The Rule of Love: Broken, Fulfilled, and Applied
Article byJuly 2009
The Rule of Love: Broken, Fulfilled, and Applied
By: J.V. Fesko
Reformation Heritage Books
The law of God, as expressed in the Ten Commandments, is one of the greatest gifts ever given to mankind. The Ten Commandments not only serve as a guide for us in the Christian life, but they are a lens through which we view the love, beauty and holiness of our Creator. The Ten Commandments are truly one of the most powerful acts of God's condescending love and self-disclosure. Unfortunately, the Ten Commandments have become a battleground for theological debate and the victim of tortured hermeneutics. In essence, the glory of this gift has too often been shrouded by theological obfuscation. This is why J.V. Fesko's book, The Rule of Love, is so welcome and refreshing. This book will be an aid to the church in properly interpreting and applying God's law in our lives. In this review, I will briefly comment on four outstanding attributes of this commendable work--The Rule of Love is a careful, confessional, concise and Christ-centered book.
First, The Rule of Love is a careful work. Dr. Fesko brings skill, balance and hermeneutical precision to this topic. He never falls into the twin errors of anti-nomianism and legalism. He surgically avoids the conclusions of Theonomy, while not rendering the law irrelevant for civil society. He brings the law into its New Covenant context without rendering it impotent of its claims upon our lives. Dr. Fesko is able to avoid these, and other, errors because he is so careful and precise in his methodology. In his discussion of the commandments, he is careful to interpret each one in its historical, covenantal and redemptive contexts. In this endeavor he displays his knowledge of Reformed biblical theology, understanding revelation in its historic progression up to the Mosaic Covenant, but also understanding revelation in its progressive fullness, thus taking us ultimately to Christ and the New Covenant. Comments like the following are reflective of Dr. Fesko's hermeneutical thoughtfulness and precision:
We do not stand at the foot of Mt. Sinai today and receive the Law as Israel did in the Old Testament. We stand at a point in time after the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. [Page 10]
Like Israel, we must also consider our covenantal context. We are not the recipients of the Mosaic covenant, as Israel was, but instead are the recipients of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants. [Page 11]
Second, The Rule of Love, is a confessional work. Dr. Fesko sees no conflict between biblical and systematic theology, the two walk hand and hand throughout this book. Dr. Fesko's Reformed confessional presuppositions undergird all of this work. Even the title reveals his commitment to the three uses of the law as traditionally understood by the Reformed faith. But Dr. Fesko's commitment to the Reformed confessional tradition is not just limited to his presuppositions, it is also explicitly revealed throughout the book by means of direct quotations from the Westminster documents. He refers to the Westminster Confession and the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms.
Third, The Rule of Love, is a concise work. Many treatments of the Ten Commandments are bulky, verbose, dry and inaccessible to the layman. This particular work is incredibly concise and accessible to a broad range of readers. As an author, I know the difficulty of trying to write a mile wide without falling into the superficiality of going only an inch deep. Dr. Fesko has admirably achieved the goal of writing a book of substance that is also easy, and pleasant, to digest. The book is well suited for church school classes and group Bible study formats. There are helpful questions at the end of each chapter.
Fourth, The Rule of Love, is a Christ-centered work. Dr. Fesko notes in his introduction his own frustration in the lack of a Christocentric focus in most books on the Ten Commandments:
I have read many books on the Law, whether for recreation or for sermon preparation, which rarely referred to Christ vis-à-vis the Ten Commandments. One book exposited the Law as if it were merely a legal document with principles that should be applied to our present day civil government. It seems that a tumbleweed was more likely to blow across the pages than a reference to Christ. [Page 2]
Dr. Fesko does not repeat this all too common error in his book on the Law. In his introduction, his discussion of the prologue to the Ten Commandments and in his exploration of each of the specific commandments, Dr. Fesko inextricably brings us to the person of Christ and to a Christ-centered interpretation of God's holy law. Dr. Fesko rightly concludes that it is only through a Christ-centered understanding of the Ten Commandments that the Law becomes powerful, relevant and useful in our lives, in the church and in the world:
We now see the Christ-centered nature of the Law. If more Christians understood these truths, might more believers become more intimate in their knowledge of it? Might more Christians march in protest against the absence of the law, not in the courthouse, but in the church in public worship? Might parents be more concerned about whether their children are in union with Christ and have the Law written upon their hearts by the all-powerful work of the Holy Spirit than with debates about posting the Ten Commandments in public schools? Who needs the Ten Commandments in schools when covenant youth bear witness through their words and deeds not only of the Law of God but of the gospel of Christ and how He has fulfilled the Law? Might more Christians grow in their sanctification if they understood that the Law is powerless to save and sanctify, that it only condemns and shows us our need for Christ, and that it is Christ through the Spirit who saves and sanctifies? [Page 135]
Dr. Fesko reminds us that it is Jesus who exegetes the Law's true and full meaning. He reminds us that it Jesus who teaches us the rule of love.
The Rule of Love will be a rewarding read for anyone who loves God's Law and the One whom fulfills it for us. Many thanks to Dr. Fesko for putting his scholarly gifts to use in service to the church.
Anthony T. Selvaggio is a Teaching Elder in the RPCNA and a visiting professor at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books including A Proverbs Driven Life (Shepherd Press), 24/7 Christian: Practical Help From the Epistle of James (Evangelical Press), The Prophets Speak of Him (Evangelical Press) and What the Bible Teachers About Marriage (Evangelical Press).
Anthony Selvaggio, "Review: The Rule of Love: Broken, Fulfilled, and Applied", Reformation 21 (July 2009)
This article was published in Reformation 21, the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. The Alliance calls the twenty-first century church to a modern reformation by broadcasting, events, and publishing. This article and additional biblical resources can be found at AllianceNet.org
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