A Question I Was Asked:

Where Does the Law Stand in Repentance?

The Actual Question:

'I note that you refuse to emphasise the law and are opposed, for example, to the teaching of Theonomy. Your approach has probably been the general way in Protestantism, but has this way not led to people no longer even understanding the place, and importance, of real repentance?'

UK Apologetics Reply:

There is something in what you say. We do not emphasize the law just as the Apostles Paul and John, especially the former, clearly did not think it should be stressed, neither - if you consider it - did the writer of Hebrews (original document is unsigned, we don't know who wrote it). All the teaching and theological writing of the New Testament, mainly coming from Paul, refuses to stress the law but, rather, grace and faith are emphasized. When one group of Christians came to believe that law and gospel should stand together (at Galatia), Paul is utterly condemning towards their error.

However, it is correct to point out to new people who are coming to Christ that they are convicted under God's law and that that law stands over each and every unregenerate member of the human race waiting to exact it's penalty of eternal death. That is utterly clear and it does indeed need to be made clear but I fear that is now no longer stressed in this new evangelistic world of 'decision theology.' So it is unquestionably correct to say that probably not enough is said about law to new people who are coming to Christ, and, as the question implies, repentance will not be properly understood without this dimension of holy law.

Having said all of that, we also need to make it crystal clear that the slate is wiped completely clear at godly repentance. From that point forwards, the law no longer stands over any man or woman, just waiting to exact it's terrible penalty, for they are truly and genuinely saved and acquitted of all misdeeds in the very court of Heaven. These people then come under the grace of God, moreover, that grace is plainly not conditional upon 'good behaviour' as the Bible makes clear in many places. As long as the general life direction of such people remains on the kingdom of God in full focus, our God will forgive the failings and sins which certainly will still occasionally occur in all such lives. As a true servant of God, David still sometimes did terrible things, however, he stands forgiven and we will probably all meet him when we enter the Eternal State in God's Kingdom. The point is: God did not give up on him, neither will God give up on us. Despite his failings, it seems clear that David always remained in a repentant state of mind, never seeking to justify his misdeeds; that is the key for us too, when God's true people do succomb to wrongdoing, they will realise it soon afterwards and bitterly repent. The key is the communication of prayer between us and God, the danger is in justifying sin and becoming careless and a little arrogant in our spiritual lives.

So it is true to state that the law still retains a vital place in how we explain the Gospel to people, but we must also carefully explain the wonderful doctrine of grace and how that waits as a most wonderful spiritual umbrella to cover God's own true sons and daughters.
Robin A. Brace, October, 8th, 2009.