Nothing is as useless as a kitchen knife with a dull blade. The same is true of the word of God, the sword of the Spirit, Who resides in our hearts as we live here on the earth. If our swords are not sharp, we will not be effective in the spiritual battles we face every day in the world.
Several weeks ago, we discussed the fact that in the Bible the word of God is said to have two edges: “Out of [Jesus’] mouth went a sharp two-edged sword” (Revelation 1:16); “These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword” (Hebrews 2:12); – “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand” (Psalm 149:6); – “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12).
I believe these two edges of the sword of the word of God represent the two distinct messages God speaks to us in the Bible—GOD’S LAW to tell us what we should do, and GOD’S GRACE to tell has what He has already done. Sharpening our swords involves clearly understanding these two messages and then carefully distinguishing between them, enabling us to be able to use our swords effectively.
A warrior loves his sword, for he knows his very life depends on it, so he constantly checks its readiness for battle. As warriors in the battle to extend the kingdom of God over the earth, our swords inevitably grow dull. This blog is dedicated to keeping the two edges on the sword you are wielding in the battle, the word of God, the sword of the Spirit, razor sharp. So, I want to look at each edge carefully, the law of God and the grace of God, and how to keep them sharp.
Each edge serves entirely different purposes in entirely different ways. The law functions horizontally in our relationships on the earth; grace functions vertically in our relationship with God. The law exposes us as sinners; grace covers us with forgiveness. The law says “Do;” grace says “Done.” The law says, “Guilty;” grace says “Innocent.” Could there be two more different twins, both carrying out absolutely essential missions in the battle?
Let’s look at each of the two edges and their necessary, legitimate tasks in our lives.
Paul says, “But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully” (1 Timothy 1:8), implying that there is a way to use the law that is not good but actually unlawful or illegitimate. He proceeds to then say in verse 9 “The law is not made for a righteous person but for . . . “ and continues by listing a litany of sins, most of which we do not practice, as we proudly reassure ourselves.
However, when we are not living by faith in the Holy Spirit within to lead us as little children, these sins, buried in our hearts, begin to manifest themselves in our lives—in thought, word and deed. We look just like the non-Christians around us. There are two legitimate, biblical uses of the law that lead Paul says are “lawful” and lead to righteous living. This week we will look at the first one.
1. The law of God as my external guard. Paul tells us in Galatians 3:23: “But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.” Whoever, Christian or non Christian, is not walking by faith in the Spirit within needs to be “kept under guard by the law” until that faith becomes a reality.
It has been recognized in the church down through the ages that this is the first function of the law. This has nothing whatsoever to do with one’s vertical relationship with God. That is a matter of the heart. This is an issue of external, physical behavior only. There are two areas in society that immediately come to mind where this external guard is necessary.
The first is the civil government. All societies must have some civil law in order to survive. How does a society function when it is made up of desperately wicked sinners whose behavior must be controlled in order to preserve that society? It survives only as long as their external conduct, their horizontal relationships here on earth, are guarded or regulated by laws that define what is acceptable behavior in that particular society. So, the first external use of the law of God is as a foundation for civil law in the society.
The second obvious external use is in the family. The family is the basic building block of any society, and the guarding function of God’s law must initially be expressed there if a society is to survive. We are to bring up our children in the “training and admonition of the Lord,” (Ephesians 6:4), not simply meet their physical needs for food, shelter and clothing.
Parents’ failure to do this with their children places an impossible burden on the state—it must “start from scratch” to punish and protect (its only biblical mandate) untrained children who are now adults. The violent and practically ungovernable urban communities in our larger cities are testimony to the difficulty of this assignment.
So, God gave His law to parents to use as a basis for training their children—addressing their innate rebellion, building biblical character into their lives, and providing a nurturing atmosphere of love and acceptance where these parenting tasks can be accomplished.
My book, The Family, God’s Weapon for Victory, available on this web-site, addresses in detail what the Bible says about how to accomplish this crucial parental mission.
Today we have discussed the first legitimate use of law of God as an external guard to keep us until faith comes; next week we will discuss the second, legitimate use of the law— an internal guide, a schoolmaster, to lead us to faith. Is your sword getting sharper? Tune in next week.