Beza On The Threefold Division Of The Law

The law of the Lord our God that was handed down to His people through Moses is partly ethical, partly sacrificial, and partly political.3 The ethical portion shows in what way each person must be disposed of both toward God most of all, then toward his neighbor. And so, as it stands in judgment upon us for condemnation in our own persons because of the accompanying threatenings joined to it that are against those who have transgressed the law even at the smallest point, so in Christ, who has been made our righteousness by most abundantly fulfilling the law for us at the same time as has he has also satisfied the penalties we owed, the law is so far from harming us that, on the contrary, in Christ, who is laid hold of by faith, we are absolved from its condemnation, we gain the crown which the law promises to those who keep it, and the law itself shows to us who are sanctified by the Spirit of the gospel the path of the good and straight road.

The sacrificial law consists in that internal worship which we owe to God, as a kind of picture offered to our external senses. In addition to this, it trained the Israelites in the external profession of true religion add demonstrated to the people of God, under the tutelage4 He established, the true image both of condemnation, which all men earn because of their transgression of the moral law, and of that freedom which was awaited from the Messiah to come.

The political law shows what profit the moral law is in the common society of men and arms the magistrate against its transgressors. These laws indeed occur in a scattered fashion, as they have been handed down by God in various times and places. As Moses, in addition, does not describe them with the same tenor, they seem to me not inconveniently distributed into these categories and can be, as it were, assembled into one unit.


3. ἠθική, ἱερᾱτική, and πολῑτῐκή, respectively.
4. pedagogia. See Galatians 3:24.

—Theodore Beza, A Clear and Simple Treatise on the Lord’s Supper, trans. David Noe (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books 2016), 171.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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