The Standard of the Law
This post is part of our discussion on the law. Bruce Epperly’s article on the lectionary for the third Sunday in Lent was cited as a related article.
This is a response to Bruce Epperly post titled “The Adventurous Lectionary -The Third Sunday in Lent” found here
I want to thank Bruce for laboring over this article. Bruce’s article contains a lot of sound wisdom and encouragement. Alas, though, I do have some concerns. Let me start first, though by Despite all the things that brought that encouragement for me in Bruce’s words. Let’s start right at the beginning.
Let me quote my Kenyan pastor friend, Joseph Koech, “Amina,” regarding this statement; “Awe and gratitude lead to a joyful life and enable our words and meditations to bring healing and wholeness to the world. God intends…in our personal and public lives.”
There are many points I agree with here and find encouraging.
I do have a few concerns, though, and an interesting thought. Let me start with my concerns. Though I find agreement within the following statement, I also want to stress that a note of importance goes along with this statement from my viewpoint.
“Calls forth our fidelity and relationship with God and each other.”
Needed here is a concerted effort to stress that God’s covenants are self-contained, meaning that God establishes covenants based on His character. He is faithful to keep his covenants because it pleases and glorifies him to do so. While they should elicit a response from us, they are independent of that response.
The absence of this truth leads one to believe in a God whose actions are not sovereignly self-determinative but reliant on the created’s actions. Hosea chapter 3 and Romans chapters 8-11speak contrary to this. This concern may or may not have led to my next concern.
I was perplexed using; “the people need to live up to the values of holiness.” If by “need to,” Bruce means to encourage the right response, then I can say, “Amina,” but if Bruce by “need to,” we have to do these to keep the right relationship or favor with God, then I merely echo Paul’s words in Galatians 2:14-21. While we are still under a covenant of works with our fellow man, we have been under a covenant of grace since Genesis 3, after the fall. Not to mention that the standard is one impossible to live.
I would have liked to have seen clarity here by stressing the standard for these same commandments: is not try hard, do your best, or give it all you got. Instead, the standard is found in the; “all” of Deuteronomy 6:5, the “Be Perfect” of Matthew 5:48, the “all” of 1Corinthians 10:31, and the “Be Holy” of 1Peter 1:16 as it is this standard that gives credence to the impossibility of the Law’s demand. An impossibility that led Paul to say as much in Romans 3:23, a standard that settles for nothing short of complete and utter heart-motivated perfect obedience
There is no freedom in living to sustain a rightness or to stay in good favor with God. Such freedom is found living in response to the knowledge of the truth found in Galatians 4. Where I find I have gone from slave to child through no effort on my behalf. I’m blessed to call Almighty God Abba because of the actions of another.
In this way, we see that the deliverance of the Israelites is a typology of Christ, pointing to our redemption. Before God gave a single command, He established without a shadow of the doubt that the people were to live from knowing He was their God (Exodus 20:2). They did not confirm this. He did. Just as today, as Paul reveals throughout Galatians that God, through the cross, establishes this about us, and we live in response.
Now I’m free to follow the wonderful encouragement Bruce gave not because I “need to,” but because it is the only right response. When my choice to live according to the encouragement Bruce gave is not a response to perfect love, it possibly leads to my last point.
I wonder if our surprise at this truth “how many lies I hear invoked by political pundits, politicians, and posts on Facebook” doesn’t reveal something more about us than them (Romans 2:1-5). I question myself every time I am shocked by the sins of another. I wonder if it doesn’t reveal a misunderstanding of God’s moral, eternal, and natural Law. A Law that tells us that Jeremiah (Jeremiah 17:9) was right and that our hearts are no different than the Jewish believers whose hearts Paul addressed in Romans 1-3.
I realize that Paul’s lament in Romans 7:14-24 is my own, and finding agreement with Chesterton in that “I Am” what is wrong with the world, I am less stunned. When I’m surprised by the wickedness in the world, I realize I’m being awakened to the remaining self-righteousness in me. This then helps me understand that there is a reason why the word labor was used in John 6:29.
Other than then these concerns, I find, as shared, encouragement in Bruce’s words.
Thanks again, Bruce.