You remember that we are working through Matthew 5:17-20 under the theme we determined at the beginning of this blog series. That theme concerns Jesus’ relationship to the Old Testament Scriptures. Those Scriptures are described in the way typical of the New Testament as the law and the prophets. Jesus’ relation to them is described both negatively and positively. It is not to abolish but to fulfill them. Jesus comes to bring the Scriptures to their intended goal or predestined destination. This relationship of Jesus to the Old Testament is the underlying theme of the entirety of verses 17-20.
This, then, is why Jesus feels the need to issue this warning. A new time—the time of the kingdom—has come. What will this mean for the law and the prophets? Does it mean that their time is over and that their authority has been overthrown? To this Jesus gives an emphatic answer. It does not! He does not overthrow their authority. Rather, the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures remains and must remain inviolate forever. It is not their abolition, but their fulfillment which Jesus brings.
Confessional Reformed Baptists have in the last 40 years been fighting a two-front doctrinal war over the law of God. Ground zero in this war has been Matthew 5:17-20.
Before critiquing theonomy, we need a good definition. Some people today who use the word “theonomy” don’t mean anything more than “God’s law” because the etimology of the word theonomy is “theos” which means God, and “nomos” which means law. They only want to affirm that God’s law is supreme over man’s law. And they’re right about that. God’s transcendent moral law is the norm that norms all norms. Governmental laws should always be consistent with God’s law and human law must never violate God’s law.
But in this post, I’ll be using the word “theonomy” in a more technical sense, which is rooted in the historic usage of the term.
Some of those who identify as theonomists today refer to themselves as “general equity theonomists,” believing that this identification lands them within the boundaries of Reformed confessional orthodoxy. But if it does, then the term “general equity” needs to be defined the same way the tradition defined it. The technical term “general equity” is used in both the Westminster Confession and the Second London Baptist Confession.
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