We have one knife in the Andrews’ kitchen that can slice a tomato. All the others, no matter how impressive they may look, can’t cut hot butter! When I do the limited tasks I regularly perform in the kitchen (i.e., fix my own lunch) and cook an occasional dinner when Jill is gone, the state of the Andrews cutlery is what used to be commonly called, “the bane of my existence.”
Jill’s attitude in the kitchen is “Sharp knives scare me,” as she proceeds to bludgeon to death everything she attempts to cut. I have asked her to keep a lookout for an electric knife-sharpener on her regular travels through garage sales, the Goodwill and other thrift stores, but it just isn’t high on her priority list. She seems to think that sharp knives will jump up and cut her finger off just as the gun control advocates think guns can decide on their own to shoot us.
As Christians we face a similar problem. I believe the two edges of the sword of the word of God, mentioned several times in the Bible, are 1.) the law of God and 2.) the grace of God. These are like two fraternal twins, both much beloved by their Father, but with two sharply contrasting personalities and two completely different job descriptions. The law cuts open and exposes my sin; the gospel cuts away and removes my guilt and shame. These are both crucial ongoing functions performed in us by the word of God that equip us to participate in the family business, the Kingdom of God.
However, keeping both of these two edges of the sword sharp and in working order in our lives presents an ongoing problem of which many Christians are unaware.
Invariably, life in the world dulls both edges of the sword. The absolute truth of each edge is constantly being compromised in our minds, and we are completely ignorant of that fact. People all around us are saying, “You are so black and white; don’t be such a purist,” even Christians. As a result, we unconsciously lower the eternal law’s standard and water down the full extent of the grace of God.
In these postings, I have emphasized primarily sharpening the grace edge. There is no “cheap grace;” it is completely free. All God’s grace is “hyper-grace” because it is “over the top” of the sins of the whole world. At the cross, all those sins were “put away . . . by the sacrifice of Himself (Jesus)” (Hebrews 9 :26); the condemnation of the law, which we have broken at every turn, God has “taken out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” in the body of Jesus (Colossians 2:14). The work is over, salvation is accomplished, “It is finished,” cried Jesus at the cross. There God’s judgment on the sins of the world was satisfied, and He is now only a God of love. That is no-holds-barred, high octane, pull-out-all-the-stops, all-systems-go, razor-sharp, absolute grace.
However, in the next few postings, I want to sharpen the other edge of the sword until it is equally sharp. Many grace preachers are fine with the previous grace message, but they are often not as diligent to proclaim the other function of the word of God—His eternal, inviolate, absolute law. Also, there is wide range of opinions among Christians today about God’s law, even as to its identity, and certainly its function. What, then, is the “law of God?”
The law of God is anything that God, through His apostles and prophets in the Bible, commands, requires, exhorts, admonishes or challenges us to do, say, or think. Conversely, the law of God is also anything God commands, requires, exhorts, admonishes or challenges us to avoid doing, saying or thinking. He does not hesitate to tell us what He expects of us.
As you can see from this definition of “the law of God,” it is spread throughout the whole Bible, not just in the Old Testament. The teachings of Jesus and the injunctions of the apostles in the New Testament are all examples of the law of God and should be recognized as statements of God’s eternal righteous standards that we are all, as His creatures made in His image, called to meet.
Jesus proclaimed the law of God when He announced in Matthew 5 that to hate (detest, reject) others equals murdering them and deserves the same judgment. Lust is the same thing before God as adultery, and we are to love and bless our enemies, even those who are actively persecuting us. These are all the “law of God,” just as are the Ten Commandments.
However, these verses in Matthew 5 normally sink in the recesses of our minds without any recognition of what it would mean if we actually tried to keep them. If we do happen to think about what He says as if it did apply to us, our unspoken, unconscious, natural response is, “Oh, nobody can do that,” discount the clear command, and move on as if there were nothing here to see.
This thinking (or lack thereof) lowers God’s standard, excuses our sin, and immediately grays the black and white of the law of God. We have just unknowingly dulled the sharp edge of God’s law and prevented it from cutting us open and exposing the wickedness in our hearts. We desperately do not want to be exposed. Let’s keep the sword dull. Sharp edges are scary!
This is the first, internal use of the law of God—to expose us as sinners. Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:8, 9 that the law is not for righteous people to try to keep to follow Jesus, but it is only for sinners, to continually cut them open and expose them daily as those who have broken them all in their hearts. The law becomes a mirror to show fallen sinners that they desperately need a constant, ever-flowing, fresh supply of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. That describes us all, believers or unbelievers.
The prayer of the tax collector in Luke 18:13, “Oh God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” is the only source of that supply, never our obedient conduct. It is not a one-time or occasional prayer after momentous screw-ups, but a moment-by-moment way of life.
So, the first use of the law of God is an internal one, as a mirror to show us our sin and drive us to Jesus and His grace. Next week we will continue to sharpen the law-edge of God’s word by examining the second way He uses His eternal law in our lives.