PMT 2014-060 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
This is my third article on the nature of the righteousness which postmillennialism expects to prevail in the world before Christ returns. Postmillennialism is not a form of social gospel liberalism. In fact, it is just the opposite. Social gospel liberalism operates in opposition to God’s Law, not in affirmation of it.
I have been focusing on Jesus’s own teaching regarding the Law. The New Testament, of course, has a lot more to say about the continuing relevance of God’s Law, but as the central person in the postmillennial hope, his teaching is especially instructive and encouraging.
I will now pick up where I left off in the previous article. I will point out four important observations in demonstrating Jesus’ endorsement of the Law.
Christ Emphatically Teaches the Law’s Relevance
When the Lord rebukes the Pharisees regarding the Law, he does not confront them for keeping the small obligations of the Law, but for their doing so while overlooking the weightier matters of the Law:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. (Matt 23:23)
They constantly make void God’s Law through their traditions: “You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition” (Mark 7:9; cf. vv 1–13).
In the Sermon on the Mount itself he teaches that the Law is the Golden Rule of service to man. “Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12). If you treat men according to the standards of God’s Law you are treating them in a loving way.
He teaches that God’s Law even defines love when he responds to the Jewish lawyer: “‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets’” (Matt 22:36–
40). Love which excels even faith and hope (1 Cor 13:13) is not feeling or non-descript action. It is obedient action guided by the strictures of God’s Law.
Christ Upholds the Law’s Civil Function
Christ even upholds one of the laws most commonly misunderstood and employed today in arguing against the continuing relevance of God’s Law in the civil sphere. He upholds the law calling for capital punishment for incorrigible criminality. Even the parents of a dangerous individual are to turn him over to civil authorities for his capital punishment:
And He answered and said to them, “And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever shall say to his father or mother, “Anything of mine you might have been helped by has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And thus you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.” (Matt 15:3–6)
This piece of capital punishment legislation is frequently brought forward in disgust to demonstrate the absurdity of the Law’s modern application. But this law should never be derided by the Christian for several reasons:
(1) In this very passage our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ defends the application of this law and rebukes the Pharisees for circumventing it. He complains that such people “invalidated the word of God,” calling them “hypocrites” who merely “honor Me with their lips” (Matt 15:7).
(2) In aligning these two laws from the Mosaic code Jesus specifically declares that they are God’s Law. Note that he states: “For God said. . . .”
(3) This capital sanction is in fact actually found in the Bible, which we are called upon to believe, defend, and promote. To mock a command found in God’s Word as absurd or disgusting is simply not an option for the Christian. In fact, such a response reminds us of Adam and Eve’s reaction to God’s prohibition in Eden: God commands them not to eat (Gen 2:16–17); but they see that it was “good for food” — so they reject his command (Gen 3:1–6).
Contrary to popular opinion, this capital punishment legislation applies to a son that is: (1) old enough to be a threat to the community through criminal conduct and (2) mean enough to be turned over to the authorities by his own parents. An explanatory expansion of this law describes this son as “a glutton and a drunkard” who cannot be controlled by his parents (Deut 21:18–21). He is a curse to his parents and a menace to his community. This is not a ten year old who refuses to take out the garbage.
To be continued
Tagged: Civil law