Theonomist, Antinomian, or Supernomian?

If we are truly no longer under the Old Covenant, if we are dead to the Law, are the theonomists correct in labeling us “antinomian” (against the Law)? Or is this just a false dichotomy? If we are no longer under the Law, does that mean we can do whatever we want? What should our lives look like now?

Let’s start off with what the Bible tells us.

Rom. 6:14-15 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!

Well, this verse certainly does away with any notion of being free to sin. Since sin is lawlessness, and we are not to sin, then there must be a law, but what is it? This verse tells us that the opposite of being under the Law is being under grace. What does it mean to be under grace? To be under something carries a connotation of authority. The Law no longer has any authority over the Israelite and it never had any authority over the Gentile. So many of us, myself included, put ourselves under a law that never had any jurisdiction over us to begin with! Now that is bondage!

To be under grace simply means to be under the authority of the grace of God, to be joined with Christ. The Law represents the Old Covenant, while grace represents all that Jesus did for us under the New Covenant. If we are living under grace, we are living in Christ, we are walking with Him, we are abiding in Him, we are obeying Him, we are enjoying all His blessings that He bestows upon us daily.

So what is sin under the New Covenant then? If we have just determined that none of the Old Covenant applies to us as Christians, certainly we must have some sort of guidelines to follow. Look at what the Lord promised us:

Hebrews 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

So we know that God has given us His laws and they are written on our hearts and they are in our minds. This is the beauty of the being under the New Covenant. We no longer have an external code of conduct to follow. We don’t have a list of rules that we need to dissect to find all the nuances and minutiae; we don’t have to be pharisaical in order to know if we are following God’s laws for us now. God has given us a new heart! That new heart is tender and desires to please God. It is not like those stone tablets that were inflexible and hard as rock. We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit now, the living Spirit of the Almighty God, and we have the mind of Christ. The nation of Israel was led by a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. They had long lists of rules which were impossible to keep. They lived under the yoke of a works-based covenant which brought them nothing but curses and death. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us now, leading us. We live in the newness of life and can rest in Jesus! Our hearts have been regenerated and written upon with love. We don’t become perfect overnight; in fact, sanctification is a life-long process. But God has literally changed our hearts and He has written His laws on our hearts and our minds.

That sounds terribly subjective. What if I think something is a sin and you don’t? What if I think I am free to do something which would be quite offensive to you? Did God just leave us to a subjective interpretation of His laws written on our hearts? No. Of course not. I believe that He gave us some very specific written instructions in His Word, but that the underlying motive behind all those instructions is written deep in our hearts so that when we are truly regenerated, we will naturally desire to follow His laws.

The New Covenant actually uses several different terms to describe the laws that apply to us now. Let’s look at them briefly.

Romans 3:27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

James 1:25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

James 2:12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.

It is not our purpose in this article to address these laws in depth, but do you see the contrast between these laws of the New Covenant and that of the old? The old covenant had laws that were works-based; the New Covenant’s laws are based on faith. The old covenant had the law of sin and death, while the New Covenant brings us the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. The old covenant was the Law of Moses, while we are now under the law of Christ. The old covenant was a heavy yoke of bondage which even the Israelites couldn’t bear, but we are under the perfect law of liberty.

James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well;

Both covenants had this royal law, however, the royal law of love. What was the difference? Was there any? Again, under the old covenant, this was an external constraint, written in stone. Under the New Covenant, this law is written on our hearts, providing internal motivation, but it is not the only law written on our hearts.

But first, let us determine how we are to know what our law is now. What rule of life are we under? We don’t have a list like the Ten Commandments in the New Covenant, so how do we know? It seems that while the Law of the old covenant came through Moses, the law of the New Covenant comes through both Jesus and His apostles, specifically Paul. Here are a few verses that tell us so.

Matt. 17:5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”

Matt. 28:18-20 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Acts 1:1-2 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen,

1 Corinthians 14:37 If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I [Paul] write to you are the commandments of the Lord.

I Thess. 4:1-2 Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we [Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy] gave you through the Lord Jesus.

II Pet. 3:1-2 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior,

So now we know that everything that Jesus and Paul and other apostles commanded are what we are supposed to obey. It is important to keep in mind the context of each specific command, though, and make sure that those commands were actually for us. For example, when Christ told the rich young ruler to go and sell everything he had, give the money to the poor and follow Jesus, we have to realize that He was not giving us that command. But the majority of the commands in the New Covenant are for us.

Now that we understand that Christ and His apostles have given us specific commandments, we need to realize that God actually expects us to obey them.

John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

John 14:21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.”

And these commands to obey His commands are actually fulfilling a greater commandment — to love God. Notice how often God tells us to love God and love others, and this is just a tiny sample:

Matt. 22:37-39 Jesus said to him, “’You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

John 15:12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

1 John 3:23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.

1 John 4:21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

It certainly seems that there are two commandments written on our hearts: love God and love others. I am trying to find any commands in the New Covenant that don’t fall into these two categories. Under the old covenant, there were laws that pertained to diet or clothing types or pruning trees, etc. — lots of laws that didn’t specifically fall under the categories of loving God or loving others, other than the fact that obeying God’s commands was loving Him. But it seems that all of the New Covenant can be boiled down to loving God and loving others.

So what kinds of laws would fall under these two greatest commandments? Wouldn’t they be moral types of law? Let’s look at some examples of laws that we are given in the New Covenant.

Romans 13:8-10 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

I like this one because it tells us that not only were these five of the Ten Commandments based on loving your neighbor, but these five are commands in the New Covenant as well, as they are part of loving your neighbor. These sound pretty moral to me.

I Corinthians 10:14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

1 Thessalonians 1:9 For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

Those look a lot like the first two commandments of those Ten Commandments to me!

Ephesians 6:2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise:

Another commandment repeated.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

The third commandment is about the words that come out of our mouth. While this is not a duplicate of that commandment, it is about the same topic. Mike tells me there are at least four New Covenant passages that speak against using profanity. Maybe someone can help me out here.

So far, I count nine of the Ten Commandments repeated as commands in the New Covenant. These are all moral commands. The Bible still tells us that we are to obey certain moral laws and it lays it out clearly which ones they are. Of course we still obey moral commands. We just need to understand where our moral commands come from, and it is not from the Ten Commandments.

We are also given a few lists of sins throughout the New Covenant as well. I will just list a couple.

Rom. 1:28-32 those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Gal 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

There are many, many more lists that give us our code of law under the New Covenant such as the fruit of the Spirit and all the one another commands. If we look for them, they are as plain as the nose on our face.

Are there any laws in the Law of Moses that theonomists want to press upon us that are not repeated in the New Covenant? I can think of two off the top of my head. Tithing and the Sabbath. Now, if we remember our previous articles, we know that that Law was given only to Israel, not to the Gentiles. We remember that the Law of Moses, that old covenant, was abolished at the cross. We know that the law was always treated as one complete code of law, so everything in that Law was completed and fulfilled in Christ; no part of that Law applies to us anymore. It never did. But we have many of the same laws that were in that covenant.

Let me explain. We would all agree that stealing is wrong; it’s a sin. But why is it a sin? Because the Ten Commandments say “Thou shalt not steal”? Or because Eph. 4:28 says, “Let him who stole steal no longer”? They both say the same thing! But the law from Exodus has no jurisdiction over us. We are not under the authority of that Law. We are under the New Covenant, so stealing would be a sin based upon Eph. 4:28, not Ex. 20:15. We can understand it in light of our modern-day society as well. Stealing is a crime in America. Stealing is also a crime in Britain. If someone in North Dakota steals, which law are they breaking? Just because both countries have the same law does not mean that they both have jurisdiction over the same individuals. They don’t. And just because both covenants have some of the same laws does not mean that they both have jurisdiction over us as believers. They don’t. Only one code of law has authority over us — the New Covenant.

Let’s get back to tithing and the Sabbath for a minute. Even the theonomists agree that certain parts of the Law of Moses were done away with — what they call the ceremonial parts. Remember that God does not divide them up this way, but He does talk specifically in Hebrews about everything being associated with the temple system of worship being abolished. Let’s think about that for a minute. What was the purpose of the tithes? To fund the sacrificial system and the priests and Levites who carried out the sacrificial system. Sounds like that should be abolished on that basis alone, but remember that the Law of Moses was one complete code of Law that was fully abolished at the cross anyway. And for those wondering, cheerful giving from the heart is what we are commanded to do in the New Covenant.

How about the Sabbath?

Col. 2:14-17 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

The Sabbath was a part of that handwriting of requirements, which was contrary, but was nailed to the cross. The Sabbath was a shadow of what was to come — Christ. While there are other aspects of the Sabbath that we could talk about, such as entering His rest, do you remember what is different about the Fourth Commandment in comparison to other nine?

Ex. 31:12-17 “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: “Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’”

The Sabbath was a sign of that old covenant between Israel and the Lord. That covenant is no longer. We have a New Covenant and that New Covenant has a new sign.

I Cor. 11:23-26 “that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”

The Sabbath was the sign of the Old Covenant. It was there to remind the Israelites weekly of their covenant with God. The Lord’s Supper is the sign of the New Covenant. It is there to remind us of that New Covenant with God, that covenant which supersedes that old covenant. Why would we want to keep a sign of a covenant that no longer exists? The New Covenant does not ever tell us to keep the Sabbath, nor does it change it from one day to another. Why? Because the Sabbath has nothing to do with the New Covenant at all. Just as the sign of circumcision is no longer valid as a sign, so the sign of the Sabbath is no longer valid. Here is what we are told about it now.

Romans 14:5-6 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.

That verse is talking about an area of the Christian life we call freedom, or liberty. It is not talking about the Sabbath, but about setting aside a day for a certain purpose, such as Christmas Day. It could also be talking about setting aside a certain day of the week to meet together for worship. Christians usually meet on Sunday, but this verse tells us that Sunday is not a special day in this way. Sunday is definitely not the Christian Sabbath.

Here’s an interesting command in the New Covenant:

Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

What was that yoke of bondage? The Law of Moses. We are set free from the yoke of bondage under the Law of Moses and we are commanded to stand fast in that liberty. There is a caution, however, that goes with that.

Galatians 5:13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

It always comes back to love, doesn’t it?

In my previous article, I asked what commandments Jesus was talking about in the Sermon on the Mount when He said, “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Let’s look at the context. It’s really quite simple. In the Sermon on the Mount, immediately following this statement, Jesus begins a series of “You have heard it said … But I say unto you …” What were those “You have heard it said” statements? They were commandments from the Law of Moses. But Jesus changes each of those commandments into something greater, a higher degree, higher than even that of the Pharisees’ standards, as He tells us in the next verse: “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus’ standards for loving God and loving others is higher than that of the old covenant, higher than the Pharisees’ standards. (Note that Jesus is still not talking about a works-based righteousness or salvation in this verse, however. The righteousness He is speaking of is Christ’s imputed righteousness in us.)

So Jesus uses the word “these” in relation to commandments in this passage. Which commandments? These commandments. Which commandments are these? The ones I am getting ready to explain to you immediately. These are the commandments that Jesus wants us to live by. These are the commandments which lift us up to a higher degree than that old covenant of death ever could. These are the commandments which demonstrate the love that God has written on our hearts. These, and all the other New Covenant commandments are actually more difficult to obey than that old written code, that letter of the Law that only brings death. They are difficult, nay, impossible, for those whose hearts have not had these laws written on them. But this law is a better law, a higher law that lifts us up a notch, a more loving law.

Are we antinomian? No. Absolutely not. Do we obey moral laws? Yes. We obey many moral laws, but they are the moral laws of the New Covenant. We are not theonomists in that we are no longer under the Law of Moses. We are not antinomians. We have successfully shown that that was a false dichotomy. So what are we in relation to the law? I propose that we are supernomian. Super means “of the highest degree.” Nomian comes from nomos, which is law, and here specifically is God’s law. God’s law of love lifts us up a notch. So a supernomian would be a Christian who follows God’s law to the highest degree — loving God and loving others.

The Law of Moses provided external constraints. The New Covenant has an internal motivation from the heart, the heart that has the law of God written upon it.

So some people call me a Nine Commandment Christian! That’s fine. Just don’t confuse which nine commandments I am obeying — those nine from the New Covenant, plus a bunch of others. Actually, I prefer being called a Two Commandment Christian — love God and love others. That pretty much covers it! I’ve got it! I’m a supernomian, Two Commandment Christian. How about you?

(Thanks, Mike! This teaching changed my life.)

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Out With the Old, In With the New

There are several passages of Scripture which compare and contrast the Old Covenant with the New Covenant. Let’s look at some of those now and see what God has to say about both of these covenants. I will use red (for the bloodiness) for the First Covenant and green (for the new life) for the Second Covenant. This first one is written specifically to those who still want to follow the Law of Moses. Remember that “the Law” is always treated as one unified code of law all throughout Scripture, so let’s see what God says about those who desire to be under that Law:

Gal. 4:21-5:1 “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written:

“ Rejoice, O barren,
You who do not bear!
Break forth and shout,
You who are not in labor!
For the desolate has many more children
Than she who has a husband.”

Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free. Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

This passage is speaking directly to those who desire to be under the authority of the Law of Moses, which includes the Ten Commandments. Paul tells us right up front that this is symbolic of the two covenants. Let’s observe how he describes the covenant of the bondwoman:

from Mount Sinaigives birth to bondage

is Mount Sinai

the Jerusalem which now is (at the time of Paul)

is in bondage with her children

was born according to the flesh

persecutes him who was born according to the Spirit

shall not be a heir with the son of the freewoman

a yoke of bondage

That is the first covenant, the old covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the law of Moses.
Paul describes the second covenant, the New Covenant, the covenant of the freewoman:

the Jerusalem abovewhich is free and the mother of us all

children of promise

born according to the Spirit

the son of the freewoman

free

given liberty

Do you see the clear contrast between these two covenants? For contrasts and comparisons, I like using charts, so we can also look at it this way:

Let’s look at another one:

II Cor. 3 “You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.

Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

As we compare and contrast these same two covenants, notice that the terms of the New Covenant are being laid out in all these various passages. This chart speaks for itself:

All Christians recognize Hebrews as abrogating at least part of the Law, but let’s look at it to see what it really says. Here we see the clear terms of the New Covenant as well (bolded in green). I know this is a long passage, but it is very important to see the continuity from the beginning where it speaks of the first and second covenant to the very end where it concludes this section on the first and second covenant. The chart below the passage helps compare and contrast these two covenants more clearly.

Heb. 8:6-10:10 “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.

In that He says, “A new covenant, ” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience— concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.” Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another— He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:

“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,
But a body You have prepared for Me.
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin
You had no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—
In the volume of the book it is written of Me—
To do Your will, O God.”

Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them ” (which are offered according to the law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Let’s compare these two covenants: that first faulty covenant and the second faultless covenant.

What could be more clear? These two covenants are contrasted over and over throughout Scripture. The old covenant brought death, the New Covenant brings life. The old covenant was with Israel. The New Covenant is with the elect. The old covenant brought bondage. The new covenant brought freedom in Christ.

Let’s look at a few more passages, just to double-check. Here’s one that tells us the purpose of the old covenant (the Law) and what happens when that purpose is fulfilled:

Gal. 3:19-25 “What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one.

Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”

Paul tells us that the Law (the old covenant) was added till the Seed should come. That sounds like a definite stopping point. The Law here is contrasted with faith, the faith that came in Jesus Christ. Before, (the Israelites) were kept under guard by the Law. Since the old covenant was only given to the Israelites, this passage is not speaking about the Gentiles. The Law was a tutor, or a guardian in other translations. A tutor was a slave in New Testament times who was placed in charge of the boys while they were growing up. The tutor was in authority over the boys, just as the Law was in authority over the Israelites. The tutor was not the teacher, but he brought the boys to the teachers, just as the Law brought the Jews to the Teacher.

After the Seed came, faith came, and the Law was no longer in authority over the Israelites. They no longer had any need for that tutor — the Law, the old covenant. It was time for them to grow up and they no longer needed a tutor. In a sense, Paul is telling us that it is time for us to grow up in faith in Christ. We don’t need the Law; we have something better.

Here is another passage directed to the Israelites regarding the Law, the first covenant:

Rom. 7:4-6 “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.”

“My brethren” is a common term used throughout Scripture meaning “fellow Israelites.” It later was sometimes used to mean believers as well. In this case, verse one of this passage tells us that he is referring to the Jews — “to those who know the Law.” Paul is pretty clear here that they are dead to the Law, that they have been delivered from the Law, that they died to that Law that held them. Those are some fairly strong words. He also tells us when this happened — through the body of Christ — which we can see was the cross. But he doesn’t leave them hanging by telling them that the Law is dead to them now, but that they are to be married to Christ, which is the new and better covenant.

This next passage tells us exactly when this change took place:

Col. 2:13-14 “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

What is that handwriting of requirements? Well, which requirements were handwritten? Were they not the Ten Commandments, the very essence of the Old Covenant, the ones written on tablets of stone? And here Paul tells us that not only was that one complete code of Law against us, contrary to us, but that Christ wiped it out, took it out of the way, nailed it to the cross.

This thought of the Law being wiped out was just as hard for the Jews in the New Testament times as it is for some Christians today. Some Pharisees were teaching that the Gentile converts had to be both circumcised and to keep the Law of Moses. A council met in Jerusalem to consider this matter, and here is the gist of what happened:

Acts 15:5 “But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them, and to commandthem to keep the law of Moses.'”

v. 10 [Peter] “Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”

v. 19, 20 [James] “Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols,from sexual immorality,from things strangled, and from blood.”

v. 24 [Letter from the apostles and elders] “Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, ‘You must be circumcised and keep the law‘—to whom we gave no such commandment—”

v. 28, 29 [Letter cont.] “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.”

So the final outcome was that the apostles never gave any commandment that Gentiles had to obey the Law of Moses, but that they should obey four laws: abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. They didn’t even tell them to obey the Ten Commandments! Now this was at the very beginning of the apostles’ instructions, so many more commandments were added later, but it is notable that these were the only four original requirements and not the Ten Commandments!

I saved this one until nearly the end because it uses that controversial word — abolish:

Eph. 2:14-16 “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”

First, this passage is talking about two groups of people: the Jews and the Gentiles. They were enemies.

What was between them? The middle wall of separation.

What was that middle wall of separation? The law of commandments contained in ordinances.

And what was that law of commandments contained in ordinances? The Law. The first covenant. All that set Israel apart from all other nations, from all other peoples. All that made them holy and different.

That Law caused great enmity between Israel and all those they were commanded to kill, did it not? History tells us that they didn’t get along very well with their neighbors outside of Israel. But Paul tells us that Jesus came to bring peace between the Jews and Gentiles by abolishing that enmity between us, abolishing it through the cross, putting it to death.

The word “abolish” in this passage is the Greek word “katargeo,” which basically means to make of no effect, to take away the power or the influence, or to end the relationship. In other words, at the cross, the Law no longer had any authority over the Israelites. Remember that it only applied to Israel to begin with. So, the Law, the first covenant, that which was causing enmity between the Jews and the Gentiles, no longer was in effect when Jesus died on the cross. When that veil was torn in two, the two enemies were made one in Christ.

And since I know the next question would logically be “What about Matthew 5:17?” we will go there next. But let’s look a bit further in the text as well.

Matt. 5:17-20 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

The phrase “the Law or the Prophets” is an all-inclusive term basically meaning the whole Old Testament. So the first thing we see is that Christ did not come to destroy any of the Old Testament, including the Law. Instead, He came to fulfill all of the Old Testament, including the Law. The word “destroy” in this passage is the Greek word “kataluo,” which means to utterly destroy. Notice the difference between this passage and that last passage in Ephesians. Christ did not come to (kataluo) utterly destroy the Law, but He did in fact (katargeo) make the Law of no effect. To abolish (katargeo) is not the same thing as to destroy (kataluo).

The next thing we see in Matthew is that nothing will happen until all is fulfilled. No part of the Law will change until all the Law is fulfilled. It does not say that the ceremonial part of the Law will pass before all is fulfilled. It does not say that no part of the Law will change until the ceremonial part is fulfilled. It simply says that no part of the Law will change until all the is fulfilled. Has the Law changed? Yes. We have seen that over and over and over again here today. Then has everything been fulfilled? Did Jesus fulfill the Law? Did He keep it perfectly? Yes. Did Jesus fulfill the prophets? Did He fulfill all the prophecies? He must have because this tells us that no part of the law will change until all has been fulfilled and we all agree that the Law has changed. So have heaven and earth passed away yet? No. They did not pass away before the law changed. They did not pass away before all was fulfilled.

The Law was fulfilled by Jesus. The Prophets were fulfilled by Jesus. They were not destroyed; they were fulfilled. But the Law was also abolished — made of no effect any longer.

So why does Jesus tell us not to break even the least of these commandments? Let’s save that, and what this all means for us as Christians today, for next time.

(Again, a huge thanks to Mike for teaching me all this.)

A First Look at Theonomy and the Bible

Patriarchy stands on the shoulders of theonomy. I propose here to show that patriarchy is not biblical because theonomy is not biblical. Let’s go straight to God’s Word to find out.

John 8:31-32 “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’”

Jesus is saying that we can know the truth by abiding in Jesus‘ word, and that the truth of His word will make us free.

Whenever we look at what Scripture has to say about a subject, we should strive, it at all possible, to use both biblical terms and biblical definitions. While we all know that the word “trinity” is not found in the Bible, we understand clearly that the doctrine of the Trinity is clearly laid out there, so we use a word that is not from Scripture. However, when the Bible does use certain terms, we ought to use them also. When we looked at patriarchy’s position on theonomy, we used their definitions. One theonomist has a favorite saying, “He who defines, wins.” Since we are in favor of the Bible winning on its own terms, let’s let our terms and definitions come from Scripture itself.

The first word we want to look at is “covenant.” Now, they did not use this word in the movie, “In Defense of God’s Law,” but remember that we are going to use the Biblical terms here. Some readers here have questioned patriarchy’s various uses of the word “covenant,” such as when it was used in conjunction with Jamestown earlier this year. Let’s go to Scripture first. The first time God uses the word “covenant” is in Genesis 6, when God establishes a covenant first with Noah and his family, and subsequently with all of creation, that He will preserve the earth from being destroyed by a flood. This is commonly called the Noahic covenant and it applies to all people and every living creature and only God promises to do something here. The sign for this covenant was the rainbow. God clearly tells us that the rainbow is the sign of the covenant and that the sign is there to remember this covenant.

The next covenant we see in Scripture is that which God made with Abram, beginning in Genesis 15 and fleshed out in chapter 17. God promises Abram that he will make his name great, that he will give him a descendant from whom a great nation would arise, and give them a certain portion of land for their own. Abram was not required to do anything in this covenant and it applied to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve tribes of Israel. In both of these covenants, God is the One making promises unconditionally. The sign of this covenant was circumcision. I’ll bet that sign reminded them often of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants.

The next covenant we see with God is in Exodus 19 after God has graciously redeemed Israel from being slaves to the Egyptians and He takes them to Mt. Sinai to give them His covenant. The Lord begins this covenant with an if/then construct: “If you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people.” This covenant is a conditional covenant requiring obedience. They had to work for the blessing, although they never fulfilled their part. And who was this covenant with?

Deut. 5:1-3 “And Moses called all Israel, and said to them: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb [Sinai]. The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive.

Over and over again, the Bible makes it clear that this covenant was made with Israel and no one else. As such, this covenant with Israel had a specific beginning point: at Mt. Sinai.

A covenant is a legal agreement whereby both parties agree to something, with the terms of the covenant often being written down. Such is the case with the Mosaic covenant. This legal covenant was made between the Lord and the nation of Israel. How do we know it was legal? It not only contained laws (some say 613 of them), as we all agree, but there were penalties, which made it legally enforceable. If the speed limit sign on the freeway said “65 mph,” but there were no penalties if you drove over the speed limit, then it would not be legally binding on you. It would not really be a law anymore, but just a good suggestion. The Mosaic covenant, that covenant God made with Israel, was legally binding on them in that not only were they promised blessings if they obeyed, but they were promised curses if they disobeyed as well.

Deut. 28:1-2 “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God:” and he lists a whole bunch of blessings that they will receive if they obey.

Deut. 28:15 “But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:” and he lists a ton of curses that will come upon if they don’t obey.

Obey and be blessed and live. Disobey and be cursed and die. Those were the terms of the covenant God made with Israel, a works-based, legal covenant. They would have to work hard for those blessings, but in reality, they could never work hard enough. Their side of the covenant was impossible to fulfill.

But what exactly was that covenant? Again, let’s let the Bible spell it out for us.

Ex. 34:27-28 “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write these words, for according to the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments are the words of the Mosaic covenant? Let’s check some more Scripture to make sure.

Deut. 4:13 “So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.”

The Ten Commandments are the essence of the covenant of Moses, that covenant given only to Israel. The term “Ten Commandments” is only used three times in all of Scripture and they are ALWAYS to be thought of both as a whole unit and as having a very intimate connection with the Mosaic covenant as a whole. They are the terms that represent the whole covenant. These two tablets of stone were the legally binding document of the whole Law, but they couldn’t be separated from the Law of Moses. Here’s the the third reference to the Ten Commandments:

Deut. 10:4 “He wrote on the tablets, like the former writing, the Ten Commandments which the LORD had spoken to you on the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly; and the LORD gave them to me.”

Are the Ten Commandments then the sign of the Mosaic covenant? No. They are representative of the covenant. Let’s look at the sign of the Mosaic covenant:

Ex. 31:12-17 “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: “Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’”

The sign of the Mosaic covenant was the Sabbath. Every seventh day, the children of Israel were reminded of the covenant they had made with God. Notice here that these verses clearly indicate that the Sabbath was a sign between God and the children of Israel. It was not a sign between God and Adam, nor between God and the church.

The Mosaic covenant was also called the First Covenant:

Heb. 8:7 “For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.”

How do we know what that first covenant is in this passage? The context tells us a few verses later:

Heb. 9:1-4 “Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant;”

Heb. 9:18-20 “Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.”

This covenant, however, was commonly known as “the Law” or “this Law.” Unless specifically designated otherwise (such as “the law of kindness”), “the law” or “this law,” as used nearly 400 times throughout Scripture, always refers to the whole Law of Moses, the First Covenant. Sometimes it is referred to as “this book of the law,” “the law of Moses” or “the law of God” as well. What we don’t find anywhere are “the moral law,” “the civil law,” or “the ceremonial law.” It is always one unified code of law — the law. Look at this passage of Scripture which gives several different names for the Law, the one unified code of Law — the Mosaic covenant:

Neh. 8 “and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel.
So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding…
and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.
And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, …
Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; …
So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; …
For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.
Now on the second day the heads of the fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and Levites, were gathered to Ezra the scribe, in order to understand the words of the Law.
And they found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, …
Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God.”

Being inseparable from the Law of Moses, as the words of the covenant, we should also look at the other terms the Bible uses for the Ten Commandments:

Ex. 24:12 “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.”

Ex. 25:16 “And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you.”

Ex. 31:18 “And when He had made an end of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.”
Ex. 34:28 “And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.”

Deut. 9:9-11 “When I went up into the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water. Then the LORD delivered to me two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words which the LORD had spoken to you on the mountain from the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly. And it came to pass, at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant.”

It is fascinating to me that God uses several varying terms for both the Mosaic covenant and the Ten Commandments, but “moral law,” “civil law” and “ceremonial law” are not any of those terms. We only find one unified code of law — the whole law of Moses — and the Ten Commandments, inextricably linked.

Now that we understand some of the various terms for the Mosaic covenant, the law of Moses given to the children of Israel, we can see that this covenant was not given to the Gentiles:

Rom. 2:14 “for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves,

What was the purpose of the Law of Moses, that first covenant?

Rom. 5:13, 20 “For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. … Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound.”

Gal. 3:19, 24 “What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, … Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

I Tim. 1:9, 10 “the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine,”

Notice first the use of the term “the law” in all these passages, which clearly indicates the Law of Moses, one unified code of law. The purpose of the Law of Moses was not for moral reasons, but to show us how wicked we are, that we cannot possibly keep the Law and that we have need of a Savior — to bring us to Christ. The Law did not show us God’s grace; it showed us our desperate need of God’s grace.

Let’s go on to the next major covenant that we need to cover — the New Covenant, the covenant of grace. It was first predicted:

Jer. 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—”

And then fulfilled:

Heb. 8:8, 13 “He says: ‘Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—’ … In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete.”

We will look at the terms a bit later, but let’s look at the sign of this covenant:

I Cor. 11:23-26 “that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”

Although this passage does not use the word “sign,” we can see that the objective of the sign is present: to remember the covenant. Every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, it is to remind us of the New Covenant, that covenant of grace.

Although this is intended to be just a very brief overview of what God says about the Law, I think it would be best for me to stop here now and continue in a day or two. Consider the terms the Bible uses so far and in the next article, we will see what happened to the old covenant in comparison to the New Covenant.

(Thanks to Mike for teaching me these things. Anything I mess up is entirely my own fault!)

Theonomy or Antinomianism?

Black or white. Right or wrong. Sin or giving glory to God. One theonomist recently said, “But one thing is certain — play (like the rest of life) is never neutral.” If there is one area of a Christian’s life that shouldn’t be neutral, it is one’s understanding of the Word of God. But does taking a firm stance on a point of doctrine necessarily mean that it is God’s stance? Or does it mean that all Christians who don’t agree with you are evil? Theonomists usually label every Christian who does not agree with their position on the Law of God as antinomian — without law. Are these the only two positions possible or, like the false dilemma of patriarchy vs. feminism, is a theonomy vs. antinomianism a false dichotomy as well?

One of the films that was shown at the recent San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (SAICFF) is called “In Defense of God’s Law.” This doctrinal presentation by Scott Eash also features clips of other prominent theonomists teaching various aspects of theonomy. I have recently been made aware that many Christians don’t really know what theonomy is, so I have decided to critique the biblical teaching aspects of this DVD. First, we will look at the position of theonomy according to this movie. While we were at a Reformed church, our pastor never taught us directly his doctrinal beliefs such as reconstruction, dominion theology, and theonomy, but as I listened to the teachings on this movie, I realized that we had still been heavily indoctrinated in theonomy, to the point where I felt that all this material was so familiar it was second nature to me and I found it extremely easy to follow, often being able to predict exactly what they would say next.

Let’s begin with the movie’s main assumption that a Christian must be either a theonomist or antinomian. I will explain the theonomist’s position, according to the movie, and then we will look at God’s Word and see what it says. The structure of the movie was rather awkward, so I will be discussing it in an order that is easier to follow. This is intended to be an overview here and not an in-depth study.

Let’s start with a theonomist’s definitions. Theonomy is a combination of two words: God and law; therefore theonomy simply means God’s Law. Antinomianism has the same root (nomy = law) and anti means against, so antinomianism is simply against God’s Law. Theonomists believe that these are the only two possible positions one could take and the whole movie is defending the position of theonomy against what they believe is the position of the antinomian. Theonomy can take several different views, so we will deal with the position presented in this movie. This version of theonomy is that while the ceremonial laws have been abrogated, all the other laws of the whole Bible still apply to us, and not only to Christians, but to all people for all time, all civilizations, nations, and governments. They call this remaining portion of God’s Law, moral law.

They also state that there are five definitions of the word “law” in the Bible:

1. The 5 books of Moses (the Law and the Prophets)
2. The Mosaic Covenant
3. The moral law of God
4. Legalism (there is no Greek word for legalism, so Paul uses “law” when he means legalism)
5. Legal principles of action (i.e., the law of the spirit of life)

The Old Testament word for law was Torah which, in Hebrew, means “to give direction, to teach, to instruct.” Therefore, God’s Law gives direction to every area of our life.

This movie claims that the Biblical structure of the Law is divided into the moral section, which includes the civil or case laws, and the ceremonial, which was abolished. As proof for these two distinctions, they use the following verses:

Ps. 40:6-8 “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire;
My ears You have opened.
Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.
Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God,
And Your law is within my heart.”

Prov. 21:3 “To do righteousness and justice
Is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.”

Are these verses proof that God’s Law is divided into two categories: moral and ceremonial? They go on to state that Scripture teaches that the moral law still applies but the ceremonial laws were for the Old Covenant, which is now passed, but they do not say where Scripture tells us that the moral laws still apply. The ceremonial laws, by their definition, include the priesthood, the sacrifices, their rituals (feasts, baptisms, saying certain prayers, wearing certain articles, etc.), and dietary laws, and were all illustrations that pointed to Christ. They gave several Scriptures to support that these laws no longer apply, such as Heb. 10:1, Eph. 2:13-15, and Heb. 9:10. Since the ceremonial laws were abolished, they claim that it logically follows that the moral laws should still be obeyed. (Do they stone their rebellious children?)

To further illustrate the division of Law in God’s Word, they gave a picture of a tree. The roots are the two greatest commandments. From those two commandments come the Ten Commandments, which are like the trunk of the tree. From there, all the case/civil laws “branch” off. To demonstrate that you can’t have the Ten Commandments without all the other laws (except ceremonial), they ask how we can subscribe to a summary of all the case laws, but not the case laws themselves.

How are we to use the case/civil laws in today’s world? By meditating on them day and night, we will be able to discern the underlying principles of each law which will give us direction for a particular decision. Our goal should be to discern moral principles from the moral laws and then extrapolate principles of justice, according to this movie. One teacher stated that this was the flexibility and glory of the principial approach of God’s Law to life. In other words, instead of looking at the plain teaching of the verse, we are to search for the underlying principle and, with much flexibility, apply it to our modern lives. Are you beginning to see how theonomists interpret Scripture now?

These civil laws also apply to all governments today because of Rom. 13:1 “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”

As proof that obedience to God’s Law is an essential part of the Christian life, they began this movie by appealing to the authority of people like Calvin and Webster, who states in his 1828 dictionary that “moral law is the law of God which prescribes the moral or social duties, and prohibits the transgression of them.” They go on to appeal to the tradition of our American heritage, saying that much of God’s moral law is written right in our own Constitution. They also quote several Old Testament passages showing various people who loved the Law of God.

Four reasons why the Law of God must be obeyed today:
1. God’s moral standards never change; they are based on God’s character.

Heb. 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

I’m sure we all agree that God never changes. Now notice how they put these two verses together:

Rev. 15:4 “Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested.”

Rom. 7:12 “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.”

And their conclusion is that since God’s moral law is a reflection of His character (verse?), therefore God’s moral law cannot change, because God doesn’t change. In other words, in the above two verses, since God is holy, and God’s Law is holy, and since God doesn’t change, therefore God’s Law cannot change either. They say they cannot change because they reflect the transcendent, immutable, eternal character of God Himself that cannot go away. (With this reasoning, does it follow that since we are a holy nation, and we are to be holy even as He is holy, that we will never change either?)

These next few verses are intended to show another reason why the moral law hasn’t changed:

Jam. 4:12 “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.”

Is. 33:22 “For the LORD is our Judge,
The LORD is our Lawgiver,
The LORD is our King;
He will save us;”

So because the Lord is our Lawgiver, and He doesn’t change, therefore His Law wouldn’t change either, according to this reasoning. There was progress of revelation in the giving of the Law, but one unchanging Law.

Ps. 119:160 “The entirety of Your word is truth,
And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”

Is this verse talking about God’s Law or His judgments?

They do agree that the ceremonial laws did change. I wonder if they were not a reflection of God’s character? They do rightly state that every law is eternal for all time unless God changes it.

Since the moral law of God is a reflection of God’s nature, they then conclude that the moral laws must also be universal, applying to all men, in all places, for all times.

2. The only alternative to theonomy is autonomy is the second reason why they say we must obey the Law of God today. Here we go again with only two options. Autonomy has the same root again (nomy — law) and auto means self, so autonomy is self law, or those who are a law unto themselves. Man decides for himself what is right or wrong. If we don’t follow every law in the whole Bible, except for the ceremonial, we have become our own lawgiver and create our own moral standards. Since God’s Law must be the only standard of right and wrong, and they claim that autonomy is the only alternative to God’s Law, and we would all agree that autonomy is wrong, therefore we must obey God’s Law.

3. The New Testament writers affirm the continuance of God’s Law according to the following verses:

Rom. 3:31 “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.”Rom. 8:3-4 “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

I Jn. 2:4 “He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

Rom. 7:7 “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.'”

Rom. 7:16 “If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.”

Rom. 8:7-9 “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”

I Tim. 1:8-11 “But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.”

I like this last one especially: “We know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully.” I think that’s what we need to determine.

4. Jesus affirms the continuance of God’s Law.

Jn. 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

Matt. 5:17-19 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

They say that Jesus did not change God’s Law in the Sermon on the Mount; He was rather correcting misunderstandings in the Oral Law, as evidenced by His use of the words “You have heard that is was said” rather than “It is written.” Jesus was giving the authoritative interpretation of the Law as it was originally intended by God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is not introducing any new moral standards, He is sweeping away the traditions of men, putting to rest the Oral Law, and restoring for His people the true meaning of that moral law.

The Purpose of the Law:

1. The Law of God reveals to us the righteous nature of God.
2. The Law convicts men of sin.
3. The Law teaches the Christian man the way of righteousness; it shows us how to walk as Christians.
4. The Law teaches the righteous standards for society.

I wonder what God’s Word says is the purpose of the Law? They state that from the very beginning, God’s Law was designed to be the standard of ethics, therefore the Law must continue to apply to all nations today.

Eight misconceptions they apply to “antinomians”:

1. Antinomians believe that the Law of God was designed for OT Israelites only.

Their reply: If the Law of God was not intended for Gentiles, why did God punish Gentiles for breaking His Law? See these examples:

Lev. 24:22 “You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the LORD your God.”

Deut. 4:6-8 “Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?”

Is. 51:4 “Listen to Me, My people;
And give ear to Me, O My nation:
For law will proceed from Me,
And I will make My justice rest
As a light of the peoples.”

Lev. 18:24-25 “Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants.”

And Sodom and Gomorrah. Why did God destroy them if not for breaking God’s law? They claim that Israel was to be an example for all other nations. “The moral law is not a local Hebraism. The Ten Commandments are not new revelation. Adultery did not become wrong on Mt. Sinai. Not even the Sabbath became law on Mt. Sinai. Honor your father and mother was not a new concept when the Ten Commandments came around. This is very important because the moral law of God has always existed.”

More proof that the Law of God was not given only to the Israelites:

Gen. 1:28 (The Dominion Mandate) “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”

Gen. 26:4-5 “And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”

It is implied in Gen. 6 in the account of why God destroyed the earth with a flood.

These verses logically imply, they claim, God’s moral standard always applied. Therefore God intended His Law to be obeyed by other nations and not only the Jews.

2. Antinomians believe that the Law was designed as a means to obtain salvation, but Christians are saved through faith, therefore the Law doesn’t apply to us.

Their correct response: God did not intend for His Law to be used as a means of salvation. No one has ever been saved by obedience to the Law. Justification is by faith alone.

3. Antinomians believe that Jesus did away with God’s Law.

Their reply:

Matt. 5:17-19 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus said He didn’t come to destroy the Law. He fulfilled the Law in three ways:
1. He kept the Law.
2. He set forth the true meaning of the Law.
3. He fulfilled the prophecies of the Law, both verbal and typological.

They interpret the above verse to mean that those who will be great are those who are committed to doing and teaching even the least of the Old Testament commands (like tithing their spices?).

4. Antinomians say that the Law restricts our freedom in Christ.

Gal. 5:1 “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”

They claim that antinomians interpret this verse to say that the Law of God is the yoke of bondage, but their interpretation is that Paul is only referring to a corrupted view of the Law here.

Where do we get our liberty?

Ps. 119:44-45 “So shall I keep Your law continually,
Forever and ever.
And I will walk at liberty,
For I seek Your precepts.”

Jam. 1:25 “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

II Cor. 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

Gal. 3:13 “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”),”

They noted that this verse says that we are free only from the curse of the Law and not from the Law itself. The other verses are intended to show that our liberty comes from keeping the Law.

5. Antinonmians say that strict obedience to the Law is legalism.

Their reply: Was David a legalist when he delighted in the Law of God? Was Jesus a legalist when He said to obey His commandments? Was Paul a legalist when he said he loved God’s Law?

I Tim. 1:8 “But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully,”

They say that if we use God’s Law lawfully, it is not legalism.

So what is legalism then? Legalism is not about law, it is using God’s Law in a way He never intended for man to use it. (Great definition!)

There are four facets of legalism:

1. Attempting to earn salvation
2. Emphasizing the letter of the Law without regard for the spirit of the Law, which results only in outward performance
3. Emphasizing human effort rather than obedience by the Spirit’s power
4. Adding human tradition to the Law of God

God doesn’t call us to legalism; He calls us to obedience. We need to obey because we love God.

6. Antinomians claim that we don’t need the Law which is written in the Scriptures because the Law is written on our hearts.

Their reply: God places His Law on our hearts. Does that mean that we should appeal to our hearts? God’s Law is flawless, but we are not flawless. We cannot depend on the Law written on our hearts because our hearts are wicked. Our conscience, given through general revelation, gives us only a very dim knowledge of the Law. Because of the sinful nature of mankind, we cannot be trusted to determine God’s standards. Therefore the Scriptures must be the only standard of infallible truth from God.

7. Antinomians say that the New Testament writers reject the Law of God.

They use Acts 15 to prove that the New Testament writers did not reject the Law of God.

Acts 15:1 “And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.'”

They say that this verse shows that the context of Acts 15 was only about ceremonial Law, that they were asking if we were saved or justified by performing ceremonial laws, and that the council of Jerusalem came to the conclusion that ceremonial laws do not save.

Jn. 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

This verse shows that John said to obey the moral Law as well, supposedly.

8. Antinomians say that law and grace are contrary to each other.

Their reply: Law and grace work together in God’s plan, as evidenced by the following:

Ps. 78:36-38 “Nevertheless they flattered Him with their mouth,
And they lied to Him with their tongue;
For their heart was not steadfast with Him,
Nor were they faithful in His covenant.
But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity,
And did not destroy them.
Yes, many a time He turned His anger away,
And did not stir up all His wrath;”

Ps. 145:8 “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,
Slow to anger and great in mercy.”

Deut. 24:19 “When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”

Deut. 13:13-15 “‘Corrupt men have gone out from among you and enticed the inhabitants of their city, saying, “Let us go and serve other gods”’—which you have not known— then you shall inquire, search out, and ask diligently. And if it is and certain that such an abomination was committed among you, you shall surely strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying it, all that is in it and its livestock—with the edge of the sword.”

Deut. 17:2-6 “If there is found among you, within any of your gates which the LORD your God gives you, a man or a woman who has been wicked in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing His covenant, who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded, and it is told you, and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination has been committed in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has committed that wicked thing, and shall stone to death that man or woman with stones. Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.”

Deut. 19:16-19 “If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you.”

The above verses show that God designed His Law to protect us from evil, that God has always been a merciful God, and that He cared about people in the Old Testament also. Is that all that grace means to them?

Does the New Testament say we are not under Law but under grace? Yes.

Rom. 6:14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

When this verse says that we are not under law, it actually means legalism because “law” here is used without the definite article “the” — we are not under legalism. When Paul speaks of law, he is often referring to legalism, not moral law. To be under law, therefore, is to be governed in your approach to sin. Paul is saying that we are not governed, as Christians, in our approach to sin by law. Our resources in our battle against sin are not simply limited to commands to “do” or not to “do.” The law can only command but it doesn’t supply the power to keep it. It’s up to you to obey it. To be under law is simply to be under commands and it’s up to you in your own strength to obey it. Paul says that we are now under grace and that means that as we battle with sin, we are governed by the principle of grace in that battle; we now have all the resources of God’s grace so that we can overcome sin in the flesh. Therefore, sin shall not have dominion over us.

Since the remainder of chapter 6 condemns sin, and sin is the transgression of the Law (I Jn. 3:4), therefore if we disobey God’s Law, we are sinning.

I Jn. 3:6 “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.”

This verse implies that we should keep God’s Law.

So, the bottom line of theonomy again: The whole Law (except ceremonial) applies to ALL people for ALL time.

I realize that there are readers here of many different persuasions on this issue. My objective in this particular article is merely to show not only what theonomists believe (and strongly advocate), but how they interpret Scripture as well. We have talked about improper use of Scripture several times here, and this will help us to understand where some Christians are coming from. Feel free to examine theonomy’s beliefs here, but please stick to proper interpretation of Scripture and don’t quote outside sources like the Westminster Confession.

Next, we will examine if theonomy’s views line up with Scripture or not. I gave a few clues here and there in this article. But this issue of theonomy is becoming prevalent in patriarchal conferences and materials and it is imperative to know if they are teaching God’s truths or false teachings.

So, where do you fall on this either/or argument: theonomy or antinomianism?