Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Law vs. Grace, 4

~ A Return to a Familiar Topic ~

introduction  ~  Long-time followers of Abundant Life Now know that the subject of law versus grace has been posted multiple times in the past (a listing of relevant past postings are at the bottom of this post). 

Sometime ago I read a marvelous book, I Never Thought I’d See the Day: Culture at the Crossroads, by Dr. David Jeremiah which I heartily recommend.  It is about what’s happening both in our culture at large and within the Church.  What follows is an excerpt relevant to Law vs. Grace.

quote  ~  For those Christians who think that living under grace in the New Testament means morality is no longer the hyper issue it might have been under the Old Testament law, the Bible offers several clarifications:

First, through the prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament, God promised to take His laws off of stone tablets and put them in the minds and write them on the hearts of His people (Jeremiah 31:33).  That promise was part of the provision of the new covenant that was instituted through the shed blood of Christ:  “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20).  In other words, by the indwelling Spirit of God, the laws of God—His standards of morality—move from being an external to an internal reality.  God’s law is no longer something to be read, examined, and debated as an intellectual matter.  It becomes part of the heart and the mind of the one united to God by faith in Christ.  As the great Bible commentator Matthew Henry wrote, “When the law of God is written on our hearts, our duty will be our delight.”  The law changes from being a burden that keeps us from pleasure to a guide that leads us to a wholly new kind of pleasure—the pleasure of walking in God’s best plan for our lives.  As Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).

In addition, we find that conforming to God’s law in our hearts allows us to experience in all activities of life the specific kind of pleasure and satisfaction God meant for us to find in that particular activity.  So the laws are entirely for our benefit; they are given not to prevent pleasure, but to increase it.

Second, the apostle Paul clarifies what grace doesn’t mean: It doesn’t mean that God’s law has been nullified.  Anticipating that he, by his preaching of grace, might be accused of antinomianism (negating the obligation to live a lawful life), Paul wrote, “Do we then make void the law through faith?  Certainly not!  On the contrary, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31).  He says that we are not free to disregard God’s moral laws must because we live under grace (Romans 6:1-2).  And he confirms what Christ taught about love being the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10).  As we noted above, we follow the law because we love God, knowing that His ways are always best for us and increase our joy.

So New Testament Christians are in no way exempt from the moral and ethical requirements of God’s law.  Indeed, we have an even higher motivation for fulfilling God’s moral law: love.  Grace means living a moral life not because we have to but because we want to.

Third, Paul puts an even sharper point on making moral choices by saying, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.  Let no none seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).  There may be an action or choice that breaks none of God’s laws yet is still not “helpful” or “edifying.”  The Christian Gospel moves us to a higher plane in life.  No longer do we look out only for our well-being but also for the well-being of others.  Is something is “lawful” on the basis of the letter of the law, yet it has the potential for hurting another person or tarnishing our testimony for Christ, then it becomes unlawful of us.

Fourth,  when a Christian acts immorally, he or she negates the reason for the death of Christ on the cross.  Christ died to satisfy the demands of the law”  “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20).  Christ died and was raised from the dead to pay the penalty of the law and to break its power over us.  The law was good, but because we were sinners, we could not obey it.  Thus we failed to be what God created us to be and incurred the condemnation that comes from breaking the law and the enslavement that comes from being subject to it (Romans 6:1-14; 8:1).  But by His death, Christ took the penalty we deserved.

Considering everything that is bound up in the cross and the empty grave, our choice to bend the moral requirements of the law of God is an outrageous affront to the One who suffered and died to free us from the power of sin.  Why would anyone who claims to have accepted God’s gift of forgiveness for breaking the law choose to insult the Christ who procured that gift through His own suffering?

But the most delicate take on the laws of God is the one provided by Jesus Himself in the Sermon on the Mount—the place in which He corrected human interpretations of the law with divine interpretations, where He revealed to His followers the difference between the letter and the spirit of the law.

closing comment  ~  Previous Law vs. Grace posts on Abundant Life Now include: 
(1)  Law vs. Grace (July 6, 2010)
(2)  Law vs. Grace, 2 (July 5, 2011)
(3)  The Core Message of the Bible #2 (February 1, 2011)
(4)  Law vs. Grace, 3 (This was a 12-part series, published one per month during 2013, and was based upon the book of Galatians.) 

~ Robert Lloyd Russell, ABUNDANT LIFE NOW

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  1. I haven't kept track of the many times I've posted similar thoughts. Thank you for such succinctly compiling scriptures. Can't help but think of II Timothy 4:3-5.

  2. I will be borrowing this for posting, too.

  3. Phyllis,
    I'm glad you found this post worthwhile.
    God bless you, your family, and your ministry.
    In Him,

    1. It went up yesterday - already has "pluses". Thank you.

    2. Phyllis,
      Glad to see a wider distribution. Especially happy it has been well received.
      Blessings to you.