Paul's Passing Thoughts

Yes, In Fact, the Law does have the Power to Change Us: Romans 8:2

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 25, 2014

HF Potters House (2)

The confusion concerning sanctification in our day is totally over the top. Sanctification is the Christian life in which we are set apart for God’s purposes. The Bible has been around for a long time; yet, the debate rages. Those who would dare suggest that the Christian can change through obedience to God’s word are quickly muzzled by being accused of “suggesting the law has the power to change people” or “the law of God provides the power to produce what it commands.” These accusations send people running for cover for fear of being labeled a “legalist”, “Pharisee,” or worse.

In all of the discussion, it is assumed that the law has one dimension: that of exposing sin and death. Also, the discussion centers around an ambiguous understanding of what we mean exactly by the term, “law.” The word “law” for all practical purposes refers to the Bible, or the “Scriptures,” or the “law and the prophets,” or merely “law.”

In Matthew 5:17,18, Christ refers to all Scripture canonized at that time as “the law or the prophets.” But then in verse 18, he refers to everything as “the law.” In Luke 24, we have “the prophets” (v.25), “Moses and all the prophets” (v.27), “the Scriptures” (v.32), “the law of Moses, …the prophets…the psalms” (v.44), “the Scriptures” (v.45), “the writings” (v.46),  all used interchangeably in this chapter.

In fact, verse 27 officially calls the whole cannon of that time, i.e., the Old Testament, “the Scriptures.” In the first part of verse 27, Christ refers to the Scriptures as “Moses and all of the prophets.” In the second part of the verse, He calls Moses and all of the prophets “the Scriptures.” It’s all the same . It’s all the “law.”

There is no way you can take the Decalogue (a theological term for the Ten Commandments), the prophets, the psalms, the writings of Moses, or any other segment-like portions of Scripture and relegate it to less significance for faith and order. I even take exception to a present uselessness for parts of the law. Though we would not stone rebellious children in our day, the fact that God at one time commanded his people to do so should teach us how much God loathes rebellion in any form.

Other laws that declared things unclean for that time, but not now; such as, for example, Gentiles, should be instructive as well. Certainly, we are not obligated to the Old Testament Law that commands us to let the poor glean what’s left of our harvested fields, but does it teach us what God expects concerning our attitude towards the poor? Absolutely. Scripture has specific application, general application, and different purposes for different times.

It’s all the same. It’s all “Scripture” with equal authority. According to Matthew, 22:23-33 Jesus argued with the Sadducee’s from the writings of Moses and called it “Scripture.” He even based his argument on the present tense verb “am” to argue for a resurrection. Obviously therefore, technical arguments in regard to truth can be made from the Old Testament alone. Scripture is also called the “law” in Psalms 1:2 and James 1:25. Christ called Scripture “all that I have commanded you” in Matthew 28:20. The apostle Paul proclaimed his writings to be “the commands of the Lord” in 1Corinthians 14:37.

Therefore, “All Scripture” is profitable for the things that make a person of God equipped for every good work (2Timothy 3:16). And Christ said that we don’t live by bread alone, but every word that comes forth from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). When we use the term ‘law” we are really talking about the Bible.

The Bible has two different purposes, or applications: one for the lost, and one for the saved. It has two dynamics in this regard, and that is completely absent from the present-day discussion on sanctification. Your relationship to the law determines your spiritual state before God. By the way, the fact that the law is only discussed from the perspective of a single dynamic should be alarming to us. Let’s begin our study by examining Romans 8:2,

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

If the law does not have the power to change us, we are not free from the law of sin and death. Both words for “law” in this verse are the same:

g3551. νόμος nomos; from a primary νέμω nemō (to parcel out, especially food or grazing to animals); law (through the idea of prescriptive usage), genitive case (regulation), specially, (of Moses (including the volume); also of the Gospel), or figuratively (a principle):— law.

It is this law in Christ that sets us free, that is why James calls it the “law of liberty.”

1:25 – But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

James also stated the practical use of this law as well:

1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

As did Christ:

Matthew 7:24 – “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Clearly, in any discussion these days about sanctification, only our relationship to “the law of sin and death” is discussed as if that is the only law; this is very telling. This defines Christians as yet being under that law and not free from it. Hence, lots of verbal wrangling about how Christians make some sort of a relationship with that law and sanctification. Ironically, being under that law is the very definition of a lost person:

Romans 6:12 – Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

The problem with only recognizing one law is invariably, in one way or the other, “Christians” remain under law and not under grace. You have to be under one or the other. Clearly, the Reformers kept Christians under the law, and concocted a formula that fulfilled the demands of the law of sin and death through faith only in the idea that Christ fulfilled it. They say themselves that the law is God’s “standard of righteousness.” This is otherwise known as the “third use of the law.” Not so, the law of the Spirit of life is the standard of righteousness, which by the way is love, and also known as the law of Christ (Gal 6:2). To be under grace is to be under the law of Christ and fulfilling it.

This is the law that Christ came to fulfill, NOT the law of sin and death. He came to fulfill the law of love through us (compare Matt 5:17 and Rom 8:4). It’s peculiar; the Reformed ESV translation adds the word “requirement” to Romans 8:4. Why? Because they assert that there is only one law and that it “requires” perfection as a standard for righteousness. This is only true for those who are under it. For those under grace, that law is ended (Rom 10:4). Many assert that the law of sin and death is not ended and must be fulfilled by Christ for us through faith in the cross alone. As I have said before, this idea asserts that there is life in the law of sin and death if it is kept perfectly; viz, “fulfilled.” Galatians 3:21makes it clear that there is not a law that can give life regardless of who keeps it.

But as we shall see, “walking in the Spirit” does give life, and that is obedience to the law of the Spirit of life. We may aggressively pursue obedience to this law, which is the Spirit’s counseling book, because it has nothing to do with our justification. We are sanctified with the word of truth (John 17:17). What is that? That is the law of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). Yes, disobedience brings present consequences, but our sins are not increasing an eternal judgment because we are no longer under that law. Hence, this is why Paul states in our verse at hand, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Be sure of this: making the Bible ONE law is at the core of ALL the confusion over sanctification in our day, and yes, it has gospel consequences. UNDER LAW is under law no matter who keeps it. This is Galatians 5. In the early 70’s when the Australian Forum was reeducating the church in regard to what the Reformers really believed about the law, Jon Zens contacted Robert Brinsmead, the brainchild of the Forum, and warned him that the new resurgence was in jeopardy because of this flawed theological math. Together, they came up with what is known today as New Covenant Theology. Seeing the problem with Christians still being under law, and only under grace because Jesus keeps the law for us, known as the active obedience of Christ, or double imputation, NCT concurs that the law is ended, and replaced with the “single law of love” determined and ruled by one’s conscience.

This is an attempt to take the apostle Paul’s concept of the biblically trained conscience according to rules and make it a law unto itself. In the final analysis, the standard of love is what everyone sees as right in their own eyes. But actually, not any different than authentic Reformed doctrine, NCT makes pastors the final authority on what the right application of love is in any given situation. I have seen this in action in real life and in real time. In arguing for a right position on a certain topic, Reformed pastors who hold to NCT have said to me, my conscience and that of the elder board are clear on this matter. Remember that we learn from the apostle Paul that a clear conscience does not always mean we are right.

You might say that NCT is closer to the truth because it endorses an ending of the law of sin and death as opposed to a fulfillment of it, but the application is an ambiguous standard in regard to what walking in the Spirit is. Rather than a grammatical obedience to the law as acts of love towards God and others, it is a “guiding” of the Spirit according to how one feels.

Therefore, actual guidelines, or a grammatical interpretation does not transcend the ending of the one law to the other. In fact, both camps hold to a redemptive interpretation rather than a grammatical one resulting in even more confusion! In the one camp, we must live by faith alone in our Christian life so that Christ will continue to fulfill the law of sin and death for us in order to keep us justified. In the other camp, we must be “led by the Spirit” apart from a literal interpretation of the Scriptures. Either way, the means is the same: every verse in the Bible is about the cross, and the meditation thereof yields the results of the Spirits work completely apart from anything we do.

Please note that one of the most popular applications is the view that the two “laws” in Romans 8:2 are two laws of nature or two realms. The very definition of salvation is positional only in regard to one of these two realms. If you are unsaved, you are only pressured by the “law of sin” that is like the law of gravity. If you are saved, you feel the force of both realm and at any given time “yield” to one or the other. This is determined by the degree of grace given to us by the Spirit at any given time. In essence, he determines whether we obey or not, and thus, “the Christian life is as much of grace as our original salvation.” Please understand that this view is VERY popular in both camps.

While the propagators claim that those who disagree with them are guilty of being the Judaizers that Paul argues against in Galatians, the extreme opposite is true. The prevailing gospel of our day is the Galatian problem all over again with Galatians 5 being paramount and 5:7 being the crux:

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?

If you look to what Paul said prior to this statement, it makes my point, but note that living by the law of the Spirit of life involves an obedience to a truth.

Nothing is changed in our day—the goal is to separate us from running well in obeying the law of the Spirit of life.

A related conversation: 

 BM 1

BM 2

BM 3

BM 4

BM 5

BM 6

BM 7

Addendum:

BM 8

BM 9

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One Response

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  1. paulspassingthoughts said, on May 25, 2014 at 5:35 PM

    Reblogged this on Clearcreek Chapel Watch.

    Like


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