Civil Law Under the New Covenant

The law was once our tutor, but Christ is come, and his resurrection has altered the shape of all things. Now that faith is come, we shift our paradigm of morality from a dichotomy between the clean and the unclean to a dichotomy between love and joy on the one hand and death on the other. As Cliff said in a conversation earlier today, we’re now adults committed to wisdom, which teaches us to tackle things the law can’t handle, or to read the law in new ways implied by Christ’s changes to the cosmos.

Luther says, in a New Testament context, that the role of civil government is to restrain the evil of men, that the law is for the unbelievers – here I note that civil government always enforces some version of morality, this being impossible to avoid. Now, do we require people to convert to old forms before they convert to new forms? Thus, do we use a law that teaches the old system – namely, clean versus unclean – or do we institute a law that serves the new system, the form to which Christ has moved Israel, his Church? We really should be moving toward the latter.

Note that I am not here adopting the stance that government should ‘respect’ all moralities and just commit itself to ‘helping people’ without regard for its proper limits (attempts to sloganeer with the word ‘compassion’ will surely backfire with me), nor am I advocating that we do whatever President Obama proposes, lest we all die.

At any rate, the consequence of the need to move toward a Christ-fulfilled understanding of law is this: typical theonomy, looking toward an idealized past rather than the promised future, as a reaction to the self-idolatry of Man, is ultimately a regression. We need not go that route, just as we need not circumcise our genitalia to be baptized into circumcision in Christ. Yes, the civil code ought to based on the word (or rather, the Word, who is Christ) as the chief cornerstone, as the capstone that the builders once rejected, but in a way that serves the new thing instituted, not the old.

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3 responses to “Civil Law Under the New Covenant

  1. Would your theory render the Ten Commandments null and void? The Law, or Torah (which really means “teaching”) will not give us salvation. But, Jesus said He did not come to abolish law, but to fulfill it. Or, fill it full. When something is filled full it is not considered irrelevant. God says “His Word” shall endure forever. He did not specify just the New Testament. Zechariah says that in the Millennial period all the nations will go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, or have a drought on their land. The Torah teaches us righteous living and is worthy of our study, that we may know and understand the Jewish olive tree that we are grafted onto.

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    • I agree completely: the Old Testament, all its parts, even the more obscure parts of Leviticus, is relevant. We are not Marcionites, and, as you note, we hear from Christ himself that he has come not to abolish the law but to fulfil it.

      What I’m saying is that the way we follow the law by God’s grace will be different because Christ is come, as Paul talks about for pretty much all of Galatians. The law now, the New Testament says, is the law of love. Now we shall learn how to live it.

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  2. Pingback: Free Will and Dominion « Cogito, Credo, Petam

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