St. Paul the Apostle spoke about a deception in Romans 7, but we have failed to recognize what he said because his context had to do with circumcision.
Today, we are still bound by having to measure up to our biblical laws. We place these moral standards upon others in the Church. It’s really legalism couched behind a facade of self-righteousness.
I know this can be very hard for “good Christians” to receive. A good Christian was what I thought of myself, at one time. I lived under vain delusion that if I could live one day without sinning, I was a good Christian–but only for that day. Next day, I had to face that challenge all over again.
Religionists call it God’s righteousness. It is really self-righteousness.
It actually weakens the true gospel that we are called to preach and teach. We cheat and deceive others out of trusting in the true power of the cross.
It is so easy to confuse the law for the gospel, and the gospel for the law. How so? We tell others to obey the law. If you do so, you can then be considered a “good Christian.”
But what is a “good Christian?” I don’t know if there truly is such a thing as a “good Christian.” There is such a thing as a faithful Christian.
Faithful in what? Faithful in trusting in God’s enduring mercy for us–despite our sinfulness.
There is also such a thing as a law-abiding person. The thing is, a law-abiding person cannot earn bonus points before God. Following the law does not earn us God’s approval. It does not move us one inch closer to heaven.
Please try not to misunderstand me. Misunderstanding this is very easy to do. I am not against obeying the law. I hope, as much as any law-abiding citizen, that we obey all the laws of the land. Obedience to our laws defines us as good citizens.
I hope we can see this as a revelation. The law and the gospel do two entirely different things. They are meant to.
Making a clear distinction between the two allows the message of the good news to come across clearly and undistorted. It doesn’t allow for vain illusions of what we want the law to do–to make us righteous.
Clarity in these two theological ideas of Law and Gospel have shaped me and given me freedom.
I fell in love with the comparison of these two ideas here below.
The Law: demands everything but gives nothing.
The Gospel: demands nothing but gives everything.
The Law: shows us what godliness looks like but it cannot transform the sinner
The Gospel: is alone the power of God to salvation and transforms the sinner.
The Law: accuses and exposes our sins.
The Gospel: acquits and exonerates us of our sins.
The Law: diagnoses sinners.
The Gospel: delivers sinners.
The Law: is for those who think they’re good.
The Gospel: is for those who know they are sinners.
If these two ideas are muddied-up, we can incorrectly attribute what the law does as grace, or vice versa. Otherwise, we distort what the gospel was intended for. The law can only show us what godliness is and shows us when we fall short of righteousness.
I used to obey the law thinking that in doing so, I could be considered more righteous in God’s sight. The truth is that the law is not capable of doing this and it never could. The law was never intended to make us more righteous. Only the gospel can make us righteous. Nothing else. Period.
False beliefs can steal the joy that Christ intended to give us all along. In the past, I had worked so hard to earn God’s approval when it was free all along. Duh. How could I miss that in reading the Scriptures?
Sad thing is that as Christians, we seem to put so much false hope in the law. Why? We want to control our circumstances and situations. Thinking that we can control our behavior and earn God’s approval is a false hope.
Pushing the law on others to force them to measure up is vain hope. It is actually a darkness that I would opine as sinister. Strong words.
Moralism can only lead us into a false religion. Moralism is designed to scare people out of committing wrongs. That’s what they do in some authoritarian countries. This happens even in some of our churches.
Why? It seems to work–but only for the short-term. The minute we turn around, we just go back to doing wrong again.
Why? False religion has trained us like Pavlovian dogs to believe there is more freedom in sin. We cry out for freedom but can never find it.
Can we scare people into doing right? No absolutely not.
Acts of justice and kindness and goodness comes from our love for others. We can never squeeze love and kindness out of others. It only works when we squeeze lemon juice from a lemon.
Hence, the law does not liberate us from sin. However, we still need the law to help us know right from wrong. Martin Luther taught that the law is like a mirror. When we hold the mirror (law) up to our face, we can see who we really are–a sinner.
The gospel does something entirely different. It liberates us. It frees us from the bondage of sin. Liberty comes to us as we receive the good news into our lives and live out the love that Christ poured out into his Church. And we the people are the Church.
Today, I walk with more freedom knowing that it is only the gospel that liberates me from sin. I no longer have to pretend. This was a profound truth. Pure spiritual food for the soul.
This has been transformational. It brought back the joy into my spiritual walk with the Lord. If Christians want to be theologically grounded, Law and Gospel must be “rightly divided”–an old theological idea but still holds lots of water.
I believe in God’s unconditional grace and love. I am confident that the power of God’s love can transform even the most depraved sinner into a living saint.
It starts when we believe. Believe that God has everlasting mercy for you. No matter how sinful we might think we are, God’s mercy is forever.
The forgiveness of sin comes as a gift of God through faith, rather than by our good works or merit.
This is spiritual liberty. It brought joy and hope into my life. I pray it does for you as well. Thanks for reading.
Peace and blessings,
Kevin A. Sam