When commentating on Romans 2 he advocates his position that the works of the law written on the hearts of the gentiles are simply “principles of righteousness” yet “independent of Mosaic legislation.” He does not prove this at all but simply asserts it. The apostle Paul knew how to say “principles of righteousness;” yet under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he chose to say “works of the law.” In context of the passage and the readership of Romans I don’t know what else Paul could mean other than the Mosaic law. But apparently Zaspel has some insight into this text of which so many others throughout the history of the church are completely unaware.
He states: “‘the law written in their hearts’ (‘conscience’) which the Gentiles acknowledge and obey is in contrast to the law of Moses which they were not given” (Location 89, Kindle Edition,emphasis mine). This seems very odd since Paul links the two together, saying, “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law [which law? the Law of Moses is the only thing in context], by nature do what the law requires [which law? again, it can only refer to the Law of Moses in context]...they show that the work of the law is written on their hearts…” (Rom. 2:13-15).
Again, how can Paul have anything else in mind other than the Law of Moses? For in Chapter 3 of Romans, after quoting extensively from the Old Testament (the Law) Paul says “whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God” (Rom. 3:19, emphasis mine). All are under the same law - the one known to the Jews as “the Law of Moses.”
There were some other things in his essay that were just puzzling. For instance he talks about before the Decalogue being given “virtually all of the ‘ten words’ were in force well before Moses” (Location 107, Kindle Edition). The one he excludes is the Sabbath commandment, yet that is the one mentioned specifically in special revelation even before the prohibition of murder (Gen. 2:2-3; cf. Gen. 4:8-12, 9:6). Puzzling.
He makes remarks of the entire “Mosaic legislation” being “fulfilled and replaced in Jesus Christ.” This is very dispensational in its understanding of law. However, it is quite out of place considering when Paul would make reference to certain prohibitions or commendations he would quote the Old Testament law (Mosaic Legislation) as the authority behind his argument (see 1 Cor. 9:8-10; Gal. 5:14; 1 Tim. 5:18, etc.).
He uses argument from silence (always a fallacious argument) as his “proof” that the moral aspect of the Law of Moses (or moral and judicial aspects) having binding validity in the New Testament era is in error:
Never do they [the New Testament writers] say that only a certain part of the law but the law itself is abolished. … Granted, the three-fold division of the Mosaic law (moral, civil, ceremonial) can be a helpful "handle" for the understanding of the general content of the law of Moses, but the division is not Scripturally endorsed; that is, the division is not made or acknowledged by the inspired writers themselves.
The problem with this is that the New Testament writers do qualify their statements when saying the law is abolished. Paul remarks that it is the law contained in ceremonial ordinances that is abolished (Eph. 2:15), that it was the ceremonial aspects of the law that were elementary principles (Gal. 4:9-10), and that it was the ceremonial precepts that were shadows of the true substance found in Christ (Col. 2:16-17). But Paul goes on then to quote non-ceremonial aspects as being binding in validity and as having full authority for our moral and judicial instruction (Rom. 13:8-10; Gal. 5:14).
Furthermore, to say that the new Testament writers did not make the division of “moral, ceremonial, and judicial” within Scripture itself does not at all negate the idea that the division is legitimate. After all, the writers never specifically mentioned the doctrine of the Trinity; yet they clearly believed it to be the truth of the Christian triune God.
Zaspel's conclusion is: “It would seem evident that the only laws relevant to the believer’s standard of conduct today are those of the New Testament” (Location 252, Kindle Edition).
Does that mean incest (other than a man having his father’s wife, the only form of incest specifically prohibited in the New Testament - 1 Cor. 5:1), or bestiality (something never mentioned in the New Testament) are acceptable for the believer’s standard of conduct in the New Testament era?
He goes on further: “It is New Testament law that is normative for today’s believer, nothing else, and when the relevance of any given law is considered it is its place in the New Covenant that determines the answer” (Location 269, Kindle Edition, emphasis mine).
If that’s truly the case then tell me, what is the appropriate, normative personal standard of conduct regarding incest and bestiatliy, since the New Covenant (by itself) does not address such issues? And what is the appropriate, normative civil penalty for theft, murder, rape, etc., since the New Covenant (by itself) does not address such issues?
Let the reader understand, this truly is dispensational hermeneutics pure and simple. New Covenanters seem to have a difference with Dispensationalists regarding eschatology, but at this point the hermeneutic principles are one and the same: assume discontinuity between the testaments unless a command is otherwise repeated. He even has a chart indicating such at location 335 showing that every one of the ten commandments except for the Sabbath was repeated in the New Testament; and that alone (the fact that they were repeated) is why nine of the ten commands are still binding today.
To conclude this review, let me just compare the author’s statement with that of Christ’s regarding the Old Testament:
To look to the law of Moses, or any part of it, in order to establish a standard for today is to look in the wrong place" (Location 372, Kindle Edition, emphasis mine).
For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:18-19).
Now to those who would say, but Christ fulfilled the law and so in that way “all is accomplished” we need only look at what Paul said regarding the Old Testament: “All Scripture [this includes the law of Moses (“or any part of it”)] is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16).
Zaspel, like dispensationalists, wants us to believe that the Old Testament is void unless repeated in the New, and so we need not concern ourselves at all with it. For whatever is in the Old Testament that we need to be concerned with, the same is repeated for us in the New Testament.
However, it seems the writers of the New Testament themselves clearly thought otherwise.