3. “Sin is not counted where there is no law” is a truism just like “sin is the transgression of the law.” The apostle does not, in fact, say that there was absolutely no law before Moses, but rather he clearly has in mind the whole Law Of Moses (moral, ceremonial and civil), which was not given before Moses. He goes on in v. 14 to yet again confirm the effects of sin upon the world before Moses and thereby again establish the moral law.
4. To conclude, we have in this passage and from this idea, namely—that the existence of sin presupposes the existence of the moral law of which sin is the transgression—that the moral law did pre-exist Moses and is known by all men, whether in written form or from their conscience. God did, in fact, punish sin before Moses, therefore this proves that even without the written revelation of God people did sin and violate God’s law and brought God’s judgment upon themselves. Therefore, there is certainly “a law of universal obedience written in [our] heart” which God demands that we obey and every falling short to obey that law is a transgression and sin.
This is an awkward place to argue for it, but I must, since the Confession goes on in the following three paragraphs to talk about the moral, ceremonial and judicial law. Basically, the threefold division of the law stresses the superiority of the moral law contained in the Ten Commandments above the ceremonial and judicial/civil, which were abrogated and fulfilled by the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord of Glory. I have benefited from:
- Dr. Philip S. Ross – From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis for the Threefold Division of the Law
- David Chanski – The Law of God II – Threefold Division
- Tripartite Division of the Law of God: A Patristic and Reformed Orthodox View
- Jonathan F. Bayes - The Threefold Division of the Law
It has been a classic Christian doctrine to divide the Law Of Moses or the law of the Pentateuch into three divisions, which are 1) the moral laws, 2) the ceremonial laws, and 3) the judicial or civil laws. This does not mean that we have neat categories and we know to which category every law belongs, because some laws are difficult to discern or are a combination. But we do believe that the Bible gives us such a division to understand the abiding validity of the moral law and the abrogation of the ceremonial and judicial laws. The question that we need to answer is: Does the Bible make a distinction between the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) and the other laws? If the answer is positive then a division of the law is established. If not, then the threefold division would be proven false.
For those wanting a detailed, exhaustive and interactive treatment of this subject, I recommend Philip S. Ross’ From the Finger of God. The book is technical containing a lot of Hebrew and Greek, and interacting with a lot of pro and con literature. It is not a book for the average reader, but it is a very detailed book. What is to follow is not a detailed case for...