Does believing the gospel mean the law has no more bearing on our lives?
1 Timothy 1:8-11
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
John Stott helps us keep the law and the gospel in the right place, “It is particularly noteworthy that sins which contravene the law (as breaches of the Ten Commandments) are also contrary to the sound doctrine of the gospel. So the moral standards of the gospel do not differ from the moral standards of the law. We must not therefore imagine that, because we have embraced the gospel, we may now repudiate the law! To be sure, the law is impotent to save us, and we have been released from the law’s condemnation, so that we are no longer ‘under’ it in that sense. But God sent his Son to die for us, and now puts his Spirit within us, in order that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us (Rom 8:3-4). There is no antithesis between law and gospel in the moral standards which they teach; the antithesis is in the way of salvation, since the law condemns, while the gospel justifies” (The Message of 1 Timothy, 50).
The salvation of man consists in knowing, honoring, and serving God. Such is our God, who not only is all-sufficient in Himself but who with His all-sufficiency can fill and saturate the soul to such an overflowing measure that is has need of nothing else but to have God as its portion. The soul so favored is filled with such light, love, and happiness, that is desires nothing but this. “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee” (Psa. 73:25).
Wilhelmus A Brakel, volume 1, page 91
It behoveth us with David (Psalm 31:6) to commit our souls into the hands of God daily so long as we are in the world, because we are environed with a thousand deaths, that God may deliver our life from all dangers; but when we must die indeed, and we are called thereunto, we must fly unto this prayer, that Christ will receive our spirit. For he commended his own spirit into the hands of his Father, to this end, that he may keep ours forever. This is an inestimable comfort, in that we know our souls do not wander up and down when they flit out of our bodies, but that Christ receives them, that he may keep them faithfully, if we commend them into his hands. This hope ought to encourage us to suffer death patiently. Yea, whosoever commendeth his soul to Christ with an earnest affection of faith, he must needs resign himself wholly to his pleasure and will. And this place does plainly testify that the soul of man is no vain blast which vanishes away, as some frantic fellows imagine dotingly, but that it is an essential spirit which lives after this life. Furthermore, we are taught hereby that we call upon Christ rightly and lawfully, because all power is given him of the Father, for this cause, that all men may commit themselves to his tuition.
John Calvin, Acts Commentary, 320.
In our men’s Bible study this morning we talked about being transformed into the image of Christ. This sanctification has many facets but one of them is learning to think about the Bible the way Jesus thought about the Bible. We compared Matthew 19:4-5 to Genesis 2:23-24 and Romans 9:17 to Exodus 9:13, 16. The result is Jesus and Paul both believed that when Scripture speaks God speaks. This doctrine of inspiration is not a secondary matter that should be left for the seminary classroom. The doctrine of inspiration is directly tied to the mind of Christ and being transformed more and more into His image. Do you know how Jesus thought about the Bible? Do you treat the Bible the way Jesus treats the Bible?
If you want to dig a little deeper, I recommend J.I. Packer’s classic work, “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God. Let me know what you think.
I’ve been reading Institutes for what seems like a long time now. I find that I agree with far more than I disagree with, but this is because of the biblical tenacity of Calvin.
To show my hand, the title “Calvinist” has troubled me because it often becomes a label for slander or a secret handshake that gets you in. In book four, chapter 13, Calvin is writing about vows and addresses his current situation of monasticism. I was struck by his warning against joining groups that are nothing more than means of separating oneself from other Christians. Calvin goes so far as to warn against joining some faction and counting that as a religious experience. If you call yourself a Calvinist, consider if you do so in a helpful way.
And that there might be no doubt as to their separation, they have given themselves the various names of factions. They have not been ashamed to glory in that which Paul so execrates, that he is unable to express his detestation too strongly. Unless, indeed, we suppose that Christ was not divided by the Corinthians, when one teacher set himself above another (1 Cor. 1:12, 13; 3:4); and that now no injury is done to Christ when, instead of Christians, we hear some called Benedictines, others Franciscans, others Dominicans, and so called, that while they affect to be distinguished from the common body of Christians, they proudly substitute these names for a religious profession.
Calvin, John. The Institutes of the Christian Religion 4.13.14.
“There are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord. The first is by saying, ‘I am going to live my life the way I want.’ The second is described by Flannery O’Connor, who wrote about one of her characters, Hazel Motes, that ‘he knew that the best way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin.’ If you are avoiding sin and living morally so that God will have to bless and save you then ironically, you may be looking to Jesus as a teacher, model, and helper but you are avoiding him as Savior. You are trusting in your own goodness rather than in Jesus for your standing with God. You are trying to save yourself by following Jesus” (Tim Keller, The Reason for God).
Trying to save yourself by following Jesus is a false gospel.
This is NOT a statement about state conventions. This is a public demonstration of our need to understand and share the gospel. We are not advancing the gospel well in Texas. Even as population levels increase, we are on the retreat.
What should we do?
1. Read our Bibles and pray for our lost neighbors (in our homes, in our schools, on our streets, and at work). Ask God to give you opportunities and ask God to give them understanding.
2. Invite one of these people into your home for a meal/dessert and get to know them.
3. Resurrection Sunday is coming! Invite one of these people to come to church with you. Follow-up that week with a simple question, “What do you think about the claim that Jesus rose from the dead?”
I wonder where you are in this progression? Where am I? I need to talk with my neighbors so I can help them take a step toward Jesus.
We all start here:
- Don’t listen to God
- Don’t think about your sin
- Don’t repent of your sin
- Don’t experience God’s mercy
- Don’t tell your neighbors
Then we take a small step:
- Kind-of listen to God
- Kind-of think about your sin
- Kind-of repent
- Kind-of experience God’s mercy
- Kind-of mumble to your neighbors
Then we are Spirit-led
- Pay attention to God’s Word (think on these things)
- Exercise godly grief (a Godward repentance)
- Experience the riches of God’s grace in Christ (clarity on the cross and resurrection)
- Eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood (dependence on Christ for forgiveness and obedience)
- Go make disciples (beautiful feet telling the good news)
In last week’s sermon from Matthew 12 I tried to demonstrate the “greater than” nature of Jesus Christ. Jesus is greater than the temple, Jonah, and Solomon. I pointed to Hebrews but wasn’t able to develop the truth that the New Covenant is better than the Old Mosaic Covenant.
Here is an article from Answers in Genesis that does a great job pointing to the “greater than” reality of the New Covenant by answering some of the claims of the Hebrew Roots Movement. The article is worth your time precisely because Jesus is better. May the churches proclaim this truth and may all Christians enjoy this truth.