Divine Law: A New Covenant Perspective -- By: Fred G. Zaspel

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 06:3 (Summer 1997)
Article: Divine Law: A New Covenant Perspective
Author: Fred G. Zaspel

Divine Law: A New Covenant Perspective

Fred G. Zaspel


At least part of what makes the subject of divine law such a rewarding area of study is the wide range of biblical and theological issues which it touches. The study takes the student from the many passages bristling with exegetical challenges to hermeneutical issues such as redemptive history and typology and on through to theological categories such as ecclesiology, soteriology, even eschatology. But most rewarding of all, as we should expect, the study finds its culmination in the person and work of Christ. It is to this end that our study should always lead us.

Further, as is widely recognized among Christian interpreters, it is a biblical-theological approach which most easily and most accurately facilitates this pursuit. Like so many other teachings of the Scriptures, we should expect to find the doctrine of divine law progressively unfolded throughout the history of redemption. Specific issues of discussion (and dispute!) are best treated in this context.

Law Before Moses

Survey. The subject begins virtually with history itself. “The law was given through Moses” (John 1:17), to be sure, but of course that is not to say that before Moses there was no law from God. Indeed, we so take this for granted that when we read in the Old Testament of pre-Mosaic sinners judged for their wickedness we never stop to ask what law code it was which they had violated and to which they were held accountable. We very naturally and very rightly understand that they knew better. And, in fact, if we would stop to ask the question of the apostle Paul, his answer would be the same: they knew better. It is this very point he expounds at some length in Romans 1–2. “That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it

evident to them” (1:19). The knowledge man had (has) of God he has suppressed (1:18ff.). That is to say, man sinned even before Moses took the nature of rebellion. Man “approves”1 neither of God nor His law (1:28). Against God’s law man universally turned away, and did so even in the knowledge of the coming judgment (1:32).

Are there exceptions to this rule of universal rebellion? Only in degree. All have transgressed, and even those who “had not the law” instinctively knew and to some degree obe...

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