Friday, February 4, 2011

Using the Law – 1 Tim 1:8-11

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted. (NASB)

What is the Law? The NASB capitalizes the word, which gives a hint. When I looked up “the law” in a concordance of the NIV, I found it used in both the New and Old Testaments so many times I didn’t count them. Many times, it was in reference to the Law of Moses, the Law of God or the Lord, the book of the law, or simply the law. It most often refers to the first five books of the Bible even when the reference is within these books. The following verses describe it and its purpose.

Deut 31:26-27 Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God. There it will remain as a witness against you. For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the Lord while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die! (NIV) When Moses spoke these words, he had just finished reciting the law to Israel before they were to go into the Promised Land. The law encompassed the Ten Commandments and the way the Israelites were to govern their lives and their worship. It was the way God had established so that they would be a witness to the nations around them about the goodness of God. It was also a witness to the future generations of God’s grace. In doing this, it would proclaim for all generations of Israel how rebellious they were. No one could keep all the law so it would convict everyone of being lawbreakers. This is exactly what Paul is saying to Timothy and to us.

Jesus confirmed the content of the law when He announced the following in Matt 22:37-40 And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets." (RSV) He acknowledged the authority of the whole Old Testament when He put the prophets alongside the law. He also established a fundamental principle found in the law that if we love God and our fellow man in this God-ordained way, then we would not have a problem with any of the laws. Paul is saying that a righteous person (one who loves as Jesus said) won’t have a problem with the law either.

Of course, the big problem is that no one can become righteous by obeying the law, especially the two greatest commandments. We start as babies and continue loving ourselves more than others throughout our lives. In fact, we usually love ourselves more than God and fail both of the laws. That’s why Jesus had to come.

When I look at this list of what lawless people do, I could easily skip over it and say that this doesn’t apply to me. However, when I stop to think about the list, I can see that Paul started with some generalizations that do apply to me. Rebellious stops me right in my tracks even before I get to sinner. Ps 25:7 Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord. (NIV) Anyone who thinks he isn’t a rebel is already rebelling against God’s Word. Anyone who thinks being a rebel is good or that he isn’t a sinner is deceived. Based on human nature, the law is there to convict us of sin.

Rom 3:19-20 Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. (NLT) I’ve read Romans a lot and there are many verses that talk about the law only applying to those to whom it was given, i.e. the Jews. But these verses make it abundantly clear that regardless of who received the law, it is to show that the whole world is guilty. It shows us how sinful we are.

I don’t need to go down the list of sins that increase in heinousness. I don’t think he put this list together to tell these people that they are sinners. Deep down, they already know it. The list goes on because Paul will later demonstrated that even those who have engaged in these crimes may also be forgiven.

How do I use the law lawfully, properly, or correctly as some version translate? The Way of the Master ( © 2010 Living Waters Publications) is an approach to evangelism that uses the law in the way it should. Their basic premise is that God’s Word in the Ten Commandments will convict a person of sin. They suggest asking questions of a person regarding how good they are. They then interject one or more of the commandments and ask if they have always obeyed them. Most people will answer truthfully, especially when they hear about the way Jesus explained them in the Sermon on the Mount. For instance, have you ever told a lie? If you answer no, then you have just lied. What does that make you? It makes you a liar. (You didn’t make a mistake, a bad choice, or a slip of the tongue; you lied.) Most people will agree without argument – the law has convicted them. I didn’t have to tell you that you are a sinner and going to hell.

I think that using the law incorrectly is by walking up to someone who has just lied and telling them they are a liar, they have sinned and they are going to hell. Using it correctly is showing them the law and letting the Holy Spirit convict. It is not my job to convict. Jesus used this technique and that is why it is called The way of the Master. Matt 19:20-22 "I've obeyed all these commandments," the young man replied. "What else must I do?" Jesus told him, "If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard this, he went away very sad, for he had many possessions. (NLT) Jesus let the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself convict the young man. He was convicted as his sadness demonstrated. Unfortunately, conviction doesn’t always lead to salvation – at least not right away.

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