Paul's Passing Thoughts

It Takes an Atheist to Ask the Right Question: What is the Spirit’s Two Uses of the Law?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 8, 2015

ppt-jpeg4This post was prompted by a challenge I received from Facebook dialogue. I can’t say for sure that the person is actually an atheist, but he seems to be at least anti-Christian. At any rate, his question, though a question in the form of a challenge, is the kind of questions that I wish Christians would ask.

One of the biggest problems we have in Christianity today is the assumption that the Reformers did us all a big favor by organizing the Bible into chapters and verses. It is stunning to realize that Christians read the Scriptures without such divisions until the 14th century. Unfortunately, such indexing enables people to skip context entirely and lay claim to orthodoxy based on a pile of single verses. Church historian John Immel has coined this “Scripture stacking.”

Often, the challenge of contesting chapter/verse indexing is daunting. While one verse can seem to plainly state an orthodox principle, it may take an immense exegesis to properly explain a given verse in context. This is why many isolated verses in the Bible seem to clearly contradict other isolated verses; chapter/verse indexing eliminated an emphasis on context. Without verse indexing, context is the emphasis by default, not isolated verses.

But what is most disturbing follows: Christians never ask leaders to reconcile these contradictions which are in fact contradictions when considered as isolated verses only. While the apparent contradictions demand an explanation, very few Christians, including pastors, are asking.  But it is a good thing that atheists are, and I insist that this is why atheism is on the rise; Christians can’t answer the questions.  In fact, they don’t even know what the right questions are.

If one does not understand the Holy Spirit’s two uses of the law, the Bible will appear to be fraught with contradictions. As a longtime Christian who was always respected as a Bible teacher wherever I showed up, the Bible was mostly confusing to me. Deep down, I knew I understood little about the Bible. That all changed in 2011 when I did an independent pondering of Paul’s epistle to the Romans. That’s when I learned from the Bible what the key is to understanding most of it: the Spirit’s two uses of the law, and by law, I mean the Bible.

In context of the Spirit’s two uses of the law, words like judgment, condemnation, law, love, fear, sin, forgiveness, salvation, redemption, grace, sanctification, to name a few, must be qualified by context. In particular, the word “salvation” does not always mean salvation; it may be referring to redemption which is not the same thing depending on the context.

The Spirit’s two uses of the law is where home fellowships part with the institutional church. At issue is a proper assessment of the true gospel. The same Bible that saved us is not the same Bible that sanctifies us, but it is the same Bible. In context, that is NOT a contradiction; pastors and Christians have to get this. I have told many pastors this to their faces (and will continue to do so), until you understand the Spirit’s two uses of the law, get out of the ministry because you are wholly unfit and are leading your people in bondage under the law. Why is the church a train wreck? Simple: a single perspective on law. Moreover, single verse indexing makes the selling of this single perspective possible.

But let us now get to the question/challenge:

“Love me.” -God.

“Fear me.” -God.
“There is no fear in love.” -God.

Paradoxical contradiction.

Right, those are all verses in the Bible, and when isolated as verses, plain contradictions. Even if Christians where thoughtful enough to ask their pastors to clarify this contradiction, they either wouldn’t know, or the answer would make you grimace. So, here is the biblical answer according to context.

When God commands us to love him, He is speaking in regard to one of the Spirit’s two uses of the law—in regard to sanctification. The Spirit uses the Bible to sanctify the believer (John 17:17). This use of the law only pertains to believers; they are under grace, and IN a loving relationship with God. To love God as a Christian, you learn the Bible and obey it. This also gives more and more life to the believer (Ephesians 6:1-3 among many examples).

This brings us to a linchpin in the conversation: the Bible calls on unbelievers to fear, and Christians to fear, but these are two totally different fears. Let’s speak of the unbeliever’s fear first: this is fear of eternal condemnation. Now we can also include the fact that “sin” in the Bible doesn’t always speak of the same sin. For the unbeliever, sin is entirely different than sin committed by believers. The unbeliever sins against God’s law of sin and death, and this leads to eternal condemnation. The law of sin and death is the other use of the law by the Spirit; he uses it to condemn the world and warn it of the judgment to come (John 16:8). This is the law of sin and death.

This is why Christ died on the cross: to END the law of sin and death FOR those who believe (Romans 10:4). Hence, unbelievers are under law and not under grace (Romans 6:14). But, under grace does not mean that Christians are under no law, they are under the Spirit’s law of life (Romans 7:6 and 8:2). This means believers can use the Bible to please God and love Him and others. Aside from the fact that unbelievers are indifferent to the Bible, all it can do is condemn them. However, for the believer, there is NO fear (that is, fear of condemnation) in love because fear has to do with judgment (1John 4:16-19). Christians are marked by a love for the Bible, but before conversion they were indifferent to it or outright hostile (2Thess 2:10, Psalm 119).

So why should Christians fear? Because their sin is family sin against the Father, and God chastises those He loves (Hebrews 12:6ff., Proverbs 3:12, Revelation 3:19). God takes family sin seriously, therefore, judgment (here meaning chastisement) begins in the household of God (1Peter 4:17). Christians can get a little flippant about love because they are not under law and its condemnation, and God can correct that attitude in ways that gets people’s attention (Acts 5:1-11 1Thess 4:1-6).

A single perspective on these matters denies the new birth. When a believer is born again, the old person who was under the law of sin and death dies with Christ, and is no longer under the law’s condemnation. That person is no longer under that use of the law by the Spirit: to condemn. The same person is also resurrected with Christ by the Spirit and is now under grace and the Spirit’s law of life. There is now NO condemnation for those in Christ (Romans 8:1). In fact, where there is no law, there is no sin (Romans 3:19, 4:15, 5:13, 7:8). The Christian can now aggressively love without fear of condemnation.

Christian misunderstanding of all of this manifests itself when one protests the idea that Christians are yet “sinners saved by grace.” When you protest, they ask what they think is a rhetorical question: “Did you sin today?” Note the single perspective on law and sin which the Bible would define as, under law; the very definition of a lost person. Furthermore, those who understand the Spirit’s two uses of the law are accused of “perfectionism” as I was by a group of pastors recently. It is indicative of steroidal Bible illiteracy. Nevertheless,

“Love me.” -God…as your Father and under the Spirit’s law of life.

“Fear me.” -God…in regard to eternal condemnation as an unbeliever, or chastisement in regard to being my child.
“There is no fear in love.” -God…for those in my Son who ended the law’s condemnation.

Paradoxical contradiction…nope…not at all.

In the final analysis, the challenge posed by the anti-Christian is commendable relative to the dumbed-down Christianity of our day. If only Christians were thoughtful towards the Scriptures to the degree where these kinds of questions would be manifest. Many should take this question posed by said person to their pastor for analysis.

Good luck with that.

paul

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