The Christian and the Law -- By: Sumner Osborne

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 109:435 (Jul 1952)
Article: The Christian and the Law
Author: Sumner Osborne

The Christian and the Law

Sumner Osborne

It is difficult to see how the Apostle Paul could have more clearly set forth the truth of the Christian’s freedom from the law than he does in the opening verses of the seventh chapter of Romans. The first husband stands for the authority of the law and the second husband for Christ risen. To be under both at the same time Paul shows to be as bad as a woman having two husbands at once. But the Christian is not under both the law and Christ. Rather is he dead with Christ and no longer under the authority of the law, but united to Christ as risen from the dead; and in this new relationship he brings forth fruit unto God, fruit that the law was never able to produce in those under its authority.

Many of the inspired apostle’s expositors, however, do not seem to appreciate the force of his words in this part of his epistle. “Paul does not mean that we are free from the law in every sense,” they say. “He means that we are free from the law’s condemnation; but assuredly we are still under the law as our rule of life.” Then, because it is difficult to avoid the plain meaning of 2 Corinthians 3 that the law has been done away for the Christian, they explain, further, “We do not mean the Christian is under Moses’ law. That, of course, has passed away. But we refer to the moral law, which is above and beyond the law of Moses, has always been in effect and always will be. This the Christian is under as his rule of life.”

Now if these statements were merely an expression of concern on the part of some lest the doctrine of grace be abused, or a way of advocating subjection to the will of God, reason would be that we should bear with them. One, might regret the misuse of the Scriptural phrase, “under the law,”

but understand the good intentions and let it pass. But these teachers do not stop there. They go on to attack such men as J. N. Darby, C. I. Scofield, and many other godly teachers for holding serious error when they teach plainly what Paul taught, namely, that the Christian is not under the law at all. This, they say, is evil, and is a subtle form of the ancient heresy of antinomianism. Inasmuch, therefore, as the truth has been evil spoken of, it is needful that we inquire into just what is the law, what is its use, the Christian’s relation to it, and what is the Christian’s rule of life. This we shall seek to do in the following pages.

In making a study of the word “law” as used in the Scriptures, one soon discovers that it is a word that has several different meanings. For example, the command that God gave to Adam may be called a law inasmuch as <...

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