Unsurprising but Nonetheless Shocking
The right is outraged that Hillary Clinton was not indicted by the FBI for her email scandal. The left is outraged for what sure looks like a case of police officers abusing their position, leaving a father of five dead. Both provide a stark example of the lawlessness which abounds in our society.
We’re shocked when a crooked politician is shown to be crooked and is still not prosecuted for clear violations of laws she full-well knew to abide by. We’re shocked when police officers overreach their position and cut down a man, for what seems like no good reason (we should note that the internet is a poor place to hold a trial, assemble a jury, and pass a judgment; though the footage surely looks damning, we should be patient to let all the facts be known first).
A Lawless Theology of Grace
Miscarriages of justice are not surprising when a culture which once claimed to be Christian has willingly forsaken a biblically grounded understanding of law and grace. The Modern Church has insisted on preaching so-called grace, but entirely to the exclusion of law. Our teaching of grace for the last several decades has been devoid of a proper understanding of the place and role of the law within our theology.
If we have mangled the statement in Romans 6:14-15 that, “we are not under the law, but under grace” to mean that the law of God has no place in our theological and ethical understanding of how God made the world and intends man to govern it, we should not be surprised when, down the road, our culture refuses to wear the yoke of the moral law of God. Theology shapes a culture, and in fact every culture is, at its core, religious. The root system is the theology, the culture is the fruit.
We have now taught a lawless theology of grace for years, and we are now witnessing the fruit. When the New Testament teaches we are not under law but under grace, it does not envision a world of anarchy, licentiousness, or “do-whatever”. The particular statement just mentioned in Romans, is specifically in regards to justification. Paul is vehement (and Luther, Calvin, and Protestants for 500 years now), our salvation is not at all dependent on our obedience to the righteous law of God; this is vital to be understood, and must not be abandoned. We are saved by grace alone. All we bring is our sin, He brings all the merit; lest man should boast!
Steeped in Law
Nevertheless, our Lord Jesus, and the New Testament writers do not make the case that the moral law (as most concisely outlined in the decalogue), should be forgotten, ignored, or relegated to the stone ages. In fact, they make it plain that civil governance ought to be steeped in the moral code which God graciously gave to Moses. The Gospel is not the elimination of God’s law, it is the solution to the problem that man can never keep God’s law.
Paul argues in Galatians 3, that though the law can never bring life or righteousness in terms of salvation, it is, all the same, a schoolmaster to lead us to repentance, exposing our sinful depravity, and driving us to look to Christ’s merit as the only satisfactory substitute before God for us (Gal. 3:24). But, Paul never presupposes a world with no governmental structure, authority, or legal structure. We see him give commands for New Testament family order, civic order, ecclesiastical order, etc.
The Gospel is good news that though I am reckoned guilty by the Law, by faith in Christ, I am reckoned as righteous by God the Father. Furthermore, and I’ll pick up again on this topic soon, but the Old Testament law–as found in the pentateuch and exposited by the prophets and extolled by the Psalmists–is based on a covenantal understanding of God’s relationship to man.
It was a covenant of love, and during the Mosaic age, which was always purposed to point to Christ, the Messiah, as the hope of the believer on either side of the cross. The true Israelite was one whose faith was not in their keeping of the law, but in the promised Messiah who was figured in the sacrificial system of Moses.
Not so hasty…
Thus, Christians must not be overly hasty to dispose of the law. We must teach it rightly. Furthermore, what is needed in our nation at large is not a capitulation to the lust for lawlessness, which the nightly news provides an unending stream of case studies on. The Church must assert the Lordship of Christ over all things, that includes presumptive nominees; police forces; black, white & brown; victims & criminals; family, churches, & cities. The law brings us to repentance, which is, in itself, a great a merciful grace from God.
Thoughts? Please comment below!