Posts Tagged ‘Law of God’
Having come face to face with my own sinfulness, my own lack of keeping the law of God, I have spent the last several months looking at the law and the gospel. While this is not new to Christianity, it is fairly new to me. I grew up in a church environment that was heavy on the law. You keep the law and God was happy. Break the law (which was often), God is now angry with you. The gospel was not the end but only a step to helping me keep myself clean. It was not Jesus period. It was Jesus who now enables me to keep the law and when I fail, back to the beginning.
We all sin. None of us are perfect. We read passages such as Romans 3:23 and acknowledge the universal sinfulness of mankind. But we miss the point that we are sinners ourselves. I am not arguing that we wake up each day thinking “what can I do today to violate the law of God” but we do sin. Whether we make sins into categories such as “sins of omission” and “sins of commission,” either way we do sin. Apart from grace, none of us can stand before a holy God. It is only through Christ that we can stand before a holy and totally pure God. The reason Christ died for my sins is not simply to enable me to be holy on my own power but He died because I am a sinner in need of forgiveness because I do sin (1 John 2:1-2).
Consider the command of Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40:
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Stop and consider how you are doing with that one? I’m not even good at it. I would love to say that I love God perfectly as Jesus taught. I would love to tell you that my love for God flows into loving my neighbor as myself. But the reality is that I fall way short of these two commands and Jesus said that law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. Do these and you’ll be perfect! But I don’t!
And thus the gospel comes into play. The law condemns me as a sinner (Romans 3:19) and the law teaches me that I need a Savior (Galatians 3:24). The law condemns me. The gospel saves me. The law shows me that I am a sinner (Romans 7:7). There is nothing wrong with the law of God (Romans 7:12) but the problem is me. I can’t keep the law. No matter how hard I try, I fail.
The gospel preaches peace to me. The law tells me to love God perfectly and my neighbor perfectly (Matthew 5:48). The gospel tells me Christ died for my sins and the sins of not loving God perfectly nor my neighbor as myself. The law tells me to love my wife as Christ loves His Church (Ephesians 5:25). The gospel tells me that Christ died for the sin of not loving my wife as Christ loves His Church (I am far from a perfect husband). The law tells me to pray, to worship, to evangelize, to give my money to the poor and to helping the kingdom of God, to do good to my neighbor especially of those of the household of faith, etc. but the gospel tells me that Christ died for my sins even the sins of not keeping the law perfectly.
Martin Luther taught two (and I would add a third) uses of the law. Lutherans debate the third use of the law. The three uses of the law are:
- For society, to curb man’s sinfulness.
- To condemn us a sinners and show us our need for salvation.
- To help the Christian in sanctification.
These three uses of the law are seen not just in the Bible but in life. Antinomians accept the first two uses of the law but not the third. I believe in preaching all three. Christians need to hear the law so that the Holy Spirit can help us in the process of sanctification. So for example a believer hears that we should pray (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer itself doesn’t justify us before God. We are justified only through Christ Jesus alone by grace alone though faith alone. Yet none would say that prayer is bad. Yet prayer can become a law. It was that way for me. I once held that a person should pray for 2 hours a day or God was not pleased. Prayer became a law and gospel for me. But prayer is not the gospel. The gospel is the death of Jesus for our sins and His resurrection for our justification (Romans 4:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Thus Jesus died for my sin of prayerlessness. Does this mean that I should not pray since Jesus died for my sin of prayerlessness? By no means! The key is to see prayer as flowing from my forgiveness and not from the law. I pray because Christ shed His blood for me (Hebrews 4:14-16).
This holds true of any law. The law if holy and good (1 Timothy 1:8-11). The law shows me how far I am far from the perfection of God. But the gospel shouts to me that I am accepted in the Beloved. I am holy before God because of Christ (Hebrews 10:10, 14) and not by my works. The law tells me to pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16) and this is good. The gospel tells me that I am accepted in Christ Jesus who bled and died for my sins (Romans 5:6).
This understanding of the law and the gospel has blessed me. It has brought some joy to my soul where joy has been lacking. For so long I have been full of pride, my own self-righteousness. I thought God was honored by my prayer life, my evangelism, my passion for God. Like Voddie Bauchman preaches, my works-righteousness muscle likes to flex. I would have, in the past, gladly acknowledged Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and would have gladly told you that I was saved by His grace alone but in reality I was full of pride, thinking more highly of myself than I ought (Philippians 2:3). I would have preached Christ but my focus was not on pleasing Christ per se but on men seeing how much I “loved” Jesus. Oh how much pride was in my heart! Oh wretched sinner that I was!
But Christ died for me. Christ bled and suffered for my sins. Jesus gave His life for my sins and now I am forgiven not because I keep the law but because I can’t keep the law (Galatians 3:10). Christ suffered in my place, for my sins (Galatians 3:13-14). I am saved now not because I keep the law but because of faith in Jesus Christ who gave His life for my sins. What a blessing! What a Savior!
I have no problem with the law. The law is good. The law comes from our holy God. Yet too many Christians try to live the law. You will always be falling short. Always. You will never obtain holiness by the law. Even if you think (as I did) that I had obtained a level of holiness by my striving, inside (like me) you’ll know that you stand condemned because you can’t keep the whole law (James 2:10). I have no problem preaching the law and calling Christians to repent of not keeping the law. But the balance of this is the gospel. The answer to not keeping the law is not more law. The answer is the gospel. The law condemns us as sinners. The gospel comforts us by pointing to Christ who died for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
Perhaps I am wrong on this. I don’t think so. I believe it’s biblically based. I know that this teaching has pushed me closer to Christ and not away. I still hate sin. I really do hate sin. I acknowledge that I do sin but I hate my sins. I am so grateful to God for giving me His Son for my sins (John 1:29). I stand condemned but Christ preaches to me no condemnation (Romans 8:1). Satan accuses me of sin and he is right to do so. But I trust in Christ alone for my salvation (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus has promised not only to save me from my sins (Matthew 1:21; Romans 6:1-4) but He has promised to keep me (Jude 24-25). I trust in Christ alone and not my works-righteousness before a holy God.
While teaching on the Levitical priesthood, I was struck by the standard that God set for the Levites. The Lord said in Deuteronomy 18:13:
You shall be blameless before the LORD your God.
This was God’s standard not just for the Levites but for the children of Israel. The Israelites were God’s chosen people, the ones whom He had delivered out of by Egypt by His strong arm and by His love (Deuteronomy 9:4-5). It was God who reached out to deliver the children of Israel and it was by God’s standard the Israelites were to abide.
In Psalm 24:3-4 we read:
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
God is holy and He requires perfection in order to be in His holy presence. One does not merely come into the presence of God without holiness (Leviticus 10:1-3). We must abide by the principles of God’s law to come into His presence and God requires perfection!
Who can obtain this? Who can be blameless, holy, without sin? I know that there are some today who teach that we can be sinless and that we can live perfect lives but I have never obtained that in my own strength. When I start to think that I have arrived, I merely read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and see if I am close to loving like Jesus loves. When I start to think I am doing okay, I read the words of Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39 and question if I love God like that our my neighbor as myself. When I start to believe that I am conquering all known sin in my life, I read Galatians 5:22-23 and examine my own fruit to see if the fruit of the Spirit is showing in me. I often fall short (Romans 3:23). Way short!
I have no doubt that God’s standard is perfection. This is why the cross is so wonderful. Jesus paid for my sins (Galatians 1:4). Jesus shed His blood for my forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7). Jesus did what I could never do and He lived a perfect life and then went to the cross as my substitute to die for my sins (Isaiah 53:4-7; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Jesus willingly laid down His life for my sins (John 10:14-18). Jesus shed His blood for the fact that I cannot please God in my flesh (Romans 8:7-8). I am dead in my sins in my flesh (Ephesians 2:1-3) meaning that nothing I can do is going to obtain God’s perfection (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is the work of God’s grace through the Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrifice (Titus 3:5-7). That is true grace!
Jesus then is my mediator before a holy God. I am not saved by a church. I am not saved by rituals. I am not saved by my works. I am saved by the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is my everything (1 Corinthians 1:30)! Jesus is my Lamb (John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7) and He is the One who prays for me before the Father (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus is called the mediator of the new covenant (Hebrews 7:22; 9:15). Jesus’ sacrifice is once and for all (Hebrews 10:10). We don’t need, as Catholics do and so many others, to go to God through priests or rituals or our church but we come into the presence of God through Christ by His grace (Hebrews 4:14-16). The blood of Jesus is able to purify us from dead works (Hebrews 9:14). Since Christ is our Lamb, we need not offer any sacrifices whether the blood of bulls and goats (Hebrews 10:4) or any religious sacrifices (Hebrews 10:18). We can now enter into the holy presence of God because of Jesus our mediator (Hebrews 10:19-22).
All worship then belongs to Jesus! All glory belongs to Jesus! The only sacrifices the disciple of Jesus brings now is the sacrifice of praise unto God (Hebrews 13:15). Our entire focus is on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). Jesus is our faithful high priest who intercedes for the saints of God (Hebrews 8:1-2).
The Law reveals our sins (Romans 7:7). The Law is good and holy (1 Timothy 1:8). The law shows us our sins (Galatians 3:23-24 NKJV). The law reveals our depravity before God by condemning us in our sins (1 Timothy 1:8-11). But the law could never save. It is not meant to save. The law only condemns. The cross saves. The cross shows us the great love of God for lost sinners who have broken His laws (John 3:16-17). The cross is the perfect demonstration of God’s love and His righteousness (Romans 3:22-27; 5:8-9). I am so thankful that Jesus went to the cross for my sins!
When teaching people how to share the gospel with the lost, I have noticed that there is often an emphasis placed on personal testimonies for sharing Christ with the lost (or unchurched seems to be the preferred term despite it not being in the Bible at all). Testimonies are often seen as less offensive, full of hope, often come down on a practical level, and leave the “unchurched” wondering about this Man called Jesus. While I am not 100% opposed to testimonies when witnessing with the lost (Paul used his testimony after all in Acts 26:12-18), we must be clear in our gospel presentation and must remember that God saves sinners (sorry, I mean the unchurched) by His own power and every person comes to Christ by His grace and His grace alone (John 6:44). Every person then will have a different testimony of God’s saving grace. My testimony is not like yours but the gospel I was saved by remains forever the same (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
My advice then is to share your testimony but don’t neglect the gospel. I fear that people won’t to share their testimony because they don’t really know the gospel. In fact, I have encountered “former” Christians who could share with you both their testimony of how they came to Christ and now their testimony of why they don’t believe in Christ. Testimonies come and go. Testimonies often change. People will add to their testimony or take away from it depending on the situation. The gospel does not change. The gospel must be our focus.
The fact remains that every person we share Christ with is lost. They are not unchurched. In fact, they hate God (Romans 1:18-19). People are not seeking after truth. They hate the truth (Romans 1:25). People love their sins and they especially love themselves (Romans 1:21-23). They don’t want the God of the Bible. They want their own gods. They want a moral therapeutic God who will solve their problems, heal all their diseases, meet all their needs, and bless their socks off. They don’t want a holy God who is wrathful against sin (Psalm 7:11 NKJV). They don’t want a holy God who judges sinners (Romans 2:7-10; Revelation 20:11-15). They don’t want a holy God who calls out to us to repent and turn from our wicked ways (Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 2 Peter 3:9). They want a loving God, a soft God, a God who will not judge them. They want to live in their sins while claiming heaven (Matthew 1:21) but they are in error about God’s holy character (Romans 6:23) and His call to perfection (Matthew 5:48).
We must preach the holy wrath of God against sin. We must open our Bibles and preach the law of God on sin (Romans 7:7). We must warn sinners that those who break God’s law will be judged by that very law (James 2:10-13). We must show sinners that the moral law exposes their guilt before God (Galatians 3:23-24). The law shows us our guilt and the gospel shows us the mercy of God in the giving of His Son for our sins. Without the preaching of the law, the sinner does not see their desperate need for salvation. The law prepares the heart of the sinner to see the grace of God. When the sinner sees their sinfulness before a holy God (1 John 3:4), the beauty of the cross shines forth and the gospel becomes precious to the sinner.
Testimonies don’t always do all that. Again, I don’t have an issue with sharing with a sinner how I came to Christ. In reality, He found me (2 Timothy 1:9). The Bible says that the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). The great Shepherd goes after His sheep (Luke 15:1-7). The Holy Spirit opens the sinner’s eyes to the gospel and reveals our need for salvation (John 16:8-11). The Spirit does this through the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:14-17; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). While testimonies can be good to show the goodness of the Lord in saving us, the gospel is what saves (Romans 1:16-17).
One final note. In Revelation 12:11 we read that the saints overcome the enemy by the word of our testimony and the blood of the Lamb. Both go hand in hand. To merely share your testimony is not enough. We must preach the blood of the Lamb! Without the blood of Jesus, none can be saved (Acts 4:12; Hebrews 9:22, 27-28). The blood of Jesus alone cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). The blood of Jesus alone is what enables us to stand before a holy God (Romans 5:8-9). We must preach the shed blood of Jesus to the lost sinner. It is by the blood of Jesus that I am holy before God (Hebrews 10:10).
May we preach both our testimony and the truth of the gospel to the lost (that would be unchurched for some of you).
Here are a few common sense evangelism tips I have gleamed over the years. I’m sure that we all who love Jesus and preach Him to the lost could add many more to this short list.
- Preach Christ above all other things. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.
- Don’t get into vein arguments over points that do not matter (Bible translations, baptism issues, theological points not necessary for salvation). 2 Timothy 2:24-25.
- Use the Law to reveal the sinner’s sin (Romans 7:7) but don’t spend all your time on the Law without pointing sinners to the truth of justification by faith (Galatians 3:24).
- Keep breath mints nearby. No one likes smelly breath especially when you are giving someone the eternal truth of God.
- Don’t focus on things that don’t matter in this life such as sports teams, politics, social ills. Make the gospel the focus. Let the gospel deal with the sinner’s sin. That is what matters.
- Depend on the Holy Spirit and not your own wisdom (John 16:8-11). The Bible promises us that the Spirit will empower us (Acts 1:8) to be effective witnesses for Christ.
- Trust God to bring forth the fruit of our evangelism (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).
- Pray! 1 Timothy 2:1-6.
- Fill your witnessing with Scripture. Scripture brings conversion (Psalm 19:7 NKJV). Scripture is the supernatural revelation of God that He uses to reveal His Son to the lost (John 20:31) and Isaiah 55:11 promises that God’s Word will bring forth the results He desires. Furthermore, Scripture brings forth faith (Romans 10:17). Scripture is the disciple’s only weapon (Ephesians 6:17).
- Don’t answer fools with their own foolishness (Proverbs 26:4).
- Recognize that people, by nature, do not want God (Romans 3:10-18). People will naturally reject God and His reign over us. We must preach the gospel to them despite their rebellion (Romans 1:16-17).
- When I take people through the Ten Commandments, I admit that I too have violated these laws. Admit our sins. Admit that we too need Christ both before our salvation and even now (John 15:1-11). I have no trouble admitting to sinners that I still need Christ but I am walking in repentance (1 John 2:1-2).
- People often will try to change the subject when they either don’t have an answer for us or they are under conviction. Don’t give in to this tactic. Keep the focus on the gospel and on the sinner’s guilt before God. Don’t let the person try to get you to explain the Trinity or why God didn’t heal their grandmother. Focus on Christ and His glory.
- When dealing with the self-righteous, use the Law. Ray Comfort calls this “grace to the humble, law to the proud.” The law shuts people’s self-righteous mouths (Romans 3:19-20).
- Lastly, no two people are the same. We must depend on the Spirit to guide us when witnessing just as He did the disciples in the book of Acts (Acts 8:29). I have had witnessing encounters with people that went great while others did not go great. We must simply let God lead us and guide us. He is faithful to do this for His passion is for souls (Matthew 28:19).
IV. The uses of the moral law are various, according to the different conditions of man.
(1.) The primary use, and that which was of itself intended by God according to his love for righteousness and for his creatures, was, that man by it might be quickened or made alive, that is, that he might perform it, and by its performance might be justified, and might “of debt” receive the reward which was promised through it. (Rom. ii, 13; x, 5; iv, 4.) And this use was accommodated to the primitive state of man, when sin had not yet entered into the world.
(2.) The first use in order of the moral law, under a state of sin, is AGAINST man as a sinner, not only that it may accuse him of transgression and guilt, and may subject him to the wrath of God and condemnation; (Rom. iii, 19, 20;) but that it may likewise convince him of his utter inability to resist sin and to subject himself to the law. (Rom. 7.) Since God has been pleased mercifully and graciously to treat with sinful man, the next use of the law TOWARDS the sinner is, that it may compel him who is thus convicted and subjected to condemnation, to desire and seek the grace of God, and that it may force him to flee to Christ either as the promised or as the imparted deliverer. (Gal. ii, 16, 17.) Besides, in this state of sin, the moral law is serviceable, not only to God, that, by the dread of punishment and the promise of temporal rewards, he may restrain men under its guidance at least from the outward work of sin and from flagrant crimes; (1 Tim. i, 9, 10;) but it is also serviceable to Sin, when dwelling and reigning in a carnal man who is under the law, that it may inflame the desire of sin, may increase sin, and may “work within him all manner of concupiscence.” (Rom. vi, 12-14; vii, 5, 8, 11, 13.) In the former case, God employs the law through his goodness and his love for civil and social intercourse among mankind. In the latter case, it is employed through the malice of sin which reigns and has the dominion.
(3.) The third use of the moral law is towards a man, as now born again by the Spirit of God and of Christ, and is agreeable to the state of grace, that it may be a perpetual rule for directing his life in a godly and spiritual manner: (Tit. iii, 8; James ii, 8.) Not that man may be justified; because for this purpose it is rendered “weak through the flesh” and useless, even if man had committed only a single sin: (Rom. viii, 3.) But that he may render thanks to God for his gracious redemption and sanctification, (Psalm cxvi, 12, 13,) that he may preserve a good conscience, (1 Tim. i, 19,) that he may make his calling and election sure, (2 Pet. i, 10,) that he may by his example win over other persons to Christ, (1 Pet. iii, 1,) that he may confound the devil, (Job 1 & 2,) that he may condemn the ungodly world, (Heb. xi, 7,) and that through the path of good works he may march towards the heavenly inheritance and glory, (Rom. ii, 7,) and that he may not only himself glorify God, (1 Cor. vi, 20,) but may also furnish occasion and matter to others for glorifying his Father who is in Heaven. (Matt. v, 16.)
VI. From these uses it is easy to collect how far the moral law obtains among believers and those who are placed under the grace of Christ, and how far it is abrogated.
(1.) It is abrogated with regard to its power and use in justifying: “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by that law.” (Gal. iii, 21.) The reason why “it cannot give life,” is, “because it is weak through the flesh:” (Rom. viii, 3) God, therefore, willing to deal graciously with men, gave the promise and Christ himself, that the inheritance through the promise and by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But the law which came after the promise, could neither “make the latter of none effect,” (for it was sanctioned by authority,) nor could it be joined or super- added to the promise, that out of this union righteousness and life might be given. (Gal. iii, 16-18, 22.)
(2.) It is abrogated with regard to the curse and condemnation: For “Christ, being made a curse for us, hath redeemed us from the curse of the law;” (Gal. iii, 10-13;) and thus the law is taken away from sin, lest its “strength” should be to condemn. (1 Cor. xv, 55, 56.)
(3.) The law is abrogated and taken away from sin, so far as “sin, having taken occasion by the law, works all manner of concupiscence” in the carnal man, over whom sin exercises dominion. (Rom. vii, 4-8.)
(4.) It is abrogated, with regard to the guidance by which it urged man to do good and to refrain from evil, through a fear of punishment and a hope of temporal reward. (1 Tim. i, 9, 10; Gal. iv, 18.) For believers and regenerate persons “are become dead to the law by the body of Christ,” that they may be the property of another, even of Christ; by whose Spirit they are led and excited in newness of life, according to love and the royal law of liberty. (1 John v, 3, 4; James ii, 8.) Whence it appears, that the law is not abrogated with respect to the obedience which must be rendered to God; for though obedience be required under the grace of Christ and of the Gospel, it is required according to clemency, and not according to strict [legal] rigor. (1 John iii, 1, 2.)
We tend to not embrace the center of biblical tension. We tend to go to extremes on various issues. This is especially true of holiness. On the one side are those who either teach the antinomian view that says that we can live in sin and it not affect us to the other side where we teach that a believer can obtain sinless perfection in this life. We fail to find the center of biblical tension.
The truth of the gospel opens our eyes to our sins. 1 Timothy 1:8-11 is clear that the law of God exposes our sins and shows us that we are guilty before God (Romans 7:7). The law, however, does not save. The law merely shows us our guilt before a holy and just God whose law we have violated (1 John 3:4). As David expressed in Psalm 51:4, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” Sin is against God and it is His laws that we have broken (James 2:10). Paul tells us in Galatians 2:21 that if the law could produce the absolute righteousness that God requires, Christ died needlessly. However, the gospel is the truth that Christ died for our sins (Galatians 1:4) and it is through faith in Jesus that our sins are forgiven and washed away (Ephesians 1:7) so that we are declared righteous before God through faith in Christ (Romans 3:22-27; 10:4; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 2:16; 3:14; 1 Peter 3:18).
The gospel consistently reminds us of God’s grace toward us sinners (Romans 5:8-9). The gospel reminds me that I can’t save myself, cannot earn God’s salvation, am not saved by my good deeds (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7) and the gospel reminds me that apart from Christ, I have no hope (John 15:1-11; 1 Peter 1:18-19). The gospel reminds me that my standing before God is based on Christ alone and not my works nor am I kept in the faith by my works but by faith in Christ alone (2 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Peter 1:5). The gospel is faithful to show me that my salvation is all of God’s grace (Acts 15:11) and not my works.
The gospel then is my focus for holiness. Because of my salvation in Christ and because I have the Holy Spirit abiding within, I can live a life of holiness. Holiness is not obtained by law. Holiness is not obtained by human efforts. Holiness comes from the gospel being applied to my life. As I walk with Christ and abide in Him by faith, the Spirit of God helps me to be holy and He helps me to apply the gospel to all of my life. God does not want me to be holy only when it come to being around other disciples but He wants me to be holy in all my conduct (1 Peter 1:15-16). This cannot be produced by my power. It is not in me to be holy (Romans 3:10-18; cf. Proverbs 20:9). Jeremiah 17:9 says that our hearts are wicked and sick. Our only hope for holiness is Jesus Christ and His saving work being applied to the entirety of my life. It is out of the gospel that I can be holy (Colossians 3:1-4). It is out of my understanding that just as I cannot be saved apart from Christ, so I cannot be holy apart from Christ. Christ is my salvation and He is also my holiness (Hebrews 10:10, 14).
Now here is where we tend to go astray. We read all that truth about the gospel and how God has made us righteous in Christ but then we tend to avoid the obligation to be holy. We know that we are positionally holy because of Christ but we fail to see that God also calls us to be practically holy. 1 John 3:4-10 is clear that we are righteous if we practice righteousness. This righteous living flows from the gospel. Righteousness flows in my life from the Holy Spirit who is working to help me to be more like Jesus. The balance of grace is that I am to strive for holiness (Hebrews 12:14) while also trusting in the gospel alone to produce holiness in my life. This passionate pursuit of holiness never ends. It is the cry of the disciple of Christ their entire days to be holy as He is holy (Ephesians 5:1-2).
I pray that you and I would not fall into the performance trap and think that our salvation comes through faith in Christ but our standing before God is based on our performance. None of us would have much standing before a perfect and holy God. Yet the other equal truth is that we are called to be holy. Sin is not to have dominion over us because we are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14). The gospel not only forgives us of our sins through Christ but the gospel also helps us to slay sin in our lives (Colossians 3:5). All of our lives in Christ flows from the grace of God given to us in His Son (Titus 2:11-12 NIV).
May we be holy as Jesus is holy through the power of the gospel that is at work in our lives.
ON THE FIRST COMMAND IN THE DECALOGUE
I. The ten precepts of the decalogue are conveniently distributed into those of the first and those of the second table. To the first table are attributed those precepts which immediately prescribe our duty towards God himself; of this kind, there are four. The second table claims those precepts which contain the duties of men towards their fellow-men; and to it are attributed the last six.
II. This is the relation which subsists between the commands of each table — that, from love to God and in reference to him, we manifest love, and the offices of love towards our neighbour; and if it should happen that we must of necessity relinquish either our duty to God or our neighbour, God should be preferred to our neighbour. Let this relation, however, be understood as concerning those precepts only which are not of the ceremonial worship; otherwise, [respecting ceremonies] this declaration holds good: “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.”
III. The first commandment is, “Thou shalt have no other god before my face,” or “against my face.”
IV. It is very certain that, in this negative precept, the subjoined affirmative one is included or presupposed as something preceding and prerequisite: “Thou shalt have me, who am Jehovah, for thy God.” This is likewise immediately consequent upon the preface, “I am the Lord thy God;” therefore, “Let me be the Lord thy God;” or, which is the same, “Therefore, have thou me, the Lord, for thy God.”
V. But “to have the Lord for our God, is the part both of the understanding and of the inclination or the will; and, lastly, of an effect proceeding from both or from each of them.
VI. “Another god” is whatever the human mind invents, to which it attributes the divinity that is suitable and appropriate to the true God alone — whether such divinity be essence and life, or properties, works, or glory.
VII. Or whether the thing to which man attributes divinity be something existing or created, or whether it be something non-existent and merely imaginary and a figment of the brain, it is equally “another god” for the entire divinity of that other god lies radically, essentially and virtually in human ascription, and by no means in that to which such divinity is ascribed. Hence is the origin of this phrase, in Scripture, “To go a whoring after their own heart.”
VIII. But this “other God” may be conceived under a threefold difference, according to the Scriptures. For those who have him, have
(1.) either themselves been the first inventors of him,
(2.) have received him from their parents, or
(3.) from other nations, when neither they nor their fathers knew him; and this last is done either by force, by persuasion, or by the free and spontaneous choice of the will.
IX. For this reason, that “other god” is truly called “an idol;” and the act by which he is accounted another god, is idolatry; whether this be committed in the mind, by estimation, acknowledgment, and belief, or by the affections, love, fear, trust and hope, or by some external effect of honour, worship, adoration and invocation.
X. The enormity of this sin is apparent from the fact of its being called “a defection from God,”a forsaking of the living fountain,” and “a digging of broken cisterns that hold no water,”a perfidious desertion of holy matrimony,” and “a violation of the connubial compact.” Nay, the gentiles are said to sacrifice to devils whatsoever they suppose that they offer to God, in this ignorance of God and alienation from the life of God.
XI. The cause why men are said to do service unto devils, although they have themselves other thoughts, is this: because Satan is the fountain head, and origin of all idolatry; and is the author, persuader, impeller, approver and defender of all the worship which is expended on another god. Hence, likewise, it is the highest degree of idolatry when any one accounts divine or ascribes divinity to Satan as Satan, displaying himself as Satan and vaunting himself for God.
XII. But though the gentiles worshipped angels or devils, not as the supreme God, but as minor deities and his ministers, by whose intervention they might have communication with the supreme God; yet the worship which they paid to them was idolatry, because this worship was due to no one except to the true God. But it does not belong to the definition of idolatry, that any one should pay to another, as to God, that worship which is due to the true God alone; for it is sufficient if he account him as God, by ascribing divine worship to him, though, in his mind, he may account him not to be the supreme God. It is no palliation of the crime, but an aggravation, if any one knowingly performs divine worship to him whom he knows not to be God.
XIII. And since Christ must be honoured as the Father is, because he has been constituted by his Father KING and LORD, and has received all judgment, since every knee must bow to him, and since he is to be invoked as Mediator and the Head of his church, so that the church can pay this honour to no one except him, without incurring the crime of idolatry; therefore, the papists, who adore Mary, the angels, or holy men, and who invoke them as the donors and administrators of gifts, or as intercessors through their own merits, are guilty of the crime of idolatry.
XIV. Besides, when they adore the bread in the Lord’s supper, and receive and account the pope for that personage whom he boasts himself to be, they commit the sin of idolatry.