Errors of the church of Christ (25) – Sequence, Law, and Cecil Hook

6. The CC seems to make a distinction between the “law of God” and the “law of Christ,” as if there were two law systems operating in the Bible. But isn’t it correct that the Bible teaches that “the law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul” (Psalm 19:7)? And isn’t the law of Christ described as perfect (James 1:25)? What law is then perfect—both the “law of God” and the “law of Christ,” because they are one and the same!

RT – Nothing I can add to this, but one thing: Are you sure you want to accentuate the word “law”? After all, you have been repelled by that word throughout this treatise.

7. What source does Jesus quote when he declares, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”? Isn’t it Leviticus 19:18? Aren’t all Ten Commandments repeated or alluded to in the New Testament? What is the context of the law of Christ in Galatians 6? Isn’t it bearing others’ burdens with the glory only in the cross of Christ?

RT – The Ten Commandments are mentioned in one way or another in the New Testament, but what is it you are trying to say by this? Do you desire to maintain that the Ten Commandments are for us under the new covenant to obey? **** Based on a previous remark of yours, I find it interesting that you are interested in the context of Galatians 6. That the “cross of Christ” is connected with the life and death of Jesus is a given, but just exactly what do you think that “cross of Christ” entails? A “law” by its very nature is a standard by which another will be judged. That standard can either be compromised or obeyed. What in the “cross of Christ” tells us to bear one another’s burdens? Are verses 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 in the law of Christ (or, the cross of Christ)?  

Please bear with us on some further thoughts on the Law of Christ. As Cecil Hook points out (chapter 7 beginning on page 20, Repentance Before Faith), an incorrect interpretation of this turns Jesus into a diabolical creature if we think of him giving us a law and then saving us from our transgressions of that law. It would be like someone pushing you down into a well, then throwing you a rope. Besides making Jesus into a nasty character, this idea is not biblical. John 3:17 says that “God sent his son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved by him.” So, whatever Paul means by the law of Christ, it is not meant to be something that condemns us! It must therefore mean that the law of Christ is a phrase that merely emphasizes or  gives certainty to what Paul preaches continuously in the New Testament—that we are saved by faith in Jesus. This fact (belief in Jesus for salvation), then, is so certain that it becomes a law, like a law of logic, or a law of physics—something given us by God rather than a set of commands to be obeyed.

RT – Cecil Hook is no one’s authority. If you desire to have him teach you, that is your prerogative; I won’t. If there is a God-ordained “law” of any sort it is man’s obligation to comply with that God-ordained standard, and this you know is true. Thus, regardless of what Hook says (or any other), the Lord said what He did, and for man to not obey that which has its origin in heaven is deadly. Moreover, Hook (and you, evidently) failed to understand how “law” is applied in eternal things. A standard of right has been set forth by God. When man fails to meet that standard of right conduct – which is God’s law – then it is not God who thrusts the man down the well, but the actions of man that put himself there. Consequently, when the rope is let down for man to grab hold of, it is the Lord’s mercy that prompts it. Jesus did not come to condemn (John 3:17), but in His coming He did come to instruct (Titus 2:11-12). If man lives by that instruction, then he has reached for the rope Jesus let down into the well – a well that we were residing in when he came (and still are in if we refuse to obey). Perhaps you ought to look at John 3:18-21 to get a better and clearer picture. Only someone with your theological persuasion would and could say: “So, whatever Paul means by the law of Christ, it is not meant to be something that condemns us! It must therefore mean that the law of Christ is a phrase that merely emphasizes or gives certainty to what Paul preaches continuously in the New Testament—that we are saved by faith in Jesus.”

 

8. We have heard Church of Christ people say that when Paul speaks of not being saved by “law” he is only saying he is not saved by the “Law of Moses.” But please look at Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5 again. Here Paul does not use the term law or law of Moses. He uses the term “works.” And please consider Romans 13:10 in Young’s Literal Translation: “Love therefore is the fulness of law.” Note that in the Greek there is no “the” in front of “law,” making law a general term and not just a reference to Old Testament law. Isn’t Paul making a general case that we are not saved by works of any kind?

RT –Yes, it is the case that man is not saved by works, and it is the case that Ephesians 2 is not addressing the Law of Moses. You will note, however, in 2:8 that Paul gives clarity to what we are to understand. The ESV reads, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” Paul’s point is that no man is saved by his own doing; to say it differently, there is nothing that originates in man that he can do to be saved – this would be a work (or, the works) of man. Man’s salvation is a gift from God, as salvation has originated in God. That is the point, the only point!  The point in Ephesians is the same in Titus.

9. Note Galatians 3:21, again in Young’s Literal Translation. Doesn’t Paul make it clear that no law can give life? And Galatians 3:25: doesn’t Paul further clarify that we are not under any law (“guardian”)?

RT – Here you fail to notice the context. Galatians 3 is speaking of the Law of Moses, and it is THAT to which he addresses his remarks. The context makes this abundantly clear going back into even chapter 2. The Law of Moses, by its very nature (or God’s design) was not intended to save anyone (Acts 13:39); however, under the old covenant, one could not be in good standing (or, saved) with the Lord without having obeyed His will in regards to the law.

10. Do you think that only those laws that are repeated in the New Testament from the Old Testament are valid? Where is such principle of interpretation found in the Bible? We think that the better method of interpretation is that there are some laws that are cancelled or their importance neutralized in the New Testament (specifically the Jewish ceremonial and civil laws); the rest remain in effect (the moral laws).

RT – With regard to your two questions, the only proper way to answer is to allow the passage under consideration to make clear what is in view – this is known as context. I am not sure who “we” is, but if this is what you think is the better method then perhaps the question ought to be turned around on you: What principle of interpretation warrants a delineation of laws when the context speaks nothing about such a distinction? For instance, where does the New Testament delineate between moral and civil law?  

11. Is there any new law in the New Testament, or only new forgiveness and the fulfillment of the shadows of this forgiveness found in the Old Testament? (Here are all the scriptures in the New Testament about a “new covenant” or “new law”: Mt 26:28Lk 22:20, 1 Cor 11:25, 2 Cor 3:6Heb 8:8-13Heb 9:15Heb 12:24Gal 6:2James 2:8-13. Do you notice a theme?)

RT – Your question is not clear to me, so I will answer as best I can. When Jesus came to the earth He came to fulfill the Scriptures (Matthew 5:17-18). When He spoke to those who were opposed to Him, He inquired as to their effort in searching the Scripture, and it was those that testified to Him (John 5:39-40). After He was raised from the dead, when He gave His commission to His chosen apostles, He said that all things written were fulfilled by Him (Luke 24:44). Paul said on two occasions that the Law of Moses, being fulfilled, was nailed to the cross (Ephesians 2:14-16 and Colossians 2:14-15).

12. Cecil Hook in the preceding reference link also suggests that the CC formula HEAR/BELIEVE/REPENT/CONFESS/BE BAPTIZED may be flawed, at least in the order given. Hook points out that the 3 times in Scripture that belief and repentence are coupled together in the Bible, repentance actually precedes belief! How can that be? Read his explanation. Clue: It has to do with the New Testament view of the purpose of the law.

RT – Is this the best that can be done? Peter told the Pentecostian crowd to repent and be baptized; he told those in Jerusalem to repent and turn again; Philip preached to the Samaritans, and when the locals heard they believed and were baptized; when Philip helped the man of Ethiopia understand the Scripture, he preached Jesus unto him. The eunuch saw water and asked about being baptized; when Paul was in Corinth, the Corinthians heard Paul, believed his message, and were baptized. In all this, all you have to call into question is what Cecil Hook said about the sequence??? 

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