carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
The Issues and Elements of Worshipping God
Part 4 – The Declaration of God’s Law
Have you ever hung curtains? You drill holes in the wall and set the brackets with screws, and then you hang the curtain on the brackets. The brackets are not what you are wanting to look at and yet they are so absolutely vital. That is the very thing Jesus has in mind in Mt. 22:37-40:
Jesus said to him, “’You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
Loving God and loving your neighbor isn’t the “boiled down” essence of the law of God, they are the vital elements that hold up the entire law of God in your life.
But it is the law itself that is meant to be displayed. Just like those curtains we want to show off, the law of God is meant to be seen and appreciated, known and practiced.
Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. (Ps. 1:1-2)
But what part of the law is this speaking of? It isn’t the ceremonial aspect of God’s law. Christ satisfied that completely in his offering up of himself on the cross as a sacrifice in our place. We are not to offer other sacrifices in worship, honor the old, holy days of Judaism, or even observe the covenant sign of circumcision. That is all past, as a shadow gives way to reality (rf. Heb. 10:1ff)
And it isn’t the civil aspect of the law either. Those particulars which dealt with judicial legislation were directly associated with the unique theocracy of ancient Israel – as a nation directly under the rule of God himself – a relationship that passed away with the punishment of the exile, and which won’t be established again until the return of King Jesus.
But the moral aspect of the law is different – it is as old as creation itself and is, indeed, part of creation itself. And this law shall not pass away until heaven and earth themselves pass away (Mt. 5:18). This is the law that is to be put into our minds and written on our hearts (Jer. 31:31) by the Spirit of God, by the preaching and teaching of the Word and by our own searching for His will in our lives.
It is the Moral Law that is summarized for us in the Ten Commandments and they are forever valid and instructive to us as Christians. The law of God is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps. 119:105).
First, it is the Moral law that gives us the very definition of sin. We know we are sinners because we have broken God’s law (Rom. 7:7-12). This objective truth is what keeps the Christian faith from becoming obscure and merely relative. It is being confronted with God’s law that leads us to see our sin, become filled with grief and hatred of it, gain a heart’s desire for repentance and a crying out to God for His mercy. Without the gospel, the Moral law would still condemn us and under its judgment – and rightly so – and we would have no hope.
But second, it is the Moral Law that points us to Christ. He is the very image of sinless man and the sign by which we recognize his role as Savior and Messiah. And it is only when we realize that He, being perfect, came for us sinners, we are struck with the wonder of His love. Then, when we reject our own efforts and confess His name and place our faith, hope and trust in Him we realize that His sacrifice for us frees us from the condemnation of God’s holy and spiritual law (Rom. 7:14) and we can rejoice in how Christ satisfies and fulfills God’s law completely in our place.
And then, third, it is the Moral Law that gives us new hope, direction and zeal by which to live. What does it mean to be Christ-like, to grow in sanctification (holiness)? It means to grow an inner love for the law of God as Jesus himself had (Jn. 4:34), that which gives us our duty and responsibility as believers. The longest Psalm in the Psalter is Psalm 119 – a psalm written out of praise and wonder at the law of God. This wasn’t written out of the heart of one coerced or threatened unto obedience or out of some mistaken notion of salvation by mere works. This long psalm is sung out of a heart of appreciation for the benefits and blessings of following God’s law throughout life.
How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You! (Ps. 119:9-11)
We include the reading of God’s Moral Law in our worship service on a regular basis – sometimes reading the Ten commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, or from the Psalms that hold the law of God up before us. In doing this, God is speaking to all of us – calling unbelievers to fear for their lives, abandon their self-hope and repent, calling believers to renew their faith and hope in Christ as their only path to salvation, and calling the saints everywhere to be instructed in the direction of their obedience and service to the increase of glory to God and the blessing to their lives, their families, and to the Church of Jesus Christ for the coming generations.
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the
David G. Barker, 2003
|David G. Barker