The New Covenant Constitution of the Church and Antinomianism

 

Antinomianism (without or against law) has been an on-going theme, discussion, and debate in the blogosphere over the last few months.  There is a wide array of views on the role of law in the life of a believer ranging from no authority or application over the believer because the law has been abrogated in Christ to various positions espousing Calvin’s third-use of the law, i.e. a moral rule and guidance for the believer.  Thankfully, in his second chapter of his brief, but informative work A Reformed Baptist Manifesto, Dr. Sam Waldron has clearly outlined the importance of the law in the life of a believer using the New Covenant as his portal to understanding this relationship.  Recall that the first chapter discussed the relationship of the New Covenant Constitution of the Church and Dispensationalism, while this chapter equally attempts to address various errors which are outside of the traditional and biblical beliefs of Reformed Baptists by use and exposition of Jeremiah 31 and its related passages.

In beginning this chapter, Dr. Waldron sets forth a helpful distinction on the various streams to approaching the law in the life of the believer.  He states, “all Antinomians deny that the Ten Commandments as a unit are a rule of life for the Christian.”  Dr. Waldron then attempts to categorize several of the more identifiable views.  Practical Antinomians, who “not only teach against the law in the Christian life, they often advocate lawless living.”  Doctrinal or Moderate Antinomians, who “do not advocate lawless living, but they deny the third use of the law (i.e., the Ten Commandments as a rule for Christian living) or, at best, advocate it but redefine what law means.”  New Covenant Theologians, who Waldron sees as fitting within the Doctrinal or Moderate Antinomians, deny the “perpetuity of the Decalogue as a unit under the New Covenant and its function as the epitome of the Moral Law throughout redemptive history.”

With definitions out of the way, Waldron moves on to the thesis of this chapter, which will center around the exposition of Jeremiah 31:33 and answer three primary questions:

“About what law is verse 33 speaking?”

“What is meant by the writing of that law on the heart?”

“What is the reason that the law is written on the heart?”

About what law is verse 33 speaking?

In answering his first question, Waldron notes the contrast and parallel found in the New Covenant promise of Jeremiah 31:33.  In it, he sees that the contrast is the location of where the law was written under the Old Covenant, namely the hand of God wrote His law on the two tablets of stone (see Ex. 24:12; Ex. 31:18; Ex. 32:16; Ex. 34:1; Deut. 10:1,2; Deut. 10:4)  as contrasted with the location of where the law is written under the New Covenant, namely the hand of God writes it on the heart of flesh of New Covenant members.  As to the parallel, he notes that the what or contents of the law has not changed, but is instead parallel from Old Covenant to New Covenant.  The moral law of God was written on the tablets of stone, not the judicial or ceremonial, and it is the moral law of God that is written on the hearts of those in the New Covenant.  (See 2 Corinthians 3:1-8)  It is clear then, as Waldron concludes, that “a solid grasp on the biblical and confessional distinction between moral, judicial, and ceremonial laws” is necessary and “only when we, understanding the Constitution of Christ’s Church, realize that we are also to be guided by what was Moral in the law of Moses, especially the Ten Commandments, that we will have a complete and un-mutilated guide for the Christian life and the Christian Church.”

“What is meant by the writing of that law on the heart?”

Waldron advances to the next question arriving out of the New Covenant from Jeremiah 31:33 and asserts that the key to understanding and answering this question is the concept of the “biblical meaning of the heart.”  Here he sees a twofold concept: 1. The heart is the seat and center of our convictions and affections (Prov. 4:23; Deut. 6:4-7; Prov. 27:19; Matt. 15:18,19; Rom. 5:5; 9:2; 10:9,10) 2. The heart is the source and spring of our words and actions (Prov. 4:21-22; Matt 15:18, 19; Luke 6:44,45).  What then is the answer to this question?  It is meant that to “have God’s law installed in us as the ruling power of our convictions, affections, words, and actions.”

“What is the reason that the law is written on the heart?”

Finally, Waldron concludes his questions by addressing the reason for God’s law to be written on the heart.  He writes, “There is no covenant with God where His law is not written on the heart.”  Therefore, he sees the act of writing the law on the heart, by God, as inextricably linked to the New Covenant.  Dr. Waldron adds that the “first and central practical implication to be drawn from all that has been said is this: We learn the delusion and danger of divorcing law and grace.”  He places are large majority of the blame for this modern day divorce of law and grace at “the feet of Classic Dispensationalism” and rightly so, as this is the natural, logical, and progressive outworking of their distinction between Israel and the Church, ultimately dividing the Old and New Testaments.

Concluding this chapter, Waldron provides several practical warnings:

Beware of divorcing law and grace in conversion

Beware of divorcing law and grace in the regulations of your life.

Beware of divorcing law and grace in the motivation of the Christian life.

Beware of divorcing law and grace in dealing with the reality of sin.

Avoid settling for heartless obedience.

Avoid imposing on yourself or others more law than God has.

Avoid confusing law and gospel.

Next up: The New Covenant Constitution of the Church and Arminianism

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