Monday, December 26, 2011

First John Chapter Two, Part Three

2:3-5 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
The law of Christ is this: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” Galatians 6:2.
 
“And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another,” 2nd John 1:5. Jesus our Lord clarified by summing up the totality of the OT Law and Prophets in this: “The first of all commandments is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” Mark 12:29-31.

Later in John’s epistle we find the apostle reiterating the Lord’s commands to his audience by declaring to them “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us,” 1st John 3:22-24.

We have to be very careful at this point to rightly divide the word of God. There are sects such as the Seventh Day Adventists that place a heavy emphasis on Law-works and the binding authority of the OT on Christians. Many appeal to passages such as what we are presently reading as the basis for their authority. But is this an honest exposition of the word? The word “commandment” in the Greek is “entole” and means “an order that has authority.” In other words Jesus gave an authoritative statement that He rightfully expects His disciples and children to obey. The word “law” is “nomos” and is used anytime the OT law is mentioned in the NT. It means “law, regulation or principle,” and incorporates the OT Scriptures into that meaning.

The real question is this: is John making an appeal to the authority of the Law? Is keeping the whole of the law a genuine measuring stick for determining a Christian’s love for God and whether or not we are walking in the Spirit? The Seventh Day Adventists recognize the peril of this position and attempt to divorce much of the Mosaic Law from the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) in an effort to avoid laws of sacrifice, cleansing, only wearing certain types of cloth, sewing one’s garden properly, etc.  I preach and practice that Christians ought to walk in accordance with God’s revealed will in Scripture. This is wholly Biblical. I disagree with anyone who labors to force passages (such as this) to imply that the OT law still binds Christians and that when Jesus said “if you love Me you will keep My commandments,” (John 14:15) our Lord meant the Mosaic injunction.

Is the Law set aside? According to Scripture, yes. Here are a few passages to consider about the OT Law and whether or not it is legally binding on Christians as it was over Israel from Moses to Christ.

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross,” Colossians 2:13-14.

For he is our peace, who hath made both (Jew and Gentile) one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby,” Ephesians 2:14-16.

In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away,” Hebrews 8:13.

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace,” Romans 6:14.

But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster,” Galatians 3:23-25.

The nature of the Law was to identify sin for what it was and expose man’s sinful nature. The Law demanded obedience but provided no means of acquiring it; instead it provoked men to disobey. The Law, in Paul’s words, confined all men under sin. The Law was a mirror that reflected the incompetency of mankind and shut man up to the forthcoming revelation (clearly revealed in the NT) that salvation was not by the injunctions of the Law but through faith in Christ. We are saved and sanctified not by obedience to the Law but by the hearing of faith as the Holy Spirit operates within us. The Law magnified sin and demonstrated our hopeless position; it was to drive men to seek the Savior, the Seed that God promised would come in due time, Genesis 3:15; Galatians 3:19.

Once the Savior appeared there was no more need to be under the Law, for the Lawgiver had arrived, and we could learn directly from Him as we entered into a living and personal relationship with Him. What the Law could not provide (since it only accused and condemned) Jesus gave; a righteousness satisfactory to make a man mete for Heaven. Faith was the only vessel, and Christ the only object of that faith. When the object of faith appeared the shadow of that object (witnessed in the OT Law and prophets) was no longer needed. Christ likened the Law to Israel as a spouse: unless one died to the Law one could never be married to Christ; the law was legally binding until death, Luke 16:16-18.

This passage indicates a transition; Christ said that the law and prophets were until John (the Baptist). Then Jesus came preaching the kingdom of Heaven and everyone, hearing the good word of the gospel, wanted “in.” Jesus warned that it was easier for Heaven and earth to pass away than for the law (and its demands on men) to fail. He likened the Jews observing the Law to one married to their spouse. They could not come to Christ unless they died to the Law; once dead to the Law it would have no more claim on them legally, and that fortunate individual would be free to live for God, since Christ set them free through faith in Him, Romans 6:5-7; 17-18. “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God,” Romans 7:1-4.

The love of God is perfected in a saint who lives by their faith. We strive to obey the commands of our Lord, to love Him above all others and to demonstrate this love by loving our fellow Christians and mankind in general, Galatians 6:10. The Christian practiced in selfless love (a life given to God as evidenced by our willingness to serve and care for others) produces a confident trust that we are in Him. That is, we are walking in the Spirit, and therefore the Holy Spirit is producing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. This is humbling to write and muse over, because I realize I have far to go. God gives His children grace to mature and walk by the same rule, Philippians 3:15-16.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, Ian.

    Galatians 5:4 warns, "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." The church at Galatia was dealing with the very issue you have addressed. By insisting on keeping the Law, even just the Ten Commandments, people reject the grace of God.

    As Paul asked in Galatians 3:1-3, "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" As Romans 1:22 states, "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,"

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