Friday, September 30, 2016

What is a Reformed Church: Church (Part 3b)

Irresistible Grace

Irresistible Grace teaches that God intends to save a person, the grace given to him or her at that time will most definitely result in his or her salvation. It does not teach that sinners can never resist God's grace, for we all do that all the time, but that the grace which intends to save will save.

Historically, this is grouped together in the Canons of Dordt in discussions of Total Depravity, in the Third ad Fourth Heads of Doctrine. This was done as both of them had to do with the will of Man. Concerning Total Depravity, did depravity extend to the human will? Concerning grace, is saving grace resistible by the will of Man? The answer is that the grace which saves will effect its own work on the human will. Or to cite from the Canons:

In this way, therefore, faith is a gift of God, not in the sense that it is offered by God for man to choose, but that it is in actual fact bestowed on man, breathed and infused into him. Nor is it a gift in the sense that God bestows only the potential to believe, but then awaits assent--the act of believing--from man's choice; rather, it is a gift in the sense that he who works both willing and acting and, indeed, works all things in all people produces in man both the will to believe and the belief itself. (CD 3/4: 14).

Biblically, it is God the Spirit that brings people to spiritual life (Ezek. 37:1-10; Jn. 3:5-6). The ones who come to Jesus in faith are drawn by the Father through the Spirit (Jn. 6:44). Thus, the Spirit brings life to believers effecting the drawing of the elect to faith in Christ.

Perseverance of the Saints

Perseverance of the Saints teaches that those who are truly saved by Christ will persevere in the faith and will not lose their faith. This was opposed by the Remonstrants and even John Wesley, who believed that perseverance is conditional upon faith. Now, both sides believe that Christians ought to have faith. The question is not whether faith is necessary for salvation, neither is it whether professing believes can fall away, but rather who is responsible for upholding personal faith. (Concerning the first, everyone agrees that faith is necessary for salvation. Concerning the second, Scripture itself states that those who fall away were never true believers in the first place (1 Jn. 2:19).) Thus on the issue of real difference, Calvinists say that it is God who will sustain the faith of someone who is truly saved, while Arminians will put the onus on the believer to sustain his or her personal faith.

Biblically, in John 6:37b, Jesus implies that He is keeping His sheep safe, and in verse 44b, He promises the person drawn by the Father will be present "on the last day." In John 10:28, Jesus clearly states that no one can take His sheep out of His hand. "No one" means that we ourselves cannot take ourselves out of the saving hand of Christ. The reason why the saints will persevere is not because they are such great and good individuals, but because the God they believe in IS great and powerful to save. Thus, we can say:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (Rom. 8:31-35)

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39)

No one is able to separate us from Christ and His love, and that includes us ourselves.

What is a Reformed Church: Church (Part 3a)

Reformed Church Distinctive: TULIP

In the history of the Reformed Church, errors of various kinds have crept into in an attempt to subvert the faith. One such error was Arminianism, which was condemned at the Synod of Dort in 1618-1619. Due to the international (for its time) scope of the Synod, this Synod approximates an ecumenical council to a large extent, and therefore to the degree that it is biblical, which we think it is, it is binding on the Reformed churches and tradition.

Arminianism is the theological system that came out of the teachings of Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), a Dutch Reformed minister in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Arminius professed to hold to the Reformed doctrines and was at one time even a professor at the theological faculty of Leiden University, training pastors for the Dutch Reformed church. But things were not as they seem. Arminius' students began to profess and teach doctrines contrary to the Reformed faith, and they ascribe their new teachings to Arminius himself. Arminius' followers were called the Remonstrants because they remonstrated against what they see as unbiblical teachings, and wanted the Dutch Reformed church to amend its standards to tolerate Arminius' teachings.

Due to social and political considerations, it was not until 1618 that a synod was able to assemble to address the Remonstrants. In order to get more counsel, delegates from the various Reformed churches were invited to participate in the deliberations of the Synod at Dordt, and most of them came with a few exceptions (e.g. the Reformed church in France could not send delegates under the threat of expulsion from the nation). At the synod, Arminianism was examined and condemned as false teaching that "summon back the Pelagian error" (Canons of Dordt, Second Point of Doctrine, Rejection of Errors 3). Needless to say, the Remonstrants were ejected from the Dutch Reformed church after the council.

A major distinctive of Reformed churches, and what ought to be the case in churches that have historical roots in the Reformed tradition (Anglican, Methodist), is the rejection of Arminianism. Now of course, there is not one single type of Arminianism. That is why Arminianism is not necessarily a damnable heresy. But Classical Remonstrant Arminianism is heresy. In fact, church history bore out this judgment in the further apostasy of one of the Remonstrants Conrad Vorstius into Socinianism, and many Remonstrants later became Rationalists.

The Canons of Dordt therefore has acquired a quasi-ecumenical status in the Reformed tradition. Calvinism, as expressed in the acrostic TULIP: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints, is part of the Reformed faith. All Reformed are Calvinists, although Calvinists may not be Reformed. To deny Calvinism is to deny the Reformed faith, and thus to put oneself in danger of further error leading away from the Christian faith.

Total Depravity

Total Depravity teaches that all humans are depraved in every aspect of their being. It does not teach that all people are as wicked as they could be. Rather, the focus of Total Depravity is that there is not any one aspect of mankind that is not tainted by sin. Even the will of Man is affected by sin so that nobody can choose God of his own free will, not because he cannot do so if he wants to, but that he is unable to want to do so (CD, 3/4).

The Remonstrants claim to believe in Total Depravity, which is why the third and fourth articles of doctrine are combined in the Canons of Dordt, to show that they actually do not hold to Total Depravity. In the Remonstrant system, man is "totally depraved" but his will is not depraved enough to choose God, whether that comes about naturally or by some prevenient grace. But in Reformed theology, Total Depravity implies that humans by our own nature cannot choose God (Rom. 3:10-11). Left to ourselves, no one would choose to believe in the true God, and therefore it is only God that can save us.

Unconditional Election

Unconditional election teaches that God elects whom He wants to save, and He elects those whom He saves apart from any condition whatsoever, or any supposed virtue, in sinners. In other words, election unto salvation is not for some "deserving" individuals, but that God elects and saves those whom He wills, based on nothing in the sinner.

This is opposed to the Arminian idea that God elects whom to save based upon foreseen faith. In this view, God sees down the hallway of time so to speak, and then saves those who puts their faith in Him. Election unto salvation according to Arminianism is conditional upon faith, but that is not taught in Scripture, which makes election dependent purely on God's good pleasure (Eph. 1:11). God will have compassion on those whom He will have compassion, and He will harden those He wants to harden (Rom. 9:14-18). Out of the same lump of clay, God will destine one for salvation and another for damnation (Rom. 9:21), and there is no injustice to God in doing that. For "who are you, O Man, to answer back to God?" (Rom. 4:20).

Limited or Definite Atonement

Limited or Definite Atonement is the teaching that Jesus came to save a definite people. This is opposed to the Arminian teaching that Jesus came to die for all people without exception (thus "limited" as a contrast to the Remonstrants' "unlimited" atonement). Calvinists note that the use of the words "all" and "world" need to be qualified by their surrounding contexts, for surely "all the world" in Luke 2:1 means all of the Roman world, not the entire world. Therefore, verses that are claimed to teach an atonement for "all" and for "the world" need to be likewise qualified and interpreted.

Scripture is clear that Jesus came to die for His sheep (Jn. 10:15), and not everyone is of His sheep (Jn. 10:26). All the Father gives to the Son will be saved (Jn 6:37). Jesus came to die for His Bride, not for anyone else. There is a singular intention in all of God's actions in salvation (Eph. 1:9-10), including Jesus' death on the Cross to atone for our sins.

Monday, September 26, 2016

What is a Reformed Church: Church (Part 2)

Pure and Less Pure churches

IV. This catholic Church has been sometimes more, sometimes less visible. And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.

V. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there shall be always a Church on earth to worship God according to His will.

(Westminster Confession of Faith 25.4-5)

The church is created by the Word of God. Yet it consists of sinful humans, we who still retain the old sinful nature within us. What do you get when a bunch of sinners come together? They sin of course. Sin is not just about external morality but it includes other things like pride and arrogance, and thus even the good things and virtues we have including our intellects can be used to sin against God and against each other.

The ideal for a church, as the Body of Christ, called by Him and instituted by Him, is holiness. That is what the church is called to be. But sin is ever present in her members, and thus the church is not subjectively holy. How many times have believers been hurt by someone within the church? Probably quite often I would imagine. Even with the best of intentions, our words may be said intemperately causing hurt instead of comfort to the ones receiving them. Thus, the church struggles with sin in her members, some more than others.

It is this reality that the Reformed faith acknowledges, in speaking of the pure and the less pure church. Among true churches, some believers in some churches are obviously more godly and kinder than others, and some are better in preserving orthodoxy than others. All of them are true churches, yet they vary in how pure they truly are. But since we are not saved by works, so therefore there is nothing wrong with churches falling on a spectrum as believers individually work out their own sanctification processes in varying degrees in various churches.

The introduction of the spectrum between pure and less churches should help us move away from an ideal and unrealistic view of the church. There are indeed true and false churches, but if we stick to only this distinction, then there is a real temptation for a believer to see struggles with sin in his church as evidence that his church is a false church, instead of a true church that is struggling with sin.

Therefore, the Reformed church does not substitute the new law of Rome (complete with her sacerdotal office and seven sacraments) with another set of "law" (full adherence to purity of doctrine and practice). Rather, while the marks of the true church are indeed marks of the true church, progressive sanctification in the life of believers and in the life of a church is recognized. The ideal is for us to strive towards, while recognizing the reality of sin among believers.

The idea that there is the true and the false church, while among the true churches there are purer and less pure churches, is helpful to us in this time where many different churches abound. There is a truism that states "there is no perfect church" and that is certainly true. No church is perfect and made up of perfect people. In this sense, when we are disappointed with people in the church, it is "normal." There is no need to denounce the church and leave her, since you are just as much a sinner as the one who offended you. When there is conflict in the church, we should aim for reconciliation and forgiveness, not revenge. There is no perfect church and one should not expect there to be a perfect church. Struggle instead with living lives with others who will definitely hurt and offend you just as much as you will do the same to them. Learn to forgive others just as Christ forgive you (Mt. 6:12).

At the same time, while it is true that no church is perfect, there is a wrong way to interpret that, which is to use it to deny the distinction between the true and the false church. The truism could be abused to allow heresy into the church and to keep people in a church that teaches heresy. Here is one place where Reformed churches would disagree with the current Evangelical mindset, where believers think they should stay in false churches in an attempt to change her from the inside. But what does Scripture teach? "Go out from their midst, and be separate from them" (2 Cor. 6:17 c.f. Is. 52:11). We are not to think we can subvert (for that is what it is) a false church from the inside, but rather believers should always join true churches and undertake evangelism of false churches from the outside.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

What is a Reformed Church: Church

The Visible and Invisible Church

There are churches, and there are churches. In this period of history, there is what we might call the democratization of the church. The church is seen to come into being when a bunch of Christians come together to form a community of believers. While not denying that the church is called by God, modern people understand the calling to refer to the invisible church, not the visible church. The visible church is seen as the community of believers. A person is thus called into the (invisible) church and then joins the visible church as a profession of faith.

Earlier, we talked about the thematic markers of a Reformed church, which are mentioned here again as follows:

  1. We hold to the unity of internal and external piety
  2. We hold to a historical progression of God's plan in the history of the church
  3. Therefore, we hold to the importance of consulting the wisdom and insights of our forebears.
  4. Therefore, we hold to the importance of the creeds and confessions of the historic Christian church.

Thematic marker one is what we want to focus on here as we discuss the nature of the church. We see that the unity of internal and external piety means that we should not create a false dichotomy between the internal and the external. When it comes to the church, we likewise should not make a false dichotomy between the internal and the external, between the invisible and the visible. Look at Scripture and you will not see such a dichotomy made. When the apostles speak about the church, they see it as a whole. The categories of invisible and visible are helpful heuristically, but we must understand that we should not so separate them such that there is no real relation between the invisible and the visible.

So what does that mean for us? It means that the democratization of the church is in error. Since there is no sharp separation between the visible and the invisible church, the church is not primarily a community of believers. Rather, the church is the institution ordained by God. One is called by God to join the church He has ordained and set in place.

The church is ordained by God, and is created by the Word and Spirit, as it is shown in the book of Acts. Thus, while the notion of "apostolic succession" is unbiblical, there is an organic continuity from the apostolic age to the church ordained by Christ in the present age. This rules out any and all independent churches where any Tom, Dick or Harry proclaims himself a pastor and goes out to plant a church. Rather, the organic continuity called for in the Scriptures is that of faithful men entrusting other men with the Gospel, who will do the same with the Gospel entrusted to them (2 Tim. 2:2). A Reformed church, following this biblical pattern, will share an organic continuity with other Reformed churches, and thus the pastor is not some maverick out there doing his own thing, but he is a person brought up and entrusted with the Gospel he received from other faithful men, being brought up under their leadership and guidance.

Marks of a true church

This alone does not of course resolve the question of what a Reformed church is, since there are many other established church bodies. Besides seeing the church as an institution with organic continuity, the Reformed church also see from Scripture that a true church must have three distinctive marks: the right preaching of the Gospel, the right administration of the sacraments, and the right practice of church discipline (c.f. Belgic Confession 29). Since the Gospel is the message of Christ unto salvation, then a church without the true Gospel cannot be a true church. As the sacraments are performed words of the Gospel, therefore to wrongly administer then is to be in error in an aspect of Gospel proclamation. Lastly, to not rightly practice church discipline means that false teachings and heresies and ungodly practices are tolerated within the church (contra Titus 3:10), and thus the preaching of the Gospel is brought into disrepute.

Since the church is created by the Word, it should be seen how important the three marks of the church are. The teaching of the marks of the church was borne in the Reformation so as to differentiate the true church from the false church which claimed to be the church, the Roman Catholic Church. The marks of course is applicable beyond Roman Catholicism, and we can use that to test the various church bodies. Besides the conservative Reformed, conservative Presbyterian, conservative Lutheran, some Anglican, some Methodist and some Baptist churches, most church bodies today do not match up to these three marks of a true church.

Some will ask what the point of such an exercise is. Are we trying to be unloving and be narrow-minded against other Christians? By no means! But Christ's Church must be the Church, and since Christ has instituted the Church, He is the one who must define who she is and what she is. It is not loving to pretend that a society of professing Christians constitute a church when the Scripture says otherwise. Christ will define His church, and we have no right to disagree with Him.

The Reformed church is a true church, but not all true churches are Reformed churches. Some Anglicans are Reformed, and some Methodists may be Reformed despite their heritage, and some Baptists might be Reformed despite their deficiency on the second mark (right administration of the sacraments). So the two main groups of the true church are the Reformed and the Lutheran. The Reformed and Lutheran, assuming where both are confessional, differ on a few matters primarily on the teaching on the Lord's Supper, which we shall mention again later. But we note here that the category of a true church, while to some extent it seems narrow, is actually a broad category flexible enough to accommodate some differences in understanding of baptism and the Lord's Supper. It only seems narrow to us because we have fallen so far in our understanding of the church in this modern era of the democratization of the church.

Friday, September 16, 2016

What is a Reformed Church: Sanctification (Part 3)

The means of sanctification

In the practice of sanctification, are there disciplines we should be doing in the Christian life that will enrich our walk with God? What did God prescribe to us for our growth in godliness?

This question is a very practical one now, and it was a practical question back then during the Reformation. Medieval piety had plenty of options for those who were devout, ranging from fasting, pilgrimages, penance and joining monasteries or nunneries. Spiritual disciplines were promoted as actions or practices that one could engage in to grow in holiness. Far from being an arid desert, the medieval period was a great time for piety with a huge variety of options. Even for those seeking to join a monastry, one had many choices stretching from the Dominicans to the Benedictines to the lay Brethren of the Common Life. Whatever one wishes to say about the medieval period, a lack of spiritual exercises isn't it.

The Reformation came about in the midst of a great variety of spiritual exercises, and rejected almost all of them. Monasteries and nunneries were closed, mandatory fasting rules from meat on Fridays were purposefully violated, and all manner of "impiety" occurred. Martin Luther even had books of canon law burned together with the papal bull that excommunicated him from the Medieval Catholic Church. To promoters of Roman Catholic piety, the Reformation was a time of great impiety and gross wickedness.

The Reformers of course were not promoting impiety. But it is true that they were "impious" from the standpoint of medieval practice. That should inform us that the Reformation was a full rejection of the whole idea of "spiritual disciplines" or "exercises." Reformed piety is not about inventing set times of spiritual activities which one labor in before God. It is not about doing things before God, so what exactly is Reformed piety about?

The Reformed tradition uses the term "means of grace" (c.f. WSC 88) to speak about the gifts that God gives to believers for our benefit. In other words, instead of "spiritual disciplines" being about "ascending" to God with our piety, it is rather God that "descends" to us. For who will ascend to heaven to heaven to bring Christ down? (c.f. Rom. 10:6) Rather than us working our piety towards God, in the means of grace God descends to us and give us His grace. We do not engage in "works of piety" to become godly. Rather, we come to the means of grace and engage in them to receive grace from God. We do not come to give to God, but to receive from God.

The means of grace are the preaching of the Word, the partaking of the sacraments, and prayer (WSC 88, c.f. HC65). Notably absent from the list are fasting, frequency of set prayers, contemplative meditation, religious pilgrimages, or even "serving God" in "lay ministry" and parachurch organizations. Now, we know that fasting is appropriate (Mt. 6:16-18), but fasting is only appropriate as an extension of prayer, and done in the same spirit. In other words, fasting is not more spiritual if it is of a longer duration, or if it includes harsher conditions (e.g. fasting from water as well as from food). In fact, it is not about how spiritual one is at all when one fasts, or doesn't fast.

The means of grace, being God's gift, is for us to partake to get strength from God. It is for the weak, not for those looking to be more "spiritual." In fact, as being means of grace, it particularly unsuited for the "super-spiritual." For it is not the well who needs a doctor, but the sick (Mt. 9:12). In fact, if one thinks that he is really very spiritual, then one ought to forego the means of grace altogether! But of course to say that shows only that one is unaware of his sinfulness before God (1 Jn. 1:8,10)

Instead of "spiritual disciplines," Reformed piety and sanctification forego these as being worthless for true piety. Instead, we focus on the means of grace that God has given in, and partake of them as weak saints needing desperately the nourishment of Christ. Thus, when we fast, we may fast more because we are greatly burdened, but we do not pass judgment on another who doesn't. In fact, those who don't fast might be doing better spiritually than us at that time, and in that we rejoice for them.

What is a Reformed Church: Sanctification (Part 2)

The practice of sanctification

Sanctification is to be done by the power of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:3, 5:16). While it is we who need to be striving towards holiness, we are not to be striving on our own strength but in dependence upon the Holy Spirit who empowers us.

The practice of sanctification comes in two parts: Mortification, putting to death the Old Man (2 Cor. 5:17), or putting to death the sinful desires, and Vivification, the bringing to life the New Man, or endeavoring to live in new obedience. Mortification is to be done by repentance of sins committed, while vivification is to be done by having one's mind fixated on not doing the previous sin but instead doing what God commands, a turn-around from the previous sins. This is succinctly presented as follows:

Q87: What is repentance unto life?
A: Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, does, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience (Westminster Shorter Catechism 87)

There are two dangers when it comes to the practice of sanctification. The first danger is to neglect the practice of sanctification and think that sanctification is automatic. It is true that sanctification flows from the new life in Christ, but we are called to strive to be holy, which requires making conscious effort towards godliness. The second danger is to over-emphasize sanctification such that the Christian life become fixated on holiness. Yes, holiness is important, but Christians still sin while on this world.

The first danger is a real danger. Nevertheless, the tendency is towards the second danger, because over-emphasizing sanctification lets people move towards works-righteousness while seemingly they preserve the true Gospel. When it comes to practice, the tendency for the flesh is to make personal holiness into a standard for evaluating whether a person is or is not a "real Christian," whether as applied to himself or, more commonly, to others. All of such is legalism. Yes, all believers are to grow in holiness, but sometimes sanctification is gradual and people change slowly. We must also understand that it is the natural temperament of some people to be more moral in certain areas. Therefore, a person, Person A, naturally deficient in temperament may look more ungodly than Person B who has a better natural endowment, who could be a new Christian but might not even be a believer. Since natural temperament varies a lot, we should refrain from passing hasty judgments about how much or how little sanctified a person might be, for how would you know his background?

The practice of sanctification is personal, for one's own striving towards holiness. It is not meant to be used to judge and condemn fellow believers for failing to live up to whatever standard, biblical though they might be, unless they are outright, obvious and serious sins. We are to exhort each other towards greater holiness, but that is different from condemning others for failing to live up to your standards no matter how godly they may personally be. After all, "it is before his own master that he stands or falls" (Rom. 14:4). If one is to desire greater holiness in the people of God, pray for the continual proclamation of the true Gospel, the continual calling to repentance and faith, and the continual exhortation to holiness, then let the Spirit of God do His work in the hearts of men.

What is a Reformed Church: Sanctification (Part 1)

Sanctification: The necessity of sanctification

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Heb. 12:12-14)

Q35: What is sanctification?
A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness. (Westminster Shorter Catechism 35)

Justification is an act, a single event, whereby God declares the sinner who believes as righteous. Sanctification is a process whereby a person grows towards holiness and to manifest the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 6:22-23). A person is not saved by how holy they are, or how much of the fruit of sanctification they display. Justification is God's gift to the ungodly while they are ungodly (Rom. 4:5). Sanctification however is God's will for us after we have been justified (Eph. 2:10, 1 Thess. 4:3). The reason why we should strive to be holy is because we have already been declared righteous before God. Since we are righteous, we should strive to live according to our new status. We do not become holy so as to be right before God, but we try to be holy because we are already right before God. We do not try to please an angry God, but rather we live so as to please God who is our Father who loves us (Gal. 4:6, Heb. 12:7-12)

While sanctification does not save us, it is necessary for the Christian life, for that is what God calls us to. Someone who is truly saved will want to please God. As the Scriptures say, "Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?" (Rom. 6:1-2). When God regenerated and justified us, we are given a new life and are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Believers who are truly saved will want to grow in holiness and obedience towards God. We should not be under any illusion that we can be perfect in this life, since believers will always struggle with sin (Rom. 7:8-25), but yet we are to strive to be holy, as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-6).

What is sanctification?

Sanctification is "to become holy." "Holiness" is to live as if set apart from the world. It is to live a life not according to the principles of what the world thinks or does, but according to what God desires. It is to reject the three main temptations in this life: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 Jn. 2:16). But what does God desire and demand? We know what God desires through God's Word, in God's preceptive will, or the moral law. Whatever God tells us to do, we should obey. The main summary of God's law for us is the Ten Commandments, which are found in passages like Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. This moral law is summed up in the greatest command Jesus gave us, which is "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Mt. 22:37-9).

The moral law of God is what God commands us to do as what is morally good. The Law of God in the Scriptures can be divided into the ceremonial, the national and the moral law. Although such a division is not clearly stated neither is it clearly demarcated in Scripture, yet it is implied within the passages of Scripture, as passages such as Isaiah 58 show us. For in Isaiah 58, the moral demand of repentance is clearly placed on a higher level than the ceremonial demands of fasting and sacrifice. But if we interpret Isaiah 58 without those categories, then it seems that God is pitting one of His law against another, thus contradicting Himself.

This moral law of God is the standard upon which we can discern God's will and desire for us to live. Here, we have to understand the three uses of the law. First, this moral law is used to convict us of sin so that we will turn always to God. It is not just for the moment of conversion, but we are to remind ourselves of the law regularly because we sin regularly. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn. 1:9). Since we sin daily, we always are to remember the law and use it to drive us towards confession of our sins to God.

The second use of the law is the civil use, which is to remind and restrain society of sin. As the moral law is published, it informs and reminds society of what wickedness and what righteousness is. Even if many people in society are unbelievers, the publishing of this moral law would act as a restraint against greater lawlessness and wickedness in society. If society obeys the law at least externally, it would result in blessings upon the people who reap the benefits of living in a lawful society.

The third use of the law is the normative use, which is for believers. In it, the believer attempts to live a life that is in conformity to what the law requires. The moral law becomes our standard of what is right and what is wrong. We can judge rightly and live accordingly to what God desires, for the moral law is our pure standard.