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Guided by Faith – Uses of the Law: To Engage God’s Spirit (3)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011, 0:01
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Guided by Faith

Uses of the Law: To Engage God’s Spirit (3)

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 1 Timothy. 1:3, 4

If we would be good stewards of God’s Word, able to understand and practice its teaching as God intends, we must be students of His Law, for the Law provides the cornerstone of all Scripture.

But this does not mean that our understanding of the Law is achieved apart from the rest of Scripture. Paul insists that our stewardship of God’s Word depends on faith, and faith comes by hearing all the counsel of God in Scripture (Acts 20:26; Rom. 10:17). We can only exercise a strong and growing faith, and thus understand the Law of God as we should, to the extent that we are well versed in all of Scripture.

The Holy Spirit, Who is charged with teaching us the deep things of God, does so, as Paul explains, by comparing spiritual things with spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:12, 13—see ESV margin). He leads us back and forth through the Word of God, according to careful analysis and sound reasoning, so that we can understand the true purpose of God in every part of Scripture and in Scripture as a whole.

This is simply to say that, just as we cannot understand the Word of God apart from a good understanding of God’s Law, we cannot fully understand the purpose of the Law without also understanding the rest of God’s Word. For example, if we read the Law by itself alone, we might get the idea that God intends us to continue offering animal sacrifices indefinitely. But the writer of Hebrews explains that the primary purpose of these, while valid in their literal use in their particular time, was to point forward to Jesus Christ and the full and complete redemption He would accomplish by His own sacrifice on the cross (Heb. 7-10).

Or we might, reading the Law in isolation from the rest of Scripture, get the idea that we should stone recalcitrant children and Sabbath-breakers. Such instruction had its place in ancient Israel, before the outpouring of God’s Spirit, Who enables us to know transformed hearts and lives. But in our day, these practices must be reconsidered in the light of the Church’s calling as the agent of the Kingdom of God’s grace. The Church does not bear the sword, but ministers the grace of Christ. These laws still have their use, but only as properly understood within the present age (cf. 1 Cor. 5).

This going back and forth from the Law to all the rest of Scripture and back to the Law again, in order to understand the Law, so that we might then be good stewards of God’s Word—this discipline is referred to as the analogy of Scripture. By this discipline we allow the entire Word of God to teach us how to understand each section and particular text, and each section and text to play its part in helping us to understand the whole counsel of God. So we need to know the Law in order to practice the analogy of Scripture, and we need the analogy of Scripture in order to understand the Law of God according to the demands of faith.

They who refuse thus to hear the Word in faith are in danger of swerving from sound doctrine.

For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the life of faith, get The Ground for Christian Ethics by going to and click on our Bookstore, then Church Issues.

In the Gates is a devotional series on the Law of God by Rev. T.M. Moore, editor of the Worldview Church. He serves as dean of the Centurions Program of the Wilberforce Forum and principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He is the author or editor of twenty books, and has contributed chapters to four others. His essays, reviews, articles, papers, and poetry have appeared in dozens of national and international journals, and on a wide range of websites. His most recent books are The Ailbe Psalter and The Ground for Christian Ethics (Waxed Tablet).

Scripture quotations in this article are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, (c) copyright 2001, 2007 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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