The Lawful Use Of the Law
All Scripture Is Profitable Unto (Manifest) Righteousness & Sanctification
By Maurice C. Wildy III
“But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. 14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned [them]; 15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God [lit. is God-breathed], and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:13-17
“As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: [so do]. 5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and [of] a good conscience, and [of] faith unfeigned: 6 From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; 7 Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. 8 But we know that the law [is] good, if a man use it lawfully; 9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; 11 According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.” 1 Timothy 1:3-11
The intent of this article is to further expound upon the Christian’s relationship with the extant (or spiritual) law of God; particularly, as it relates to the issue of the “lawful use of the law.” Many use 1 Timothy 1:8-9 “But we know that the law [is] good, if a man use it lawfully; 9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers…” to teach that the Christian (being righteous) has no use for the law, or that the law doesn’t pertain to them in any way anymore; or that they are so dead to the law that the law is said to be dead to them; or that they have no relationship with it whatsoever (and thus, want nothing to do with it). One famous preacher put it this way (emphasis added):
“That does not mean that we are lawless rebels. Just the opposite. We are “not without law to God, but under the law to Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:21). The love of Christ constrains us to live not unto ourselves, but unto Christ who loved us and gave himself for us. In order to live in holiness and communion with God, we must have no connection to the law; we must have nothing to do with the law; we must be dead to the law, completely freed from the law.”
The law cannot sanctify the believer (Ga1. 3:3). Only the Spirit of God, forming Christ in the heart can sanctify. The law cannot rule or motivate one of God’s children. We are not under the law, but under grace. We are ruled by faith in Christ, motivated by the love of Christ and governed by love for his people (I John 3:23; II Cor. 5:14).
Sadly such never really define what this love is and they rarely, if ever, distinguish between the Mosaic law (that was put away forever) and the spiritual law, which remains to this day, and is the love and delight of all God’s people. They will mention “love” in the abstract, praising it, exalting it, but hardly ever (if at all) will they rightly define it. And yet, it is so vitally important to do so, seeing that agapē love literally is (a) the keeping of God’s commandments, and (b) the obeying of His holy word (with the right intent, attitude, and motive), as it relates to our relationship with Him and with others. For more on this, see The True Nature Of Agapē Love: How Love & Obedience Are One And The Same. In the meantime, I will touch on aspects of it again (in light of 1 Timothy 1:3-11), as a necessary proof-text. For now, suffice to say that the teaching that “the believer has nothing to do with the (extant) law of God,” that it is “no guide or rule for us today” (as wielded by the Holy Spirit), and that it “serves no purpose in our (manifest/subjective/experimental) sanctification” is grievous, grievous error. It is an unbiblical notion; it is an Antinomian (or even anomian) concept; and Scripture thoroughly refutes it.
Yet (so that there is no ambiguity, given how often the red herring arises), I want to be clear that I am not speaking of the Mosaic Law. Though I state this time and time again, some insist on conflating the extant law of God with the abrogated Mosaic law. The Mosaic law with all of its rituals, sacrifices, ceremonies, baptisms, dietary restrictions, etc., has nothing to do with us any more (other than as a symbolic tool designed to teach us about Christ, His redemptive work, and His kingdom). The Mosaic law was done away with at the cross, as we read in Colossians 2:13-14 “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross…”
So to be clear, the law that I am speaking of is the royal law, the law of liberty, the Great Commandment, the law of God-wrought faith and love, which is made up of all of the extant (unabrogated) commands of God, even all of the imperative and related verbs, all of the admonitions, reproofs, and rebukes, as well as all of the exhortations found in holy writ. The believer is not dead to such but is alive to it — even alive to love it, serve it, obey it, and to keep it (guarding it in their hearts). Again, this is never to perfection in this life, nor is it to be deemed as an attempt to establish a righteousness of our own; no, it is nothing short of fulfilling the righteousness manifestly, that Christ has obtained perfectly, finally, and objectively for us, through His finished work of redemption on the cross. I cannot stress enough, this is no attempt to bring people “back into bondage under the law” (as some claim); rather, this is designed to evidence the true believer’s God-wrought liberty to walk more and more in conformity with the spiritual law (which is walking in love, which is bearing fruit, which is manifesting good works and labours of love, all to the glory of God). Said another way, it is absolutely impossible to manifest godly faith, or godly love, apart from keeping the extant commandments, and obeying God’s word, as it relates to our interactions/relationships with God and with our fellow man. There is absolutely no manifestation of agapē love without some aspect of God’s spiritual law, and extant commandments, being fulfilled experimentally. With that, please consider…
In verse five we read “Now the end [telos/G5056] of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and [of] a good conscience, and [of] faith unfeigned.” That word “end,” telos/G5056, does mean a complete termination, the very end, the close or finishing of a thing — in certain circumstances. However, that same word also means the end to which the matter relates, the goal, aim, or purpose. In this case, the end, or the chief cause or goal for the existence of the commandment, and the ultimate (manifest) fulfillment of it in our daily walk, is God-wrought faith and God-wrought love. Why? Because the commandment is yoked to love and one cannot have agapē love (charity) without first having that faith in Christ, and in His gospel, that accompanies regeneration and conversion. Likewise, one cannot have true, God-wrought faith apart from agapē love, seeing that the two are yoked together via one great law, even one great commandment, and via the works that flow from it (seeing that they are manifestly associated with it). As proof-texts, consider:
Galatians 5:6 “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
1 Thessalonians 1:2-4 “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; 4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.”
James 2:14-24 KJV] 14 What [doth it] profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be [ye] warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what [doth it] profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
Hebrews 10:22-24 “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith without wavering; (for he [is] faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works…“
The elect (1) were both justified and sanctified from eternity by the purpose of God the Father; (2) they were both justified and sanctified objectively, legally, and perfectly, in time, by the finished work of Christ at Calvary; (3) they are justified and sanctified personally, at God’s appointed time in their life, upon their regeneration, when the Holy Ghost makes the finished work of Christ effectual in their quickened hearts/minds/spirits; but (4) they are also justified and sanctified manifestly (before men) by their God-wrought, God-ordained works of faith (even their labours of love, commandment-keeping, and obedience to the word of God). So again, you cannot have God-wrought faith, and you cannot have true (divine) love, apart from those works that are associated with obeying the word of God. The following passages should make this abundantly clear:
1 John 5:2-3 “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3 For this is [literally] the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.”
2 John 1:6 “…this is love [i.e., this is the very definition and manifestation of it as it pertains to us], that we walk after his commandments [plural]. This is the commandment [singular], That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.”
Galatians 5:13-14 “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only [use] not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14 For [i.e. because, seeing that, given that, truly therefore] all the law is fulfilled [plēroō/G4137 made full, filled up, carried into effect, brought to realisation, manifested, performed, or executed] in one word, [even] in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.“
So in verses three and four, in light of 1 Timothy 1:5, (Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and [of] a good conscience, and [of] faith unfeigned:) the Holy Spirit is teaching us that out of true love, and true faith, we are not to proclaim doctrines other than those that God Himself declares via His word. We are not to give heed to (or promote) useless fables and other distractions that lead us away from the true Gospel and away from the actual commandments of God associated with true spiritual life, in light of that Gospel. We are also not to look to, nor even discuss, the extant commandments, the extant (spiritual) law of God, just for the sake of it. Such precious jewels, such pearls of infinite price, should never be treated as mere intellectual matters, as mere philosophical points to debated. God’s extant doctrine/teaching/commandments/law, as found in His holy word, has as its chief purpose and aim (or “end,” per verse 5): for us to love God, to love His Christ, to love His gospel, to love His people, to love His word, to believe Him and His word, to keep His word, and to obey His word. Godly edification lies not in distractions regarding fables, genealogies, false doctrine, or even right doctrine misapplied (e.g. taken out of context or hobby-horsed to the nigh exclusion of all else that is needful). No, godly edification has as its “end” true love, true faith; not just in notion, but in real life, practical application and manifestation. We are exhorted to live these things out, not just to write about them, or talk about them, and especially not just to vainly wrangle and babble over them.
Now, in verse six (from which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling…), we see that some swerved [astocheō/G795], some turned aside [ektrepō/G1624, in the sense of turning off, turning away from the right path] to vain jangling. In other words, some became empty talkers at best and outright deceivers at worst — rather than being God-led, God-enabled, faithful ministers — even faithful “doers of the word.” They forgot, or perhaps never really understood, that the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and [of] a good conscience, and [of] faith unfeigned…” They abandoned that which pertained to true love and true faith and turned, instead, to fruitless arguments, etc. They left off of right doctrine, even Gospel doctrine, and those things which adorn the Doctrine of Christ, and that lead to manifest holiness and righteousness. Instead, they focused on error, promoting it, engaging in strife and contentions, fighting with one another over trifles, engaging in empty back and forths without real love, peace, or faith as their motive. They were not led by the Spirit, walking in Him, living by Him — they were indeed of the flesh, fleshy, and carnal.
To illustrate the nature of such error, and the dangers associated with it, consider the following sister passages:
1 Timothy 6:20-21 Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding [ektrepō/G1624, in the sense of turning around to reject, to turn one’s back on something] profane [and] vain babblings [kenophōnia/G2757, empty, useless, fruitless discussion/utterance/noise], and oppositions of science falsely so called: 21 Which some professing have erred [astocheō/G795, swerved] concerning the faith…”
2 Timothy 2:14-19 states “Of these things put [them] in remembrance, charging [them] before the Lord that they strive not about words [logomacheō/G3054, to wrangle/quarrel/fight over empty/trifling matters, to argue/fight about about words simply for the sake of arguing/fighting about words; to dispute merely for the enjoyment/stimulation/sake of disputing] to no profit, [but] to the subverting [katastrophē/G2692, overthrow, destruction, apostasy] of the hearers. 15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun [periïstēmi/G4026, as in to turn one’s back on something so as to reject and avoid it] profane [and] vain babblings [kenophōnia/G2757]: for they will increase unto more ungodliness [asebeia/G763, lack of reverence and lack of worship towards God; lack of godly piety; lack of devotion/commitment to God and His glory; and, by implication, wickedness]. 17 And their word will eat [echō/G2192, take hold, take possession, adhere/cling to one, so as to increase/grow/spread by feeding upon — as with ulcers, gangrene, sores, etc.] as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; 18 Who concerning the truth have erred [astocheō/G795, swerved], saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow [anatrepō/G396, to overturn, destroy] the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.“
1 Timothy 5:14-15 “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. 15 For some are already turned aside [ektrepō/G1624], after Satan.”
2 Timothy 4:1-4 “I charge [thee] therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away [apostrephō/G654, to turn back, pervert] [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned [ektrepō/G1624] unto fables.”
Hebrews 12:12-13 “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way [ektrepō/G1624]; but let it rather be healed.”
In 1 Timothy 1:7 (desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm), we read that these people who have misused God’s word, or who have strayed from it altogether, having swerved/erred, and having turned about to embrace vain jangling (i.e., empty/trifling discourse), desired to be instructors, masters, and/or doctors of the law. In Luke 5:17 and in Acts 5:34, “teachers of the law” is translated “doctor(s) of the law” — these were the men who sought to teach/enforce the law, after the letter, in their carnality, and not after the Spirit, in newness of life. They taught the things of bondage, deception, and death, rather than the words of life (for the word of God is both spirit and life when wielded by the Holy Ghost in the hearts and minds of His quickened people — and His law, His nomos, is the ‘parcelled out bread/meat/food for His flock — hence, “…It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
As a result, such as these have no spiritual understanding of the word of God in general, nor of His Gospel in particular, nor of the true purpose of His extant law and commandments (which is unto the adorning of the Doctrine of Christ in our lives, unto His glory). Such are carnally-minded and cannot please God; they cannot understand spiritual things in general, let alone the Gospel, and all that it entails. They may know historical facts, they may know right doctrine; they may espouse or exalt “mental assent alone” to Gospel truth, but it will be limited to a dry, lifeless, intellectual sense of it all (it will not spur them on to a life truly committed to Christ, His word, His people, AND to His spiritual law).
Romans 8:1-8 “[There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded [is] death; but to be spiritually minded [is] life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind [is] enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”
James 1:19-25 “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: 20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. 21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth [therein], he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”
Romans 2:17-23 “Behold, thou art called a Jew [Note: or even a Christian], and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, 18 And knowest [his] will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; 19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, 20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. 21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? 22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? 23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?“
Yet, note 1 Timothy 1:8 which reads “But we know that the law [is] good, if a man use it lawfully.” How does one use it lawfully? In other words, how does one use the law in keeping with the law? One does so by walking after the Spirit and not after the flesh; by serving the law in newness of life and not in the oldness of the letter; and by leaning not unto our own carnal understanding and creature effort, but unto (and on) Christ, by the Spirit of God, for He is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption (He is our right knowledge, judgment, and understanding).
Likewise, we use the law lawfully by taking close heed to Romans 2:17-23, i.e., by not walking as hypocrites, and by not walking as hearers/talkers/teachers only (and not doers), and by not ignoring our own beams… per:
Matthew 7:1-5 “Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam [is] in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.).
Consider also the following sister passage to 1 Timothy 1:8:
2 Timothy 2:1-6 “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses [note: i.e. the various aspects of God’s extant law and commands/commandments], the same commit thou to faithful men [note: even men of faith], who shall be able to teach others also [i.e. who shall be able to continue the fulfillment of Matthew 28:19-20, “Go ye therefore, and teach [lit. make disciples of] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…”]. 3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of [this] life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. 5 And if a man also strive for masteries, [yet] is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully [nomimōs/G3545, literally, “in a manner agreeable to, in harmony with, even being one with, the law; seeing that nomimōs is literally the adverb form of the noun, nomos, from whence we get “law.”]. 6 The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.”
Notice verse six of 2 Timothy 2, “the husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.” That verse is warning us, again, don’t be a hypocrite, don’t be a vain talker. To strive lawfully, to use the extant law lawfully, to teach from the spiritual law lawfully, and to teach other men to do the same, requires (1) adherence to God’s word; (2) the eschewing and turning from distractions and errors; but most importantly (3) the spiritual life, love for the truth, and fidelity to the truth required, by the Spirit of Grace, to properly adhere to the Truth and to avoid such error. One uses the law lawfully by one first using the law lawfully in light of themselves, in their own lives, as it relates to their own walk (not being a hearer only, or a talker only, but a doer; not being a hypocrite but a disciple; not being one who teaches on the matter but was never taught/convicted/confirmed in the matter themselves). You use the law lawfully by recognising (and acting accordingly), as a born-from-above child of God, one led by the Spirit, that “All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God [lit. is God-breathed], and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” per 2 Timothy 3:16-17. One cannot separate the righteousness in “…for instruction in righteousness” from good works, commandment-keeping, and obedience to the word of God. Therefore, it should be clear from Scripture that the spiritual law is designed to, even lawfully used to, (1) inform us of how Christ walked; (2) inform us of how we should walk (in light of how Christ walked); (3) correct/admonish/reprove us when we do not walk as He walked; and to (4) otherwise furnish us with all that we need (when made effectual by the Holy Spirit) to manifest good works, labours of love, and obedience to the spiritual law of God.
Also, concerning the precept that “the law is good,” we must ever consider the systematic context. In other words, seeing that “the law is good,” we need to look at the other passages that shed light on how we should respond (how we should think and act) in light of the law being good.
Romans 7:12-25 “Wherefore the law [is] holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. 13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that [it is] good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but [how] to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
Psalm 19:7-10 “The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD [is] sure, making wise the simple. 8 The statutes of the LORD [are] right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD [is] pure, enlightening the eyes. 9 The fear of the LORD [is] clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD [are] true [and] righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired [are they] than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”
Clearly, the fact that the “law is good,” means (in light of the greater biblical context) that we (as already saved, already born again, already perfectly righteous, sanctified, and justified saints) should love the extant/spiritual law, serve this law, obey this law, proclaim this law, and defend this law, all within the light and context of the Gospel, all in light of the finished work of Christ.
But look again at 1 Timothy 1:9: “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers…” — that word “made” is keimai/G2749, and it literally means to “lie, lie upon, or lie outstretched” [see “upon” in 2 Corinthians 3:15 or “lieth” in 1 John 5:19]. The law does not “lie over, cover, rest upon, meet upon” the righteous but rather on those who are without (or against) the law of God. The law isn’t “set in place against the righteous,” or “laid against” the righteous but against the wicked only. Thus, the law was made “laid down/set in place” for the lawless, for those who are anomos, even “without law,” or against the law.” And yet, we know that the extant law, the extant commandments are lawfully used for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, [and for thoroughly furnishing God’s people] unto all good works,” per 2 Timothy 3:16-17, seeing that the extant law/commands of God are a core part of the all Scripture spoken of in this very passage. With this in mind, consider the following passages as they related to being doers of God’s word, which is synonymous with obeying His word, keeping His commandments, and bringing about, or making manifest, all of the good works that He before ordained that we should walk in (Ephesians 2:10):
1 John 3:7-10 “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”
Romans 2:13 “(For not the hearers of the law [are] just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified…).
James 1:21-27 “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth [therein], he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. 26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion [is] vain. 27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.“
Romans 6:15-18 “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience [i.e. to the extant law, to the words of God] unto righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.“
John Gill on Verse Nine
To help further develop the matter, consider John Gill’s commentary on 1 Timothy 1:9 (emphasis added)…
Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man
No man is naturally righteous since Adam, excepting the man Christ Jesus: some that are righteous in their own opinion, and in the esteem of others, are not truly and really so; none are righteous, or can be justified in the sight of God by the works of the law; those only are righteous men, who are made so through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to them: and such a righteous man is here intended, who believes in Christ with the heart unto righteousness, who lays hold on Christ’s righteousness, and receives it by faith; in consequence of which he lives soberly, righteously, and godly, though not without sin, since there is no such just man upon earth. Now for such a man the law was not made; which must be understood not of its original constitution and make, for it was certainly made for, and given to Adam, who was a righteous man, and was written upon his heart in a state of innocence; and who had a positive law made also for him, and given to him as a trial of his obedience to this: it was also delivered to the Israelites on Mount Sinai, who were, many of them, at least, righteous men; and besides all this, the law was made for Jesus Christ; he was the end, the mark, and scope at which it aimed, and for whose sake it was given to Israel, that he might be made under it, and fulfil it. Nor does this expression deny all use of the law to a righteous man, which has been pointed out on the preceding verse, but only removes an unlawful use, and a wrong end of the law: it never was made with any such view as to obtain righteousness by it; for, a righteous man, as Adam, in innocence, and all that are justified by Christ’s righteousness, need it not for such a purpose, because they are already righteous; and sinners can never attain to righteousness by it, since it cannot give life unto them: it is made therefore not for the former with the view now mentioned, but for the latter, and that both for the restraining of sin, and punishing of sinners. The words (dikaiw nomov ou keitai) , may be rendered, “the law does not lie upon a righteous man”, or against him. It does not lie as a weight or burden on him; its precept does not lie on him, as a task to be performed; nor does its penalty, the curse, lie on him as a punishment to be bore by him: it does not lie upon him, nor against him, as an accusing law, its mouth is stopped by the righteousness of Christ, by which he is denominated a righteous man; nor as a terrifying law, and bringing into bondage by its threats and menaces; nor as a rigorous law, obliging to obedience in a forcible and compulsive way; seeing there is no need of it, the righteous man delights in it, and cheerfully serves it, and the love of Christ constrains him to obey it freely. And much less does it lie on him, or against him as a cursing or condemning law, since Christ has redeemed him from the curse of it.
But for the lawless and disobedient;
by the “lawless” are meant, not the Gentiles, which were without the written law, but such who have it, and despise and reject it, and live not according to it, but transgress it: and “the disobedient” design such who are not subject to it: who are sons of Belial, children without the yoke; who cast the law of the Lord behind their backs; who are not, nor can they be subject to it, without the powerful and efficacious grace of God. Now the law lies upon, and against such persons, as an accusing, terrifying, cursing, and condemning law.”
We must not be deceived — the Christian is still very much connected to the spiritual law of God and all of the extant commandments, admonitions, reproofs, exhortations, and so on, associated with it. The Christian is not under such law, or in bondage to such law, or under the curse/penalty of such law, but has been set free, in newness of (spiritual) life, to love said law, to serve said law, and to delight in it. The Christian is now at liberty, as the Spirit of God enables, to keep the commandments of God and to obey His word. The Christian needn’t do this perfectly seeing that he/she is already perfectly righteous in Christ Jesus, by the righteousness He is to us, and that He established for us, and that God imputes to us (if we are His).
Some say that the law demands “all or nothing,” “perfect obedience or no obedience.” Though this is true concerning the reprobate, concerning those who were never chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), and who are thus going about to establish a righteousness of their own… this is not true for the quickened child of God. Despite the common, but nonetheless erroneous assertions to the contrary, there is no requirement of perfection for the born again children of God, even to those seeking to sincerely love and obey God’s spiritual law, by the grace and effectual working of God. Again, because we are not under the law, or subject to it, we are free to follow after it, serve it, obey it, without fearing the need for perfection in such endeavors (though we are ever dependent upon God for grace, mercy, and effectual strength to do so). All the good we do, God works out in us, in accordance with what He before ordained for us — so where is there this supposed perfection-requirement for those already perfect in Christ? Christ is our Perfection; He is our objective Righteousness (being The LORD our Righteousness), and we are free, at liberty, to serve Him, His word, and His spiritual law in love, seeing that love is manifested by obedience to His law.
So in light of the above, I beseech you, beware of those who would warn you away from God’s extant/spiritual law, who would turn you away from it, and who would set it at nought before your eyes. Beware of those who do not distinguish the extant/spiritual law from the abrogated/put-away Mosaic Law. Beware of those who talk in abstracts, in generalities, who never define their terms (like “love” and “faith”) as they go about to set aside God’s spiritual law. I cannot stress enough… beware of such… They may be great milkmen; they may be the most impressive preachers of the cross, they may speak volumes on righteousness imputed, but they are antinomian (at best) or anomian (at worst) if they make the extant commandments of God of little worth or value to you.
Now, if you need examples of such error, or at least potential error (for it all boils down to how their words are interpreted), consider the following from a ‘sovereign grace’ preacher:
“There are people who actually think that they are doing the Law of God. I do not know what they are smoking-because it surely is very good to numb reality. Listen to the scriptures, “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;” Romans 3:9. You did not do the Law before Christ and even now you are incapable to do the Law.
If “the Law of God” in the above quote refers to the Mosaic law, then the speaker here is correct. However, if “the Law of God” refers to the spiritual/extant law, or if the speaker is incapable of distinguishing between the spiritual law and the Mosaic law, then the statement as it stands is a very dangerous and disturbing one. As worded, in light of such conflation and/or confusion, such a statement sets at nought the spiritual law, denying all that God has to say in Scripture regarding what we have been set free to do, in Him, by Him, and through Him, unto His declared glory — seeing that the Lord Jesus states in John 15:7-10:
“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” [Note: that abiding in God’s word, bearing fruit, and keeping the commandments are inseparable — they are all tied together in one].
I end with this, warning you all the more, let no man deceive you on these matters (as I was once deceived). Woe to them who are deceived and who do deceive; woe to the evil men and seducers [who] shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived; woe to them that hear the words of God’s curse, but who proceed to bless themselves in their hearts, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst (Deuteronomy 29:19-20) for God says that He will not spare them, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against them, and all the curses that are written in His word shall lie upon them, and the LORD shall blot out their name from under heaven. If God’s true people walk astray in such manner for a season, He will deal with them (perhaps quite firmly), but He will recover them, and show them the error of their ways. However, if they are mere pretenders, mere hirelings (no matter how sound their preaching may be otherwise), if they are none of His, then their fall will be a great one indeed. This is a mightily fearful thing; we must make our own calling and election sure. May God give us much wisdom, grace, and discernment — unto His glory. Amen.
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