Bill Meuhlenberg shared his concern about fellow Christians disparaging the Ten Commandments or the ‘Law of God’. We see that was a concern for Spurgeon back in the 19th century. It was a concern for Lloyd-Jones and John Stott in the 20th century and we see it being a concern today. I have come across quite a few Christian websites that say the Old Testament with its Ten commandments no longer apply to the Christian age.
But there obviously is a problem with the ‘Law of God’ among evangelicals with it being discussed online for a while. Albert Mohler is one Christian leader who addresses it in, ‘Why Moralism Is Not The Gospel’. What emphasis should the Christian church put on the Ten Commandments?
Says Mohler, “We sin against Christ and we misrepresent the Gospel when we suggest to sinners that what God demands of them is moral improvement in accordance with the Law. Moralism makes sense to sinners, for it is but an expansion of what we have been taught from our earliest days. But moralism is not the Gospel, and it will not save.” (We could replace the word Moralism with Law or Legalism). Says Mohler, “The only gospel that saves is the Gospel of Christ. As Paul reminded the Galatians, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” [Gal. 4:4-5] The term ‘under the Law’ generally means under the condemnation of the Law.
Says Mohler, “We are justified by faith alone, saved by grace alone, and redeemed from our sin by Christ alone. Moralism produces sinners who are (potentially) better behaved. The Gospel of Christ transforms sinners into the adopted sons and daughters of God.”
Does this mean that the Law of God ceases to have any regard for the Christian? Not for Mohler:
”The Church must never evade, accommodate, revise, or hide the law of God. Indeed, it is the Law that shows us our sin and makes clear our inadequacy and our total lack of righteousness. The Law cannot impart life but, as Paul insists, it “has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” [Gal. 3:24]
Reviewing Tim Keller the same topic, Bob Hayton, says, “I recently picked up Tim Keller’s new discipleship DVD Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything (Zondervan) [watch the trailer here]. It looks excellent, and I was struck by his description of the Prodigal Son parable and the 3 ways to live.
“Here is a brief summary of his 3 ways to live:
· Religion: I obey, therefore I am accepted by God.
· Irreligion: I don’t need to obey anyone but myself.
· Gospel: I am accepted by God at an infinite cost to Jesus Christ, therefore I obey.”
Says Bob Hayton, “Any effort to take away the idea of Christ’s substitutionary atonement and replace it with a moralism (i.e., being moral, working for others, imitating Jesus) robs the gospel of its power to change us from the inside out. The gospel is, therefore, radically different from religion. Religion operates on the principle: “I obey, therefore I am accepted”. The gospel operates on the principle: “I am accepted through Christ, therefore I obey.” So the gospel differs from both religion and irreligion. Not only can you seek to be your own ‘lord and savior’ by breaking the law of God (i.e., through irreligion), you can also do so by keeping the law in order to earn your salvation (i.e., through religion).”
Stott also has three ways to live in his description of a believer’s attitude to the Law of God. In his three ways Keller includes the non-believer: Stott deals with the attitude of three kinds of believer:
“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.”
Mohler emphasises how deadly it can be for the Christian to try to make himself worthy of God, instead of accepting what Christ has done for us. While I don’t share Mohler’s view on ‘hell’ the Bible does speak clearly that there is a final judgment. There is a day of account for those who have rejected Christ’s offer of salvation, and for those who have accepted it (Hebrews 9:27,28). For those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour their worthiness in Jesus Christ is accepted by God. Eternal life in Christ is not a set of rules or laws, but an abiding relationship with Christ.
That is what the Apostle Paul expresses in his Letter to the Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). This is what he says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 happens to a person who is in Christ. “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” It is called the ‘New Birth’ or ‘Born Again’. It is not being ‘good’ or being attached to a church community that puts us right with God. These are outcomes of being in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
To give ones self over to God means to belong to Christ and to want to belong to His community and to allow Him, through the Holy Spirit, to transform our lives so we seek to be in harmony with his will. It means we have arrived at perfection – not waiting to arrive. The perfection of Jesus’ life He lived on earth is transferred to the believer. Then, when we are in Christ God doesn’t see us as we are, He sees us covered by Christ’s perfection. There is no eternal life without it.
In spiritual terms accepting Christ’s perfection for us is described as ‘wearing the robe of Christ’s righteousness’. There will never be a time as long as we live as mortal beings on this earth that God will accept us for our goodness. God accepts us because we have accepted Christ’s goodness and we have chosen to live our lives with Him. This is God’s grace, (Romans 6:23) or underserved favour to humankind. But, it has to be accepted.
So what is wrong with God’s Law. Nothing! After all, it is His Law. It is what we do with the Law that may be wrong. The Law wasn’t meant to save us; it is intended to show us what we are really like and to send us to Jesus Christ, our Saviour for help and forgiveness. It is not the Law that is the Good News; the Law sends us to the Good News, the Gospel, Jesus Christ, for forgiveness and new life. When Joseph was being seduced by Mrs Potipher he didn’t say, “How could I then do such a thing and sin against the Law.” What he did say was, “How then can I do such a thing and sin against God” (Genesis 39:9). That is what it means to have a relationship with God. It will hurt us to hurt the God who so loved us “that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).