If you have been following along you’ve read that laws are descriptions of how things work –and in particular the ones in the Bible describe how God set up salvation to work.
Essentially, the laws that God gave Moses constituted a script that directed all of Israel in an epic drama for the world to watch. That nation –as a whole– was His kingdom of priests that presented a collage of pictures describing the need for a perfect sacrifice so that we would be reconciled with God. (Once reconciled, all our debts would be fully paid and all our sins forever forgiven.) Those laws proved that Jesus was the One who would –and completely did– accomplish that. Those laws also prove that no one else could –not you and not me.
Churches are places where we go to be with other like-minded people. –Right? Obviously, not everyone there is saved –else there wouldn’t be altar calls for salvation, baptisms for new converts and words of exclusion (or inclusion) in regard to participating in communion. However, most of the time there is dedicated to believers.
It seems that nearly every service incorporates two standard topics: sin and forgiveness. We church-goers sit in the pews and noddingly agree that we need to change our ways and confess our guilt so that we can “get right with God.” That’s a premise for a large segment of our culture –but it shouldn’t be…
Since we are there as believers, why are we confronted with the law? Did the law help bring us to faith in Christ –or not? Was He the end of the law –or not? Has He fulfilled the law and taken it away –or not? As a reminder, here are some of what we’ve looked at so far.
Allow me to put this into perspective using hypothetical situations. If speed limits were taken away, would there still be a fine for driving fast? If the law of theft was eliminated, would there be a punishment for stealing? If the law of vandalism didn’t exist, would spray painting someone else’s property be a crime? The answer to all of these would be a cynical “No…”
According to the Scriptures that we’ve just read, is doing the opposite of any of the things listed in the Ten Commandments a sin –a crime –a transgression? A logical response would be a calculated “No” –but we’ve been trained to say “Yes!” Mournfully, in our minds we say “We’re all just sinners who have been saved by grace –those commandments prove we’re guilty over and over again.”
Our faith is wholly founded on what’s in the Bible –and in it God uses Israel as an example for us. It shouldn’t seem out of place that the book of Hebrews is an excellent source for finding the definition of sin. After all, they were the ones who were led visibly and audibly by God Himself –and they did receive the stone tablets that we so highly regard.
Since the book of Hebrews is so long (it does cover much of their history) –and our attention span is so short– the meaning of sin is typically overlooked. Here it is in brief.
(If you would like to find out more, read “Understanding the Book of Hebrews.”
The Bible talks about sin repeatedly. In both the Old and New Testaments there are lists of “sins” –things to do and not do. But not doing (or doing) what’s in those lists is not what separated us from God…
Romans chapter five explains that even before any commands were given, death has reigned in this world since the time of Adam. (That’s before any of what we commonly refer to as sins were identified.) It was then that Eve confiscated God’s role of Judge over what’s good (that which He will eternally cherish) –and what’s evil (that which He will discard in the furnace).
Chapter three of Genesis spells out the results. Trying to be God was the reason that He put a separation between us and Himself –and we have been playing like we’re God-the-Judge ever since. We demonstrate it every day with our judgmental ways –always justifying how our way is best and condemning others for not doing what we say is right.
That separation between Him and us is the death that has reigned. So then you might ask “What was the reason for all of the commands, rules, statutes, regulations, precepts … laws?” They were added to show us our condition. It’s summed up with “When we were dead in our transgressions, He made us alive with Christ” (from Ephesians 2:1-10). It’s that simple –we were dead and needed life.
On the cross, Christ paid for all of those sins for all of us –yet God still holds everyone accountable for one thing. That single, deadly, unpardonable, unforgivable sin is not believing in His Son. “Believing in Him” means trusting Him for life in the hereafter and also relying on Him for life in the here-and-now. The world’s sin is described in chapter 16 of John and it’s the only obstacle blocking a perfect, eternal relationship between people and God.
But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me;
and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. (John 16:7-11)
This bears repeating. It isn’t that we need forgiveness for our sins. That was accomplished on the cross –once and for all –for all mankind –for all sins. Our problem is much worse than needing forgiveness! We were eternally dead when we came into the world –it’s the separation from eternal life with God. Jesus explained the solution to Nicodemus saying “You must be born again.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus *said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:3-7)
Everyone has been “born of the flesh” –born physically from human parents. That’s what being “born of water” describes in this passage. Physical birth began with immersion in water within our mother’s sac before we emerged from her womb.
Being born of the Spirit began when we accepted Jesus for salvation. It was then that we were completely immersed into the body of Christ by the Spirit. It is through this second immersion that we received eternal life –not merely forgiveness! And that life begins in the here-and-now.
Although it’s a bit cloaked when spoken about in the Law, the choice was presented in the Old Testament to the Israelites. The charge given to them was to trust God by entering life in the Promised Land.
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
That very same choice was also presented to Adam and Eve. They were warned about choosing between the fruit of two trees in the garden of Eden: One was the tree of life –the other was the tree of death. (The section on Adam and Eve explains the implications of their choices.)
Now it’s presented to each one today as God pleads with us to “Choose life through My Son!”
Since you’ve been saved –received eternal life through faith by grace– now live by that faith (from). Trying to do what the Law of Moses describes will not make you better –instead it will continue to condemn the things you do.
So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.
For when we were in the realm of the flesh,a the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death.
But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 74-6
Right here in Romans chapter seven, we’re told that as long as we keep trying to do what’s listed in the Law, we cannot bear fruit for God. And furthermore, we’ll be doing just the opposite of what we want to do. Our sinful passions will be aroused by it! (It would be worthwhile to read all of chapter seven.)
So what’s the bottom line? A life of faith and a life of trying to obey the Law are in contention with each other. The next part of that Romans chapter goes on to explain that we’re to trust God to have already done what is necessary for us to have a peaceful, rewarding life with Him. Then chapter eight begins with “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
It’s time to let the Holy Spirit lead you. Be quiet and as you go through the day, He will start making His ways known. Begin trusting that every circumstance that comes your way is God reshaping your life. It will be far different than what you ask for, sometimes even painful, but as time passes you’ll find that what He provided is much grander.
That’s what faith, trust, dependence on God is about. The reward is unimaginably wonderful –it’s the ultimate security of One who cares more for you than for His own life.