But I Say to You, 3rd of 3 Studies - 1
From But I Say unto You by John Reisinger http://solochristo.COm/_SC/SoloChristo.htm
Chapter One: The Full and Final Authority of Jesus Christ
You have heard that it was said, "Do not commit adultery." BUT I TELL YOU that anyone who looks at a women lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Mt.5:27-28
You have heard that it was said, "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." BUT I TELL YOU, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. Mt.5:38-39
You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemies." BUT I TELL YOU: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Mt.5:43-44
It has been said, "Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce." BUT I TELL YOU that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. Mt.5:31-32
How are we to understand Christ's teaching in the Sermon on the Mount as it relates to our present relationship to the Law of Moses? [Is the Sermon a mere summary of the Law?] Is Christ contrasting His teaching with the Law of Moses? Or, is He only contradicting the Pharisee's interpretation of Mosaic Law?
Perhaps the real question must somehow involve the relationship between "law and grace." Is Christ saying exactly the same thing that Paul said in Romans 6:14 "...you are not under the law but under grace?" Is He actually contrasting the rules one must apply in personal behavior under a covenant of law as opposed to the rules one applies when living under a covenant of grace?
How we answer these questions is usually dictated by the particular theological system that we have adopted. Our purpose in this book is to set forth how we arrived at the following three conclusions:
One: The Sermon on the Mount is an integral part of the Christian's rule of life today and not the rules for a future kingdom, [early "dispensational" view expressed in the first edition of the Scofield Reference Bible].
Two: Because of the unity of the Scriptures, Christ never contradicts Moses as in any way wrong. He gives the Church new and higher standards or rules of conduct than Moses ever gave or could have given under a covenant of law. This in no way means or implies that Moses was wrong. It means that Christ is literally a new and superior Lawgiver than Moses because He administers a new and "better covenant based on better promises..." (Heb.8:6). Grace can make higher demands than law simply because of its nature and power. Grace appeals to a higher motive, makes higher demands, and empowers the fulfillment of those demands.
Three: Under a system of covenant law we cannot legislate and punish the
thoughts of the heart. God has both the right and power to condemn a person for
immoral day-dreaming in his tent, but neither Moses nor the law covenant that
he gave could have someone stoned to death for wicked thoughts.
Christ is actually saying far more in the Sermon on the Mount than just "This is what Moses really meant." He is saying, "I am in no way destroying or criticizing Moses. I am applying his commandments in an area and in a manner that neither he nor his law covenant could ever have. I am also giving My disciples new laws that make moral and spiritual demands that are based entirely on grace instead of the OC of law." In establishing these points we avoid the two extremes that lead to serious and opposite errors. On the one hand, we protect the true "unity of the Scriptures" and avoid having Christ contradict Moses, and on the other we do not limit the authority of Christ by making Him to be a mere "rubber stamp" of Moses.
Christ is contrasting the legal rule of Moses (which was "holy, righteous, and good") with His own gracious rule (which is higher, and better) in such a way that demonstrates that Christ is indeed "THAT PROPHET" (Dt.18:15; Jn.1:21; Acts 3:26) who would replace and supersede Moses as the new Lawgiver and final authority over the Church. The NC established by Christ is a new and better covenant with new and higher laws and not just a new administration of an older covenant and the same laws [per Covenant Theology, CT].
Here is a summary of what will be set forth in this study of some of the "But I say unto you" contrasts in Mt.5-7:
Christ never says or
implies that anything in the Old Testament (OT) Scriptures was wrong in and of
itself. The God of Moses Who spoke the Law at Sinai is the same God Who spoke
His grace at
In our zeal to be sure that Christ does not contradict Moses, we cannot have Christ merely "rubber stamping" Moses as an equal teacher of God's truth. Any system of theology that leaves Moses as "the big man on Campus" in the conscience of a believer today has not heard "My beloved Son" speaking clearly. The "but I say unto you" contrasts in the Sermon on the Mount can have some new truth that Moses never gave without demeaning Moses in any way.
Moses is finished in that he has been replaced with Someone greater and better just as the covenant of Moses was done away because it was obsolete (Heb.8:6-13). Moses did his job faithfully. Both he and the covenant he administered were good and glorious (Rom.7:12; 2 Cor.3:7-11). Moses was faithful in God's house (Heb.4:2, 5) as the pedagogue (Gal.3:24), but his ministry or service in the house is finished. A greater than Moses is here and He has built the new and true house of God that was promised to David (1 Chr.17:12). Our Lord, the Son IN Whom God has fully spoken FINAL truth (Heb.1:1-3), has replaced Moses, the servant THROUGH whom God spoke PARTIAL and PREPARATORY truth. Christ supersedes and replaces Moses as the true and final Lawgiver in the same way that He supersedes and replaces Aaron as the true and final High Priest.
Both Aaron and Moses were
faithful and Godly men but neither of their ministries could "cleanse the
conscience" (Heb.9:14-15; 10:1-4) and effect the goal of redemption
because of the "weaknesses" involved in the OC arrangement
(Heb.8:6-13). Both Aaron and Moses along with their respective ministries and
the legal covenant upon which those ministries were founded had to be replaced
by our Lord and the New Covenant (NC) that He established. Moses could no
more give a complete and full canon of moral conduct before the advent of the
Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost than Aaron could offer a final and complete
sacrifice for sin before the death of Christ on the final Day of Atonement!
In the same manner Paul and the other apostles replaced John the Baptist and
the other OT prophets. In fact, Paul by inspiration of the Holy Spirit Whom
Christ had promised to send (Jn.15:12-15), adds to the earthly ministry of
Christ Himself (1 Cor.7:10-12) by giving more truth. Paul is not contradicting
Christ when he adds new laws to cover a situation that could not have existed
before the formal establishing of the
Is Paul destroying Christ when he adds another ground for divorce besides adultery to the teaching of Christ? Paul's authority for writing, and the new laws that he wrote, did not in any way come as "logical deductions" from either the Law of Moses or from the words of Christ in the Gospels. It was new revelation. Paul gave the Church a distinctly new rule concerning divorce that added to what Christ had taught, and in so doing, Paul was claiming that Apostolic authority was all he needed to "add to the Word of God" and change the rules of divorce even further than Christ had changed the laws that Moses had given.
Chapter Two: Various Views of the Sermon on the Mount
The major approaches to understanding the Sermon on the Mount are:
1. The SOCIAL GOSPEL view: Jesus taught us how to live so we can "earn the mercy and grace of God and become Christians." The beatitudes are set forth as the way to earn salvation (salvation by works) in contradiction of the gospel of salvation by grace. This view totally denies the cross and the need of a blood sacrifice to cleanse guilty sinners.
2. The LIBERAL view: Jesus contrasted the true "Christian view of a loving God" with the "tribal concept of the OT God of vengeance." The "eye for an eye" type of law is "sub-human" (pure paganism) and not worthy of any enlightened person. This view deliberately rejects the authority and inspiration of both the Old and New Testament Scriptures. Any view that pits the OT against the New a way that even suggests that the same God is not moving toward the same goal in both cases has not understood either testament. This view consciously attacks and seeks to destroy the Gospel.
3. The HISTORIC DISPENSATIONAL view [see 3 Studies Theological Notes, Apdx.2 http://pop.eradman.com]: the Sermon on the Mount was not given to the Church but is purely Jewish. It is the "Law of the Kingdom" (millennial reign of Christ in the future). The laws in the Sermon on the Mount are the "legal" rules for the future kingdom age, or millennium. The Jews rejected this earthly kingdom when Christ offered it to them and it was "postponed" until after the Second Coming of Christ. At that time all of these "legal" laws will be in force. However, until that time we must never apply "kingdom truth" to the Church today. A Christian may draw some beautiful and helpful "applications" from the Sermon on the Mount since all of Scripture is written TO us even though all of it is not FOR us. The Epistles of Paul, which first make known the doctrine of the Church, are the believer's rule of life during the Church age. The following quotation is typical of this view:
Having announced the kingdom of heaven as "at hand," the King, in Mt.5-7, declares the principles of the Kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount has a twofold application: (1) Literally to the kingdom. In this sense it gives the divine constitution for the righteous government of the earth. Whenever the kingdom of heaven is established on earth it will be according to that constitution... the Sermon on the Mount in its primary application gives neither the privilege nor the duty of the Church. These are found in the epistles... (2) But there is a beautiful moral application to the Christian... These principles fundamentally reappear in the teaching of the Epistles. Scofield Reference Bible, 1st ed., p.1000.
This view creates a tension
between law (
4. The view of classical Covenant Theology [see 3 Studies Theological Notes, Apdx.1 http://pop.eradman.com]: agrees that the Sermon on the Mount contains the "rules of the kingdom," but insists that the kingdom is here and now and not in the future. CT insists that Christ was not contrasting Himself, His teaching, or His authority with Moses. He was only contradicting the wrong interpretations and additions to Moses. Christ was merely giving us the true spiritual meaning of Moses as contrasted with the Rabbinical distortions.
This view is partially true, but does not go far enough because never touches the heart of the issue. Like Dispensationalism (DT), this view interprets the new in light of the old and cannot allow many statements in the New Testament Scriptures, especially those passages that contrast law and grace, to be taken literally. It confuses the unity of the covenants with the true unity of the Scriptures. The following quotation is an accurate criticism of this view although the author at times seems to accept this view himself:
Another view… is that which regards the Sermon on the Mount as nothing but an elaboration or an exposition of the mosaic law. Our Lord, it is maintained, realized that the Pharisees and Scribes and other teachers of the people were misrepresenting the law, as given by God to the people through Moses; what He does, therefore, in the Sermon on the Mount is to elaborate and expound the mosaic law, giving it a higher spiritual content… I feel it is totally inadequate if for no other reason than that it, also, fails to take account of the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes immediately take us into a realm that is beyond the law of Moses completely. The Sermon on the Mount does expound and explain the law at certain points--but it goes beyond it. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p.14.
But I Say to You, 3rd of 3 Studies - 2
CT is adamant that Christ may never in any way contrast Himself with Moses. Christ may interpret Moses but He dare not add anything new to Moses - He cannot be a "new Lawgiver." At most Christ may give the true spiritual teaching of the law, but He cannot either add to it or raise it to a higher level with new demands. We agree that Christ was showing the spirituality of the law as opposed to the Pharisees' carnalizing of it, but He also "goes beyond" the Law of Moses and adds new and higher laws.
The Dispensational view insists that the Sermon on the Mount is all Jewish and is not for this present age. CT teaches that nothing in the Sermon on the Mount (or the rest of the New Testament Scriptures) is really new in the area of ethics and morals. According to CT, Jesus was not giving either new or more spiritual rules for conduct simply because the highest possible spiritual rules had already been given once and for all time at Mount Sinai on the Tablets of Stone - The Law of Moses, correctly understood, is just as spiritual as anything that Christ ever taught! No teaching in any New Testament passage will ever be higher spiritually or more important to our understanding of holiness and moral duty than a correct interpretation of the "Ten Words" written on stone! A.W. Pink is representative of this view:
Christ is not here [Mt.5:28-42] pitting Himself against the Mosaic law, nor is He inculcating a superior spirituality. Instead He continues the same course as He had followed in the context, namely to define that righteousness demanded of His followers, which was more excellent than the one taught and practiced by the Scribes and Pharisees; and this He does by exposing their error and expounding the spirituality of the moral law.
...our Lord's design in these verses has been misapprehended, the prevailing but erroneous idea being held that they set forth the vastly superior moral standard of the NC over that which was obtained under Judaism... A.W. Pink, An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, p.110, 127, 129
Pink is forced to make the above statements simply because his view does not see Christ as a true new Lawgiver but only as a "rubber stamp" of Moses. Under the guise of protecting Moses and the "moral law," this view demeans Christ and misses His higher moral law. CT insists that when Christ and His Apostles talk about a NC (1 Cor.11:25; Heb.8:6-13) they don't mean there actually is a literal NC with any new or different laws; they really mean a new administration of the same covenant and same moral laws that Israel was already under. This is why CT can claim that the OC written on the tablets of stone is higher and more important than even the Sermon on the Mount. Here is a typical example:
The whole Decalogue is found written out in full in two places in the Bible... It is the doctrine of the Catechism1 that these "Ten Words" were intended to be a summary of man's whole duty. Why, it may be asked, is so much made of them? Why not make equal account of some verses taken from Proverbs, or the Sermon on the Mount? R.L. Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology, p.354.
Dabney admits that the Law of Moses is more important to him than Christ's Sermon on the Mount. He may not have intended his exaltation of Moses to minimize the authority of Christ and the New Testament epistles. However, this is what his statement does.
Dabney's view expressed in the statement quoted produces a mentality of "two tier" ethics with the Decalogue the highest tier. The Tablets of Stone are "God's unchanging law," and the rest of the Scripture, including the Sermon on the Mount, is subservient. God's laws will always carry more weight in the conscience of a believer than the mere "Scriptural advice" in the Epistle of Paul. Paul's "admonitions" to husbands and wives in Ephesians is good Scriptural advice that we are urged to obey in order to have a happy marriage. However, the LAW of God is a different matter altogether - We dare not under pain of death break any of God's commandments. It is impossible to treat Paul's imperative commands as having equal authority with the Law of Moses as long as our mind and conscience are controlled by Covenant Theology’s system of two tier ethics.
Dabney may not have intend to blunt the force and effectiveness of the New Testament Epistles in the Christian's conscience, but that is the sure result whenever the Ten Commandments (TC) are exalted above the rest of the Bible and looked upon as God's unchanging Law - and the Book of Ephesians as Paul's inspired directives. The TC cannot be viewed as the highest moral standard in the Bible without everything else, including the Sermon on the Mount, becoming lesser. Neither Christ nor any of His Apostles can change or in any way add to the ethics and morality of the "highest standard" already written in Tables of Stone.
Such a view cannot escape the mentality of "mortal sins" (breaking God's law) and "venial sins" (failing to practice one of the principles given by the Apostle Paul).
DT cannot let Moses INTO the New Testament, and CT cannot get Moses OUT OF the New Testament. One system [DT] has Christ contradicting Moses and the other system [CT] has Christ merely "rubber stamping" Moses. Perhaps both systems are half right and half wrong.
When I first entertained the above possibility, I decided to make sure that I avoided both of the major errors usually connected with studying the relationship of the Old and New Testaments. "If Christ ever contradicts Moses in the sense that Moses was wrong, then I have gone past this stake and I am denying the basic unity of the Scriptures."2" If I wind up making Christ nothing but co-equal with Moses as a teacher of God's truth, or worse, if I subordinate Christ to Moses as Dabney does, then I am denying the supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ and the New Testament Scriptures."
5. The PROMISE/FULFILLMENT, or NC, view [see NEW Covenant Theology http://pop.eradman.com]: starts with the New Testament Scriptures and allows them to mean exactly what they say. Christ is seen as asserting His unique and final authority as the New Lawgiver by giving a new and higher canon of conduct to the Church. He is most assuredly correcting the perversions of the Pharisees, but He is also clearly giving new and higher truth that Moses never taught. Christ sometimes applies the same truth that Moses taught but does so in a manner that Moses could never have done. At other times Christ is making new and more spiritual demands on His disciples because of their being "under grace." Neither Moses nor the law covenant could have made these demands or laws.
This fifth view sees both
truth and error in DT and in CT. It is based on an understanding of the nature
and relationship of the two major covenants (the Old legal Covenant with
We will look carefully at the four texts in the Sermon on the Mount quoted at the beginning of chapter one and see exactly what Christ meant when He said "But I say unto you." We will consider the methods used to explain each of the four texts and see that in all four cases the usual explanations will be only partially true - They do not cover all of the truth nor do they usually get to the heart of the issue. In some instances the explanations are essential to the maintaining of a specific theological system even though the arguments used often contradict other passages of Scripture.
Quoting either the Catechism or the Confession of Faith is, for all practical purposes,
equal to quoting a text of Scripture in a "Confessional" Church. This is one of
the major differences between a Baptist and a Presbyterian. A Baptist sets out
convictions in a confession of faith, but never treats his statements in the
same way a Presbyterian treats his. Any individual Baptist church may write its
own confession of faith, but not so a Presbyterian. This is what is meant by
2. Do not confuse the "unity of the Scriptures" with what CT calls the "unity of the covenants." The unity of the Scriptures is built around neither dispensations or covenants, but around the promise and fulfillment of the Gospel in the person and work of our Lord for His one elect people.
Chapter Three: New Lawgiver or Master of Logic
"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a women to lust after her hath already committed adultery in his heart." Mt.5:27
The words Christ used, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" are the exact words that God Himself wrote as the Seventh Commandment. How are we to understand this verse and the comparison that Christ makes between His teaching and the Seventh Commandment?
Commentators committed to CT ignore the fact that the words Christ used are the very words written on the Tablets of Stone. Their whole position is built on treating these words as Rabbinical distortions of the commandment. This is not true for most other writers. William Hendriksen, an eminent Covenant Theologian, admits this in his comments on Mt.5:21.
The formula, "You have heard that it was said" presents a difficulty, since the following phrase, considered by itself, can be translated either "TO the men of long ago" (R.S.V.:"TO the men of old") or "BY the men of long ago."… According to the first view Jesus meant that Moses in the law said something TO the fathers, and Jesus now "assumes a tone of superiority over the Mosaic regulations (A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures, Vo. 1, p.44). J. Jermias.....expresses the same view in even stronger language when he states that "Jesus establishes a new divine law when he opposes his ‘But I say unto you’ to the Word of Scripture. Gospel of Matthew--NT Commentary, by William Hendriksen, p.295
Hendriksen then proceeds to show why he disagrees with the majority of commentators, including A.T. Robertson. He may be right and men like Robertson, one of the greatest Greek scholars of his day, may be wrong. If in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus was refuting the misunderstanding of the Pharisees, the text would mean "You have heard the distortions of the Seventh Commandment given by the Rabbinical fathers." However, such a view is arrived at only by theological implication and not by exegesis of the Biblical texts. It assumes that Christ is not actually quoting the Seventh Commandment even though He uses the exact words, but rather that He is really referring to the Pharisee's faulty application of the commandment. This is an assumption not drawn from the text of Scripture. It literally puts words into the mouth of both Christ and the Pharisees that Scripture nowhere mentions. If Robertson is correct, then Christ was indeed adding to the Law of Moses and raising it to a higher level. CT must first assume that the only thing Christ is doing in the Sermon on the Mount is giving a true exposition of what Moses really meant.
If CT is correct, Christ is not claiming any unique or personal authority in His own statement. All Christ would be doing is appealing to logic as the foundation of His statement and accusing the Pharisees of ignorance for not applying correct reasoning to the stated truth in the commandment. Christ would be merely an interpreter of truth but in no sense a giver of new truth. He would be pointing us to Moses and not to Himself as our final authority.
If the CT view of law is correct, the question could not involve what the law actually said, since it did indeed say, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." The whole problem would merely revolve around what the Pharisees had supposedly added to the commandment.
But I Say to You, 3rd of 3 Studies - 3
Was the Word of God written just for Philosophers who know all of the rules of human logic? Or was the Bible written for understanding by both the educated and the uneducated? Covenant Theologians use some fairly standard rules of logic for extracting additional truth out of specific commandments. Thomas Watson gives eight rules to apply when studying a commandment.
2. In the commandment...more is intended than is spoken.
(1) Where any duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden.
When we are commanded to keep the Sabbath-day holy, we are forbidden to break the Sabbath...
(2) Where any sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded.
When we are forbidden to take God's name in vain, the contrary duty, that we should reverence his name is enjoined...
RULE 3. Where any sin is forbidden in the commandment, the occasion of it is also forbidden. Where murder is forbidden, envy and rash anger are forbidden, which may occasion it...
RULE 5. Where greater sins are forbidden, lesser sins are also forbidden. Though no sin in its own nature is little, yet one may be comparatively less than the other. Where idolatry is forbidden, superstition is forbidden, or bringing innovation into God's worship which he has not appointed.
7. God's law forbids
not only the acting of sin in our own persons, but being accessory to or having
any hands in the sins of others. How
and in what sense may we be said to partake of, and have a hand in the sins of
We become accessory of the sins of others by not hindering them when it is in our power - qui non prohibit cum potest, jubet [The failure to prevent something, when it lies within your power, amounts to ordering it]. If a master of a family sees his servant break the Sabbath, or hear him swear, and does not use the power he has to suppress him, he becomes accessory to his sin... Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, p.44-48
By applying rule 3 and rule 4, we can logically make the Seventh Commandment teach that it is a sin to lust in our heart. We agree that all of Watson's rules are logical and philosophically true. However, that is not the point at issue. Watson was not making "rules for the Church living in a pluralistic society," he was writing laws that would be used by both individuals and civil magistrates in a "Christian" nation." The laws governing the conscience were one and the same with the laws that were implemented with the power of the steel sword! Is it possible for a magistrate and a covenant of law to apply and punish the internal implications of an external commandment? Of course not - What is logically and philosophically true cannot always be turned into a law to be used in government. This was the heart of the issue between Roger Williams and John Cotton in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was the constant struggle whenever men tried to enforce the "first table of the Law" with the sword.
Only God Himself can judge the thoughts and intents of the heart. Imagine a judge putting a man in jail for day dreaming in his arm chair at home about adultery, revenge on an enemy, etc. The question is not philosophy and logic, but how the commandment was applied under the Law of Moses! We may apply all of the logic to an external law that we choose to, but we cannot punish what is only internally implied in the commandment. Man can only measure and punish what can actually be observed.
Watson's rules may all be applicable for an individual seeking to understand how God looks at his heart and life. However, to use those rules to build a system of ethics with which to govern and punish men in society is disastrous. Rule 5 certainly applies to me as an individual in the sight of God who can and does deal with me on the basis of what is in my heart. However, under a system of pure law, another human being can only deal with the overt acts simply because he cannot see my heart (Jer.17:9). The Law of Moses could not deal with the heart or with motives simply because that is beyond the ability of a purely objective law.
We must not allow
"logical deductions" of stated external laws to be turned into a
system of governing and punishing people. Historically, this approach has often
created great difficulty and brought reproach on the
Rule 7 is philosophically true. It is indeed our duty to do all in our power to keep other people from sinning and not be a "partaker of their wicked deeds." However, in order to apply this particular Rule in reference to the Sabbath (an example Watson uses) a master or magistrate must force everyone under his jurisdiction to attend worship services. For a master or magistrate to allow a person to sleep in on Sunday and not attend worship would clearly break Watson's rule and make the man-in-authority to be himself guilty of sinning for not using his "God given responsibility" to keep others from breaking God's commandment. "According to logical application, that the Bible declares that it is our God-ordained duty to force servants to go to church" was considered a "truth clearly revealed in the Word of God" pursuant to Watson's rules.
Anyone using this method of interpretation can commit nearly any form of persecution and tyranny and think that he is doing God a service as well as "helping his fellow man." The more sincere and devoted such a person is to that method of interpreting the Bible, the more dangerous and vicious he can be and all in the name of "honoring God's Holy Law." It would then be impossible to avoid a system of legalistic despotism that would destroy Christian liberty and freedom of conscience. Under such a method of understanding and "sincerely" applying this kind of "Biblical truth," men could be and have been put to death in the cruelest manner, and those who killed them could sincerely believe that they did it out of love to God and His truth.
This is not caricature - the New England Puritans and others did those very things. If Watson is correct, then the Puritans were not only justified, they were actually duty-bound by "God's Holy Law" to send the Sheriff around to get you out of bed and haul you off to the church service. God save us from men who use their version of "God's unchanging moral law" in this manner!
Law can only measure and punish outward acts of behavior. It cannot deal with the heart and inward motives. This is always the real question when there is an honest discussion of "law and grace" - not whether a Christian is responsible to obey "objective laws" or simply follow an emotion called "love." The question concerns whether the Law of Moses, even correctly understood, can deal with the heart and motives, or whether this can only be accomplished by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
The heart of the difficulty is that the laws on the Tablets of Stone are not high and spiritual enough for a full-fledged son of God living under the NC. Those laws are great for the purpose for which God designed and gave them. However, conviction of sin that leads to justification by faith is not the goal of the laws of Christ given to people who are already justified.3
The texts show that Christ gave new and higher truth, saying in essence:
"Moses was quite
correct under a covenant of law. However, my Ekklesia
is not going to be `under the law but under grace.' In the
The central issue is the
difference between the OC of law that governed the nation of
The correct way to approach Mt.5:27 is just let it mean exactly what it says. Let it really contrast the difference between rule under covenant law and rule under grace without in any way suggesting that Moses and the law were "wrong." Let Christ be truly greater than Moses without demeaning or depreciating either Moses or his law.
If Christ is only refuting a distortion of Moses by showing what Moses actually taught, then why does He not quote from another part of the law and prove what Moses really did mean? This is what Christ did in Matthew four with the Devil. When the Devil misapplied an OT Scripture, our Lord responded by quoting an OT text that clarified what God really meant. Would He not have done the same thing here if the Law of Moses taught the same thing that He was teaching? This would be doubly appropriate if Christ's primary purpose in the Sermon on the Mount was only to correctly interpret Moses.
Christ is actually contrasting the difference between a legal rule and a gracious rule, each ordained by God in its own time.
One of the weaknesses of CT is treating the New Testament Scriptures as if they were nothing more than the correct interpretation and application of the OT. Even Christ Himself cannot give any real new moral laws under that system of theology. However, the New Testament Scriptures clearly show that Christ is more than just an interpreter and applier of OT law. He is the Giver of new law - the new Moses, That Prophet that was to replace Moses as God's Lawgiver, as well as the second Adam.
The essence of Christ's claim in the Sermon on the Mount as well as Paul's clear declaration in his epistles is that Moses has been done away and replaced by the new and final Lawgiver.
Abraham's attitude and actions toward
But I Say to You, 3rd of 3 Studies - 4
Chapter Four: Justice and Punishment versus Pity and Mercy
You have heard that it was said, `Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. Mt.5:38-41
Suppose we grant that Christ was only "giving the true intention of Moses" in Mt.5:27 (that certainly was one thing He was doing). That does not explain the verses just quoted. In Mt.5:38-42 Christ had to be contrasting Himself and His teaching with Moses and the Law - contrasting not contradicting. In this passage, Christ is neither correcting a faulty interpretation of Moses nor is He pointing out an additional text in the OT Scriptures. In Mt.5:38-42, Christ clearly contrasted Himself with Moses! This is the new Lawgiver laying down rules for people living "under grace" that were not only impossible to be given to those "under the Law," but in some cases would have been unlawful under the Law!
If we accept these words in their normal meaning, and apply the same kind of reasoning that we use when we interpret the rest of Scripture, we are forced to admit the following:
First, nowhere in the OC legislation can anything be found that is similar to Christ's clear statements. If all Christ is doing is showing what Moses really taught, and if Moses did indeed teach the same thing that Christ said in His contrast, then why did not Christ simply quote the OT texts that proved His point. Why did He not do with the Pharisees as He did with Satan in Mt.4? When Satan misapplied an OT text, Christ quoted another OT text that proved Satan was wrong.
There are examples in the OT of men's actions proving that the principle of grace was operating in their hearts, but those actions were not and could not have been demanded under a covenant of law. [There are proverbs that bring out principles of life and moral laws with objective rules of conduct for an Israelite that also relate principles of life – “Don’t muzzle the ox while it treads the grain” embodies the maxim that the worker deserves his wages.] However, Christ's new commandments based on pure grace cannot be found in the Law of Moses.
Second, the "greater includes the lesser" principle cannot apply here. The law of Christ that says "turn the other cheek" cannot be either a "greater" or "lesser" application of the "eye for eye" principle of justice. Likewise, not "resisting evil" cannot possibly be logically deduced from the "eye for eye" justice of Moses. The one is the true application of Biblical justice and the other is the true application of Biblical grace. Neither the twisted logic of the Pharisees nor Watson's rules of interpreting commandments can make this passage be anything other than a clear contrast between the severe but just Law of Moses and the gracious and also "just" (because of Calvary) law of Christ.
Must we make the Law of Moses to be equal in all of its parts to the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ in order to protect our particular view of the "moral law" of God?4
Some men realize that the
basic presupposition of their theology is contradicted by what is being said.
If Christ gives any law that is different in any real sense from the Law of
Moses, then we have two different canons of conduct for
Moses and Christ must teach the same laws in order for CT to be true. For a Covenant Theologian, Contrasting "the laws of Christ" to the "Law of Moses" is a heresy that attacks both the "unity of the covenants" and "the perpetuity of the moral law of God." For anyone to teach that Christ has established a new and different covenant that literally replaces the OC is to destroy the basic foundation upon which Covenant Theology’s "one covenant /two administrations" rests.
People that hold to CT cannot make any kind of contrast between "law" and "grace" because such a contrast undermines his basic presupposition. The Apostle Paul boldly contrasted "law and grace" (Rom.6:14), and Jesus did the same (Jn.1:17). However, a consistent Covenant Theologian always contrasts "law and gospel" instead of "law and grace" in spite of the fact that the Word of God often contrasts law with "grace" and never contrasts law with "gospel."
Personal theology affects the way a writer or preacher approaches a particular passage of Scripture. This is especially true in a passage such as Mt.5:38-42. The following quotations represent the consistent CT view of the "true" purpose of the Sermon on the Mount:
Christ's primary concern at this point [Mt.5:17-48] was the validity and meaning of the older Testamental law. From the antitheses listed in verses 21-48 we see that Christ was concerned to show how the meaning of the Law was being distorted (and thus its fine points overlooked).
These radical commands (Mt.5:21-48) do NOT supersede the older Testamental law; they illustrate and explain it... In six antitheses between His teaching and the Scribal interpretations Christ demonstrates His confirmation of the Older Testamental law...
So we see in Mt.5:21-48 examples of how Christ confirms the Older Testamental law and reproves the Pharisaical use of it; the antitheses are case law application of the principle enunciated in Mt.5:17-20. Christ did not come to abrogate the law; far from it! He confirmed it in full measure, thereby condemning scribal legalism and showing us the pattern of our Christian sanctification. Greg L. Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics, p.63, 90, 119
Not once in his 619 page book does Bahnsen say "Old Testament," but always refers to "Older Testamental law." He does this deliberately to demonstrate as forcefully as possible that there is no such thing as a new and an Old Covenant. There is only an older and a newer version of the one and same covenant of grace.
Does not the Word of God state in plain words that there is indeed both a New and an Old Covenant and that the NC has replaced and done away with the OC (Heb.8:6-13)?
CT must insist that Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount, is sending the NC believer back to Moses for both the foundation and the content of all of his moral instructions. In other words, good logic applied to Moses can give us all of the moral teaching and spiritual application we need in our sanctification - The New Testament Scriptures and the advent of the Holy Spirit to indwell believers merely help to explain and confirm what Moses really meant.
The texts in the Sermon on the Mount are saying something entirely different.
What did Moses mean when he said "eye for eye and tooth for tooth." Failure to understand what Moses actually said is the primary cause of getting mixed up. Once we see why this principle was given in the Law of Moses to govern a physical nation of sinners, it is easy to see why it cannot be applied under grace in governing a spiritual nation of saints.
Many writers make unwarranted assumptions that the primary purpose of the "eye for eye" law was to check the tendency for revenge. The following quotation is a typical comment on Mt.5:38-42:
The main intent
of the Mosaic legislation was to control
In this case in particular, it was to control
anger and violence and the desire
for revenge...Now this tendency was manifesting itself amongst the
The above quote is not saying something that is totally false. One of the purposes of the "eye for eye" law may have been to restrain the urge for revenge on the part of an offended individual even though such an idea is not stated in the OT. However when that is made the only reason or even the primary reason, then we are reading our theology into the Scriptures and ignoring what the Biblical texts themselves actually say.
If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. Ex.21:22-25
The "eye for eye" law was given at the same time the TC were given as part of the "Book of the Covenant" that included the Decalogue. The TC, or the actual covenant itself (Ex.34:1, 27-28), was given in Ex.20. Ex.21-23 applied the covenant to some real life situations. All of Ex.20-23, including the TC, were written down and called "The Book of The Covenant" (Ex.24:7-8). The Book of the Covenant was read aloud to all of the people and they verbally responded and entered into covenant with God. Moses then sprinkled them with blood.
Then he [Moses] took the Book of the Covenant [which contained Ex 20-23] and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, "All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient." And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said , "Behold, the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words. Ex.24:7-8
It is misleading to say
that the "object of this legislation (Ex.21:22-25) was to control and
reduce this utterly chaotic condition to a certain amount of order" since
the text itself does not say or suggest this. In fact, the nation had just come
into existence as a nation or "body politic," at which point in time
there were no "chaotic conditions" that needed to be brought under
control. God was laying down a system of justice and putting it into the
"constitution" of the nation that was just being established. The
"Book of the Covenant" was to be the basis of how that society was to
be governed. The "eye for eye" law is just as much the "moral
law of God" for
The purpose of the "eye for eye" law was basically the same as the laws of our land today - to be certain that sin was actually punished. The second stated purpose of this law was to set an example that would act as a deterrent to others. The mandatory carrying out of this law was to be an example to others as a means of keeping them from committing the same sins. We deliberately used the word "sin" instead of "crime" in this paragraph because these acts were being dealt with as violations of God's covenant (sins) and not just as crimes against society. We are talking about a physical theocracy that was governed directly by the Law of God. There is no such nation today nor do the New Testament Scriptures encourage us to set one up.
It is misleading to
stress that the "eye for eye and tooth for tooth" law was given primarily to curb revenge.
That may have been one facet of the law, but the primary purpose was to establish a just basis and method
for making sure that sin was actually punished. The central point of the
"eye for eye" law was not first aimed at protecting the offending
party from the anger and revenge of a fellow man, but to make sure that the
offending party was justly punished for his sin against God and His law.
This law was more than "social justice." It was part of the legal
covenant that established the special relationship of the nation of
But I Say to You, 3rd of 3 Studies - 5
Some good men have not allowed the OT Scriptures to mean what they actually say. They do to God's laws in the OT Scriptures exactly what many modern liberals do to our penal system when they try to make the primary purpose of prison to be rehabilitation. Most people are eager to see everything possible being done to teach and train people in prison so that they are enabled to be kept from returning to prison once they are released. Though such a policy is to the ultimate benefit of both society and the criminal, we must not lose sight of the fact that the primary reason for the prison's existence is the punishment of crime and the protection of society and not the rights or rehabilitation of the criminal. Likewise, the primary purpose of the "eye to eye" law was to punish sin against God and not just to be sure that punishment was not extreme. The justice and honor of God was the goal, not the right or protection of the criminal.
Ex.21:22-25 shows a clear distinction between the method of punishment when the injury was not serious as compared to when it was serious. In the first instance the offended party set the fine and got whatever the court allowed. Not only was vengeance curbed, but presumably the offended party could have dismissed the whole thing and "forgiven" the offender. The "eye for eye" part did not come into play until the injury was serious, and then the commandment was "you are to take life for life, eye for eye, etc..." (v.23). Neither the offended nor the judges had any control over the terms of the punishment when the injury was serious because God Himself set the exact terms of the punishment. It was then a duty of the court and justice to enforce God's law of "eye for eye" without pity.
The purpose was not at all concerned with curbing anger and a revenge response, but with vindicating God's law. Both Lloyd-Jones and Pink miss the whole point of this OT Scripture.
If anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death. Anyone who takes the life of someone's animal must make restitution--life for life. If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. As he has injured the other, so he is to be injured. Lev.24:17-20
The context shows that this is an application of the covenant law of God and not just "social justice." In this text mercy, forgiveness, and dismissal of the punishment was not possible regardless of how deep a man's repentance may have been. This was "covenant breaking" and punishment was mandatory, and the exact amount of punishment was clearly prescribed by God.
In the verses immediately preceding this commandment (Lev.24:10-16), Moses is directed to stone a man to death who had blasphemed God. The justification for such punishment is stated in verses 17-20. In verse 23, there is a return to the blasphemer and the text says, "Then Moses spoke to the Israelites, and they took the blasphemer outside the camp and stoned him..."
At least three things are clear in this passage:
One: The stated purpose of the legislation was positive and not negative. Enforcing of the "eye for eye" law was not "to keep someone's anger under control and limit punishment," but rather to assure that deserved punishment was actually meted out.
Two: We may not divide up the various crimes mentioned in this text and say or imply that punishment was mandatory in some cases but not mandatory in others. The principle of "eye for eye" is applied across the board. Capital punishment was mandatory for murder and injuries done to the neighbor had to be punished in like degree. Likewise, there is nothing in the text to indicate the possibility of a "negotiated settlement" where the charge could be dropped or the specific punishment be determined by either the offended party or the judges. Everything was clearly specified by God's law
Three: There is nothing either cruel or inhumane in such a system of justice if it is carried out consistently. Its end is the glory of God and the good of society. It helps restrain anger before the first eye is put out!
The magistrate was an executor of God's justice and not a referee controlling men's anger. We are not talking about a "social contract" when we discuss Lev.24:17-25; we are talking about the covenant law of God that established and governed a theocratic nation. Three instances in the OT of stoning to death involved "merely" picking up sticks on the Sabbath, blasphemy, and taking a few garments and gold as spoils of war. Were those things "small crimes" against society or "wicked sins" against God?
Which is the most cruel and which is the most humane in the following situations: allowing teenagers month after month to terrorize and rob elderly widows of their food stamps and welfare checks and thus deprive them of food and heat, or cutting off the hands of a few of the repeat offenders who are doing the robbing? We seem to be able to watch innocent victims go through continual inhumane treatment at the hands of criminals (Wouldn’t going hungry and possibly dying of malnutrition be an "inhumane" consequence?) while refusing to exercise the kind of punishment that might stop those consistently responsible for such crimes under the pretense that such punishment is "cruel and inhumane." What do we call the treatment that criminals give to their helpless victims--merely "unfortunate"? How long do you think it was before anyone blasphemed God after the fellow was stoned to death in Lev.24?
The final use of the "eye for eye" justice in the OT further clarifies this last point:
If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse a man of a crime, the two men involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the Lord before the priest and the judges who are in office at the time. The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against his brother, then do to him as he intended to do to his brother. You must purge evil from among you. The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. Dt.19:16-21
One: There could be no pity, justice was to prevail. The specified punishment was mandatory if the crime was proven. If the liar's accusation would have resulted in the accused party being put to death, then the magistrate had no choice but to punish the liar with death [his role was administrative only].
Two: The amount of punishment in this situation was not in the hands of either the individual offended or the court. Carrying out the prescribed punishment was the judges' duty to "purge the evil" out of society. The glory of God, the integrity of His law, and the spiritual good of God's nation was the whole object of this legislation.
Three: The text, v.19-21, shows that this particular instance was dealing with a false witness (one of the Ten Words), who was to be given the exact penalty that the other man would have gotten if the lies had not been exposed - it was a mandatory "eye for eye."
Four: The sole purpose of the "eye for eye" law was the punishment of sin to demonstrate the justice of God and the need for holiness. The sure and just punishment of breaking God's law would act as a deterrent to other would-be blasphemers and false witnesses. Neither the "rights" of the false witness nor the "pity" of the man lied about were factors in what had to be done. It was the law of God that had been disobeyed, and it was the law of God that was now in charge of the situation.
Every writer that takes the view that the "eye for eye" punishment was not in the hands of the individual but the court makes much of this. It is the method used to try to prove that Christ is not making a contrast between either Moses and Himself or law and grace in Mt.5:38-42. These writers teach that Christ was accusing the Pharisees of twisting the Law of Moses by urging individuals to take this law into their own hands and personally exact justice rather than allow the court and judges to handle the situation. The following quotation typifies this view.
But perhaps the most important thing is that this enactment was not given to the individual, but rather to the judges who were responsible for law and order amongst the individuals... It was the judges who were to see to it that it was eye for eye and a tooth for tooth and no more. The legislation was for them, not for private individuals... As far as the teaching of the Pharisees and scribes is concerned, their main trouble was that they tended to ignore entirely the fact that this teaching was for the judges only. They made it a matter of personal application. Lloyd-Jones, ibid, p.272-3
There is an element of truth here. By demanding that His disciples as individuals should respond to injustice in a gracious way, Christ is actually doing the very thing that Lloyd-Jones says was the main problem of the Pharisees. Christ is NOT applying His teaching to the magistrates and telling them how they are to apply Moses. He is telling individual Christians how they are to act under His new gracious law [not retaliate, resist, or withhold when personally affronted].
Christ in Mt.5:38-42 is:
(1.) telling the individual Christian not to live according to the OC "eye for eye" law of retaliation;
(2.) taking the responsibility for these actions totally out of the hands of the court and the judges;
(3.) placing the responsibility for the correct response entirely on the conscience of the individual Christian;
(4.) forcing the Christian as an individual to think and to respond in terms of grace instead of law.
Christ is not teaching that a Christian should "follow the Law of Moses" and act in justice but not punish too much. He is teaching that a Christian must be gracious towards a brother and not punish at all [forgiving and leaving vengeance to God alone]. The magistrate has no function in the situation that Christ is describing. Christ, in this passage, is giving instructions to the Church and not to society. The Sermon on the Mount does not replace the Law of Moses as the new rules for society. He is telling individual Christians that they should no longer determine their attitudes and actions by law and justice but by grace and love.
In no sense is this vilifying law, it is merely showing the great superiority of grace.
It is not that there was no examples of gracious behavior exhibited in the OT
Scriptures. The incident concerning Abraham and
It is essential that Mt.5:38 be the basis of justice upon which a magistrate settles disputes. In principle that is the law of our land today. When the court forces an individual to pay to fix a fender that he dented in an accident but not for other things wrong with the car not directly resulting from the accident, the magistrate is applying the principle of "eye for eye," ie, the penalty must fit the crime and the just penalty must be paid." Is the main purpose of this law to protect against excessive payment or is it to make sure that the fender is fixed and paid for by the man responsible for denting it?
Mt.5:39-42 should never be made the law of the land and be put into the hands of the magistrate who could force you to give or loan to every individual that asked you?
One modern commentator gives a clear and simple summation of Mt.5:38-42. After covering the meaning of the three texts in the OT Scriptures where the "eye for eye" law is mentioned, he concludes this way:
...And most important of all, it must be remembered that the Lex Tallionis [Law of "eye for eye" or "tit for tat"] is by no means the whole of the OT ethics. There are glimpses and even splendors of mercy in the OT. "Thou shalt not avenge or bear any grudge against the children of thy people" (Lev.19:18). "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; if he be thirsty, give him water to drink" (Prov.25:21). "Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me" Prov.24:29). "He giveth his cheek to the smiter; he is filled with reproach" (Lam.3:30).
So then, ancient ethics were based on the law of tit for tat. It is true that law was a law of mercy; it is true that it was a law for a judge and not for a private individual; it is true that there were accents of mercy at the same time. But Jesus obliterated the very principle of that law, because retaliation, however controlled and restricted, has no place in the Christian life. William Barclay, Gospel of Matthew, Vol.1, p.163
4 Every "moral law" that God ever gave is a revelation of His holy character and that character never changes. However, every law does not equally reveal God's holy character. Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount are a fuller and higher revelation of God's holy character than anything that preceded it, including the TC. The holy character of God is identical in every age, but more and greater revelation reveals more of His holiness. The personal life and works of our Lord Jesus Christ are far more than just an example of "living out the Law of Moses." It surely does that, but it does far more by revealing both God himself and His moral character in a way that makes the TC appear as a dim outline or shadow.
5 Everything that God commands a person to do is "morally binding" on that individual at that time. It was "morally wrong" for Adam to eat a piece of fruit from a particular tree simply because God told him not to do so. It was "morally right" for David to offer a lamb in sacrifice and it was not "morally wrong" for him to marry Bathsheba even though he already had several other wives.
But I Say to You, 3rd of 3 Studies - 6
Chapter Five: "Holy Hate for 'the Glory of God'"
You have heard that it hath been said, thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thy enemies. But I say unto you, love your enemies... Mt.5:43-44
There are few passages in the New Testament that have been more misused than this one. Did the Pharisees, and their teachers, have any justification at all for teaching that the Jews should "hate their enemies" or is this an open and shut case of national bigotry twisting and adding to the Word of God?
The Pentateuch will be searched in vain for any precept which required the Israelites to entertain any malignity against their foes: thou shalt "hate thine enemies" was a rabbinical invention pure and simple. A.W. Pink, Ibid. p.129
It is ironic that the very same people who ridicule the Rabbinical distortion of Scriptures will themselves use both the same verses and the identical method of distortion to justify their own hatred of brethren that dared to question or disagree with the authority structure! History has witnessed some very ungodly behavior that was done under the guise of "love for God's truth." The rationale used by the Pharisees to justify their hatred of the Gentiles is the identical rationale being used by some church leaders today to justify their wrong attitude toward sincere brethren who have "refused to submit to the `God-ordained' authority of the elders" in a local church.
The following misapplication of "God's truth" is being used by "duly authorized servants of God" when someone leaves a local church:
(1) "These people have forsaken Christ's duly authorized Church which is the `pillar and ground of the truth' (1 Tim.3:15)."
(2) "Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it."
(3) "In leaving God's duly authorized Church, these people show that they hate the very thing that Christ loves the most."
(4) "The Psalmist said, `I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee' and `I hate them with a perfect hatred' (Ps.139:21-22). Since these people have proven their hatred of Christ (by leaving His church), it is our duty to God to hate these people with a perfect hatred because they have left Christ's Church which He loves above all else."
This is the word-for-word rationale used by churches with a cultic mentality for literally forcing their members to despise and shun anyone who dares to leave that particular congregation or group. The only reason these modern day "duly authorized" defenders of the "glory of God's Holy truth" have not run a sword through their enemies is that they do not have the civil authority to do so!
Lloyd-Jones takes several pages in his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount to discuss how the Jews may have misconstrued God's command to kill all the inhabitants of Canaan as a command to "hate them as enemies." He also discusses the imprecatory Psalms where David "hated the enemies of God." In no way is Lloyd-Jones justifying the Pharisees, but he is attempting to state the case fairly. He emphasizes that both the Canaanite incident and the imprecatory Psalms are to be considered as national and judicial but in no way personal.6 Lloyd-Jones is philosophically right, but it seems unlikely that an individual could be "emotionally neutral" while carrying out the wholesale national slaughter of God's enemies. It would have been very difficult for an Israelite to convince either the Canaanite or his own heart that he really "loved his enemy" while killing the man and his family.
We have not found a single commentator that used the following passages when discussing the Rabbinical teaching of "hating your enemies:"
Thou shalt not seek their [Ammonites or Moabites] peace nor their prosperity all thy days for ever. Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother: Thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian; because thou wast a stranger in his land. Dt.23:6-7.
Let us apply some of Watson's rules of interpreting commandments to this sample passage. We will use his rules to extract or deduce the "good and necessary consequences" from the specific commandments in Dt.23:6-7. [see Scripture & Conscience, Necessary Inference http://pop.eradman.com]
What is the specific thing commanded in Dt.23:6-7?
First: "Do not seek the peace or the
prosperity of the Ammonite or Moabite." This was in retaliation for
their treachery against
Second: "Do not abhor an Edomite or an Egyptian." This was because of relationship and gratitude, v.7.
Verses 6 and 7 specifically contrast two different attitudes and treatment of others on the basis of either retaliation or gratitude. Two different attitudes are set forth as opposites of each other. Let us apply Watson's rules to these commandments.
Rule 2 applied to the
first thing commanded ("Where any sin is forbidden [command
forbidding something], the contrary is commanded."): What is the opposite of "seek
the peace and prosperity”? The opposite of peace is war and the opposite of
prosperity is poverty. According to this rule of interpreting
commandments, the "good and necessary consequences" of Dt.23:6-7 it
Rule 2 applied to the second thing commanded: What is the opposite of "abhor?" The opposite of abhor is love. In this specific context "abhor" is set in direct opposition to "seek peace and prosperity." So according to Watson, the Jew was commanded to "love" some people and "to abhor [hate] some other people.
Application: If Watson's rules are correct, it is our God-given duty to "seek the peace and prosperity" (which means "love") of some men and to "hate some other men." We must not hate the Edomites and Egyptians, but we must hate the Ammonites and the Moabites. We must actively follow a course of action designed to destroy them. On the contrary, we must do all we can to "seek the peace and prosperity" of the Edomites and Egyptians.
Rule 3. "How can we consistently avoid any and every occasion that might possibly lead to an Edomite or Ammonite enjoying peace and prosperity?" Here is the "total shunning" process towards "God's enemies" who are under Elder discipline.
Rule 5. "What should we include on the list of `lesser' sins so as to think and act under all circumstances to be sure we do not in the least help the Edomite and Ammonite to have peace and prosperity and to insure that he suffers the just consequences of his sin against God and His people"?
Rule 7. "What can we do to make sure that every person over whom we have any influence will also not seek the peace and prosperity of the Edomites and Ammonites, but instead, will also do the exact opposite and seek their destruction?"
The devotees of CT will
surely smile and say that we are caricaturing and misusing Thomas Watson. The
Jews had more justification for believing that God wanted them to
"hate their enemies" than some of the Reformers and Puritans
(Covenant Theologians to a man) had for killing brethren in Christ
simply because some of those brethren dared to "re-baptize "believers
and rejected the sacral sign (infant baptism) of the state church. It was
the CT of the Reformers and Puritans that led them to set up governments
according to the Law of Moses. They patterned everything after the nation
The case against the Puritans and Reformers for their atrocities is far more damaging than the case against the Pharisees. The Pharisees had only to distort a few OT Scriptures, but the Puritans and Reformers not only had to distort those very same Scriptures, they also had to contradict both the clear commandments of the New Testament Scriptures that speak about loving the brethren and the whole tenor of Christ's clear teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.
The history of the vain attempts by Covenant Theologians to make the "fine points of the law" to be the "chief instrument in a Christian's sanctification" is parallel to both the attitude of the Pharisees and what has been written above. The places, faces, and specific issues may be different, but the method of approach and disastrous results are identical. If the Pharisees interpreted Dt.23:6-7 in exactly the same manner that Watson interpreted the TC, they would have been more than justified in believing that God's Word literally "commanded" them hate to their enemies.
Church leaders with a cultic mentality exhibiting the same kind of attitudes that we condemn in the Pharisees is motivated by the identical approach to the Word of God as that used by the Pharisees! Oh that we could only learn to live and breathe under the freedom of the NC! Oh that the power of sovereign grace would grip our hearts and fill our souls with the love of Christ that we would not only love our enemies, but we would also be able to love our brethren who disagree with our particular creed!
Seriously comparing Mt.5:43-48 with the verses in 1 John that make "love of the brethren" to be the practical test of assurance of salvation, leaves many great men in history and some at the present time with a suspect salvation. What produces such a situation? When we draw our whole system of conduct out of the Law of Moses, we will always fail to see Christ giving higher and more spiritual rules of conduct. We will become law centered instead of Christ centered. And when happens we will automatically start acting more like God's sheriff than His shepherd. The present abuse of God's sheep by tyrannical Elders is far more than a personality or temperament problem. Its root is a theological misunderstanding of the very subject that we are discussing in this book.
The Puritans and Reformers in their own minds were "sincerely obeying God's commandments" when they persecuted and even killed fellow Christians for rejecting the authorized creed. Those godly men were merely being consistent with the view of authority and law set forth in their CT. Burning a witch was in no way the "aberration of a hard hearted tyrant." It was the "good and necessary consequence" of a wrong theology of the relationship between Moses and Christ.
The Rabbinical fathers were not even close to correct in making the OT teach that it was a duty to "hate your enemies." This is one of the clear instances in the Sermon on the Mount where Christ is showing the distortions of the Pharisees. Christ was accusing them of adding to the Word of God. However, if we are honest with history, we are forced to admit to at least two facts:
One: The Rabbinical leaders' method and logic in using the OT Scriptures to justify their hatred of "God's enemies" (the Gentiles) was exactly like the method and logic that was often used by Rome, the Reformers, and the Puritans to justify their hatred and persecution of sincere Christians who disagreed with the state church in power at the time. The same thing can be said about some "duly authorized" church leaders today.
Two: According to Watson's rules of understanding God's commandments, "hating your enemies" was just as clearly a "good and necessary consequence" of some OT texts as were many of the "good and necessary consequences" that were "deduced" by a consistent application of CT and then used as the grounds to justify hatred and persecution. While the Pharisees only had to distort the OT Scriptures, Covenant Theologians have to misuse the same texts in the OT as well as contradict the clear commandments in the New Testament. The Pharisees hated the Gentiles and treated them as "God's enemies." The Reformers and Puritans hated and persecuted other Christians as "enemies of God."
6 See Lloyd-Jones, ibid, Vol.1, p.300.
But I Say to You, 3rd of 3 Studies - 7
Chapter Six: Laws for Sinners and Laws for Saints
It has been said, "Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce." But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. Mt.5:31-32.
The above verses clearly prove that Christ changed and added to the Law of Moses. Christ's rejected "uncleanness" as a ground for divorce even though it was clearly allowed by the Law of Moses (Dt.24:1-4).
The clearest proof of this position comes from the same people who vehemently disagree with what we have just said. Pink's comments on Mt.5:31-32 are an illustration:
Moses had been indeed divinely directed to allow divorce in cases of uncleanness, for the prevention of worse crimes. But that which had been no more than a temporary concession was changed by the Pharisees into a precept7 and that so interpreted as to give license to the indulging of their evil and selfish desires...
Let us now consider a few details in Dt.24:1-4. The first thing is the kind of statute there given. It was not a moral but a political or civil one8 for the good ordering of the state. Among such laws were those of tolerance or permission, which did not approve of the evil things concerned,9 but only suffered them for the prevention of greater evil--as when the sea makes a breach into the land, if it cannot possibly be stopped, the best course is to make it as narrow as possible...These laws tolerated what God condemned, and that for the purpose of preventing greater evils.
When Pink gets to the point of telling us what Christ actually did mean in His "But I say unto you" contrasts in Mt 5-7, he explains Christ's words this way:
"But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery" (v.32). Here Christ refutes the corrupt interpretation of the scribes and Pharisees, and positively affirms that divorce is permissible only in the case of that sin which in God's sight disannuls the marriage covenant, and even then it is only allowed and not commanded... Ibid, p.93
Neither Dt.24:1-4 nor anything that Christ said suggests what Pink is saying. What is "positively" affirmed in the two passages is the following:
1. Moses, in Dt.24:1-4, allowed divorce for reasons other than adultery.
2. Christ, in Mt.5:31-32 and 19:1-9 rejected those same reasons and allowed divorce only on the ground of adultery. The Law of God given through Moses positively allowed what Christ specifically rejected.
Lloyd-Jones takes basically the same approach as Pink. After showing that it was God's original intention at creation (Gen.2:24) for marriage to be "one wife for one man," Lloyd-Jones raises the obvious objection to what he is stating:
"If that is so," asks someone, "how do you explain the Law of Moses? If that is God's own view of marriage [The Creation Ordinance] why did He allow divorce to take place on the conditions which we have just considered?" Our Lord again answered that question by saying that, because of the hardness of their hearts, God made a concession, as it were. He did not abrogate his original law with regard to marriage. No, He introduced a temporary legislation because of the conditions then prevailing. Lloyd-Jones, Ibid, p.258
We basically agree with much of what both Pink and Lloyd-Jones have said because it fits very well into our view that:
1. a change of covenants brings a change in the laws;
2. the specific covenant laws under which any individual lives is the basis upon which he is to order his life and by which he will be judged by God;
What Pink and Lloyd-Jones are advocating is the right of Moses to make laws (they call them "temporary legislation") to govern moral behavior that are useful and necessary in "dispensations" characterized by certain sinful circumstances.
Pink has no right to
believe what he said above. He is contradicting himself as long as he insists
Here is a summary of the view Pink and Lloyd-Jones espouse:
One: Christ was showing that the Pharisees had "changed" a concession concerning divorce into a precept, and this somehow gave them the "license to the indulging of their evil and selfish desires." Christ was condemning the Pharisees for changing the Law of Moses and was not in any way contrasting His teaching with what Moses had actually said.
Two: God allowed (not commanded) divorce in
Three: Divorce for uncleanness was purely a "concession" that was
necessary at that time because of
Four: The sole purpose of this particular law was to "narrow" the effects of sin and misery by condoning a clear breach of God's original moral law (one man and one wife as given in the CO) by legislation that would control to some degree an intolerable situation of the moment and protect women from the cruelty that could easily be expressed by Israel's hard-hearted men.
Five: The allowance of divorce for "uncleanness" was not meant to be a permanent part of God's law but was given only by Moses for that particular time and situation.
Even assuming that the
texts of Scripture show that all of these statements are basically correct [though in reality some of them contradict each other],
the statements still miss the point under discussion. They never touch the
heart of the problem in trying to understand Christ's contrasts in the Sermon
on the Mount, in fact the more true the statements are, the more difficulty you
have fitting them into Pink's own theology. Moses in Dt.24:1-4 is now
contradicting himself and the real Law of God concerning marriage that Moses
himself recorded in Gen.2:24. God is now instructing Moses to give this
contradictory legislation on "dispensational" grounds due to
The whole point of Mt.19:1-9 is this: Christ very emphatically states that the Law of Moses in Dt.24:1-4 legislated and allowed certain moral conduct for an Israelite that could not possibly be tolerated under the NC in the life of a Christian today! It does not matter why Moses made the concession or why Christ changed the rules and rejected the concession.
Why would God instruct
Moses to write a law for
When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance. Dt.24:1-4.
As both Lloyd-Jones and Pink emphasize, the "uncleanness" cannot be the sin of adultery. This immediately shows the total change and difference between the Law of Moses and the law of Christ on the subject of divorce.
It seems obvious from
Christ's words that the purpose of the law in Dt.24:1-4 was to control the
Christ is not merely interpreting
Scripture- He is giving us new Scriptures. Christ is dealing with
He is saying, "I will not tolerate in My kingdom the legislation that Moses gave because of the hardness of heart of your rebellious fathers." Our Lord is not settling the argument between the liberal and conservative Pharisees by telling us what Moses really meant by "uncleanness" in Dt.24:1-4. He is saying, "The Law of Moses’ allowance of uncleanness as a ground of divorce is no longer accepted as part of the new canon of conduct for the church."
The laws of Christ in the
kingdom of grace were not given to control the behavior of "hard
hearted" sinners as in the case of the Law of Moses. Christ's law is given
to regenerate saints who have a desire to obey and please God. CT cannot grasp
what has just been said because it views
But I Say to You, 3rd of 3 Studies - 8
Does the use of "
This concept of "
There are several key
problems which makes
The only thesis that appears to me to be compatible with these data is that polygamy and divorce (for light cause) were permitted or tolerated under the OT, tolerated in such a way that regulatory provisions were enacted to prevent some of the grosser evils and abuses attendant upon them, and tolerated in the sense that they were not openly condemned and censured with civil and ecclesiastical penalties, but that nevertheless they were not legitimated.11 That is to say, these practices were basically wrong; they were violations of a CO, even of an ordinance which had been revealed to man at the beginning. Therefore they were inconsistent with the standards and criteria of holy living which had been established by God at the beginning. They were really contrary to the revealed will of God and rested under His judgment. From Principles of Conduct, by John Murray, p.16
The insistent question immediately arises: How could this be? How could God allow his people, in some cases the most eminent of OT saints, to practice what was a violation of His perceptive will? It is a difficult question. Ibid
Principles of Conduct, was the "final straw" that led us out of classical CT. Murray’s answers to the difficult questions confronting his own CT view of law were by far the best answers ever given. If his answers are not adequate, and they definitely are not, then there simply are no answers and the whole view of law demanded by that system is without Biblical foundation.12
What is the basic problem
This view ignores the situation created by the entrance of sin into the world as well as the stated purpose for which the law as a legal covenant was given at Mt Sinai. The position assumes that Abraham, Moses, and David were all responsible to understand and apply Gen.2:24 exactly as Christ did in Mt.19:4-5. If this were true, it would have been impossible for Moses to give the law of Dt.24:1-4 in the first place. Moses (who wrote that law) would have been knowingly and deliberately contradicting what he knew was God's unchanging "perceptive will."
It is quite obvious that this statement of the case poses several questions. And the most basic of these is the question: Is there in the sense defined, a biblical ethic? Is there one coherent and consistent ethic set forth in the Bible? Is there not diversity in the Bible and diversity of a kind that embraces antithetical elements? Are there not in the Bible canons of conduct that are contrary to one another? To be specific: Is there not an antithesis between the canons of conduct sanctioned and approved of God in the OT and those sanctioned and approved of God in the New in respect of certain central features of human behavior? It is a patent fact that the behavior of the most illustrious of OT believers was characterized by practices which are clearly contradictory of the elementary demands of the New Testament ethic, Monogamy is surely a principle of the Christian ethic. OT saints practiced polygamy. In like manner, under the OT, divorce was practiced on grounds which could not be tolerated in terms of the explicit provisions of the New Testament revelation. And polygamy and divorce were practiced without overt disapprobation in terms of the canons of behavior which were regulative in the OT period. Ibid, p 14
Professor Murray must answer his question concerning the problem of two different canons of conduct with an emphatic "no." He must, and does, insist that there can only be one "canon of conduct" simply because his theology cannot allow any change in God's "one unchanging moral law." In other words:
1. God clearly gave, through Moses, a "canon of behavior" that "allowed" divorce for uncleanness (Dt.24:1-4) and also gave specific rules for a polygamous marriage that forced a man to sleep with both or all of his wives (Ex.21:10-11);
the laws for easy divorce and polygamy were clearly "recognized as
regulative" in the "canons of behavior" that governed the moral
3. However, despite these facts, those very laws were still contrary to the "perceptive will of God" as seen in the CO and therefore rested under the judgment of God even though ignored and unpunished by God;
The final problem with making Creation Ordinances to be the "real law of God" to which everything else in Scripture must be compared is that it effectively renders all of the Scripture written after the fall "secondary" in the area of morality. In this view, all we need to do is apply correct logic to the Creation Ordinances and all of the problems of morality are automatically resolved. Nothing can be considered as absolute in ethics or morality unless it has its roots in and gets its sanction from a CO. Progressive revelation cannot in anyway change or add to the will of God as revealed in Creation Ordinances. Later revelation can only clarify, explain, and reinforce the original and permanent law of God revealed in those ordinances.
In reality, this position
denies the very principle that it is trying to defend - that the laws of Christ
in the Sermon on the Mount are the true and spiritual interpretation of
the Law of Moses and in no sense a contrast. This idea is totally destroyed if
Moses himself gave
If Dt.24:1-4 is part of the Law of God that was given by God to Israel, then how can it contradict a CO (the real Law of God) without pitting the Law of God against the Law of God?
If it is objected that this is exactly what Christ did in Mt.19:1-9 when He appealed to Gen.2:24, then the argument would prove too much - that Christ was reproving and contradicting Moses as being wrong in Dt.24:1-4! This argument would totally destroy the very thing that the position is seeking to prove - that Christ never in any way contradicts Moses. Christ would be flat out accusing Moses of knowingly contradicting God's revealed will as seen in the CO if Murray's application of Mt.19:4-5 is correct.
Murray's CT is telling us that Christ may not in any way change the canon of conduct given by Moses, but Moses may, because of Israel's hardness of heart, change the canon of conduct given by God in Creation Ordinances prior to the Fall!
If Murray is correct in
accusing Moses of giving a law that violated the CO of marriage, then did not
Paul, in 1 Cor.7:12-16 go against both Gen.2:24 and Mt.19:1-9 by adding yet
another ground for divorce. However,
We must not strangle progressive revelation of new and higher moral truth just to hang on to a theory of "one covenant with two administrations" that has no textual basis in Scripture.
7 God's allowance of divorce for "uncleanness" may have been a "temporary concession" in God's purposes, but it was a divine precept to Israel or else it was not really part of "the Law of Moses" inspired and given by God.
you consider this law to be part of the "Law of God" to His covenant
nation and remember that it is dealing with a subject as intimate and moral as
marriage, then Pink's statement is incorrect and a cop-out. The view we are
taking in this book could make Pink's statement, but Pink is contradicting
himself. His CT will not allow him to separate the theocracy of
9 In this case "the evil things concerned" is no less that the sin of adultery or breaking of the Seventh Commandment according to Pink's application of the CO concerning marriage. What could possibly be considered a "greater evil in God's sight" than breaking one of the commandments written on the Tablets of the Covenant (Ex.34:27-28)?
One of the basic errors of both DT and CT is their view of the Church,
especially in its relationship to the nation
11 How can anyone read 2 Sam 12:24-25 and say God "tolerated" but did not "approve" of both David's polygamous marriage to Bathsheba and the birth of Solomon resulting from that marriage. Professor Murray must insist that Solomon's birth was just as much under God's wrath as the child that had just died since polygamy was adultery according to the clearly "revealed will of God" in the CO. God simply chose to "tolerate" and not punish the second instance of adultery as He did the first.
12 This point is developed in more detail in The Tablets of Stone.
Chapter Seven: Application, Implications and Summary
The approach taken in
this book has set forth both the OT Scriptures and Christ's statements in the
Sermon on the Mount in their contexts and at face value. The rest of the New
Testament Scriptures certainly support a clear contrast between
The question is not "objective law versus subjective love" as the rule to govern our life as Christians. The heart of the issue is where the New Testament believer finds the full and final objective laws that are to govern his life and attitudes. The real question is this:
"Are the TC as written on the tables of stone in Exodus twenty the highest standard of moral conduct that was ever given, or is the teaching of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount and in Holy Spirit inspired Epistles an even higher standard of moral conduct?"
A New Lawgiver has superseded and gone far beyond what Moses and the law could ever do.
Rejoice that the principle, and not the letter, of the law found in Mt.5:38, is the law of our land today. Some Christians are advocating that we should fight to have the letter of the OC law become the law of our country. They want to get that law enforced by the power of civil government.
Law based on strict justice demands that evil be resisted and punished. Grace can suffer injustice for Christ's sake. The victory of grace by the power of love is greater than the victory of law by the power of the sword. The Law of Moses would not have allowed Paul to write the following:
The very fact that you have law suits among you means you have been completely defeated. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 1 Cor.6:7
13 Dr. Robert Morey has a study on this point entitled, "The Relationship between the Old and New Covenants."