Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The law is holy

When we make statements such as,

'Law is the ministry of death', - 2 Cor 3:7

'Those who are under the law are under a curse', - Galatians 3:10

'Law kills us' etc, Romans 7:10

some people get it as if we are saying the law itself is bad and unholy. They immediately put on the coat of defense and start quoting Scriptures such as,

the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. - Romans 7:12

law is spiritual - Romans 7:14

This seems apparently contradicting and to make it even worse both those contrasting statements were made by Apostle Paul.

What can we conclude from this? Either Paul is contradicting himself or we are missing something.

Let's see if we can get this straight...

If law is holy, righteous and good, why would Paul spend so many pages of the Bible telling us that we, as believers should be totally free from the law?

Paul says, law cannot justify us (which many people agree) and he also says, law cannot help us to live a righteous life AFTER our justification (where many disagree).

Here are some verses clearly saying we are not to live by the law even after our salvation:

by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. - Romans 7:6

Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. - Galatians 3:25

(There are many other verses, but this is good for now)

So many honest, dedicated, well meaning Christians want to live a holy life and they earnestly try to follow the law. I admire their desire. But there is only one problem : they will burn out and fail and knowingly or unknowingly they are under a curse!

If the law is holy, good and righteous, why in the world the people who are trying to follow the holy, good and righteous law are under a curse?

Apostle Paul graciously answers this question (I love this guy).

He says, when the law said 'do not covet' (which is a holy, good and righteous command), the 'sin' in him, 'seized the opportunity' and 'produced every kind of covetous desire in me'

Was it a problem of the law? No!

Was it a problem of Apostle Paul himself? No!

What was the problem then? The 'sin' living in him.

This is the very reason he said,

the law gives sin its power. - 1 Cor. 15:56

Law empowers the sin in us. Law stirs up the sin in us. Is law bad? No! Are we (believers) bad? No! What is bad? The sin living in us.

When we look in the mirror, we see the dirt on our face. Is that a problem of the mirror? No. Is that a problem of our face? No. What is the problem? The dirt on our face.

Have you ever wondered why God introduced a 'New' covenant? Was the old covenant bad?

Absolutely not! Why would God make a bad covenant?

What then was the problem of the old covenant?

For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people - Heb 8:7-8

The problem was the people! They couldn't keep it. So even before laying the foundation of the earth, God in His awesome grace and mercy, designed a NEW covenant in which He said, "I will remember your sins no more" and to accomplish it, He sent His own Son to earth to take away our sins!

Folks, this is good news! It is mind blowing! You can only sit down and look at this God with an overflowing heart of gratitude.

Okay, now the question is, if the law can only do bad in a believer's life, how are we to live a righteous life? a self-controlled life? upright, godly life?

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It (grace, the unconditional love of God) teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age - Titus 2:11-12

We live by grace, guys! And it teaches us how to handle our freedom. It is the forgiveness of God what encourages me to forgive others. It is the love of God what motivates me to love others. It is my acceptance by God with all my weaknesses what enables me to accept others with all their weaknesses.

Let's soak ourselves in this great love and let's be careful not to give an opportunity to sin to 'seize' us by our neck, by putting ourselves under the law. Live in grace! Live in freedom!


Ike said...

"Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace." Romans 6:14

Paul did not write, "Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are under grace." He made it clearer than that. He deliberately excluded ambiguity at the very point where I become confused.

Apart from continual re-saturation in the gospel, I see myself as under law when I've been bad, because I deserve it, and I see myself as under grace when I've been good, because I've earned it. Totally wrong.

Paul makes it clear where we stand now before God: "You are not under law but under grace." And then he looks us right in the eye and says to us, "I dare you to believe it and live by it."

Martin Luther: "It's the supreme art of the devil that he can make the law out of the gospel. If I can hold on to the distinction between law and gospel, I can say to him any and every time that should kiss my backside. . . . Once I debate about what I have done and left undone, I am finished. But if I reply on the basis of the gospel, 'The forgiveness of sins covers it all,' I have won."

lionwoman said...

Many Christians live as though they think that Jesus came to give us the law. Since God's delivery on Mt. Sinai didn't do the trick, Jesus came down here to personally shove it down our throats.

But the missing ingredient is relationship. Without it, we can't really understand grace. Thanks for a great post.

Bino M. said...

Hey Ike, That verse from Romans 6:14
is a great one. You are right, it leaves no ambiguity...

Bino M. said...

Amy - Jesus came to fulfill the law and He did it perfectly and freed us from it, gave us a new way of living - in the newness of the Spirit.

Thanks for stopping by!

Joel B. said...


A favorite (or often quoted) verse of Christians is the one that says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They readily agree that all are born sinners. But what many fail to realize is the truth that you've mentioned here - the good, holy law is what gave sin its power!

It's hard to come to accept that the good, holy law was against us, and was contrary to us, and needed to be taken out of the way, and nailed to the cross! (Col 2:13-14).

You're so right... God never makes bad covenants! The fault has never been with God, as He's always faithfully kept His covenants, and the fault was never with the law or the covenant itself. The fault was with the people, because it was so good and so holy they could not keep it! Therefore, it was contrary to us, and against us, and we had to die to it.

So much great stuff here! You're so right... this is really good news and all we can do it sit in awe and wonder of what God has done for us!

Anonymous said...

Is the law just the 10 Commandments?

My pastor likes to that say that the law is any demand that existence places upon us.

To be a good Dad, Brother, Son, employee, citizen, etc.

LovedMuch.com said...

Ike, that Martin Luther quote was great. 500 something years later I think we're privileged to enter a new paradigm shift, an unveiling of truth. We are discovering this aspect of the Gospel of Grace that invites us to live loved in Him JUST AS WE ARE. In doing so we're finding many of the effects of sin we were so earnestly warring against under our own efforts are actually beginning to shrivel up and fall off! Now, this midsection I've gained in my married years... it's not falling off that easy... hmmm.

Bino M. said...

Steve - Every reference to the 'law' in the verses I quoted are Mosaic law. I think whenever Bible says 'The Law', its referring to the Mosaic law. But when we talk about law in general, it is about any rules or principles. In other words, any 'self effort' or 'fleshly attempts' to live a righteous life.

Apostle Paul, in Galatians asks a very important question:

After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? - Galatians 3:3

Any 'human effort' is considered foolish in the sight of God.

Bino M. said...

Joel - Yes, Joel! God revealed this truth to me about 2 years ago and ever since I am continually amazed at this. He did it all... It surely is too good to be true. I can still get goosebumps thinking about all these. Thank you for adding your thoughts. It always brings great value.

Anonymous said...

All I could think as I was reading along was "Amen, amen, amen!!"

Great post, my friend. You so beautifully, concisely and clearly wrote out the Truth of the Law!

I especially loved: "They couldn't keep it. So even before laying the foundation of the earth, God in His awesome grace and mercy, designed a NEW covenant in which He said, "I will remember your sins no more" and to accomplish it, He sent His own Son to earth to take away our sins!

Folks, this is good news! It is mind blowing! You can only sit down and look at this God with an overflowing heart of gratitude"

~Amy :)

Bino M. said...

Amy - Thanks! Let's not suppress truth, let's reveal it... :)

People may become free!

Anonymous said...

i think you have explained this well, but somehow i so not think the oldadam is going to get it. He has law on the brain.

Bino M. said...

willohroots - Hey, thanks for visiting! I too had law on my brain. God is knocking it off now for the last 2-3 years. I am still in the process of unlearning a lot of religious junk. It's a painful process sometimes. I wish Steve get it! I really do.

Phil said...

Good stuff Bino. The thing is, the law was Holy just and good in content, and for the purpose it was given. But it was never given to impute righteousness, impart holiness, enable obedience, and bring God's favour and blessing. It was against all that. It found fault with Adamic man by denying all that as he attempted to gain it for himself. God did find fault with his Law in this respect, that it couldn't give the people the blessings which they were bent on earning, but which God wanted to give freely...Have you seen Ryan Rufus on Rom5-8 here ? I think he's right about Rom7. I think it's important that we realize Paul's talking about the identity of someone outside of the new covenant. Not a believer. Then, we can quit the struggling that's encouraged by thinking he's describing the continued struggle between the Spirit and the flesh in a Christian. I think we should be able to live settled in this. People often point to Gal5v16-18 and say that is a parallel passage. But that says the principle of sin working by the law gains strength if we come back under the obligations of the law in our own minds. Our experience then approximates the one of Rom7. But the Rom 7 one is slavery to the 'law of sin and death'. Paul wants us to know that the feeble experience of Rom7v13-25 is not the believer's inheritance, because believer's have been delivered from the Law, which brought the cursed consequences of sin working by the law, to the body. It made it 'this body of death'. It still has no inherent life resources of it's own, but the believer is delivered from it as a body of death, because the Spirit, Rom8v10, is life because of (objective, imputed) righteousness, which righteously delivered from the Law...just some thoughts!

Joel B. said...

Hey there Phil,

Not speaking for anyone but myself, but I've read Ryan Rufus' writings on Romans 7 and I personally have not come to fully agree with him. That's not to say that "I'm right and he's wrong." :) And I most certainly don't make this a point of contention between myself and others who believe as he does. I actually see both sides of the issue, and I see merits and weaknesses in both points of view.

Some of the reasons I haven't gone along with him have to do with certain things Paul said. If Paul is speaking from the perspective of someone who has not yet been born again, then would he say, "For I delight in the law according to the inward man?" (vs 22). Is this the talk of an unregenerate person?

It's pretty clear to me that when Paul says "I" and "me" in this passage, he's not referring to who he is in Christ, but rather he's referring to the flesh. We are no longer "in" the flesh, he says, but we can "follow after" the flesh (as he says of Christians in Romans, 1 Cor, 2 Cor, and Galatians).

In Romans 7:23 Paul talks about "another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." Again, his "members" is not who he is. But what about "the law of my mind." Don't Christians have the mind of Christ? Unregenerate people do not have the mind of Christ, so how could they possibly have this battle going on between their flesh and their mind?

Perhaps one of the biggest differences of opinion comes in vss. 24-25. "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

From what I understand the non-indwelling sin" thought process would say that the Christian is by no means wretched... how could Paul be talking about a saved person! But the word really means "miserable," and in the context I think it fits well with Paul's words in 2 Cor 5:4-5 - "For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life."

We are still in these tents. We are still in these bodies. We are "miserable," in that sense, and we "groan, being burdened" because we have not yet been delivered from these bodies. When we were saved, nothing changed in our bodies - in "our members which are on the earth." Nothing changed there.

Sorry so long, and sorry, Bino, to hijack this comment section. :) I'm not asking anyone to agree with me, but just thought I'd explain my disagreement with Rufus. Again, I love any and all who come from both sides of the issue.

Phil said...

Hi Joel. I once wrote a paper and modified it to book length for myself on this! I guess I've been back and forth some. I just think Paul's talking identity under law. The person is 'sold under sin' because he's not been freed from sin, Rom6, by death to the Law. Thus, as he seeks to gain holiness and blessing by the command, there is a 'law of sin and death' at work by the command. It's so taken the Law captive, just as it has his bodily faculties captive, that it multiplies by the Law of God in his body. The exercise of sin and death has become so linked to God's Law, that Paul says that law, Rom8v2, is 'the law of sin and death'. If Paul is going to be delivered, he needs to become an heir to God's blessings by an imputed righteousness that is not me the Law. Indeed, comes in the righteous deliverance from it. Rom7v1-6 is what he's expounding. He has a 'body of death' that makes him 'wretched' because it, like the Law, has been made 'weak and useless' to perform the righteousness it articulates. Instead, sin and its death-consequences run rife by his works-righteousness conscience...He 'delights in God's Law' in his inner man (mind), purely in the sense that he approves of the righteousness described in the commands (and as a Jew, the divine covenantal sanction backing them in the Old Covenant). Compare v16, where he concludes that 'if he does the things he doesn't want to when he attempts the Law, the logical conclusion is that he consents to the righteousness in the commands'...Now all this is the sin-conscious, works-righteousness conscience in action. Guilt, condemnation, curses not blessings, misery, bondage. And it's magnified, experientially, the more religious and morally committee someone is under legal obligations before God. Even though those folks -like Paul when he was Saul(Phi3v6) can't appraise the situation like he does with hindsight here, because they steamroller the realization of the true nature of the ministry of death, with a sense of their own merits and moral zeal/external works-righteousness...But the believer has received Christ's righteousness, delivering from the Law, qualifying as a co-heir with Christ. Because of that, he is a slave to righteousness, and the Spirit is continually supplied to minister life to him. He bears the fruit through his body, which is vivified by this 'law of the Spirit of life'...this is where I feel uncomfortable with 'higher life' takes on the Christian life. They say 'get yourself out the way so Christ can come through'. 'Die to the law of sin and death subjectively'. Watchman Nee says this, I think. But Paul's talking the objective deliverance from the Law delivers us to life in the Spirit. Faith reckoning it so. We don't 'die to live'. We have died and been raised to life by the message of imputed righteousness, Rom6. The Spirit is continuously supplied as we reckon that objectively so. Rom8v11 means we have a life-giving dynamic operating in our mortal bodies now. Yes, one day they'll be no liabilities there, because we'll have new bodies. But there's life for them now, and all of our living as New creations happens through their being empowered free from the realm of sin and death under law...much words and thoughts!

Phil said...

...and mistakes! I should clarify that I meant that there is a principle of sin and death at work, and is so so synonymous with God's Law (the Mosaic Law, covenantally), that Paul calls God's Law 'the Law of sin and death', Rom8v2. He bundles up the whole lot together, now that he's vindicated the Law from being sin itself (v7-12) or the root and source of death (rather than the means for it's expression,v13-25). As he said back in Rom5, the root and source of the rule of death was the consequence of Adam's sin. The Law showed it was there, the cross redeems from the whole lot in our Second Adam, imputing righteousness apart from works, with all it's life-consequences...Sorry, Bino, for hijacking the meta!

Joel B. said...

Hey Phil,

Yeah, I follow all that you're saying, but I personally don't agree with the line of thinking or all the definition of terms. Like I said, it's not a point of contention for me, but it's definitely worth taking some time with.

Bino M. said...

Joel & Phil,

I just read through these comments and I need a coffee now! :)

But seriously, this is good stuff! Phil, I appreciate you coming in.

I have heard both sides of the 'Romans 7' argument and I think I am in an agreement with Joel's line of thought on this.

I haven't read Ryan Rufus's article. But I will check it out and will add if I have any additional thoughts.

Thanks guys!

Phil said...

Thanks, Bino. Just to qualify, I'm not saying there's no fleshliness remaining in the believer. Or that a believer only sins when he gives in to external temptations. I don't think that's right. Neither do I mean that theoretically, the believer could not sin anymore. But I do think the image of 'indwelling sin' here is not 'remaining sinfulness' but sin (the noun) keeping the body under slavery and working by the law that rules over the man...towards the end, Paul talks of being brought into captivity by the action of sin by the law. It's continual slavery. Then in chapter 8v2, he says he's been freed. It's a question of dominion, I think. In Adam, in sin, under law. Or in Christ, in righteousness, under grace, by deliverance from the law.

Phil said...

By the way, Joel, thanks for that nifty bit of html...

lydia joy said...

Wow this is a great post, funny I missed it, it would have come in handy before I wrote my latest post :)

This is good stuff guys, talking this out, and clarifying.......people are going to get set free from this truth you are preaching!!

(Phil I agree - not an issue of remaining sinfulness.........!!)

Bino M. said...

Thanks Lydia! This is an area where I have a special interest :)