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Category Archives: Law and Grace

The Fruit of a Correct View of God’s Grace in Salvation

The psalms typically follow this pattern: telling the story of God’s triumphs despite his people’s unfaithfulness, leading to praise for God’s character and finally to the response of grateful obedience. I have often noticed that in settings where praise choruses are even taken from the psalms, it is a snippet and almost always excerpted from the second or third section without the first. Instead of starting with the Good News of God’s mighty acts, we start with our response: “I will praise you,” “I love you, Lord,” “I will serve you,” “I bow down and worship you,” etc. But this means that we are encouraging faith in faith, confidence in our own experience and praise, rather than faith in Christ as the amen to God’s promises. In other words, the part of the psalm that such examples illustrate is the reasonable service without the in view of God’s mercies. Rehearsing God’s deeds takes a back seat to expressing our zeal and commitment. This is to have the law without the gospel, lifting the reasonable service out of its native habitat of the story of redemption. For Paul, however, the service is now reasonable because it is the sensible response to the news we have heard.
If you are subjected week after week to a diet of “do more,” “be more authentic,” “live more transparently,” and “feel more,” you will eventually become like a prisoner who is forced into hard labor without adequate food. If you are regularly treated to the feast of God’s works and the zeal that consumed our Savior in the service of our redemption, the exhortations will no longer be an unreasonable burden but a guide to expressions of thanksgiving in which our gracious God delights.
Horton, M. (2008). Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (pp. 155–156). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

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What’s the Difference Between a Christian Witness and a Christian Advocate?

Lloyd-Jones’ book on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit has been one of the most stimulating reads on that subject that I have read in some time. The following excerpt warns us that there is a distinct difference between Christian labors in the strength of the flesh, through human wisdom and genuine Spirit filled Christian labor. It is so easy to substitute our own wisdom for an enabling that alone can make our labors valuable to God. Truly, without Him we can do nothing. We must humbly recognize that our fleshly labors are useless in the great spiritual battles of our personal growth and service. Read this excerpter, take it to heart, and by God’s grace be a witness of God’s intimate work in your Christian experience rather than a sterile advocate of God’s absolute truth.

“…the filling with the Spirit happens for the sake of service; it gives us power and authority for service…Let me emphasize this. This filling is an absolute necessity for true service. Even our Lord Himself did not enter upon His ministry until the Holy Spirit had descended upon Him. He even told the disciples, whom He had been training for three years, who had been with Him in the inner circle, who had seen His miracles and heard all His words, who had seen Him dead and buried and risen again, even these exceptional men with their exceptional opportunities, He told to stay where they were, not to start upon their ministry, not to attempt to witness to Him, until they had received the power which the Holy Spirit would give them.

This is something, therefore, which is vital to our witness. It was the whole secret of the ministry of the apostle Paul. He did not preach with enticing words of human wisdom, but preached, he said, ‘in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’ (1 Cor. 2:4). He was filled with the Spirit for his task. Is this not something which causes us all to pause? Whatever the form of our ministry, it is only of value while we are filled with the power of the Spirit. So we should realize the necessity of seeking this filling of the Spirit and of power before we attempt any task, whatever it may be.

Let me put it like this: there is all the difference in the world between being a witness and being an advocate. Men and women can be advocates of these things without the Holy Spirit. I mean that they can have an understanding of the doctrine; they can receive the truth, and can present it, argue for it and defend it. Yes, they are acting as advocates. But primarily, as Christians, we are called upon to be witnesses, to be witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and as the Savior of the world, as our own Savior, as the Savior of all who put their faith and trust in Him. And it is only the Holy Spirit who can enable us to do that. You can address people and act as advocates for the truth but you will not convince anybody. If, however, you are filled with the Spirit, and are witnessing to the truth which is true in your life, by the power of the Spirit that is made efficacious. So this filling is essential to all our Christian service.

But also it is equally clear that the infilling of the Spirit is essential to true Christian quality in our life. That is why we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit. It is a command to every single Christian: ‘Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit’ (Eph. 5:18). We are exhorted to be filled with the Spirit. And this is commanded in order that our graces may grow, in order that the fruit of the Spirit may develop in us and may be evident to all. It is as we are filled with this life that the fruit and the graces of this life will be manifest. Indeed, the filling of the Spirit is essential to a true act of worship.”[1]


[1] Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1997). God the Holy Spirit (241–242). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossways Books.

 

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The believer’s relationship to Christ:

The believer’s relationship to Christ according to this passage is two fold, fist He is delivered from the curse and condemnation of the law to serve Christ, and secondly he is indwelt by Christ’s sent Holy Spirit in order that Christ can live through him. The first of these two concepts is rather easily understood, however the second is a bit more complex for me to wrap my mind around.

First, notice what he says in the last portion of vs. 19. He says that this is done that we might “live unto Christ.” This verse reminds me so much of Romans 12, were Paul exhorts the believer’s to present the entirety of their person to Christ to use as He sees fit in light of the doctrinal truths that he has just established are true about every believer. He says that it is our reasonable or logical service. It makes sense in light of God’s lavish display of grace and mercy, in every facet of our salvation that we would do nothing less than present our bodies to His service. This is one way that one could view the sense of this passage. I was freed from the law and I have a responsibility to live unto the one who freed me. In other words, I am a debtor to Christ in light of what He did for me. While this concept is a Biblical concept, that is not really the sense of this passage. What Paul is saying is more along the lines of II Corinthians 5, where he says that any man in Christ is a new creature, and that God has given to His children a ministry of reconciliation, and has committed to their trust the word of reconciliation, or also in Ephesians 1, where we were elected and predestined to be “holy and without blame before Him in love.” God saved, elected, and predestined us to be something, and these passages lay out the content of what we were saved to be. That is what he is saying. We were delivered from the law, made dead to it, so that we could live unto Christ. Are you living unto Christ recognizing, that this is why He saved you? He did not save you primarily so that you could be delivered from hell, though this is a wonderful benefit of our salvation. He saved us so that we might be redeemed channels of Christ-likeness. He is restoring man to His original design. We are going to be the first-fruits of His creatures. We were saved to live unto Christ and bring glory to Him, by reflecting His righteousness in our lives as we let Him live through us!

Secondly, Paul says that that even though he died to the law, he still lives. This life and death is our spiritual identification with Christ’s death and resurrection. When Christ died and rose from the dead, every believer also died with Him, freeing them from the law, and rose with Him, free them to walk in newness of life. It is our crucial position in Christ that enables us to experience this kind of victory over sin and display of His righteousness. Paul then goes on to say that “Christ lives in him, and the life that he now lives in the flesh, he lives by the faith of the Son of God.” In Romans 6:3-13 Paul says, brothers do you not know that you were: “baptized into Jesus Christ…baptized into his death…buried with him.” Since this is true of you, “even so we also should walk in newness of life…Knowing this…our old man is crucified with him…that the body of sin might be destroyed…that henceforth we should not serve sin…he that is dead is freed from sin…if we be dead with Christ…we believe that we shall also live with him…death hath no more dominion over him…he liveth unto God” Since these things are true about you, “reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord…Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof, Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God…and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” While Romans 6 gives us the “why” of how we are able to now live in victory over sin and display the righteousness of Christ in our lives, John 15 gives us the “how” which is exactly what Paul is saying in Galatians 2 when he says that “Christ lives in me.” It is by Christ alone that we can live this way. He is the one who lives through us, and He has left us His indwelling Holy Spirit to enable us and to do this work in us.

Consider the following passages: In Philippians 2:12-13 Paul says that we are to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” But then he says that “it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” In I Thessalonians 5:23-24 He prays that God would sanctify the church wholly and that they would be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He then closes that prayer by saying “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” In John 15:5 Jesus identified Himself as a vine, and believers as branches. He then said that: “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” In Philippians 1:10-11 Paul prayed that the church would “Approve things that are excellent; that that they would be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ.” In II Corinthians 3:18 Paul writes that we behold the Lord in His word, and are “changed into the same image from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord.” In Galatians 5:16-18; 22-25 Paul writes: “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” These passages are just a few among many more, that make it crystal clear that the flesh could not bring righteousness to a sinner by the doing of the law, and the flesh cannot bring practical righteousness to a believer through the works of the law. Paul sums up the argument of the section this way in Galatians 3:3. “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”

The law was never given to bring righteousness to a man. It was given to demonstrate the righteousness of Christ as He fulfilled it in its entirety, and to establish the unrighteousness of a man as he walks in this world apart from Christ. Here is the amazing truth about the law. As a man walks in the Spirit, which is abiding in Christ, being filled with the Spirit, and having the word of Christ dwell in him richly, he is both dead to the law and Christ is living through him. The fruit of this Christ-centered life is a Christ filled life. The fruit of this Christ-filled life is Christ’s righteousness in the life of the Spirit-filled believer. This Christ-filled life is a life that fulfills the law. Put simply, the law is no longer a believer’s judge; he is free from the law. The law now vindicates a believer as righteous before others. As Christ lives in and through a believer, the believer’s character, thinking, and conduct begins to reflect more clearly the righteousness of Christ whose righteousness is all that posses!

 

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The Law’s work to bring a man to faith in Christ:

So what is my relationship to the law in light of this passage? First, I should be thankful to God for the law, because it is the law that God used to open my spiritual eyes to my blinded condition, and my need to receive Christ’s righteousness in place of my own. Notice what Paul says on vs. 19 “I through the law became dead to the law.” The law did a pivotal work that brought me to God. The phrase literally means that by means of the law, I became dead to it. God’s law brought me to repentance and faith in Christ alone. That is something that ought cause us to rejoice. Secondly, I should be thankful to God for making me free from the law. The next phrase is “I became dead to the law.” What does Paul mean when he says that by means of the law’s work, he became dead to it?

In order to understand what Paul means by this statement, we must understand what he does not mean first. He does not mean that once a man is saved he is free to live a sinful life by indulging his flesh. Here is Paul’s clear answer to that logic. In Romans 6:1-4, Paul asks: “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Paul’s says that this logic should never flow from this teaching!

Paul is also not saying that a believer is free from the damaging temporal consequences of sin. Romans 6:23 tells us that the “wages of sin is death.” James 1:14-15 tells us that “when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” In Galatians 6:7-9 he writes that “God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption.” And also Hebrews 12:5-8 says that a believer is not to despise the chastening of the Lord, or faint when rebuked by him: “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” Believers are not saved from every temporal consequence of sin. While God so often deals with His children in tender mercies, He is not obligated to insulate us from every form of evil that may come as the direct consequence of our sin.

Paul is also not saying that the moment a believer is regenerated and placed into Christ, that he is free from a struggle with the old nature. In Romans 7:18-20, 24-25 he writes that “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” Sanctification is a process, and practically speaking is a progressive labor into Christ-likeness. While we do become a new creature in Christ, we do not become Christ-like in our character, thinking, and conduct the moment instantaneously. God molds us progressively into His image over the course of the rest of our lives. So then, what does it mean that we are dead to the law?

His point is that the moment that we am placed into Christ, we are free from the condemnation and guilt of the law. We have a new master and spouse. Our relationship to the law is broken forever, and this is a wonderful thought. We are free from its weight and condemnation, so that we can live unto Christ. Romans 6:1-4 says “Know ye not…that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” By identifying with Christ’s death, we receive His righteousness, die to the law, are freed from its condemnation and guilt, and are wed to Him so that He can live through us. This is what Paul means when he says that through the laws work he became dead to it. If you are in Christ by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, then you are dead to the law. It no longer has its hold on you! This truth is liberating, however it must not be divorced from the rest of the verse “that I might live unto Christ.” We were freed from the law and released from its condemnation that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. That we should be laborers together with God, and that we should be to the praise and glory of His grace.

 

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So why did God give the law to mankind?

So why did God give the law to mankind? This question is pivotal in our understanding of how we are to relate to it, and ultimately to God the law giver. Let me suggest a few reasons from scripture, why God gave mankind the law: First realize that the law was never given to make men righteous. This is a huge misunderstanding among those who believe that somehow by means of doing the law, they can make themselves acceptable to God, which ultimately means that by means of the law they can make themselves righteous. Galatians 3:10-14 should clear up ay misunderstandings about this view of the law: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” So that leads us back to the question why did God give us His law? Here are some suggestions:

The Levitical law governed Israel as a Theocracy:

God established Israel as a Theocracy in the Old Testament so they would represent Him before their Gentile neighbors. Israel was to be a light to lighten the gentiles. This nation would be the vehicle through which He would give us His law, His word, His prophets, and ultimately redemption through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. As a nation elected to represent a holy God to the nations, Israel was given the Mosaic Law. This law was to be the law of the land. Exodus 19:5-6 “if ye will obey my voice…and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people…And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” Deuteronomy 5:32-33 “Ye shall observe to do therefore as the LORD your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.”

Reveals the holiness of God:

God’s law also reveals God’s holiness. We could not have known what sin is, nor could we have known God’s righteousness, had it not been for the law. Romans 7:12 “the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” We know what is holy, just, and good, because we have a righteous standard, the law which flows from the pure character of God.

Reveals man’s helpless condition:

God’s holy nature revealed to mankind through the law is a two edged sword. If it reveals the holiness God, then it must also reveal the degree to which we fall short of His glory. This law shows mankind that he is utterly unholy and without any righteousness of his own. This miserable condition should overwhelmingly convince every man, that he cannot look to himself in any way to find righteousness to present to God. He must look outside of himself. He must have the righteousness of another imputed to Him by the gracious work of God. Romans 3:19-20 “what things soever the law saith, it saith…that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 7:7-11 “I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet… For without the law sin was dead…For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.”

God’s law awakens the sinner of his condition before God, in order to bring him to repentance, so that the sinner can place his faith in Christ alone.

The law’s work is not one of bringing righteousness directly, rather it is a work of bringing man to a point of helplessness. The law brings the sinner to repentance before God, so that he can place his dependence alone on the finished work of Christ his righteous substitute. If the law did not do its work, then no man could be saved. Romans 1:18-19 “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them.” Romans 2:1-3 “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself…But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth …And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” Galatians 3:24 “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

God’s law identifies the righteous who are walking by faith in Christ:

The last purpose of the law is that it identifies those who are walking by faith in Christ. When a believer walks in the Spirit or abides in Christ, the fruit of this walk is Christ-likeness in character, thinking, and conduct. The just live by faith, and those who walk by faith, have a life that is characterized by their righteous Savior, Christ, living through them. And the life that they live in the flesh, they live by the faith of the Son of God who loves them and gave Himself for them. Romans 3:21-22 “now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.” James 2:18; 23-24 “show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works…the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”

 

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Law, grace, legal, illegal, and legalistic: have you ever wrestled with the question what is my relationship to these terms?

Law, grace, legal, illegal, and legalistic: have you ever wrestled with the question what is my relationship to these terms? If you are like me, then I am sure that you have. Sadly, an improper understanding of these terms leads to frustration in the Christian life and nominal effectiveness for the cause of Christ. Those who attempt to grow into Christ likeness through the strength of the flesh and by the works of the law will find their striving to be labors in futility. Those who misunderstand or manipulate a Biblical understanding of the nature of grace will live a life of carnality. Those who are only consumed with what is legal or illegal fail to understand the nature of their liberty in Christ and its relation to loving their neighbor, and the word legalistic is something that is sadly misunderstood by a host of professing Christians. This study from Galatians 2 will not solve all the problems swirling around many believers’ understanding of these concepts; however, I believe that it should provide a refreshing understanding of the Biblical teaching on the believer’s relationship to the law.

It is God’s desire that every believer allow Christ to live His life through that believer. This is why Paul penned Galatians 2:19-21. In this passage, Paul described the believer’s relationship to the law based upon his new identification with Christ so that Christ can live His life through that believer who is now free from the condemnation of the law and is responsible to live the Christian life by faith in Christ and through the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit. Consider this profound truth: Christ desires to live His life through me, and He has put within me the life that is necessary to do this. This leads us to ask, how. How is Christ able to live His life through me? Here is the answer:

Galatians 2:19-21 “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”

 

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