Appendix two, The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates: A Proper Resistance to Tyranny and a Repudiation of Unlimited Obedience to Civil Government, by Matthew J. Trewhella
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” –Psalm 19:7
“The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” -Psalm 19:8
Let us now examine the redemptive or mediatorial work of the law. When speaking of the redemptive work of the law, I do not mean that we are redeemed by the law. Men can only find redemption through Christ alone through faith in Him alone based upon His substitutionary, propitiatory work at Calvary on the cross.
What is meant by the redemptive work of the law is that the law plays a part in the redemptive process of man. We know this is so from the Scriptures. Galatians 3:24 for example, plainly states: “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ.” The moral law of God shows men they are sinners in need of Jesus for their Savior. This is the way in which the law of God plays a role in the redemptive process of man.
Romans 7:7-13 concurs with this:
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. 13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.
Again, the law of God shows men they have sinned and are in need of a Savior. The law was given “that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19-20). Hence, the law of God plays a critical role in the redemptive process of man – and that is what is meant regarding the redemptive work of the law.
Not only does the law of God play an important part regarding the very salvation of men’s souls in what the Church declares to men, but also through the realms of family government and civil government. Both of these realms are to also inform those under their respective jurisdictions when God’s law has been violated.
Family government and civil government are to mirror the law and justice of God. They are to mirror the law and justice of God in their rule. For example, we do this when we teach our children not to steal. We correct and punish them if they do steal. Thus, we are teaching them the law and justice of God. And so it is with the civil government. Those under their jurisdiction are told not to steal. They are punished if they do steal. In this way, civil government is mirroring the law and justice of God.
This too shows men they have violated God’s law and are in need of redemption (which is found in Christ alone). Who is the law for? I Tim.1:9-10 states:
Knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.
The law is for lawbreakers. If family and civil government agree with the law and justice of God, it reinforces to those under their jurisdiction that they do in fact stand guilty before God when they transgress His law and Word; that they are condemned and in need of redemption. If family government or civil government corrupt their rule, however, and begin to teach things contrary to God’s law and justice, they have an adverse effect upon those under their jurisdiction. They distort the law and justice of God when they declare good to be evil and evil to be good. Thus, they make it harder for those under their jurisdiction to be instructed in seeing their guilt before God.
The point is that good law which affirms or mirrors the law and justice of God helps men to see their need for Christ. Bad law that contravenes and spurns the law and justice of God assists men in ignoring and/or justifying their sin. Hence, the laws of a nation go to the very salvation of men’s souls.
Now Pietism – which teaches that Christianity should be a purely private matter and that God’s law has no place in the governance of nations – always tells us that we are wasting our time when it comes to being involved in seeing that good laws are established in our nation. They mock it as mere “moralizing.” They say we should just be involved in trying to save men’s souls – we should just preach the gospel. But what Pietism fails to understand is that good law – that which mirrors the law and justice of God – helps men see where they are wrong, where they have sinned against God, where they do need to repent.
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