Saturday, February 7, 2009

You Have Got to Be Kidding!

You have got to be kidding! That is the response a Christian friend had when the subject of loving God’s law came up. Yes I can understand that statement. When we read these demands the law makes of us we are necessarily concerned where we fall short. The third use of the law is for a guide for everyday living and in this way each of the commands, summarized in the 10 commandments, is a gifting to us by our Father. However, the accusation still remains.

Psalm 119:

97 Oh how I love your law!

It is my meditation all the day.

98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,

for it is ever with me.

99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,

for your testimonies are my meditation.

100 I understand more than the aged,

for I keep your precepts.

101 I hold back my feet from every evil way,

in order to keep your word.

102 I do not turn aside from your rules,

for you have taught me.

103 How sweet are your words to my taste,

sweeter than honey to my mouth!

104 Through your precepts I get understanding;

therefore I hate every false way. ESV

Our custom over the past years is to start the day foraging through the word of God. Yesterday morning the above section was the reading. Verse 98 states that God’s commandment makes on wiser than the enemies. These enemies abound in the life of a Christian. If it is not the accusation of Satan to weigh us down and keep our eyes off the cross of Christ and onto our failures it is some bauble presented to us to make our life perfect. When we see what Jesus commands us “come to me and I will give you rest” we can say to Satan “What of it? I have also did this, that and the other.” Knowing that Jesus commands us “do not fret on the morrow” we can laugh at the advertisement and its empty promise.

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. ESV

St. James is not giving us an empty promise of Wall Street but sage advice on carrying on in the empty and dying world. How wonderful to be gifted with the thoughts of God instead of blindly trying to find our own way and fulfillment! How reassuring the knowledge that Jesus bore our sin and we take, eat his body and drink his body and blood for forgiveness of sin rather than spend energy justifying ourselves! How glorious to be credited with Christ’s righteousness who kept it for us so when we falter we can rest in him rather than try to hide our failure!

Glory to you O Christ! †


steve martin said...

I know you, David, and I know how Christ centered you are.

But, I hate the mention of the law as a guide. Maybe God uses the law to get us to do certain things, but I don't believe that. I believe the Holy Spirit does not need the law to get us to act in a certain way. I believe that the Spirit inspires us to good works.

I, too, realize that this has been a bone of contention between Lutherans...forever.

I am in the Forde camp on this on.

Third use...not helpful for Christians.

Thoelogically, the law is to accuse and to kill.

Then the gospel takes over and God Himself. In the 1st and 2nd uses, the so-called third use is contained. When I read the commandments, I know exactly what God expects from me.

Then I just flat out refuse to do them.

Thanks Dt. David!

PS- I have actually been thrown off of other Lutheran blog sites for advocating such! Go figure that lack of grace upon professing believers!

David Cochrane said...

St Stephen.

I appreciate your concern and I will not be casting you off my blog!

I realize it is a bone of contention between Christians not just Lutherans. The proper use of law as a guide is certainly warrented. St Paul is alway admonishing believers to behave in certain ways. These admonishments can all be traced back to the law of God. How else are God's children to behave except how he has commanded.

Luther in teaching the commands shows how each are also a gift. The first command is gifting us wit the true and living God who loves us and also serves us. Unlike the false gods of the pagans, muslim etc which seek to be served. In addition the false god in the USA of wealth is a hard task master indeed. So the gift is to have no other God's before his face.

True indeed the law always accuses us. We flee to the sacrament and trust Jesus' promises to be there for us for the forgiveness of our sins.

I trust this has cleared up some misunderstanding this posting may have caused. I removed it immediately to examine it closer to make sure I was not teaching works righteousness which thing I also hate.

Thank you dear brother!

God's peace. †


steve martin said...

St. David,

You would NEVER advocate works righteousness...never. I know you well enough to take that to the bank.

Yes, that old 3rd use bugaboo just won't go away.

I'm one that believes that God will inspire us to good works.

The commandments do inform us of what god expects from us that is for sure, and the inverse is the positive aspect, or the good that the law intends.

But, the law always accuses and kills.

So...I like to use it (or believe that the Lord does use it for that purpose) , and then concentrate on the Gospel which brings forth life.

That is all I end up with here on this site...the new life proclaimed loudly and clearly in the pure, sweet gospel of Christ Jesus!

Thanks St. David (and for not kicking me off!)

Timm said...

Hmmm... good stuff here, David. I agree with you. Yes, God does inspire us to do good works through our sanctification, but how are we to know that they are good, without the law as a guide? Every admonition given to us by Paul, Peter, James or whoever in the Bible can certainly be traced back to the law. To say that we do not need it as a guide is to say that we do not need the Bible at all. Am I wrong?

Steve Martin said...


The old Adam needs the guide. The new Man does not. The New Man in Christ Jesus, acts and those actions will be used for the purposes which the Holy Spirit intends.

We do not have to worry about it. Wea are free (St. Paul to the Galatians) Really free!

The law, theologically, does not help us...but is there to convict and to kill us. (also St. Paul) The law always kills. It never makes alive. Only the gospel does that.

Do we still live under the law? Yes we do! But not for righteousness sake. Not one bit!

Sorry for butting in.

Timm said...

You didn't answer my question. Why do you and I even study the Bible? Why don't we just trust our modern revelation as the emerging church does. If we are free from the law completely, can't we just do what ever we want? Shouldn't we just throw our bibles out?

You're argument is not making sense to me.

Steve Martin said...


Because the Bible is the whole council of God.

It is our source for all matters of faith and life.

It contains God's law and His gospel.

The law to keep us in check as humans or creatures of God, and theologically to convict and kill us (not make us better).

And then His gospel to save us and free us and give us new life.

This view, the Lutheran view, takes a lot of getting used to. Since the law is written upon our hearts...we don't give it up willingly. That's why God uses His law to kill us off. We won't die (the old Adam) of our own volition.

David Cochrane said...

Hi Timm,

Yes we need the law to inform us on the will of God. A person is brought to faith indeed by the Holy Spirit through the means of grace. This person does not automatically know what God wants of him or her. In the civil realm only the law is used to inform how to serve the neighbour in love. This civil righteousness however, does not avail before God although in grace he looks at it as righteous for Jesus sake. As far as our relationship with God the law serves only as showing us our need for our Saviour Jesus. This law is used to keep us from self righteousness which can rob us eventually of even our life in Christ.

It is often said that we do not need our works. God does not need our works. Our neighbour needs them. These works of service for the neighbour will not look on the outside as any different then an unbeliever could do. However, we have the Holy Spirit producing fruit and that is what God admires and rewards. What percentage is our self motivation and how much is Spirit motivation is impossible to know and is not all that important anyway. Jesus told us how our good works should be viewed by us in Luke 17:10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

I hope this answers your question a little. For further information on the distinction between law and gospel perhaps checking out the blog link on the side. Pr Baker is excellent in explaining this in detail.

God's peace. †