What is the purpose of God’s Law?

Following on from the ‘Gospel Discussion’ there is a need for a new thread. The question in hand now is “what is the purpose of God’s law?” Allow me to offer an answer by a little bible study. :o)

Lets first clarify that the Christian is no longer under law, but under the grace of Jesus Christ. So, as DL Moody says, the law can chase us to Calvary and no further. In response to Will Stranger, the context of Galatians is indeed ‘anti-law’ but only because there were Christians who were trying to say that you are still justfied by keeping the law, which is, of course, not New Covenant theology. The law is not for the Christian.

Paul (in Romans 7:7-11) says:
What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.”But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.

We cannot be saved by the law, but what Gal 3:24 is saying is that the law acts as a schoolmaster (KJV), it was ‘put in charge'(NIV) to lead us to Christ. In other words, the moral law of God shows us our total depravity and out need for a saviour. Paul testifies to this in the above passage saying that the thing that he thought would justify him actually brought him to the point of spiritual death and knowledge of his depravity.

Paul says in Romans 8:1 that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, but previously the law of sin and death (God’s law) left him condemned because no-one could be justified by keeping it (the whole reason why Calvary was necessary).

In 1 Timothy 1:9 Paul (in the context of warning against false teachers) says:

“We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is not made for the righteous but for the lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murders, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers – and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God..”

Why is it for these people? Simply because if shows and convicts of sinfulness. Now, again Paul is here outlining that the law is not to give Christians a set of rules to bind, but is intended to “show unbelievers their sin and bring them to God” (NIV Life Application bible note for 1 Tim 1:7-11).

We are instructed in Romans 5:20 that :

“the law was added so that trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more so that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

In other words, the law shows us a huge standard to live up to if we try and live it to achieve righteousness, it simply leads to sin and knowledge of it. But grace exists to lift us out of the burden of trying to ‘keep’ the law.

If you look at the teaching of Jesus, in Matthew (the sermon on the mount) we see here Jesus teaching the spiritual nature of law. He points out in 5:17 that Jesus is not here to abolish the law, but to fulfil it and in 5:19 that the law is to be honoured. We still shouldn’t murder, steal, lie, covet, commit adultery, make idols, blaspheme, disrespect our parents, neglect the importance of ‘sabbath rest’, or worship another god. But we live this not to achieve salvation or justification, but so as to live in such a way as to honour God.

There are countless scriptures that could be explored, but I guess you get the picture that the function of God’s law is to show what sin is, to bring conviction by the Spirit. The law of the Lord is written on every heart and when it is expounded, the Spirit brings conviction that we have transgressed God’s law thus showing our need for some other to appease the wrath of a holy God for us…we simply cannot do it.

If you ask an unregenerate person if they are a ‘good person’ they will say ‘yes.’ Most people think they are heading for heaven too. This shouldn’t surprise us as the scripture says that every man will proclaim his own goodness. Now, if people think they are good enough for heaven already, the gospel will be foolishness to them because they don’t see their need for a Saviour. If they do ‘try’ Christianity, they will be looking for the life enhancement package. Then, when persecution or hardship comes, they who have believed for life enhancement quickly throw the gospel aside and trample the sacrifice of our Lord underfoot.

We don’t come to the Lord for happiness, we come for righteousness. ‘Without holiness no-one will see the Lord’ (Hebrews somewhere).

However, if you help people asses their goodness by expounding the law, you will be surprised how many people will re-think their goodness in the light of the commandments…they discover that, in fact, they aren’t that good by God’s standards and if they are to face God in judgement they don’t stand a chance. Who of us can say we’ve kept the Ten Commandements perfectly? That’s why we need a Saviour!

Their spiritual condition then makes sense to them….it is HERE that the gospel of grace is preached. When people realise that they are sinners deserving Hell, the fact that Jesus Christ can save them is indeed good news. Why? Because the law has showed them what sin is and the Spirit has convicted them of the need for a Saviour.

Let me leave you with a couple of quotes from the evangelists of old to think on:

“Before I can preach love, mercy and grace, I must preach sin, Law, and judgement” (John Wesley)

“The Law is the surgeon’s knife that cuts out the proud flesh that the wound may heal. The Law itself itself only sweeps and raises the dust, but the gospel sprinkles water upon the dust, and all is well in the chamber of the soul. The Law kills, the gospel makes alive; the Law strips, and then Jesus Christ comes in and robes the soul in beauty and glory.” (Charles Spurgeon)

“God, being a perfect God, had to give a perfect Law, and the Law was given not to save men, but to measure them. I want you to understand this clearly, because I believe hundreds and thousands stumble at this point. They try to save themselves by trying to keep the law; but it was never meant to save themselves by” (DL Moody)

“You understand that the word of the Law is the revealing of sin. Furthermore, when I speak of sin, I include all kinds of sin external, internal, hypocrisy, unbelief, love of self, and contempt for or ignorance of God which are certainly the very roots of all human works. In the justification of sinners the first work of God is to reveal our sin; to confound our conscience, make us tremble, terrify us, briefly, to condemn us. The beginning of repentance consists of that work of the Law by which the Spirit of God terries and confounds consciences…Just as the Christian life must certainly begin with the knowledge of sin, so Christian doctrine must begin with the function of the law. (Melanchthon)

“It is the ordinary method of the Spirit of God to convict sinners by the Law. It is this which, being set home on the conscience, generally breaketh the rocks in pieces. It is more especially this part of the Word that is quick and powerful, full of life and energy and sharper than any double edged sword” (John Wesley)

“The Law cuts into the core of evil, it reveals the seat of the malady, and informs us that the leprosy lies deep within.” (Spurgeon)

“Paul had a very quick and piercing judgement and yet never attained the right knowledge of indwelling sin till the Spirit by the Law made it known to him. Though brought up at the feet of Gamiliel, a doctor of the Law…he had the letter of the Law but not the spiritual nature of it…He has the Law in his head, but not in his heart.” (Matthew Henry)

“Lower the Law and you dim the light by which man perceives his guilt; this is a very serious loss to the sinner rather than gain; for it lessens the likelihood of his conviction and conversion. I say you have deprived the gospel of its ablest auxiliary when you set aside the Law. You have taken away from it te school master tat is to bring men to Christ..They will never accept grace till they tremble before a just and holy Law. Therefore the Law serves a most necessary purpose, and it must not be removed from its place.” (Charles Spurgeon)

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Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan

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Fundamentalist

86%

Charismatic/Pentecostal

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79%

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61%

Emergent/Postmodern

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Modern Liberal

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Classical Liberal

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Roots 2006 – Metamorphosis

Just caught the timetable for Roots over at Roots Online and its looking like a good weekend…what with seminars on Primitive Salvationism, Signs and Wonders, the power of the Holy Spirit, Cell Church and the like as well as the return of Major Chick Yuill’s Bible Studies and Stephen Court and Danielle Strickland on the speaking list!! I’m looking forward to it already!

Interested too in the launch of the ‘Deeper Read Book Club’ – a project intended to help Salvationists go a bit deeper in discipleship. Hooray!

Nice. The Clarks will be there with bells on for our annual spiritual pump up. Happy to be part of the prayer/pastoral team this year too. Here’s praying for some good opportunities for ministry.

He has Risen indeed…

We’ve had a good Easter in Pill, our second here, I enjoyed it. From our sunrise service through to the meeting, the open air and the evening meeting, it was good. My prayer is that more and more of our people begin living on the right side of calvary and the ressurection, knowing that resurrection experience every day.

I confess that there is some things I will never understand. Like: Why do some people not come to worship on Easter Sunday? I’m not referring to people who go on holiday and stuff, but people who purposely arrange to do something else on the pinacle Sunday of the Christian callender. How can people come to worship on Easter Sunday and yet have a moan because someone played a wrong note on the piano? How on earth can people fail to be moved by the cross and the resurrection?

We had a great weekend, but as an officer these things baffle and worry me. This kind of behaviour is alien to my Christian experience, I just don’t understand it. God give me wisdom and patience!

Anyway, Easter has been good. We rejoice that God moves amongst us. But we need to press on. However, I’m on leave again this week. A week of a bit of rest then back to the plough. Glory Hallelujah!

"Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel" said Paul

2 Tim 4:1-8; 2 Cor 11:2-4; 1 Timothy 1:3-11; 1 Cor 1:17; 2:1-5

We’re coming up to Easter and our huge gaze at the cross begins. Now…does anyone want a flowery cross? Anyone like a smooth, beautiful, decorated, nice cross? Yes, we all do. Well, yeah, that would be nice. Oh, we all want a lovely cross.

One of the benefits that I find of having a few days off, which I’ve had during the last week, is the benefit of thinking deep. Gazing in to the pure blue eyes of a child we brought into the world, a great burden blew up in my heart. I am a concerned father. I worry for my daughter. I worry for my son. I worry for my grandchildren growing up in the church today. I worry for the Army, I worry for the church, I worry for the gospel, I worry for the justification of the blood of the martyrs who’s blood has been spilled for the glorious gospel.

Why?. I am concerned because we are in a day of false gospel. I’ve heard it preached from Army platforms. Soft, easy to digest meal of the word served up on a plate of compromise. We don’t want our church to appear strange, that preaches difficult things, that calls to sacrifice, that calls to duty, that calls the rest of the church account for their apalling doctrine. We’d rather show people a nice film and give them platitudes than talk about the cutting edge of the gospel.

The devil wants to get as many people to church on Sunday morning as possible. Yes, its true. Don’t believe me? Oh yes, the devils main purpose is to pack as many people as he possible can into the pews to hear the mamby-pamby message on how to cope, to be stroked with nice words and platitudes of a nice fuzzy God will nice fuzzy love.

Look, its happened before. Look at Isaiah 30:10.

“They tell their seers. “See no more visions! And to the prophets “Give us no more visions of what is right! Leave this way, get off this path and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!”

In other words, don’t speak to us about taking up the cross, about being persecuted for the sake of the gospel, or about having to endure hardship like a good soldier of Jesus Christ or any of that stuff. Now, you just stand up there and tell us all how great we are, how lovely we are, how much you need us and need our money to keep the church going..that will do just fine thank you very much.

Can I set you a challenge? I challenge you to go to any Christian channel on TV, almost any church in the UK and you see if you can try and get yourself saved! You’ll have a job because they are all wanting you to be happy happy happy, not holy holy holy! “God doesn’t care what you do, he just loves you.” You know, that’s the response in this weeks Salvationist to one of our soldiers challenge about skimpy costumes and erotic dancing at a Salvation Army youth event…oh, God doesn’t look at the outer appearance, he only looks at the heart. What a twisting of scripture…God is HOLY, he wants us to be HOLY. Our business is not to use the means of the world to attract the world…we are not to hand them out their own medicine, we are not to entice them to the gospel, we are to throw them down at the mercy of the cross.

God loves us with a passion, he loves us with a suffering. And yes, we should preach about the love of God, of course. Yes, we should expound the blessings that are to be found in Christ, the riches of his grace. We should talk about biblical principles for living. But the riches and benefits of salvation are only for those who are saved!

What happens when you do not preach the penalty of sin? What happens when you tone down sin to the level of an unfortunate mistake? Society develops no fear of God. If you want to loose your kids take the fear of God out of the church. Then its eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes…why? Because there is no fear of God.

If there is no sin, repentance, judgment and holy living, the houses will come tumbling down. People will choose enticing words, sweet words instead of the real meat of the gospel. This teaching will not stand up to the heat of the battle. People will fall away because their sweet gospel has left them spiritually fat and unhealthy.

I hear Paul say that the gospel is an offense, a stumbling block to the Jews, absolute foolishness to the Greeks.

I haven’t been beaten up for the gospel since I was at school. You see, in the days when I read the scripture, learned the scripture, told my friends the scripture and the message of it I endured hardship for the gospel. But then because I didn’t like that much, I changed my message to ‘God loves you and wants to give you an abundant life, which was nice, but convinced no-one for their need of a saviour.’

I’ve repented for changing the gospel, several years ago, and resolved that I’d glory in Christ alone, him crucified. What I ask myself is, is the gospel I preach the gospel of Jesus, or is it the gospel of another Jesus. Does my word have the power to save, or do my words have a form of godliness without the power?

When people start wandering off to a different gospel which sounds attractive, we shouldn’t be surprised. There are so many place to which one can go to hear a nicer gospel. But as the prophet Jeremiah says: “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?”

We are to be presented to Jesus, the husband, the groom, spotless and without blemish, no wrinkle or default. We are invited to the wedding supper of the lamb, who was slain, but was raised to life ad exhalted to the right hand of God.

What is it that Mary Poppins used to sing? “For a spoonful of sugar…” Friends, we cannot apply the gospel of Mary Poppins to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel is offensive, the cross is ridiculous, shameful, utterly detestable to the world that doesn’t think that they need a saviour, but o the world needs a Saviour.

I need a saviour, but I need to taste the bitter medicine of the gospel, convincing me of my total depravity, total sinfulness before God so that I might know indeed that I need a saviour. I need to first be reviled at my sin before I can benefit from the curative properties of the gospel. Sweetness. Isn’t it true that its often the vilest cough mixture that does best for your cough? The Gospel is the cure for sin, suffering disease and friends we must continually preach, uphold and live out.

yours

Andrew

Blood and Fire!

Just had time this evenin to catch up on the webcast of the Dedication and Welcome of General and Commissioner Clifton at the International Headquarters website…catch it there if you have some spare moments.

Enjoyed the rigorous singing of ‘O Boundless Salvation’ – especially with General Clifton grabbing himself a big flag and giving it a good wave.

Thats was a poignant moment I think…especially after the General had just spoken boldly once more about routing out sin in the camp. He said he had a vision of the whole Army under God, under the feet of Jesus. Every General, Commissioner and Junior Soldier, and all in between.

Beautiful also, again, to watch Commissioner Helen run from the platform to go and pray with someone she felt led to pray for at the Mercy Seat. I’ve seen her do that a few times. God bless her.

God bless General Shaw Clifton and Commissioner Helen. As I’ve prayed for them today I’ve had a strong sense from the Lord that these are annointed people for such a time as this, I believe that firmly in my heart. I’ve already responded to his call as we at Pill this evening determined to call sin by its name and to work at routing it out of our part of the camp. ‘Pure and Spotless let us be’, devoted in pure love to Jesus Christ our bride-groom.

hallelujah

Andrew

Happy Birthday Blog

Well, here I am on my paternity leave (did you ever hear of such a thing?!?) with baby in arms and computer on lap, browsing. Its wonderful to be sort of releived from corps responsiblity for a few days just to focus on being a dad. I’m loving it.

But, as normally happens, my mind starts to wander into deeper things and then I remembered that I started blogging about this time two years ago so I thought I’d have a look at the first blog, the ‘agenda’ if you like. God give me the courage to fight the fight I’ve commited myself to.

__________________________________

So, here it begins. I have to admit that I am a man with an agenda. Yes of course, to see the Kingdom of God grow and expand to all nations, for people to find salvation and grow in holiness. But more specifically, that people will once again The Salvation Army and all those who we win will walk again in the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I discovered today, by mistake almost, that during the 1960s there was a huge split at the William Booth College for training officers in London. The Evangelist Session started its life with around 200 cadets and after the first year of training was down to 100. Why? Because 100 people felt that they had to leave The Salvation Army because of reticence to move in the gifts of the Spirit. WOW! What a sad year that must have been.

I am spilt on what I think on this. First thing that comes to mind is “deserters.” The people who left undoubtedly left The Army at a critical stage in its history. I think 100 spirit-filled, charis-oriented people would have made a huge impact in The Army of its day. Perhaps their commitment to the movement would have meant that we would have avoided the dogmatism and legalizing, cold formality that existed in the Salvation Army at that time. Why did they desert? Surely they were on the brink.

But then, how powerful a statement is the departure of 100 leaders from a movement en-masse. Huge! A huge lesson to be learned. So, I guess we say thanks to those who were bold enough to leave everything for that principle. I guess that there was a degree or resistance in the college and in leadership in general. These days we cannot afford to have a reluctance in these things. The harvest is plentiful, even if we don’t always see it or get off our seats to bring it in.

So, my agenda has been made clear. The Salvation Army needs to see what it is to walk in the Spirit within the regiment. We can be too quick to throw away this thing we call The Salvation Army and the Spirit in which we do our warfare. Not that I am advocating tradition for traditions sake…I am advocating an aggressive spirituality and mentality that is heroic and passionate. My fuel has been flamed by many, by Captain Steve Court of http://www.armybarmy.com fame. By Captain Geoff Ryan who constantly challenges my boxed image of salvationism. But where is the UK equivalent? We have some fantastic officers in the UK. We have fantastic people like Wall and Rook. But who will there be who will dare to commit to covenant with God “out of the spotlight” in the frontline of mission in the United Kingdom.

I am in the Army because I caught a glimpse of something consuming, something revolutionary…little did I know that I had joined a movement which in many places had lost its fire. But my sense of “something more” has urged me on and God has shown me.

William Booth once said “Your days at the most cannot be long, so use them to the best of your ability for the Glory of God and the benefit of your generation.”

Its going to look different, sound different, smell different, march to a different beat, sing to a different songbook, but The Salvation Army is God’s and he will lead it. I commit myself again to living as God has called me. I commit myself to taking seriously this God metaphor and to live my life as an officer in The Salvation Army

yours in the fight
Andrew Clark