8. The Law and Faith
Course: Old Testament Theology
Lecture: The Law and Faith
I want to remind you of some subsequent text when we complete a couple of other things. The book of Numbers got a start as one of the most hopeful books in the Bible, if you know what's been going on. They have this law that's going to create this community we've been talking about. And they celebrate the first Passover early in Numbers, so you know they've been out a year from Egypt.
And it all falls apart, doesn't it? Now, you have this ongoing grumbling that kind of continues. Finally, in Numbers 13 and 14, they send out spies, of course. And the spies come back and said, "Yeah, land is good." – That’s their first report. First report has the most truth in it. Yeah, the land's good, but the cities are inhabited and fortified.
Well now, this is not news to anybody, is it? I think God never said go out there, and I'll tell you what – they're just going to lay down arms and give you land. I mean, it always was that there was a populated place.
And they said we're not able to take it. When there's a dispute, then the lies start being told. The land eats people. It devours their inhabitance – all this was news. Then, of course, the giants are in the land. I mean, it's not the first committee that stretched the truth when their first opinion was disputed.
They all weigh in, and finally God weighs in. And what does God say the problem is? God doesn't say the problem is what some sermons I've heard say the problem is. We are as grasshoppers in their eyes. That's your problem; you think too little of yourselves. If you just had a higher self-esteem.
If you'd just get with it, you'd know. God says, "How long will they not believe Me?" – 14:1. How long will they not believe Me? What's their problem? Their problem is theological, which causes it to be practical. They don't believe what God has told them. They do not believe that He will take them to victory. Therefore, the practical problem is they're not going to invade.
So, they are punished, and Moses and Aaron, though at this point, they have not sinned in a way that will cause them not to go to the promise land. Mostly Joshua and Caleb – they did everything right, didn't they? But they're gonna suffer too, aren't they? Then, we just keep this theme of we should not be surprised, even for outrage by it, we should not be surprised by suffering for the sins of others – you know, sinful world.
And, so this generation is gonna have to die in the desert, and such a generation it is too – Lots of complaining, lots of rebellion, lots of death. Really, if you're in a foul mood while you're reading Numbers – and that often is the case. You may be prone to say things like, "I wish these people would just die, so we can get on to the promise land."
Do you notice that God sustains them, even in the midst of their sin? He still provides for them, still makes sure they have clothing and food. The manna doesn't stop just because they're terrible sinners. God's grace continues on, and God begins to grow up what becomes, perhaps, the most impressive generation ever in the history of Israel.
Think about it. A generation that grows up in the desert… grows up to conquer the promise land and be faithful to God. And just from a human standpoint, it seems that they're saying, "We may not conquer the promise land, but we're not dying in this desert." They become, perhaps, the most successful generation in Israelite history.
They are covenant keepers. They conquer the promise land. They're lead by Joshua. Moses becomes exhibit A that God cannot give his glory to another. There's nothing worse for the community than for God's glory to be attached to someone else, because you must worship God – that's what's best for you.
So Moses' sin in Numbers 20 is not just that he strikes the rock when he's told to speak to it, but what does he say? – Must we get water out of the rock? He takes credit for the miracle, really. As great as Moses was, his punishment is that he won't go to the promise land. Thus begins what may be the clearest evidence of the greatness of Moses.
I have become tremendously impressed that in comparison to Saul, for instance, what Moses does after he knows he won't go to the promise land is impressive. He still leads the people. He still teaches the people. He still mediates for the people.
Moses knows he won't go to the promise land, yet he does all this for Israel and prepares Joshua to take his place. He does ask God again to let him go to the promise land. But he accepts God's verdict and does God's work, even though he will not get the thing he wants most. It is often what we do after we realize what is closed to us to be faithful to God that may be the most impressive testimony to your godly character.
But he prepares the next generation, and, in Deuteronomy, gives instructions to this new generation in the form of a covenant treaty. He reminds them of the past. He reminds them of the Ten Commandments. He gives them standards to live by.
He gives them some new case laws because, after all, they're going to be in a new situation. Now then, how are they to keep this law? How's it going to happen? You remember Deuteronomy 6:4 and following – Love the Lord, your God, with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your strength – your muchness. That's a general term in Deuteronomy 6:4 and following.
Jesus says that mind and strength, right – that's how he defines muchness. Heart, soul, strength – it's an internal commitment that leads to an external exertion. And over and over again, love the Lord. And by the end, the indication is if you love the Lord, you'll keep his commandments. So, this is a standard Moses has learned. This is a standard Moses puts forth to them. And again, by the end of the book in 27 and 28, he is saying to them, there are blessings and consequences laid before you.
He knows, according to Deuteronomy 30, that the people will indeed, someday, break the covenant long enough that they'll lose the land. Is that the end? No, he says in Deuteronomy 30. If you'll repent in the land which God has sent you, God will bring you back. God will restore you.
As long as there's a chance for repentance, there's always hope in the Bible. So, in Deuteronomy 30, you have the game plan for coming back if you lose the land. And again, it's in the heart. Repentance always begins in the heart. Obedience always begins in the heart. Love always begins in whatever you – you know, I'm just using "heart" as a metaphor, of course.
But it's also true that as Jesus interprets Deuteronomy 6, heart, soul – it's a whole person, that which is emotional, spiritual, intellectual and physical. It's a whole portion. It's like an engine. You can only take it apart to talk about it. But you have to keep it together for the thing to run – the human body, the same way. We have different components. We can take them apart to discuss them, but the truth is heart, soul, mind and strength – Jesus' Mark 12 interpretation of Deuteronomy 6 – as a whole person, that's how you have to love God, with everything you are.
Thus, you can be a covenant keeper and if the – when the time comes that you have sinned, repentance is the key to coming back to God. As you know, the Old Testament word for repentance is shoove, and it really just means turn around. You've been going this direction, turn around. You're going north on I-65 when you should be going south, turn around. I would use the other two lanes, but turn around.
So, there yet remains hope when the law ends. What is the law's value? Joshua 1, Josh was told to meditate on the Law of Moses. Don't swerve from the right or to the left – stay in the covenant – in Joshua 1. When David wants to instruct Solomon in First King's 2, he says virtually the same thing. Stay with the word of God for your life and for the people's life.
When Isaiah preaches in the first chapter, or writes, at least, he says, "Look, external observance is not enough." Though your sins be a scar, they can be white as snow. Reason together. Turn in – in your heart. And then, in Isaiah 8, when speaking about how Israel needs to turn from the sins he's been describing all along, he says in 8:19 – because the people are looking for direction.
When they say to you, consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter. He says, "Should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?" – To the law – and to the Torah, the law and the testimony. If they do not speak according to this word – with the "they" being whoever you're seeking – it's because they have no dawn. They have no light to the law and to the testimony.
If you want to know what God thinks, go to the word of God. And I think the law is – is the Mosaic Law. I think the testimonies are, at the least, beginnings of narratives. I would give testimony to what God does in history. Go to those, he says. And if your prophets and spiritus medium don't speak medium don't speak out of that law, they have no light. And you have no guarantee that they're not just muttering and whispering the thoughts of their own mind.
This sort of thing is more and more prominent in this country, and it's prominent in a lot of places. I think I have 54 channels on the cable at the apartment [inaudible] provides. There's hardly ever anything on in the – but you have more commercials for tarot card readings and for all these other things that I've ever seen. It's a growing phenomenon. I think this one lady that's always advertised with the cards – she must be busy because she also helps everybody in Pittsburgh too.
She's everywhere. Her cards get pretty worn out. But in a way, you say, well, why are people doing this? They're looking for guidance and help. Look to the word – to the testament – to the law of God remains valuable on through. Jeremiah preaches the Ten Commandments, as I said in Jeremiah 7 – not all day, but, you know, a good number of them in 7 and 26.
Amos says in his chapter 2 and 3, if people are walking together, haven't they made an appointment? Haven't you made an agreement? We made an agreement with God, and yet, we've broken the covenant. The prophets say over and over again what's wrong with Israel is they've broken their agreements with God. They have a lot of metaphors for it. So that Jeremiah and Josiah, they talk about it in terms of a marriage that's been violated.
Josiah also talks about it in Chapter 11 like a child running away from a good parent – the more I call, the more you run away – which was a good way to get in serious difficulty where I grew up. Are there metaphors beside parental, marital...? – a king and his – and his people, there's a lot of metaphors for what it means that we were in agreement. You agreed to do something, and Israel has gone away from it. And the manifestations of it are many – lying and killing and stealing, oppression of the poor, injustice in the law courts... It goes on – the manifestations are many, but the problem is the same.
You know what God has said, what God has taught, what God has set forth about individual life and community life. And you go against that revealed will – that's the problem. So the prophets preach against covenant breaking, against the breaking of the law and standards. They even criticize it when their bringing their sacrifices – bringing it for the wrong reasons. Don’t the prophets have anything good to say about anybody?
It wasn't their job to say all these wonderful things. Once we get into the Psalms, remember, Psalm 19 – and particularly, Psalm 1:19 argues that the law is a gift from God so that people might know how to live a life that pleases God, and how to avoid all sorts of pitfalls. Again, the law is protective. How can a young man keep his way pure? – By walking according to the law of the Lord.
Protecting you from this and from that and from the other. Understand that God's law is perfect and pure, enlightens the eyes, keeps people from sin, it's a gift from God that's largely neglected by the run of the mill person. Now then, so the law according to Exodus and Leviticus were all the things we said before the break. Since the break, the law indicates that your relationship to God is one of believing in him.
For Israel, when they sinned against God and would not go into Canaan, the issue was they did not believe in Me. That's the primary problem, and that will lead to disobedience. And Deuteronomy, the issue is one of the heart. The covenant is based on love and on the heart and you say, “What about God?” Well, remember Deuteronomy 7 – why did he enter into covenant with him? – Because he loved him.
And the law is counsel as a way to walk with God. It doesn't establish a relationship with God, but it governs one and proves one – in Joshua 1 and First Kings 2, breaking and walking away from a covenant is the root cause of all sorts of sins in the prophets. And again in the law is shown as protective and good and a way for people's souls, uh, to be healthy before God in the Psalm.
So we've seen the law's not simply about externals, but it's about how people's hearts operate. Now then, the New Testament on the law – it's a diverse subject, but I'm just trying to follow themes that we've already seen. Now, something that did happen historically that we do need to remember is that it is true that there were certain groups and factions in Israel who came to believe that because of the passages in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 26 and 28 – emphasize law-breaking as the reason for the loss of land.
They did come to believe that if we would just keep the rules and regulations, everything will be alright. There were some like that, and some of them were prominent. In Acts, the Pharisees were zealous – the lot of them. They believed in what they believed, and so they propagated what they believed. That's what zealous people will do. Though, in recent – the last 50 years – New Testament scholarships indicate there was by no means every Jew in the first century believed that if I'll just keep the rules, I'll be alright with God.
Also pretty evident, a whole big bunch of them didn't care about God one way or the other. That there were Pharisees, Sadducees, zealots; there were Essenes and there were "leave me alones." Now, that meant that Jesus and Paul had to deal with something that the average prophet didn't. The average prophet's problem was not that the people were so scrupulous in keeping the law and by it – they thought they were righteous.
You notice that in the prophets that's not the common problem. But it is a problem Paul has to deal with and that Jesus has to deal with. But right away, in his ministry, Jesus, in Matthew 5 and the canon, gives the beatitudes – what a list of attitudes and actions to keep us right with God and right with one another. And then, Jesus goes on to say what we looked at the other day, he does not come to abolish the law, but by verse 20, unless your righteousness succeeds that. And describes to the Pharisees, you won't enter the kingdom of Heaven.
What is Christ saying about the law and about his commands? It is to produce a people whose righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Already, this emphasis on a people whose holiness is evident and obvious to the world is entered in, after all, in verses 13 to 16 of Matthew 5. It says, "You're the light of the world." You need to be a light on a city on a hill – that's the kind of light. You know, we want you – we want to have the kind of people that would be up here and be a light to everybody.
And that would be salt that would just permeate the culture – preserve it. And for that to occur, apparently, he says, "I want your righteousness to exceed that of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." Some passages in the New Testament, you'd say, "That wouldn't be too tough." But on other ones, you'd say, "They are serious about the word of God." You see, they've got a problem, according to Paul, who was a Pharisee of this type – and there were more than one types.
But, he says again, as we looked at yesterday in Romans 9:31 and 32 – they sought this righteousness as if it were by works. The righteous, he said, is by faith and by faith, the actions follow. But the actions themselves have no merit, and that's what they thought. They thought I could pile up merit before a holy God who is sinless. It's hard to impress a sinless God. It's like me trying to impress Michael Jordan with my free throws; it's just not all that impressive to someone like that.
They can be kind and generous and gentle, but it's hard to reach that standard. So one thing a law does is create a community that is a light on a hill, in Matthew 5. That is not so far off from Exodus 19 and 1 Peter 2, right?
They're ought to be a sense in which the people of God are so committed to the standards of God that they would stand out. Jesus also says, particularly in John, that the law speaks of him. We'll get to more of that later. When you turn to Romans, which is a rich book and it's such a tight argument that it's really hard not to start with Chapter 1 and go. But Paul makes it crystal clear in Chapter 1 that the just shall live by faith – that's what Habakkuk teaches, he says.
And that, by Chapter 3:21, now, apart from the law of the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets. Paul's saying, look, the law and the prophets say righteousness is apart from the law. That's what the law, itself, teaches – even the righteousness of God, verse 22, through faith in Jesus Christ for those who believe, for there is no distinction.
In other words, righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus for all who believe. And he says in verse 23, all of sin and falling short of the glory of God – I often tell people who think that the standard is that they're a little bit better than their neighbors – that they're good moral people. Now, I've heard a lot of preaching years ago that basically told them – tried to convince them they were foul, miserable sinners.
True or not, the standard is the glory of God and all have fallen short of that standard. If the standard was that Valerie is a little bit better than Cherie – Maybe, Valerie's alright, maybe she's not. But the point is that isn't the standard. And so, the only way one can be right with God is in verse 22 and verse 24 – being justified is a gift by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
Verse 27 – where then is boasting? It is excluded. What would we boast in, in other words. Even Christians will find something. It tends to be something like this, "I was a worse sinner than you before I converted, so I get to give a testimony." It's excluded by what kind of law of works – no. This is a lovely phrase, but by law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
And he has said that's what the Bible teaches – that's his point in verse 21. The Bible teaches us that very thing – the law and prophets give testimony to this. So then, in verse 31 do we then nullify the law through faith – may it never be on the contrary we established law on all points he's been making. On the point that keeping the law is evidence of a heart relationship with God, not the source of it.
And he continues to make his argument on into Roman 7, where he talks about his trouble. Keeping on, of course, it depends on your point of view, whether it's pre-Christian or post-Christian. But he says, verse 7 – What shall we say then, is the law sin? If that's how I wake into the fact that I'm a sinner, "Is the law sin?" – may it never be. On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin, except through the law.
Mary said one of the purposes of the law is to identify sin. I wouldn't even know sin unless it was through the law for I would not have known about coveting, if the law had said you shall not covet. And coveting is sort of a summary sin, isn't it? If you don't covet, you won't steal. If you don't covet, you won't commit adultery.
If you don't covet, you won't kill. Coveting is at the root of all sins against others. If I don't covet your car, I won't steal it. If I don't covet your money, I won't steal it et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So, he said, the problem is not the law, but verse 8, but sin taking opportunity through the commandment produced in me – coveting of every kind. For apart from the law, sin is dead.
Notice, I don't even know I'm sinning. I don't have any knowledge of it, but if I – the law tells me. And then, there's something about a sinful human being, he seems to indicate, that once I know that what I'm doing is against the law, I want to do it all the more. This is a problem since Genesis 3.
So he says, verse 14, we know that the law is spiritual, but I'm of the flesh sold into bondage to sin. Problem's not of the law; the problem's with me. So, he knows that God will deliver him from the body of death through Christ. But you see, the law is his friend here because it's bringing him to a knowledge of his dependence on God, his need of salvation. But, he goes on in a variety of places to show that those who love God are those who will fulfill the commandments – who will do them. How?
How is this the case? Only through the grace and the power of God, and that there's no merit in us doing this. Because, first of all, God gave us the knowledge that we needed to do it. Second of all, God gave us the power through the Holy Spirit to do it. So, exactly what sort of credit do we take for this. The other interesting thing is God rewards us for doing what he empowers us to do – that's generous.
it really is like little kids. You teach them how to do a chore. You help them do a chore. You end up doing more – it takes you longer to help 'em learn how to do it than it would to do it yourself, and then, you give them – often, my dog, when he hears an odd noise, cocks his head to look at it. My dad would probably do it if he heard.
And then, you might even give him some money for carrying out the task. You're rewarding them for doing what you empowered and taught them and helped them do – this to his grace. It's all of God, you see. From the beginning to the end, there's no merit in it. And so, back to yesterday, whether you want to describe it as – okay this – God gives you the faith. Then, he imputes to you the righteousness.
And then, after that, at that point, he helps you to do all these – fine with me. As long as there's – or you talk about a different system. I continue to work that over. But, the point is all of us must say there is no merit in us that brings salvation and that if we are a new creature in Jesus Christ, we will, indeed, because of his power and his grace and his love and his help and his prodding and his conviction – we will keep the law.
You say, does that mean sinless perfection? Well, did it ever mean sinless perfection? The answer is no. The sacrificial system was always right in the middle of that thing. So, when you read 1 John, he said, man, 1 John, he sure seems to act like if we're Christians, we won't practice sin. It won't be our habit. It won't be what we do. It will bother us if we do it.
Is he talking about sinless perfection? No, he kicks off the books with verses 9 and 10 – confess your sins. If we say we haven't sinned, we lie. And he said, “Confess your sin and God is just and right to forgive you your sins.” That's on a daily basis.
So, if your conscious is very tender – and that's a good thing – and you say, "Boy, I'm no covenant keeper. I sin every day." You need to go back and make sure your definition of covenant keeper is correct, because there was confession of sin by the covenant keepers in the Old Testament.
There were sacrifices for sin by the covenant keepers in the Old Testament. And in the New Testament, the covenant keepers that John's talking about do confess their sins. If you're expecting sinless perfection in order for you to be right with God, either as a Christian or before, you're gonna be either disappointed, frustrated or both.
Understand, then, that Paul says, "Living will follow." He says it in Romans. He says it in Ephesians 2 in that classic statement of how we're saved – by grace are we saved through faith, not of works or we would boast. We have nothing to boast about before God. But then, he says, "We then do the works that He has created us to do." But again, it's God having sealed us with the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 1 that does it.
And then, of course, if you go on to Galatians Chapter 3, Paul reminds us – look, you Galatians, do you want to go back and be saved by works of the law? – It's impossible. It's impossible – you can't – never could do it, can't do it now. Never was the standard – can't do it. It's not the standard now.
Not only that, Christ has come now. Here's the question that you liked here. Galatians 3:19, like a straightforward question – why the law then? That's clear enough. It was added because of transgressions. In other words, we can't have a holy community unless we have a law that defines it, and says it forth, "It was ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator until the seeds would come to whom the promise had been made. Till Christ would come, and he would keep it fully and would help us to do so.
Now, the mediator is not for one party only, whereas God is only one. Is the law then contrary to the promises God made? – Never be. For if the law had been given, which is able to impart life and righteous would, indeed, have been based on law. Now, the way of putting what Paul just said – the law was never intended to impart everlasting life – never been its intention. It always had another purpose.
And then it said, before faith came we – he's talking about himself and the Galatians – people who lived post-Jesus Christ – were kept in custody until the law had been shot up to the face, which is later to be revealed. Therefore, the law has become our tutor, helping get us to Christ. So, on the one hand, the law seems so negative because it points out what's wrong with me.
But if that's what it takes to get me to Christ, it is my tutor, my friend and the glory of god. And again, it's for my benefit and protection. And if it allows us to live in a way that would bring other to Christ through our godliness, it's a friend and a benefit and a protection to others. James is pretty strong too, as you know. Chapter 2, it says – I know some of you say, "I don't think he's talking about Paul. I think he's dealing with the church members he's got – most of these letters do.
So, you say, "Well, you know, I have my faith. There are no works." "What good is that?", he asks. He doesn't even think that that's evidence at all that you know Christ. He says, "I'll show you my faith by my works." Then, he says, "I'll show you I have faith by what I do for God."
He never says my works produce my faith; my works are the way I got to Christ. He says, I'm gonna show you that I love the Lord by what I do. What good does it do if you come upon somebody and they're cold and hungry and say, "be warmed and filled." That's hardly faith. And so, again, what is the function of the law?
It teaches us to be in community, pleasing God. It is evidence of a relationship. It is not constitutive of a relationship. It doesn't constitute a relationship with God. It gives evidence of a relationship with God, and that's been true since Exodus 20 and verse 2.
He doesn't say, "Now here's some commandments that if you will keep, I will be the Lord your God." He says, "I am the Lord, your God, who led you out of Egypt." That relationship is established. The evidence of the relationship would be the relationship to the law.
And I think that remains true because that seems to be the way Jesus is treating it in Matthew 5. Seems to be the way I think Paul is treating it and James is treating it. I think it wards off works salvation because there's no merit in it. Because it's the result of relationship, not cause of it. It's all given by God and empowered by God. I can't take credit for it.
But, it also wards off libertinism in Christians which says, "I'm saved. I don't have to do anything." That too is dangerous. I don't know what's the most dangerous. We can argue that. That would be an important point, wouldn't it? We can sit here and argue, "What's worse? Believing you're saved by works or believing if you're saved you don't do anything?"
I don't know what's worse because I'm not sure either one's a Christian. What sort of non-Christian is worse? I don't know. I'd really prefer to live next door to a legalist, wouldn't you? Somebody who keeps the place clean, makes sure the garbage is out, and they're trying to work their way up – than you would with somebody who's a libertine.
But, the point being, it wards off both. And it gives God the credit and God the glory and creates a community that would be a light on a hill. Now, if you say what's wrong with this picture – how we act, how I act – what's wrong with this picture? Is law sin? – No. Is God's salvation inadequate? – No. Is my obedience perfect? – No.
But still, the law has its purpose. And once we understand that keeping the law does not save because it never did, I think it changes a whole host of things for us. Paul says if you use the law for the purpose it was not intended – he goes down to 1 Timothy 1 – you know, talk about people who were teaching the law in all sorts of "squirrely" ways – that's a biblical term – and says the law is good if it's used to identify and inhibit sin. [Laughs] But, if you want to use it for something else – speculation or for the means to get saved or for any other number of abuses – Well then, you're not using it lawfully.
You're not using the law for the intention it was given. That leaves us with some questions about what remains relevant from the law. And that – for that, we would spend some time in Hebrews. But questions and comments at this time – give me a chance to sip the little coffee. Yeah, sure. For the Old Testament person, this is the best answer that I have to that question is really Hebrews 11, which indicates some things that aren't spelled out in the Old Testament text. For instance, that Moses considered serving Christ more important than the riches of Egypt and Pharaoh. It's very clear to me that Isaiah and Jeremiah had faith in the coming Messiah.
And that that was faith in God's promises and God's word. And that Abraham did too in Hebrews 11 points them out as people who did. That's fair enough from the Old Testament. Because if, as I believe, Moses is the author of Genesis 3:15, is the author of Deuteronomy 18, and some of these other passages, he understood, and that Jesus said Moses wrote of me.
And the prophet certainly, it's – Isaiah has this multi-faceted portrait of a coming savior – Jeremiah, Ezekiel, [inaudible]. What is less clear to me is what the people we never read about – the run of the mill works for bringing a sacrifice in Leviticus. We have two options and, I think, they're both solid.
One is, if it's true of the big names, it's probably true of the small names too. But it's also true that every person who brought a sacrifice to God because God required it – because his word said so – were operating in faith and belief and obedience to what God had told them. And that shows faith. So, it's faith either way.
The text in Leviticus does not tell us how much that faith was based on a coming Messiah, in my view. Subsequent biblical theology helps to see that that's what it was. But it is both faith in what they knew to be true now – to be explicitly God's word now. But also, to whatever extent they were given promissory note, if you will. They believed that.
But they all believed that they couldn't save themselves, that sacrificed was needed, that faith in God's promise was required – and that's what they brought. But, I do believe it was a remnant – as the text talks about it – a minority, just like it is today. In my opinion, anybody who ever brought a sacrifice with the right attitude had to come by faith. And the right attitude would be, "I'm a sinner. I must do this because God has asked me to make things right. I am such a helpless sinner before God that I must bring a dumb animal to help me be forgiven. I must believe the promises and the teachings of God to true or I won't bring this."
Why would you? – It's expensive and time-consuming. I've never understood people who went to church when they didn't believe it. But I do know there are folks who would answer my question different. Well, for community standards and for a lot of other things. So that was one or two questions.
Audience Member: Um, I think the second half, in a lot of ways, is not evidence of the right way to think of God.
Audience Member: And it says...
Paul: Can it be counterfeited? Can we be filled by...? – Oh, yes, of course. See, right, but there's no sure way for us to know their heart. If a Pharisee said I don't confess to Jesus, that was easy enough to see. But it's sometimes harder – you're one of our baptists, right?
Audience Member: Yeah.
Paul: Particularly, in a church where someone, at some point in their time, agreed to be baptized. If infant baptism is in play, you know, they might grow up and say, "Well, you know, those were my parents." That's easier to see, maybe. But, I can think of several cases where, if you get a person who has agreed to be baptized by believer's baptism, by immersion at whatever age and live a pretty good moral life, it's not as easy to see that they're a Pharisee – there's nothing in the heart.
One of the scariest passages in 1 John, though, gives the clues – How do we know? Remember in 1 John 3, we know we have passed from death unto life because – what? – it's one of the few times the Bible says we know we've passed from death unto life. Here's evidence, if we what...?
Audience Member: [inaudible]
Paul: Love the brothers. I've been thinking of a man right now – I hope this isn't judgmental in the wrong sort of sense. I hope it's discerning – that's a – that's good Christian talk. I can only say this individual – member of a southern baptist church – in his business, if he sold me something, I would have no question that it was in whatever order he said it was. He would not sell me something broke. He would not cheat me.
I know that. I also know that he has caused dissention and trouble in the church for at – I only know about 30 years. There may be longer. This is the frightening part – deacons talk to him and about three preachers on – and you just have to know the culture. They said, "We're here to talk to you because you can't keep running our preachers off." Just make life so miserable that if there's some place less miserable that pays reasonably, they're willing to talk to a [inaudible] committee.
He named the pastor and said, "I got mad at that person, and I haven't forgiven him. And I never will." I think the wrong response was made. I talked to my father about this. He stuck with it, and the guy said, "What are you going to do? Kick me out of the church?" My father said, "I'm willing." If this is your attitude, I'm willing.
Because you're going to take it out on whatever preacher's handy. Here was the frightening part – I haven't forgiven that person, and I never will. And I will take it out. I mean, the subtext was, "I will take it out on neighbors around me." The concern I had was we know we've passed from death unto life because we love the brothers. If you practice sin, you don't know God. He was satisfied to hate this guy till the day he died, knowing he professed intent to repent.
It's not like we're left totally without – I would just say, a combative, mean, stupid person who, having been taught differently, will not repent is – I don't care how many times they've been baptized or been down the aisle or wherever they've been, it's hard to believe by biblical evidence those are believers. And they're in all kinds of churches.
Audience Member: [inaudible]
Paul: He hardly has any. See, that was the other thing that embitters him. It's a smaller church, but see, he has no leadership role at all. That too embitters him. Yeah, but you're right, there are those who would abuse it. And would constantly do so, even though they know it's wrong. But here's the point – here's the problem. I'm not saying he would be saved if he were a nicer man.
Because there are lots of nice people. Our pastors would have said, "Yes, there are lost people in the community who claim nothing about God, who treated him nicer than this guy." But the point is, those are harder to see. But we can always be – There are things we don't know too. How do you account for people who serve the Lord for a long time and who literally now deny the faith and live in open sin?
And if you've ever had somebody close to you like that, it grieves you. See, you spend time wondering how is it between them and God? It gets more acute because, you know, I just attended a funeral a few weeks ago – my best friend in high school. See, it's that kind of situation. So we can't know perfectly – that's one of those secret things that belong to God.
But I can know that in my own life, and in my teaching, that Godly living is the outflow of a relationship with God and has been from the beginning of the text on down. And I try to make sure people understand that no, I'm not talking about that this contributes anything to your salvation. But it contributes everything to your witness. And that the standard is therefore important because we are serving a holy God whose character is pure, whose actions are pure, even when we're not sure they are.
I think by now we've mostly mentioned most of the text that we had – that you had read – Leviticus, and Galatians and Peter. And so, again, I think that we need to remember that Christ set aside parts of the law. He declared all foods clean, didn't he? In Mark's gospel – isn't it Marks 7:19? By his death on the cross, all sacrifices – and one way to be put it, he removed the need for sacrifices. Another of what he said, all sacrifices were subsumed in him.
All of them came together in him. All the sacrifice for any sort of sin, they were all placed upon him. And here's another one that requires us to think a bit in our own roles as ministers. You don't need a high priest anymore because he is the high priest and the mediator of the covenant. Or to put it another way, all the priests are wrapped up in him.
Paul makes it pretty clear in his writings to the Romans, Chapter 13 and others – it has not been given to Christians the power to punish law-breakers. In other words, the church has not been given the power – say, for instance, to write traffic tickets, imprison people, carry out punishments – that's been given to the states. However, there's nowhere the Bible says that Christians cannot hold up these standards, and as witness, urge acceptance of higher standards that are found in scripture.
Audience Member: You mean, like, to the world or whatever...?
Paul: I think so. Because, in some cases, the world doesn't know or hasn’t taught about – I mean, this is the kind of saying that says – hasn't thought that certain things are wrong and harmful. Of course, the problem is we go on and on in human history. We know more and more about people. In today's climate, if you say something is wrong, it is taken as a negative comment on a particular person or persons.
Because it's a very dicey thing these days to say this is wrong, because there's a group of people doing it. Because, then, there's an advocate group that will immediately say we are calling us bad. But, there are times where the church can do that. But I think, also, the Christians can always hold up the standard of scripture of fairness and justice, lack of oppression... I think you can always hold up standards that benefit the community. I think these are things that, certainly, we can do.
Now, of course, because the Bible is pretty silent on the following issue, Christians have disagreed to what extent do we press our claims and how? So that you'll have a more [inaudible] person who would say, "My example alone is all I can do." A more activist person is going to say, "Oh no, man, that's not..." If we wait till people figure out that this is the right thing to do, we're going to be sitting in this situation forever.
The Bible never explains to us directly – this is back to the principial points and how to apply God's word. The Bible doesn't tell us exactly how to set forth and integrate a lunch counter or how you do some other things – how you punish a bunch of freshmen for doing thus and so. How do you even set up the standard? So, you happen to use principles to go to work and to do it. And part of the wisdom issue is going to be, "to what extent do we press our claims and how."
That's always part of the tough one. But I think, yes, Christians have the responsibility to hold up godly standard. And here's the other one, a lot of times, Christians get the reputation – sometimes, justly so – of always – of complaining. Then, another thing we might do is really clap our hands loudly and be happy when a law that we considered to be just and right and good and godly is upheld or passed.
It might be nice to say, "Way to go, that looks good, we're with you on that one." Maybe, as often as we say, "what the heck was that." So, but the work must be done. The principles are laid out. And all the principles, as far as I'm concerned, are for the benefit of those who would live by them. And seeing it in that sense, even a non-believer can benefit from God's standards.
It is better for the person to keep God's standards than it is for them not to do so. But, it is only a Christian who can fully give a testimony and say that I do these things and I'm unable to do these things at all because of Christ – because of my relationship with him. And because of my relationship with him, I love this community; I love these people or I'm trying to. And thus, we live this way. Yeah, other questions are coming – yes, sir?
Audience Member: [inaudible]the Lord will empower. [inaudible] but they don't want to, if they have [inaudible].
Paul: Yeah. Let's do some things before we sit in judgment because we may have to eventually. They may live in such a way that we would have to judge that they're either not believers or so harmful to the community that something needs to be done. Before that day comes, let's try a few things. In the law, the priests were supposed to teach the people the truth. Let's make sure that's been done.
I shall never forget as long as I live – I think, as long as I have a conscious mind, remember two deacons come into the study at the church and saying, “You know we have a problem. These guys never brought a joy to me. They usually brought problems. But that's alright, they're good men.” We baptized so and so two weeks ago. Yes, and I was – big church said, do you realize that that guy is living with a woman – they're not married.
I said no. Then, I said, "Is he here?" – Yeah. Bring him in. I said bring the study. You know, I said – I learned this from my father a long time ago – I said to him – I asked him, "Now, is this situation – you're living with this woman?" He said yes. I said do you realize that the Bible teaches other than that? He said, "You know, I was suspicious it did." I didn't think that was probably right – I wasn't sure.
He wasn't lying to me cos, again – there was nothing – yeah, that's what we're doing. Yeah, yeah... What confused him, however, was that the woman was a member of another church somewhere. She was kind of the only Christian he knew and so, who is he to – So, I had already asked the deacons and I said, "Now, you can't just criticize this man." He has to have a place to go. If he moves out, he has to have a place to go.
This one deacon, God bless him, on the write-up, he said, "He can live with me or in one of my rental properties as long as he needs to." So what did the guy do? Once he knew what was right, he did the right thing. Now, this is an extreme example but, in this culture, I'm not too sure how extreme a lot of things are gonna get. People simply don't know. Let's make sure they know what's right first.
Then, let's try to create ways in which we can be helpful to them. Let's make sure that we're teaching the way the priests were supposed to. Let's make sure we're helping the way the priests were supposed to. Let's not blame ourselves then, though, if the people say no. But let's make sure and then let's understand that this is a growth in godliness, not an automatic principle.
The question is, "Will there be growth?" Or, as John says, is there the practice of sin? When I say God empowers – of course, as I've also been saying, people have to believe and do that by faith. They must turn to God. They must believe. They must trust in him. They must do that – and He empowers.
But I would not blame God, and in certain points, I don't blame the person all that much. We try to instruct. We try to help. We try to lead. We try to create opportunities. At least in the culture where I lived most of the time, if I assume that everybody knows what the Bible teaches about certain morals, I'm just out of touch. And so, one of the favorite stories of one pastor friend of mine – he says he had people come to him and say they were new Christians.
They said, "What is tithing?" We know we're supposed to do it, and we want to be obedient to God. They were only slightly sobered when they found out what it was. "Oh – oh, it's money. Oh, okay." But they didn't know. They literally didn't know. So, let's make sure that some of these things are being done, and then let's make sure that a chance for growth has occurred. Let's make sure that indeed they are practicing sin willfully and happily – or at least willfully and intently – before we make that judgment.
But let's also comfort the people with a tender conscience who are struggling that this is – let me take Joshua 1. Joshua was on a life journey. He had work to do. He was supposed to be helping Israel, leading Israel and doing all that. And along the way, he was supposed to be meditating on the word of God. It was a journey. It was life process.
Let's encourage people. And one of the nicest things you can do as a pastor is to say to them, "You know, let me be honest with you. When you started in Christ, this is where you were and though you are not as far as you may want to be or we'd like to see, you're not there anymore. You've moved forward." And because I've just noticed that a whole lot of tender consciences feel like they've just not gotten anywhere with the lord when that isn't so.
But also, there's the rebuking part. I've been positive now, but there are some Christians – and I think they are Christians – that unless you say to them, "I love you, but you're doing the wrong thing. And we will support you in your repentance and help you any way we can, but you are doing the wrong thing. And I can't just keep letting you do it without pointing it out." That's hard work.
For those who love to point out other people's fault, it's hard work to do it and love. For those who are reluctant to do so, it's hard to point 'em out. But, I think it has to be done. Those are some pastoral things to say, but the power of God is always there as they believe and walk with God. God does it. That's one of the mysteries, isn't it? God does it, and we have to obey.
We obey, but it's God doing it. I don't know how to work all that out in a good, linear fashion. But the Bible teaches I wouldn't even want to do it, unless God showed me the way. Yes, sir?
Audience Member: [inaudible]
Paul: My experience in the episcopal church has been rich and deep. But, I had the same question from the class. I'll just do it briefly. I said to them I think they have a high view of what it means to be God's representative to the people. They have a high view of that. The average episcopal – the episcopal church as a whole, even in the conservative wing – in my view – there is a growing conservative movement – has an abnormally low view of the priest's responsibility to teach and preach the word of God.
Though there has been a growing conservative movement in the episcopal church, there has not yet come a solid, strong preaching tradition like there has been in Britain. And that needs to happen. The other thing that I've said to Episcopians – let's make sure we don't confuse our sacramental theology to the point that we think that what you're doing is saving the people.
Remember you're God's representative, not God. When you take the responsibility – see, every week, doing all sorts of things – interceding for the people, absolving them of sins – It's easy to believe it's what you are doing for them and to become... But, if I could do anything for the Episcopal Church in America, even the evangelicals, it would be to remind them that the priests teach the word.
And it's really interesting because many of the African students we had at Trinity thought that was – surely, that was not a problem. But once they attended enough churches and heard enough sermons, even from good and loving and good, Bible-believing people, they could see the problem. The episcopal church, USA has had a – the conservatives were outside of it for so long that, right now, a lot of the models for ministry they still have are not evangelical models.
So, if your model for preaching has been kind of a liberal values-oriented 10 minute sermon, until some good models come along – and you know you have some good ones, even in this city. Until some decent models come along and there are enough of them for long enough and people follow 'em – you know you have a problem. I've run into Anglican priests who really thought, in a way, that they were re-sacrificing Jesus every week.
They were post-Catholic on the mask. And so, I think this is dangerous – that's a danger too, the sacramental theology going too far. So, those were some of the things. But this idea of the priest teaching and also interceding through prayer more than just during the Eucharist – I thought was – was significant. Thought that's certainly, uh, an emphasis.
I don't know, I guess I would answer the question differently to [inaudible] but the prayer emphasis would certainly be one for Baptist pastors. Methodists are all perfect. The Presbyterians as well, so we'll get to them later. Thank you for your help today. We're going to look at God's ruling of history.
Though I can't give you the test questions until I see what we've covered for a while, do know that the reading is always valuable for answering the questions. And it's easy to refer back when you're writing than it is to read it for the very first time. So, I'd just encourage you along those lines. Thank you.