Read God’s Law for Maximal Application

Read God’s Law for Maximal Application

Written by William B. Fullilove |
Tuesday, November 8, 2022

The Divines provide us a powerful biblical training that forbids us from adopting a merely privatized faith. Their call on our lives is to emulate their patterns of interpretation and to apply God’s law to every area of life. This is what godliness looks like.

When we confess our sins in worship, we confess both the wrong we’ve done and the good we’ve left undone. In so doing, we follow a long Christian tradition that deeply considers the full implications of God’s commandments, reading them expansively—never narrowly—to search out both the positive and negative implications of each commandment for the Christian life.

It’s this maximal reading of the law, a thirst to apply the principles—not merely the letter—of God’s commands into every area of life, that we see modeled throughout the Bible and with great depth in our Reformed tradition.

In the Law Itself

We see this model envisioned in the way Leviticus 6 works out the implications of the eighth commandment:

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “If anyone sins and commits a breach of faith against the LORD by deceiving his neighbor in a matter of deposit or security, or through robbery, or if he has oppressed his neighbor or has found something lost and lied about it, swearing falsely—in any of all the things that people do and sin thereby—if he has sinned and has realized his guilt and will restore what he took by robbery or what he got by oppression or the deposit that was committed to him or the lost thing that he found or anything about which he has sworn falsely, he shall restore it in full and shall add a fifth to it, and give it to him to whom it belongs on the day he realizes his guilt” (Lev. 6:1–5).

Leviticus makes clear that “stealing” is far more than simply taking something from your neighbor.

Deception in issues of a deposit, oppression of another, finding something lost and avoiding returning it, misleading others —all these, and by implication even more, would count as violations of the spirit of the eighth commandment. The law itself indicates the commandments should be read expansively, not narrowly.

By Our Savior

We see the same model in the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions (Matt. 19:16–22).

Christ’s point, of course, was that the young man’s piety was not as exemplary as he would have hoped. True piety doesn’t simply end with avoiding sins of commission, being able to say, “These I have kept.” Keeping the law includes avoiding sins of omission as well.

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