The Fork in the Road: Rich’s Question

Rich asked,

When I think of the concept of law within the Bible I think of anything I must obey. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” I equate the generic term ‘law’ with ‘commandments’ whatever they may be. Therefore, Paul isn’t contrasting generic law. He is contrasting ‘the law’ (old law) with new law (faith based obedience).

So, when you say there is no law today, only love, I understand that as opposite to the words of Jesus.

Please elaborate.

Rich,

“Law” is used in different senses in the NT — even in the same chapter.

Paul usually (not always) has as his primary referent “Torah” when he says “law” — but he certainly doesn’t mean by “law” only the sacrificial system. He means all of Torah, even “Love your neighbor.”

(Rom 2:14-15)  (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)

The “law” written on the Gentiles’ heart is not the sacrificial system or the wearing of tassels; it’s God’s moral law.

But as K. C. Moser writes, what Paul says about Torah is true in principle as to any law. Paul’s criticism of seeking salvation by “law” isn’t a critique of God’s lawmaking.

(Rom 7:12)  So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

It’s a critique of seeking salvation by obedience to any legal system — even God’s own, holy legal system.

Paul, however, also uses “law” in an ironic sense —

(Rom 8:1-2)  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

The “Torah of the Spirit” is not a new legalistic system. It’s God writing his laws on our hearts.

(Rom 2:29)  No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.

It’s plainly not a written code — Why I’m a Member of the Church of Christ and similar written codes notwithstanding.

Another example is —

(Gal 6:2)  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

“Law of Christ” is not a reference to a new written code that replaces the Torah. It’s a reference to —

(Gal 5:18)  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

(Gal 5:22-25)  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

These are the last references to “law” in Galatians before 6:2. Paul is speaking ironically. The “law of Christ” is radically different from Torah. Rather, it’s God’s law written in our hearts.

Now, Paul repeatedly says those led by the Spirit are not “under law.” His point isn’t that we should be happy to obey. It’s that what we want to do should be so aligned with what God wants from us that no obedience is necessary.

(Rom 12:2)  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

An example might help. Most men like to have their wives or girlfriends go to football games with them. Imagine these possibilities —

1. Wife goes with husband to avoid prolonged torture by her husband. She hates football, but avoiding a slow, agonizing death at the hands of her husband is well worth the price. She even tells him she loves football, because that’s what he says she must do.

2. Wife goes with husband to avoid a divorce. She hates football but keeping her marriage alive is worth the price. She’s willing to be miserable for a few hours a week to preserve her relationship — and the security he provides her.

3. Wife goes with husband because she loves her husband. She hates football but she so loves love her husband, she wants to be with him.

4. Wife goes with husband because she loves her husband and she loves football.

Which does the husband prefer? All are obedient. Does he care why she obeys?

But 1 has nothing to do with love. 2 is about love, perhaps, but it’s a dysfunctional relationship, and her behavior is ultimately self-seeking. If her husband hadn’t laid down the law, she wouldn’t go with him.

3 is downright noble, but not a very fun date for her husband, because she won’t be cheering from the heart when he’s cheering.  But in 3, her husband, who loves his wife, is unhappy that she’s unhappy, and she’s unhappy because she hates what her husband loves. But 3 can lead to 4. Sometimes the feelings have to follow the action.

4 is the goal. Nothing else is really good for either the husband or wife. Ironically, 4 is, in a sense, less noble than 3, because she’s making no sacrifice to be with her husband. Indeed, it’s sheer joy for her.

4 is freedom.

Get to 4 and you are no longer under law.

(Rom 8:1-2)  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

4 is the “law” of the Spirit. You see, you can’t get to 4 by commands. I mean, if the husband commands his wife: “You will go to the game with me and enjoy it with all your heart — or else!” all he’ll do is compel a certain behavior — and certain feelings: fear and resentment. Any “love” that results will be from the Stockholm Syndrome.

But if college football is in her heart, no commands are needed. She does what he wants because it’s what she wants. She has passion for his passion. They are united in heart. And law and commands and punishments don’t enter the picture. And therefore they delight in each other’s company.

“There is no condemnation …”

“Set me free”

“Not under law”

“Approve what his will is”

One final note. Sometimes the definitions of terms and such get in the way of a Christian understanding God’s will. You can’t really express 4 in terms of “obedience,” “law,” and “commands.” And if you’re not really understanding the Spirit, the usual church vocabulary just won’t get you to the necessary understanding.

It’s about a relationship — like a husband and wife — and for many, thinking in those terms helps make sense of the rest.

I hope this helps.

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27 Responses

  1. “Get to 4 and you are no longer under law.

    (Rom 8:1-2) Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Jay)

    Romans 8:1-2 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who don’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

    You seem to be missing some important words there.

    words which show we are under a law just not the Torah but rather the law of the Spirit.

    Now, if were are being led by the LAW of the Spirit then we ARE under law, the LAW of the Spirit.

    Thus, the rendering of Gal 5:18 “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law” is false, and must be “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Torah” because you are under a law, the law of the Spirit.

    1 Corinthians 9:21 “To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.”

    Even among the lawless never are we freed from the law of the Spirit, unless we have not the Spirit.

    Romans 8:9 “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”

    “Law of Christ” is not a reference to a new written code that replaces the Torah.

    Yet without something written we’d have no clue. It is a clear reference, therefore, to the sermon on the mount without which we’d never be able to know what Spirit is even meant. (And I don’t believe Jesus said “think not that I have come to abolish the law” for he clearly abolishes the law with you’ve heard an eye for an eye but I say turn to the other cheek. “think not” etc. is Catholic addition)

  2. Perhaps, Jay, since your major beef is with the rigidity of making worship regulations a new law, then you should focus on interpretation of John 4:24 “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

    We know the CoC interprets this as meaning we must worship in Spirit (the attitude, i.e. sincerely) and in truth (the method, i.e. following a set of regulations for worship style ‘the truth’).

    Isn’t it backwards though? I mean, shouldn’t it be: We must worship in Spirit (this is the method, spiritual worship) and truth (this is the attitude, i.e. sincerely).

    After all, Jesus is opposing this “worship in spirit and in truth” against worshiping in a certain physical location like the Jerusalem temple of Mount Gerizim.

    Do not the CoCs say you cannot worship in your home but must worship at a “established congregation”? I.e., a certain physical location like the Jerusalem temple of Mount Gerizim.

    That’s part of their view of “truth” as the method, as following a “divine pattern” of “true worship.”

    But isn’t Jesus saying that the worship in spirit and truth is free from such localized restraints?

    Now for my unconventional textual criticism. Below in bold are the words that I don’t think Jesus actually said but are added by the Catholics.

    John 4:21-24 “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. (22) Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. (23) But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. (24) God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

    In other words, he is saying that the Samaritans and the Jews both don’t know what they worship, which is why they worship in a physical way (sacrifices) rather than spiritual. And they both worship in one certain location as thinking of God as a physical being only found there.

    Here again, see how I read it:

    “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

    In other words, you are shown to not know what you worship because you don’t know that God is a spirit. You think he drinks the blood of bulls and goats and he lives in the mountain or the temple. But no, he’s a spirit, and can be worshiped anywhere and without such physical service.

    That is the point I think Jesus was making and I think that revision by Catholics has hidden it, and this is part of the CoC’s and every church’s problem with worship.

  3. Rey,

    I’ve written a post on that very topic that should pop up in the near future. It’s presently scheduled for 2/6, but it might move (as the Spirit moves me, you know).

  4. Rey,
    Love God and do as you please – for if you love God, it will please you to please Him.
    That should solve your questions.

  5. Jay,

    Thank you for your clarification.

    I totally agree that #4 is the desired situation. On a daily basis, mature Christians probably find themselves in both #3 and #4 situations.

    When in #3 I hope to follow the example of Jesus. Jesus’ motivation was to do God’s will regardless of His own personal preference as noted in His prayer (Luke 22: saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Mt 6:10 Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Perhaps if #4 said the wife loved football because she loved being with her husband regardless of the situation then we would probably be in much more agreement. Your illustrations are very helpful even if others add to them.

    In Galatians, Paul gives three examples for freedom from the previous law. He uses the child who grows up and is no longer under the parents’ rule system. He uses the slave that has been set free. And he uses the prisoner who has been released. In all three situations, the person has been set free from the previous heavy rule-bases systems (parents, masters, prison). Yet, we know in all three situations the people still have rules/commands/laws to follow. It’s just the new systems allow far more personal choice than the old.

    Again, thanks for responding to my question. Although I’m not responding as much as last summer, I do read most of your posts.

  6. I have understood law this way: the law that saves is the law that forgives (grace); the law that doesn’t save is the law that earns, that is, there is no provision in it for ‘absolute’ forgiveness.

    ‘Absolute’ means complete forgiveness now, not contingent on something to happen in the future. To be ‘absolutely’ saved under Moses, you had to keep his law perfectly. Without the Cross, those OT sins would have never been actually forgiven. Under Christ, when we obey His laws of pardon, we are forgiven right then.

    There is no escape from being under law, written or otherwise. If that isn’t true, why were the Gentiles guilty?

    We obey law, as Christians, and I have never felt that that competed with salvation by grace: because we are forgiven.

    I believe the Bible teaches that a Christian can sin so as to be lost. Perhaps, we all believe that.

  7. John,

    We may be very close, but I need to ask a question. For someone who is already a Christian, what are “His laws of pardon”?

  8. Rey says,

    Without something written, we’d have no clue…

    Uh… not true, according to the Apostle Jesus loved…

    1John 2:27
    As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not NEED anyone to TEACH you. But as HIS ANOINTING TEACHES YOU about all things and as that anointing is REAL, not counterfeit—just as IT has taught you, remain in him.

    Matthew through Revelation are EXTREMELY helpful but not necessary to life in the Spirit.

    The Spirit IS the Spirit of Truth and if He lives in a believer, that believer HAS EVERYTHING PERTAINING TO LIFE AND GODLINESS.

    But do not misread what I’m saying. I LOVE THE SCRIPTURES. I am an ardent student because they are the words of the Spirit. But they are not new written code and I don’t treat them as such.

    The Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

  9. Jay,

    Repentance of sin, confession of fault, and prayer to God for forgiveness. 1 John 1.7 is a passage of great comfort, and it seems there is some covering going on there. But, at some point, there has to be a line that when crossed requires a specific response on my part. If it is not there, then anything I may do, anything whatever, is covered. I could not fall. I don’t understand the Bible to teach that I cannot fall. I do not know precisely where that line is. I do the best I can and trust God to take care of me. The fact that I can’t precisely identify the line, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Here lies a dead man. Something caused him to die. I may not know what the cause was, but he’s still dead.

  10. Rich says..
    Yet, we know in all three situations the people still have rules/commands/laws to follow.

    YET…
    The son obeys the Father this way:
    John 5:19-20
    Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; He can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all He does.

    THAT IS OUR INHERITANCE AS WELL…
    To SEE what Father is doing and do it.
    To HEAR what Father is saying and say it

    Real time time Lordship. Life is too complicated to have a rule and a principle for every situation.

    We can hear His Voice today. Do you believe this?

  11. John,

    The Hebrew writer says, “Today, if you hear His Voice, do not harden your heart.”

    In my walking with God, what I have found is that the line is here:

    If you continue to harden your heart and ignore Him who speaks from Heaven, then how can two walk together unless they are in agreement?
    You are either getting closer and closer to Him, and more like Him or you are moving farther away.

    Growth is a real measurable path. If you are truly growing, you’re alive.

    If the fruit is withering and you are seeing more of the acts of the flesh, then you are NOT walking with Him.

  12. John,

    I struggled with exactly this question for years. Here’s where I came down.

    1. That question is so important that God must give an answer.

    2. If I have to meet all three standards to be forgiven — repentance of sin, confession of fault, and prayer to God for forgiveness — then I’m hopelessly damned. I’m not even aware of all my sins. I can’t confess what I’m unaware of.

    And how likely is it that I die after I’ve prayed for forgiveness and before I’ve committed even a single further sin?

    I mean, we teach — correctly, I believe — that there are sins of omission as well as commission. How long may I omit to do good before having to say a prayer for forgiveness? How many prayers before I’m not really penitent?

    3. That theory contradicts 1 John 1:7 (among other passages). Hebrews teaches we’re forgiven “once for all” and “made perfect forever” while also teaching we can fall away.

    If that’s so, then we’re saved until we fall away. But when do we fall away?

    And that led me to read Hebrews very carefully. Here’s the conclusion of it all —

    (Heb 10:14) because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

    We aren’t perfect, but we are growing in Him. We are “being made” holy by the hand of God himself.

    (Heb 10:15-17) The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: 16 “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” 17 Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”

    We are not forgiven occasionally. Rather, we are “made perfect forever.” The forgiveness we receive at baptism lasts. As John writes, we are continuously forgiven of all our sins.

    (Heb 10:18) And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

    We need no further sacrifice because we need no further forgiveness. Rather, our forgiveness is “once for all.”

    (Heb 10:10) And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

    Oh, wow! Reading this for the first time was one of the most moving, incredible experiences of my life.

    But then there’s this —

    (Heb 10:26-27) If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

    If we rebel (Heb 3) by deliberately continuing in sin, there’s no more God can do for us. He made us perfect forever! But we can throw it away.

    We throw it away not by being less than perfect. We are, after all, being made holy — but not yet fully holy. Rather, we throw it away by intentionally continuing to sin — by turning our faithfulness away from God and no longer seeking to honor him with our lives.

    Do that and you’re damned.

    That’s what Hebrews, Romans, and 1 John all teach. And it makes a lot better sense than what I grew up with.

    But it makes no sense at all without 10:15-17. God has to be working in our hearts to make us obedient. That moves us from life under law to life in the Spirit.

    It takes a little getting used to, but I don’t know another way to read it.

  13. Amen!!

    I would only add, that if one isn’t “being made holy” then he has NEVER been made perfect.

    Holiness and maturity must be an observable upward trend or there is no proof of having ever been “born of God.”

    1John 3:9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.

    But you are so right….

    (Heb 10:10) And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

    Jesus, we thank you with ALL OUR HEART!

  14. Pilgrim says “Rey says, Without something written, we’d have no clue…Uh… not true, according to the Apostle Jesus loved…1John 2:27”

    Sure John tells the Christians there they have an unction (anointing) from the holy one and know all things. But that’s after they already became Christians. How do you become a Christian if the Bible doesn’t exist? The apostles are all dead, so quite simply you don’t. Thus, as I say, “Without something written, we’d have no clue.”

  15. The history is important. Vital. But we live by Him who now speaks. That was my only assertion.

  16. Jay said: “Hebrews teaches we’re forgiven “once for all” and “made perfect forever” while also teaching we can fall away.”

    Jay also said: “We are not forgiven occasionally. Rather, we are “made perfect forever.”

    I am wondering if the writer was confused or perhaps speaking of different classes of people. Perhaps when addressing a large group the speaker suspects both true believers and make believers are present and the speaker may address both. Or perhaps the writer was convinced of better things for the people he/she was writing to even though he/she was speaking in this manner. I think the text suggests that to be the case.

  17. Randall and all,

    Colossians 1:9-14
    For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this IN ORDER THAT YOU MAY LIVE A LIFE WORTHY OF THE LORD and may PLEASE HIM IN EVERY WAY: BEARING FRUIT in every good work, GROWING IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, WHO HAS QUALIFIED YOU (past tense) TO SHARE IN THE INHERITANCE OF THE SAINTS IN THE KINGDOM OF LIGHT. For he HAS RESCUED US (past tense) from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

    “Who has qualified you”
    We are QUALIFIED by the blood of Jesus to be IN the Kingdom.

    Hebrews 10:14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

    Paul’s prayer for the Saints in Colosse and the Hebrews writer are totally congruous.

    Once we are IN the Kingdom of the Son He loves, We are really IN. We don’t need to earn anything as if by wages and works (Romans 4). Which also means that sin along the way doesn’t knock us OUT. Many, consciously or subconsciously, feel this way: Work to get in, fail to get knocked out. It just doesn’t work that way. That is DEATH. He loves us with the same love He has for the Son. We are accepted and qualified. And as sons, He also disciplines us:

    Hebrews 12:11
    No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

    A harvest of Righteousness??? but I thought we are considered Righteous. We are. Done deal. That is the real Sabbath. But His Will is for His Sons to BECOME HOLY. And after receiving such an awesome gift, why wouldn’t we WANT to give Him our best. “He who is FORGIVEN MUCH, Loves much.”

    Someone who never RESTS (Sabbath) in forgiveness, NEVER really learns to love because their mind is preoccupied with fear and what they must DO to be accepted.

    Someone who “claims” to be forgiven, but doesn’t SHOW LOVE by a life of OBEDIENCE and EVER INCREASING Holiness really hasn’t EXPERIENCED forgiveness from Jesus. They believe a doctrine but haven’t MET the person and ARE LIARS.

    1John 2:3-6
    We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a LIAR, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

    So will we still sin. John says yes. Does that disqualify us. No. We are IN HIM. He will discipline us and we respond and are trained by the discipline. But what happens if WE REFUSE to BE DISCIPLINED.

    1Corinthians 9:24-27
    Do you not know that in a race ALL THE RUNNERS RUN, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body (discipline) and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be DISQUALIFIED for the prize.

    So Jesus’s blood has qualified us to be IN THE RACE. We didn’t earn that spot. It was a free gift and staying in the race is a FREE GIFT. If we trip (sin) or cross into another lane (penalty), there is forgiveness and help. But WE MUST KEEPING RUNNING THE RACE TO WIN. Those who run at their own casual pace and say, “Hey, I’m here in the race, that’s good enough for me.” Well that ISN’T good enough for Jesus. He has put the fastest runner in the world INSIDE US (Jesus) and has given us EVERYTHING pertaining to life and Godliness (2 Peter 1). So there are NO EXCUSES for apathy or practiced sin or lukewarmness. NONE.

    Again, repeating what Paul says…
    We pray this IN ORDER THAT YOU MAY LIVE A LIFE ***WORTHY*** OF THE LORD and may PLEASE HIM IN EVERY WAY: BEARING FRUIT in every good work, GROWING IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great ENDURANCE and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father.

    I read this the other day from a brother named Ben Overby. This is TRUTH if I have ever read truth… (I added caps)
    ______

    Doesn’t Paul indicate that he “gives” some to be apostles, shepherds, teachers, etc. in ep. 4, and for a specific reason–so that we can be built up in stature to the FULLNESS of Christ?

    Grace doesn’t exist to simply patch up our failures. It exist to strengthen us for virtue, character, the sort KING-like life Paul mentions, as well as John. … we have a tough time moving in the direction of virtue because we think, “Well, Jesus died for our sins, so what’s the point. Why do we need virtue when we’re forgiven. THAT BELIEF IS EVIDENT IN CHURCHES ACROSS THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE. That is, Christians are NO MORE LIKELY to be virtuous than an atheist.

    As Dallas Willard points out in his lecture series on the kingdom, the sinner uses some grace, but it’s the Christian determined to grow in Him, to develop Christlikeness, who burns grace like a 747 burns fuel at takeoff. I’d say it like this; being a sinner requires grace. BEING GOOD REQUIRES MUCH, MUCH MORE GRACE (that is, God’s creative energy in our life).

    _________

    But CAN we fall away. Yes. We can STOP RUNNING or REFUSE to run the race to win. When GRACE becomes license rather than JET FUEL, then we mock the blood of Jesus and THAT is a very dangerous place to be.

    But when it is JET FUEL for ALL THE RUNNERS in a local body of Christ, well… it is a thing of Beauty.

  18. And that is why Jesus pukes lukewarmness. He doesn’t puke out weakness and failure. His strong arms cover in order to HEAL and STRENGTHEN. But apathy, lukewarmness, and practiced sin are REJECTED. This is why 1 Cor. 5 is in the scriptures. To keep His Body pure. IN HIM, there is NO DARKNESS at all. And THOSE ramifications are staggering and glorious.

    Can we admit our local expressions don’t look like THAT? NO DARKNESS AT ALL. But they can. He has provided. It does no good to sit here and talk and blog if we won’t work WITH JESUS to turn the VISION and HIGH CALLING of His Church into a practical reality. We need to agree that this is the vision for His Church but also take STEPS to put it into practice. NO DARKNESS AT ALL.

    Seriously, a show of digital hands… Who here believes that the standard for a local expression of Jesus’ body is to have NO DARKNESS AT ALL, as defined here in this post and what Jay said above. I’m not talking about works. I’m not talking about sin and weakness. I am talking about a standard of ALL THE RUNNERS RUNNING TO WIN. Some will be slower. Some will trip, and trip, and trip, and trip. And they’ll get up and trip again and have seriously bloody knees. But their HOPE is in MADE PERFECT. That is where their confidence lies. But they LONG to BE MADE HOLY and they don’t give up. Do we all agree THAT is the standard of what it means to be a Christian and to be a church? NO DARKNESS. No hidden sin like in Achan in the battle for Ai in Joshua 7 (read it).

    It may not match your current experience. You may not know HOW to make it your experience. You may have your own hidden sin that you are unwilling to repent of.

    BUT can we at least see that that is WHAT HE is asking us for in this entity callled church? Any dissenters who believe church CAN be a mixture of hot, cold and lukewarm believers? Don’t use the parable of the wheat and tares, because Jesus clearly says in Matt 13:38 “The field is the world.” The field is NOT the church where wheat and tares grow up together. It is the world.

    So again, based on what the scriptures teach, within a local expression of believers, CAN there be a mixture of hot, cold and lukewarm people who claim to be believers?

  19. Jay said; “If we rebel (Heb 3) by deliberately continuing in sin, there’s no more God can do for us. He made us perfect forever! But we can throw it away.”

    In other words it is by our continued diligence that we remain in the good graces of God, seems the work of man plays a pretty important part in salvation.We keep coming to the book of Galatians, but we never seem to mention the fruits of the flesh, which will condemn us, and the fruits of the spirit which will save us. both seem like pretty powerful rules/laws to me.
    pretty strict too.I don’t see where living under these rules are any more lenient than the rules of Moses. both are must be obeyed rules. and sacrifices must be applied if the rules are broken. Both must be offered up to God for forgiveness. .

  20. Laymond, the terms “works of the flesh” and “fruit of the Spirit” are not accidental. What RULES does an apple tree follow to bear apples? NONE. He is an apple tree and He bears apples.

    Spirit filled people bear the fruit of the Spirit, not rules but the overflow of a LIFE Hidden with Christ in God. The scriptures themselves say there is not new written code. The law of apple bearing is written on the DNA of an apple tree. He isn’t reading in a book and saying to himself, “Bear apples or else be damned.” It is work and THE APPLES THEMSELVES are PROOF that we are apple trees. That is why I continue to contend that ONLY BELIEVERS CAN Love and Bear Good fruit. It is also how you tell if someone WHO CLAIMS to be a believer is indeed a believer, because they have fruit.

    If a real believer shows works of the flesh, he knows he is OUT OF STEP with the Spirit. He doesn’t need to get out his rule book. Paul calls the works of the flesh OBVIOUS. The flesh is easy to spot. Sometimes though, we need other loving brothers and sisters to help us see the places that need pruning so that we can be more fruitful and less fleshly.

    So again, there are no written rules. We have “the power of an indestructible life. ” Heb 7:16

    What was written in Matthew through Revelation was written to point us in the right direction, to point us to Him.

    John 5:39,40 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify ABOUT me, yet you refuse to COME TO ME to have life.

    He is alive and we can still COME TO HIM. This isn’t about coming to “faith” or coming to a “belief system.” He wants us to come to HIM, the person. And He will LEAD us real time. No rules but OBEDIENCE nonetheless to the real Him. And if it is HIM, then the fruit, whether of the Spirit or of the flesh, will be OBVIOUS.

    If you get this, really get it, then you KNOW why He calls it Good News.

    In every way, life in the Spirit is MORE STRICT and EQUALLY MORE FREEING… Strict in the sense of a MUCH HIGHER STANDARD.

    Growing up, out household rule was, ONLY G-rated movies. If it was G, it was acceptable. Any other rating: unacceptable. Life in the Spirit is MUCH “STRICTER” than that in this sense: the Lord, who is the Spirit, may speak to your heart and say, “So you want to see a movie? Why? For your own entertainment or as a way to serve your brother who could use some recreation? Hmm, that movie is G, but it is all about worldly romance and filled with sexual innuendo. It may have a G rating, but it is the kind of junk that I don’t want my follower to fill his mind with.”

    The Spirit CAN and DOES communicate that way. His commands are even MORE invasive and penetrating than a written law could ever be. But it isn’t burdensome to the one who is forgiven much and therefore LOVES much. We LONG to please the Spirit and not the flesh. As we make various decisions, we do our best to HEAR what he is saying by discerning whether He is grieved or pleased. “Today, if you hear HIS VOICE, do not harden your heart.”

    Life in the Spirit is INDEED More Obedient and not less because He is working directly at our epicenter. “Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of LIFE.”

    1John 5:3,4
    This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.

    John is saying this, “The things Father commands to our hearts (for that is where the laws and commands are being written” Heb 8:10, 10:16) are not burdensome, they are not a legal standard for us to meet, because we have been born of God and we overcome the world. The tools are inside to hear the commands and do them and consequently overcome the world.

    If YOU ARE NOT overcoming the world, but instead are getting run over by the world, you seriously need to consider whether you are Born of God. That goes for me and you and everyone who call himself a believer. That is not judgment, that is just the way it is.

    Revelation 3:21
    To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.

    Overcoming and defeat are antonyms. If defeat is all you have experienced, then you really need to be born again or at least repent and rise up and walk in your inheritance.

    But the good news: if we are apple trees, we will bear apples, not because the almanac says we SHOULD but because the LIFE WITHIN US says that is WHO WE ARE and apples are WHAT WE WILL BEAR.

  21. Randall,

    Hebrews is a challenging study for those who teach perseverance of the saints. I see no evidence that 10:18 and 10:26 are directed to different audiences — and the logic flows quite naturally from one to the other.

    Hebrews is replete with warnings against falling away — and these are not abstractions about what would happen if the impossible were to occur. http://oneinjesus.info/2009/10/05/election-the-problem-with-perseverance-of-the-saints-part-2/

    Of course, there are also verses that sure seem to say that those who are saved will never fall away. I think Hebrews actually gives the solution.

    The writer says we are “made perfect forever” and saved “once for all,” which indicates that the normal case is we persevere to the end.

    However, he also teaches, over and over, that we can fall away — not nearly as easily as many think. Rather, it’s parents and children. In the normal case, a child remains the parent’s child forever. But in a few cases, the child is so rebellious that the parent disowns the child. I know of such cases.

    No child is disowned because of bad behavior. It’s always because of a stubborn, hard, rebellious heart. And then only after great struggles by the parent to rescue the child.

    I addressed this some time ago in the Searching for a Third Way series. http://oneinjesus.info/index-under-construction/theology-general/searching-for-the-third-way/

  22. Jay,
    You said: “No child is disowned because of bad behavior. It’s always because of a stubborn, hard, rebellious heart. And then only after great struggles by the parent to rescue the child.”
    Of course that may be true with mere humans of finite love, understanding and power. God, being infinite in all His attributes, is capable of so much more and we seem to neglect that.

    At your recommendation I did read your Third Way series months ago. I raised a few questions, but you never addressed them. That is understandable as I understand you had moved on and time does not permit you to go back and address every objection that is raised months after your post. However, it also does mean that you addressed what could be logical objections to your position. That is, the issue was not settled once and for all at that time.

    I suppose my biggest concern is that we (the CofC) use the same terms as the rest of the Christian world, but we sometimes mean different things by those terms. “Grace” would be the very first term that comes to mind. I do not believe the CofC is a cult but it is borderline, at least at times. We have been characterized as believing we are the only ones going to heaven (one mark of a cult) and you could add as many more issues as I could.

    The Mormons say they are Christian and believe in Jesus, but the Jesus or Mormonism has very different attributes than the Jesus of orthodox Christianity. The “grace” taught in the CofC is different than the grace taught is orthodox Christianity – that is certainly true among the “conservative” CofC, but still true, though to a lesser extent, among the “progressive” CofC.

    I do understand that your ministry here is directed towards the CofC, but there are those in and around the CofC that are not limited in their thinking to CofC issues. This does make them any less a part of the CofC. After all, it is our heritage to consider ourselves NOT bound by denominational lines. I suspect Alexander Campbell would say that it is pure sectarianism that we should limit our discussion, especially our important discussions, to those that attend a church with a CofC sign out front. And in my heart I truly believe you do not intend to be a sectarian.
    Peace,
    Randall

  23. Randall,

    you said:
    Of course that may be true with mere humans of finite love, understanding and power. God, being infinite in all His attributes, is capable of so much more and we seem to neglect that.

    You must realize that disfellowship (whether someone is related to me or not) is GOD’S IDEA and it IS love.

    1 Cor 5:4,6 When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

    As hard as we try to convince and persuade someone from choosing sin, ultimately God casts them away from His family and even might hand them over to believe the lie they have chosen..

    2 Thess 2
    They perish because they refused to LOVE THE TRUTH and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have DELIGHTED in wickedness.

    Tough stuff but God has never changed in His inability to fellowship with darkness. God isn’t choosing to reject a person. God IS Light and IN HIM there is not darkness at all. Father can’t change someone who CHOOSES to be dark into light. He CANNOT forgive it with a magic wand called grace. Grace is what is available to those who want to want the Light.

  24. Disfellowship also has been very abused by many churches. Paul also said that we are not to remain in such a state toward someone that we should forgive them reaffirming our love to them.

    2 Corinthians 2:6-11 “This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.”

  25. Anon,

    That was BECAUSE the tool in God’s toolbox WORKED and the man repented.

    2Corinthians 7:8-13
    Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. So even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong or of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. By all this we are encouraged.

    But you are right, disfellowship has been abused….it is hard to use the tool correctly within “attendance-based” paradigms of “scheduled-services”… But Grace has also been abused, and I haven’t heard anyone say we should stop practicing grace. 😉

  26. […] Posted on February 1, 2010 by Jay Guin Randall challenged me to re-open the discussion on the perseverance of the saints (POTS) or “once saved, always […]

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