The Christian and the Law

How are we as Christians to rightly understand the Law of God? We know, as Paul tells us in Romans 7:12 that “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” But how does it apply to us as believers in Christ? How do we know what the law can and cannot do for us? How do we avoid the dangers of carelessly abandoning the law when it should be our delight, and futilely clinging to the law when it can never hold us up? How do we relate to the law in light of Christ’s fulfillment of it on our behalf?

In this issue of the Founders Journal we highlight some helpful resources for addressing these questions: two from the past and two from the present day.

The first is a letter written by John Newton (1725-1807). Newton was rescued by God’s grace and converted from a wicked life as a slaver trader. He is best known for the hymns he has written, including “Amazing Grace” and “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken.” But he was also an avid letter writer. He himself affirmed of the usefulness of his ministry in God’s providence “that I should do most by my letters.”

The Banner of Truth has reprinted Newton’s letters in The Works of John Newton. Letter 30 “On the Right Use of the Law” from volume 1 provides an exposition of 1 Timothy 1:8 under three main headings: the meaning of the law, how we come to know that the law is good, and what it means to use the law “lawfully.” Newton observes that ignorance of the right use of the law “is at the bottom of most religious mistakes.”

The second article is an excerpt from a book written by another hymn writer, Horatius Bonar. In God’s Way of Holiness, first published in 1864, Bonar contrasts true holiness as defined by Scripture with false views of holiness. Chapter 6 explains the relationship of the Christian to the Law of God.

The final two articles are on the issue of the Sabbath. Bob Gonzales draws connections between the 4th commandment, creation and the resurrection in “Following My Re-Maker’s Example: Why I ‘Sabbath’ on Sunday.” “The Sabbath Rest of Creation” is an excerpt from a new book by Richard Barcellos entitled Better Than the Beginning: Creation in Biblical Perspective (2013) now available from Reformed Baptist Academic Press.

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