Sunday, June 07, 2009

194. What Place Does the Law Have in the Life of the Christian?

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As we talked about last week, a recent Barna study showed that a majority of Christians believe that spiritual maturity is about keeping the rules. Many people think that God gave the Law to teach people how to live righteously and according to His "standards." It may be surprising - or even shocking - to some Christians that the Bible actually says that the Law was added so that sin might increase. It also says that sin's strength is the Law!

So what place does God's Law have in the life of the Christian? Listen in as Kap and the Breezeman begin a series of podcasts on the true purposes of the Law and of the true source and motivation of the living out of the Christian life. We hope you'll be greatly encouraged and freed from the chains of legalism!


  1. "the flesh's response to the Law is sin"....

    Please help me understand what you mean by this. Do you mean that the Law is what causes us to sin, or that the Law works to reveal how sinful we already are...?

  2. you said: "in fact when the Law comes into play, sin increases"...

    So do you mean that it is the fault of the Law itself that we sin more when confronted with more rules, or that it is merely an indication of how sinful the fallen nature is, in that it constantly seeks out new ways to sin?

    It is absolutely true that victory over sin is not through the Law. So in that sense, we are to "die to the Law"... We are to abandon it as the way to try and earn God's approval... But we do not "die to the Law", as though it was what was urging us on to sin... We cannot give it even partial responsibility for our wickedness. If we did, then we would essentially be blaming GOD for our sin, since He is the One who gave us the Law in the first place. No, sin is ultimately traced back not to the Law but to our own flesh, which must be crucified with Christ. The Law reveals the seriousness of OUR condition before Christ. The Law "brings death", in that it showed us that we were already dead... Otherwise, all those who have never heard of the Law would not be condemned, and would have no need of a Saviour!

  3. Hey Daniel and Heather,

    Yeah, I didn't say that anything is the law's fault. In my last comment I specifically said, "The Law is holy and just and good, and it doesn't say to us, 'Come on and sin!'"

    But I do think that the law is more than just an indication of how sinful the fallen nature is. I'll give somewhat of a lengthy lead up to the point I want to make. (Either for your pleasure or displeasure). =D

    Paul says in Rom 3:19 that one of the purposes of the law is that "the whole world may become guilty before God. This is true whether people have ever heard the law or not. I would venture to guess, and I don't think it's a stretch, that most people who have ever lived have heard the law. So I don't think that God gave it just so that people would hear it and say, "OH, I get it, I'm sinful and guilty." No, through the law, He actually charged the whole world with the guilt of sin.

    So again, I agree that when we know what the law says, it shows us just how far we fall short of God's glory. But it's so much more than that. Us knowing how sinful we are doesn't actually charge us with guilt! But through the law, God imputed sin to everyone.

    As for dying to the law, I think Galatians 2 and Romans 7 are very clear on that. In order to be "married" to Christ, we had to die to the law. In our next few programs (already recorded), we delve into this some more. And not only this, but Col 2:14, speaking of "the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us" (the law), says that "He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." Our relationship to the law is over.

    We definitely do not blame God for our sin. We understand that "until the law, sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law" (Rom 5:13). Again, when the law came, sin abounded, sin increased, sin revived, sin was put on man's account (I've already mentioned those scriptures). Paul goes so far as to say "but sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful" (Rom 7:13). The law itself is good and doesn't make us sin, but "through" it, death is produced and sin becomes "exceedingly sinful." God gave the law for those very purposes.

    And to get to my point... LOL... after all this... about what you said... I think that one reason (of many, some of which I've mentioned) that we need to "die to the law" (or in plain English, to have our relationship to the law over and done with), is Paul's words in Romans 7:8. "But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire."

    If you interpret what that means differently than I do, that's fine, but if sin takes opportunity "by the commandment," then I think that's a pretty good reason to end that relationship with ol' Mr. Law! :)

  4. This is kind of interesting... You say that our sin is not the Law's fault, yet further down you say: "but if sin takes opportunity "by the commandment," then I think that's a pretty good reason to end that relationship with ol' Mr. Law!"...

    It's hard to read that last statement, and not hear some degree of blaming the Law for our own sin... (just being honest)

    You also said, "So I don't think that God gave it just so that people would hear it and say, "OH, I get it, I'm sinful and guilty"...

    But Romans also says: "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin"....

    I think overall, we are in complete agreement that WE DO NOT ACHIEVE RIGHTEOUSNESS BY TRYING TO KEEP THE LAW... And that is a huge point! We are saved through faith, not by works. But does this mean that we totally end our relationship with "Mr. Law", or does it mean that we rather come into a proper relationship with the Law, now that we understand what it does, and does not do...?

    "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” So we see that the scriptures teach that the Law actually points TO a righteousness that is by faith (and not through itself)…

    Even though we abandon the Law as the way to try and win God's approval, (which is what is meant by "die to the Law"), this does not mean it has no place in our preaching, or understanding of the Gospel... And it certainly doesn't mean that the Law itself becomes our Enemy as followers of Christ... The Law is ultimately not the root of all

    I think this is what is emerging as I read/listen to more of your stuff... Everything seems to get boiled down to this perspective that legalism is at the heart of all that is wrong with the church, with religion, with people being hindered from coming to know Christ. It seems that the Law is essentially blamed for all that is wrong within the Body of Christ. Every person who's had a bad experience, or who is currently struggling, it must be because of the Law. All they need to do abandon the Law, and just rest in God's grace... Maybe that's not accurate, just our take...

    But while legalism is a huge problem, and is certainly NOT the way to God, it seems that it is really easy to let the pendelum swing to the other extreme, where all we want to talk about is God's love, and grace, and acceptance, to the point where we are discouraged from even talking about what Christ saved us from! In some circles, to even mention sin is to be met with a barrage of rebuke, because "we're not under the Law, we're under Grace!"

    Even though we are saved by faith, and not by works, whether they be the Jewish Law, or one that we make up on our own, that does not mean that we do not struggle against sin in this life. Because Christ died to take our condemnation, does not mean that we turn a blind eye to the temptation that awaits us on a daily basis. Being secure in Jesus' love does not mean that we live in a la-la land, where we are incapable of bringing more pain on God, others, or ourselves. So if we truly understand what Christ did, why He had to die, and how much it cost Him to give us grace, then it only makes sense that do not take sin lightly, that we do not treat grace as some cheap thing....

    okay, enough for now...

  5. H-D,

    It seems to me (and I'm sure to you, too) that we have several disagreements on things that really are traced back to some root issues (and we agree on some things too). I can see this not only in this conversation but in a couple of other online conversations that we're currently having. That's all right. We're still brothers and sisters and we can still be friends.

    But over the past 10 years I've spent hours upon hours upon hours debating and discussing these issues with others, and have had some really great conversations. In the process, I've also discovered which kinds of conversations bear good fruit and which ones don't (for all parties involved, not just to get across my own way of thinking), and this one is one in which there is just way too much of a difference of background beliefs about the purpose of the law, etc, to really get anywhere in this. You are pretty adamant about where you are coming from, which is fine, but I don't see this going anywhere so I will simply say we disagree and leave it at that. I don't mind at all the two of you sharing your thoughts here. You've made a judgment about what you've seen/heard of me, and whether it's right or wrong, I don't think I can change your opinion of me, nor will I try.

    I will say that there's nothing cheap about grace. And we don't take sin lightly at all! We simply have a disagreement with you about how it's been dealt with.

  6. I don't understand why you'd think we have a disagreement about how sin's been dealt with, unless you don't believe it was dealt with at the cross.... (and I know you do)

    At this point, I'm not sure you do understand where we are coming from, and perhaps we have not articulated ourselves very well...

    We agree that our lives should naturally produce fruit, and not be an endeavor to try and please God by keeping the rules...

    We agree that we cannot earn our way to heaven, that it is a free gift, as God has shown us mercy...

    So where is the disconnect? That has been the real challenge in all this, determining where our perspectives really differ...

    Where it seems to lie is this: You seem to think that for everyone who's been within "the Church" and has not experienced the joy of following Jesus, it's because they have been saddled with a legalistic yoke, that they have been spending their entire lives trying to be good enough. That they've been told their whole lives that they're crap, and that they perpetually see themselves as not loved by God...

    You seem to think that everyone's problem is that they simply don't embrace God's love...

    And while I know that this has been the experience for many, many people, I believe it is patently incorrect to label everyone within the institutional church in this manner. After all, I myself grew up in an "I.C.", and in the end, what was hindering me from experiencing the Joy of God's love and grace, wasn't the fact that I had been beaten down by religion, and had my face shoved in my sinfulness, it wasn't because I was obsessed with my own fallenness...

    No... It was because I had NEVER taken an honest look at who I really was without CHRIST. I had always seen myself as a pretty decent person deep down. I had always embraced this idea that I WAS loved, and valuable, and even worthy of God's love...

    Once my eyes were opened, I then saw grace and love and acceptance by God as true riches! I really had something to be thankful for. For before, God's love was just seen as a given, of course He loved me, why wouldn't He? Of course, He always had, but that didn't mean I had any appreciation for it...

  7. The truth is that churches are chock full of people who are completely dead inside, who DO NOT KNOW JESUS, but who will all claim that they are saved by grace. This should alarm us.

    In that video "Judged", everyone who watches it is horrified by how people who call themselves Christians can be so judgemental and hurtful to others... But WHY does that happen? (and yeah, it happens all the time!) Because those "judgers" are just victims of a legalistic system? (the Law 2.0?) Or is it because people like that have themselves NEVER been brought face-to-face with their own sinfulness? If they had, they would not be turning around and looking down on others, they would not be doing what the man in the parable did to his neighbor, after having his own huge debt cancelled by the King...

    So when approaching someone who is truly lost, who does not know God, or the Truth, someone who has never even been in a church, never heard the name of Jesus, what do tell them Joel?

    Do you tell them that they just need to understand how they are loved? That they just need to "rest in grace"? How do you tell them to "stop trying to be good enough", if they were never trying to be "good" in the first place? How do you explain the cross to them? Is "repentance" really more like the process of "enlightenment" in many Eastern religions, where good and evil are only illusions, and we just have to become "enlightened" of that, in order to "rise above it"?

    How do you describe what what Jesus did in your life? Is it just how God delivered you out from legalism, and into grace? Or is there more to the story than that? Didn't Christ die to set us free from slavery to SIN? (not the Law...) Didn't He die so that we could spend eternity with Him?

    We cannot assume that everyone HAS been brought to a proper understanding of their own sin, of their own seperation from God, and that all that is missing is a proper understanding of God's grace... In fact, believe it or not, I think the opposite is a much more common scenario... (but maybe that's just me) I think people naturally are drawn to the ideas of grace, and love and forgiveness, but we just want to skip over the part where we first must acknowledge our desperate need...

    Who was it that Christ said went home justified before God? The Pharisee, who already saw himself as righteous? Or the tax-collector, whose eyes were downcast and beat his breast? Who really became a saint? Who really accepted God's love? Who was able to receive grace?


  8. Joel,

    I think your last comment was well written. I'm going to suggest there are some different perspectives being expressed, which is great. There were many comments being made that I would like to respond to but I think we're better off letting it go for now.

    Daniel, I know where you're coming from on some of what you have said. However, there were some things that I see quite differently after these many years of being a Christian and growing in His grace.

    I'm not even going to address any of it, I think Joel responded well and continuing to try to go back and forth like this probably won't be very productive.

    I'm not sure if you've read Gracewalk and Graceroots from Steve McVey, but Steve's ministry has had a significant impact on us and he articulates some of these issues very well in these books.

  9. Hey guys,

    I do understand where you're coming from, and I think it's fine that you've expressed your views. Like I said, I've been talking this stuff out with others since 1996 or 1997, and that includes many conversations with people who have expressed essentially the same views that you're sharing. So I do "get" you. I have no problem just saying we disagree. Ten years ago, five years ago, I'd be all over this conversation. :)