How to Use the Law - Lawfully - To Bear Fruit for God
- Monday, April 18, 2011
But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted. 1 Timothy 1:5-11
The question crying for an answer after Romans 7 and 8 is how Christians should use the law of God revealed in the Old Testament. The reason this question is crying for an answer is that Paul has said things about the law that show its weakness and powerlessness to justify us and sanctify us. Romans 8:3, "What the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh . . ."
Law-Keeping Cannot Justify You
I have argued that law-keeping can't justify us in the courtroom of God: If his verdict changes from guilty to not guilty, it will be because we trust in Christ's righteousness and death, not in our law-keeping. And if our hearts are changed from rebellious to submissive it will not be owing to law, but to the Spirit of Christ at work in our hearts. Again and again I have directed your attention to Romans 7:4, "Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God." In other words, if we want to bear the fruit of love in our lives – and we will bear this fruit, if we are children of God – then we must pursue at it in a way that does not treat the law as our first or chief or decisive means of change.
What Then Shall We Do with the Law?
But this continual reference to dying to the law has raised the question for many of you: What then shall we do with the law? Are we to read the books of Moses? Are we to read the Ten Commandments and the other laws in the Old Testament? What are we to make of the saints of the Old Testament who said things like, "But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night" (Psalm 1:2). "The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. . . . They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb" (Psalm 19:7, 10). "O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day" (Psalm 119:97).
And even here in Romans we have the same spirit. In Romans 7:22 Paul says, "For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man." And in Romans 7:25 he says, "I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin." This delight in the law and this "serving the law of God" does not sound as absolute as "death to the law."
Not only that, look with me at Romans 3:20-22. Paul makes clear first (in v. 20) that "by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin." In other words, "law-keeping" will never change our verdict from guilty to not-guilty and will not be the ground of our acceptance in the last judgment. My one plea now and then for acceptance with God is that I have trusted not in my own law-keeping or my own imperfect, blood-bought, Spirit-wrought sanctification, but in Christ's blood and righteousness. That is my one perfect plea in the courtroom of heaven now and always. "By works of the law no flesh will be justified."
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