The Law in the thought of those worth hearing: Conclusion

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Staff member
I thought this was pretty solid.

Midwest Center for Theological Studies: Owensboro, KY > Blog > The Law in the thought of those worth hearing: Conclusion

Dec 23, 2010 | Category: Biblical Theology, Hermeneutics, Historical Theology, New Testament, Old Testament

Part I: The Perpetuity of the Decalogue under the New Covenant in Owen and Others

Part II: Matthew 5:17 and the Perpetuity of the Decalogue under the New Covenant in Owen and Others

Part III: The Multi-functional Utility of the Decalogue in Owen and Others

Part IV: The Idea of Abrogation in Owen and Others


What can we conclude in light of the evidence presented?

· Owen in the context of his own writings

Primary source documentation of Owen has been presented on (1) the perpetuity of the entire Decalogue from Jer. 31:33 and 2 Co. 3:3, (2) Matt. 5:17 as it relates to the perpetuity of the Decalogue under the New Covenant, (3) the multi-functional utility of the Decalogue and (4) abrogation. Examining Owen on these subjects put us both into the primary documents themselves and within Owen’s systematic thought on relevant theological issues. This was necessary in order to understand him on the primary issue under investigation.

Owen’s view of abrogation must be carefully qualified, especially as it relates to the Decalogue and the New Covenant. On the one hand, he viewed the Decalogue as abrogated under the New Covenant. But he viewed it abrogated in terms of its function under the Old Covenant and along with the rest of the Old Covenant’s law. His view of the abrogation of the Decalogue was not absolute, but relative. It concerned a specific redemptive-historical function of the Decalogue and not all redemptive-historical functions.

On the other hand, Owen did not view the Decalogue as abrogated under the New Covenant. He viewed it as perpetual because it contains “the sum and substance of that obedience which is due unto God from all rational creatures made in his image.”[1]

These distinctions in his views on abrogation and the various redemptive-historical functions of the Decalogue are in his early and later statements in the Hebrews commentary. It may be difficult for us to understand them, taking them at face value, but once his careful qualifications are taken into account, along with his clear assertions concerning the perpetuity of the Decalogue under the New Covenant and the grounds for it, his meaning comes clearly into focus. But if we import into Owen our understanding of what certain statements mean or fail to understand his systematic thought, we are apt to misread him and either force on him something he never intended or force him to contradict himself.

· The historical/theological context in which Owen wrote

Primary source documentation has been presented from Calvin, Ursinus, Witsius, Turretin, Protestant Scholastic thought, and Boston. In doing so, the attempt was made to put Owen in historical and theological context. We found that his views on the matters examined were not novel and fit within the theological nomenclature of his contemporaries. Though what he said may be hard to understand and even appear novel to us, it was not so in his day.

[1] Owen, Works, XXII:215.

Also there is a new book coming out next month that has been recommended to me on the three fold. It was mentioned on the PB a few weeks ago but Amazon is listing it at a good price.

The Finger of God by Philip S. Ross
The Biblical & Theological Basis for the Threefold Division of the Law. From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis for the Threefold Division of the Law (9781845506018): Philip Ross: Books


Puritan Board Doctor
One way in which the Decalogue has been "abrogated" (although since such terminology is clearly open to misunderstanding it's probably best not to use it) - maybe fulfilled would be a better word - is in its ceremonial form.

It is no longer written on stone and laid up in the Ark of the Covenant. Or if it is lying undiscovered somewhere it is purely an archaeiological artifact as to its ceremonial form. The 10C written on stone was at the very centre of the Israelite ceremonials.

The Decalogue is often rightly called the summary of the moral law, but in its Old Covenant context the Decalogue itself had a

(a) Judical/civil aspect, being the fundamental crimes against God and the Old Covenant Church-Nation. The 10C are still the fundamental crimes against God and the New Covenant Church-Nation, the Israel of God, but Israel is no longer typological so the context has changed.

(b)A ceremonial aspect, mentioned above.

(c) A moral aspect. All ten of the Commandments are for us, along with the moral commands and principles enshrined in other explanatory legislation.

As the Israel of God strives towards maturity by plentiful effusions of the Holy Spirit and fills the Earth - moving from the babyhood of the Mosaic period, and the rebellious adolescence of the last 2,000 years - the fulness of God's law will be unpacked more perfectly and be put into practice more consistently.


Puritan Board Freshman
These articles were well done, and like Owen himself, they made me think really hard ;-)
I can only image Owen’s consternation that someone would use his writings to support antinomianism.
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