A Catechism on God’s Law (Part 9)

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

  1. How do we seek the kingdom of God?

By obeying the King and manifesting His righteousness in our lives. God’s Word shows us how to do just that by setting down the law of God for us. Biblical law is a pathway to divine benefits- not an ugly, dour, painful course for believers. It is not only a demand, it is something to desire! As John said, “His commandments are not burdensome” (I Jn.5:3). They are the delight of the righteous man who receives God’s blessing (Ps.1). If we wish to have a morality which promises blessed consequences, then our morality must be patterned after the law of God.

Consider what God’s Word says about following the commandments of God. It brings us life and well-being (Deut.30:15-16), blessing and a strong heart that does not fear (Ps.119:1-2; 112:5-7). Obedience produces peace and security (Ps.119:28, 165, 175; Prov.13:6; Luke 6:46-48). The Lord’s lovingkindness is upon those who obey His precepts (Ps.103:17-18), and they walk in liberty (Ps.119:45; James 2:25).

As indicated already above, keeping God’s Word results in prosperity with respect to all of our daily needs and interests (cf. Joshua 1:7). Moreover, collective obedience will bring blessing upon a nation as well. “Righteousness exalts a nation” (Prov.14:34), giving it health, food, financial well-being, peace and joyous children.

…Seeking first the righteousness of Christ’s kingdom requires heart-felt obedience to the dictates of the king, and in response to that He grants us every blessing for this life and the next. We see again why the validity or authority of God’s law cannot be dismissed today. Without that law we would be lost when it comes to pursuing the beneficial consequences for ourselves, others, and our society in all our moral actions and attitudes. As God clearly says, He has revealed His law to us for our good (Deut.10:13). Opponents of God’s law, therefore, cannot have our good genuinely in mind; they wittingly and unwittingly mislead us into personal and social frustration, distress and judgement (Prov.14:12) (p.83-84).

  1. What about the Great Commission?

With the coming of the New Covenant and the spreading of the church throughout the world, we still read in Scripture that the law of God is to be written on our hearts, and we are to disciple all nations and teach them to observe whatsoever the Lord has commanded. The Biblical doctrines of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Covenant of Grace all harmonise in pointing to the abiding validity of God’s inspired law.

  1. The rest of the New Testament?

The New Testament is concerned that men who are guilty of sin be redeemed by Christ and learn to live without sinning by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because sin is defined as transgression of God’s law (I Jn.3:4; Ro.7:7), the thrust of the New Testament message presupposes the validity of God’s law for today. Throughout the New Testament, the believer’s perpetual moral duty is that of love, and yet love is defined by the New Testament in terms of God’s law (Mat. 22:40; Ro.13:10; I Jn.5:2-3). Consequently, the New Testament message and morality are squarely founded on the validity of God’s law (p.89).

  1. What of the apostles?

The apostolic attitude toward the law of the Old Testament parallels that of Christ. The keeping of the law is greatly significant (I Cor.7:19), for the believer is not without the law of God (I Cor.9:20-27). Law-breaking is not to have dominion over the believer (Ro.6:12-13; I Jn.3:3-5), for the Holy Spirit fulfils the ordinance of the law within him (Ro.8:4). The law is written on the New Covenant believer’s heart (Heb.8:10), so that those who loyally follow Christ are designated by John as those “who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev.12:17; 14:12).

The apostles often supported their teaching by appealing to the law (for example, I Cor.14:34; James 2:9)-its general precepts found in the Decalogue (for example, ‘Thous shalt not steal,” Ro.13:9), the case law applications of those details (for example, “Thous shalt not muzzle the ox when he treads,” I Tim.5:18), the penal code (for example, “if I am an evildoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I refuse not to die,” Acts 25:11; cf.Deut.21:22; Ro.13:4), and even “holiness” requirements in the ceremonial law (for example, II Cor.6:14-18).

…Those who, in the name of a distinctive “New Testament ethic,” downgrade or ignore the Old Testament law are sternly warned by the apostle John: “He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (I Jn.2:4). In genuinely Biblical ethics, the Old Testament will not be pitted against the New Testament at any point (p.91-92).

  1. Where is the character of kingdom righteousness found?

Paul tells Timothy that an all-sufficient “instruction in righteousness” is found in every scripture of the Old Testament (II Tim.3:16-17), thereby encompassing the law of God found therein. In fact, speaking of the Old Testament law, Paul categorically declares that “the commandment is righteous” (Ro.7:12). Kingdom righteousness, therefore, cannot be understood as contrary to the righteous commandments of the King. In Paul’s perspective, it is “the doers of the law” who shall be counted righteous (Ro.2:13) (p.96).

  1. What about “the way of righteousness?”

Christ Himself spoke of “the way of righteousness” in connection with the ministry and message of John the Baptist: “John came unto you in the way of righteousness” (Mat.21:32). Of course John was pre-eminently a righteous preacher belonging to the era of the law and prophets (Mat.11:11, 13). He proclaimed that the coming of God’s kingdom demanded repentance (Mat.3:2), the confession of sin (3:6), and bringing about the fruit worthy of repentance (3:8, 10). As the last preacher in the era of the law and prophets (and forerunner of the Lord), it must be obvious what the standard of sin, repentance, and good fruit would have been for John and his hearers- the law of God. Confirmation of that is found in the details of his preaching where the requirements of God’s law were expounded (Luke 3:10-14, 19; Mark 6:18).