The exclusive emphasis on the biblical functioning of the family and the church in the kingdom of God in my blog postings these past few weeks has made me increasingly uneasy. I can hear the Lord reminding me, “Remember the other edge of the Sword, the divine truth that makes the Kingdom possible at all—the gospel of My grace.”
The Sword of the Word of God always has two edges (Revelation 1:16; 2:12; Psalm 149:6; Hebrews 4:12). I believe these edges represent the two radically different messages that appear in the Bible, both of which must always be preached and remembered. 1. The Law of God (what we must keep in order to please God), and 2. The Gospel of God (what God did because we could not keep #1).
These two edges of the Sword do two opposite, totally different things. Being able to tell the difference between them (law and gospel) is foundational to Christianity, as Paul implies in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing (properly distinguishing between the two aspects of) the word of truth.” The following link is the very best summary of the two edges issue I have read (definitely worth reading!). https://lutherantheology.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/a-brief-introduction-to-law-gospel/
Since the kingdom only comes as the law of God is kept, and we cannot keep it, one can see very readily that to fulfill our purpose in life of ruling over the earth by properly using the law of God, the gospel of the full grace of God must never be forgotten, ignored, assumed or taken for granted. Communion is designed to remind us of its power and immediate efficacy every time the church meets and partakes of it.
So, to rule in the kingdom, as we are commissioned to do, we must be experiencing the gospel of grace, not only as a-once-for-all experience at salvation, but as a continual, daily, moment-by-moment walk, or as Paul calls it, “walking by faith,” or “walking (living) in the Spirit” (Colossians 2:6).
Walking, or living, by faith and not by trying to obey the law, has amazing implications, because that idea is so foreign to us and simply words on a page to many believers. Paul says, “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did …. by sending His own Son….He condemned sin in the flesh…. that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3, 4).
These verses have incredible implications. For example, notice in these verses walking “according to the Spirit ” and not “according to the flesh” means that “the righteous requirement of the law” is “fulfilled in us” and not by us. The law of God is being faithfully kept in our bodies, but we have nothing at all to do with it. These verses are the basis for my often-used trilogy for the Christian life of faith: “natural, spontaneous and unconscious.” We are simply spectators as the Holy Spirit—as we trust Him fully to do as He promised, without any help from us—does His job of sanctifying us!
What am I doing while the Spirit is at work? Some would ask, “Aren’t you still ‘working out your own salvation with fear and trembling” as Philippians 2:12 tell us to do?”
Yes, I am, and Jesus told the multitude, who had just watched him miraculously feed them, what was the only thing they could do to “complete or finish” (Gk. katergazomai) this task of doing this “work of God:” “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29). The work of God is always only one thing—to simply believe, like a little child, that Jesus is doing exactly what He says He is doing. No matter how we feel, no matter our circumstances, no matter what we don’t see, He is fulfilling “the righteous requirement of the law” in us right now. He says it, and I believe it!
Paul assures me that that faith is not in vain, although I am constantly tempted to believe so: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:20, 21).
Yes, as my mind is renewed to think in terms of faith in Jesus and His Spirit in me as my motivation rather than obedience to the law, others tell me that they can see changes happening in my life. I see nothing but the old sin. However, the promise is that as I walk in constant repentance and faith, I am being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18). Faith believes that. One close, really good, long-time friend recently told me, “You aren’t as much a know-it-all as you used to be.”
Interesting. Over the last few years, I have begun to see my “know it all” attitude, never wanting to be a learner but always the one who knows. This mindset, subconsciously thinking I knew what others should do, became my default attitude. I began to repent whenever I saw it popping up, but had not been aware of any changes—just the ever-present sin. I rejoiced at my friend’s comment, recognizing God was at work, as always, naturally, spontaneously and unconsciously. My job is only to see, embrace and repent for that sin; the job of others is to notice and praise God with me for what He is doing!
I want to spend one more week sharpening the gospel edge of the sword by addressing the following questions: 1.) What does it mean that God loves you, and 2.) When you are living by faith and not the law, how do you know what He wants you to actually do?