Law What is the Big Deal? Part I-III

Law: Part I: What is the Big Deal?

Eternal Origin: Love and Law

 

There is much in the news regarding the law. A person may be thinking of civil law, moral law, church law, and or God’s law.  Some people raise the issue of whose law, for what reason. Others asked about how much law keeping is necessary and required and for what reason. In the political scene of today (2018), some may wonder if they consequences for lawbreaking and if so what?  Public schools face these questions regularly. Where will we go to answer those types of questions? Since there are laws, it makes sense to find the lawgiver and learn about him and his ways. Is there an ultimate lawgiver and if so where do we go to meet him?

The dictionary defines law as a set of rules that are advisable and or obligatory to observe. Law carries with it the idea of a rule maker, the product of his thinking and action, who gives and enforces laws for a purpose. Where should we begin in our search regarding law? Let’s begin with God. The reasons will become apparent. Others refuse to begin or even consult God in the matter of law. Let’s focus on eternity. Only the Triune God was present. There was unity and diversity in the three-in-one God. Within the Trinity there was perfect order and harmony. Lawmaking and lawkeeping was present eternity past.

Next consider heaven before the creation of the world. There is order in heaven. Read Revelation chapters 4, 5, and 21-22. There was much activity that is directed and controlled, by rules and the Rulemaker. Moreover, fallen angels broke the law (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Rev. 20:13).  Rules have been around eternally.

Now let’s focus on the Garden of Eden before the fall. God added man to His creation, wrote the moral law on his heart (Rom. 1:18-20; 2:14-15). He gave him law – three positive commands (fruitful, subdue, and rule) and one negative command – don’t eat (Gen. 1:28; 2:16-17). Rules have been present eternally even before sin entered into the world. There is a Lawmaker and a Lawgiver – the eternal God. Therefore, rules and laws are good because God is good.

Since God is relational (within the Trinity and God to man), man, as His image bearer, is relational. Every relationship requires some set of rules by some standard. Moreover, since God is ethical and religious, so, too, is man as His image bearer. Religion, morality, and ethics did not evolve. They are God’s design for man and His world. Since God is the Lawgiver, the law is good. Many today disagree with these conclusions.

Adam in the Garden was not excluded from lawkeeping (obedience). However, he set himself as lawmaker and he followed the examples of the fallen angels. He became a law unto himself. He was the lawgiver. The issue was not the presence of law and lawkeeping but whose law.

As a result of Adam’s sin and God’s judgment, sin and misery entered into the world (Rom. 5:12-14). As a consequence, man took a completely different view of the God, himself, and the law (God’s or his?). Such is the problem today. Acknowledged or not man does not correctly understand God or himself (Rom. 1:18-23). He substitutes himself as the lawgiver and lawkeeper for his glory. Man is on a collision course with God daily unless there is a supernatural change in man.  An eternal  non-negotiable truth exclaims that there is only one Lawgiver and He is God. Man does set rules but they are to be in accordance with a proper biblical understanding of the Lawgiver and lawkeeping.

Return your focus to heaven which is every believer’s destiny. There is much activity. The saints in heaven are the recipients of Christ’s perfect lawkeeping. They are enjoying fellowship with God because of it. In Romans 13:8-10, Paul wrote that the debt of love – to love others – is forever. He summed up the fulfillment of the law in the same way that John did (1 John 4:7-12). Love is the fulfillment of the law. The Bible has terms for Jesus: Light, Life, and Truth. Christ is Lover par excellence which he demonstrated by pleasing His Father and completing His work (John 4:31-34). Moreover, Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul wrote that love is the greatest of faith, hope, and love. It will continue eternally. Love points to the law, the one Lawkeeper, and the One Lawgiver. Law without love is not law God’s way and love without love is not love. The two are linked (John 14:15, 21, 23).  The fulfillment of the law is via love and the fulfillment of love comes only because of law. Lawkeeping began in eternity past, begins here on the earth as believers’ apply Matthew 22:37-40 daily: love of God and love of neighbor summarizes the law. The law facilitates love and love accentuates the law. The law gives insight and wisdom into Who God is, the essence of the cross, and man as a lawbreaker.

 

Application:

  1. What is your view of law/rules, the Lawgiver, and Christ the Lawkeeper?
  2. What effect does the fact that law has existed with God since eternity past have on you?
  3. Biblically, think of some purposes of the law (for starters, you may want to look at Romans 3:19; 4:15; 5:20-21; 7:7-12).

 

 

Law: Part 2: The Law is a Big Deal

The Purpose of the Law

 

Law and order are eternal because God is a God of order and peace (1 Cor. 14:33). Although the passage is normally associated with worship and church life, it does describe God’s nature. God orders His world according to non-negotiable truths. God can’t lie – He is truth and a truth teller (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2). These facts alone indicate that God is trustworthy – He makes promises and keeps them. He can’t deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:11-13). God does not change. Therefore His promises do not change. He gives Law – the Ten Commandments and the moral law which is written in the heart of all people – for several reasons.  Lawmaking and lawgiving is His nature; man is His image bearer; and it best for mankind.

In terms of law these truths about God are significant. God gave Israel the Law (the Ten Words or Commandments) and prefaced the giving of the Law with the words recorded in Exodus 20:1-2: I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt out of the house of slavery. God’s statement about Himself and His relationship with Israel can be summarized in seven “P’s”: He is personal, present, powerful, a promise-maker, a planner, purposeful, and provides for His people. He had delivered His people in a mighty way from Egypt and their bondage, hardness, and misery. This delivery pointed to the great delivery in Christ.

After the giving of the Ten Words, Moses spoke to the fearful, hesitant, confused people: …Do not be afraid. God has come to test you that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning (Exodus 20:20). The passage gives a summary statement about God and the giving of the Law. The Law was given as an antidote for competing with God. Moses proscribed fear. He was not referring to fear of God; otherwise Moses would not have added the motivation for the giving of the Law as God’s tool to keep Israel from sinning. Fear of the Lord is designed to do that. Moses is speaking of fear of man which is actually a self-focus on control. Moses taught the people, and us, that the purpose of the Law is a good one. Rather than sinfully fearing God and His providence hoping to control the situation and outcome, the people were to put on wisdom – that is, fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7: fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom). Here wisdom and trust are synonymous. Mankind has two basic choices that every person faces daily: trust in God or self. The Law was intended to help people to choose to trust God.

God was in the business of growing wise people. His people were to be true reflectors of Him. Rightly understood, Moses taught the people one of the purposes of the Law: the development of wisdom. Wise people understand sin for what it is. They use the Law to examine themselves and to grow in wisdom and Christlikeness.

Properly understood, lawkeeping is a way of life for the believer. His relationship to the Law has changed. God and Law have not changed. The believer has changed. He views lawgiving and lawkeeping from God’s perspective and not his own. God in His word teaches that the Law shows the way of life for the believer (Leviticus 18:5; Ezekiel 20:11, 13, 21; John 14:15, 21, 23). In those last passages found in John’s gospel, Jesus told the apostles: if you love me keep my commands. Obedience is linked to wisdom and love. Lawkeeping is a way of life for the believer because lawkeeping is not to be mere duty to earn. Rather, it is duty out of love and respect for the Lawgiver and Christ’s lawkeeping. Therefore lawkeeping is privilege and blessing (1 John 5:3). Being a child of God and pleasing the Father were two great truths that John relished as expressed in 1 John 3:1-3. John knew his theology, his God, and Christ’s lawkeeping.

The motivation for lawkeeping is critical. Ask yourself your motivation for obedience. Lawkeeping done out of gratitude for salvation carries with it sweetness and contentment.

Lawkeeping is not a way of salvation or a way of life for the unbeliever (Rom. 10:5; Gal 3:10-13). The Law is an external summation of the mind of God. It captures the attention of every person: the fool rejects it and the Lawgiver at his peril now and eternally. The fool becomes a law unto himself and thereby competes with God. God will not share His glory with anyone (Isa. 42:8; 48:11). The wise man embraces the Law and Christ’s lawkeeping and rejoices. He imitates Christ and His lawkeeping, imperfectly and non-redemptively. The more he does the more he grows in the sweet understanding and appreciation of Jesus Christ, his Substitute. The believer trusts and obeys because of who God is and out of gratitude for what the Law is and for Christ and His lawkeeping.

 

Application:

  1. What is your view of the Law and lawkeeping?
  2. Your view of the law is linked to your view of God and to your view of yourself. Is the Law your friend? Why or why not?
  3. Your view of the law is tied with your understanding of such passages as Ps 119:9-11, 99, and 105. How do you interpret these passages and how do you apply them daily?

 

 

Law: The Law is a Big Deal: Part III

The Purpose and Uses of the Law

 

In this series of blogs I have looked at Law as a reflection of the nature of God. I expanded the concept of Law to rules and took us back into eternity. Rules and laws govern Intratrinitarian activity toward each member of the Trinity and to mankind. It is God’s nature to be a law to Himself because He is the Lawmaker. What is proper and even natural (His nature) for God is good for mankind because man is God’s image bearer.

We have to limit our definition to God’s Law as spelled out in the Ten Commandments. Although some may disagree, all the Ten Commandments have continued relevance into the New Testament. In fact, the Law of God is central to the Bible’s message. The giving of the Law teaches us about Christ the great Lawkeeper. The giving of the Law helps establish the fact of a Lawgiver and the expectation of lawkeeping.

Christianity is a lawkeeping religion. But the lawkeeping demanded is perfect lawkeeping with a purpose. Unsaved sinners are unwilling and unable to bow the knee to God and His Law. They create their own law. They are imperfect lawmakers and lawkeepers. In marked distinction, a perfect Law from the perfect Lawgiver demands perfect lawkeeping.  The Jews prided themselves on their relationship with Moses as their great lawgiver. The law came through Moses but Jesus addressed their hard hearts when He told them that Moses wrote about Him (John 1:17; 5:45-47). They had the wrong view of God, Jesus, the Law, themselves and lawkeeping.

Jesus Christ is the perfect Lawkeeper. The Ten Commandments give full expression to the very nature of Christ as the perfect Lawkeeper. They are an external summation of the mind of God in terms of Who He is and what He deserves and demands. The first four commandments summarize man’s duty toward God. These first four commandments are summarized in Matthew 22:37-38: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  The last six commandments summarize man’s duty to man and they are summarized in Matthew 22:37:39-40:  And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. All of the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.  Christ fulfilled the whole Law perfectly, completely, and redemptively (Luke 24:25-27).

Not only is the Law central to the Bible’s message but so too is lawkeeping. Therefore theologians have tried to summarize the uses of the Law. Scripture teaches that the law is good (Exodus 20:18-21; Rom. 7:12; 1 Tim. 1:8-11). What is the law good for? Theologians speak of several uses of the Law. They include:

  1. Its mirror function: on the one hand, the Law of God reflects and mirrors the perfect righteousness of God. The law tells us much about who God is. Perhaps more important, the Law illumines human sinfulness, inability, and lack of desire to be God’s kind of lawkeeper. After failing to keep the law, the law drives mankind to grace because it points to the true Lawkeeper. The law highlights our weakness so that we might seek the strength found in Christ (Romans. 5:20-21; Gal 3:19). Here the law acts as a severe schoolmaster who drives us to Christ.
  2. It restraining function, the so-called civil function of the Law: the Law restrains evil. It, in and of itself, cannot change human hearts. It can, however, serve to protect the righteous from the unjust. The law allows for a limited measure of peace and justice on this earth, until the last judgment is realized (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Tim 2:1-2). This function of the law demonstrates God’s common grace and kindness.
  3. Its revealing function: the Law reveals what is pleasing to God and increases our knowledge of sin and sinfulness. The Law for believers is a lamp and a light. (Ps. 119:99, 105). The Law in its summary from enlightens believers as to what is pleasing to God as believers seek to please the Triune God.  The Law stimulates believers to study the Word which elaborates the fullness of the Law (Rom. 7:7-12). The Christian delights in the law as God Himself delights in it. Jesus said, If you love Me, keep My commandments (John 14:15). This is the highest function of the law, to serve as an instrument for the people of God to give Him honor and glory by growing in Christlikeness.

Christianity is a law-friendly religion. How can it not be? God had revealed Himself as the Lawgiver and Lawkeeper. The gospel message can be summarized as lawgiving and lawkeeping.  Sadly these simple truths are so misinterpreted. Post-fall, the beauty of lawgiving and lawkeeping is summarized in two words: Jesus Christ. If you understand Jesus you understand the Law and yourself. If you rightly understand the Law, you understand Jesus and yourself.

 

Application:

  1. Most people miss the value of the Law. Review the uses as given by theologian and write down your understanding and use of them.
  2. Explain the statement: lawkeeping is alive and well. How is it true?
  3. What is your understanding of Jesus’ role as Lawgiver and Lawkeeper and how are those truths a blessing to you?

True Liberty: John 8:31-33

True Liberty: John 8:31-33

Discipleship

 

The 4th of July is here. What a great day! On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress declared the people of America independent from the British colonies. Two days later there occurred another historic day. On that day the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence – freedom from tyranny and foreign oppression. For Americans who cherish freedom, July 2nd and the 4th are tremendous, even mind-boggling days.

As good as it is to be an American there is something better. The Bible, the only true answer book, gives what that something is. One of the Bible’s main subjects is freedom and God is the Provider of true freedom. The Bible begins with God. It teaches that God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1-2; Ps. 102:25). The universe is His (Pss. 24:1-2; 50:8-12; Acts 17:24-28). The Triune God sent the Son in order to redeem His creation and His people (Luke 4:18-22; Rom. 8:18-21). That is true freedom. Creation and redemption are linked.

What was the cost of that freedom? God sent His Son to die for unworthy, undeserving, and rebellious sinners (Rom. 5:6-10). God saved His people from Himself as Judge; themselves as self-pleasing enemies and rebels of God; from sin – its power and penalty; from misery in this life and an eternal destiny in hell; and from Satan, the father of lies and liars. Setting the captives was a divine program with stupendous results!

The Bible declared that the truth will set you free. John 8:31-32 speaks of true freedom: To the Jews who believed in him, Jesus said: If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. What wonderful words of comfort but also challenge. The phrase believed in him referred to those people who had made a formal profession of faith. Jesus clarified what He meant by the phrase believe in Him with the words: If you hold to my teachings. His disciples cherish and hold on to Christ and His teachings not simply speak words or perform ritual service. Jesus adds more clarity to true discipleship. His disciples know the truth and the truth sets them free.

Apparently there were Jews who believed in Christ (v.31). That sounds like a good start! The words indicated that they believed that they were freed people – truly liberated. Jesus went on to explain that the test of a true profession was endurance – holding fast to Jesus, the Person and His words. That explanation did not fit with the Israelites’ concept of freedom. They thought the only slavery that they had was physical – bondage to Rome.

Early in His ministry, Jesus claimed to be the Liberator of His people (Luke 4:18-22). In His inaugural public sermon, Jesus claimed that He would pay the ransom price and set prisoners free. Freed men – those saved – would not return to a patterned life style of self- pleasing in its many forms. Rather, true disciples hold to Christ and live as changed people – thoughts, desires, and actions directed toward loving God and loving neighbor. The statement by Jesus strongly indicated that the believer, and only the believer, has the capacity and will to shed his sinful patterns of self-pleasing and replace them with patterns of pleasing God.  Self-pleasing is out at least in principle and is replaced by the practice of putting God and others first (Phil. 2:3-5). A person who claims he can’t help but please himself and that he can’t stop sinning in various ways is in serious trouble.  If he is a believer he denies the reality of his blood-bought freedom and he denies the true Liberator, His Person and work.

The words by Christ in John’s gospel describe the means of true freedom: the truth will set you free refers to a person – Jesus Christ (John 14:6) and His word John (17:17). The truth will set you free because the believer is now united to Christ through Christ’s union with him through the work of the Holy Spirit.  Every believer is in Christ – united with Him – and has been bought with a price. Jesus paid it all (John 19:30).

The next question is free from what?  The Jews missed the point (v.33). They denied both their physical and spiritual bondage. Even though under Roman rule, they claimed they were Abraham descendants and were slaves to no one. They concluded that they did not need a Messiah like Christ. Physical relief was all they needed and wanted.

In fact, every believer has been freed from the power of sin (slavery to sin and patterned sinfulness through personal lawkeeping) and the penalty of sin (condemnation and hell). The believer has been rescued and supernaturally transferred from one dominion to another. The believer is no longer a slave of unrighteousness but a slave of righteousness (Rom. 6:16-19). This blood-bought freedom at least means the believer has the freedom, the capacity, and the desire to please God and put off a return to the foolishness of anti-God self-pleasing, self-trusting, and self-righteousness. The believer can and will embrace the joy of salvation and trusting God rather than self (Prov. 3:5-8). The dog who returns to his vomit has not really changed; so, too, the fool who is still a fool returns to his folly of self-pleasing (Prov. 26:11). This is true of the unbeliever all the time and the believer some of the time. Yet, the believer, having been set free, lives out that freedom daily by relying on Holy Spirit-guided and Holy Spirit-directed concrete, specific biblical principles. The believer lives as a changed person because he is – the truth has set him free. He knows it and he functions as if his freedom is real because it its!

 

Application:

  1. What truths do you know about yourself and Christ?
  2. How do you cherish your freedom?
  3. How and why are you applying them and what are the results?
  4. What truth do you need to help you change your view of God, self, and others?

 

 

 

Freedom: From Something and To Something

Freedom: From Something and To Something

Who’s Lawkeeping?

 

In America, we have been taught that freedom is important. Our country was borne out of strife. There was a presumed suffocating bondage. Daily life was increasingly restrictive and cumbersome. The bondage was oppressive. A war ensued. Victory was won. Freedom was obtained. So it is in the Christian life. Previous bondage in Satan’s family and kingdom was a reality. Jesus came to free from the captives and remove them from bondage. Supernaturally and radically the believer has been transferred from bondage to freedom (Col. 1:13).  Yet for the Christian, the battle continues. As strange as it may seem there is a pull back to bondage. Paul discussed this fact in the book of Galatians. False teachers were present and the pull to return to personal lawkeeping by ritual and tradition loomed large. It was presented as a preferably lifestyle. Jesus had addressed this approach to life and His solution – Him! (Mat. 11:28-30).

In Galatians 5:1 Paul wrote that it was for freedom that Christ freed us. Believers have been set free. In the context of Galatians Paul is speaking of the lure of returning to personal lawkeeping as a means of salvation and sanctification. Paul was not against the law or lawkeeping. He was a theologian par excellence. He knew Christianity was a law- keeping religion. Lawkeeping was not the issue. The issue was whose lawkeeping and for what reason/purpose? In the same verse (5:1) Paul warns the congregation not to be burdened by personal lawkeeping as a means to accomplish salvation and sanctification. Paul likens this as a return to a yoke of slavery. Yoke refers to the teaching of the Pharisees (Matt. 11:28-30).

Man makes is own lawmaker, sets his own standard, and makes efforts to keep the law. In fact, he is burdened by his wrong view of the law and his lawkeeping, The person continues his pursuit of earning acceptance as he tries to keep his or another’s law. He usually makes provisions for not keeping the law perfectly. He may be satisfied that his view of lawkeeping is God’s view. In Jesus’ and Paul’s terms this is a yoke of slavery.

In contrast to false teachers, Paul is emphasizing that freedom from the law is to be properly understood. The law has not changed. It is the believer’s relationship to it. Most theologians speak of freedom from the law in terms of the law’s curse which is the penalty of sin. The curse of the law occurs because of God’s judgment according to His perfect law. This began in the Garden with Adam’s sin. The believer is freed from the law’s penalty – damnation in this life and the next but also misery in this life according to such passages as Proverbs 8:35-36; 13:15.

Also there is freedom from the law’s power as well. The power of sin resides in the law, God’s judgment, and in the person (Rom. 7:7-12). Paul wrote that he would have desired to sin unless he was told no. The one who desires to act as his own lawgiver and lawkeeper is a law to himself. A law from the outside that says no or stop stimulates in man the desire to say yes and do. Such is the power of sin or perhaps more accurately the sinfulness in the believer and unbeliever.

People expend efforts to keep the law as they understand it or want to understand it. Instead of depending on Christ’s lawkeeping the unbeliever is a law unto himself. Unfortunately the believer can and does function in the same manner. In Romans 6 and 7, Paul personifies sin as an operative force or principle in which the person marches to. Paul is speaking of sinfulness, total in the unbeliever and remaining in the believer. Sin’s power resides in the continued inclination developed while in Satan’s family and kingdom which is captured by the term self pleasing. The issue is one of authority power, and dominion as given in Galatians 5:13, 16-18. Joshua put the choice and activity of pleasing God or self in covenantal terms in Joshua 24:14-15. Who will you serve: self or God?

Paul was burdened and angered by the false preachers of a false gospel (Gal. 1:6-10; 3:1-5; 5:1-7).  He was burdened as he heard and maybe watched false preachers wooing the people with false counsel via a false gospel and way of life. The people were returning to the lifestyle from which they were saved from (Gal. 3:1-5). The Galatians were functioning as the dog pictured in Proverbs 26:11 – returning to his vomit of self pleasing. Dependence on God and acceptance by God are not earned. Rather, both are gifts supernaturally imparted at regeneration and continued in sanctification (John 3:3-8; 2 Cor. 5:9, 15-17). If one chooses personal lawkeeping as a way of life then perfect lawkeeping is demanded (Galatians 5:3). Paul turns his readers to Christ – more of Him rather than something more – in this case one’s personal lawkeeping. There is a perfect lawgiver and perfect lawgiver. Paul pointed the Paul to Christ. He is the lawkeeper par excellence. There is no other and there is no need for another. It is impossible to serve two masters: (Galatians 5:4-5; Matt.6:24). One says: keep the commandments, any old ones and any old way. Keep your nose to the grindstone. The other says: you can’t but I have kept God’s law in your place – be encouraged and expend on Me. Christ offers freedom from personal, imperfect lawkeeping to His perfect, redemptive lawkeeping. Therefore obedience is linked to love and knowledge and is only duty but privilege and blessing (1 John 5:3).

 

Application:

  1. Consider lawkeeping from the perspective of Galatians 5:1-5, 13 and John 8:31-32. What do you learn?
  2. How do you reconcile John 14:15, 21, and 23 with Christ’s lawkeeping?
  3. Your view of God dictates your view of the law and lawkeeping. What is yours?