I was recently confronted by a passionate Christian. This individual was disturbed by a brief discussion I had offered on the three uses of the law. This person could not reconcile my audacious comment that the law leads us to Christ for our salvation and then Christ leads us back to the law for our sanctification (the moral use of the law; traditionally the third use). Though I had explained in the most clear and explicit fashion that keeping the law perfectly is impossible and that the grace of God under girds all our efforts, this parishioner found the idea of walking according to the precepts of the Lord to be anathema. “We are no longer under the law,” she argued. “Christ fulfilled the law, so that we do not have to follow it anymore, rather we follow Christ.” This form of thinking generally stems from a misunderstanding of the purposes of the law. Unlike many traditions, Reformed Theology emphasizes three uses of the law. If our only emphasis were on the first use, Luther would have won the day.
In a book written some years ago by Norman Geisler and Frank Turk, the authors sought to convince the readers that legislating morality was morally wrong. However, as many have pointed out, what is there to be legislated that is not moral? The common assumption– particularly from non Van Tilians– is that certain laws can be neutral. This is the dilemma of the parishioner. To affirm the abiding validity of God’s law is to place oneself under a moral standard. This moral standard, of course, is condemnatory, they argue; or worse: graceless. This picture–of course– is less than Biblical for David’s love for the law of God was sweeter than honey.
In the words of Vern Poythress the shadow of Christ is imprinted all over the law of Moses. However, this does not mean that Christ rejects or abolishes what He fulfills (Matthew 5:17). Instead, His coming and incarnation gives it (the law) greater meaning and crystallizes its true purpose. What the parishioner could not grasp is that in order to love Christ you must love His commandments.