I was recently asked a number of questions about comments that were made to an article about a pastor in the SBC pastor who had preached a sermon in response to his son’s revealing that he was gay. You can find the article here. My responses to the comments may have very little to do with the original article, at least not directly.
- A couple notes.
1: Jesus did not abolish the law but rather fulfilled it. Basically to keep it simple the idea is that by fulfilling it (living perfect) he became our passover. Then God’s grace covered us.
The law is still valid but we live in grace and not the law. The law is there to help us see sin.
2: He didn’t give one command. He gave several.
What you are thinking about is him summarizing the law and prophets into two commandments.
“Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ” -Matthew 22:37-40
And the idea there is that God (and his kingdom) should come first and second we should love everyone whether they are family, stranger, or enemy.
3: There is a danger in promoting “love” alone in the message of the Gospel. It is more than just “love” and more than just telling us to love each other. Going into just “love” is just as dangerous as those who use the OT law to condemn people.
This comment is generally correct. Jesus did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. We see him saying exactly this in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” In fact, he went on to say that none of the law would be done away with until heaven and earth pass away. All this was spoken near the beginning of what we call the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus went on to be very specific about the Law and the need to follow and obey it at even a higher level than the folks thought. For example, Jesus said, ““You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:21–22). Not only did Jesus not take the Law away, he said to even think things in your head is to break the Law. He didn’t decrease the necessity to obey, he increased what it meant.
After saying these same kinds of thing with most of the major commands of the Bible, Jesus then said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:24–27). So, someone who wants to follow the Law, but doesn’t do all of the Law, will find himself in a world of hurt. I should point out that just before he said this he said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21–23).
You should notice two things about this: first, Jesus didn’t lessen the need to obey the law at all. In fact, as you would have been in trouble for disobeying before, now disobeying was even easier. This is because before the folks thought disobeying was a literal disobedience, “adultery meant sleeping with someone else’s wife.” But now, adultery was looking at a woman and thinking about wanting to sleep with her. And it all brought judgement and condemnation (Look up Mt. 5:27-30).
Second, notice the authority Jesus is giving himself. The law came from God, but Jesus is saying that he is integrally part of the whole scenario. If you hear his words and don’t do them, you are in trouble. If he doesn’t know you at the judgement day, you’re in trouble. Jesus was making himself out to be someone other than just a simple fellow from Bethlehem. He was making himself equal to God (Jn. 5:18). And the people understood this and were astonished (Mt. 7:28-29).
Our commenter mentioned that “we live in grace and not the law.” I think what he meant to say was that instead of trying to earn God’s favor by following the law, we obey the law because we already have God’s favor. That’s the Apostle Paul’s point when he said, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). Paul’s point here is that if you are trying to please God by following the law, you will fail. People are sinful by nature, we are rebels, we love to do what we want, and we are the center of our lives. In fact, the person who tries to follow the law in order to please God is only doing it because he wants God to give him what he wants, not what God wants. We are the captain of our ships and so we try to follow the law in order to coerce God into giving us what we want.
But the law is the kind of thing that won’t let us play that game. As we’ve just seen, the law is incredibly difficult to follow and obey. Who can go a day without looking at a beautiful woman without wanting her? Who can be disrespected by a co-worker and not get angry with her? Who can honestly say that they love God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength, and their brother as themselves (Mk. 12:30-31)? The fact is we are all in serious trouble when we try to impress God by following the law that he has given us to follow. We know in our bones that because we are not pleasing to God, we are in deep trouble.
If we go back to the Romans section again (chapter 6) we’ll see that after saying that Christians are not under law, but under grace, he is using the word ‘under’ in a particular way. He is saying that those who try to do right, by following the law (or any kind of ethical system) are actually in a kind of bondage. They are enslaved to whatever they submit, give themselves over, to. I know people don’t like to hear about slavery, but that’s how the Bible describes our state. We are either enslaved to sin (rebellion against God, love of ourselves, etc.) or we are enslaved to God. And the results, or fruit, of our enslavement is evident to all. For those enslaved to progressivism, extending ethical boundaries, self-expression, tolerance, etc. are actually being lawless and that lawlessness leads to more lawlessness (Rom. 6:19). This is because when a person can’t keep the law, he rebels against it and that is what lawlessness is. And the more you push against God’s law, and therefore God himself, the more lawless you get. In the end, you produce what, in Galatians, Paul called the works of the flesh, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19–21).
Did you see what I did just then? I used buzz words that point in a particular direction. I said progressivism and tolerance. I equated these two concepts with extending ethical boundaries and self-expression. This is because these are exactly what is going on here. We do what we do because we want what we want. And we don’t want no stinking God telling us what to do or how to think. We are proud to be rebels, even if we are enslaved to our passions and desires. So, we start out trying to do good and be nice, but because we are actually in rebellion against the standard—any standard, we fail. Then, because we feel incredibly guilty and full of shame, we join the fellowship of the guilty and join with them in their bondage to rebellion. The more we rebel, the worse life gets. But we don’t want to be failures and to be condemned, though every fiber of our being knows we are, so we begin to call evil good and good evil. We rejoice in our depravity and in our debauchery (think about what happens at parties). We are actually enslaved, there is no way up, even if we call the direction we are headed progressive.