O How I Neglect Thy Law!
This may very well be the motto of many Christians in our day, and it is quite unfortunate. Since the Reformation we have stressed grace alone, and we Protestants have rightly placed a high emphasis on the good news of the gospel. However, the tendency today has been to over-emphasize the gospel to the point where the law is virtually non-existant.
For instance, we have mass conferences that go by the name "Gospel Coalitian" and "Together for the Gospel." But when did you ever hear of "Together for the Law" or of a big name pastor giving the keynote talk at the "Law Coalitian?" Certainly, there is some marketing strategy in these names (tickets probably wouldn't sell too fast for T4L). We also recognize that the word gospel can sometimes refer to the totality of Scripture's teaching, and not just the narrowly defined gospel of Jesus. Yet it is indicative of a propensity in our day to neglect the law of God.
To be sure, the law does not thunder from pulpits like it did in the days of the Puritans and Reformers. Neither is it typically found within the average Evangelical's home. In prior days, the Law of God was read virtually every Sunday in the context of corporate worship. Ministers would spend a good deal of time expounding the intricacies of the law so as to plunge the sword of the Spirit deep within the hearts of the people. In the home, Martin Luther suggested that the 10 commandments be recited at least twice a day.
This is the way God meant it to be. The law is to be "a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path." That is to say, it ought to guide our every step in life. The Hebrew word for law even brings this out. Literally, the word torah means "direction." Essentially, God's laws provide direction for our life.
So I invite you to read on and get some direction. In this issue we'll briefly introduce the law with articles on the three uses of the law, the role of the law in regards to the state, and the limits God has put on his law. Be sure to catch the video below too, on the role of the law in evangelism, and be sure to test your knowledge of God's law with our fun little quiz.
The Function of the Law
“The law is like a whip to an idle ass, to arouse it to work.” –John Calvin.
Historically, the church has confessed that the law of God has three uses. It serves as a civil restraint, a schoolmaster, and a guide for life.
1) Civil use
The Scripture shows us that the law of God has a restraining power on society. Wherever the law of God is declared clearly, it acts like a leash upon a dog. It binds even the unbelieving from exerting their full sinful potential.
For example, in Genesis 4:15 God made a law. No one is to take vengeance upon Cain. Otherwise they themselves will be assailed by God. In sum, everyone on the face of the earth was restrained from fulfilling their desire because of God’s law.
This is merely one of the reasons why we wish to keep the 10 commandments posted in public places. It is because this law will help preserve righteousness. in the land.
2) Pedagogical use
Without the law, we do not know what sin is. But by it we come to understand our offenses and our need for salvation. This is what we call the pedagocial use of the law.
The word pedagogue comes from Gal. 3:22, 24. A pedagogue was a slave who was like a professional babysitter, nanny or schoolmaster. His job was to make sure the children got to school and did their homework. He would often be very strict, even punishing children on behalf of the master/father.
Paul compares the law to that brutish slave. It will chastize us and take us to Christ to learn salvation.
3) Normative use
After our conversion, the law serves a different purpose. It is no longer the brow-beating, schoolmaster. It is a useful tool which guides us how we may properly live the Christian life. It sets before us all that we can do to please our God and Savior.
God & Government
Laws of God & man:
A number of months ago our brother and elder Jim Deweese tangled with the ACLU over the posting of the 10 commandments in his courtroom. Some might wonder why such a fuss was made.
The fight was most necessary though, for it was over one of the most significant questions: Who will rule us? Will it be the absolute truth of God? Or will it be the whims of man?
The Bible makes it clear that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. This means, among other things, that rulers of nations must acknowledge the "crown rights of King Jesus." As His vassels, governors and nations ought to be subject to the law of God.
This is important to emphasize because many Christians would like to limit the application of Christ's law to the church. They would posit that there are two kingdoms in this world, the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of man. By this they mean that Christ rules over the realm of the church and the regulation of the state is left in the hands of man, to do as he wishes.
It is true that there are two kingdoms in the world. In praying, "Thy kingdom come," we ask that the kingdom of sin and Satan would be broken down and that the kingdom of Christ would be extended. However, it would be wrong to say that the kingdom of Christ ought not to extend to the civil sphere.
The Scripture makes it evident that all kings and authorities should rule in accordance with the Scripture. Romans 13 tells us that the civil authorities are God's "ministers for our good" and "an advenger who caries out God's wrath upon the evildoer."
As an appointee of God, he has a duty to recognize the laws of God. Also, as one who must discern between right and wrong, good and evil, it is necessary that the Scripture be his guide. Otherwise, the civil leaders are left to their own relativistic whims.
To be sure, there is debate as to how specific Scriptures, particularly in the Old Testament, ought to apply to the civil magistrate. While there is room for good natured disscussion on such things, we do not compromise on the fact that they too are governed by Sola Scriptura.
"It appears that kings swear as vassals to observe the law of God, whom they confess to be sovereign Lord over all...If they violate their oath, and transgress the law, we say that they have lost their kingdom."
--John Knox, Scottish reformer
Get into God's Law
and bind it up in your heart:
The statue pictured above is of Genevan Reformer William Feral, contemporary and friend of John Calvin. You might not quite notice it at first, but the icon speaks volumes. Feral is holding a gigantic Bible above his head. It almost looks like it could give him quite a concussion if it were to slip from his hands.
Feral's statue forever engraves the cry of the Reformation: Scripture Alone! As he holds that book aloft, he cries, "The Bible is to be the only rule for life and faith."
At Providence our aim is to see everyone being nursed in the sacred truths of Scripture. Primarily, we want to have each individual sipping the pure spiritual milk of the word on his/her own. As well, we want every man holding up the Scriptures in his own house for family devotions.
We also want to do our best to afford as many discipleship opportunities as we can. We are presently attempting to add to the studies we currently have going. A number of groups have already begun to form. However, we have vision for more. If you would like to be a part, please let us know
Law in Evangelism
If people are going to come to faith, they need to hear the gospel. If they are going to see their need for the gospel, they need to be convicted by God's law. Check out this video and see how it works. Kirk Cameron demonstrates a simple model on how to evangelize. Here's the outline he follows:
1. Ask, "Are you a good person?" (most likely they will say yes)
2. Take them through a couple of the ten commandments. Ask them, "Have you ever stolen anything? What does that make you?" "Have you ever told a lie? What does that make you?" "Have you ever looked at a person with lust? That makes you an adulterer at heart."
3. Say, "By your own admission you are a lying, theiving, adulterer at heart. If you entered God's courtroom, would you be found guilty or innocent?" "Would God send you to heaven or hell?" Most likely they will get squimish and want to justiiy themselves. Be patient and help them see the reality.
4. Begin to explain the gospel. Tell them that God has provided a way for them to escape his wrath and curse. God sent his only Son, Jesus into this world to pay the penalty that is due to us for our sins. And the Bible says that if we repent of our sins and trust Jesus he will save us. (Of course, you may need to explain some of that in more detail depending on your audience. For instance, what does "repent" mean?).
5. End by inviting the person to church with you to hear more about the Lord and his forgiveness or by asking him to think over what you just talked about (this might be a good place to give a quick summary of it: sin, atonement of Christ, repent and trust Jesus).
Try this with your kids:
How many commandments can you name? Can you recite them in order? How about backwards?
Can you say tell your spouse or children what each commandment forbids and requires? (check the Shorter Catechism
if you can't)
How many Scriptures can you link to each of the commandments? For instance, Aaron's golden calf breaks the second commandment. The story of the bears mauling the crowd of youths
breaks the third.
That's All Folks!
Obedience is limited to God's law: Some people just want to outdo God. It is funny to think about, but some people actually want to add more to the law of God. As if they want to be spiritual over-achievers.
There are two basic ways this happens. On the one hand we have the Roman Catholic Church doctrine of supererogation. Supererogation is the belief that a man can do more than the law requires--a sort of extra credit, if you will.
The RCC teaches that there are certain things which are commanded and are therefore obligatory. However, they also teach that there are some practices that are recommended, but not obligaroty; such as voluntary poverty, celibacy, and monasticism. Charles Hodge says in his Systematic Theology, "These are held to be virtues of a higher grade than obeidence to explicit commands."
Trying to do more than what is asked is not just limited to the RCC though. It is common for sinners to want to earn merit with God. Such is impossible though. The law of God is complete, extending to every thought, word and action. It shows us the full duty we owe to God. As a result it does not give us any room to earn extra points with God.
Another way we can err is by making laws where God has allowed freedom. The Bible teaches us that God alone can bind the conscience. Therefore, where His law speaks, men must obey. On the other hand, where it is silent men have liberty. And this liberty ought not to be infringed upon by the commandments of men.
For instance, the Bible does not directly condemn cigarettes or cigars. So it is a matter of liberty. One may be permitted to smoke or he may choose not to do so. This is the freedom God has given man. To forbid it would be to infringe on this liberty and attempt to be more pious than God.
The great English preacher Charles Spurgeon was renoun for his love of cigars. One Sunday he visited a church where the minister openly denounced smoking. People wondered how Spurgeon would react, as many knew of his habit. After the service Spurgeon pulled out a cigar, per usual, and said, "I'm going to smoke this cigar to the glory of God."
But Spurgeon did more than forthrightly exercise his his liberty. Ultimately, he preached a mini-sermon, declaring that God alone was the lawgiver and man had no right to add to it.
Certianly, there are some instances where smoking would be forbidden by God (lighting up in front of a recovering chain smoker would be one example). However, the exception does not neutralize the rule.
In sum, we must refrain from trying to be more pious than God. We must admit that his law is sufficient for our lives and allow it to be our only rule for life and faith.