Heidelcast Series: God’s Holy Law

The historic, confessional, Reformed understanding of Scripture is that it contains two kinds of words, law and gospel. The law promised eternal life to Adam on condition of perfect obedience on behalf of all humanity. Adam sinned, transgressed God’s holy law, and thus plunged himself and all humanity in him into death and condemnation. The gospel promises eternal life freely to all who believe in Jesus, the Last Adam (1 Cor 15:45; Rom 5:12–21). The moral law has three uses:

  1. It teaches us the greatness of our sin and misery;
  2. The second table of the moral law norms civil life;
  3. It moral law norms the Christian life.

Christians have made two great mistakes about the moral law. First, they have tried to get to heaven on the basis of their law-keeping. Paul condemns this abuse of the law: “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom 3:28). The second abuse is to try to make law-keeping the instrument of salvation or justification but Scripture says that justification and salvation are “through faith” (Rom 3:22) and “through grace” (Acts 15:11). The second great error regarding the law is to utterly identify it with the Mosaic covenant (the “old covenant” in 2 Cor 3:14). When Christians have so identified the law with Moses, they tend to think that, when Moses is fulfilled, the moral law goes away too. Such a misreading of redemptive history leads to antinomianism, the denial of the abiding validity of the moral law. This contradicts the clear teaching of our Lord Jesus, who proclaimed that he came not to “abolish” the moral law but to “fulfill” it (Matt 5:17). He explained the moral law in the Sermon on the Mount. The Apostle Paul applied it to the New Covenant church. They wrote and spoke this way because the moral law is grounded in the character of God and was revealed in the beginning, in the garden. Paul says that it is revealed in nature (Romans 1:18–2:15). So, the Reformed churches confess that we are not saved (justified, sanctified, or glorified) through law-keeping but we who are saved seek to keep the law out of gratitude, in union with Christ, by the grace and Christ.

  1. God’s Holy Law (1)
  2. God’s Holy Law (2)
  3. God’s Holy Law (3): The 1st commandment
  4. God’s Holy Law (4): The second commandment
  5. God’s Holy Law (5): The third commandment
  6. God’s Holy Law (6): The fourth commandment
  7. God’s Holy Law (7): The 5th commandment (pt 1)
  8. God’s Holy Law (8): The 5th commandment (pt 2)
  9. God’s Holy Law (9): The 6th commandment (pt 1)
  10. God’s Holy Law (10): The 6th commandment (pt 2)
  11. God’s Holy Law (11): The 7th commandment
  12. God’s Holy Law (12): The 8th commandment
  13. God’s Holy Law (13): The 9th commandment
  14. God’s Holy Law (14): The 10th commandment

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  1. Dear Dr. Clark and Pastor Clark,
    Thank you for posting this sermon series on the Heidelcast regarding God’s Perfect and Holy Law. The distinctions in Scripture and doctrine between the Law and Gospel increase my understanding of God’s Plan for His people in the opening of The Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” According to our prayer, we are to enjoy living according to the moral law by and in Grace, through Faith in Jesus Christ. In our prayer, His Spirit conforms us to love God and our neighbors not as our work, rather our obedience is by Grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. Is this being in G0d’s Will?

    • Catherine,
      Some months ago Dr. Clark recommended a short, easy to read book called The Pearl of Christian Comfort by Petrus Dathenus. I ordered this book from Reformation Heritage Books and found it to be an excellent treatment on the relationship between faith and works. My good friend, who has recently lost her husband, also enjoyed it very much. As Dr. Joel Beeke describes it on the back cover: “This succinct treatise lets the light of Scripture shine clearly on the practical issues involved in teaching and living the doctrines of sovereign grace.”

  2. I’ve learned and continue to learn so much from your written narratives and podcasts. The “Moral Law” page has been a pinned tab in my browser for at least a couple months. I’m midway thru your series on the 10 commandments and third use of the moral law to norm the Christian life. I recently buried the “still small voice,” guided by your series on knowing God’s will. Soon, I’ll begin the series “I Will Be A God To You And To Your Children” and try to wrap my “immersing-believers’-baptism” mind around household baptism.

    My family and I currently live outside the USA but will return soon. I’ve become a “convert” to the reformed perspective and the corresponding covenant theology and will lead my family in that direction. A reformed church (presby) with a pastor who follows you has been identified and contacted in the area where we’re moving. I’m currently listening through the Covenant Theology series by Dr. Duncan at RTS (recommended by the “pastor-to-be”) and “A Survey of Church History” series by Dr. Godfrey (both of these while driving down the road).

    I’ve switched from a murky dispensationalism and a secret rapture (which I’ve never really understood because of inconsistencies) which I sort-of subscribed to over the last 40+ years (beginning in my 20s) to amil based on your recommendation (somewhere) to check out Dr. Riddlebarger. His explanations of the “already” and “not yet” applied to Matt. 24, the camera-angle approach to reading Revelation and his emphasis on having a good interpretive grid have swept away the murkiness. Now, as I look back to my 1972 decisional-regeneration beginnings, I hear the voice from that vegetable juice commercial say: “I coulda had a V8.”

    Thank you so much. An appreciative and regular coin to the coffer has begun as you help me discern and then sweep away the myths (2 Tim 4:3) from the Land of Hoo Ba Ba Kanda.

  3. Dr. Clark…is there something missing in the above narrative between “First” and the 2nd “second”?

    “…two great mistakes ….First, they have tried….The second abuse is….The second great error….”

  4. Ok…got it…thanks for clarifying

    1. First, they have tried
    a. “this abuse”
    b. “second abuse”
    2. The second great error

    You are appreciated.

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