law-under-footPMT 2016-091 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Does God’s law apply to the new covenant era? Is postmillennialism lawless? Or does postmillennialism expect the worldwide influence of God’s law? Many Christians believe the law is God’s Law Emeritus. They believe the New Testament sets aside God’s law. But is this the case?

Many Christians believe that Paul sets aside the Old Testament law for “the law of Christ.” In 1 Corinthians 9:21, Paul wrote: “to those who are without law, [I am] as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law.” The italicized phrases suggest that Paul here declares that in Christ — and, therefore, in the Christian era, our era — a new law prevails, which he calls: “the law of Christ.” This new law of Christ supplants the older law of God as the ethical norm for Christian behavior.

This statement has been badly misunderstood. Paul does not supplant the “law of God” with a new “law of Christ.”

Christ’s Law and Christ’s Teaching
Any supposed “law of Christ” must conform to Christ’s own teaching. And Christ said that He had not come to abolish the law, and that if anyone denied the least of the commandments he would be least in the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 5:17-20). Consequently, any “law of Christ” would harmonize with and support the original law of God. “The law of Christ” would not contradict the Law of God, but endorse it.

God’s Law and Paul’s Ethics
Paul clearly states (1 Cor. 9:19-20) that he does not keep the ceremonial aspects of the law, those Jewish-defining, ritual obligations demarcating Jews from the Gentiles. Then he adds: “though not being without the law of God,” that is, “though I am not without the law of God.”

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God’s Law Made Easy (by Ken Gentry)

Summary for the case for the continuing relevance of God’s Law.

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The phrase “though not being without the law of God” shows the abiding relevance of “the law of God” in Paul’s ethical system. He most definitely is not without God’s law. Although he opposes mandatory observation of ceremonial features of the law, he is not “without the law of God.” This insertion is necessary to protect Paul’s argument from suggesting he endorses anomia, “lawlessness,” the word he employs in “without the law of God.”

This phrase harmonizes with his other observations on the continuing validity of God’s law as an ethical (not ceremonial) obligation in Paul’s writings: Romans 3:31; 7:12; 8:3-4; 1 Timothy 1:8-11; and so forth.

Paul’s Point Regarding the Law
Paul’s statement — “though not being without the law of God, but under the law of Christ” — must be interpreted as written. He does not contrast “the law of God” with “the law of Christ.” He did not say: “I am not under law to God, but rather I am under law to Christ,” as if they were two mutually-exclusive and competing ethical systems.

Note the double-negative. Double- negatives can easily trip up the interpreter. Paul does not state: “I am not under law to God.” Rather he declares that he is “not without law to God.” A world of difference separates these two assertions. He claims he is “not” in a state of being “without law to God.” Thus he denies he is “without law to God” or that he is “apart from” the law of God. In fact, he affirms that he is “under law to God” by denying he is “without” law to God.

To be continued.

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