The Law Is Not Soggy CornFlakes
By Patrick Badstibner
The law drives us to the Gospel. The Gospel saves us from the curse of the law but in turn directs us back to the law to search its spirit, its goodness and its beauty. The law of God is still a lamp unto our feet. Without it we stumble and trip and grope in darkness.” – R.C. Sproul
Grace is one of God’s many characteristics and quite possibly the one that best defines Him. Found both in the law and gospel is God’s love and grace. His grace enables us to live the law, while his gospel declares who we are now in Him, so that we can see in spite of our failure to keep His law perfectly, we’re still one of His children. We’re still the apple of His eye, because we have been given Christ’s merits or earnings. We define grace as God’s unmerited favor. We define gospel as that which he has proclaimed. So, in other words we might say that grace is who He is, how He speaks and what he does.Gospel is that which he has said.
What you believe to be God’s law may be nothing more than what has been presented as man’s understanding of God’s law. In God’s Word we can find a lot of words, but in truth everything God has said in his word can be broken down into two words. Those two words are “Law” and “Gospel.” Now, ask yourself if everything God says can be broken down into two words, shouldn’t we know how to tell the difference? So, let’s see if we can’t make that just a little easier.
“Virtually the whole of the scriptures and the understanding of the whole of theology–the entire Christian life, even – depends upon the true understanding of the law and the gospel.” – Martin Luther
What Is The Law
In simple terms the law is what God has told men to do and what not to do. As a result He enabled him to live in fellowship with Him for all eternity.
In an expanded term it is that which God gives which holds back evil, disorder and brings civility to men. It is that which condemns, accuses and judges. The law, also shows us the character of God, along with how God designed life to work. The law drives us to the beautiful One, the gospel tells us about, and then shows us how to reveal that same beauty to others.
Looking back at that paragraph, we see that the law has three purposes.
- It’s A Mirror – It accuses us and shows us our sin. (Romans 7:7-12; James 1:22-25 )
- Society’s Standard of Conduct – It keeps order in the world. Consider a policeman. (Exodus 20; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 1:2-3)
- A guide for Christians – It teaches us as Christians what we should and should not do to live a God-pleasing life. While there are many passages one could specifically use here a key passage that shows that there is a process and it is indeed like stepping stones is 2 Peter 1:5-8. The guide always demands perfection.
What Does That Mean
It is said that gospel means, “good news” and while the law is definitely not bad news, it brings with it bad news. Because it tells us, that without Christ, just how really rotten we are, how corrupted we are and how miserable we are. Not to mention, it shows us that in God’s eyes we are a horrible, defiled, less than human, zombie of a creature. Thus showing us our need for Christ.
While it continues to bring bad news in our lives as believers, as it reveals to us continually that we keep missing the goal of perfection. Within that bad news is found “good news,” as it now makes us gasp for grace to reach for the gospel, repeatedly. Albeit, it also becomes good news in our lives as believers, as it reveals to us the way to unparalleled joy and life unimagined as we learn to delight in God’s Word, His law, as a perfect guide.
The mirror of the law shatters our self-made images of our preconceived self-importance, goodness, self-righteousness and deflates our egos. As it reveals that, it is not others who abuse, misuse, and are ungrateful for God’s love and grace the most, but ourselves. Only when we remove the law’s demand for perfection, are we able to use it for behavioral modification.
By behavioral modification we mean as a tool by itself, without the gospel, to get others to live differently, do better, be more. In other words; to not abuse, or misuse God’s grace. We do this when we use the moral use of God’s law incorrectly.
No Credit Here
We so desperately want in this life some props, credit for getting something right, for doing something that we can get “attaboys,” “pats on the back” for. None the less, when we look to the law as a perfect guide of the law, we are robbed of all abilities to claim anything as the guide keeps reminding and revealing where we keep falling and forgetting that Jesus forgave us (2 Peter 1:8-9).
The mirror of the law never allows us to misrepresent ourselves either to ourselves or others and always keeps us from putting others down and lifting ourselves up. The minute that we begin to speak of the sins of others before our own, it’s time to ask the mirror who is the fairest of them all, which always points us to the gospel. Because as the mirror answers, “OH, Queen,” “OH, King,” “it is not you, for it is the “Fair One” in you that you see.”
A High View Of God’s Law Creates Affections, Obedience and Joy
If we mix the purpose of the law, we create a blackish law (keeping in mind that the color black is a mixture of all colors combined), which is why it is often like mudpies when we throw the law of God at one another with words like, “Can you believe they are doing that?,” or “No, good Christian acts like that!,” or “How can you call yourself a Christian and live like that?”
These statements, variations, degrees or any sentiments like them reveal a lack of understanding of the distinct purposes of God’s law along with its continued demand for perfection. The law never leaves any believer unaccused, unjudged, or unscathed. It enables Satan to make us active participants in the dream of Martin Luther, in our own dream.
As Satan draws up a list revealing all of our sins and then asks us, “Are you sure God loves a Mess like you?” The law points us to the fact that the only answer, the only hope for the answer to that question does not lie in our abilities, but in that Christ’s blood has purchased the answer to the law’s accusations. Allowing us to return an answer to Satan and others, let me tell you a few more, because In Christ I am “FORGIVEN”. (Romans 5:9; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 1:20; 3:13; Hebrews 9:22; 10:19) .
Let’s Play The Limbo
It is not a view of the law that lowers it, makes it soft and pliable, easy to do that gives us comfort, creates within us a humble spirit (Matthew 5:3) and heart obedience (Romans 6:17) but one that retains a Costly High View of God’s Holy Law.
It is impossible to have a high view of God’s law and a high view of oneself at the same time. The weakness in our understanding of God’s love for us is directly proportional to our understanding of the width between God’s holiness and our sin. As long as we believe that God is accepting our best efforts, we will retain a view of God’s holiness that rarely leaves us broken, tender hearted and crying out to hear the gospel again in order to be relieved from the pressing weight of our sin.
When we mix the law, robbing it of it’s beauty, uniqueness and distinctiveness, the end result is always a softer, kinder, gentler, meeker, more flexible milk toast – kind of law. If it were cereal, it would be corn flakes that have sat in a bowl of milk for a day.
Not to mention that as long as we search for a sense of life in trying to match up, measure up, or live up to a law that enables us to claim some merit or some ability, or some righteousness from it, we will ultimately need to lower the law more and more and effectively we end up playing the limbo with it. Which always results in us cheapening the law or us having a low view of the law that drove Christ to the cross.
The Law’s Real Purpose
This type of law keeps us from really understanding and knowing who God is. Not to mention that it keeps us from understanding what he has said, is the best way to life and to know where we should find our deepest joy. So a softer law, a law that does not keep reminding us of our sin leaves us in the same place that no law does, unable to really discover the source of real joy, real life and to know why we were created. Any time we look at another and point a finger, we have lowered the law, given ourselves some merit, and stated that when Christ said, “It Was Finished,” that we don’t believe him.
It is only as we realize that Christ neither came to remove or change the law or remove its demand for perfection (Matthew 5: 17-48; Romans 3:20-31), that we become grateful and desire to hear again and again and again, the story of our rescue and that our homesickness increases. Only when we have a high view of God’s holiness will we have a High view of God’s law. Such a view will leave us unable to find any hope, righteousness, merit or credit in our ability to live it. This will leave us continuously reaching out for the merit, righteousness and hope found in Christ.
Only a law that reminds us not only of our sin, but of the righteous perfect holy God, reminds of who God is and what he desires and how deeply he loves us. As long as we retain a view of God’s law that resembles soggy corn flakes and a view of the gospel that is no deeper than a puddle, (meaning that the gospel is nothing more than an answer to a question or a decision we need to make, rather than everything from us being brought to Christ to our glorification and everything in between), we will always play T-ball with God’s holiness.
This is why Paul said that He delights in the moral, perfect, demanding, exacting, accusing law of God, as his guide (Romans 7:22), not because he could live it perfectly, boast of any ability to come to the point that he could consciously not sin (2 Corinthians 3:4-6), or no one could see sin in his life (Philippians 3:9), or because he had achieved some level, degree or variance of perfection. Quite the contrary, but because it drove him back to the gospel. Albeit, it should also be said, that he delighted in it because the law also shows us the way to joy unparalleled and life unimagined, as the law reveals to us how the creator, sustainer and the sovereign God designed for life to work.
“The law reflects the parameters of God’s desire—not the parameters of his love. When those two get confused, then the law is used improperly.” – Dr Steve Brown
Stay tuned as we take a look at the gospel in July and August