Wednesday, October 10, 2012

AMAZING GRACE

In the history of the Church the message of the gospel has often been won or lost at various times with the battle being centered on two extremes, either one of which is heretical and will deprive the gospel of its content and its power as a message of redemption. So both heresies are equally dangerous and damning. I want to address those two heresies. 

The first of those extremes is when our message becomes simply one of moralism. That is conforming to certain principles of behavior as right or wrong and having our spirituality measured by those standards. Paul the Apostle spent much of his time in the New Testament tearing down the message of principled behavior being the measure of our lives when he repeatedly told the Jews that even The Law Of Moses wasn't the standard by which they were to be redeemed OR measured after salvation. That Law was the school master to drive them to the way of redemption, which was a Person. Paul's brilliant declaration of this fact is recorded in his letter to the Galatians, particularly chapters 3-5.

Interestingly enough, this same heresy seems to capture the minds of some who have professed faith in Christ. [Paul found the same problem with those early believers to whom he wrote.] They somehow seem convinced that it is now their job to attain their sanctification by that same moralistic principled way of measuring life. ["If I, when I, because I, THEN, He will.."]

Paul challenged the Galatians to remember that their sanctification was found in the same person from whom they received their salvation and that they were to walk in sanctification in the same faith by which they were redeemed. Remembering this would deliver them from thinking that their life was to be somehow measured by post-salvation law-keeping and remind them that it was, in fact, to be evidenced by a genuine law of love. [Galatians 5:1-14]

Moralism, either before or after salvation, is dangerous and damning for real Christianity. It is heretical.

A second heresy that is just as dangerous and damning is what is popularly called, in theological terms, antinomianism. [No Law or lawless] This is the idea that there are no claims for obedience once you are a Christian and because of grace there is no standard for behavior at all. Some would admit to the fact that the gospel does make demands upon sinners as seen in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9, Romans 1:5; 16:26 and other places where it calls upon them trust His atoning work and under His Lordship, become His disciples. But they then attempt to diminish having any standard of behavior as not possible post-salvation for grace to be real. They mistake grace as a license to do whatever they please with no consequenses 

This may be because they know our present society isn't interested in anyone telling them what to do, so, in their way of thinking, subtle though it be, we must adapt our message of the gospel to rule out any standard demanded of those that believe. An easy-believism is the result because the voice heard delivering the message now does so with no authority to it and no power in it. [This because the gospel is lost.] This is both dangerous and damning in its consequences. 

The problem lies in knowing which commands are really for believers and why we obey them AND why the commands of the Law of Moses and obedience to them post-salvation are not those commands.  It's a big problem but one that needs to be faced and understood.There is a genuine standard and law for believers and it found, as always, in the Person of Christ. He IS our Sanctification and He IS our Law-giver.

I'm going to use one verse to illustrate the difference in both the standard, which is new, and the motive, which is new also, for keeping the New Covenant standard for believers. The principle found in this illustration will hold for all commands in that New covenant relationship we have with the Person of Christ, who is our Lord.

John 13:34 states clearly that Jesus is giving a NEW commandment. It says,,."A new commandment I give unto you; That you love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another."

How is it that He calls this a "new" commandment when it was clearly stated in Leviticus 19:8, by Moses, that Israel was to love their neighbors as themselves? Jesus even repeated this Old Covenant commandment of Moses when questioned about the greatest of the commandments in Matthew 22:40. "To love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and your mind and your neighbor as yourself. On this hangs all the law and the prophets." It is quite obvious that loving your neighbor is an old commandment.

But what we have here, when understood, is quite revealing. It is this..

The commandment of Moses is__"Love your neighbor as yourself."

The commandment of Christ is__"Love one another as I have loved you."

So a new twist, even a bit of an unusual novelty [having no precedent] is found here by Jesus introducing Himself as the standard for love. The old criterion had been "as you love yourself." But the New Commandment from the New Lawgiver uses the love of Christ Himself," as I have loved you," as the new model.

We wind up with..

One___A new Lawgiver___Christ Himself.
Two___A new Law___Love as we're loved.
Three__A new motive__Because He's loved us we love.
Four___A new power__His love is shed abroad through us by the Holy Spirit. [Romans 5:5]

It really is true that, as the American Standard says, "Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new." [11 Corinthians 5:17]

So, when that Spirit enters us, His first work is.."The love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which was given unto us." [Romans 5:5]  What He gives us is not only the understanding of how greatly God loves us and the faith to receive it, but something almost as wonderful. He gives us the Love of God, as a genuine spiritual existence, as a Living Power, in our hearts. It cannot be otherwise, for as Andrew Murray says...

"The outpouring of the Spirit is the in-pouring of Love. This Love now possesses our heart: that one same Love with which God loves Jesus, and ourselves, and all His children, and which overflows to all the world, is within us, and is, if we know Him, and trust Him, and give up to Him, the power for us to live love too."

Our law is the law of love. And love will refrain from committing adultery with another man's wife, stealing his property, lying, and all the other things that damage relationships. When we do violate that standard of behavior, and we do, we will be broken and in confession admit it because of our love for Him. But it is His love that is our law.

Both moralism and antinomianism are heresies and are both dangerous to the gospel. Never forget that salvation by grace is not a salvation without demands. But that salvation and the consequential demands upon a disciple are fulfilled in a person who, as we discover how much He loves us, [or forgives, etc.]  we also are commanded to, desire to, and are empowered to love others. [And forgive, etc.]  And it is totally by grace through faith apart from any merit of any kind.

All the law and the prophets are fulfilled in the Person of Christ.

In summary...We died when He died and we were raised when He was raised so that we now have a new relationship with Him. It's a love relationship. This love relationship is what Christianity is all about. Christianity is not a religion, it's not doing something, but it's knowing someone. [1 John 2:3-4]  It is neither a set of rules as a system of morality, nor the absence of a standard. It's a unique love relationship with a Person who is the Son of God which impacts everything in life. [John 17:3]

 It is truly amazing Grace.

Paul B.


6 comments:

Aussie John said...

Paul,

What a blessing to read someone who understands the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.

What a joy to see the heretical nature of both moralism (a hostility arousing burden of doing and not doing), and antinomianism (a directionless wilderness) declared. What misery both cause.

As you say," It is truly amazing Grace."

Within the limits of our humanity, how else could it be said?

And yet,what an understatement that is, as a description of the enormity of what God has done in Jesus Christ!!

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

Your comment reminds me how I'm convinced that what I'm about to say is valid.

I'm thinking that it is a total lack of understanding of the New Covenant, as you and I seem to be seeing it, that is the real problem behind so much of the rancor that pervades the Church today.

Not that we're alone in our understanding, far from it! There are many who do recognize its reality.

But it does seem to me that the arguments that rage between Calvinists, Arminians, Charismatics, Patriarchals, Complementarians, etc., all have something that drives them EXCEPT the New Covenant made with us by the One who is our Lord and sealed with His blood.

So there is quarreling over law, grace, works, gender, gifts, and even numerous lesser issues because His covenant work is really the grounds for understanding it all.

I could be wrong here, but when I came to truly see and understand the NC, it changed my previously held view on almost EVER other issue.

Just my thoughts, and thanks for continually reminding me of that fact with your zeal for the reality of the New Covenant we have in Christ.

Aussie John said...

Paul,

"... but when I came to truly see and understand the NC, it changed my previously held view on almost EVERY other issue."

You're so right! Because now, the focus is on Jesus Christ, and not the jealousies of our particular brand names and personally sanctified hobby horses.



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Ginklestinker said...

Thanks for emphasizing this profound truth which focuses our attention on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 1Cor9:20-21 "Though I myself am no longer under the law, I set myself under the law , so as to win those under the law. Though I am not without God's law, but under the law of Christ,to those not having the law I became like one not having the law, so as to win them". Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice.... and follow me".(John 10:3-5). Long before the Mosaic covenant was cut, The Lord said: "Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge my commandments, my statutes and my laws". (Gen 26:5).The purpose of the law of Moses was to confirm our complete alienation from God and our utter hopelessness. This situation called for us to put our faith in the saving power of the Living God,as provided for in the New Covenant.And from there , we live by trust in the grace of God as set out in Romans 8.

Ginklestinker said...

Paul, you will find the hymn written by Charles Wesley, 'Lord from whom all blessings flow',is in full soul agreement with your blog. Quote:"Love..hath..rendered all distinctions void; names and sects, and parties fall, thou ,O Christ art All in all ". Andrew Murray has written a booklet on the Two Covenants, in his usual spiritually perceptive way, and I find it a blessing to dip into it frequently. Many appreciate your promotion of the sound, biblical hermeneutics that elevates the divine person and atoning work of Jesus Christ, the redeemer who sets us free to follow him.