Heidelcast 66: Nomism And Antinomianism (8)—The Third Use Of The Law

We’re resuming the series on antinomianism and we’re talking with Nick Batzig, pastor of New Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA) in the Savannah area. Nick blogs at Feeding On Christ. He’s also on Twitter. He recently wrote a provocative essay on the third use of the law that I thought we should discuss.  In the historic, confessional Protestant (Lutheran and Reformed) theology, the law has three uses: first, to teach us the greatness of our sin and misery, second, to restrain civil evil, and third, as the moral norm of the Christian life, in which use also teaches us the greatness of our sin and misery and drives us back to Christ. This is what the Reformed confess in Heidelberg Catechism:

2. How many things are necessary for you to know, that in this comfort you may live and die happily?

Three things: the first, how great my sin and misery is; the second, how I am redeemed from all my sins and misery; the third, how I am to be thankful to God for such redemption.

3. From where do you know your misery?

From the Law of God.

4. What does the Law of God require of us?

Christ teaches us in sum, Matt 22: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

91. What are good works?

Those only which proceed from true faith, and are done according to the Law of God, unto His glory; and not such as rest on our own opinion or the commandments of men.

114. Can those who are converted to God keep these commandments perfectly?

No, but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience; yet so, that with earnest purpose they begin to live not only according to some, but according to all the Commandments of God.

115. Why then does God so strictly enjoin the ten Commandments upon us, since in this life no one can keep them?

First, that as long as we live we may learn more and more to know our sinful nature, and so the more earnestly seek forgiveness of sins and righteousness in Christ; secondly, that without ceasing we diligently ask God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we be renewed more and more after the image of God, until we attain the goal of perfection after this life.

This is substantially the doctrine of the Westminster Confession (ch. 19). The two great errors here are to deny the abiding validity of the moral law (antinomianism) and turn the third use into a covenant of works (nomism) both of which the Reformed churches unequivocally condemn.

Here’s episode 66:

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  1. Dr. Clark,

    This has been a very helpful series. This episode was particularly helpful with all the discussions going on in the Reformed community and beyond and accusations made as though some do not hold to the 3rd use of the law. The comment was quite helpful about how some seem to read Romans 6 and 8 while bypassing Romans 7. Thank you!

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