Yesterday we had several people after the services profess their desire to know Christ. One particular couple, with tears streaming down their cheeks, voiced their need of Christ. They had no church background and no religious training. All they new after the worship service was that they needed Christ. Holding hands in my office they confessed their need to Christ and received Him as their Lord and Savior. It was very moving. They will make known their relationship with Christ in the next few weeks through public baptism as they share their faith in the Person and work of Christ with others.
I corresponded with a dear friend today from overseas who believes I am in error regarding the Law, meaning to him, the Ten Commandments. I argue that the Old Covenant Law cannot be artificially separated or divided into moral, civil or ceremonial categories, as many Christians try to do. The Old Covenant Law, otherwise known as Hebrew Law, was one body of work. When Christ died, He FULFILLED the Law, abrograted it, and issued a new law, called the Royal Law of love. Because my friend knows my belief regarding this, he wrote me a very cordial letter where he asked this question: "I suppose the main point of my query to you is 'How are we to apply the gospel to sinners so that they may be saved if the Ten Commandments are like all the other Hebrew laws (the dietary, sacrifical, ceremonial and civil laws) and are deemed fulfilled by Christ and set aside by God?'"
My friend asks a great question. Below is my response. Bottom line, if you believe what I wrote him is truth, then you don't get bent out of shape when people aren't in church every Sunday and you work hard to prevent the crystillization of Sunday rituals and creatively find ways to promote Christian fellowship, love and service through non-traditional means that break religious customs but are true to the spirit of the New Covenant. Read on...
Monday, March 5, 2012
My dear friend _______
I do appreciate your most recent email. I would like to address just a couple of points you make, and I know you know the spirit in which I respond. I have learned so much from your wisdom and kindness to me and my family. I will continue to think through carefully what you have written! I will, of course, listen most carefully to the voice of my Good Shepherd, and if I ever think what I am hearing from my wiser and most esteemed friend is a little off from what I personally hear from my Good Shepherd, I must listen ultimately to the latter. Very rarely does this happen, but if it does, I would be dishonoring to my Lord to agree with you when I don't feel in my spirit true agreement.
You write: 'How are we to apply the gospel to sinners so that they may be saved if the Ten Commandments are like all the other Hebrew laws (the dietary, sacrifical, ceremonial and civil laws) and are deemed fulfilled by Christ and set aside by God?'"
A very, very good question indeed! I press home to sinners the absence of their love for God and their love for fellow man, for this is the summary of the law and the absolute evidence of divine grace. If a sinner has neither, then the sinner will answer to God for His sins, which are all violations of this Royal Law - sins like cheating on a spouse (for how is cheating loving your husband or wife?), sins like stealing (for how is taking your neighbors possessions loving your neighbor?), sins like idolatry (for how is treauring this world and the things of this world more than God loving God?), etc.... What I don't do is press home observance of religious rituals, whether they be the Law of the sabbath, the Law of ceremonial cleansing through sacrifice, the Law of new moon festivals, the Law of kosher diets, etc... - for I see all these Old Covenant Laws as pointing to Christ -- and fulfilled by Christ and abrogated by God.
My Baptist heroes of the early 17th century were concerned that the sinner be shown the goodness of God in the person of Jesus Christ. This is how they put it in the First London Confession of Faith (1644):
Article 25 in the The 1646 London Confession of Faith
The preaching of the gospel to the conversion of sinners, is absolutely free; no way requiring as absolutely necessary, any qualifications, preparations, or terrors of the law, or preceding ministry of the law (meaning the Ten Commandments), but only and alone the naked soul, a sinner and ungodly, to receive Christ crucified, dead and buried, and risen again; who is made a prince and a Savior for such sinners as through the gospel shall be brought to believe on Him. John 3:14,15, 1:12; Isa. 55:1; John 7:37; 1 Tim. 1:15; Rom. 4:5, 5:8; Acts 5:30,31, 2:36, 1 Cor. 1:22,24.
The starting point for these 18th Century Baptists was the goodness of God in Christ and not the violations of Law. Christ fulfilled the law of God. The law and the prophets in the Old Testament all pointed to Christ. The law was never given to drive a sinner to be righteousness in himself, but rather to drive the sinner to faith in the Lawgiver to provide a righteousness that comes from outside the sinner's own obedience. The feasts, the Sabbaths, the festivals, the sacrifices, the laws of Israel, the Temple, the priesthood, all the Sabbath laws and all Old Covenant Laws were realized and fulfilled IN Christ. With the establishment of the New Covenant, signed and sealed by the blood of Christ, the Old Covenant faded into oblivion because it possessed a fading glory, but the goodness and grace of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ has an eternal glory (I Corinthians 3:7-18).
You write: "If there is no law for the sinner, there is no fulfillment of it for him in Christ!"
I agree! The question becomes "Which Law is used to drive sinners to Christ?" Is it the ceremonial laws of the Hebrews? Is it the dietary laws of the Hebrews? Is it the Sabbath laws of the Hebrews?" I see NO DISTINCTION in the Hebrew Law--no categorization, no division, and no separation--it was ALL LAW.
I believe you never drive a sinner back to Hebrew Law--you show a sinner His lack of love for God and his fellow man and tell him that disease is a sign of His heart rebellion toward God, and just like the leopard cannot change his spots or the zebra his stripes or the black man his skin, so too a sinner without love for God and man cannot change His heart. Only the power of God in Christ is able to inwardly transform a man to fulfill the commandment of Christ - "love one another as I have loved you, for by this will all know you are my disciples." (John 13:35). THIS is what I press home to the heart of a sinner.
And I absolutely delight in teaching on the Old Testament to show the sinner Christ - and what it means to enter into HIS REST because you realize He has obtained for you a righteousness that you could never obtain yourself by obedience to any law.
I realize we may not agree--but as you know, it makes me no difference in terms of my love and respect for you. I am not even trying to convince you that you are wrong and I am right!! I believe what I have just written, and I listen- ALWAYS- to what you write (and always learn), but I am utterly convinced in my own heart that what I have just written is truth and nothing will ever be able to change my belief on this matter unless the Holy Spirit sees fit to change it in me!
So.... thanks, again for writing, and I think we are pretty clear on the little 5% difference that is inconsequential to me in terms of the gospel. We both point sinners to law - I am simply pointing them to their violation of the law of love, whereas you desire to articulate for them the Ten Commandments - which I believe are summarized quite nicely in the law of love, except of course for any Sabbath regulation (Saturday worship) or the fudging Sunday laws that fall so far short of the TYPE found in the Hebrew Law of resting EVERY DAY in the work of Christ!
In His Grace,