Why then the law?

I’m sure you have run across those who claim Paul was speaking to us in the present tense in  Galatians 3:24 when he wrote that the law was our nanny until we came to faith in Christ. There is a two-fold problem with this understanding: First, the context from the middle of chapter 2 through chapter 5 aligns with the passage in chapter 3 which provides explicit language to clarify Paul’s rhetorical question in verse 19 of chapter 3: why, then, the law? Second, a misunderstanding of the answer to this question can lead to believing just what Paul argued against in this letter.

First, does verse 24 in chapter 3 tell us the law was our nanny until we came to faith in Christ? Here’s how the KJV reads: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” In case the formatting doesn’t show up, the phrase “to bring us” is in italics, meaning it was added in by the translation team. Read the verse without that phrase: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The law did not, does not, bring anyone to Christ – the Spirit does that through the proclamation of the gospel! But that phrase was added to make it appear the law carried people to the Lord.

It is clear from the context that Paul is speaking of the Mosaic Law here. As is the case in all the New Covenant passages, the Mosaic Law is spoken of as a unit. We don’t read about this part or that division of the law. Simply the law. We read in Exodus that before Moses went up Mt Sinai to get the second set of tablets, he “came and told the people all the commands of the Lord and all the ordinances. … He then took the covenant scroll and read it aloud to the people.” (Ex 24:3 & 7) And in verse 12 we see YHWH telling Moses “Come up to Me on the mountain and stay there so that I may give you the stone tablets with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.” All the law and commandments, not just the Decalogue nor everything other than the Decalogue; all the law and commandments. This is what Paul was referring to.

The word interpreted “schoolmaster” is the Greek word from which we get our word “pedagogue.” While modern definitions, such as used by the KJV, claim that word means tutor, the ancient definition referred to one who was a slave guardian of his master’s child, to make sure the child was where he needed to be, when he was supposed to be there. He was NOT a tutor or schoolmaster, but one charged with the safety of his charge.

Here’s how several other translations render that verse: “The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith.” (HCSB) The law of Moses was “our guardian” – whose guardian? Go back to chapter 2 and verse 15: “We who are Jews by birth and not “Gentile sinners”” The law of Moses was a guardian for the Jews by birth – national, ethnic Israel, and not to “Gentile sinners.” Some of the folk in the assembly of saints at Galatia wanted to retreat from the milk of the gospel and embrace the heavy yoke that the council in Acts 15 would overthrow. These were called “foolish Galatians” (3:1), followed up by “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh?” (vs 3) If the law brings people to Christ, why would Paul call people foolish who wanted to live under it?

This brings us to verse 19 and the question – Why, then the law? And the answer: “It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise was made would come.” Even the KJV agrees with this. The law of Moses was given because of transgressions and only until the promised Seed came. Jesus came and did His work of redemption and is with the Father on high. The law as it was given to national Israel, as a binding legal code with sanctions for violations, was only until Christ came. Paul sums up the condition of his kinsmen of the flesh in verse 23: “Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed.” Some translations do not have “this” before “faith.” No matter – the apostle is restating his message from verse 19, explaining why and when the law was given.

The law was added – had not been given before this, not to Adam, not to Abraham – to remain in place until the promised Seed came. And until faith came, for the law granted faith to nobody, Jews were in chains under the law. But when faith came, when the Messiah was glorified, verse 25 tells the good news to those who were in bondage – “we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (verse 26)

Now back to verse 22: “But the Scripture has imprisoned everything under sin’s power, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” This verse does not say “the law has imprisoned everything under/in sin’s power” – it says Scripture has. Scripture tells us the entire creation was cursed when Adam fell. Scripture tells us there is no salvation except in Christ. Scripture tells us creation groans in anticipation of its new birth, when Christ returns to gather His saints on the new earth. We know that everything IS under sin’s power because of sin. Sickness and death stalk each of us. But the promise given to Abraham, that he would be the father of many nations, is incrementally consummated every time one of God’s elect is raised up to new life in Christ Jesus.

This message is given different views in chapters 4 & 5 but the message is the same: present day (in Paul’s day) Jerusalem represented the slavery of the Mosaic Law; freedom from sin comes only in Christ, the heavenly Jerusalem. The law was added until the promised Seed came. Hebrews tells us the religious rites given through Moses served as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things (Heb 8:5). When the fullness of time came, the promised Seed came and conquered sin and death and the shadows, those types found in the law, came to their end.

Why, then, the law? To show the nation of stiff-necked, loop-hole finding, law-loving Jews how wicked they were; to keep them as a nation to display God’s holiness to them and the pagan nations; to make sure they were around when the fullness of time came and the promised Seed arrived. The law was Israel’s guardian until faith came, because Israel could not keep itself. Their history shows that, if left themselves, they were every bit as wicked as the Syrians, or you and me before we were redeemed.

Once the promised Seed came, the guardian is no longer needed. Faith and the promise do not depend on fleshly procreation. By faith we become children of Abraham. Now that Christ has come, the Spirit keeps His people. The law fulfilled its role, its time is past. The covenant based on shadows and types, with fire and threats of punishment for violations of its law has ended. Faith has come in the person of the promised Seed. The law and all the other shadows of the Old Covenant no longer bind anyone with chains but, as the Spirit gives the light of understanding, serve to instruct us about our innate weakness and need for humility before God and fellow man. Just as we read with New Covenant clarity from Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John.

No need to “un-hitch” the Old Testament from our faith – all of it is from God for us. We belong to heavenly country which has different laws; given by the same God but intended for a people with hearts of flesh, not stone; people who, having been loved by God can and will love Him and one another. No need to tell one another, “know the Lord” for we all know Him. The Mosaic Law was chains for a people who needed to be told “know the Lord.” We in the New Covenant are not that people. We can see the law did not restrain national Israel from doing evil. So God gave His Spirit to will and equip us to do what is pleasing to Him.

Not under the yoke of law, which could not save nor can it lead us to Christ; it can only condemn. Therein is the danger of wrongly interpreting this passage.

New heart, new mediator, new priesthood, new covenant, new law from the new Lawgiver.  That’s the difference being in the New Covenant makes.

The New Covenant is really NEW!

The New Covenant is not like the Old Covenant (HEB 8).

Entry into the Old Covenant did not require faith in God; most of the people in that community were unbelievers. All they (the males) needed for entry was circumcision of their flesh. Entry into the New Covenant comes only to those who believe on the Son of God (John 10), who have been circumcised of the heart, not made with human hands (Col 2).

The mediator of the New Covenant is not another in the type of Moses – a servant in God’s house (Heb 3). He is the Son and Lord of the house!

God does not change our old stone into a new heart of flesh, He removes the heart of stone and implants a heart of flesh (Jer 31).

God does not improve the stone temple in which Israel worshiped Him, His redeemed are the temple of God! (1 Cor 3, 1 Pet 2)

The New Covenant does not have a priest after the order of Aaron but after the order of Melchizedek, who had no genealogy (Heb 7). This was not merely a change in/within the priesthood, it was a change OF priesthood; the nature of the priesthood is different (Heb 8).

The sacrifices of the Old Covenant could never take away sin, but only cover them for a season. The sacrifice of the New Covenant takes away all the sins of all the people in that covenant community, showing the weakness of the law and the superiority of the oath and promise (Heb 7). The nature of the sacrifices in the two covenant are not the same.

When the passage (Heb 7) says that a change of the priesthood mandates a change OF the law, the same nature of change is at hand. The law given to the Old Covenant community is not suited for the New Covenant community. A new type of law is required – one reflecting the priesthood as well as the community, which is 100% redeemed and dwelt by the Holy Spirit.

The law written on the flesh hearts of the saints is not the legal code with warnings and penalties, issued from the fiery mount (HEB 12). The law written on the hearts of the redeemed is the perfect law, the law of liberty (James 1), the royal law (James 2), the law of Christ (Gal 6). The law of Moses COMMANDED its people to rest from the work of providing for themselves (Ex 20). The law of Christ PROVIDES rest for the redeemed, no longer working to prove themselves to God, but serving one another, bearing burdens, loving others as Christ has loved us.

No legal code with threats and penalties for a stiff-necked and rebellious people but a new creature (Gal 6, 2 Cor 5) that loves God and others, in which the Spirit of God dwells, to equip and will His people to that which pleases Him (Phil 2).

The Man in Romans 7

The Man in Romans 7

In order to rightly understand what Paul taught in the latter part of Romans 7, we need to understand how he described two groups of people earlier in this epistle.

In Rom 3 & 4, Paul is teaching his kinsmen of the flesh why being Jewish is not enough, how children of promise are true Jews. In Rom 5:1-5 he is teaching – again – how those Jewish Christians were reconciled to God: righteous in faith, rejoicing in Christ and our afflictions, grounded in love, and possessed by the Holy Spirit.

In what follows in chapter 5 is an ongoing contrast between unconverted Jews and converted Jews, with an abbreviated history of sin – contrasting the first and last Adams. Throughout this chapter, the redeemed are described as righteous, justified, full of grace, saved from wrath, reconciled to God, having eternal life. The unconverted are described as helpless, ungodly, enemies of God, dead in sin, under judgment, condemned. Quite a difference – worth noting.

Chapter 6 is a continuation of Paul’s argument from the previous chapters, where he encourages the redeemed Jews (this is still his primary audience) are exhorted to walk in grace, not sin. These people are called dead to sin, joined with Christ, crucified with Christ, free from sin, alive to God, under grace, slaves of obedience and righteousness. He tells them – and us – not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies, for, he says, “sin will not rule over you because you are not under law but under grace.” (vs 14) We have new fruit resulting in sanctification and eternal life; we have a new master, grace – no longer slaves to master sin.

The unconverted man in Romans 6 has everything in common with his counterpart in chapter 5; he is in bondage and domination of sin, a slave to sin, ruled by death, obedient to sin, unrighteous, and ruled by sin; under law. This man is obedient to sin, under law not grace, a slave to sin – leading to death, weak in the flesh, morally impure, lawless, producing the fruit of death. Sin is his master, not grace.

The contrast between the unconverted sinner and the redeemed sinner is striking and it’s consistent: the one man is fleshly and full of sin, under the law and breaking the law; the other man is full of the Holy Spirit, rejoicing in all things, dead to sin and the law, producing good fruit unto eternal life.

A couple of observations: contextually, Paul has been describing his kinsmen of the flesh. The man in Romans 7 is a Jew, even though all people can identify with the spiritual struggle portrayed. The pious Jew  would see God’s law, instructions, Scriptures as good and holy even while he would be unable to comply with them.

When we then read about the man in Romans 7:13-24, who does he sound like? Let’s look at a list:

vs 13: dead, sinful

vs 14: of flesh, sold into sin’s power

vs 15 & 16: double minded

vs 17: full of sin

vs 18: no ability to do good

vs 19 -21: captive to evil

vs 22: he agrees, he knows the law of God is good

vs 23: he is a prisoner of sin

vs 24: he is a wretched man

While you and I see some of our Christian life in what Paul wrote about in this passage, it’s clear that this man has nothing in common with the redeemed man Paul described in chapter 5 & 6; but he has everything in common with the unconverted man in those chapters.  The context of the epistle indicates Paul is describing a Jew, not a Gentile, and a Jew that is struggling under a law he knows is good but without the ability to obey from the heart and produce good fruit unto eternal life. The man in Romans 7 does not have the Holy Spirit, but he is of the flesh, captive to evil, a slave to sin, producing fruit unto death.

The change to present tense does not mandate the view that Paul has changed course and began talking about himself as a Christian. It may very well be nothing more than a literary device to make the plight of the man all the more gripping. He is in a very dangerous condition! Present tense does not mandate the view that this man is Paul as a Christian. The description of the man and the larger context of the epistle provide a more sure guide to interpret this passage.

As with all Scripture, we learn from this passage. But we have no more reason to insert ourselves into this passage than we do with Jeremiah 29:11.

Better Than Moses

Better than Moses, Matt 5:17ff

You can listen to this sermon here. 

The Sermon on the Mount covers chapters 5 – 7 in Matthew’s gospel. The context is shortly after His temptation and the very beginning of His public ministry. Large crowds had begun to follow Him. Matthew 5:1-2 When He saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. Then He began to teach them. “Disciples” in this setting refers to the large crowds that followed Jesus from time to time; these people were not His 12 that we read of later.

After telling them about the characteristics of the people in His kingdom (the beatitudes, salt and light, city on a hill), Jesus abruptly shifts gears. He begins to transition into His main point: He is not just a prophet, He is greater than the greatest prophet YHWH had ever raised up. Here’s how He is compared in Hebrews 3:5-6 Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s household, as a testimony to what would be said in the future. But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household. And we are that household if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope. To be that household mean we are sons. Paul tells us we are no longer servants but sons of God; and since we are sons, we are heirs (Gal 4:7). What a contrast! Moses is described as faithful servant; Jesus is termed the faithful Son over the household of God. And we are sons of God through faith in Christ. This is the hinge-point of the Sermon on the Mount: Jesus unveiling Himself to pious Jews who desired to see the Messiah.

Matthew 5:17-20 (HCSB) “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The Christian’s True Sabbath

Had the blessing of preaching at Grace Pointe Baptist in Edmond this morning.

Preached on the Christian’s True Sabbath – the Christ who promises true rest to all the Father has given Him. Those who hold to a weekly Sabbath instead strike me as people who sit in the sun and admire a flashlight,

Grace Pointe is a wonderful fellowship where some of the saints make comments or ask questions during the sermon. I like this model!

You can listen to this message here: https://app.box.com/file/327497674962

God’s Moral Law

This post is a quiz! Most Christians acknowledge a moral law at work in all men, seeing this in myriad places vU2zJin Scripture – most explicitly, perhaps, in Romans 2: For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.

Here’s the quiz: Where is the moral law defined in Scripture and when was it given to man? Please reason your answer to this two-part question with the Word of God. The goal here is to stir our thinking and draw us to Scriptures, not relying solely on what men have taught us.

I’ll tell you what think after some of you answer. Have fun!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks to all who participated! It’s not likely what you will read next will satisfy everyone, but please read carefully and seek to understand what is written.

One of the problems we must all acknowledge is that the Bible does not provide a definition of “God’s Moral Law”, nor does it use that term in describing it. This is where many presuppositions come into play.

Three statements for your consideration: 1) There is a moral law from God that has been written on every soul, leaving no person with an excuse to claim he did not know. 2.) This moral law was given to man at the Fall, not at Creation. 3.) This moral law shines through the Decalogue, is not defined nor contained in the Decalogue.

As for the first point, I think the citation from Romans 2, above, proves that well enough. Those who want to argue against this point will have to be very calm and biblical to be heard. As for the second point, consider the biblical record: before the Fall, Adam and Eve had fellowship with God and knew the goodness of God. It was not until after Adam sinned that they had knowledge of both good and evil (Gen 3:7 and 22). As Paul wrote in Romans 7, knowledge of the law (here, he is talking about the Decalogue, which applied the Moral Law to the Hebrews) brings knowledge of sin. Adam knew not sin until he sinned. Since he sinned, he had need of the Moral Law. God wrote His Moral Law on Adam’s soul and Eve’s when He banished them from the Garden.

Thirdly, the Moral Law of God shines through the Decalogue, which applies that Law to the Hebrews, wrapping it in ceremonial language that applies to them alone. If one looks at the biblical context and direct biblical commentary about the Decalogue, there is no reason to claim those “tablets of testimony” as binding on all men everywhere. The 17th century theologian John Owen observed this in his Works, 22:215:

The nature of the decalogue, and the distinction of its precepts from all commands, ceremonial or political, comes now under consideration. The whole decalogue, I acknowledge, as given on mount Sinai to the Israelites, had a political use, as being made the principal instrument or rule of the polity and government of their nation, as peculiarly under the rule of God. It had a place also in that economy or dispensation of the covenant which that church was then brought under; wherein, by God’s dealing with them and instructing of them, they were taught to look out after a further and greater good in the promise than they were yet come to the enjoyment of. Hence the Decalogue itself, in that dispensation of it, was a schoolmaster unto Christ. 

But in itself, and materially considered, it was wholly, and in all the preceptive parts of it, absolutely moral. Some, indeed, of the precepts of it, as the first, fourth, and fifth, have either prefaces, enlargements, or additions, which belonged peculiarly to the then present and future state of that church in the land of Canaan; but these especial applications of it unto them change not the nature of its commands or precepts, which are all moral, and, as far as they are esteemed to belong to the Decalogue, are unquestionably acknowledged so to be.

I share Owen’s basic point, but differ in some details. What we see in Exodus 20 is not equal to the moral law, but communicates that law in the context of the covenant God made with Israel. I think there are “prefaces, enlargements, or additions, which belonged peculiarly to” Israel in the 2nd through 5th and the 10th  words of the tablets. Read what is recorded in Ex 20 and compare it to Deut 5 and ask yourself if what Owen and I say is true. Then realize that God’s Moral Law must be discerned by careful reading, studying and prayer. Failure to do this has caused many to blithely assume the Decalogue is equal to God’s Moral Law (something first proposed by a Roman Catholic in the 12th century). The difficulty in interpreting and applying the Decalogue as God’s Moral Law can be seen in the last 1,000 years of church history.

If there is interest, I would be willing to post a four page article I wrote last year as a result of studying this question in context of how the 1689 London Baptist Confession addresses it.

CARM Takes on Matthew Vines

CARMIf you are not familiar with Matthew Vines, he is a pro homosexual activist who spoke at College Hill United Methodist Church in Kansas. During that speech, Mr. Vines advocated that the Bible does not condemn same sex monogamous relationships. Mr. Vines went to great lengths to redefine the very meaning of scripture as he attempted to explain what God actually meant, by his own assessment, when He inspired the writers of the Bible to pen the words we read today. Unlike many who have taken Christians to task on this issue, Mr. Vines presents himself as a kind and polite person, one with whom you would like to sit down and have a conversation with. He does not attempt to make the vitriolic speech that many who have advocated “gay rights” have used. His demeanor makes his redefining of scripture more acceptable in the eyes of those who have not made the effort to understand what God has truly said on the matter of homosexuality. As a result, Mr. Vines, and the views he espouses, are more easily received, even by those to claim to be followers of Jesus Christ.

Last year I posted an article titled “Christians Are We Ready” where I referenced a series of audio messages prepared by Dr. James White addressing this very speech by Matthew Vines. I continue to heartily recommend those messages to every Christian as they directly dismantle the very arguments made by Mr. Vines. Now I would like to refer our readers to yet another resource that will further equip us. CARM has prepared a section on their apologetics site that continues to expound on this issue. Homosexuality is one of the defining arguments of our day. Christians must be prepared to answer the challenges presented by those who would promote their belief that sexual immorality is acceptable in the eyes of God. Therefore, I ask you to visit the following link at CARM and become equipped to answer when people ask you why you believe homosexuality is a sin. Let us be fully prepared, not so we can prove ourselves morally better, but so that we can graciously and compassionately warn those of the judgment to come for their sin, and that there is yet salvation in Jesus Christ.

http://carm.org/matthew-vines

Happy Thanksgiving

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. – Psalm 100”

As we begin this day of Thanksgiving, as we prepare meals for our friends and loved ones, as we speak of how thankful we are for the things, events and people in our lives, let us not forget to give thanks to God. Let us praise His holy name as our Creator and Sustainer. Let us be thankful for His giving us life and breath, for even allowing the very molecules that make us up to be held together. Let us praise God as the eternal Lawgiver and Judge. May we thank Him for being the very definition of righteousness, for instilling in us the conscience which holds us accountable before Him. And may we thank Him for His justice, that no deed done in darkness will ever go unpunished.

As we enjoy this Thanksgiving day, let us proclaim the goodness of God and His sovereignty. That God is in complete control of all circumstances, good and bad, righteous and evil, and is using them according to His good purposes and for His glory. May we bow in humble adoration that, in that sovereignty, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, to take on humanity, live a life of moral perfection in thought, word and deed, and to die a propitiatory death on the cross so that sinners might be saved. May we thank God that, despite there being no good thing in us, He reached down out of eternity, regenerated our hearts through the preaching of the gospel, and caused us to repent and place our faith in the Savior. May we thank God alone for giving us a new birth and making us a new creation.

As we speak to others about this Thanksgiving holiday, let us proclaim to them the true source of our thanks. May we share with them the glorious gospel of grace so that they too may repent and trust in Christ and that they may give thanks to God alone for their salvation. May we give them real reason to be thankful.

On this day of November 22, 2012, we the writers of Defending Contending wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and ask you to thank the Lord for all He has done for you and to praise His holy name.

I Want to Start Sharing the Gospel, Part 3

In my previous two articles, I laid the foundation that Christians need be built up in study of the word, in prayer and in worship in preparation for sharing the gospel. These are essential to Christian wisdom and growth; it also equips us through God’s power, rather than our own feeble efforts. I also discussed unbiblical methods of evangelism and why Christians should not use them. Today, I want to share the biblical method of evangelism and why a Christian should be sharing the gospel in this manner.

The Gospel

First, let us understand what the gospel actually is. In 1 Timothy 1:15, Paul writes, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” In Romans 5:8, he writes, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And in John 3:16, Christ Himself states, “For God so loved the word, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” That is the gospel, that Jesus Christ, the eternally begotten Son of God, who took on human flesh, came to die for sinners, so that, through repentance and faith, they could be granted eternal life! That is the message that we as Christians want to share with a lost and unregenerate world, that their sins can be forgiven if they would but repent and trust in Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice for their sins. But before a sinner can repent, they must understand that they ARE a sinner!

Law to the Proud

Most gospel presentations today are devoid of any actual effort to tell the sinner they are in fact a sinner. Those who propose such unbiblical methods argue that doing so is judgmental or legalistic. However, the apostle Paul did not agree with that. He stated, “…Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin…” (Romans 7: 7). It is by the very law of God that mankind is made aware of his sin. In fact, Romans 3:19 states, “Now we know that whatever the laws says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.” So the first thing that a Christian needs to address with the unregenerate sinner is the fact that he or she is guilty of breaking God’s law.

Before we start running out into the world and making wild accusations of everyone we meet, please understand, I am not advocating Westboro Baptist style, “God hates you,” hellfire preaching. In no way should any Christian slam down the ten commandments and start telling people just how wicked they are. Any presentation of the law and gospel message must be tempered with mercy, compassion and grace. It must be with the remembrance that we once were in the same position as the person we are speaking to. Never should it be filled with hate and vitriol, never should it be with the appearance that we see ourselves as better than someone else. Always in love and compassion should the law be given.

The law is essential to break up the stony ground of the unregenerate heart. The best way to illustrate this is by asking the average person if they thought they were a good person. The vast majority will tell you that they believe they are good. They pay their taxes, occasionally help the neighbor, they take care of their kids, they don’t sell drugs and certainly never murdered anyone. So, in their eyes, they are really good people. The problem is that they are comparing themselves to others in the world. They comparison they must make is against the holy righteousness of God. Against His perfect standard none are “good” (see Romans 3:10-20)

Often times, a good way to expose this is to simply illustrate their sins through the use of the Ten Commandments. While there a great many more laws written in the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments are most familiar to people and speak directly to the conscience, the law God has already written on their heart. By leading a person through the commandments, by asking simple questions such as “How many lies have you told? How many things have you taken that did not belong to you? How often did you disobey your parents? Have you ever used God’s name in a low or filthy way? Has God always been the most important thing in your life?’ we can lead a person into the understanding that, in the eyes of God, they are not a good person, but a sinner.

Often times, the sinner will still attempt to justify themselves by stating their good deeds outweigh their bad, but we need to remind them that God is a good judge who will by no means ignore their guilt. As God is perfect, holy and righteous, to be able to earn His favor and enter Heaven, we must be likewise. In fact Christ said, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 5:20). And, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matthew 5:48).

Other times, the person may appeal to God’s mercy and say that if they just ask for forgiveness and He will let them in because He is good. We must help them to see that if God is indeed good, He cannot let the guilty go free. Imagine a judge in a courtroom allowing a murderer to walk away, even though he confessed to his terrible crime, simply because he said, “I’m sorry.” That would be an unjust and capricious application of the law. And if we can see that in this sin filled world, how much more can we expect a perfectly holy God to uphold His laws? The law of God must be upheld, judgment of the guilty must happen or God is not good at all.

When the sinner understands that they are guilty in the courtroom of God, that their “good deeds” cannot wipeout their guilt (and are actually filthy rags in the sight of God, see Isaiah 64:6) and that they will be justly sentenced to condemnation for eternity, it is then that we can truly proclaim the goods news to them!

Grace to the Humble

When the lost sinner sees him or herself as justly condemned before a holy, righteous and perfect Judge, it is truly a humbling experience. Yet, there are many who will still proclaim their self righteousness, or will deny the right of God to judge them. For those who arrogantly stand in opposition to the law, I do not encourage the proclamation of God’s grace. I say this because “…the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith,” (Galatians 3:24). If one does not see they are justly condemned through their violations of the law, then they cannot receive the grace of Christ by faith. For those, I would say it is better to allow them to consider the law alone until such a time as they are humbled and understand their need for a savior.

But for those who are known humbled and broken, we can proclaim the good news! We can explain to them that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, who took on human flesh, lived a life of perfection in every thought word and deed. This is extremely important. If Christ is not God eternally, then He is only a man or a created being. If He is a created being, then His life and death are only applicable to Himself and has no bearing in our lives. Yet as God, as the Creator of the entire universe, every aspect of who He is has bearing on every aspect of our lives. And Christ as God eternally, took on human flesh! He now has two natures, divine and human. Not only is He our Creator and Lord, but He is the perfect Man, our perfect representative before God. Remember that our first representative, Adam, fell in the garden and all mankind fell under the power of sin. Yet, our second representative, the last Adam, lived a life of perfection in every aspect of the law! Never once did He sin!

Christ’s perfect obedience to the law is essential to understanding the gospel. You and I are justly deserving of judgment because of our sin, yet Christ, in His perfection was undeserving of any judgment whatsoever. But Christ willingly presented Himself as a sacrifice. He willingly allowed Himself to be arrested, put under an illegal trial, was falsely charged despite no two witnesses being present who could agree, and was brought before Pilate for execution. Despite all this, Christ made no defense of Himself, much to the Roman governor’s surprise. And He allowed Himself to be beaten, mocked and crucified (the most horrible form of execution ever devised). He was guiltless yet He willingly died. Why? Because “…the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23) and “…without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins,” (Hebrews 9:22). In other words, every sinner is condemned to an eternal death and torment. Yet, through the shedding of the blood of the perfect sacrifice, through the blood of the Son of God, mankind can receive forgiveness. Because Christ took on the debt that we all deserve, because He paid the fine we cannot pay. He is guiltless, we are guilty. We deserve judgment, He did not. Yet, He willingly took our place on the cross and shed His blood so that the judgment of God could be satisfied. The law could be fulfilled and the debt paid, the guilty made guiltless before God.

But that is not the only thing we need to share! See, three days later, Christ rose Himself from the grave! He defeated death and provided a way of eternal life. Now, not only can the guilty have the slate wiped clean, they can be granted eternal life, not based on their merits, but on the perfect and righteous merits of Jesus Christ. Sins can be forgiven and life eternal can be granted!

However, before the sinner can have access to this, they must acknowledge their sinfulness before God and must turn from it. In other words, they must repent! See, it is not enough for the sinner to just merely assent he or she has sinned and Christ died for that. Imagine a man who has committed adultery but wants his wife to forgive him. Would she simply receive him back if he merely said, “yep, it was wrong,” with no indication that he had changed his ways? Of course not. And anyone who makes a mere assent without a life indicating they have turned from sin has not truly repented. This is not to say that salvation will only come after a lifetime of repentance, but that one who truly repents will evidence that by an ongoing life of repentance.

The sinner must also fully trust in the completed work of Jesus Christ at the cross alone for their salvation. Imagine being in Court and sentenced to a billion dollar fine. Someone pays that fine for you, yet you attempt to come in each week and pay back a measly nickel to add your works to it. You would not esteem the sacrifice of the one who paid your fine, you would be trusting in your own pitiful works to justify yourself. Thus the sinner cannot justify themselves by their works, but must trust in Christ alone. They must surrender the entirety of their lives into the hands of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Through repentance and faith alone can a sinner be saved.

Conclusion

A truly biblical presentation of the gospel is one that uses the law to break up the stony heart and exposes the wretched sinfulness of the hearer. It brings them to the courtroom of God where they will see themselves rightly condemned. It then transitions to the glorious grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who died to pay the debt that they owe. It presents the sinner with the fact that if they would but repent and trust in the Savior, they can be saved.

I encourage every person who has read these articles to understand the great command they have been given by our Lord. We have been given the duty to share the greatest possible news in the world, the Christ came to save sinners! No other task is greater than this. No other duty has greater honor than to serve our Lord and Savior on the front lines of a spiritual battle. But remember this, we are only the tools in His hands. Victory is Christ’s alone. While we must fully prepare ourselves, while we must rightly present the truth, salvation is by Him alone. Thus present the gospel and do so fervently and urgently. Yet trust in His power alone to save the lost.

The great lie: Arbeit Macht Frei.

The sign that greeted the doomed souls who entered the Auschwitz prison camp in Poland during WWII read: Arbeit Macht Frei. Translated into English it simply said, “Work Brings Freedom.”

It was a lie.

The “work” that was done by the prisoners in the infamous Nazi concentration camp only led to death. There was never a legitimate expectation of freedom even though many of them probably clung to the hope of liberation thanks to the sign that told them so. In reality, the only fate the multitudes who entered the camp faced–passing under the sign that whispered the lie–was abuse, torture, starvation, and death . . . anything but freedom.

Just as this lie preceded the physical death of thousands of Adolf Hitler’s victims, this same lie precedes the spiritual death of billions of Romanism’s victims, Joseph Smith’s victims, Charles Taze Russell’s victims, Buddha’s victims, Mary Bakker Eddy’s victims, Ellen G. White’s victims, Mohammed’s victims (and the list goes on and on).

The lie Arbeit Macht Frei was not only found displayed on a metal sign above the entrance to the death camp, this lie is also found in the pages of religious books and on the tongues of religious leaders who bid you come as they crowd the entrance to the broad path that leads to Hell.

Most people on this earth trust their eternal destiny to a religion that could rightly post this same sign above the door where they worship. Just as Work Brings Freedom was a lie to those entering Auschwitz, so it is also a lie to those entering countless churches, mosques, temples, and synagogues around the world. Just as this lie assisted in facilitating the Nazi prisoners’ temporal extermination on earth, this same lie results in man’s eternal destruction in the Lake of Fire.

And this is what sets biblical Christianity apart from all other faiths in the world that are vying for your affections, all of which promise you something they can never deliver.

What they claim you can achieve by your diligence to codes, laws, and much hard work in their respective religious systems, Jesus Christ offers as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9)!

In fact, Christianity is the only faith in the world that promises forgiveness of sins and right standing before God based solely on what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross for us (1 Peter 2:24) and not what we have done for Him (Isaiah 64:6).

And Christianity is not neutral about those who try to work for their righteousness. The Bible makes it very clear that if you try to earn your salvation and God’s forgiveness by your work (following the law and performing good deeds), then you don’t have God’s grace, you are under a curse, and you are cut off from Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:10, Galatians 5:4) who is the only One who can save you (John 14:6, Acts 4:12).

If you’re going to attempt to earn your salvation then you must first believe that Christ’s sacrifice was insufficient to fully and completely save you without your contribution; otherwise you would be resting solely in His accomplished work, not His work and yours. To believe that you can become righteous, by working toward your liberation from sin and the wrath to come, is to suggest that Christ died in vain (Galatians 2:21).

It’s as if there was a man in the death camp offering a key to the gate to any of the prisoners, yet they ignored him, electing to instead work harder and harder for their own freedom (as the sign suggested). In the end the man with the key was their only hope, but they chose to attempt liberation on their own, foregoing their only means of escaping the horror to come.

There is another sign that could be hung over the doorway of Hell that would greet all those entering its abyss from the various paths of false religion: Vernichtung Durch Arbeit. In English it simply means “Destruction Through Work.”

You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:4

It’s Official: Islamic Law Has Been Adopted In Britain

Rowan Williams might actually be a prophet!

Seven months after Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was pilloried for suggesting that the establishment of sharia in the future “seems unavoidable” in Britain, it’s now official that Islamic law has been officially adopted in Britain, with sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases.

Sharia courts have been set up in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester with the network’s headquarters in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Two more courts are being planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Source: Times Online.

Faith vs Works (Part 1): The introduction.

Faith vs Works (Part 1): The introduction.

I’m in a rather unique position with this blog. I get hit from both sides of the Faith vs Works debate. On the one side are the Catholics, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses who claim that faith itself is insufficient without man working for his salvation (funny how these three groups tend to have so much in common). On the other side are the cheap-grace, easy-believism, lukewarm crowd who love to label me judgmental and a legalist when I say that there is not only a Biblical mandate for the law, holiness, and good works, but that these will be evident in the life of a true Believer.

Scripture is crystal clear on this issue, that we are indeed saved by faith apart from works and the law. This is commonly known as “alone.” To deny Scripture’s clear teaching on Sola Fide takes an unwillingness to part from former presuppositions and religious indoctrination.

With that said, I thought I’d cite numerous texts that deal directly with our salvation being through faith alone (Part 2); what the Bible says about those who rely on the law and their good works for salvation (Part 3); what place the Law and “good works” play in our faith (Part 4); and my conclusion (Part 5).

I am not posting this five-part series in an attempt to win any arguments or even to create more (although some will be inclined to do so). I will let the Scriptures speak for themselves with minimal commentary on my part. If you have reservations about their context, I encourage you to research each one for yourselves.

If I can win 1,000 arguments but not change one mind, heart, and soul, I have done nothing. I am hoping that with the following posts I can put to rest the issue some may be struggling with when it comes to Faith vs Works. Thank you for your faithful readership and as always, your comments are welcome.

(All scriptures are quoted from the New American Standard Bible).

PART ONE

PART TWO

PART THREE

PART FOUR

PART FIVE