Jesus & Civil Law

Michael Horton has written a very good article regarding the death of Osama bin Laden and how we view the ‘two kingdoms’, a.k.a the City of God and the City of Man a la Augustine,  and their differences in light of justice. In his article, Michael makes a statement that truly fascinated me:

Cultures are the most dangerous when they invoke holy texts for their defense of holy land through holy war. However, Christians have no biblical basis for doing this in the first place. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clearly abrogated the ceremonial and civil law that God had given uniquely to the nation of Israel. Now is the era of common grace and common land, obeying rulers—even pagan ones—and living under constitutions other than the one that God gave through Moses. As Paul reminds us in Romans 13, secular rulers are given the power of the temporal sword—finite justice—while the gospel conquers in the power of the Spirit through that Word “above all earthly pow’rs.” – Michael Horton [emphasis mine, ed.]

By all means, I commend the entire article to you. It is both a good, and beneficial read. The article appeared in Christianity Today as a guest opinion piece and is entitled, The Death of Osama bin Laden: What Kind of Justice Has Been Done?

What specifically fascinated me was this statement:

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clearly abrogated the ceremonial and civil law that God had given uniquely to the nation of Israel.

My question to you, the reader, is simple: Did Jesus abrogate civil law in the sermon on the mount? If he did, Horton is correct. If He did not, Horton is mistaken and due note should be taken for our benefit.

First, let me state quite plainly that Jesus was no pacifist. I am well aware of the popularity of professing Christians advocating pacifistic ideals when it comes to war, gun-control, etc, but for the most part, foundations for taking such positions are often tenuous at best.

Nowhere in His ministry, much less in the Sermon on the Mount, did Jesus or any of His disciples imply or state that either Israel, Rome or anyone else for that matter, disarm or abandon Old Testament civil laws.

Not once. Find it if you can. But you won’t.

The silence of Jesus Christ in regards to the removal of use of violent force in accordance to Old Testament civil laws can only mean His approval of it. What other conclusion can we arrive at without reading into Scripture what is not there?

It is absurd, in light of the Christocentric aspect of Scripture, to assume that Jesus ‘abrogated’ Old Testament civil laws. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was contrasting the law of God within the hearts of the regenerate with the external legalism of rabbinic Judaism.

NOWHERE in the Sermon on the Mount does Jesus:

  1. Mention war
  2. Mention the state
  3. Mention governments protecting citizens
  4. Mention the use of armed forces.

In the sermon on the mount, our Lord is discussing personal ethics, characteristics of a true believer, inner qualities of piety – not civil law.

So I am quite fascinated with Michael’s statement that Jesus “clearly” abrogated the civil law of the Old Testament.

I don’t see it, anywhere in the Sermon on the Mount.

Most likely, because it is not there.

One final note. It is ‘the peacemakers’ who will be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9).

The Greek word for peacemakers was one of Caesar’s titles. Why? Because he won and maintained peace by the use of force. The word does not mean peace, or pacifist, meekness, etc.

It meant peace through strength….Force…..and that truth came from Old Testament civil law.