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Begin Here (2) – Interpreting the Law of God (17)

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Begin Here (2)

Interpreting the Law of God (17)

The New Testament helps us discern principles at work in the Law of God.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 1 Corinthians 5:1, 2

What the New Testament endorses intact from the Law of God, as originally given, we must continue to regard as valid and binding for unpacking our salvation, achieving justice, and showing love for God and neighbor. However, at times the New Testament appeals to certain of the statutes of Israel, not in order to apply them as originally intended, but to derive principles from them which have different applications, given the changing times and conditions in which we live.

Thus, in 1 Corinthians 5, a man is found to be guilty of a sin which, under the Law of God, should have required that he be stoned to death by the community (cf. Deut. 22:30; Lev. 20:11). However, since the Church does not wield the sword, Paul commands that the man is to be excommunicated from the fellowship and treated as though he were dead. By sending him out from the community of life he makes the man vulnerable to the world of death and “the destruction of the flesh” (v. 5) under the quasi-rule of Satan.

The principle seems clear enough: Sinners who refuse to repent, after the discipline of the Church has run its course, are to be regarded as dead in their trespasses and sins, thus having no share in the promises or life of God (Eph. 2:12). They should be put out of the fellowship, but not permanently. Paul would later instruct the Corinthians to restore the repentant brother to full status in the local body (2 Cor. 2:5-11).

As we have seen, Paul used a similar deriving of principle to protest the Corinthians’ failing to provide for his material needs while he labored among them (1 Cor. 9:8-12).

So the New Testament counsels us to understand the Law of God, especially the various civil statutes, as sometimes to be regarded just as they were originally given, intact, and sometimes to be appealed to for principles of justice and neighbor-love which may not have been in view in the original application, but which, given the circumstances of the Kingdom of God, can now be clearly discerned.

Order a copy of The Law of God from our online store, and begin daily reading in the commandments, statutes, testimonies, precepts, and rules of God, which are the cornerstone of divine revelation. Sign up at our website to receive our thrice-weekly devotional, Crosfigell, written by T. M. Moore.

In the Gates is a devotional series on the Law of God by Rev. T.M. Moore, editor of the Worldview Church. He serves as dean of the Centurions Program of the Wilberforce Forum and principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He is the author or editor of twenty books, and has contributed chapters to four others. His essays, reviews, articles, papers, and poetry have appeared in dozens of national and international journals, and on a wide range of websites. His most recent books are The Ailbe Psalter and The Ground for Christian Ethics (Waxed Tablet).

Scripture quotations in this article are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, (c) copyright 2001, 2007 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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