What Is “The Law”? -- By: Alva J. McClain

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 110:440 (Oct 1953)
Article: What Is “The Law”?
Author: Alva J. McClain

What Is “The Law”?

Alva J. McClain

Much of the controversy which has attended the Christian doctrine of salvation by grace has arisen about the place of the law in relation to the Christian believer. Various motives, some good and some bad, have led men to raise the issue. In recent years it has been raised by some good men with the best of intentions. They have been deeply grieved and disturbed by the failure of Christian people to live as those saved by grace should live. As a remedy for this distressing situation they have proposed that we should turn back to the law. We have failed, they argue, because the obligations of the “moral law” of God have not been laid upon consciences of the saved. The path of success in the Christian life, they say, will be found in getting the people to recognize that they are still under the moral law.

Now it should be clear that this problem of the relation of the law to Christian salvation and life cannot even be discussed intelligently until we have first determined precisely what is meant by “The Law” (ὁ νόμος). It is the purpose of this article to define its meaning in general New Testament usage.

1. The law is the written Mosaic law, including the entire Pentateuch. Thus in Galatians 3:10 the writer identifies the law with the entire “book of the law.” Our Lord speaks of “the law, or the prophets,” identifying the law with that part of our Old Testament comprised in its first five books, a well-known division in His day (Matt 5:17). The same identification appears in Luke 24:44 and Acts 28:23.

Not only so, but each one of the five books of the Pentateuch is identified as a portion of “the law.” When Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:34 commands the women “to be under

obedience, as also saith the law.” he undoubtedly is referring to Genesis 3:16. And quoting from the Book of Exodus (20:17) the apostle speaks of it as “the law” (Rom 7:7). Our Lord Himself refers “a certain lawyer” to a passage in Leviticus (19:18), indicating that it was “written in the law” (Luke 10:26–27). Again in Matthew 12:5 Christ cites a reference in You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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