"God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him in the midst of loss, not prosperity." --John Piper

Monday, March 28, 2011

No Harmful Side-Effects!

Ephesians 2:14-16

14For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Caution: May cause drowsiness.

Many medications come with warnings about possible side-effects. While the main purpose of a drug might be to relieve a headache or some other problem, in some people it also has other effects. Sometimes these are positive but usually negative.

Jesus is our peace. He has made us both one. Who is the both, and how are we one? I believe the both are the circumcised (Jews) and the uncircumcised (Gentiles). The dividing wall of hostility was the law. The Jews had it, the Gentiles didn't. Because of the law, the Jews could not even associate with the Gentiles. They were unclean. Christ's death on the cross did away with the law.

If the law could have given us righteousness, it would have remained in effect, and there would have been no need for Jesus to die on the cross. But the purpose of the law was to show us our unrighteousness. So we needed a remedy, which Jesus provided on the cross. His main purpose, I believe, was to glorify God by providing the perfect sacrifice for our sins. But there were also side-effects. As a result of His death, the law was done away with, the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile destroyed. (Gal 3:28)

I imagine this was a tough one for the Jews. It required a radical shift in their thoughts. But to embrace this was to embrace the world. It was as if God had opened for them a door that had been shut for centuries. Maybe that was a scary door to open. But Jesus did it. He got rid of the reason for the hostility.

I think this is one that we need to apply more broadly today. As we look at others in our world who are different. Could be drug-addicts, Muslims, racial or gender issues, but Christ has broken down the dividing wall an calls us to reach out to all. What are the side-effects the cross has had on you?


Kansas Bob said...

Good stuff! I do wonder though if people of different theological ilks understand that the walls that separate us are merely man made ones.

Spherical said...

True, and we will always have differences of opinion. It is when it comes to what is essential that we must struggle with.

Kansas Bob said...

I agree. Sadly some people draw those "essential" lines in strange places.

Dakota said...

Hey, I just came across your blog by doing a bit of blog-surfing and I'm glad I did! I've added myself as your newest follower, and I hope you'll check out my Christian devotional site as well.

Have a blessed day!

In Christ,
Dakota - A Look at Life from a Deerstand

Frank Zimmerman said...

I think you need to give this text some more thought. If removing a law, such as "thou shalt not lie" unites me and someone else, then I think the union would be a bad one, unless God changed us both from liars to honest men first.

Spherical said...

If he had only removed the old law, that would not have united us. When He removed the old law He replaced it with a new way that is written on our hearts (Jer. 32:37-40)

I do not believe that the old law was bad, but it was insufficient. So to replace it with a new way that loves God with all our heart and loves others as ourselves will certainly erase hostility better than a law that says do not lie or even do not commit murder. Don't you think?

Frank Zimmerman said...

"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." Ps. 19:7

"The law works wrath." Rom. 4:15

"I had not known sin, but by the law." Rom. 7:7.

"The law was our schoolmaster to lead to Christ." Gal. 3:24

The law was entirely sufficient for the purpose God gave it...which was to reveal sin and lead to Christ.

But the human heart is very deceitful, and if we put aside this role of the law, then we will imagine that we love God supremely, but will actually be loving ourselves and breaking the law right and left. Sin will be called righteousness, and righteousness, sin. This is one of the reasons why there are so many denominations today, all claiming to have the Spirit, yet not being able to agree on the definition of what constitutes sin.

The Jewish people in Christ's day, except for a few such as Paul, did not accept the role of the law. They tried to keep it with their own evil hearts, and then called that righteousness. This led to pride in their flesh, for all their keeping of the law was just the works of their own flesh...which always leads to pride. This is what made a barrier between them and the Gentiles. They were circumcised...the Gentiles were not. Pride in the flesh! They could enter the temple...the Gentiles could only go into an outer court. Pride in the flesh!

Christ put the flesh and all fleshly attempts at salvation to death, by bringing His body to the cross, and refusing to listen to it's pleadings for an easy way out.

Primarily this meant the death of all human works of obtaining spiritual life...but it also involved the removal of some of the ceremonial laws: circumcision, and the Jewish temple services. These had been given as a lesson in righteousness by faith, but had been perverted. Therefore, they also were removed.

As far as the ten commandments go, they are still the law that reveals sin. When sin is removed from our hearts, this ministration ends. But as long as sin exists, the law (if properly presented) will thunder against it.

Kansas Bob said...

You forgot this one Frank:

"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,' declares the LORD. 'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people'" (Jer. 31:33)

The writer of Hebrews put the OT law in perspective by quoting this verse in chapter 8 and 10.

Kansas Bob said...

Just realized that maybe you did not include it because Spherical already referenced it. Sorry bout that.

Spherical said...

I think that perhaps we are saying the same thing from different perspectives.

Yes, the law still exists. Mt 5:17 I have not come to abolish them (the Law or the Prophets) but to fulfill them.

In fact, Jesus not only did not abolish the law, he gave it a new and deeper meaning. We went from "Do not commit murder" to not being angry. He is "Lord of the Sabbath." But the law that now exists is not the same as the law that existed before. The law of obedience is a law of hostility, because we lack the ability to be obedient. The law of obedience only leads to frustration and Phariseeical manipulation.

Romans 7:6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in a new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

This "new way" is because the old requirements of the law (sacrifices, ordinances, etc.) have been fulfilled in Christ.

Yes, the 10 commandments still exist and reveal our sinfulness, and we are bound by them to an even higher degree now, because they are no longer just legalistic requirements, but an act of worship. For those outside of Christ, they are the law because those do not have His blood to cover them.

Does that make sense? Are we on the same page, just different perspectives?

Frank Zimmerman said...

Thanks for the further explanation...there are still a few statements that I seem confusing!

When Jesus was on the earth, there were two types of law-keeping:

1. His. He declared His innocence when He said, "who accuses me of sin?" In the OT, He declared by prophecy, "I come to do Thy will...Thy law is within My heart." It was also said, "He shall magnify the law and make it honorable." Therefore, Jesus kept the law, the way it was meant to be kept.

2. The other kind of law-keeping around was that of the Pharisees. This we also term "legalism". This was not real law-keeping, for Jesus called them "hypocrites". This kind of law-keeping Paul referred to as being "of the works of the law." It was a sinful man's attempt to try and imitate real law-keeping. Paul also said in Galatians, that those who were of the "works of the law" were "under the curse" because "cursed is he that does not do everything that the law requires". Therefore, they were not keeping the law.

Paul also referred to this when he stated in Romans 7, "I was alive without the law once." Yet Paul was raised a Pharisee and would have been schooled in the law from childhood. How could he say he was "without the law?" Because what he knew the law to be was simply outward restrictions. He did not see how it applied to his heart.

Christ "redeems us from the curse." The "curse" is disobedience (in heart as well as action). Therefore Christ delivers us from disobedience into obedience. That is how the "righteousness of the law" is fulfilled in us (Rom. 8).

Romans 9:31,32 - "Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law."

They failed because they did not believe that they needed to be made righteous by God's creative power...but they simply tried to "do their best".
(..continued on next...)

Frank Zimmerman said...

The same struggle between real righteousness and fake righteousness is found in Abraham's life through the two sons: Ishmael and Isaac. When Abraham had the first son, it was his best attempt to fulfill God's promise and command. But God could not accept it because it involved taking a woman who was not his real wife. His "law-keeping" was actually "law-breaking"! Finally, when he was too old to physically have children anymore, God repeated the promise, and made it clear that Ishmael was not the one. After a struggle, Abraham believed that God could make a son come out of two old and dead parents. "What God had promised, He was able to perform." This was righteousness by faith.

God promised the same thing to us: that righteousness would be possible to us. There are many commands and promises about righteousness and obedience, all through the Bible. But it requires that we have the same faith...that the promised Son, Jesus, can be born in us and produce righteousness in us, just as it did in His flesh when He was on earth.

I found your statement "The law of obedience is a law of hostility" to be a bit odd. Do you simply mean that the "law works wrath" by condemning our thoughts, and waking us up to our lost condition?

This one also: "The law of obedience only leads to frustration"? Surely you mean this only for a person who has not been born-again? I think Psalm 119 most accurately reflects the attitude of the "new man in Christ" towards the law of God. It is what leads him to Christ (both at his new birth, and where-ever he still has unknown sins afterwards). Why shouldn't he be thankful for that law?

Also, how do we know we have Christ's righteousness? It says in Romans that this is "witnessed by the law and the prophets". When we see what the law commands proceeding from our new hearts naturally, that is the witness. The law says, "that is righteousness" and thus stands as a witness to the work of Christ.

With that, I pass back to you!

Spherical said...

Thank you for your grace-filled response. I appreciate your time and teaching.

To respond to a couple of points, I equate "law of obedience" with "works of the law," where it is trying to obey, but doing it in my own power, similar to the illustration you gave with Abraham's first son. That will only lead to frustration. To me, that leads to the hostility of Romans 7, "For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out."

I like the term you used, "the law of righteousness." And in light of the 2 types of law-keeping, this term make sense. Perhaps it is just the word "obedience" that we approach differently. While I see it with a negative connotation, as our seeking approval through obedience, you see it as our striving to be obedient, such as in progressive sanctification. And that would be a good thing then.

So how do you interpret the phrase in the tesxt, " abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances?"

Frank Zimmerman said...

"The Law was our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ." Do men still need to be led to Christ today? Certainly! Then they still need the Law as a schoolmaster.

On the other hand, the "old covenant" led to "bondage" (Gal. 4). Obviously, Christ and bondage are two different ends. Therefore we may be sure that God did not give the Law in order to lead to the Old Covenant.

If we bear this distinction in mind, some of Paul's statements, which have caused confusion, will be plain. In one place, Paul states that "the Law is not of faith." Is he referring to the "schoolmaster" or "old covenant"? Obviously, the "old covenant". This is confirmed when Christ told the Pharisees that they had omitted the "weightier matters of the law: judgement, mercy, and faith." (Matt. 23:23). How could faith be part of the Law, and yet the "law be not of faith"? Only because we are talking about the Law in two different roles: one as the schoolmaster, the other as the old covenant.

A further confirmation of this distinction can be seen by considering Paul's statement that "whatsoever is not of faith is sin." Well then, if the "law is not of faith" then the law must also be sin! But the same apostle declared, "Is the law sin? God forbid!" (Rom. 7:7) This would be an irreconcilable contradiction if we did not distinguish between the "schoolmaster" and the "old covenant".

So, the enmity that divided man and God, and man and man, was the principle of self-justification (human pride) trying to pass itself off as obedience to God's commandments.

Martin Luther said that the "desire of self-justification is the cause of all the distresses of the human heart." He was right! But this should never be confused with the law as God intended it to be: a schoolmaster to lead unto Christ.

Frank Zimmerman said...

Okay, I had answered your question, and then made another post which seemed to wipe out the first one. So I'll try again, and you'll have to insert this post at the beginning, where it belongs!

"Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances" (Eph. 2:12). There is a similar statement in Col. 2:13 - "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross."

What was nailed to the cross of Christ? His body! Therefore, it is in the flesh that the "law of commandments contained in ordinances" is found. In the flesh is found this "enmity" that is the secret thing that divides man from man, and man from God.

But how can this be the same as a "law of commandments contained in ordinances"?

Consider why God gave the Law. "The Law entered that the offence might abound, but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." The children of Israel, when they came out of Egypt, knew God as their deliverer from temporal bondage. They had been slaves to the Egyptians, now they were free. But they did not yet realize that they were still in spiritual bondage to the power of sin. So God's first task was to help them see that they were still slaves to sin.

Their attitude was, "All that the Lord has spoken, we will do." (Ex. 19:8; 24:3,7) This was their agreement with God: the Old Covenant; man's promise to do what only God can do! This promise proceeded from their flesh...therefore, it was "a law of commandments contained in ordinances".

So God gave them a picture: His law written on stone. This symbolized their condition: they knew His commands intellectually, but their hearts were dead as stone. This they proved by worshipping the golden calf just a few days later (Ex. 32). But in spite of this, most of them still did not see their need of a Saviour.

To help them further, many gospel lessons were given: the Passover lamb, the sanctuary service, the smitten rock from which flowed water. The sacrificial system was considered part of the Old Covenant, because the people felt that they could do the work of God, therefore God had them act it out in great detail. Yet, of itself, it could not save them.

The problem was not the law, nor the sacrificial service, nor circumcision. It was the fleshly pride and self-confidence of their flesh that made the turn these gifts into a way of self-justification. They were always intended to be "schoolmasters to lead to Christ", but the people turned them into an "old covenant which leads to bondage" (Gal. 4:4).

The problem is that of making a command of God, which only He can perform, into a command that I can do with my fleshly power. This turns the promise of God into an ordinance or ceremony. It becomes just a play act. "Having a form of godliness but denying the power."

Spherical said...

Thanks for your comments, which are laid out in a way that makes a difficult subject a bit easier to grasp. It is quite a weighty subject, and one that must be considered from several angles.

Only God can do it, yet that is so hard for us to grasp. Yet that is the reality of the cross.