A Catechism on God’s Law (Part 5)

Based on by Greg Bahnsen’s “By This Standard,” (1991).

  1. What was Jesus’ attitude to God’s law?

The second Adam, Jesus Christ, lived a life of perfect obedience to the laws of God. When Satan tempted Him to depart from the path of utter obedience to God’s commands, the Saviour replied by quoting from the Old Testament law: you are not to tempt the Lord your God, you are to worship and serve him alone, and you are to live by every word that proceeds from His mouth (Matt.4:1-11). Here we have the very opposite of Adam and Eve’s response to Satan. Christ said that the attitude which is genuinely godly recognises the moral authority of God alone, does not question the wisdom of His dictates, and observes every last detail of His word.

This is man’s proper path to God-likeness. To live in this fashion displays the image or likeness of God that man was originally intended to be (Gen.1:27), for it is living “in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph.4:24). Genuine godliness, as commanded in the scripture, is gained by imitating the holiness of God on a creaturely level- not by audacious attempts to redefine good or evil in some area of life on your own terms (p.47).

  1. What is our model for human conduct?

According to the Old Testament ethic, God’s holiness is the model for human conduct: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev.19:2). This is also the precise model of moral conduct for the New Testament believer: “…but like the Holy one who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behaviour; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (I Pet.1:15-16). There has been no alteration or reduction of the standard of moral behaviour between the Old and New Testaments. God’s permanent requirement over all of life is God-imitating holiness.

In all ages, believers are required to display, throughout their lives, the holiness and perfection of their God. They ought to be like God, not in the Satanic sense which amounts to lawlessness, but in the Biblical sense which entails submission to God’s commands.

  1. According to scripture, what is the relation of God to His law?

The intimate relation which the law bears to the very person of God is indicated by the fact that it was originally written by the finger of God (Deut.9:10), and deposited in the ark of the covenant which typified the throne and presence of God in the Holy of Holies (Deut.10:5). Moreover, this law must be acknowledged to have a very special place or status because it has the exclusive qualities of God Himself attributed to it.

According to Scripture, God alone is holy (Rev.15:4) and good (Mark 10:18). Yet God’s law is likewise designated holy and good (Rom.7:12, 16; I Tim.1:18), and obedience to it is the standard of human good (Deut.12:28; Ps.119:68; Mic.6:8). God is perfect (Deut.32:4; Ps.18:30; Mat.5:48), and the law which He has laid down for us is accordingly perfect (Ps.19:7; James 1:25). Every statute revealed by God authoritatively defines the holiness, goodness, and perfections which God’s people are to emulate in every age (p.49-50).

  1. What was the Puritan heritage?

The Puritans were zealous to live in the moral purity which reflects God’s own. Consequently they upheld the honour and binding quality of every command from God. The feeling of Thomas Taylor was typical of them: “A man may breake the Princes Law, and not violate his Person, but not Gods: for God and his image in the Law, are so straightly united, as one cannot wrong the one, and not the other” (Regula Vitae, The Rule of the Law under the Gospel, 1631). If God turned back His law, said Anthony Burgess, He would “deny his own justice and goodnesse” (Vindiciae Legis, 1646).

Thus the Puritans did not, like many modern believers, tamper with or annul any part of God’s law. “To find fault with the Law, were to find fault with God” (Ralph Venning, Sin, the Plague of Plagues, 1669). Therefore in Puritan theology the law of God, like its author, was eternal (p.50-51).

  1. Were the Puritans correct?

As usual, the Puritans were here eminently scriptural. God’s holiness is the standard of morality in Old and New Testaments, and that holiness is reflected in our lives by obeying his every commandment. “Sanctify yourselves, therefore, and be ye holy, for I am the Lord your God. And ye shall keep my statutes and do them” (Lev.20:7-8). And a life that is truly consecrated to God, one which is genuinely holy, respects every dictate from God (p.51).

  1. What was Jesus’ model?

Central to the Bible is the person of Jesus Christ. He is of paramount importance throughout. We know that He was, as the Word of God, active at the creation of the world (Jn.1:3), and that He providentially upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb.1:3). After Adam’s fall into sin through disobedience to God’s command, relief from the wrath and curse of God was promised in terms of one who, as the seed of the woman, would crush Satan (Gen.3:15). The entire Old Testament prepares for the coming of the promised Messiah- the prophet (Deut.18:15-19), priest (Ps.110:4), and king (Isa.9:6-7), of God’s own choosing.

The New Testament gospels tell us of His life and saving ministry, and Acts tells us of the work He continued to do through His church. The epistles are letters written from Him through His chosen servants (for example, Galatians 1:1) to His elect people, who constitute His kingdom. The final prophetic book of the Bible is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” (p.53-54).