Friday, September 03, 2004

Most Misunderstood Part 2

Part II
CHRISTIANITY---THE MOST MISUNDERSTOOD RELIGION IN THE WORLD

Why? The world does not understand God's GRACE!

Are you under the LAW or under GRACE?

There are two ways to deal with sin.

In our world Law has been exalted as the way to achieve domestic as well as international tranquility. There are enough laws, rules, regulations, precepts, commandments and suchlike to fill tons of books and boggle the minds of even the best lawyers. They cover every phase of human life. Relatively few of them are obeyed or given much attention. However our focus is and has been so much on law that we ignore the fact that God has two ways of dealing with sin. One is LAW the other is GRACE.

The moral law expressed in the Ten Commandments refers to the revelation of the will and purposes of God in the Old Testament. These commandments have become the foundation of the system of justice in much of the world today.

The Ten Commandments were not given only for the Hebrew people but are abiding laws for all people. Men knew the moral principles of these laws from Adam's time, apparently intuitively. People even in the most primitive societies know most of them. They convey duties for everyone and reveal to us the basic morality required by God.
Without God, the Commandments lose their foundation.
Law is one of the primary concepts in the Bible. It is based on the commandments, which God revealed to Moses.
These ten laws define negatively the relationship between God and mankind. The first four Commandments are related to ones relationship with God. The next six Commandments have to do with human relationships. Right relationships with others follow being rightly related to God. Being rightly related to God compels one towards right relationships to one's neighbors. Here one can see the wonderful balance that is maintained in the Law. Duties to God and to our peers are not separated.

Jesus respected the Law and often referred to it. Jesus was both a critic of the Law and a supporter of it. He was critical of the law as taught and practiced by the scribes and Pharisees. The enemies of Jesus frequently accused Him of violating the Law. It is clear that keeping the letter of the Law had become more important to some of the Jews than the purpose or spirit the Law.
On several occasions Jesus set His own teachings over against those of the elders (Matt. 5:21-6:34). Jesus' greatest conflict came over the Sabbath. He rejected their interpretation of the Sabbath Law and said that the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8); that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27); and He taught that it was permissible to do good deeds on the Sabbath (Mark 3:4).
Jesus inaugurated a new era in which the Law as understood by the Jews of His day would no longer be the guiding principle for the Kingdom of God (Luke 16:16). Nevertheless, Jesus claimed not to have come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17-20). That is, Jesus moved the understanding of the Law from its external, legalistic meaning to its spiritual one. Moving from outward observance to inward motivation and intention is Jesus' concern (Matt. 5:21, 22, 27, 28).

He pushes the Law out to its ultimate meaning (thus filling it full). In this sense Jesus affirmed the heart and the spirit of the Law. He moved to a deeper level of meaning, to the spirit behind the Law, which God had intended from the beginning. Jesus did not give us new law. When Jesus was asked which commandment is the greatest, He said, "You shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind," (Matt. 22:36, 37). Jesus said the second commandment is like the first, "Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matt. 22:39). Then He said, "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (Matt. 22:40). To the surprise of many, Jesus summed up the whole Law and the teaching of the prophets with these two commandments. Behind all of the Law had stood these two great principles of love for God and neighbor. It is important for us to remember that love can never be adequately portrayed in rules or in teachings. It can be seen in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the establishment of the age of Grace. Jesus emphasized them in a way that would forever change how we should look at them.

Grace is God's way of dealing with sin. Paul had a lifelong struggle with the Law. By the term "law," Paul meant the Law of God as contained in the Old Testament. He also spoke of a kind of natural law, which existed in human beings (Rom. 7:23, 25). The "law of sin" meant conduct determined by sin. Paul also used law in this sense when he referred to the "law of faith" or the "Law of love"-that is, conduct determined by faith in God or ones love for God. (Rom. 3:27-28).
Paul's attitude toward the Mosaic Law can be summarized under several main points. First of all, he recognized that the Law had been given for a good purpose; it was holy, just and good (Rom. 7:12, 14; 1 Tim. 1:8). The demands of the Law were not evil, but had the effect of pointing out the sin of human beings (Rom. 7:7). Because of man's sinfulness, the Law became a curse instead of a blessing (Gal. 3:10-13).
Second, Paul believed the Law was given for a good purpose, but it could not save (Gal. 3:11; Rom. 3:20). If persons were to be reconciled to God, it would be by means other than keeping the Law. The third theme we find in Paul is that Christ freed us from the requirements of the Law of Moses by His death and resurrection (Rom. 8:3, 4). Therefore, Christ has become the end of the Law for Christians (Rom. 10:4), and it is faith that saves and not Law (Eph. 2:8, 9). God's Grace that establishes the law of love makes it possible.
Paul, like Jesus, saw the Law fulfilled in the command to love (Rom. 13:8; Gal. 5:13). Only with the aid of the Spirit of God can we meet the requirement to love, which fulfills the Law (Gal. 5:16; Rom. 8).

Paul saw the Law as no longer to be viewed legalistically. Nevertheless, it is still the revelation of God, and it helps us to understand the nature of our life in Christ (Rom. 8:3; 13:8-10; Gal. 3:24). Law is the way of self-help, trying to earn one's own salvation. Grace is God's way of salvation, totally unearned (Rom. 3:24; 4:4; 11:6; Eph. 2:8). Grace is obtained by faith in what God has done in Christ (Rom. 4:16). God's grace comes to repentant sinners, not to those who think they merit God's acceptance (Rom. 5:20-21). It is through Christ's atoning work on the cross that God's grace comes to us, setting us free from the bondage of sin (Rom. 3:24-31). Christ is the representative who breaks the reign of sin and brings life and acceptance with God through divine grace (Rom. 5:15, 17). . It was in the beloved Son that God's grace came to us. (1 Cor. 1:4; Eph. 1:6-7; compare 2 Tim. 1:9). God's grace abides in us (2 Cor. 9:14); we stand in it (Rom. 5:2). Our calling, our witness, our works are all based on the power of God's grace in our lives (2 Thess. 1:11-12). Paul taught that the true experience of God's grace changes one's life in the direction of righteousness (Rom. 6:1, 14-15). Grace never gives freedom to sin. But reproduces, in all who experience God's grace, gifts of the Spirit for ministry and service (Rom. 12:6; Eph. 4:7)

You can receive God's grace today!

Pray this way:
Dear Lord, I want your GRACE although I may never fully understand it. I have sinned many times and in many ways. I am terribly sorry. I believe Jesus atoned for my sin when he died on the cross. Please forgive me. I sincerely want to live a new life. AMEN!

(There is no magic in these words. You may express your prayer in your own words. Your truthfulness and sincerity is what will bring faith and deliverance.)

God loves you and so do I.
Howard S. Dimmick

3 comments:

Milton Stanley said...

Howard: Thanks for your kind words on my blog. You do a very thorough job of dealing with law and grace. I especially liked your point that "Without God, the Commandments lose their foundation." Our world want to have order and meaning w/o God, but it just wasn't made that way. Peace, brother. Milton

Milton Stanley said...

Howard: Regarding your ideas on law and gospel, you might be interested in the piece by Joachim Jeremias linked to the end of today's entry on my blog. Peace. Milton

Michael said...

I really appreciate your post. You put into words what I have been thinking alot about. Keep up the good work and God bless you.