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Law or Spirit

No discussion of the law in Scripture is without controversy. No discussion of the law is complete. It is too large a subject. One of the many controversies found, when discussing the law, revolves around the application of the law to the life of a believer for sanctification. This seems to be an orthodox view. Most grace teachers reject this view. I camp with the grace side of the issue.

I find that the arguments circle around, but never really deal with a core issue. There will be talk about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the life that that brings to live righteously, or the power that that provides to a believer to keep the law, but the discussions never seem to get to the core of the issue and that is that good rests in the nature of God. Only God is good and only He is able to express who He is. I will touch on that and other issues in what follows.

Any law demands compliance. When told not to speed in my super cool Volvo, I must do something, and not do something. I must be observant of the speedometer and I must avoid pushing harder on the gas pedal. When told to Love the Lord with all my strength, I must apply myself with my whole being. The law, a command, requires work to comply. The law demands discipline, diligence, and a level of understanding. You cannot live by law and not do works, they are inseparable.

God’s moral law is particularly demanding. It asks that I have the character of God. The moral law is a reflection of who God is. Under the moral law, all that I do must reflect who He is. God makes legal demands because man must be holy if man is to have a relationship with Him. Adam and Eve broke their relationship with God and left the garden because they were no longer holy. Their desire to be their own god made them unholy. They decided that they could decide, out of their own being, what was good and evil. Only God knows what is good, because all good is found in His being. God is good. “God does what He does because he is who He is.” (Dr. James Fowler) God does not follow a set of moral laws. His actions flow out of His nature.

God cannot be satisfied by a partial compliance with His law. A partial compliance falls short of who He is. We are to be holy as God is holy. Only Jesus was able to keep the whole law.

God’s character is eternal, while God’s law is only a reflection of His character. A reflection of something is not the real thing. God’s law is not eternal. It is not God’s character. It is an error to equate the two. The law is temporal. It has a beginning and an end. Why then was the law given? It was added because of transgressions, until the arrival of the descendant [Christ] to whom the promise had been made. (Gal 3:19 [NET]) But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian [the law]. (Gal 3:25 [NET]) Add sugar to tea and you have something in your tea that wasn’t there before. The presence of sugar in your tea had a beginning. The law was added, thus it had not existed in the world before. It had a beginning. The law had a goal, an end in mind, the coming of Jesus and man’s faith in Him. The law was to be a tutor, to prepare men for the perfect sacrifice that the law demanded.

God’s presence in men could not be achieved through the law. The law lords over a man as long as he lives. The law demands work, and no work of man can produce God’s character, thus make him holy or righteous. Man’s failure to keep the law leads to spiritual and physical death. There is no law that can produce life. To live, man must be reborn, recreated. That rebirth is not acquired by being good and doing good. No human work can produce the recreation we require. Only God can create a new mind and heart in a man. We obtain this new state of holiness by giving up our trust in our own ability, our own work to obtain righteousness. It is faith that saves, not works of the law.

Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, the sacrificial death of the unblemished Lamb of God, makes the way for our being made whole again. Placing our trust in Jesus allows God to make us new. God forgives all our sins, and makes us holy. We are made a suitable dwelling for a holy God. His Spirit brings to us all that we need to live the life He has for us. …you died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you could be joined to another, to the one who was raised from the dead to bear fruit to God. (Rom 7:4) Jesus was raised from the dead to bear fruit to God. The mechanism for acting out our faith has changed. We do not try to keep the law to demonstrate we are righteous. We have a new life in Christ. Christ in us is a source of God living through us. Christ in us means that we have God’s holy and perfect nature alive in our being. Christ is our righteousness. In Christ we cease our works and we enter His rest. We live free and abundant lives. For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. [Eph 2:8-9] We have been released from the law, because we have died to what controlled us, so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit and not under the old written code. [Rom 7:6} Believers have been released from the law to serve not by an internal, Spirit empowered version of the law, but by newness of life. That life in us is Christ.

God achieved what the law could not do.  By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. [Rom 8:3-4] Paul could have easily said that you will now keep the law because you are empowered by the Spirit to do so. Instead he says that God achieved what the law could not do. The saved man walks/lives by the Spirit not by works of the law. The Spirit does not give us a new power to keep the law, or to produce good. Man was created to depend on God to produce good. The saved man dies to the law and lives by God’s Spirit. The Spirit is your life. That life is pure, righteous, and holy, not because the Spirit enables us to be obedient to the law, rather it is because that life is God’s life within us. If you are led by the Sprit of God you are an adopted child of God. He has placed His very being, His nature, His goodness within you and expresses that life through you.

Live free! Live abundantly! Don’t become enslaved again to the law. It is an instrument of death. Christ’s Spirit brings life.

For through the law I died to the law so that I may live to God. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing! (Gal 2:19-21)

Notice the change. I died to the law so that I may live to God. Why go back to something that will not give life, something that I am now dead to? Will we walk in the fruit of the Spirit or walk in the works of the law? To be clear, the choice between Spirit produced fruit in our lives, or fleshly produced works of the law involves our moral conduct. It is not just the judicial and ceremonial parts of the law that we have died to. It is also the moral law.

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God! But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit. (Gal 5:19-25)

“…let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit .” Let us behave in accordance with the new life/Spirit God has placed in us. Our behavior is Spirit, not law directed, and Spirit is our life..

No law exists against God’s character. No law exists that can create that character in us. There is no law against those things that are natural (in ones nature) to reborn Christians. Righteous living comes naturally to those who are indwelt by the Righteous One. Our actions/behavior reflect the new, holy nature God has placed in us. Our actions reflect who we are in Christ.

It is in the nature of a tree to produce fruit. No work required. It is in the nature of a born again Christian to bear the fruit of God’s Spirit, to reflect God’s moral character in our lives. No work required. Step back into the works of the law and the flesh is free to express its moral lawlessness. Walk by faith and enjoy the fruit of God’s Spirit in your life. Live free! Live abundantly!

Now I will make an abrupt change and tell you why I wrote this. I wrote in response to a chapter in one of Dr. Walter Kaiser’s books (book and chapter reference below). He is a consummate Old Testament scholar who impeccably captures the flow of Jewish to Christian history and the Jewish foundation on which Christianity rests. Having said that, I was disappointed in his chapter on the Law.

Dr. Kaiser is quite strong in his position making the following statement: “Consequently, any solution to the question of the unity of the law and the gospel that quickly does away with the law for the believer today cannot look to Scriptures for support. One cannot say that believers have nothing to do with the law anymore, for in that case they will stand opposed to the plain teaching of Scriptures.”

So now I stand in opposition “to the plain teaching of Scriptures.” Read Dr. Kaiser’s book and let him support his thesis. I have a simple question. If Christ is my life, why do I need an internal version of the law that the Holy Spirit empowers me to obey? I have Christ the law giver and the law keeper in me, expressing himself through me. I no longer live, Christ lives in me.

Am I wrong? I have tried to show that I am not, but I will let you be the judge.

Recovering the Unity of the Bible, One Continuous Story, Plan, and Purpose, Walter C Kaiser Jr., Zondervan, 1984, pp. 157-168, The Unity of the Bible and the Law of God

 

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