I’ve been enjoying reading Ernest Kevan’s book The Moral Law – it has been a helpful reminder of the goodness and greatness of God’s law. It is also a useful tool for preachers and teachers, who need to know how to interpret the Bible well and apply God’s law to God’s people without falling into the twin errors of legalism and antinomianism. In the second chapter (“The perfection of the law”), Kevan gives five principles for teachers and preachers as they exposit God’s law.
- In Hebrew, the word torah has a breadth of meaning bigger than we often realize. Not only does it mean “authoritative rule of duty”, but “signifies not only what is to be done, but also what is to be known.” Depending on context, the word “law” in Scripture can refer to (a) any part of the Old Testament, (b) all the books of the Old Testament, (c) the ceremonial aspects of worship in the old covenant, (d) the revelation of Himself God gave to Israel or (5) describing the Jews in a state apart from Jesus. Therefore, whenever we seek to understand or teach a portion of Scripture mentioning the law, “it must first be shown in what sense the word is being used; for Paul argues against the Law in one sense, and pleads for it in another.”
- Despite frequent complaints, “there is nothing contradictory in the doing of a thing out of love and also in obedience to the Law.” Love and duty are not opposed but can operate simultaneously in the heart of a believer seeking to obey God. So to draw believers to obedience through both motivations is entirely appropriate. Our obedience should be loving and dutiful.
- “Christ’s full obedience to the Law for the justification of sinners does not exempt the believer from obedience to it for ends other than justification.” It is vitally important that no one can be saved by works of the law. But this should never lead to the conclusion that obedience to the law is therefore worthless in a believer’s life. Scripture reveals many other valid reasons for obedience other than justification.
- A believer’s disobedience to the law of God, though he stands justified, is “as much condemned in him as they are in another.” That is, even though a believer is righteous in the eyes of God, their violation of God’s law is every bit as sinful (if not more) than an unbeliever’s violation of the same law.
- Finally, “the law is not to be rejected because man has no power to keep it.” Kevan argues that the Law and Gospel are very similar in this sense: “When the rejection of the Law is argued on this ground, it is often forgotten that, similarly, man has no power to obey the Gospel…Absence of ability does not infer absence of obligation.” Further, the believer, by the indwelling power of the Spirit, does have the ability to keep God’s law.
Kevan’s The Moral Law is filled with more gems like this. But more importantly, God’s law is filled with His own character and goodness. We should love it more than we do, and those who preach and teach should be careful to use the law the way it was designed to be used.
This article originally appeared here.