Getting Off the Legalism-Laxness Seesaw (Part 2 of 4)

This is the second installment of Pastor Larry Wilson’s summary of part 1 of The Marrow of Modern Divinity, which was written in 1645 by Edward Fisher. It addresses the nature of God’s law and our sinful tendencies to either seek salvation through our own obedience or to do dismiss it all together.

PART 2—GUILT (“the law of works”)

First, we need to get straight that apart from Christ, all people are under “the law of works.” This is what we call “the covenant of works.” (See WCF 7:2). The only way to be right with God in the covenant of works is to obey God’s moral law. Its basic principle is “Do this, and you will live” (Lk. 10:28). As God’s creatures made in his image—and as fallen creatures deceived about God by Satan’s lies—we’re “wired” that way. Even as Christians in the state of grace, we still incline towards this “law of works.” We tend to think that God’s attitude toward us depends on how well or how poorly we perform. The fatal problem with that is that the holy God requires perfect obedience—inside and out. And that’s something we sinners cannot render.

But “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4–5). Under the law as a covenant of works, Jesus perfectly did all that the law requires. He perfectly performed all our duty for us. Jesus also offered himself as the perfect sacrifice. He perfectly paid all our debt for us. That’s why God’s Word declares that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4). Through Christ’s finished work on our behalf, God sets us free from “the law of works” (see Rom. 6:14; 7:4–6). As believers in Jesus, we’re never again under the law as a covenant of works. Thanks to Jesus, God’s law can never again condemn us (see Romans 8:1).

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Brett McNeill

Brett McNeill has been our pastor since we began in 2004. He and Jen have been married since 1998 and have four wonderful daughters. Brett is a graduate of Westminster Seminary in California (Masters in Divinity, 2003). His desire is to clearly proclaim Jesus Christ from all of Scripture in a way that is clear, convicting and encouraging.