Saturday, June 19, 2010

God's Government Part 2: God's Laws

Random Bible Chapter for the Day – courtesy of
I started writing this, and it turned into a longer study than I anticipated, so I’ll post it in three parts.
Part 2 God’s Laws
Yesterday I talked about why God’s judgments are a means to salvation; today’s topic is “Why are His laws a means to salvation?”
This particular subject can lead to some hot debates about grace and works, but I think it’s pretty simple. Let’s take a look at the argument:
God’s laws are perfect; man is not, so we sin (or break the law), which is where condemnation and punishment come in. In God’s grace, He sent Christ to die and take the punishment we might otherwise have received. However, does this grace mean we have get to ignore the law and call it obsolete?
This argument is as old as the New Testament itself. Paul and James clearly butted heads about this issue, and I’m pretty sure that’s what the whole spat Paul has with Peter is about in Galatians 2:11-19.
Paul says,
So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith" The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3:9-14)
And James says,
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless. Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. (James 2:17-24)
Clearly the two were at odds and arguing somewhat bitterly via their letters about whether it’s faith or the works that brings salvation. You just have to do a quick Internet search on grace and salvation to see that this argument still rages on 2,000 years later.
My take on the issue starts with a few questions:
Number one: Why did God save us? Was it just to go to heaven instead of hell? Paul answers this question:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Number two: How can we do these good works “aka follow the law” having now been saved by grace? God answers this question:
"The time is coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, " declares the Lord. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the Lord. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the Lord. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
Number three: Why should we even worry about obeying God’s commandments if we are saved by grace? Jesus answers this question:
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. "All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:21-26)
So, my take on the whole argument is that if you aren’t following God’s commands, you don’t love God, and if you don’t love God, you don’t know His salvation, and if you don’t know His salvation, you can’t follow His commands, and if you aren’t following His commands, etc. It’s grace that breaks this cycle of sin and condemnation, and starts a new one. When we know salvation through grace, we come to know the love of God, and when we know the love of God, we are enabled to return that love by following His commands, and when we follow His commands, we know salvation, etc.

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