Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Law of God

In the previous article I drew attention to a difference between the law of Moses and the Law of God.

      The Law of God in this context (1 Corinthians 9 ), I suggest is the God given ability for humankind to discern right from wrong i.e. conscience.  Some might call it moral law. In a real sense this is included in the law of Moses and some single out the ten commandments. Written into the human psyche (spirit sounds better) is the knowledge not to murder, not to steal etc. By  instinct ( in contrast to animals), humans look up and worship! ( some mistakenly worship the sun etc)
       I link this law of God to Romans 2 where the Gentile without law knows those moral things written in the law. The individual then reacts to that knowledge by obedience or rebellion, and is held accountable for that response to this light of conscience and the light in creation.
       Act 14 and 17 likewise present God speaking through creation and conscience, so that men might feel after Him and find Him.
       Abraham lived before the law of Moses, yet it is evident that he understood much of the 'Law of God'.

       Today there remains that instinctive morality in mankind that only comes from God.(one of the great evidences that man is a created being).  Romans 1 along with Jude etc, describes the minds and consciences of many as seared, perverted, twisted by the influence of the evil one, but deep down people know there is right and wrong and  a God to whom they will give account. No wonder that Felix trembled when Paul reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgement (Acts 24.25)

        1 Timothy 1.5 indicates the purpose of the 'charge' given by the Apostle was to produce love from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith.  I suggest a good conscience is one "tuned" to the law of God and the law of Christ.

Law of Christ next blog

J. McKee

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Shall we throw away all law

In my survey I missed an important verse - 1 Corinthians 9.19-21  "....I became as one under the law (though not being myself under law) that I might win those under law. To those outside law I became as one outside of the law (not being outside of the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law."
Observations:
* the gracious Christian is prepared to adapt to law situations (when the gospel is not compromised) to fulfil the Christ given responsibility of winning others.
*Paul emphaticly states he (an Hebrew of the Hebrews) is not under law
*In face of the likelihood of being called two faced, inconsistent, hypocritical etc,Paul is prepared to change from law observations among Jews to non law behaviour  among Gentiles. We shall see shortly that the Galation story involving some withdrawing from the Gentile believers was a case of Gospel compromise. (ie behaving as though the Gentile believers were inferior).
*When Paul stood outside the law of Moses, he saw two other laws that still held control over his behaviour - the law of God  and the law of Christ. This is significant - a distinction is made between the law of Moses and these two laws.

What is the 'law of God'?
What is the 'law of Christ'?

How do these connect with the 'royal law' James 2.8  'Law of liberty" James 1.25   2.12
 or the 'law of the spirit of life' Romans 8.2
Romans 7.25 may help, chapter 8.7

I would be interested to receive the comments of others at  johnmckee@internode.on.net

Until next time - 'rejoice in the Lord always'

JRM
                                                    

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The law not relevant ?

Continuing our survey of the law in the Bible -
1 Corinthians 15.59 is a passing but significant comment - "the power of sin is the law". Light is good, but light shows up evil. Light shining in the face of Jesus Christ not only calls to repentance, but beams with grace abundant. And so the light of law shows up our condition as sinners before God but the grace of our Lord Jesus provides the remedy.

2 Corinthians 3  is very clear about the different covenants - one through Moses and one through Christ. The first is described as a ministry of death, the second as a ministry of the Spirit. Both express the glory of God. It is the second that surpasses the first. It is permanent and life changing. It transforms the believer into the glory of the image of Christ Jesus our Lord. This is described as ongoing, by the Lord the Spirit until the day when we appear with Him in glory. The vessels of clay may break, but the glory of the gospel in the face of Jesus Christ will shine the brighter.

I note that several times in this second letter to the Corinthians, Paul refers to the Old Testament   "as it is written" (6.2  6.16  9.9 )  He was indeed an apostle (authorized by Christ to speak for Christ), yet he repeatedly draws upon the Old Testament as a point of reference and authority!

John McKee


Friday, May 17, 2013

The law in Romans

Romans opens with  humanity lost in the quagmire of sin, because of  a creator rejected. Chapters 2 and 3 identifies a people, the Jews, who are privileged to have the scriptures of the Old Testament, but they fail to fulfil its demands. They were good at teaching the law, but not good at keeping it so they too stand guilty before God. At this crisis point  Paul the apostle makes a significant declaration : " The righteousness of God is revealed apart from the law, yet the law stands as  witness to it." Romans 3.21. It is an important study to  find out what is the "Righteousness of God" - keep reading in Romans to discover "God at work".
           He  introduces several surpassing laws  -  the law of faith 3:27,      the law of God  7:22,  the law of my mind  7:23,   then negatively, the law of sin and death 8:2

            Chapters 3,4,5,6,7, demonstrate the failure of man in himself, and under law, both as to justification before God  and the sanctification of the person.
             Chapter 8 gives blessed relief    -  that the righteousness of the law was /is fulfilled in us ! how?  by the spirit of the living God enabling us to live in the spiritual relationship of sons of God, whereby we cry "Abba Father" 8:15

  The link of law is replaced by the lock of love  -notice the last verse of chapter 8

We could write many words about new words introduced in this Gospel treatise - words that the law knew little about eg  justification, reconciliation, reigning in life, eternal life etc etc.
                 Chapter 7 is a landmark statement of our relationship to law. The Christian is dead to the law ! The law has no power over someone dead with Christ. Now faith in Christ sets the believer free  to live in newness of life. Detail of this sanctified life is given in chapters 12 to 15. The renewed mind leads to new character, where we put on Christ (13.10). This is seen as the fulfilling of the law (not the fruit of, nor the result of the law).

                  Chapter 14 - the keeping of days and food laws was not wrong,  but the imposition of it on others was wrong.   The execution of judgement , which was so crucial in Moses law, has now been committed to the only one qualified  -  the  living Lord Jesus himself.  This new covenant is not so much based upon the promises of the past, but rather linked to the hope of power and authority vested in the resurrected  living and exalted Lord Jesus!

      In his writings Paul occasionally refers to the law of Moses as a point of reference eg 1 Corinthians
9.8 "as also saith the law"    also 1  Corinthians 14.34     This confirms the point  that the law has a place of instruction for us, but is not in control of us.

More next time
Good night

John Mckee

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Did the new Christians observe the law?

I am persisting with my subject (Law), due to the blessing it has brought me in recent weeks.

 Acts 1 restates the authority of the  Father in all matters of the kingdom. I see this in contrast to the scribes and Pharisees, and other militant Jews who used the Old Testament to further their hopes of Jewish nationhood.
Chapter 3.20,21 . The restitution of all things, rests in the acceptance of the Lord  they had rejected, who is now risen and exalted in glory.

Chapter 10 is most significant as God goes beyond the narrow mindedness of the Jews, to embrace the Gentiles. It is wonderful the way God 'compelled' a prominent Jewish believer(Peter) to be the instrument of bringing Jew and Gentile together. This caused much discussion, and eventually a pharaseeical party  began teaching that the gentiles must be circumcised to be saved. And so the Acts 15 conference was convened.

Chapter 13 Paul in his address to the synagogue at  Antioch makes an interesting statement at the end - " through this man (instead of animal sacrifices) is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins. and by Him all who believe are justified (hardly an OT word) from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses" What was he referring to?? Did the all things include sins of commission ( the sacrifices covered sins of ignorance) Well it is obviously something surpassing the law!

Acts 15 is a crisis conference of great importance. Some converts from Judaism wanted to enforce Moses's law for all converts to Christianity. In effect they wanted gentile believers to be redirected Jews. Act10 created a problem (Peter preaching to Gentiles) and the preaching of Paul and Barnabas to the Gentiles created a bigger problem. Even today when conflict arises, many contract into a rigid group that enforces more rules, enabling them to treat others as inferiors! Thankfully the Apostles by the Holy Spirit saw God doing a different thing - gathering a people together for His name among all nations. Please note the statements by Peter:
1. God chose Peter to  reach out to the gentiles in a way much like Pentecost. Peter describes it as God at work.
2  Cleansing of the heart was by faith.
3  v10  Peter describes the law as "a burden which neither we nor our fathers could bear"! Why expect the gentile to try?
4 v11 is put so beautifully  - salvation for the Jew will be on the same basis of the same grace shown to the gentiles. If I was speaking I would have reversed it i.e. the gentiles would be saved like us Jews, but Peter puts it so distinctly - saved by grace for all!

Verse 14 James confirms the remarks of Peter and then quotes scripture to show God's intention to embrace the Gentile believers. It may have remained in some Jewish minds that Israel as a nation would de restored.
Verse 18 is an eloquent expression of God's operations independent of human design i.e. ' the gentiles who are called by my Name' God calls where and when and who He may choose!
Verse 20 The conclusion of James and the letter written was not so much a victory for Paul and Barnabas  but rather a relief that the Gospel of grace might abound to the many other sheep for whom Christ had died.
         A few restrictions imposed were appropriate for 'good conscience' living - separation from idols, appropriate human social behaviour, and one health rule that would honour God. James concludes with an interesting comment - that the reading of the law and prophets was available in all cities for any that would learn more. (as we maintain that although we are not under law, we can still be blessed by reading and understanding it!)

Acts 17 is a masterpiece of preaching to a Gentile audience - I note their is no reference to the law as a means of life nor the measure of judgement.

Acts 20.21 This summary of Paul' teaching distinctly leaves out any reference to law keeping

Acts  21:17-26 What shall we make of these verses?  It appears the converted Jews were continuing under law and the Gentiles without law. So what was Paul to do. Well it seems that he tried to fit in with the 'two peoples' system, but God had other plans and instead gave him (Paul) a free ticket to Rome. There he  would preach the Gospel of free grace before governors, rulers and kings (howbeit as a prisoner).

I trust you are impressed with Acts as "God at work"

J.Mckee   johnmckee@internode.on.net      Comments welcome

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Law / Grace

Psalm 119 is a beautiful reflection on the character and value of the law of God. At the end is a surprising prayer. Verse 176  " I have gone astray like a lost sheep, seek your servant" - the admitted outcome of the law meditation being the exposure of human weakness and wandering ways!

John 13-16 is by contrast a most uplifting, enabling law of liberty  where the believing  soul is able  to be fruitful because of connection to the vine. Only in Him can true fulfilment be found. The focus of the Holy Spirit's work to reveal Christ and so "in Him" we have identity and fruitfulness. The prayer of chapter 17 omits the law and the stress is on "Thy word" given to the disciples by the Lord.

John 18  John highlights the occasion when the Lord applies the law to the judge - to the high priest He asked 'where are the witnesses required by the law in judgement?'

Matthew quotes much Old Testament scripture to validitate Jesus as the Messiah and King of Israel. John links many incidents to the Old Testament to show that these prophecies are being fulfilled. Chapter 19.28 is the account of Jesus deliberately fulfilling scripture  -  He said "I thirst".   The piercing of His side must take place  to fulfil scripture. Notice the word 'fulfil'.
The final benediction in John's gospel is "Blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed".  This is different to the last words of the Old Testament  -  'remember the law of my servant Moses .... lest I come and strike the land with a  decree of utter destruction.
The difference being 'the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ'

Friday, May 10, 2013

An Illustration

John chapter 11 is a beautiful story that illustrates very well the Lords treatment of the law.
Lazarus was an honourable Israelite who under law found himself condemned to death - death being the out come of a broken law - and so he died.      Jesus seemed to deliberately stay away from healing Lazarus so that He might demonstrate the liberating life giving power of His voice. At the grave, Jesus speaks the words 'Lazarus come forth" and His voice is obeyed.  Then comes an almost unnecessary command - "loose him and let him go"  how fitting to my subject of law keeping!

The burden of law observance had descended into a bondage, applied by religious leaders to control the people. The voice of the master resounds among the people -  Loose him and let him go!
We noted in chapter 8 " the Son shall set you free", so now liberty in the truth of Christ is true liberty. Paul confirms this in Galations 5.1
    For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery

John 12  John concludes  the public teaching of the Son of God . What is obvious is the declared point of reference for judgement  - His words. One might have thought that the book of law would be opened at the great white throne, and for the Jews it may well be so, but the Lord indicates that His teaching is the final reference  in judgement for His words are the Word of God.


I apologise for no blogs for a while  - I was in Europe.
John McKee