The purpose of God’s law—as we saw last week in Galatians 3:23-25—is two-fold. The first use is the external use which controls us by keeping us fenced in, “under guard.” This preserves a society of sinful men. The internal, second use of the law, is to be a mirror that forces us to see our endemic sin and depravity, so we will repent and come to Jesus. Any encouragement to try to keep God’s law to be a better, more righteous person is noticeably and conspicuously absent.
The question then naturally arises, “What do I do with all the commands in the New Testament, both from Jesus’ mouth and from the pens of the authors of the epistles, aimed directly at us? They surely do look like they tell us specific things for us to do?”
These commands from Jesus and His apostles are also “the law of God,” just as are the Ten Commandments of Moses. They are New Testament directives that are the specifics about how God wants us to live now that Jesus has come to earth, not how the Israelites under the Old Covenant should live.
However, I am a failure in all my attempts to keep God’s law, be it Old Testament or New. I may tell myself I am keeping them, and it may look like I do after a cursory glance or two from the peanut gallery, but ask my wife!
For example, Jesus is speaking to my heart attitude as He tells me to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Luke 6:27, 28). Was Jesus serious? Who can say he does that—in his heart?
Someone actually said to me some time ago, “Well, nobody does that,” as if that excuses my sin, and that’s the point. We are all, no exceptions or grading on the curve, fully guilty. The following verses are reality today in 2022: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).
When the reality of the ideas in these verses hits me, Hallelujah! I am right on schedule. I can know that God has got me and the law of God is doing its work. I will naturally and spontaneously embrace the reality of the hopelessness of my situation (“In my heart it’s even worse than you can imagine”), and repent!
Simultaneously, my Father opens my eyes to see that He loves me with an unquenchable, agape love that can’t be dampened by my behavior in any way. His love-gauge is always on 100%. That means that, even in the midst of all my wickedness and rebellion, He forgives me fully, completely, and permanently!
That is the gospel of the grace of God. This is the answer to our question about the New Testament’s obvious direct commands for me to “do.” All these impossible demands become wonderful PROMISES of what the Holy Spirit will do in my life, naturally, unconsciously, and spontaneously, as I walk by faith.
Do I believe this? It is exactly what Philippians 2:13 and Romans 8:4 (verses I have quoted again and again), tell me is happening. If I really and truly believe it, I am living “according to the Spirit” (to use the language of Romans 8:4); if I don’t, then I am living “according to the flesh.”
Here is the simple track that I will follow daily as the power of God is released in my life by His Holy Spirit who lives in me:. 1.) I see my sin; 2.) I own it, embrace it and repent; 3.) I believe I am fully and forever forgiven by a God who loves and thinks I’m precious!
This is “walking by faith” in the gospel of the grace of God, and it makes me a dangerous and undefeatable warrior, as I relax and do nothing but what I want to do. Armed with this mindset, I can’t wait to attack the Gates of Hell!
Getting to this point—living this way and not by obedience to the law—is not the end result; it is not the final goal we are after here on the earth, but it is the foundation that must be laid before we can experience it. Next week we will look at how we can actually reach that final end result.
Robert, the Lord is not referring to my heart attitude when he commands me to love my enemy. He is commanding me to do that, whether I want to or not. This is the whole point of his commands such as this one….”I know you don’t want to, that is why I command you to”. Or…”pick up your cross and follow me”, is commanded for the very reason that no human wants to pick up their cross. No human wants to “lose his life, for my sake”.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus did not want to be tortured to death. “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Indeed he sweat blood because he was obeying Father’s command when he, Jesus, did not want to be tortured to death.
Our “want tos” is a valid reality of our life in the Holy Spirit, although as only one of many facets of our life. It doesn’t explain the totality of all motivation and action in the Kingdom. Indeed, life in the Holy Spirit’s purification and sanctification of our beings, is characterized chiefly, by acting in a manner that we don’t want to do. That is the whole point of the Holy Spirit’s action.
“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1
Also, heart attitude or feelings, follow actions, not the other way around.
Jerry, Your last sentence summarizes our disagreement in a nutshell, and I don’t believe you really think this: – “Heart attitude (faith) and feelings (joy) follow actions (works).” i.e., works salvation. Works (obedience to God’s law) is “living by the law” and we have died to that (been set free from ever having to do that – Romans 7:4-6!). Does your church teach what you have written? Are you sure? Have you read my last three postings carefully? I am talking about this in great detail with plenty of scriptures to show this is not an extraneous idea but the gospel. Reread them carefully, being sure to look up and read the Scripture references carefully.
Thank you Robert 🙂 Yes the HS changes our “ought tos” into “want tos”…what I am saying is this transformation describes some of our life in the HS, just not all of our life in the HS.
My last sentence about heart attitude was not addressing faith or joy or works. I was referring to basic human God-created anthropology, basic human makeup.
In the rest of the post, I was not declaring works salvation. And thanks for asking…yes Orthodox and orthodox theology does not teach works salvation 🙂
We are instructed to obey these commands below (and hundreds more throughout the Word), regardless of whether we want to or not. Jesus did not want to go to the cross…he obeyed Father’s will. A few more come to my mind:
1. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
1. See Acts 2 and Peter’s command to repent
2. “I will bless the Lord at all times..” Ps 34
Thank you Robert for engaging with me 🙂
Love it, Jerry! Did you read the last two postings before this one? How are you doing keeping all those those wonderful holy, commands? There are two categories of sermons to us in the Bible – 1.) those that tell us what we must do (the law) and 2.) what God has done, is doing, and will do (the gospel) because we can’t do our job! How are you doing with “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might?”
Our prayer must be, “Lord, Open the eyes of my heart” – So I can see my own sin that I desperately don’t want to see because I’m addicted to trying to be “good.” I am a wicked sinner who can never be good! (Romans 3:10-12).