Uses of the Law in the Church (1)
The Law of God in the Life of the Church (11)
Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. Romans 3:31
Paul had just completed a summary argument against the idea that people can be saved by keeping the Law of God. This is what certain Jewish sects were teaching in his day, and Paul denied such teaching vigorously. Men cannot by their own efforts at keeping the Law of God attain the righteousness necessary for finding acceptance with God. Only Jesus Christ can provide that; we are saved, Paul insisted, by clinging to Jesus and appropriating, by grace through faith, His righteousness as our own.
That being the case, it might seem that there is no place for the Law of God in the life of the believer or his church. Immediately Paul moves to disabuse his readers of any such notion. “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith?” he asks. And then answers emphatically, “By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” But uphold it for what purposes, Paul?
In Romans 7 Paul explains three uses of the law in the life of the believer. I know that some will argue that, in Romans 7, Paul is describing his pre-Christian experience. But this argument derives, I believe, from a predisposition against the Law of God as having any abiding validity in the life of the believer or the Church. If we let Paul speak for himself, he doesn’t appear to be describing a past experience in this chapter; all the crucial verbs are in the present tense. He’s talking about his ongoing experience as a believer, and anyone who reads this passage for its plain meaning can certainly identify with what the apostle describes.
What, then, are the uses of the Law of God, as Paul outlines them in Romans 7? Let’s consider the first one here.
First, the Law of God is useful to define the nature of sin and to alert the believer or the congregation to its presence (Rom. 7:7). Remember, the Spirit of God is at work within us, to make us willing and able to be pleasing to God. A central part of His work is to convict us of sin (John 16:8-11), which He does by shining the pure light of the Law of God on the dark recesses of our souls. Paul says we’ll never know what sin is, or be aware of its presence, if we refuse to subject our souls to the searchlight of God’s Law.
The first line of defense, then, against unrighteousness and quenching the Spirit is to become better acquainted with the Law of God, for by the Law of God comes the knowledge of sin.
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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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