Monday, September 25, 2006
The Operation of the Law of God
The Law of God. It was given by God through Moses and preserved in the Pentateuch. When Jesus started His public ministry He made clear that He was not coming to lay aside the Law but to fulfill it (Matt 5 ff.-Sermon on the Mount). As we move on into the Gospels we start to see a conflict that we often call Law vs. Grace. There is a lot of material in the NT about not living under the law. Many Christians today feel that the Law of God is not very applicable to them. This seems to be at odds with Paul's statement to Timothy that "all the writings are God breathed and are profitable…."Obviously this is a large subject and I only want to touch on one small part of it today. That is the working of the law. On its face the law seems to be pretty straightforward. "Thou shall not do such-n-such." But Christ Himself peels away this veneer and reveals that there is much more there. Our Lord told the crowd that the prohibition on murder was really a prohibition on hatred. This could not have been something new that He was teaching; they should have known this already.So what do I mean by the working of the Law. I think that in our fallen state we have real difficulty thinking like God. In our flesh we seek technical or procedural laws. We want an algorithm that says: "If you see X; then do Y." But God does not legislate like this. His law is "Love me; love others." The Decalogue is a series of refinements on the overriding principle of Love. Throughout the books of Moses we see "case law" given to exemplify how the principles of the 10 Commandments look in real life.So the Law of God works on the basis of principle versus procedure. How does this impact the modern church? Well, when one looks at the 4th Commandment and says, "I am not bound to observe the Sabath!" then one can start to have Saturday services or call off evening service on Super Bowl Sunday. But when we observe that part of loving God with all our hearts, souls and and minds includes keeping the Sabatical Principle of the Fourth Commandment it leads us to a whole different mindset toward our Sunday worship.Another example that hits close to home is the Second Commandment. Many Christians would be hard-pressed to imagine how they could violate this command of God. Again let us consider the principle embodied here that there is a right way and wrong way to worship God. I think we are commanded that we are not to allow the surrounding culture dictate how we worship the One True God. Does this not speak to so much to how we do church in America today?This principle versus procedure thought brings to mind the example used by many including John Piper and Jim Berg to name just two. We would never expect to be given a list of procedures of how to behave in a marriage relationship. "When it is the anniversary, thou shall give the wife flowers." But we all understand how the principles of marriage dictate what we do on important occasions like anniversaries.The essence of Christianity is to have a restored relationship with God through Christ in the power of the Spirit. Every relationship has rules or laws. Very few if any of them are the technical or procedural types; most are principial. That is how God's Law works.