Well...almost. This post has become a monster that even I'm tired of looking at; the more I go over it, the more I add to it. So, I'm done. Any modification can come as a result of dialogue. And since this has become so huge, I've decided to post it in installments--hopefully only three.
But before I begin, I'd like to point you all to a wonderful sermon by my friend Chad Knudson over at "The Road to Emmaus" which you can find here (and on my sidebar). Chad delivers an excellent treatment on Hebrews 12:1-11 entitled, "Living as Sons of God". This is an important message that helps us understand the role that God's discipline plays in our lives. Our Western Chritian Culture has lost the sense of what it means to be children of God and how it is that our Father "perfects" His children. For a number of reasons, not the least of which is the influence of the (false) Prosperity Gospel, it is assumed that suffering is antithetical to being a Christian, that as God's children we are to be Healthy, Wealthy and...well...if not Wise (with all apologies to the heretic Mike Murdoch), then at least smart enough to "name it and claim it". Because of this "anti-Christ" self-idolatorous mind-set, we in the West assume that suffering is the work of satan and betrays a lack of faith on the part of the person who is suffering (or even more heinous, a Christian lacks faith if he doesn't have absolutely everything that he wants); that God has nothing to do with the suffering of His people. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Chad powerfully, yet with grace (an attribute I know I can work on :-), establishes the Biblical Theological foundation for the suffering of the Christian and provides for our encouragement by presenting Christ to us. I encourage you all to download the sermon, put it on your iPod or on a CD and plug it in. This is a message that all of us need to hear because it brings our focus back where it needs to be--on "Jesus, the author and perfector of faith."
Now, on with conclusion...the answer we've all been waiting for! Well, maybe not the answer that the Legalists and Moralists were looking for, but the answer, nevertheless, that I believe the Bible itself teaches: Be Who You Are. That’s it—simply be. If we are to live our lives to the glory of God, if we’re to “be perfect as He (our Heavenly Father) is perfect”, then our calling is not to do but to be! If “perfection” is conformity to something’s created nature, and if glorifying God is the natural response of a being that is “conformed to it’s created nature”, then simply doing what we think is commanded of us is not the answer—we must be what we were created to be. And what were we created to be?—sons of God who bear His image.
And what is it to be an image-bearing son of God? Is it something that we do? The Bible emphatically answers that question with a resounding, “No”! We can never do anything that would make us sons of God. Even if we were to obey the Law completely, we would not become sons of God. Why?—because, as I’ve mentioned previously, created humanity is incomplete apart from the True Man, Jesus Christ. We need a new nature. Jesus is the fountainhead of a new humanity and as such we are only fully (truly) human when we are joined to Him by the Spirit (see previous posts, esp. “Part-3 continued and Redemption Part-2). Christ is the destiny of humanity and we find our fulfillment as human beings who bear God’s image in Him.
So, to simply do commandments or “works of the Law” (Torah—“doctrine”, the whole of the Scripture) is not enough. Even if a person were to theoretically “keep” the Law, he would still not be what God created him to be. He would still be estranged from God, creation, humanity and himself because he would still be defined by his sin nature. Of course, no person can ever keep the Law because no one ever loves God with “all his heart, soul, mind and strength” or his “neighbor as himself”. Even as Christians who have the Spirit indwelling us, we often fail to “keep the Law”. But as Christians, we’re not called to keep the Law but to come to Christ (who is the fulfillment of the Law) by faith and then to walk by the Spirit. The Law points us to Christ because He is the very definition of the Law (which we’ll see later); and when we come to Christ, we’ve “kept the Law” because we believe in the One of whom it prophesies. Anyone with a sufficient amount of motivation can keep rules and regulations. To paraphrase Paul, law-keeping means nothing...the only thing that matters is a “New Creation”.
Paul says that the Law is a “tutor” to lead us to Christ because He is its fulfillment. The Law was never intended to give life. And this is not simply because it could never be obeyed, but because it spoke of Christ who is the One that the Law defined. This reality is evidenced throughout the life of Israel and the reason for their condemnation. The “sons of Abraham” failed to keep the Law time and time again. They did not keep the Law because they could not keep the Law; first, because it was non-ultimate, (it prophesied and served as a type of Christ, e.g. Luke 24:13-32; Matt. 5:17-19; John 5:39-47; Matt. 11:13; Hebrews, etc.) and secondly, because of the “sin nature” (Rom. 8:3-8; cf. Jer. 31:31-34, Eze. 36:25-27, 37:1-14, John 3, John 6, Rom. 8, etc.). In fact, for a person to do the works of the Law to endear himself to God in any way apart from the promise of Christ or in the light of Christ’s arrival only brings condemnation to himself because it is Christ Himself that is the fulfillment of the Law (not anything we do); a person fulfills the Law only in Christ (with respect to Christ) by being joined to Him by the Spirit. (For example: Matt. 5:17-19ff. where Jesus explains that it is He Himself, in His person, that is the fulfillment of the Law; so for a person to see in the Law his duty rather than his Christ is to defile and annul the Law; John 3:1-21 the great “born again” passage where Jesus explains to Nicodemus the “law-keeper” that it is those who do not believe in Him, though “obeying” the law, that are under judgment because their “law-keeping” was actually considered to be “evil-doing”; John 5:37-47 where Jesus chastises the “law-keepers” for not understanding their Scriptures which didn’t teach them to obey the law to have life, but to see in the law the Christ who is and gives life; and Romans 8:4 in context where we see that in our union with Christ by the Spirit, the requirement of the Law is fulfilled in us already by the indwelling Spirit who applies Christ’s atonement to us. These relatively few examples of the overall teaching of the Scripture provide ample evidence that “by the works of the law shall no man be justified before God.”).
Now some may argue that of course our salvation is not determined by our doing, but our sanctification is. If we don’t purpose to do the “moral law” (or whatever “command” we see in the Scripture), then we are, at best, stunting our growth and, at worst, not a Christian at all. To have our sanctification or maturity governed by the “moral law” is Reformed Theology’s so-called “third use of the Law”. It is assumed that now that we are Christians, we must purpose to obey the “moral Law” for our sanctification. This idea doesn’t fully appreciate how it is that Christ has fulfilled the Law and what has transpired in the New Birth that has fundamentally changed our nature.
To be continued...
Previous posts in this series:
How Are We To Live? Part-1 (Introduction & Creation)
How Are We To Live? Part-2 (The Fall)
How Are We To Live? Part-3 (Redemption-Part 1)
How Are We To Live? Part-3 (Redemption-Part 2)
How Are We To Live? Part-4 (Consummation)