What is Theonomy?
“Theonomy” is derived from a combination of two Greek words: theos ( God ) and nomos ( law ). It simply means “ God’s Law.”
God shows a special enthusiasm for His people to keep His Law.
De:30:10: If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.
But is God’s law valid today? If we could hear God speaking to us today, would He say,” Keep my commandments and my statutes which are written in the book of the Law.
The Law represents the presents of God. Unique to the Law of God is that it was personally written by the finger of God. “ And when He had made an end of speaking with him an Mount Sinai, He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God” ( Ex. 31:18 )
The Law lies at the very heart of the new covenant. As recorded in Jeremiah 31:31-33.
Jer:31:31: Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
Jer:31:32: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
Jer:31:33: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Jer:31:34: And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
The Law reflects God’s character. When we survey the scriptural representations of the character of God’s Law, we soon discover that the same moral attributes applied to it are also used in reference to the very being of God.
God is good ( Mark 10:18; Ps. 143:10); the Law is good ( Deut. 12:28; Ps. 119:68; Rom 7:12,16). God is holy (Isa. 6:3; Rev 15:4); the Law is holy ( Num.15:40; Rom. 7:12). God is perfect ( 2 Sam. 22:31; Ps 18:30; Matt. 5:48); the Law is perfect ( Ps. 1:25; James 1:25). God is spiritual ( John 4:24); the Law is spiritual ( Rom. 7:14).God is righteous ( Deut. 32:4; Ezra 9:15; Ps. 116:5); the Law is righteous ( Deut. 4:8; Ps. 19:7; Rom. 2:26; 8:4). God is just ( Deut. 32:4; Ps. 25:8, 10; Isa.45:21); the Law is just ( Prov. 28:4, 5: Zech. 7:9-12; Ro. 7:12).
The Law’s Purpose
1.The Law defines sin. The Christian is called to restrain and to resist sin in this world. The Law is as a mirror, as the mirror allows you to see the dirt on your face, the law allows us to see our sins, in so helping our struggle against evil. “ Whoever committeth sin transgresseth also the Law: for sin is the transgression of the law” ( 1 John 3:4 ) “ For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law”
( Rom. 5:13). “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’” ( Rom. 7:7).
2.The Law convicts of sin. With the preaching of the Law there follows the conviction of sin, in that Law expressly prohibits and judges sin. By pointing out sin, the Law stirs the heart, bringing a knowledge of the death-dealing consequence of lawless behavior.
Ro:7:7: What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
Ro:7:8: But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.
Ro:7:9: For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
Ro:7:10: And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. Ro:7:11: For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
3.The Law condemns transgression. The Law also carries with it the penalty of its infraction, clearly showing the destructive consequences of lawless conduct. “The Law brings about wrath; for where there is no Law there is no transgression”
( Rom. 4:15). “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” ( James 2:10). “ For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them” ( Gal. 3:10; see also Deut. 11:26,28)
4.The Law drives people to Christ. In that the Law severely judges sin, leaving men exposed to the wrath of God; and in that the Law cannot save, it drives them to Christ. ”And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death”
( Rom. 7:10) “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” ( Gal.3:24). The theonomic ethic does not hold that Law- keeping has or will ever merit salvation for anyone. In fact, it causes them to despair of their own righteousness so that they might seek the righteousness of another: Christ the Lord.
5. The Law restrains evil. When the law is properly understood and its breach feared, it tends to exercise a restraining power within over the souls of men. When enacted in public sphere, it reduces criminal activity by threatening judgment. For instance, when “thou shalt not kill” is backed up by the sanction, “ He who strikes a man so the he dies shall surely be put to death”
( Ex.21:12 ), the cost of crime becomes prohibitive. This is as God designed it to be.
1Tm:1:8: But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; 1Tm:1:9: Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 1Tm:1:10: For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; 1Tm:1:11: According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.
6. The Law guides sanctification. The Law does not have the power to sanctify; that is the ministry of the Holy Spirit as He operates in the gospel. But the Law sets forth the God-ordained pattern of righteous behavior and therefore provides an objective standard for the Spirit-filled Christian so that he might know what God expects of him.
Ro:8:3: For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
Ro:8:4: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
1Co:9:21: To them that are without law, [I am] as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
Le:20:8: And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the LORD which sanctify you.
THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND GOD’S LAW The central personage of prophecy and gospel is the Lord Jesus Christ. There are several respects in which we may see that He intended His new covenant people to keep the Law of God. In no way did He undercut the validity of the Law when He came. In fact, He confirmed it.
CHRIST EXPRESSLY AFFIRMED THE LAW That truth is most clearly taught in:
Matthew 5:16-20. M't:5:16: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. M't:5:17: Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. M't:5:18: For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
M't:5:19: Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. M't:5:20: For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Immediately after urging His hearers to God-glorifying works, Christ says, “do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets”. He begins defining the character of those works in terms of God’s Law. The phrase “ do not think” is an ingressive aorist verb that means, “ do not begin to think.” He does not want the thought He is about to mention even to cross the minds of His hearers. He does not want to be misunderstood as He corrects distortions and abuses of the Law of God He encounters during His ministry.
When He says, ”do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets” he uses a Greek word that means to “dismantle, abrogate, dispose of thoroughly.” Rather than allow His hearers even to begin to think this, He says,” I have not come to destroy, but to fulfill. The conjunction “but” here is the strong adversative
(GK. alla). It provides sharp contrast, as Matthew 10:34, which exactly parallels Matthew 5:17 in form and structure. Matthew 10:34 reads: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” Notice the strong contrast between “peace” and a “sword.” Likewise in Matthew 5:17 Jesus contrasts destroying the Law with fulllfilling it; the ideas are juxtaposed as opposites.
Christ Perfectly Kept The Law The Scriptures teaches that Jesus came to Keep the Law. “Then I said, ’ Behold, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, and your Law is within my heart”. (Ps. 40:7-8) In fact, He was born under the Law (Gal.4:4). Thus He kept the Law in detail in His personal life (Matt.8:4; 17:24; Mark 11:16-17)
Because of the nature of sin as transgression of the Law, Christ was sinless because He kept the Law fully. 1Jo:2:4: He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 1Jo:2:5: But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 1Jo:2:6: He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
Christ Saved Us In Terms Of The Law The Lord died in terms of the Law for us. He came to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Gal.4:5; Col.2:14;Heb.9:22). In fact, His death eternally accented the need for and the validity of the Law. The Law could not be set aside, even to spare Christ. “ He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” ( Ro.8:32; Heb. 9:22-26). Faith, then, confirms the Law’s validity ( Rom. 3:31). If the Law could not be set aside to spare God’s own Son, how may we surmise that it will be set aside for the New Covenant era? ( Heb. 8:10 ) Heb:8:10: For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
The New Testament Expressly Confirms The Law One of the most noble Christian virtues is faith. It is the God-ordained instrument of justification. God’s gracious provision of salvation on the basis of grace and through the mean of faith is often thought to abrogate the Law of God for today. Yet Paul, the great Apostle of faith, tells us that faith confirms the Law. “ Do we then make void the Law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the Law” ( Rom. 3:31).
Paul, who is known in the New testament as the Apostle to the Gentiles and to the uncircumcised (Rom.15:16) ;Gla.2:9;Eph.3:8), nevertheless, upheld the “Jewish” Mosaic Law as an ethical ideal for God’s people. When he wrote to the church at Rome, he wrote to a Gentile church ( Rom. 1:13; 15:12; 16:4). “Therefore the Law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good….For we know that the Law is spiritual” (Rom.7:12,14). And this was well into the new covenant era.