- We allow young Christians to question whether or not a commandment is a commandment.
- We tolerate people who argue that the Bible is not the Word of God, that it is not authoritative, not binding, and not infallible.
- We debate people over the issue same-sex perversion without communicating that we reject their faith as genuine and view their arguments as a reflection of the spirit of antichrist in nature.
- We even debate whether or not murdering a baby in the womb is a woman’s right as a Christian.
- We tolerate people living together without being married.
- We wink at at-will divorce and refuse to bring discipline to bear on the sin of it.
Saturday, April 11, 2015
The Law of God & Those Who Love It
The influence of antinomianism and of antinomian sympathy in the new American version of Christianity represents a significant threat to how well the Christian Church gives honor to her LORD. False inferences about the place of the Law of God within the New Covenant have led many to create a radically unbiblical dichotomy between genuine Christian faith and commandment keeping. Today, in most American churches, and in the mind of the overwhelming majority of those who profess to know and follow Christ, there is essentially no sense of obligation whatsoever to keep the commandments of God, to know and understand the commandments of God, or to even consider the commandments of God in any way whatsoever. But the New Testament Scriptures, those that come from the pen of God, the Holy Spirit, that originate in Christ, tell a far different story about the place of the Law of God and the commandments of God in the life of the true disciples of Christ. Those who love God will not only love God’s commandments, they will keep them. And those that despise God’s commandments, those who ignore them, those who live a life defined by commandment breaking are described in Scripture as hating God. Those whose lives are defined by commandment breaking, who claim to love God, Scripture says quite emphatically, are liars. What does living the law of God in the life and community of grace actually look like?
The translation, “commandment” appears 145 times in 138 verses in the NASB. In contradistinction to that, grace appears 122 times in 114 verses. I think most people would find this fact stunning since modern American Christians are prone to talk about grace at a ratio no less than 1000:1 in my experience. In fact, if you pay close enough attention to people, even in our conservative, reformed churches, they often recoil at examples of the harshness of divine wrath. But words like righteous, holy, and just are still words that accurately describe attributes of the God revealed in Scripture, the God that is. Contrary to the pop-Christianity of American culture, God is still very interested in whether or not men are keeping His commandments and He is especially concerned when those who claim to love Him hardly give the divine fiat a wink and a nod, all in the name of grace. The notion that Jesus Christ came to correct the Old Testament’s picture of God is modern propaganda at best and a most pernicious deception hoisted on churches by mostly unregenerate pastors hired by mostly unregenerate congregations to tickle their unregenerate ears.
The Greek Imperative
The Greek imperative is used 1621 times in 1198 verses. As I pointed out to “Ted” in my recent exchange with him, the sheer volume of imperatives appearing in the New Testament documents indicate that at the very least, the authors thought they had some sort of authority and they expected their audiences to submit to these imperatives. There isn’t a single book in the entire NT Canon that does not have imperatives in it. The imperative is used 845 times in the gospels. Paul uses it 420 times. The Catholic Epistles employ the imperative 144 times. The Apocalypse uses it on 88 occasions. Finally, Acts contains 124 instances of the imperative. In light of such basic information, it is impossible to read the New Testament without recognizing that these documents consider themselves to be binding on the reader. The Greek imperative, while not always a command, was still the most common use of the imperative in the New Testament. The imperative expresses an attempt to bring about a desired action through the agency of another, that is, to impose one’s will on another or to give another direction. (Young, Intermediate New Testament Greek) Moreover, there were several other constructions used in the New Testament to express the concept of command.Μη with the aorist subjunctive and ου with the future indicative are two other examples. Suffice it to say that the power, authority, and binding nature of Scripture is clearly expressed by Scripture itself. In other words, we don’t need a complex philosophical argument or a logical syllogism to see that the nature of Scripture is that it stands over us with full authority in every sense of the word. Moreover, we do not argue with young believers that the Scriptures are authoritative. We simply teach it ipso facto from what Scripture teaches about itself and expect them to embrace it. We also graciously help the young person understand the consequences of rejecting such basic teachings.
The Commandment and the Christian
With this information in hand, how should Christians understand the divine commandments? How should we view the practice of commandment keeping? I will ask you to do your best to ignore most of what you have heard from modern evangelicals and engage the Scriptures to see what they say about the subject.
Matthew 5:17-20 makes it abundantly clear that Jesus did not come to abolish, destroy, or do away with the Law, but rather to fulfill it. The Law of Moses is to be interpreted through the Christ event for it was to Christ that Moses pointed. Jesus said that the great and foremost commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And the second great commandment is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:37-39) As we study the commandments in Exodus 20, we realize that they are essentially, an explanation of the two great commandments referenced by Christ in the NT. From this we conclude that Jesus was not hostile toward the practice of commandment keeping and in fact, kept the commandments of God and expected His disciples to do the same. Much more could be said about Christ’s commands to His followers, but the nature of blogging just doesn’t support further elaboration on this point.
Finally, we turn to Matthew 28 and Christ’s great commission, which was given directly to his immediate disciples. These original disciples turned apostles with all the author that such a term carries, were commanded to make disciples of all nations as they went out, or as they were going along their way. Second, they were to be baptizing these disciples in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Third, they were to be teaching these new disciples to obey and keep every single commandment He gave them. When was the last time you heard a teacher, preacher, or pastor inform his audience that every Christian has an abiding and urgent obligation in all places and at all times to obey every single commandment that Christ gives us in the New Covenant? Commandment keeping is just as much a part of Christian life as missionary work and as baptism and as Christian teaching. But because of false teachings promulgated by false teachers, grace has been abused and perverted to the point that commandment keeping is no longer part of the Christian culture in most modern American churches.
Paul wrote 13 of the documents that make up the NT Canon. In those 13 documents, he employed the imperative mood 420 times. In 1 Corinthians 7:19, Paul said, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.” When was the last time we heard that what matters is that we fear God and keep His commandments? Paul thought it was important. Jesus taught that it was a non-negotiable. Timothy knew that Paul was serious about commandment keeping when he read, “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Tim. 6:13-14) There is a lot more to this conversation and space dictates that I save that for another time.
If the Scriptures are not authoritative and binding, and they are not the infallible Word of God, then Christianity reduces to just a component of one’s worldview. It may even reflect a large component of a person’s worldview. But it cannot actually be their worldview. It can only be a part of their greater worldview. And that is precisely what we see in men like “Ted.” Men like Ted actually reject God’s word and along with, those commandments that dictate Christian behavior.
I know God is a God of grace as much as anyone. I have sinned against God since I was regenerated 36 years ago in awful ways and far more often than I care to think about. But that is no excise for me or anyone else to toss the ancient non-negotiable Christian practice of commandment keeping out the window. To love law breaking is to hate the law. To love violating God’s commandments is to hate God. Yet, we find ourselves in these quibbles with men like “Ted” who obviously have no use for the God revealed in Scripture, for God’s word, or for the sacred commandments. It is this attitude that we must embrace toward all those who seek to weaken to destroy the grip of Scripture on the life of the Christian.
Spurgeon spoke of this element in his own day, “As for those whose ungodly lives stare them in the face, so far from being saved by their pretended faith, they are trees twice dead, plucked up by the roots. If they say they continue in sin that grace may abound, their damnation is just. The salvation of Christ is not a salvation in sin, but a salvation from sin. They who would be saved by him must come and trust him just as they are, and he will enable them to forsake their sin; but while they continue to say, "We will take pleasure in sin," there is no salvation possible for them. God bring us to Christ, and nail our sins to his cross, and give us life in our Savior's life. Amen.”
Jude warns his readers, “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4)
Returning to Paul, he wrote in another place, “I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced.” (2 Cor. 12:21)