We talk a whole lot about the Faith. 7 out of 10 people have a blog and 6 of them have a book coming out. And I’m glad there’s so much truth being taught out there (Because there’s also a lot of crap). But it’s often just chunks of the whole. One person talks a lot about this chunk of theology and another is hung up on the other. But we might never get a framework by which to accept or reject someone’s assertions.
And, let’s face it, a lot of us have never read the bible cover-to-cover. (I recall a deacon’s wife–who was never afraid to give her opinion–saying that she thought she’d finally get to reading the bible after she retired, but she still hadn’t…) ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ But it’s important to know the entire framework rather than just random theology. It’s like someone giving someone from a distant land a pizza roll to explain to them what pizza is. It suggests something vaguely pizza-like, but out of context, it probably doesn’t do much to make pizza understandable. That can be dangerous, and confusing. And while I don’t claim to be a theologian, or think that I can sum up the entirety of Scripture in one blog post, I’m going to try and give you a brief summary of the entire story. Mainly because I wish someone had done this for me, and I don’t think we do this enough.
The Law of God was a set of rules God gave the Jewish people as a stern guardian against sin because they didn’t yet have the Spirit of God dwelling in them to guide them into all truth (Gal 3:24). Even back then, keeping the Law didn’t save them, faith looking forward to the promised Messiah (Jesus) did (Rom. 4:2; Gal. 3:6).
If any Law could have made us alive, that’s how God would have done it (Gal 3:21). But that was impossible for any of us. Because not one of us is perfect (Rom. 3:10).
Without the promise of Jesus, the Chosen People of God would have been hopeless and so would we. Our only choice would have been accepting our damnation, or living in denial. But, because of God’s great love for us, he deigned to become a man, and through the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus, died in our place, and was resurrected to life, defeating death.
The Law fulfilled on our behalf, its work done, was done away with as a way to righteousness (Gal. 5:18). Even submitting oneself to being under a small portion of the Law (as a means to getting or keeping salvation) obligates you to the entire Law (Gal. 5:2-4; James 2:10).
Jesus took all of our sin on himself, and gave us his righteousness.
Now, we are led by the Spirit. (John 14:26; Romans 8:9; Gal 5:16; Gal. 5:18; Romans 8:14; and dozens of other verses). The Spirit of God inside of us, changes us (Gal 5:22-23), growing us in love, from which all goodness flows, and empowers us to act on God’s will.
The Old Testament Law was do or die. After Christ, It is Finished. You have been made righteous in the eyes of God if you put your faith in Jesus. That means that our rule-keeping doesn’t earn us God’s love. It has been made a gift to us. God still hates sin–it destroys his children’s lives, and pulls our hearts away from Him, the Source of life. But God’s anger towards the sinner was poured out on Jesus at the Cross. When God looks at the imperfect believer, all He sees is Jesus’ perfection.
It really will make a difference in our lives if we “learn what this means: I desire love, not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13). Our mindless rule-keeping means nothing without love (1 Cor. 13). The imperatives we see in the New Testament aren’t then a new law based on fear and guilt (not a new law at all). The Law, while perfect and beautiful, couldn’t accomplish getting us to God. The commands in the New Testament make visible God’s desires for us. They show us the best way to live. They are, in fact, what living in the fruit of the Spirit looks like.
So, when we are called to strive and fight against our flesh to act in the ways that please God, understand that we don’t fight for something we don’t deeply desire and believe in. We aren’t fighting because we’re afraid for our eternal destiny; we aren’t fighting to earn God’s favor and love. We fight in response to a God so loving “the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). We are reacting out of love, because he first loved us.