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Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Law of Moses? It's good...if; it's bad...if.

Recently I've had a dialogue with someone very close to me who has been seduced by the siren call of a works-centered cult. This seductive call attracts many who have been blinded by "the god of this world" and who cannot grasp the concept of the gospel of grace (2 Cor. 4:4). "Sure, I believe in Jesus. But I still think we have to keep the commandments if we want to go to heaven. I still think we have to do something. Believing in Jesus doesn't satisfy that part of me that wants to earn God's favor. I believe that we must observe the Sabbath if we want to be certain we're forgiven and heaven bound." This is a damnable heresy; this cult is anathema; this is a different gospel (Gal. 1:6-9).

The purpose of the apostle Paul's letters to the Romans and the Galatians and the purpose of the letter to the Hebrews was to remind/instruct those who had heard the gospel that justification is "by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, through the gospel alone." One of Paul's early arguments in this vein is this,

Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

So that's how the law can be bad. If anyone believes that he or she must keep the law in order to be right with God and guarantee them a place in heaven, they have fallen from grace and are now obligated to keep the whole law perfectly, guaranteeing that they will not inherit the kingdom of God. If one must keep the law then that one will pay for their own sins, rejecting the once-for-all payment of Jesus Christ's sacrifice. That is the lesson of Galatians.

The law is good and holy and perfect and has its place in the believer's life. But the law was not designed for the righteous but for the unrighteous, the ungodly. Being under the law means that those who are under the law are unrighteous. One cannot be under the law and at the same time under grace and alive in spirit, or indwelt by the Holy Spirit. That's the lesson of Galatians.

Here is the gospel concerning the law:

1 Timothy 1:6-11 6 from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. 8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.
"But we know that the is good if one uses it lawfully." In context, this means that the law is to be employed by the righteous to reveal to the unrighteous their unrighteousness and their dire need for the atonement of Jesus Christ.