(also see the complementary post, “On children’s delight in rules”: https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/on-childrens-delight-in-rules/)
I believe many in the Church today – those who confess the Creeds and are convinced they believe them – have “another Jesus” (II Cor. 11:4). Let us review one occasion of how this happened in New Testament days.
The Law is holy, righteous, good, and spiritual (Rom. 7). Further, the child of God has faith that God really does use His Law to dish out blessings and curses, rewards and punishments. And yet, Paul says “the law is not of faith”. Our “doing” the Law, he insists, is not of faith (Gal. 3:12), evidently just as works and faith are to be kept distinct.
Why does he insist on this? How does he know that? After all, the Old Testament never says this.
He knows this because he has seen it happen, and the Holy Spirit has made him wise. In Galatians the “Judaizers” have taken circumcision (and no doubt the other ceremonies God gave as well) and have turned even this gift to be received into a thing persons must actively do or accomplish in order to be real people of God (i.e., to be saved). “Doing” is drowning out, or has drowned out, the passive righteousness of faith – if it ever was in them to begin with – which simply hears the Word spoken, believes, and has all things in Christ already. Our “doing the Law” is not of this faith – this critical and foundational passive faith
(that said, the New Man pursues the Law in the passive righteousness which is faith – Christ has already fulfilled all righteousness, even as He does so in us)
But it is easy for our doing to drown out this… At times, we may find this happening to us. We hear and behold the beauty of the 10 commandments, the Golden Rule, or the Two Greatest Commandments, and before we know it, we feel motivated by them. And before we know it, we become like Martha and not Mary. Unless we are brought to our senses, we become like the Judaizers in Galatians, the blind Pharisees, or even pre-conversion Paul.
Again, the Law is not of faith. When we focus on the Law and not the Merciful One who gives not just the Law but mercy and grace in passive reception, we veer from true faith. We then focus on our doing and eventually enter a compensation game by which we try to justify ourselves by doing more right than wrong, since we know deep down that we do not follow the Law. Then, the Law actually exacerbates the sin that is in us, as Rom 7:4-13 reveals.
I think this happens all the time but it did more vividly for me lately. Countering those who have no room for the Law of God in their hearts, I have looked at it more closely, and been taken with its beauty and majesty. I have been trying harder to follow it as much as I can in thought, word and deed. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, I noticed that my focus had gotten to be more on doing than passively receiving, and simply being with my Lord. Actually, sitting at the Lord’s feet had taken a real back seat … But these things should go together! We should be utterly ablaze and passionate for the Law and doing it – not just for our own sakes, but for our neighbors. But we should be even more so for the message of free grace the Giver of the Law has for us sinners, in 70 x 7 fashion – again, not just for our own sakes, but for our neighbors. And ironically, the one who simply receives the Word of God, Law and Gospel, in faith, passively does fulfill the Law as God requires – and of course, goes on to actively do so as well.
Part II coming tomorrow
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mgifford/6117421227