‘Grace And The Law Of God’ by Dr. John Stott

Said Bill Meuhlenberg in his post on Loving God And Keeping His Commandments:

“A sad situation is enveloping large parts of the evangelical church today, especially those associated with the emergent church. Increasingly we are being told that love is the only thing that matters in the Christian life, and any talk of obedience or keeping God’s commandments is somehow legalistic or in fact counter to love. Thus a new antinomianism is creeping through our churches.” As an Adventist I found myself sympathizing with Bill Meuhlenberg.

In my last post I added some statements from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in support of what Meuhlenberg had to say on the ‘Law of God’. Here is further explanation from the writings of Dr. John Stott on how we should view the Law of God, to avoid antinomianism as well as legalism. What do these terms mean?

From another book in my ‘downsized library’ Dr. John Stott explains three different views of the Law of God in MEN MADE NEW, (Inter-varsity Press,1973 -several printings and editions). A Study of Romans 5 – 8. Chapter three, “Freedom From The Law,” on Romans 7:1-8:4 – pages 59-83. Says Stott:

“By way of introduction it may help us find our way through this difficult chapter if we think of the three possible attitudes to the law – attitudes represented first by the legalist, secondly by the libertine or antinomian, and thirdly by the law-abiding believer.

1. The legalist is a man in bondage to the law. He imagines that his relationship to God depends on his obedience to it. And as he seeks to be justified by the works of the law, he finds the law a harsh and inflexible taskmaster. In Paul’s vocabulary he is `under the law.’

2. The antinomian (sometimes synonymous with `libertine’) goes to the other extreme. He rejects the law altogether, and even blames it for most of man’s moral and spiritual problems.

3. The law-abiding believer preserves the balance. He recognises the weakness of the law (Romans 8:3, `God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do’). The weakness of the law is that it can neither justify nor sanctify us, because in our selves we are not capable of obeying it. Yet the law-abiding believer delights in the law as an expression of the will of God, and seeks by the power of the indwelling Spirit to obey it.

To sum up, the legalist fears the law and is in bondage to it; the antinomian hates the law and repudiates it; the law-abiding believer loves the law and obeys it.”

pp.65-66. “Is the law still binding on the Christian? The answer to that is, No and Yes! `No’ in the sense that our acceptance with God does not depend on it. Christ in His death fully met the demands of the law, so that we are fully delivered from it. It no longer has any claims on us. It is no longer our lord. `Yes’ in the sense that our new life is still a bondage. We still `serve.’ We are still slaves, although discharged from the law. But the motive and means of our service has altered.

“Why do we serve? Not because the law is our master and we have to, but because Christ is our husband and we want to. Not because obedience to the law leads to salvation, but because salvation leads to obedience to the law. The law says, you live, so do this. The motive has changed.

pp. 73-74. “This is summed up in 7: 14: `The law is spiritual; but I am carnal.’ We need to note the fact that `the law is spiritual. ‘ We must never set the law and the Spirit in opposition to one another as if they were contradictory. They are not. The Holy Spirit writes the law in our hearts. What Paul contrasts with the indwelling Spirit is not the law itself but `the letter,’ that is, the law viewed merely as an external code. Now let me repeat that anyone who acknowledges the spirituality of God’s law and his own natural carnality is a Christian of some maturity.”

p.79. “According to 7:22, the believer delights in the law of God, but in himself cannot carry it out because of indwelling sin. According to 8:4, however, he not only delights in, but actually fulfils the law of God because of the indwelling Spirit.”

pp. 82-83. “`But this is an intolerable contradiction,’ someone may say. `How can I be at the same time free from the law and obliged to keep it?’ The paradox is not hard to resolve. We are set free from the law as a way of acceptance, but obliged to keep it as a way of holiness. It is as a ground of justification that the law no longer binds us (for our acceptance we are `not under law but under grace’). But as a standard of conduct the law is still binding, and we seek to fulfil it, as we walk according to the Spirit.”

And how do we know we are walking according to the Spirit? In Galatians 5:22-26 we have listed there the ‘fruit of the Spirit’. We know we often fail here but here is what’s best about Christian belief, through the grace of God it challenges us to live better and fuller lives in Christ.

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This entry was posted in Apologetics, Faith & Obedience, Law of God, Saved By Grace. Bookmark the permalink.

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