I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
We are continuing on in our current series we have entitled, “God’s Plan for the Ages – Dispensations.” For the past several posts we have been examining the Dispensation of Law. As we have stated, this Dispensation was about 1,718 years in length, taking in the time from Moses to Christ, or the Exodus in Egypt to the preaching of John the Baptist specifically.
We have taken a bit of a side journey of late (though certainly still on the general subject of the Law), as we have been sharing concerning the role and relevance of the Law of God in the life of the New Covenant believer. I know a concept like this seems very foreign to many modern believers, but it is a subject that is important for every believer to grasp.
I want to make it very clear that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The Reformers got that absolutely right, as it is one of the Solas of Reformed Theology. Even though it is true we are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, that does not mean that the Law of God contained in what we typically refer to as the Old Testament is no longer valid and can be forgotten.
I want to look in this post at least three functions the Law of God has in the lives of New Covenant believers. As I write this post this Saturday, October 31st, is Reformation Day (even though many churches observe it as Reformation Sunday). While the world observes (and sadly many Christians do as well), October 31st as Halloween, we should really as believers not be participating in this day that is the number one holiday of witches and Satanists, and that celebrates death and darkness.
That aside, I want to take a look at what the Reformers taught and thought about the Law of God in the lives of those saved by grace. While I would not subscribe necessarily to every facet of Reformed Theology by any means, I at the same time acknowledge the debt that each of us who are not pledging allegiance to the Mother Church of Rome owe to the Reformers. While the Reformation was founded on grace, the Law was not repudiated by the Reformers. John Calvin for example wrote what has become known as the, “Threefold Use of the Law”, in order to show the importance of the Law in the Christian life.
- THE LAW IS A REFLECTOR (mirror):
On the one hand, the Law as a mirror reflects and mirrors the perfect righteousness of God. As we look into the mirror of the Law we can see God in all of His perfection and holiness. We are not to fashion God after our likeness or our own ideas about Him. Because of not looking intently into the mirror of the Law, many modern Christians have a distorted view or image of God. The Law tells us a great deal about who God is. More importantly, the Law reveals human sinfulness. Augustine wrote, “The Law orders, that we, after attempting to do what was ordered, and so feeling our weakness under the Law, may learn to implore the help of grace.” The Law highlights our weakness so that we might seek the strength found in Christ. The Law serves then, as Paul wrote to the Galatians, as a severe schoolmaster to drive us to Christ.
- THE LAW IS A RESTRAINER:
We need to understand that the Law is powerless to change human hearts. The Law cannot save us and it cannot change us. It can however protect us. It serves to protect the righteous from the unjust. Calvin said this purpose is, “By means of its fearful denunciations and the consequent dread of punishment, to curb those who, unless forced, have no regard for rectitude and justice.” That is one side of the proverbial coin, the other is that the Law is a restrainer like a fence or guardrail is a restrainer.. A fence sets boundaries and conveys the notion of security. Yes, boundaries promote security. Every parent who has raised children knows that children really want boundaries set, and they will push you until you set them. Boundaries make them feel secure, loved, and cared for. A parent who never sets boundaries really doesn’t care about their children. Do you honestly think the heavenly Father cares for His children any less? God has set boundaries, or fences for His children in the form of the Law.
The Law also is a restrainer in the sense of a guardrail on the highway. Guardrails are placed on highways not to prohibit freedom, but to provide protection. Guardrails are on the highways to keep you and me on the road, and to keep us from plunging to certain destruction by careening off the road. Guardrails are a benefit and a blessing to drivers. In a similar fashion, the Law of God is a benefit and a blessing to the New Covenant believer. Our loving Father sets boundaries for His children, and puts guardrails on the road of life because He loves and cares for His children, and wants the best for us.
- THE LAW IS A REVEALER:
The Law reveals to us what is pleasing (and displeasing) to God. Some popular Bible teachers have taught of late that a Christian never needs to worry about pleasing God, stating that because of grace we are already pleasing to God. With all due respect to these brethren, the Bible seems to disagree with them. Paul writing to the Ephesians said, “ for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” [Eph. 5:7 – 10 NASB]
How about 2 Corinthians 5:9? Paul wrote, “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” [2 Cor. 5:9 NASB] Why would we need to have as our ambition or goal to be pleasing to God if we already are pleasing to Him? Romans 8:8 tells us that if we as believers are walking according to the “flesh”, or old sinful nature, we cannot please God. 1 Thessalonians 4:1 says, “Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.” Paul says that he gave the Thessalonian saints instructions on how they were to walk and please God. Why would such instruction be necessary is they were already pleasing to God?
The Law of God reveals to us those things that are again pleasing (and not pleasing) to God.
I pray that in this short teaching you are able to at least begin to see that the Law of God has not passed away, nor can it be set aside by New Covenant people.
We will continue our teaching on the Dispensation of Law next time. I hope that you can join us.
Until next time,
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson