Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Chapter 19: Of the Law

The Westminster Confession of Faith in Plain Language

1. God gave Adam and his descendants a law to obey as a kind of probation, along with all the strength and ability he needed to succeed. But his obedience had to be absolutely perfect. If he obeyed perfectly, God promised to give Adam life. But if he disobeyed in any way whatsoever, God promised that he would die.

2. After Adam disobeyed, the law continued to be a perfect standard of right and wrong. On Mount Sinai, God spelled out the law even more specifically in the form of ten commandments. The first section of the ten commandments explained how to do right by God, and the second explained how to do right by our fellow human beings.

3. In addition to the ten commandments (which we usually call the “moral law”), God gave two other kinds of laws. The “ceremonial law” contained instructions for worshiping God using symbols and pictures of Jesus Christ--what he would be like, what he would do, how he would suffer, and how he would save his people. The ceremonial law also regulated worship by explaining what people were supposed to do and not do. Now that Jesus has actually come, the symbols and pictures are no longer necessary, and the ceremonial law has been done away with.

4. God also gave the “civil law” to the Israelites, which contained rules about how they were to run their nation. Since these rules applied only to the ancient nation of Israel, they are not required for today, although some of the rules were were broad enough to be wise and useful for other nations.

5. The moral law still applies to both Christians and non-Christians. They are required to obey it with a submissive heart because God created and rules everything. The work of Jesus did not change this requirement. Instead, it made the requirement stronger.

6. True believers are free from the moral law in the sense that they cannot be made righteous or condemned by it. However, the law is still important for both Christians and non-Christians. For example, the law reveals God’s will about what is right and wrong, so it shows how people should live their lives. It also reveals their sinfulness--when people compare their lives with the law, they get convicted and embarrassed and hate their sin. At the same time, they see how much they need the righteousness of Jesus Christ instead of their own.

The law contains serious warnings that should cause those whose hearts have been changed to stop and think before sinning. Even though they have been delivered from eternal condemnation, they should still be able to see how law-breakers deserve punishment, and they should not be surprised when they are disciplined in this life for disobedience. At the same time, they should be able to see the promises of the law--that obedience may not earn eternal life, but God is still pleased with it and blesses it. So just because people do what is right and stop doing what is wrong--in obedience to the law--that does not mean they are trying to earn eternal life by obeying the law.

7. None of these examples contradict the message of the Gospel. Instead they fit with it perfectly. Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, conquers our rebellious nature, changes our hearts, and gives us the ability and the desire to obey God's law with cheerful hearts.

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