Saturday, August 13, 2011

Law & Grace: Old Friends

There is apparently much debate regarding holiness that is pitting God's grace against God's law.  I haven't entered into the fray here - honestly, I don't read many blogs anymore, they're just too time-consuming - but my understanding of it is that people believe that if we believe & preach grace, then there is no need to preach the commands of Scripture, & it might even be harmful to do so.  Ironically, I wonder what Paul would have to say to that argument.  Well, not really, because in reading his epistles, I know what he would say . . . & if you don't, you need to read said epistles.

So, anyways, Michael - who keeps up with this stuff - told me about Kevin DeYoung's post on this issue & fairly raved over it.  I hopped on over to Mr. DeYoung, Restless, & Reformed to see what he had to say & found these incredibly wise & well-timed words:

"Let’s not be afraid to land on law—never as the means of meriting justification, but as the proper expression of having received it. It’s not wrong for a sermon to conclude with something we have to do. It’s not inappropriate that our counseling exhort one another to obedience. Legalism is a problem in the church, but so is antinomianism. Granted, I don’t hear anyone saying “let’s continue in sin that grace may abound” (Rom. 6:1). That’s the worst form of antinomianism. But strictly speaking antinomianism simply means no-law, and some Christians have very little place for the law in the pursuit of holiness. One scholar says about an antinomian pastor from 17th century England: “He believed that the law served a useful purpose in convincing men of their need of a Saviour; nevertheless, he gave it little or no place in the life of a Christian since he held that ‘free grace is the teacher of good works.’” Emphasizing free grace is not the problem. The problem is in assuming that good works will invariably flow from nothing but a diligent emphasis on the gospel.

The irony is that if we make every imperative into a command to believe the gospel more fully, we turn the gospel into one more thing we have to get right and faith becomes the one thing we need to be better at. If only we really believed, obedience would take care of itself. No need for commands or effort. But the Bible does not reason this way. It has no problem with the word “therefore.” Grace, grace, grace, therefore, stop doing this, start doing that, and obey the commands of God. Good works should always be rooted in the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection, but I believe we are expecting too much from the “flow” and not doing enough to teach that obedience to the law—from a willing spirit, as made possible by the Holy Spirit—is the proper response to free grace.

For as much as Luther derided the misuse of the Law, he did not reject the positive role of the law in the believer’s life. The Lutheran Formula of Concord is absolutely right in when it says, “We believe, teach, and confess that the preaching of the Law is to be urged with diligence, not only upon the unbelieving and impenitent, but also upon true believers, who are truly converted, regenerate, and justified by faith” (Epitome 6.2). Preachers must preach the law without embarrassment. Parents must insist on obedience without shame. The law can, and should, be urged upon true believers—not to condemn, but to correct and promote Christlikeness. Both the indicatives of Scripture and the imperatives are from God, for our good, and given in grace."  Read the rest here.

Just as with God's sovereignty & man's responsibility, so are law & grace - you don't have to reconcile old friends.