Our lives from beginning to end consist of an endless stream of questions. As children, we assault our parents with questions like, “What does this do?” or “Are we there yet?” As adults the questions continue, but ranger from the mundane (“What should we watch tonight?”) to the serious (“How am I supposed to provide for my family?”) Life is a journey through questions because we have been designed by God to be fascinated by the universe around us. The lies behind the heart of redeemed science; the pursuit of God’s handiwork because the universe is God’s display of His glory, power, and character.
But this majesty of God is not merely bound to the external world. God has done something truly marvelous by placing His Law within every human. As C. S. Lewis once pointed out, this is why children are never taught to cry out “Not fair!” The law, rather than being a mere social construct, or a mere invention of men, the law – a basic sense of right and wrong -is hardwired within us by the wisdom of God. We have an innate knowledge implanted within us by our Creator God.
The Apostle Paul teaches us this in Romans 2:14-15 when he notes that the “law is written on their [that is the Gentiles] hearts…” Why is this the case? Humanity alone bears the image of God (cf. Gen. 1:27). The law itself is a reflection of God’s character and pure holiness. In short, the law etched on every heart is the gift of God.
But so often the law is portrayed in a negative light being contrasted with grace (for example see Romans 6:14; Galatians 3:23). When considered from these texts, the law sounds wholly negative. We might say, “The law is what crushes me!” or “The law reminds me daily of the countless ways I fail God!” This use of the law has often been described in theology as the first use of the of the Law.
Rather than being negative, this first use is absolutely foundational to the Christian faith. Here, we turn to the wisdom of St. Augustine, that ancient pastor of the late 4th century who wrote, “The law orders, that we, after attempting to do what is ordered, and so feeling our weakness under the law, may learn to implore the help of grace.” Every Christian who believes their Bible can celebrate their need for grace! But this is not the only use of the Law.
Here we are drawn to consider the wisdom of Psalm 119 that says, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (v. 18) or “Oh how I love your law!” (v. 97). Sadly, for many Christians today, these words may come across as immature or legalistic. They may contend, “I am no longer under the law, but under grace!” But can such a view make sense of all the Word of God?
Again, we consider the various uses of the law. The first use drives us to despair as we see our need for a savior. The second use has been as a guide to restrain evil in the civil realm. But it is the third use that is explicitly for Christians. What do I mean? The third use of the law is meant to guide Christians, so that we might live in a way that honors God as our act of gratitude for what He has done for us in Christ.
This may sound complicated because the Bible uses the single word “law” in various ways. But our focus as Christians is to always allow Scripture to speak for itself, and allow the context of the text guide our understanding of the text.
What is the bottom line? The believer is called to honor God’s law. Christ does deliver us from the condemnation of the Law. Christ fulfills the entirety of the Mosaic Law in its ceremonies, including suffering its penalties in our place. But Christ does not leave us to figure out how we ought to live as citizens of His kingdom. Theologian John Murray wrote, “Deliverance from the dominion of sin does not leave the person in a vacuum or in a state of neutrality; it is deliverance to if it is deliverance from. And it is deliverance to holiness and righteousness.”
Though obvious, the use of the Law has been forgotten or rejected by many in the American church. Christ has not saved you simply to leave you in a neutral place, primarily because it does not exist. Christ has saved you from sin to holiness. He calls you from your sin to new life with Him. We are so quick to celebrate that Christ forgives us from sin, but have a problem with Christ saving us from a lifestyle of sin. You are called to reflect Jesus. That means living like Christ as we see throughout the New Testament. There is not a rejecting of the law but seeing it in its proper place. For our love for God and our neighbor has clear parameters given to us in the Ten Commandments. Love is not up for our redefinitions. Love is supremely a reflection of the character of God.