How a christian relate to the law

Today I would like to expand a bit on how a christian should relate to the old testament law. In my last blogpost on the issue I argued that the purpose with the law is to show us the reality that we are sinners in God’s sight and to reveal for us in that way our need for grace, but how should you actually relate to it as a Christian who has put your trust in Christ and who now is justified or made righteous?

In the seventh chapter of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome Paul presents a metaphor to help us understand this. He says that the law is like our husband given to us in marriage. Now the law is obviously very good, and in itself it’s perfect, without any flaw. That might sound like the perfect husband if it weren’t for the fact that he is constantly demanding the same perfection from you. And he’s not a good helper, he is just expecting perfection without giving any help and worse he is impotent, not able to help you bear fruit, so the law constantly makes you feel condemned. One day you see Jesus and you see that he is equally perfect, but the difference is that he is helping people and lifting them up rather than condemning them. You think to yourself that what if I could marry Jesus instead. The only problem is that the covenant of marriage is only broken when one party dies, and the law will never die. So there you are with this condemning husband who will never die and you’re stuck.

But, says Paul, what has actually happened through your faith in Christ is that you have died, so you are now released from your bondage to the law and from its authority over you. And the great thing is that God has not only left you there in a spiritual single life, but he has then raised you to a new life where you have been united with Christ. There you now live with Christ as your husband, as it were, and bear fruit for God and serve him in the new way of the spirit.

Terry Virgo gives us this excellent illustration, to help us understand this, of a man who has been in the military service. One day his serving time has come to an end and he collects his civilian clothes back and give his military uniform and equipment back. Then as he walks across the courtyard area he hears an officer whose voice he recognises well: “Attention”. At first his back is straightened out of sheer routine until suddenly he realises, I’m not in the army anymore, I’m a civilian, the officer can shout as much as he wants to but it doesn’t carry any authority over me.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Rom 8:1-2

As a christian, I am in the same position as the former soldier. There simply is no condemnation on me any more. The law doesn’t carry any authority to condemn me anymore because there is no condemnation on those who are in Christ. It simply doesn’t exist any longer because we are released from the law and we now live in the grace of God. And when the condemnation come and the oughts and the musts and the do’s and the dont’s we are so easily proned to straighten our back and say, allright this time I will do better, this time I will try harder, this time I will please you and we try to please God by working harder at all those things that we are released from and we never really get to experience his acceptance and favour cause we are constantly living under the condemnation that we could do better.

Let me suggest to you that we don’t please Jesus, our new husband, by cheating on him with our former husband. We honour Jesus by living in the grace he has given us, loving him and enjoying his presence.

And then we have the law…

I would like to continue a bit from my last blogpost and today expand a bit on the doctrine of grace.

I am preaching tomorrow on the third chapter to the Phillipian church where Paul speaks about his human attempt to live a perfect life and that way earn a pat on the head from God. His conclusion is that legalism is only worth to be mixed with the other things he produce himself and then flush down the toilet and that his own attempts are worth nothing compared to being found in Christ.

Thats quite a harsh way of speaking about trying to live a life according to the law, isn’t it. Well, I would say that to understand biblical grace we need a clear understanding of the old testament law, and how it applies to people living in the new covenant. When I came to faith, I was taught that as a christian I no longer need to follow the ceremonial law of the old testament but the moral law still applies to me. The problem is that Paul is not only speaking of the ceremonial law but he is also speaking of his driven ambition and his achieved righteousness and it is all worth toilet paper to him.

“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane…” 1 Tim 1:8-9

To understand the doctrine of grace, we first need to acknowledge that the law is good. God has given us his law, and in it we see something of God’s character. Secondly we need to recognise that the law will only be good for us (or beneficial) if we now how to use it in the right way. Thirdly, we need to see that the law is not for those who are justified, it’s not for the righteous, but it is for sinners, and Paul then goes on to list a number of different sins to make sure that all can feel included in the category.

The law, thus, is beneficial for each and every person who is a sinner in order for us to realise that we are sinners, and thus, help us see our need for grace. But when you become a follower Jesus and put your trust in him, rather than in your own striving and human attempt to reach holiness, then he declares you to be righteous, he justifies you, and you become just, righteous and holy. Not because you have earned it or deserved it, but because that’s his grace.

That is all for now. Lets expand more of the doctrine of grace further on.

What does God think about…

My first real blogpost will be of the philosopical kind. I have been reading some different debates and articles on God’s opinions lately. I will leave those aside and this is not an attempt to involve myself in them, but it has spurred some thinking on my part.

So often we try to define God’s opinions depending on what our current culture says to us. Our view of who God is easily becomes political correct. My suggestion though, is that God must be defined by his character in eternity, whether we like it or not in our current culture.

God is love. This is neither unfamiliar or uncomfortable. We know this because God has revealed this character to us through the Bible and first and foremost through Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of John states: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

The law did reveal something of God’s character as well. Something of his standard, his holiness. Now the ultimate purpose of the law was not for us to try to live by it, but for us to realise that we can’t live by it. The law is our teacher that teach us our need for grace is the point Paul is making in his letter to the Galatian church.

Grace and truth came through Jesus. In Jesus, in his grace, and in the truth he reveal we see God. In the grace that has been given to us, that even if we have not lived according to God’s standard, even if each and every one of us are sinners, we have been given grace through Jesus. On the cross he has died with my sin and through faith in him I am now free from the condemnation of law, death and sin. Jesus also came with truth. On the cross Jesus not only put an end to condemnation on every believer, he also manifest that there actually is a righteous condemnation on sin that need to be dealt with. God does not change his opinion on sin according to current waves of popular culture, he deals with sin on the cross. Jesus came both to reveal the eternal grace and love of God’s character as well as His eternal holiness and truth.

Let me use an example that is not very controversial. Pedophilia is a sin in God’s eyes. Now that is not very difficult for me to grasp since it fits very well into my culture and worldview. My point is that it has always been a sin in God’s eyes. In ancient Greece it was considered an ideal for an older man to have a sexual relationship with a young boy [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pederasty] and in their culture this would probably be considered normal. My point is that God did not suddenly change his position in 1650 BC and he doesn’t suddenly change his position 2009 AD.

God is God, and he doesn’t deal with sin by wiping it under the carpet and forget it. He condemns it on the cross of Jesus and then recreate us with a cleansed conscience and a new life in Jesus Christ.

Grace and Truth. We need to acknowledge both aspects of God’s character to see God revealed to us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

A blog…

Six months ago I got the question if I shouldn’t start to blog. I said no, with the argument that to blog you need to have something to say!

I don’t claim to have more to say today than six months ago, but while I’ve been considering blogging for some time I came across an article on Desiring God named 6 reasons pastors should blog.

This article convinced me of the benefits with blogging and here I am. My purpose is very simple – to share. Share life, share dreams, share struggles, share fun, share resources, share insight, share whatever is on my mind. Feel welcome to participate and share the fun.