Wednesday, 31 May 2017

GRACE AND LAW

Have God’s moral laws become irrelevant for believers saved by grace? Does grace do away with the Law?

Has Jesus ever said “it’s all by God’s grace” and that the Law has been abolished for believers?

Can you imagine what everyday life would be like without laws? Anyone is free to break traffic rules, rob or kill. There will be anarchy and unrest in society.

Now consider this: What will happen if lawlessness prevails in church? Won’t it be an equally dangerous scenario—or even more dangerous as it may affect a believer’s eternal destiny? You might ask, How will it affect a believer’s eternal destiny? To find out, read on.

Antinomianism (anti means "against"; nomos means "law"), a deviant doctrine that has been sweeping over the church for centuries, is the belief that the moral laws of the Old Testament have been abolished once we have been saved by grace, and that believers can live our lives any way we like.

Antinomian preachers teach that believers are no longer obliged to obey the moral laws of God once we are saved.

The purpose of this article is to debunk the antinomian premise that the Law has been abolished for believers saved by grace.

In the account of the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3-11), Jesus showed mercy to her whereas the crowd wanted to stone her. Finally, Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” Though she had been forgiven, she still had to follow God’s law (do not commit adultery, the seventh commandment).

Jesus taught that ogling at a woman and entertaining lustful thoughts is tantamount to committing adultery with her (Matthew 5: 27-28). Thus, besides endorsing the Law, He raised the bar concerning the seventh commandment (do not commit adultery).

Paul taught that, when we love our neighbor, we are fulfilling the Law—laws such as you shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet (Romans 13:8-10).

Jesus told the rich young ruler the commandments He had to follow when the latter asked how he could inherit eternal life: “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother’” (Luke 18:18-20).

So the Law is never irrelevant for believers saved by grace under the New Covenant.

Has Jesus ever said that “it’s all by God’s grace” and that the Law has been abolished for believers? Never.

                                                                 
On the contrary, Jesus categorically stated: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18).

“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

Let us now quickly run through the Ten Commandments and see how these Old Testament (OT) moral laws are upheld in the New Testament (NT):

In the temptation in the wilderness, Jesus upheld the first commandment (have no other gods) by refusing to worship Satan (Matthew 4:10).

Paul emphasised that no idolater will inherit God’s kingdom (Ephesians 5:5, 1 Corinthians 6:9), thus upholding the second commandment (do not make idols).

In the Lord’s Prayer, “hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9) means we must revere and honour God’s name, in keeping with the third commandment (do not take the Lord's name in vain).

In Luke 4:16, as was his custom, Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, thus fulfilling the fourth commandment (keep the Sabbath day holy).

In Ephesians 6:1-3, Paul echoed the fifth commandment (honour your father and mother), adding that such obedience may lead to blessing and longevity.

Jesus told the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-20 that he must follow God’s commandments, including the sixth commandment (do not kill), in order to inherit eternal life.

Paul taught in Romans 13:9 that believers should not commit adultery, in line with the seventh commandment (do not commit adultery).

In Ephesians 4: 28, Paul taught that ex-thieves must stop stealing and find honest jobs, in keeping with the eight commandment (do not steal).

Paul exhorted believers to put away lying and speak the truth in Ephesians 4: 25, thus reflecting the ninth commandment (do not bear false witness).

In Luke 12:15, Jesus warned against covetousness, stating that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions, in line with the tenth commandment (do not covet).

Thus, if we examine the NT, we find so many references that endorse the Ten Commandments found in the OT. If the law no longer applies to believers saved by grace, why are the Ten Commandments mentioned, directly or indirectly, in the NT?

Now, no right thinking believer disputes the fact that we are saved by faith, not by works of the law.
  • Now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law (Romans 3:21).
  • We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are (Romans 3:22).
  • So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law (Romans 3:28).
The paradox is this: “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law (Romans 3:31).”

While Jesus helps believers fulfil the righteous requirements of the law through His sacrificial death on the cross, believers still have to live according to God’s law by walking in the spirit (Romans 8:3-7, Ephesians 4:22, Colossians 3:5). Notice that those living in the flesh do not submit to God’s law (Romans 8:7).

Paul makes it clear that the law is holy, just and good (Romans 7:12). What the law does is to expose man’s sin and show the sorry, helpless state of man—that we cannot meet God’s moral standards (Romans 7:7)

Therefore, the only way by which man could please God was through grace—faith in the forgiveness Christ provides through His sacrificial death on the cross (Romans 3:21-22, Ephesians 2:8-9, Galatians 2:16). This doctrine is termed justification by faith.

                                                                                
Though saved by grace through faith in Christ (not by keeping the Law), believers still have to obey God’s moral laws.

Certainly, it doesn’t mean believers can continue to live in sin (break God’s moral laws). We are still held accountable under the moral laws revealed in the Ten Commandments.

The apostle Paul posed rhetorical questions in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”

Therefore, we must stay within or adhere to the boundaries set by the Law though we are saved by grace. We simply cannot break God’s laws (by living in sin) after having being saved by grace.

Implicit in embracing grace is the fact that we must renounce ungodliness and live righteously, staying within the ambit of God’s moral laws:

                                                               
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works”(Titus 2:11-14)

The apostle Jude, in the context of contending for the faith, warned that ungodly men among them were turning the grace of our God into a license to sin. “Some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God's marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives” (Jude 1:4).

Thus, when we teach that God’s moral laws are no longer relevant for believers, we are perverting God’s grace, like these ungodly men whom Jude warned against.

                                                                            
Jesus condemned false prophets and miracle workers because they practised lawlessness and do not carry out God’s will (Matthew 7: 21-23). Note here that Jesus did not condemn those who live according to His laws (but those who violated His laws).

Although we cannot be saved by keeping the Law, God uses His moral laws as the standard of righteousness. Thus, the Law (moral laws as set out in the Ten Commandments) is the believer’s guide for righteous living.  Furthermore, God will judge us one day based on the Law, which clearly defines what is sinful and what is not.

                                                                   
While the Law does not save us, when we yield to the Holy Spirit’s power, according to the boundaries set by the Law, we become progressively sanctified (Romans 12:1-2, John 16:13, John 17:17, 2 Corinthians 3:18).

Those who claim that the Law is irrelevant for believers saved by grace do not have any inkling about sanctification because they have no standard of righteousness to act as a guide. 

By keeping God’s law, we remain in His love:

“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him”(John 14:21).

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

By not keeping His laws, we invoke His displeasure and wrath:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Revelation 22:14-15).

“When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die” (Ezekiel 18:26).

So far, in the foregoing, we have been referring to God’s moral laws as set out in the ancient Ten Commandments, which are endorsed by Jesus and the NT apostles.

However, the ceremonial laws have been abolished for believers. We are no longer obligated to follow the Levitical system because Christ is the perfect Lamb of God, who by a single ‘once and for all’ offering of Himself abolished the record of debt (sin) made against us (Hebrews 7:27, Hebrews 9:12-14).

Circumcision and other Jewish religious rites are also not binding on believers today. The decision reached in the Jerusalem conference was to lay no greater burden on Gentile believers than the following: abstinence from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality (Acts 15:28-29). Paul stressed that Christ has set us free from the yoke of bondage and that we should not insist on circumcision for Gentile believers (Galatians 5:1-2, Romans 3:30).

It is hoped that the above will provide sufficient ammunition for concerned believers to refute the claims of false teachers of antinomianism and extreme/perverted grace. Hopefully, it will also dispel the misconception that God’s moral laws have been abolished (no longer relevant) for believers saved by grace.

If these false teachers continue to dig in and remain firm in their stance that God’s moral laws are abolished for believers, you might want to suggest to them that this means that you are allowed to covet their possessions—and they would have to surrender them to you since, according to their viewpoint, believers are no longer under the Law. In fact, they should exhibit ample grace by blessing you with their possessions.

In summary, God’s moral laws (Ten Commandments) still apply to believers saved by grace. The danger of antinomianism (anti-law stance) is that its proponents would not treat sin seriously, believing that God’s grace alone will grant them eternal security. By breaking God's laws, they face the risk of coming under God’s judgment and wrath. Antinomianism, therefore, is indeed a destructive heresy (2 Peter 2:1).

“We are saved not by keeping the Law but by grace through faith. Though saved, we are still subject to God's moral laws but not the ceremonial and ritualistic laws. The foregoing sums up, in essence, the sticky debate on the role of the Law in the life of believers. Unless one differentiates between God's moral laws and ceremonial laws, one can be pretty confused. The ceremonial laws, such as circumcision, are no longer binding on modern-day believers.”
Porridge for the Soul

“The Gospel proclaims liberty from the ceremonial law, but binds you still faster under the moral law. To be freed from the ceremonial law is the Gospel liberty; to pretend freedom from the moral law is Antinomianism.”
Methodist commentator, Adam Clarke

The Christian is a man who of necessity must be concerned about keeping God’s law. The fatal tendency is to put up law and grace as antitheses in the wrong sense. We are not ‘under the law’ but we are still meant to keep it. So the Christian is a man who is always concerned about living and keeping the law of God.

 —  Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones


RELATED POSTS

WHY THE LAW WILL NEVER BE ABOLISHED

If we believe that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, and that He is the God of justice and righteousness as much as He is the God of love, grace and mercy, then His moral laws will NEVER be abolished.

Why? The reason is this: Whatever the epoch or dispensation, whether we are living under the Old or New Covenant, the Law has to be upheld to reflect His attributes of justice and righteousness.

Jesus categorically stated: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18).

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before” you (Psalm 89:14).

“But the Lord shall endure forever;
He has prepared His throne for judgment.
He shall judge the world in righteousness,
And He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness.”
(Psalm 9:7-8)

FREE FROM THE LAW?
Are believers free from the law?
Answer: It's a 'YES' and a 'NO'.
Why ‘Yes’ and ‘No’?

OBEDIENCE TO LAW: NECESSARY UNDER GRACE?
Is obedience to the law a requirement for believers saved by grace?

GRACE AND TRUTH
Jesus is the personification of grace and truth. What are the implications of these two diverse facets of His character in the life of the believer?

GRACE: CAN WE HAVE TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?
Varying emphasis on the role of grace in the lives of believers has caused Christians from different camps to hold divergent views on this issue of grace. While all believers need God’s grace, some believe that overemphasis on grace can be dangerous.

REFERENCES

The Ten Commandments in a Nutshell

Do not have any other god before God.  
Do not make yourself an idol. 
Do not take the Lord's name in vain.
Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.   
Honor thy Mother and Father. 
Do not murder.
Do not commit adultery. 
Do not steal. 
Do not bear false witness 
Do not covet

EXTERNAL LINKS


ANDY STANLEY: TEN COMMANDMENTS DON'T APPLY TO CHRISTIANS
His stance that the law is summed up in the two great commandments (Love God, love others) is correct. I agree with him on this point.

But the ancient Ten Commandments are STILL relevant today because Jesus says He has come to fulfil the law, not abolish it (Matt. 5:17). And the fact that idolaters and fornicators are excluded from heaven means that these ancient laws are upheld (1 Cor. 6:9-10, Rev. 22:15).

THE CORRUPTION OF GRACE
By Rev Dr Steven Kau
I am amazed to what length some people will go to make the Christian faith and life more bearable or livable. I have always said the Christian life is a very demanding life. It is so demanding that Jesus warned that unless we carry our own cross, we are not worthy of Him.

ARE THE TEN COMMANDMENTS UPHELD IN THE NEW TESTAMENT?
https://bit.ly/2zHWC34

Thursday, 4 May 2017

SIT, WALK, STAND

Isn’t it good to know that the Christian life can be summed up in three simple words—sit, walk, stand?
                                                                           

When we believe in Christ, we are reconciled to God and made to SIT in the heavenly places with Christ. That is our POSITION in the eyes of God. However, this is just the beginning of our journey of faith. Henceforth, we need to WALK in the Spirit according to our new relationship with God and make a STAND against Satan in spiritual warfare. 

                                                                   
In his book, “Sit, Walk, Stand”, the late Watchman Nee, a Chinese church leader and teacher, reveals an interesting way of summarising the book of Ephesians. A mere 78 pages, it is a small book with a big message. Simple but profound, it provides fresh insights to believers, both young and old.

While the verb ‘sit’ is passive, ‘walk’ and ‘stand’ connote active participation.

What does ‘sit’ mean, spiritually speaking? When we ‘sit’, we rest in what Christ accomplished for us; we need not do anything.
  • He chose us before the foundation of the world and predestined us to be His children (Ephesians 1: 4-5).
  • While we were dead in sin, He saved us and made us sit with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:5-6)
“Most Christians make the mistake of trying to walk in order to be able to sit, but that is a reversal of the true order. Our natural reason says, ‘If we do not walk, how can we ever reach the goal? What can we attain without effort? How can we ever get anywhere if we do not move? But Christianity is a queer business! If at the outset we try to do anything, we get nothing; if we seek to attain something, we miss everything. For Christianity begins not with the big DO, but with the big DONE. Thus Ephesians opens with the statement that God has ‘blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ’ (1:3) and we are invited at the very outset to sit down and enjoy what God has done for us; not to set out to try and attain it for ourselves” (Watchman Nee, “Sit, Walk Stand”, Pg 2).

                                                                      
What does ‘walk’ mean, spiritually speaking? When we ‘walk’, we are living out our faith in practical terms.

Since we have been translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light (Ephesians 2:1-2):
  • We should live our lives in a manner worthy of our high calling (Ephesians 4:1).
  • We are to walk in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us (Ephesians 5: 2).
  • We have to be careful concerning how we walk, making the best use of the time because the days are evil. And we must not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:15-17).
Though it is important to ‘walk’—work out our faith—Nee cautions against doing it in our own strength:

“The all-important rule is not to ‘try’ but to ‘trust,’ not to depend upon our own strength but upon his… Too many of us are caught acting as Christians. The life of many Christians today is largely a pretense. They live a ‘spiritual’ life, talk a ‘spiritual’ language, adopt ‘spiritual’ attitudes, but they are doing the whole thing themselves” (pg.38-9).

Thirdly, we need to ‘stand’ because we are soldiers of Christ engaged in spiritual warfare. We need to be alert, vigilant and prepared always.
  • “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11).
  • “Armies march into other countries to occupy and subdue. God has not told us to do this. We are not to march but to stand. The word ‘stand’ implies that the ground disputed by the enemy is really God’s, and therefore ours. We need not struggle to gain a foothold on it” (pg. 54).
  • “Today we do not fight for victory; we fight from victory. When you fight to get the victory, then you have lost the battle at the outset” (pg. 55).
  • “Because victory is His, therefore it is ours” (pg. 56).
  • “If we believe the Lord, we shall not pray so much but rather we shall praise him more. The simpler and clearer our faith in him, the less we shall pray in such situations and the more we shall praise” (pg. 57).
From the above, we can see how important it is to have a proper balance in our Christian life. We need all these three steps in our faith walk—and they must be in the correct sequence as well.

Firstly, we have to sit before we can walk. To sit is to rest in the finished work of Christ at the cross and enjoy all the benefits that come with it: forgiveness, peace with God, direct access to Him, assurance of His presence always in all circumstances and eternal life.

After understanding what it means to SIT, we then proceed to live our lives in a manner worthy of our calling—we begin to WALK***

Secondly, we cannot just sit, and not walk, as liberal teachers would have us think.

                                                                      
Liberal theology emphasises what we get to enjoy based on our position in Christ but downplays personal responsibility. Indeed, the wind of doctrine now blowing across some churches is that accountability is a dirty word, good works border on legalism and ‘works righteousness’, there is nothing more believers need to do because it is ‘all by God’s grace’ and that once we are justified in Christ, we have already “arrived”, without any need for sanctification.

Though we may be made righteous in Christ, a process called justification, we also need to be progressively conformed to the image of Christ, a part of our Christian life termed sanctification. Confusion and muddled thinking result when we lump together two different processes: Justification, which is through faith and faith alone. And sanctification which is a life-long process whereby we die to self, submit ourselves to God, renew our minds and work out our faith with fear and trembling.

Thirdly, we have to sit and walk before we can stand. We have to rest in the finished work of Christ, who defeated Satan at the cross, as well as walk in truth and righteousness before we can make a stand against the evil one.
  • Christ “disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross” (Colossians 2:15).
  • Christ came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).
  • “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14).
The best summary of the book is the one that Nee provides at the end of the book:

“The Christian life consists of sitting with Christ, walking by him and standing in him. We begin our spiritual life by resting in the finished work of the Lord Jesus. That rest is the source of our strength for a consistent and unfaltering walk in the world. And at the end of a grueling warfare with the hosts of darkness we are found standing with him at last in triumphant possession of the field” (pg.78).

To conclude, the Christian faith should be seen as both passive (“sitting”) and active (“walking” and “standing”).

To SIT is to know our position in Christ and rest in His finished work.

To WALK is to live a life pleasing to God, realising that we have been redeemed and blessed.

To STAND is to actively engage in spiritual battle against the evil one.

FAITH: ACTIVE, NOT PASSIVE

“It would not be difficult to point out at least twenty-five or thirty distinct passages in the Epistles where believers are plainly taught to use active personal exertion, and are addressed as responsible for doing energetically what Christ would have them do, and are not told to “yield themselves” up as passive agents and sit still, but to arise and work. A holy violence, a conflict, a warfare, a fight, a soldier’s life, a wrestling, are spoken of as characteristic of the true Christian.”
― Dr Michael L. Brown

OUR FAITH WALK   ***

How do we walk in a manner befitting our high calling?

In the second part of Ephesians (chapters 4-6), Paul stresses that, in view of our blessed position or standing in Christ, we need to respond by leading a life worthy of the high calling to which we have been called:

We must be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Having varied and distinctive gifts, we should work together to build up the body of Christ till all attain unity and maturity.

We need to put off the old nature and put on the new nature—no longer be like the unregenerate who continue to live in sin as their minds are darkened and their hearts are hardened.

Let our anger be short-lived and let our words be positive and edifying. Bitterness and slander should be put away.

Thieves should stop stealing and engage themselves in honest jobs.

We should be kind and forgiving just as Christ forgave us.

We must not indulge in filthy talk or sexual immorality and avoid bad company as they might corrupt us.

We need to seek God’s will and make the best use of our time.

Instead of being drunk, we should have a grateful attitude and be filled with Holy Spirit, encouraging others through psalms and hymns.

Our new status should also impact our family life. Husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church. Wives should submit to their husbands. Children should honour their parents. Fathers should not exasperate their children but bring them up in the fear of God.

The way slaves (or employees) and masters (or employers) should behave and relate to one another is spelled out. The former should respect their bosses and serve them as if they were serving Christ. Bosses should treat their workers well, cognizant of the fact that God is Master over all.


RELATED POSTS

SIT: ENTERING GOD’S REST
Jesus’ challenge to those who mean business with Him is this: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
Yet, in another part of the Bible, we read that God has promised rest for His people and we should do our best to enter this place where we cease from our labours (Hebrews 4:1).
How are we to reconcile carrying a heavy burden—like a cross—with entering God’s rest?

WALK: WHAT IS NEXT?
It is true that we receive God’s grace (salvation) through faith, not works. But, then, what comes next? God is looking for fruit: Changed lives, repentance and obedience, all of which does not nullify at all the grace we receive by faith.

STAND: SPIRITUAL BACKLASH
Believers who earnestly desire to be God’s instruments must be prepared for satan’s reprisals.
http://bit.ly/1K8aAty