Resolved, In narrations, never to speak any thing but the pure and simple verity.

35. Resolved, Whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question was resolved. Dec. 18, 1722.

36. Resolved, Never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call to it. Dec. 19, 1722.

37. Resolved, To inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, — what sin I have committed, — and wherein I have denied myself; — also, at the end of every week, month, and year. Dec. 22 and 26, 1722.

38. Resolved, Never to utter any thing that is sportive, or matter of laughter, on a Lord’s day. Sabbath evening, Dec. 23, 1722.

39. Resolved, Never to do any thing, of which I so much question the lawfulness, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards, whether it be lawful or not; unless I as much question the lawfulness of the omission.

40. Resolved, To inquire every night before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking. Jan. 7, 1723.

41. Resolved, to ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.

42. Resolved, Frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism, which I solemnly renewed when I was received into the communion of the church, and which I have solemnly re-made this 12th day of January, 1723.

43. Resolved, Never, henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s; agreeably to what is to be found in Saturday, Jan. 12th. Jan. 12, 1723.

44. Resolved, That no other end but religion shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. Jan. 12, 1723.

45. Resolved, Never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. Jan. 12 and 13, 1723.

46. Resolved, Never to allow the least measure of any fretting or uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved, to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eye; and to be especially careful of it with respect to any of our family.

47. Resolved, To endeavour, to my utmost, to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented and easy, compassionate and generous, humble and meek, submissive and obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable and even, patient, moderate, forgiving, and sincere, temper; and to do, at all times, what such a temper would lead me to; and to examine strictly, at the end of every week, whether I have so done. Sabbath morning, May 5, 1723.

48. Resolved, Constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or not; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. May 26, 1723.

49. Resolved, That this never shall be, if I can help it.

50. Resolved, That I will act so, as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. July 5, 1723.

51. Resolved, That I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.

52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.

53. Resolved, To improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.

54. Resolved, Whenever I hear anything spoken in commendation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, that I will endeavour to imitate it. July 8, 1723.

55. Resolved, To endeavour, to my utmost, so to act, as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven and hell torments. July 8, 1723.

56. Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

57. Resolved, When I fear misfortunes and adversity, to examine whether I have done my duty, and resolve to do it and let the event be just as Providence orders it. I will, as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty and my sin. June 9, and July 13, 1723.

58. Resolved, Not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness, and benignity. May 27, and July 13, 1723.

59. Resolved, When I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times. May 12, July 11, and July 13.

60. Resolved, Whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4 and 13, 1723.

61. Resolved, That I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it — that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, &c. May 21, and July 13, 1723.

62. Resolved, Never to do any thing but my duty, and then, according to Eph. vi. 6-8. to do it willingly and cheerfully, as unto the Lord, and not to man: knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall be receive of the Lord. June 25, and July 13, 1723.

63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true lustre, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, To act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. Jan. 14, and July 13, 1723.

64. Resolved, When I find those “groanings which cannot be uttered,” of which the apostle speaks, and those “breathings of soul for the longing it hath,” of which the psalmist speaks, Psalm cxix. 20. that I will promote them to the utmost of my power; and that I will not be weary of earnestly endeavouring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23, and Aug. 10, 1723.

65. Resolved, Very much to exercise myself in this, all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness of which I am capable, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him, all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance, according to Dr. Manton’s Sermon on the 119th Psalm,. July 26, and Aug. 10, 1723.

66. Resolved, That I will endeavour always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking, in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.

67. Resolved, After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them; what good I have got by them; and, what I might have got by them.

68. Resolved, To confess frankly to myself, all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

69. Resolved, Always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Aug. 11, 1723.

70. Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak. Aug. 17, 1723.”

—Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards vol. 1 (Hendrickson, 1998) pg. lxii-lxiv

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Reading Law

Reading Law
I. Why Read Law?
Jesus Christ’s Words – Matthew 5:17-20
*The Law is Redemptive in nature

II. Types of Law (What It Meant)
1. Moral
2. Civil
3. Ceremonial

III. Uses of the Law (What It Means)
1. Restrain Social Evil
2. You’re cursed
3. Christian life

Conclusion: Reading law while avoiding relativism and moralism.

Objective: How to Read Law. To understand this, we’ll look at Christ’s words regarding the law, the types of law God has given, and its uses.

I. Why Read Law?

Jesus Christ’s Words – Matthew 5:17-20

“Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Calvin says of this passage,

When the Lord declares, that he came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil (Mt. 5:17); that until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or little shall remain unfulfilled; he shows that his advent was not to derogate, in any degree, from the observance of the Law. And justly, since the very end of his coming was to remedy the transgression of the Law. Therefore, the doctrine of the Law has not been infringed by Christ, but remains, that, by teaching, admonishing, rebuking, and correcting, it may fit and prepare us for every good work.

–Calvin, John (2010-02-19). The Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.vii.14

These words of Christ himself sharply contradict the idea that the Gospel does away with the law. The fact that Christ was fulfilling the Law shows that it did not exist for itself, but pointed beyond itself. There was a forward-looking aspect to the law.

“The law is not just a list of ethical standards, but part of the story of God’s redemption and his covenant with his people. The law is thus not abrogated or reduced to unimportance, but is bound up with redemption.”

–McCartney, Dan; Clayton, Charles (2014-09-07). Let the Reader Understand: A Guide to Interpreting and Applying the Bible (Kindle Locations 4517-4519). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The Law is Redemptive in Nature

Jesus himself sets the law in the context of his redemptive work. If you remember little from this lesson, remember this: the Law is Redemptive in nature. McCartney and Clayton in Let the Reader Understand make a critical observation about the “hierarchy of genre”:

“Nestled in the story of redemptive history, particularly in the OT, but also in the NT, are several statements of the ethical standards that God has for his people. This should indicate the appropriate hierarchy of genre. Biblical law is subordinate to biblical history.”

–McCartney, Dan; Clayton, Charles (2014-09-07). Let the Reader Understand: A Guide to Interpreting and Applying the Bible (Kindle Locations 4510-4512). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.

So remember: Law is subordinate to redemptive history, because it is placed within the larger story of redemption. Therefore, we must read law in light of that history.

Also take note: the moral law (Ten Commandments) and the ceremonial law were given together. God didn’t just give the law that condemns, but also the symbols of atonement. So, even the law as it was given links it to God’s redemptive purpose.

Clowney says it beautifully:

In the great assembly at Sinai God spoke to His people. He gave them His law in the context of His redemption. The Ten Commandments begin with God’s description of Himself as the Redeemer of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Ex. 20:2).
The great mistake of legalism is to detach the law of God from the God who gave it. The Ten Commandments are not an abstract code of duty hung in the void. The first commandment governs the rest: “You shall have no other gods before me.” God’s people stand in His presence. He is their God; they are His people. Assembled there before Him, they must acknowledge Him as God alone. They are to love Him with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind.
The Lord is a jealous God (Ex. 20:4–5). He will not consent to be worshiped as one of a pantheon of deities. The jealousy of God is not like the envious and spiteful passion that we often describe with the word. The term that we translate “jealous” could also be translated “zealous.” It refers to the intense and exclusive love God has for His people, a love that is to be requited by the pure devotion of Israel.

–Edmund P. Clowney. The Unfolding Mystery (2d. ed.): Discovering Christ in the Old Testament (Kindle Locations 1562-1572). P&R Publishing.

Notice that God revealed how his people were to relate to him, based on his deliverance (redemption) of them.

What’s a common mistake that we make when looking at the law? How many of you memorized the 10 Commandments as children, but left out the prelude? Maybe everyone. I don’t remember including the prelude in any kids’ Sunday school lesson on the 10 commandments. That is a critical error. We so easily divorce the do’s and don’ts from their redemptive context.

This is what the Pharisees did with the Scriptures. McCartney and Clayton point this out in Jesus day:

But it is easy to forget this [redemptive] purpose of the Bible. In Jesus’ day, many of the Pharisees had lost sight of the historical and redemptive nature of the Bible, treating it primarily as a source of laws. They missed the fact that its primary intent was to point to God’s past and future redemption. Consequently, their interpretation of the Bible tended to bypass its historical character, and instead became a strange kind of casebook, used to solve the sticky problems of applying God’s law to their contemporary situation.
The result was that, by isolating the law of God from the covenantal relationship to God, the law became an enslaver that worked against God’s redemptive purpose. This is why Paul can say that he upholds the law (Rom. 3:31), even though he calls it a slavemaster and says that circumcision no longer matters (Gal. 6:15). Paul is not “vacillating in his theological attitude toward the law,” but reading the OT according to its redemptive purpose and historical character. The law’s true function can only be carried out as subsidiary to God’s redemption of his people and establishment of a relationship with them. This happens, Paul says, by faith, that is, by acceptance of the relationship as accomplished by God and by submission to his terms for that relationship, not by doing “works of the law.”

–McCartney, Dan; Clayton, Charles (2014-09-07). Let the Reader Understand: A Guide to Interpreting and Applying the Bible, (Kindle Locations 945-957). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.

This tendency, to see God’s Word as primarily a source of laws, as a casebook, is as prevalent today as it was in Jesus’ day. That’s why Tim Keller reminds us: The gospel itself is a true story, not a set of “principles” or “laws.”

As we look at how to read law, we must remember the redemptive purpose, which applies to all “law” or ethical texts in Scripture:

The law, then, is given by God as a part of his redemptive activity. Divorced from the redemptive activity of God, the legal material becomes something other than redemptive. This was the error that had to be combated, first by Jesus (Matt. 23:13–36) and later by Paul (especially in Romans and Galatians). Thus, the first principle in interpreting a legal or ethical passage in the Bible is to place it in its redemptive-historical context. This identifies how the passage now relates to the church.

–McCartney, Dan; Clayton, Charles (2014-09-07). Let the Reader Understand: A Guide to Interpreting and Applying the Bible (Kindle Locations 4521-4524). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.

So remember the Redemptive-Historical context: God made his covenant with his people, and revealed how they were to relate to him.

Within that revelation of law, we can distinguish 3 types of law.

II. Types of Law (What It Meant)

*There’s no typical linguistic marks that distinguish these types, and they are all mixed together in the legal sections of Scripture. The only guide to classification is content.
Also, this 3-fold distinction is not explicitly spelled out in the OT; however, it is helpful in showing how the laws relate to God’s people in their Redemptive-Historical situation.

1. Moral – based on God’s character; always abides, regardless of time or place. God’s character doesn’t change, neither does this law based on his character. The moral law is summarized for us in Scripture in Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5, Matthew 22:37–40.
Christ fulfilled the moral law, submitting to it perfectly, in our place.
Moral law was given to Israel as “apodictic” law, which means as general principles (the 10 Commandments). These general apodictic laws are then applied in the “case laws” which deal with specific cases. So when we read all of those very specific situations, there’s a general principle (moral law) at work in the background that is being contextualized, if you will.

2. Civil – dealing with Israel as a nation-state (a Theocracy, ruled by God), “where the spiritual people of God were also a political entity.” This is not now the case (becoming more obvious every day).
“It too is fulfilled in Christ, who has in fact already reestablished the true kingdom of God, his sovereign reign, although it is not yet fully implemented” (McCartney, Dan; Clayton, Charles, Kindle Locations 4554-4555).

3. Ceremonial – whatever was a symbol of redemptive work; symbols of atonement.

The exodus and the giving of the law clarify both how radically gracious God is (since the deliverance from Egypt happens before the giving of the law) and yet how inexorable the law and justice and righteousness of God are. God gives both the law and the sacrificial system as a pointer to the substitutionary atonement, which will be his redemptive provision. The tabernacle now makes God’s presence among his people a permanent thing. The law reveals God’s interest in justice in the world and his desire for a people who are distinct in every respect – a truly ‘new humanity’ – who will be a light attracting the nations.

Preaching Christ in a Post-modern World syllabus

The New Testament shows how these were fulfilled:

“These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah.” (Colossians 2:17)
“Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the actual form of those realities” (Hebrews 10:1)
The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed, and everyone is strongly urged to enter it. (Luke 16:16)
for the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)

The point is: the ceremonial pointed to Christ, and we now have the reality. To still abide by the ceremonies would be to sew up the veil that was torn, as it were. I think this is important to point out because evangelicals intuitively know that there is a place for ceremony in our lives, and some like to go and pick out some ritual from the ceremonial law, or wider OT, to show God how committed they are; despite the fact that Jesus gave us two sacraments to show his commitment to us.

“Christ, who, by his eternal sacrifice once offered, had abolished those daily sacrifices, which were indeed powerful to attest sin, but could do nothing to destroy it.”
–Calvin, Institutes, II.vii.17

This is where the Redemptive-Historical facet of our hermeneutics comes in. What purpose did the ceremonial laws serve in that point on the timeline? To point to Christ, the ultimate, perfect, and once-for-all sacrifice. Mission accomplished. Now we look back to the reality of Jesus’ atonement. To enforce the ceremonial law would be to deny its forward-looking nature and deny Christ’s fulfillment of it.
(So, if any of you were looking forward to the sacrificial system being re-instituted when Christ returns, sorry to disappoint you; and you’re welcome)

Now, I have no doubt that all of you are secure in your conviction that the law is applicable for us today; that it is relevant and for our instruction. Maybe.

For many Christians, within the plausibility structure of the evangelical community, there’s the assumption that law applies (in some way). However, once they leave the walls of the church, they’re hit with opposition: the Bible’s ethics are irrelevant, or they are flat out wrong and immoral. Homosexuality is a perfect example.
Also, there are some “Christians” that are antinomian, meaning anti-law, who say things like “we’re not under law, but under grace” or we don’t need to obey the law because we live by the “law of love.” So they say the law doesn’t apply to us.

In addition, there are Christians who will admit that the 10 Commandments should be obeyed, but maybe not all of them (like not making images of God or keeping the Sabbath holy).

Because of these factors, and the context within which we live, I believe it is vital to make clear the fact that the law does in fact apply to us.
And then, given that fact, the question is raised about how the law relates to us. How are we, now, not the original hearers of the law, but the modern readers, how are we to read Law in the Bible? What does the Law mean to us? How do we read law, since we have the fullness of revelation in Christ? How do we transfer the moral law, since we are not ethnic, nation-state Israel, but the New Testament church, far removed in time and place and culture?
The law does not merely show us our sin and how we can’t keep it. It doesn’t merely point us to Christ. It is also for our instruction. Indeed, Christ said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
But, is it all directly applicable to us? Or is none of it applicable, unless reiterated in the New Testament? Some may think these are the only two options. We know, however, that it all relates to us in some way, because Paul wrote that “all Scripture is profitable,” and we have already addressed how all that “was written” is “for our instruction.”

Instead of speculating about these concerns, let us remember our authority for hermeneutics: Scripture itself. So, we will look at how the New Testament writers applied or related the law. Our authority is Scripture, so we need to have down how the Bible does it. Let’s not take the relevance of the law for granted, and wait to get slammed by the relativist culture or antinomianism.

Examples of Paul adjusting of Law for Israel to the Church

Example 1
1 Corinthians 5:11-13 11 But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. 12 For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside? 13 But God judges outsiders. Put away the evil person from among yourselves.

Paul is addressing a man that has violated Lev. 18 by sleeping with his mother in law.

Leviticus 18:8 – You are not to have sex with your father’s wife; it will shame your father. . . 29 Any person who does any of these detestable practices must be cut off from his people.

Paul then quotes a common phrase from Deuteronomy, “put away the evil person from among yourselves.” This OT phrase is always in the context of killing the violator of the law. Put away the evil person by killing.

Deuteronomy 13:9 – Instead, you must kill him. Your hand is to be the first against him to put him to death, and then the hands of all the people.
Deuteronomy 17:7 – The witnesses’ hands are to be the first in putting him to death, and after that, the hands of all the people. You must purge the evil from you.

How did Paul adjust that? He equates killing the violator with putting out of the church, which in context also equates delivering to Satan. The aspect that the evil person is going to hell is there in both OT and NT cases (assuming the NT case didn’t repent). Paul also equates the judicial action of the Israelites to action of the church.

→ Paul took an OT civil law of Israel and applied/adjusts it to the NT church.

Example 2-3

Paul uses the same law in 2 places: 1 Corinthians 9:9 and 1 Timothy 5:18 to justify that preachers of the Gospel should be paid with proceeds of their work. The original context of this OT law shows that it’s isolated, and not among other animal laws.

“If there is a dispute between men, they are to go to court, and the judges will hear their case. They will clear the innocent and condemn the guilty. 2 If the guilty party deserves to be flogged, the judge will make him lie down and be flogged in his presence with the number of lashes appropriate for his crime. 3 He may be flogged with 40 lashes, but no more. Otherwise, if he is flogged with more lashes than these, your brother will be degraded in your sight.

4 “Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out grain. ←

5 “When brothers live on the same property and one of them dies without a son, the wife of the dead man may not marry a stranger outside the family. Her brother-in-law is to take her as his wife, have sexual relations with her, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law for her.

-Deuteronomy 25:1-5

*everyone agrees in context it’s meant primarily at the literal level – be kind to animals.

Example 2

Paul uses it first in:
1 Corinthians 9:8-12a 8 Am I saying this from a human perspective? Doesn’t the law also say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out grain. Is God really concerned with oxen? 10 Or isn’t He really saying it for us? Yes, this is written for us, because he who plows ought to plow in hope, and he who threshes should do so in hope of sharing the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it too much if we reap material benefits from you? 12 If others have this right to receive benefits from you, don’t we even more?

This is in the section of stumbling blocks where Paul says we have rights, but don’t have to use them. He says, “is God really concerned with oxen?”, using the lesser-to-greater argument; oxen to men.

Paul also asks a rhetorical question: “Am I saying this from a human perspective? Doesn’t the law also say the same thing?” Paul is saying: the law is for today!

Example 3

Paul uses it second in:
1 Timothy 5:17-18 17 The elders who are good leaders should be considered worthy of an ample honorarium, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says:
Do not muzzle an ox
while it is treading out the grain, and,
the worker is worthy of his wages.

*Notice: Paul is calling both an OT text and a quote from the Gospels Scripture.

Paul assumes that even Old Testament civil legislation applies to the church. He also assumes it is okay to equate oxen with men. He makes a minor adjustment: oxen to men, to justify you get paid for what you do.

We learn from these examples a NT hermeneutic: civil law applies to the church, with adjustments. We can’t deny it because the examples are right there. We just cannot say that OT civil law doesn’t apply. We should qualify, rather, that it’s not a direct application.

These were just examples that the law given in the OT still has relevance; the NT employs them, albeit with adjustments, sometimes. We cannot affirm that the law doesn’t apply.
But what is the law’s use? What does it mean for the modern audience? To give us some categories to work with, let’s look at the Three Uses of the Law.

III. Uses of the Law (What It Means)

1. Restrain Social Evil
2. You’re cursed
3. Christian life

Three Uses of the Moral Law; numbering system of the Formula of Concord:

“the Law was given to men for three reasons: first, that thereby outward discipline might be maintained against wild, disobedient men [and that wild and intractable men might be restrained, as though by certain bars]; secondly, that men thereby may be led to the knowledge of their sins; thirdly, that after they are regenerate and [much of] the flesh notwithstanding cleaves to them, they might on this account have a fixed rule according to which they are to regulate and direct their whole life . . .” –VI. 1

*This is the order that’s branded in my mind. If anything, appreciate the irony of quoting a Lutheran document on the 3 Uses of the Law. Here’s proof that they do affirm the three uses.

John Calvin (Institutes, Book 2, Chapter 7, Sections 6-12) also recognizes these uses of the law:

That the whole matter may be made clearer, let us take a succinct view of the office and use of the Moral Law. Now this office and use seems to me to consist of three parts. . .
First, by exhibiting the righteousness of God,—in other words, the righteousness which alone is acceptable to God,—it admonishes every one of his own unrighteousness, certiorates, convicts, and finally condemns him. . .
Thus the Law is a kind of mirror. As in a mirror we discover any stains upon our face, so in the Law we behold, first, our impotence; then, in consequence of it, our iniquity; and, finally, the curse, as the consequence of both. He who has no power of following righteousness is necessarily plunged in the mire of iniquity, and this iniquity is immediately followed by the curse. . . (Rom. 3:20, 4:25, 5:20; 2 Cor. 3:7)
The second office of the Law is, by means of its fearful denunciations and the consequent dread of punishment, to curb those who, unless forced, have no regard for rectitude and justice. . . this forced and extorted righteousness is necessary for the good of society, its peace being secured by a provision but for which all things would be thrown into tumult and confusion. (1 Tim. 1:9-10) *Notice, switches 2nd and 1st Uses of Concord
The third use of the Law (being also the principal use, and more closely connected with its proper end) has respect to believers in whose hearts the Spirit of God already flourishes and reigns. For although the Law is written and engraven on their hearts by the finger of God, that is, although they are so influenced and actuated by the Spirit, that they desire to obey God, there are two ways in which they still profit in the Law. For it is the best instrument for enabling them daily to learn with greater truth and certainty what that will of the Lord is which they aspire to follow, and to confirm them in this knowledge; just as a servant who desires with all his soul to approve himself to his master, must still observe, and be careful to ascertain his master’s dispositions, that he may comport himself in accommodation to them.

This “Three Uses of the Law” distinction is merely looking at moral laws in either the OT or NT and how the NT uses them. They are the 3 ways that the NT is seen using the moral law. To summarize:

1st Use: Restrain Social Evil – inhibits lawlessness by threats of judgment, especially when backed by a civil code that carries out punishment, used by the magistrate (Romans 13, 1 Timothy 1:9-10)
2nd Use: Shows you your Sin, drives you to Christ (Romans 3, 7; Galatians 3)
3rd Use: Guide to Christian Life – Christians, for all the right reasons, does/doesn’t according to the law.
*Remember that Calvin said the 3rd Use was “the principal use, and more closely connected with its proper end.” This is the Reformed position; that the 3rd Use is primary. Remember the prologue to the 10 Commandments? Obey because you are redeemed; here’s how to live as covenant people.

We see the Law being used this way in the New Testament. The New Testament shows patterns of adjusting the Old Testament Law.

Example 1

Paul uses the 10 Commandments in different ways:
He uses “do not covet” and “do not commit adultery” sometimes as 2nd Use and sometimes as 3rd Use.
*Depending on how you take it, 1 Timothy 1:[9]-10 is 1st use, (like Calvin) where Paul says: “We know that the law is not meant for a righteous person, but for the lawless and rebellious.”

Romans 13:9 – all 3rd use. Law of love. Paul is obviously writing to believers:

The commandments:
Do not commit adultery;
do not murder;
do not steal;
do not covet;
and whatever other commandment—all are summed up by this: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Example 2

Romans 7:7 – What should we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin if it were not for the law. For example, I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, Do not covet.

This is 2nd Use

*What we can infer is that moral laws used as 3rd Use can always have 1st and 2nd implications. Why? Because Paul can adjust moral laws in a 3rd, 2nd, or 1st use!

*By the way, this is why I’m using the word “adjust” interchangeably with the word “apply.” The application is the meaning, there’s overlap, which is why Paul can use a single commandment as both 2nd Use and 3rd Use; because it means both. There’s overlap between meaning and application, not a sharp line in between. So to avoid that, I’m using the word “adjust.”

Example 3

Jesus uses “do not commit adultery” and expands it to heart motives.

Matthew 5:27-28 – “You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

This law doesn’t just mean don’t physically do it (which is what Paul usually means).

Example 4

Similarly, Paul equates coveting (or greed) with idolatry.

Colossians 3:5 – Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity,lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.

Ephesians 5:5 – For know and recognize this: Every sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, who is an idolater, does not have an inheritance in the kingdom of the Messiah and of God.

Example 5

Jesus also uses “do not commit adultery” in conjunction with Genesis 2 and Deuteronomy 24 to discuss physical adultery (Deuteronomy 24:4 talking about the wife being “defiled” and it being “detestable to the Lord”). In Matthew, Jesus uses the commandment one time at physical level and another time at the heart-motive level. (Like we already saw)

Matthew 19:5-7 5 and He also said:
“For this reason a man will leave
his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two will become one flesh?
6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”
7 “Why then,” they asked Him, “did Moses command us to give divorce papers and to send her away?”

Genesis 2:24 – This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.

Deuteronomy 24:4 – the first husband who sent her away may not marry her again after she has been defiled, because that would be detestable to the Lord. You must not bring guilt on the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

→ Paul and Jesus both assume that OT Law has “multiple uses.”

Conclusion: Reading Law while avoiding relativism and moralism.

Time for street-level. This lesson, indeed this entire series on hermeneutics, might be useless if it doesn’t help you read your Bible better.
So, let’s bring this all down to us sitting in our chair on a weekday morning, reading law in the Bible. We’re studying Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (or any ethical text). We get burdened, do we not? “Oh great, another thing to do.” Then, if we’re actually in touch with our sinful selves at all, we quickly realize that we can’t do what the law tells us to do.
As we read law, we’ll get slammed by the fact that we cannot keep the commandments, that we don’t do what Jesus says. We’ll be having a Romans 7 moment. What I know to do, I don’t do. What I know not to do, I do.
But, remember the redemptive context. We are in Christ. And Christ has fulfilled the law, has fulfilled all righteousness, for us; and his record is our own.
For the Christian: the law is a guide for how to live out our identity in Christ. This is the 3rd Use.
But, for the unbeliever: the law always curses you. You are objectively guilty before a holy God. Flee to Christ, that he may clothe you in his righteousness. This is the 2nd Use.

Listen to Calvin, under the heading of the 2nd Use of the moral law:  (emphasis mine)

But while the unrighteousness and condemnation of all are attested by the law, it does not follow (if we make the proper use of it) that we are immediately to give up all hope and rush headlong on despair. No doubt, it has some such effect upon the reprobate, but this is owing to their obstinacy. With the children of God the effect is different. The Apostle . . . declares, that “God has concluded them all in unbelief;” not that he might destroy all, or allow all to perish, but that “he might have mercy upon all,” (Rom. 11:32); in other words, that divesting themselves of an absurd opinion of their own virtue, they may perceive how they are wholly dependent on the hand of God; that feeling how naked and destitute they are, they may take refuge in his mercy, rely upon it, and cover themselves up entirely with it; renouncing all righteousness and merit, and clinging to mercy alone, as offered in Christ to all who long and look for it in true faith. In the precepts of the law, God is seen as the rewarder only of perfect righteousness (a righteousness of which all are destitute), and, on the other hand, as the stern avenger of wickedness. But in Christ his countenance beams forth full of grace and gentleness towards poor unworthy sinners.

–Calvin, John (2010-02-19). The Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.vii.8

Calvin then quotes Augustine:

“The utility of the law is, that it convinces man of his weakness, and compels him to apply for the medicine of grace, which is in Christ.”
“The law orders; grace supplies the power of acting.”

This is where the Christocentric aspect of our hermeneutic comes in. How we read law ties in with what we’ve already said about Redemptive-Historical context.
Remember the three aspects (presuppositional, redemptive-historical, Christocentric) of our hermeneutics? Well, Tim Keller also ties the Redemptive-Historical and the Christocentric together, saying:

The Redemptive-Historical Method gives us a more Christ-centered understanding of the Bible. The RHM sees the purpose of each epoch of redemptive history as being the progressive revealing of Christ. God could have poured out judgment on mankind in the Garden, therefore the only reason there is any history is because God has purposed to send his Son into the world, to pour out judgment on him and thereby bring salvation. Jesus is the only reason there is human history, and therefore he is the goal of human history. Thus everything God says and does in history explains and prepares for the salvation of his Son. The STM [Systematic-Topical Method], on the other hand, will examine the Law, the prophets, and history of Abraham, Moses, David, etc. for information about the various doctrinal topics – what we learn about how to live, what to believe. But the RHM sees every story and law and piece of wisdom literature as pointing to Christ and his work. Preaching and teaching [for our purposes, reading] from an STM framework tends to be much more moralistic and legalistic.
. . . many disputes over the application of the Old Testament laws are really based on a lack of understanding of the role which the Mosaic regulations played in that time in redemptive history (i.e. how they helped us look to and prepare for God’s coming salvation) and of how that role is fulfilled in Christ.

Preaching syllabus

As you read Law, remember:

Christ does not just bear the punishment that we deserve. He also keeps the law in our place. Christ, our sin-bearer, gives to us the perfect robe of His righteousness. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). The salvation that is ours in Christ is not just a restoration to innocence, with the debt of sin cancelled. Far less is it a second chance to earn our own salvation by having our slate wiped clean. What we receive in Christ is His righteousness; we are adopted into the perfect sonship of the second Adam and the true Israel (Rom. 9:5; 10:4; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45).

–Edmund P. Clowney. The Unfolding Mystery (2d. ed.): Discovering Christ in the Old Testament (Kindle Locations 1588-1593). P&R Publishing.

The moral law certainly shows us our need for Someone who has obeyed it perfectly, a substitute. And since we have been freed from the guilt and burden of obeying the law for our sake to achieve righteousness, we can now obey the law with joy, because of what Christ has done for us. We strive to live rightly for God’s sake, in light of the Gospel.

WCF 16.6 offers us encouragement:

“Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God’s sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.”

Keller: if we do “not put the text into the overall message of salvation by grace and the finished work of Christ” we “will automatically hear through a moralistic ‘grid’. . . without putting that into the context of the gospel gives . . . the impression that” we are complete enough to pull ourselves together if we try hard. (Preaching syllabus)

What Keller says about preaching can also be applied to our reading the law in the Bible:
We must remember Christ as we read law. If we don’t, we’ll be preaching a “synagogue sermon” to ourselves and think that the law is telling us merely to exert our wills to live according to a particular pattern. We will be crushed by the law that we cannot keep.

A major way to ‘get to Christ’ is what Paul says in Galatians 3:24 about the Law leading us to Him.
In this approach, we take one of the many ethical principles (like the 10 Commandments) and truly ‘listen’ to it. These ethical principles are extremely searching and profound, and if we listen to them honestly, we see that it is impossible for us to obey them. We have not truly ‘listened’ to the full weight of the rule till we see that God will have to provide some kind of remarkably thorough forgiveness for us and/or find some powerful way to fulfill this ethical principle for us and in us—because we are completely incapable of doing so.

Bryan Chapel says texts often points us to Christ when we ask: what does this text reveal about human beings that requires Christ’s redemptive work? Every ethical text points us to Christ—and not primarily as an example but as Savior. Every ethical text show us our need for salvation.

Therefore, ultimately, Jesus is the only way to truly take the law seriously—he is the only way to truly receive it. The Iaw does demand that we be perfectly holy. We are not really listening to the law if we think that we can obey it! The law is saying, in effect, ‘you can never fulfill me—you need a savior!” (Galatians 3 and 4). We can only receive the law with Jesus.

Keller again says:

. . . Only if we know we are saved by faith can we have the strength to actually hear how extensive and searching and deep the demands of the law are. If we don’t believe in the gospel of sheer grace we will have to find some way of whittling down the full requirements of any given law text. If we know we are saved by Jesus’ finished work already then we have the guts to face the high demands of the law. . . only if we know we are saved by the perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to us are we able to take the law seriously. The gospel alone admits that God demands perfection—nothing less—and he gets it in Christ.

Preaching syllabus

So, what of exhortation? Does 2nd Use void 3rd Use, since we can’t obey? Are we exhorted by the law to action, even if we can’t obey perfectly? Is striving to obey proper for the Christian saved by grace? Are we saying: “well, then you don’t really have to obey—after all, nobody’s perfect!” Never, ever does God relax his righteous requirement because we can’t do something. We are never the standard, he is. This approach doesn’t say we don’t have to obey. Instead, it shows that we wiIl not be truly freed and able to obey this law until first we see that Jesus fulfilled it for us.

Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 115 helps us put this together:

Q. Since no one in this life can obey the Ten Commandments perfectly, why does God want them preached so pointedly?
A. First, so that the longer we live the more we may come to know our sinfulness and the more eagerly look to Christ for forgiveness of sins and righteousness.1
Second, so that we may never stop striving, and never stop praying to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, to be renewed more and more after God’s image, until after this life we reach our goal: perfection.2
1 Ps. 32:5; Rom. 3:19-26; 7:7, 24-25; 1 John 1:9
2 1 Cor. 9:24; Phil. 3:12-14; 1 John 3:1-3

Therefore, in reading law Christocentrically:
Look at the demands of the law, and realize that because of sin we cannot do it. We fail.
But, think of how Christ obeyed it in his life and ministry.
He has obeyed the law in our place.
Remember that he did it as your substitute, because he loves you.
He fulfilled all righteousness.
And since we have union with him, his record is ours.

Therefore, we are not striving to obey the law for salvation (legalism), we are obeying out of joy and gratitude because of what Christ has done for us. We are obeying for the right reasons (HC Q/A 68). We are free to change, because God’s grace in the Gospel has changed our heart.

Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 86 gives us several right reasons for obedience:

Q. Since we have been delivered from our misery by grace through Christ without any merit of our own, why then should we do good works?
A. Because Christ, having redeemed us by his blood, is also restoring us by his Spirit into his image, so that with our whole lives we may show that we are thankful to God for his benefits,1 so that he may be praised through us,2 so that we may be assured of our faith by its fruits,3 and so that by our godly living our neighbors may be won over to Christ.4
1 Rom. 6:13; 12:1-2; 1 Pet. 2:5-10
2 Matt. 5:16; 1 Cor. 6:19-20
3 Matt. 7:17-18; Gal. 5:22-24; 2 Pet. 1:10-11
4 Matt. 5:14-16; Rom. 14:17-19; 1 Pet. 2:12; 3:1-2

Because God has accepted and blessed me in Christ, I work hard to live according to the ethics of Scripture. Reading Law in this way will confront and avoid the grids of both the religious/moralist/Pharisee type person and also the irreligious/relativist/Sadducee type person (as Pastor Tim has often juxtaposed these two religious and irreligious errors; and Keller speaks in these categories). If I read law moralistically (legalistically), I’m telling myself that God hasn’t accepted me yet, and I need to try harder. If I read it relativistically (antinomian), I’m telling myself that the law is invalid and striving to obey it is not necessary.

The answer is to read Redemptive-Historically, Christocentrically. Christians do not fear the judicial wrath of God ever again because of Christ’s substitutionary life and death. This cuts against both the legalistic Pharisee and the liberal Sadducee. One is trusting in their righteousness to avoid the wrath of God (basing their justification on their sanctification); the other doesn’t feel the need to be justified or believe that God is a God of wrath who needs propitiation. Pharisees add rules to make the law do-able; Sadducees don’t recognize the law as valid.

How do we read law? We read it knowing that it is valid and it does apply (contra the relativist); and we saw this from the ample New Testament examples that we looked at (that’s why we looked at all those examples). The law is for us. Additionally, we saw the law’s uses: it exposes sin and drives the sinner to Christ (and the believer is reminded of his need for Christ as Savior; contra the legalist), and shows us how to live out our covenant identity.

We read law and say it is not irrelevant (as the relativist declares) and without lowering the bar to make it do-able (as the legalist does). Our approach to reading law is not a compromise or balance between the two, it is a completely different way; because the Gospel is different from both errors. It critiques both religion and irreligion.

To summarize: Only “Christocentric” reading of law can really lead us to true virtue, gospel holiness. If we read law as merely Biblical principles to live by, we won’t see law in its redemptive-historical context, and our application will tend to merely be conforming to the principles. Only Christocentric reading can produce gospel holiness. We so often compartmentalize believing the Gospel in justification, and think that the rest of the Christian life is us trying really hard. But, the whole of the Christian life is believing the Gospel; trusting in Christ. God has accepted and blessed me in Christ who fulfilled the law, therefore I work hard to live according to the ethics of Scripture. We have the Holy Spirit. We obey with “faith-fueled effort” to use Kevin DeYoung’s phrase (see 2 Peter 1:5-7; Hebrews 12:14; ). We will make progress in obedience.

So, the key to reading law is to get the Gospel down. “True virtue”, to use Jonathan Edwards’ term, is only possible for those who have experienced the grace of the Gospel. Only then can we “delight in the law of the Lord” (Psalm 1:2).

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Appealing to the affections won’t save your kids, either.

I recently read a blog post by Stephen Altrogge entitled A Solid Worldview Won’t Save My Kids. I encourage you to read it and reflect on it for yourself, first.

One of my first thoughts regarding the title was, “I wonder if anybody claims that a solid worldview will save anybody?”

The title reminds me a bit about a common evangelical saying: “You can’t argue someone into the Kingdom.” This sentiment usually originates from the view that we should just simply preach the Gospel. K. Scott Oliphint has the most brilliant response to that line, that I have ever heard. He says something to the effect of, “True, but you can’t preach someone into the Kingdom, either.” His point is that only the Holy Spirit brings people into the Kingdom. The Spirit alone gives life. So, when I read the title to Stephen Altrogge’s article (then read the article), I responded Oliphint-style with my title: appealing to the affections won’t save your kids, either.

Moving on . . .

My next thought was, “If a person is not saved (brought to life by the Holy Spirit, cleansed of debt by Jesus’ work, and righteous in God’s sight because Christ’s righteousness is credited to your account), then they don’t have a solid worldview, period.” From God’s point of view (revealed in His Word), it is impossible for a person to have a “solid worldview” if they are not born-again. I’ll explain more, below.

I confess, I was a bit jealous upon reading this:

If you hang out in Christian circles for more than ten minutes, you’ll inevitably hear someone talk about ‘worldview’. Christian parents, particularly those in the homeschool / private school / unschool / charter school vein, are intensely passionate about giving their children a biblical worldview which helps their children understand themselves, the world, and all of history in light of Scripture.

I wish that was my experience. The majority of Christians I know are nothing like that. In our context, evangelicals are more likely to be fideistic, rejecting all ideas of systems and worldviews. “It’s not a system of thought, it’s a personal relationship,” etc. On top of that, Christianity is largely privatized and, along with the children, kept far away from the world and history (even church history). Then, Altrogge mentions Abraham Kuyper. I wish I had even known that name before I was 21. There are many conservative evangelicals that will have nothing to do with the “worldview camp.” Abraham who? Anyway . . .

Altrogge qualifies:

And I’m in no way opposed to having a biblical worldview. I think it’s crucial.

That’s good. But then,

But the older I get, the more I realize that it’s not enough to give my children a biblical worldview. I’ve seen too many of my childhood friends grow up to reject the biblical worldview that was so furiously drummed into them as children. I’ve seen too many people make choices that they know are in direct contradiction to the worldview they embraced for so many years. I’ve seen too many train wrecks to think that worldview alone is enough.

This is interesting. The claim is that one can actually embrace a Christian worldview but then reject it. Has he just implied that one can have a biblical worldview without having a right relationship with God? Has the Christian worldview just been abstracted from saving faith in the Lord Jesus?

The Bible is about Christ, He said “they testify about Me” (John 5:39). So can someone actually embrace the biblical worldview without Christ Himself? The Bible says otherwise. It is impossible to rightly think about anything apart from Christ:

All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him.

I am saying this so that no one will deceive you with persuasive arguments. For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.

Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude.

Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.

-Colossians 2:3-8

When Altrogge talks about people making choices that contradict the Christian worldview, I don’t think he’s talking about Christians still sinning. Notice, he says “direct contradiction to the worldview they embraced for so many years” (emphasis mine). Past tense, implying that their present lifestyle contradicts the biblical worldview that they once held, but rejected. I don’t think he’s using “train wrecks” as an overstatement, either. Altrogge seems to communicate that it is possible for people to have actually “embraced [the Christian worldview] for so many years” then completely walk away from the faith. The train was moving, but it’s not anymore. However, if we belong to Christ, that’ll never happen:

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

-John 10:28-30

I contend that any person who supposedly embraced but ultimately rejected the Bible’s view on reality, knowledge, and ethics never actually did. The Christian worldview cannot be divorced from Christ. If you don’t have Christ, you don’t have a Christian worldview. And if you do have Christ, you’ll never reject His Word’s perspective on reality, knowledge, and conduct. In fact, knowledge itself cannot be divorced from Christ. Paul said that in Jesus all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are deposited. To attempt to know anything without reference to the Lord Jesus is to not know it truly, as it should be known.

Knowledge is personal, because it comes from the personal Triune God. Jesus Himself said He is the Truth (John 14:6). God’s revelation, both general and special, is covenantal. It is impossible to abstract any worldview from the personal knowledge of God (even anti-Christian worldviews, since they are based on suppressing the truth; Rom 1:18-25). If a so-called biblical worldview is not based on Christ, then it is no biblical worldview. Christian terms may be used, Bible verses may be quoted, but if your worldview is not according to Christ, then it is “philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.”

Stephen Altrogge continues,

Worldview is important, but it’s only one part of the equation. A biblical worldview helps a person think correctly. But we are not purely intellectual beings. We don’t operate solely based on ideas and thoughts. We are flesh and blood, with passions, desires, and longings. We feel things deeply and desire things strongly. Our intellects and desires are intricately interwoven, interacting with and informing each other.

A biblical worldview helps us think correctly so we can live correctly. And it helps us think correctly about “passions, desires, and longings.” Indeed we do feel deeply and desire strongly, just like Eve did in the garden. It was because our first parents didn’t submit their desire to what God had said, instead acting autonomously, that they fell. We must have a theoretical commitment to God’s authority, thinking as He has told us to, so that we can respond correctly to our passions and desires. And, thanks be to God, even our desires are being renewed: “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). Our whole person is being sanctified, mind and affections, body and soul.

I completely agree that our intellect and desires are intertwined. It is because we are inclined to sin that we refuse to acknowledge God or give thanks. John Piper nails it when he says: “The corruption of our hearts is the deepest root of our irrationality” (Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, Kindle Locations 788-789). It is only when God does a supernatural work in us that we properly respond to what was always evident around us. But, I also think that having a Christian worldview is not merely cognitive. It’s more than assenting to a collection of abstract truths. First of all, it’s the result of already beholding Christ (1 John 3:1). It’s a result of being saved by the message preached,

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved. For it is written:

I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and I will set aside the understanding of the experts.

Where is the philosopher? Where is the scholar? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish? For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of the message preached. For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom, because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. . . But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became God-given wisdom for us—our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, in order that, as it is written: The one who boasts must boast in the Lord.

-1 Corinthians 1:18-25. 30-31

Notice how Paul links together Christ, wisdom, and believing the Gospel.

I whole heartedly agree with what Altrogge says next:

If I’m going to be an effective, godly parent, I need to appeal to my kids affections as much as their intellects. They need to see that the Bible makes sense, but they also need to see that Jesus is supremely delightful.

Frankly, I think a believer’s worldview is insufficiently Christian to the extent that they don’t see the beauty of Jesus. If a professing Christian doesn’t see Christ as supremely delightful, I would question what he thinks of Christ and would want to know his Christology. On the other hand, imagine asking someone why they find Christ supremely delightful, and they respond that it’s because He will never let them get sick or lack money and have whatever they want! Oops, that’s an idol, not the Lord Jesus. Ironically, people who subscribe to a false gospel, yet claim to value Christ, actually don’t (they worship the creature rather than the Creator), but we wouldn’t be able to make sense of that apart from the Christian worldview. Having a biblical worldview is necessary for biblical affection. John Piper points out how knowledge and affection reinforce and feed each other:

The fires of love for God need fuel. And the fires of love for God drive the engines of thought and deed. There is a circle . Thinking feeds the fire, and the fire fuels more thinking and doing. I love God because I know him. And I want to know him more because I love him. . . The main reason that thinking and loving are connected is that we cannot love God without knowing God; and the way we know God is by the Spirit-enabled use of our minds. So to “love God with all your mind” means engaging all your powers of thought to know God as fully as possible in order to treasure him for all he is worth.

God is not honored by groundless love. In fact, there is no such thing. If we do not know anything about God, there is nothing in our mind to awaken love. If love does not come from knowing God, there is no point calling it love for God. There may be some vague attraction in our heart or some unfocused gratitude in our soul, but if they do not arise from knowing God, they are not love for God.

-Piper, John. Think (Kindle Locations 1145-1147,1153-1158).

If your worldview is not Christ-centered, if the affections haven’t been gripped by the “surpassing value of Christ” (1 Cor. 3) then it’s not a biblical worldview. Here’s what I mean (and this may seem too obvious to mention). If Christ is not supremely valued, then we’re not thinking of Christ as the Scriptures reveal Him: the climax of redemptive history, who saved me. A worldview is not a jumble of isolated bits of information. It is a network of interdependent doctrines. Within the Christian worldview every doctrine will be related to the person of Christ. The Christian worldview is based on the biblical narrative, redemptive history, not a disjointed list of beliefs. And it is covenantal. As Tim Keller says,

God’s revelation never comes in the form of textbook type information, but in the form of covenant. Why? Because the purpose of God’s truth is never to merely inform, but to know God in a relationship of love and service.

-syllabus for “Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World” p. 34

And that brings us back to knowledge being necessarily relational. The personal God, made man personal in His image, and in the context of covenant, gave His Word. From birth we are covenant breakers in Adam, knowing God but suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. But when the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ, we are made covenant keepers in Him, and we begin to understand reality, knowledge, and ethics rightly because we know God who created reality, is the source of knowledge, and whose character is the basis for ethics.

I must make a note of appreciation. I love how Stephen Altrogge does not split the faculties of man between mind, will, and emotions. He instead speaks of the intellect and the affections. I too believe this is the biblical view of man. Edwards thought so, and Tim Keller agrees:

One of Jonathan Edwards’ most enduring contribution is his ‘religious psychology’ in Religious Affections. Instead of accepting the typical Western division of ‘will’ vs. ’emotions’ (thus the division of the soul into three parts–thinking, feeling. willing), Edwards posited a division in the soul of only two faculties. The frrst was ‘the understanding”, which is our ability to perceive and judge the nature of things. The second he called ‘the inclination of the soulto either like or dislike, to love or reject, what we perceive. Edwards calls this inclination the ‘willwhen it is involved in action and heartwhen it senses the beauty of what is being perceived by the understanding. The ‘Affectionsare what Edwards calls the most ‘vigorous and sensible exercises’ of this faculty. In the Bible, they are the ‘fruit of the Spirit’-love, joy, zeal, humility.

The affections are of course filled with emotion, but they are not the same as ‘passions’. Affections are the action of the whole person when the inclination senses the beauty and excellency of some object. Then that object fills us with love and joy and propels us to acquire and protect it. The passions are also emotions, but more passing, superficial (and usually more violent) which can arise from a variety of fleeting causes, both mental and physical.

Edwards contribution is especially important regarding the unity of the faculties. He refused to suppose an opposition between the understanding and the affections. Gracious affections are raised up only when a person has a ‘spiritual understanding’ of the true nature of God. In other words, if a person says, ‘I know God cares for me, but I am still paralyzed by fear“, Edwards would reply, ‘then that means you really don’t know that God cares for you. If you did, then the affection of confidence and hope would be rising within you.’

-Tim Keller, syllabus for “Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World” p. 149

Altrogge continues:

The reality is: the mind can only stand against the affections for so long before it gives out. If my kids are going to stand against the allure of sexual impurity, I can’t simply tell them about all the negative consequences of premarital sex. I need to also dazzle them with the all-satisfying beauty of Christ. If my kids are going to stand against materialism, I can’t simply tell them that money is the root of all evil. I need to also show them that Christ is the pearl of great price.

My question is: aren’t those glorious truths part of the biblical view of things? The implication seems to be that “all the negative consequences of premarital sex” and “that money is the root of all evil” is what the intellect/worldview department gives, while “the all-satisfying beauty of Christ” and “that Christ is the pearl of great price” is limited to the area of affections. I hope that implication is unintended. I haven’t lost sight of his point: he’s saying both need to be done. However, remember the title of the article: “A Solid Worldview Won’t Save My Kids”, and how he asserted that a worldview is limited to the intellect. In my thinking, if these things weren’t grasped then the worldview was incomplete. Also, the intellectual side of things in these examples seems to be moralistic. Does worldview reduce to moralism? It shouldn’t. From a truly biblical worldview, we present neither moralism nor relativism, but the Gospel as a third way (in that it is distinct, not a compromise between the two). Where’s the Christ centered motivation? Why is He beautiful and more valuable? That should be easily answered from our worldview, if it is Scriptural.

I’ll apply a different approach to Altrogge’s first example: If we view things according to Scripture, we should say that on your own you will fail to be pure, which is why Christ stood fast in the face of all temptation, for you. Christ is your substitute, whose purity is imputed to you. Unless you see that, you won’t be able stand against sin. Only if we first realize what Christ has done for us does He become more attractive and our idols less attractive. That is how the Christian worldview includes the affections. This again shows how central Christ is to having a Christian worldview. We don’t have a Christian worldview if we are not Christocentric.

Conveniently, Tim Keller deals with Altrogge’s second example, materialism. This citation immediately follows the above citation.

If Edwards is right, then there is no ultimate opposition between ‘head and ‘heart”. We must not assume, for example, if our people are materialistic, that they only need to be exhorted to give more. That would be to act directly on the will. Through guilt that may help that day’s offering (!), but it will not change the people’s life patterns. Nor must we simply tell stories of people’s lives being changed through acts of generosity. That will simply act directly on the emotions. That will raise ‘passions’ and also temporarily help the offering, but it will not permanently change the people.

If the people are materialistic and ungenerous, it means they have not truly understood how Jesus, though rich, became poor for them. It means they have not truly understood what it means that in Christ we have all riches and treasures. It means their ‘affections’ are clinging to material things–their souls are inclined toward riches as a source of spiritual security, hope, and beauty. They may have superficial intellectual grasp of Jesus’ spiritual wealth, but they do not truly grasp it. Thus in preaching we must re-present Christ in the particular way that he replaces the place of material things in the affections. This takes not just intellectual argument, but the presentation of the beauty of Christ.

-Tim Keller, syllabus for “Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World” p. 149

On a side note, the Bible does not say “that money is the root of all evil” (as Altrogge said). First Timothy 6:10 actually says: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (emphasis mine).

The Gospel is how the beauty of Christ is presented, and how the affections are apprehended. This is touched on (the Resurrection, not substitution) as Altrogge continues:

Family devotions can’t be just about information. They also need to be about inspiration. I want my kids to know that there is good evidence that the resurrection is a historical reality. I also want my kids to know that Jesus is real, and he lives within me, and he gives me supernatural power, and he gives me more joy than anything else.

This is where presuppositionalism kicks in with its superior strength. It’s impossible that the biblical account is false. We are not merely left with a probable or most likely view of things. We have certainty. The Christian position is not that Jesus is probably real, or that he probably lives within me. God’s Word is infallible and we have certainty in the self-attesting Christ of Scripture. “The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:12-13). Ironically, to be properly presuppositional is to be Christocentric.

Stephen Altrogge concludes:

Worldview is important, but I can’t rest with simply teaching my kids how to think. I need to also show them the surpassing joy of knowing Christ. I want my kids to understand at a visceral level that Jesus is sweet and sin is bitter. Good thinking is necessary, but good feeling is just as, if not more important.

As I said before, I don’t think one has the correct worldview if they don’t know the surpassing joy of knowing Christ. The Bible implies that you don’t know how to think if you don’t think according to Christ. One way or another, Christ is the ultimate point of reference (Colossians 1:15-20). Unbelievers do not know how to think, because they have not bowed the knee. And if you are a Christian who insists on neutrality, that it is possible to think about anything apart from Christ, shame on you and whoever taught you that. God commands us to “honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts” (1 Peter 3:15a). His Lordship is all encompassing. Christology affects epistemology. God in His Word has linked them together, so “let no man separate.” In reality, there’s no neutral way to think. We either think in submission to Christ or we do not. So, biblically speaking, if you’re teaching your kids how to think without showing them the surpassing joy of knowing Christ, then you’re not teaching them to think at all. They may be able to count, but they can’t account for counting, as Van Til would say.

“Good thinking is necessary, but good feeling is just as, if not more important.” If we agree with Edwards, your thinking is exposed as not “good” if your affections are not good. I agree with Edwards (above) that someone doesn’t really know or understand the Bible’s teaching (have a Christian worldview) if they don’t act accordingly. If they did, the affections would rise within them. Like Francis Schaeffer used to say, men have two creeds: what they say they believe, and what they do. And what they do exposes what they really believe. Your worldview is not Christ centered if it is merely “good thinking” or “good feeling.” Altrogge insists that mind and affections “are intricately interwoven,” but there still seems to be a dichotomy between “worldview” and “affections.” Ironically, a biblical worldview will include the united faculties of man, and apply Christology accordingly. Yes,”good thinking” and “good feeling” are necessary. But, good thinking and good feeling will not save you (in keeping with our title theme). Both the understanding and the affections are brought into submission to Christ as the Gospel is made effective by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. Christ saves, and only then can our thinking and feeling be “good.”

In conclusion, there is one sense in which I agree with the idea that a biblical worldview is not enough. What mean by that is, you need to be born from above by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3). Ironically, the way the Spirit does this is by making effective the Gospel, which only retains its meaning within its redemptive-historical context. So, in another sense, the Christian worldview is enough, it is exactly what we need. God has revealed what we need to know about reality, knowledge, and conduct. Our most fundamental convictions, presuppositions, are provided by Scripture. And the core of the Christian worldview is the Gospel; said another way, the climax of the redemptive-historical narrative is Jesus Christ. Apart from the Christian worldview, the redemptive-historical narrative, the Gospel is without meaning, and Jesus Christ is without definition. If you have a Christian worldview, it must necessarily be Christocentric. To be Christocentric is also to be presuppositional, since Christ is the ultimate point of reference. And that is to be biblically based in all of our thinking, to interpret everything according to Scripture, which is ultimately about Christ. Therefore, if our worldview is biblical, then it is Christocentric, and Christ’s work for us is what grips our affections. Affections cannot be awakened to what is not known. If my “Christian” worldview remains merely cognitive, without my affections laying hold of Christ, then it’s not really Christian. If I have a Christian worldview, then I must say with Paul:

But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.

Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained. Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things, but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.

-Philippians 3:7-21

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