Chapter 19: Of the Law of God

  1. God gave to Adam a law of universal [comprehensive] obedience, written in his heart,1 and a specific precept of not eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. By this God bound [obligated] Adam and all his posterity to personal, entire [total], exact, and perpetual obedience. God promised life upon the fulfilling of the law,2 and threatened death upon the breach of it; God also endued [provided] Adam with power and ability to keep the law.3

1 Gen 1.27; Ecc 7.29 2 Rom 10.5 3 Gal 3.10, 12

  1. The same law that was first written in the heart of man continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness after the fall.4 It was delivered by God on Mount Sinai in ten commandments5 and was written in two tables. The first four commandments contain our duty towards God, and the other six our duty to man.

4 Rom 2.14-15 5 Dt 10.4

  1. Besides this law, commonly called the moral law, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel ceremonial laws, containing several typical [or typological – symbolic rites and rituals pointing to something else] ordinances. Some of these ordinances concerned worship, prefiguring [representing and pointing to] Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits.6 Some revealed various instructions about moral duties.7 All these ceremonial laws were appointed only to the time of reformation. They are now abrogated [cancelled or abolished] and taken away by Jesus Christ, the true Messiah and only Lawgiver, who was empowered by the Father for that purpose.8

6 Heb 10.1; Col 2.17 7 1Cor 5.7 8 Col 2.14, 16-17; Eph 2.14-16

  1. God also gave to Israel various judicial jaws, which expired [came to an end] when Israel ceased to be a nation. These laws no longer oblige anyone as part of that institution. Only their general principles of justice have enduring moral value.9

9 1Cor 9.8-10

  1. The moral law forever binds everyone to obedience, justified people as much as all others.10 It binds everyone not only in regard of its content but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator; who gave this law.11 Nor does Christ in the gospel in any way dissolve [release us from] our obligation to this law, but significantly strengthens it.12

10 Rom 13.8-10; Jas 2.8, 10-12 11 Jas 2.10-11 12 Mt 5.17-19; Rom 3.31

  1. True believers are not under the law as a covenant of works, to be justified or condemned by it.13 Nevertheless, it is of great use to them as well as to others because, as a rule of life, it informs them of the will of God and their duty, and it directs and binds them to walk accordingly. It also exposes the sinful pollutions of their natures, hearts and lives, so that – examining themselves by its light – they may come to further conviction of sin, humiliation for sin, and hatred against sin.14 It also grants a clearer sight of their need of Christ and the perfection of his obedience. In the same way, it is of use to the regenerate [born again] to restrain their corruptions, because it forbids sin. The threatenings of the law show what even their sins deserve and what afflictions in this life they may expect for them, even though they are freed from its curse and undiminished severity. The promises of the law also show them God’s approval of obedience, and what blessings they may expect when they obey it, even though those blessings are not owed to them by the law as a covenant of works. If someone does good and refrains [keeps] from evil because the law encourages good and deters from [discourages] evil, that is not evidence that he is under the law and not under grace.15

13 Rom 6.14; Gal 2.16; Rom 8.1; Rom 10.4 14 Rom 3.20; Rom 7.7 ff. 15 Rom 6.12-14; 1Pt 3.8-13

  1. These uses of the law are not contrary to the grace of the gospel, but rather sweetly comply [are in sweet accord or harmony] with it.16 The Spirit of Christ subdues and enables the will of man to do freely and cheerfully all that which the will of God, as revealed in the law, requires to be done.17

16 Gal 3.21 17 Ez 36.27