RPW Fulfilled in Jesus

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Puritan Board Freshman
I was reading a set of articles from the gospel coalition, one from Ligon Duncan on the RPW, and another from Rory Shiner on the RPW. My questions are about Rory Shiner's position which states:
At some level, the regulative principle has to be correct. How could it not be? God chooses how God is worshiped.
Can we believe that post-Jesus, God has become disinterested in how people worship him? Surely not! But I’d argue that the regulative principle of the Old Testament is fulfilled in Jesus, not by the church. A church is not the tabernacle, a pastor is not a priest, the Lord’s Supper is not a sacrifice. These are all things that Jesus alone fulfilled.
In the new covenant, God hasn’t become more permissive in his worship. He has told us exactly how to worship him. That is, through Jesus, in the Spirit, and in truth. The regulative principle of the Old Testament stands. Yet I’d argue it’s not applied to what we do in church, but to what we do through Jesus.
The basic principle of Old Testament worship was to discern between the holy and the common, but Leviticus isn’t the only place where people die in judgment during corporate worship. It also happens in Corinth, at the Lord’s Table (1 Cor. 11:30). Why? What holy thing have they profaned? It’s not the bread and the wine. It’s the people! “For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves” (1 Cor. 11:29).
It seems that Rory Shiner's position is that Jesus fulfils the RPW, not the church. I think this may mean that Jesus fulfils it and it is abrogated as to us fulfilling it (perhaps in a similar way to the ceremonial law). I don't understand the outworking of this and it seems, since it's held in contrast to Ligon Duncan's, that he doesn't think those things which are not commanded are forbidden in worship.

My questions are for those who hold to the RPW as articulated in the confessions, the following:
  1. Does a biblical theological approach to the OT, which (rightly) aims to see Jesus as the sum and substance, necessarily result in the abrogation of the RPW?
  2. What is the flaw in Rory Shiner's argument? Why would we say it still applies to the church?
I think this article has also raised some questions as to how the OT applies to the new covenant believer with regards to it being "fulfilled" in Jesus and so abrogated (in my circles a similar argument is applied to the whole OT law as being fulfilled in Jesus and not binding on us unless the NT repeats it).


Staff member
Sounds New Covenant Theology or antinomian. It isn't reformed but then consider the site. On Facebook someone posted a reductio ad absurdum for the common exception to the the fourth commandment. I see this guy starts with the second in this instance. I think it may work here too.
"When a Christian says they don't keep the Lord's Day because Jesus is our rest and "fulfilled" the 4th Commandment uses the same logic that the following absurdity leads one to:
Jesus is our God, removing our obligation to the First Commandent;
Jesus is our offering, the image of the invisible God, removing our obligation to the Second Commandment
Jesus is the Word of God, the Name above every Name, removing our obligation to the Third Commandment
Jesus is the Everlasting Father, removing our obligation to the Fifth Commandment
Jesus died that we might live, removing our obligation to the Sixth Commandment
Jesus is our Husband, removing our obligation to the Seventh Commandment
Jesus became poor so that we could become rich, removing our obligation to the Eighth Commandment
Jesus is the true witness, removing our obligation to the Ninth Commandment."


Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I do not think that even the strictest adherent of the regulative principle believes that the church fulfills it anymore than we believe that any individual Christian or congregation perfectly keeps the commandment to love God or our neighbour. Furthermore, as others have said, even if the outward form is correct, our worship may not be acceptable due to our lack of faith and trust in the Lord.

After all, the word 'fulfill' has a rich, biblical-theological pedigree relating to Christ's coming as Messiah to alone redeem his people. At the same time it does not negate obedience to Christ or adherence to set forms anymore than saying that Jesus is the word of God means that we can now just ignore the authority of scripture as scripture. Indeed, this article is really just an example of sloppy thinking as Chris points out above. Furthermore, the author does not seem to have enough confidence to out rightly state there are no approved elements of worship but does so in an underhanded way (I am happy to be corrected on this latter point though).

And if I was responding curtly I might just say: and? And how does what he say about Jesus fulfilling the law turn into a free for all when it comes to the elements of worship? It certainly does not follow from Matthew 28:19-20. And all life is worship a non sequitur. If we mean by that we are to conduct ourselves as holy at all times, that was always true for all of God's people. Hence the rigid application of the law to every aspect of people's lives in the Mosaic economy. But that did not change the fact that God stipulated corporate worship distinctly from that daily living as the Sabbath and the priesthood indicate.

In short, redemptive-historical teaching does not and must not undermine theological and even ethical guidelines from the rest of scripture. If they are not harmonious, then somewhere or in something God's people are being shortchanged in being throughly equipped (2 Timothy 3:17).
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Puritan Board Junior
It is a category mistake to say the RPW is fulfilled in Jesus. The RPW does not tell us how we should worship, only that the basis for that worship must be Scriptural. One might as well say that Jesus fulfilled the inerrancy of Scripture.

Simply put, OT instruction on worship is law. As such, it may be moral, civil or ceremonial. Ceremonial law has indeed been fulfilled in Jesus, and thus comes to an end; civil law continues to guide us in its general equity, though the specifics are not binding, and moral law is unchanging. It is the loss of these three categories that make the discussion of worship so difficult in many circles. Complex institutions such as "sacrifice" or "tabernacle" are not merely one of these; they contain aspects of each, which requires good exegesis to determine how they apply to NT worship.
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