This is the 2nd half of my comments on the PCUSA position on the Bible as presented on their web site in lay person terms.
My comments are once again in blue. If you read both parts you will find included the entire text of the article.
To handle the Word of God responsibly, Presbyterians have always stressed the importance of scholarship. All the way back to John Calvin it has been crucial that our decisions as a church do not rest on the understanding of Biblical novices whose knowledge of Scripture is only surface deep, but on the most thorough and scholarly search for truth of which we are capable. In seeking to address any issue from a Biblical perspective, under the guidance of the Spirit, Presbyterians have found it incumbent upon them to ask penetrating questions of the kind the early apostles asked. To whom was a Scriptural injunction directed? Who wrote it, and why? What is the context? For what time period is it applicable? Are there Scripturally justifiable exceptions to the rule? How was the statement understood in its own time?
What our Constitution is saying to us is that isolating certain statements of Scripture and using them to prove a particular viewpoint is not kosher. While my right to private judgment is inalienable, so that I must listen to my conscience when it comes to determining the revealed will of God, conscience also requires me to listen to “the whole counsel of God.” In other words, if I am really to hear the Word of God for me today (I am not asked to hear it for someone else), I cannot be individualistic in my reading of Scripture. I need to remain in dialogue with the whole church.
We Presbyterians therefore believe in the importance of listening to each other when it comes to interpreting the Bible. No matter how alien a viewpoint may be to us on first exposure to it, we have a responsibility to hear it fully and not reject it out-of-hand. This entails adopting the role of a student toward my sisters and brothers in the church. It means I must exhibit a willingness to try to see an issue through their eyes, rather than treating them with hostility because what they are saying contradicts my present understanding. As the Constitution expresses it, being Presbyterian means we exercise forbearance toward each other.
The author expresses some fine sentiments here and makes some very good points. Understanding the context of a scriptural text is vital. Good solid exegesis methods are very important to understanding authorial intent. It is also very important to hear the interpretations of people who come from very different cultures and backgrounds to our own. They very often help us see nuances of meaning that we are less likely to discover for ourselves. Mutual forbearance is truly a virtue, as well as being patient and kind to one another in the midst of our disagreements. But when we do solid exegesis and hear from all sides of an issue, there are still essentials of the faith that the Bible makes clear and unequivocal. No matter how finely we parse the verbs, or how cleverly and creatively we manipulate the text, we still discover that both the Old and New Testaments of the Holy inerrant Bible condemn homosexual acts as sin. It is true that Jesus does not address the issue directly in the canonical gospels, but he certainly refers to marriage as being between one man and one woman. There are many other sins that Jesus does not speak to directly, for example pedophilia, but no clear thinking Christian would defend that as an alternative lifestyle. Ultimately it is the Word of God – The Bible that is to have final authority. If after listening to one another we find that we have held a view that is clearly indefensible in Scripture then we must change our view.
As a minister I am often asked what I believe in. The fact is, what I believe in has changed drastically in my 48 years. Some positions I once took a stand against, I now embrace; others I at one time accepted, I now reject. As they have shown themselves willing to listen to each other on issues such as the ordination of women, a great many Presbyterians have changed their understanding quite drastically over the course of their spiritual journey.
I hope this means that the Holy Spirit breathed Word of God convinced him to change his views. So often though, it is emotional pleas that are completely unscriptural that change people’s views. This is unacceptable for any truth Christian. It is only God’s Word that is to have the final authority. The Reformation call to always be reforming is always to better align ourselves to the Word of God written.
The more grounded I become in the Protestant watchwords grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, the more I question the validity of a question concerning what I believe. I find significance in the order of those good Protestant words: grace first, then faith, then Scripture.
What this means, I can only guess, based upon the context and the consistent muddled thinking of the author. What he seems to be saying is that there is some significance to the order of grace, faith, Scripture. What I can only deduce from the context is that when Scripture seems to be “ungraceful” in certain respects…e.g. sexual immorality, then grace trumps Scripture. The author is here committing intellectual suicide. It is from the pages of Scripture that we discover that we are saved by grace alone (God’s unmerited favor), through faith alone (not through our works). It is therefore illogical to assume that grace and faith can trump Scripture, because it is only through the inerrant Scriptures that we discover the truth of God’s unmerited favor.
My faith is the result of God’s gracious activity in my life, and not the other way around. What I believe in has become less important to me over the years than belief. More appropriate, it seems to me, is the question of in whom I believe.
Of all the foolish things this author has had to say in explaining the PCUSA view on Scripture, this is the most inane. This nonsensical saying is utterly astounding. What does belief mean if it does include a proposition to believe in. For instance, the Apostles Creed makes certain propositional statements, such as Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. While we as Christians clearly believe and trust in the resurrected Jesus, this would be nonsense if we did not believe certain propositional truths about Jesus as well. To simply trust some person named Jesus, without any propositional information about that person is not to trust in the historical Jesus at all, and thereby be lost. These statements seem to be more at home within Neoorthodoxy than historical Orthodox Reformed Christianity. The illogic is also more at home there. There should be absolutely no room for this muddled form of theology within the leadership of any Christian denomination.
My faith is not something I have to defend, as if it were a set of doctrines to which I must cling for dear life. It isn’t because I believe certain things that I belong to God; rather, I belong to God, and that leads to belief. I wouldn’t be giving up anything significant if most of the ideas that seem important to me and that I say I believe in right now eventually prove either in error or inadequate, and I have to modify them.
What part of “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved” does this author not understand? I find these statements to be utterly ingenuous and foolish. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul clearly lays out the foundational necessity of the physical bodily resurrection of Jesus and subsequently of true believers to Christianity. He tells us that if the bodily resurrection of Jesus were not a historically verifiable act, then the Christian faith is worthless and we are lost, and to be pitied. Is this one of those “ideas that seem important” to the author, that could be given up or proven wrong with no problem? These sorts of statements that at a gut level sound pious and humble, are nothing more than intellectual suicide. What is the Christian faith if it does not hold to certain doctrinal points?
My spirituality would be unaffected because I don’t have to hold on to my beliefs; rather, the one in whom I place my faith has got ahold of me! That is the glorious message of grace.
This is an interesting statement in several ways. If beliefs do not affect one’s “spirituality” than what does? How does Rev. Ord know that there is someone who is “ahold” of him? Does he not believe that? What if he were to stop “believing” that someone (supposedly the triune God of the Bible, which requires belief) had “ahold” of him? This statement is completely illogical, as is much of this article. I am also troubled by his minimal assessment of the “glorious message of grace.” I believe that the biblical message of grace has to do with undeserved merit, and the grace of God in Jesus Christ is only available to me a sinner and an enemy of God, because Jesus died for me. This is the message of saving grace. Yet Rev. Ord gives no indication that he believes people are lost sinners and bound for hell if they do not repent and turn by faith, receiving Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior by Grace. And if he does not believe that, I suppose it will not affect his “spirituality”.
Because I am secure in my confidence in God, I can now turn to Scripture with an
open mind that is ready to be challenged, eager to question, keen to investigate. My faith is not staked on a particular interpretation of a passage of Scripture–it rests on God’s grace. So there is nothing to be afraid of anymore.
How exactly does he know this, if not by some form of interpretation of God’s Word? Is not God’s grace based on an interpretation of Scripture? Once again the massive inconsistencies and illogic shine forth from a postmodern, post-logic, thinker.
We Presbyterians believe in ongoing dialogue concerning the Bible because, to people of faith, no idea should be so shocking that it cannot be given a hearing. If our faith is genuine, we have nothing to fear from any quarter. We do not feel threatened if an opinion we presently hold as Scriptural turns out to be a misunderstanding of the Bible. That is why we welcome what archaeologists, historians and linguists have to tell us about the Bible. We are willing to hear all sides of an issue, studying it closely from every possible angle. I like being Presbyterian because it is a great relief not to have to be “right”!
What if he is wrong about this point? How does he know that being a Presbyterian means not having to be right? This is simply another in a long line of self-refuting statements.
A reading of our confessions these past 2,000 years shows that even the greatest minds had only limited understanding–even got it wrong at times–and had to be
updated. That means I can entertain the possibility that, as obvious as something appears to me, I might be wrong. It’s OK to be wrong. In fact, if growing in grace and truth means anything substantive, I ought to delight in finding out that some concept I have held to be true is flawed and requires modification.
The Christian confessions of the last 2000 years are actually quite remarkably consistent in the essentials of the Christian faith, with certain aspects being emphasized over others.
Indeed, it is when we feel most sure of our viewpoint that–if we take the examples and warnings of Scripture seriously–we are most in peril.
The author seems incredibly sure of his viewpoint on this. Once again a self-refuting statement.
To return to the issue of circumcision, when Peter ate with and baptized uncircumcised Gentiles (Acts 10-11), everyone at the headquarters church back in Jerusalem knew he was wrong! They had not only the weight of a thousand years of
tradition behind them to show that Peter had gone astray, but also direct, clear, incontrovertible statements of Scripture. But they had not counted on the Holy Spirit–that wind that blows where it wills, without asking our permission–which had an entirely different interpretation to put on those ancient Biblical texts.
The “interpretation” that the Holy Spirit showed them was what it meant that Jesus had fulfilled the scriptures that looked forward to his coming. They did not yet have the New Testament, which the Holy Spirit moving on the apostles and those close to the apostles, was at work writing. We today have the New Testament.
What do Presbyterians believe about the Bible? We believe that through it God speaks to us–that it is inspired. For some, that means the Bible is inerrant. For others, it means that even though the Bible is culturally conditioned and not necessarily factual or even always true, it breathes with the life of God. In their limited ways, the ancients grasped something of the infinite that we need to hear and dialogue with today. Above all, the Bible points us to the living Word, the Christ who is present in each of us in Spirit, inviting each of us to become the Word enfleshed in the steps of Jesus–what Paul calls in his first letter to the Corinthians “living letters from God.”
How precisely is Christ present in each of us in Spirit? That can be interpreted many different ways. Is Christ present in everyone (both non-believer and believer)? Are there people damned to hell and in which the Spirit of Christ is not present? Does the author hold a sort-of pantheistic view of “in Spirit” or does he mean the incarnate, resurrected, second “person” of the Trinity dwelling among us in the person of the Holy Spirit empowering us to holy living and to follow in the steps of the historical, incarnate, resurrected person Jesus Christ? Clearly the author has more of a pantheistic god in mind. This heresy masked in Christian language is all too common among mainline denominational leaders.
David Robert Ord is co-author, with Robert B. Coote, of Is the Bible True? (Orbis Press). Born and raised in Yorkshire, Northern England, he is pastor of Oak Park Presbyterian Church in New Orleans, La.
I believe that this article is a good representation of the how the PCUSA and other mainline denominations have lost their moorings and are set adrift in the ocean of post-modern neoliberalism. They give lip-service to the belief in the authority of Scripture, but in reality they view the Bible as a human creation –a certain groping in the dark—that is somewhat “inspiring” at times. This horrendous, muddled-thinking article represents the position of the PCUSA (and many other mainline denominations) on scripture. Yet, this is not even a Christian way of thinking about God’s Holy Spirit breathed Word. When the foundation is gone, they will believe anything and nothing. This is not Reformed. It is not even Christian.
I have only recently become aware of David Robert Ord’s article posted on the PCUSA web site, as a clearly approved way of explaining what it is that Presbyterians believe about the Bible and biblical interpretation. This is the foundation of the mountainous theological errors of the PCUSA and other mainline denominations. I believe that it is vital that we read this article, which I will be including in full in my reflections, and understand the beliefs. It astounds me that such muddled thinking and horrendous theology permeates every nook and cranny of the PCUSA. You would think that being a pessimist by nature I would not find such reflections to be so offensive, but I continue to be outraged by the heresy that is espoused at all levels of this denomination with no discipline being administered.
If I were to summarize the position of David Ord, it is this: views on biblical revelation and interpretation are gray areas of Christian faith – they are not essential – what might be considered essential is toleration for a wide variety of views, which then makes no one view essential, only toleration of others views. This is the modern sense of the idea of toleration which holds that all views are of equal worth and value.
Let us take a look at the text of this article. I will include my comments in blue.
“You can prove anything from the Bible,” a person who knows little about the Bible assures me. As a Presbyterian minister with a deep respect for the Bible, I recognize that there is both truth and error in that statement. Error, inasmuch as the Bible obviously can’t be used to support every imaginable viewpoint. Truth, inasmuch as Presbyterians reach different conclusions on the same issue and support their conclusions with Scripture. For some of us the message of the Bible is consistent from Genesis to Revelation. To say the Bible is inspired is to say it is accurate and factual–and therefore contains only one viewpoint, that of the Creator. If other people arrive at different beliefs from reading the same Scriptures, it is obvious to us that the problem lies with interpretation. Either the scribes who copied the manuscripts
misinterpreted what they were copying and introduced error, or the person reading it is misinterpreting the meaning.
Can the author show significant scribal errors within our current Greek texts, that would affect any major doctrine of orthodoxy? No. This author simply makes this claim as an aside and the issue is settled that at least that possibility exists. This is a devious and deceptive tactic that should have no place with a so-called Christian denomination, unless that denomination is apostate.) To simply say, “either the scribes who copied the manuscript misinterpreted what they were copying and introduced error…” creates an agnostic view of the reliability of scripture. Unless this author is willing to give clear examples where scribes introduced theologically significant error that is at the heart of any of the essentials of Christian orthodoxy, I would suggest that he cease making such asides.
The fact is we have highly reliable copies of the texts of the New Testament. The science and literary work done with ancient extant copies has advanced to the point where most New Testament scholars (liberal or evangelical) believe that there is little more to accomplish. The few words & phrases that scholars argue & squabble over are of very minor consequence and affect no central doctrine of Orthodox Christianity. Those who argue that we cannot know how close our copies are to the original texts are arguing either from ignorance or are attempting to deceive.
For others of us, the Bible can be used to support a variety of different beliefs and ideas because it actually contains, not a monolithic point of view, but different points of view. These differing ideas were expressed, not just by named writers, but by sometimes quite large groups schools of thought such as priests and scribes, cloaked by a particular name like Moses over a period of about a thousand years. Battling about the meaning of the Bible is not new, not an innovation of the modern division between conservatives and liberals. There have always been a variety of different ways of interpreting Scripture.
Two major assumptions arise in this paragraph. The first is that if there are differing views of interpretation of a text, and that we cannot with any assurance claim one meaning for the text. This is absurd. If I were to interpret the above sentences of this author to mean that Christians should utterly ignore everything in the Bible because the different authors were hopelessly conflicted is to do a disservice to his writing. My interpretation would clearly be seen as extremely unlikely and clearly wrong, so too with the majority of biblical interpreters. Second, the author clearly has accepted higher critical readings and the documentary hypothesis of mainline liberal schools. Possibly the author does not realize that this kind of scholarship has been attacked and criticized by a great deal of scholarship in the last several decades, and is now viewed with a great deal of skepticism by many that used to advocate for it. The idea of different schools that wrote under the guise of Moses introduces intentional deception by the authors of the text, whether or not the author understands the documentary hypothesis in this way. Also, in the case of the New Testament, the early church utterly rejected this practice among Gnostic writers.
The apostles themselves actually differed over the interpretation of key Scriptural passages. Witness the battle over circumcision in the story of Acts. Consequently there existed in the early church two quite opposing viewpoints, both strongly defended from Scripture. Jewish Christians, headed by James and Peter, had the clear testimony of Scripture that circumcision and the law of Moses were based on an “eternal” covenant, and therefore essential for salvation for not only Jews but also Gentiles. Paul taught differently. Eventually, at a conference in Jerusalem not unlike our General Assembly today, they decided to tolerate each other’s viewpoint, remaining in fellowship while agreeing on some points and disagreeing on others. As a result two quite different churches emerged, one distinctively Jewish and the other liberated from the law of Moses.
Where does this author come up with this interpretation Acts 14 & 15? It is difficult to tell if he has even read the book of Acts. Both Peter (who is prepared ahead of time by God) and James concur with Paul. There is no indication in the text that Peter or James were at odds with Paul to begin with, but only “some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees” (Acts 15:5). The issue was clearly settled at the end of the chapter and they were of one accord as a body, led by the Holy Spirit getting clarity of the truth. That might not mean that every single person was on board, but certainly the leaders were and there was never a sense that “two quite different churches emerged.” This heresy that began with the Tubingen school of Germany and continues with Bultmanian school of higher criticism is truly nowhere to be seen in the biblical texts, but continues to be promulgated by those within the denomination either in ignorance or in an attempt to undermine the authority of scripture.
If it were to be shown that even the early church was divided on major issues, such as Christian freedom and the role of the law within the Christian church, then we can certainly differ within the church today on what many consider to be essential tenets of the Reformed faith.
Yet, ultimately the author’s case does not stand up under close scrutiny, for there was no significant division within the theology and leadership of the early church. Only by so torturing the text and evidence as to make all interpretations possible are we to deduce that there were “two quite different churches.”
The great strength of Presbyterianism is its uncanny knack of fostering a fellowship in which people of different viewpoints continue to dialogue.
Yes, it is true that such an attitude can be terrific, if we are dealing with issues that the larger Christian church might consider to be non-essential. But, when we are dealing with everything that historically has been considered absolutely essential to the Christian faith, how can this be seen as a strength? The outside world and the greater church will view the PCUSA to believe everything and thereby nothing. When Dirk Ficca stood and asked the question of what was the big deal about Jesus, it highlighted the utter lack of any true convictions by the PCUSA. It showed to the church and the rest of the world just how divided we all were. There was never any serious discipline enacted. This clearly indicated that the PCUSA includes people who openly deny the historicity of the resurrection, the deity of Christ and every other essential of historical Christianity (let alone Reformed theology). The Lordship of Jesus Christ has thereby been passively denied by the PCUSA by their refusal to discipline heretics and heresy.
Not only in the same denomination but also in the same congregation it is often possible to find folks who believe every word of the Bible to be factual worshiping alongside sisters and brothers in Christ who treat the Bible as true in meaning but not necessarily factual, and still others who would not even agree that the Bible is wholly true in meaning, let alone factual.
I cannot even imagine what is meant by the latter two groups. Who are these “sisters and brothers who treat the Bible as true in meaning but not necessarily factual”? How is something true in meaning, but not factual? Does he mean that they believe the stories to be myth and parable, masked with the clothing of historic truth? How far can we extend this? How about the physical resurrection of Jesus? Can I believe that this is a meaningful myth?
Then what about those who “would not even agree that the Bible is wholly true in meaning, let alone factual”? What “meaning” are we willing to sacrifice for us to still consider those who are in this camp to be brothers and sisters? I consider myself to be a generous person, especially with people who are new to the faith (or have been exposed to long bouts of heresy within liberal congregations) but for leaders within the church who write position papers and theological explanations on the official PCUSA web site to foolishly include these positions as acceptable is to defend apostacy.
None of these viewpoints contradicts our Presbyterian Constitution. The church is charged with giving full expression to the rich diversity within its membership. Our Constitution requires us to promote inclusiveness, which means including all the different theological positions that are consistent with the Reformed tradition.
I would like to know when the term “diversity” was first applied to different theological positions? I have always understood diversity to mean people of different nationalities, classes, and of both sexes. Who is to say what “all the different theological positions that are consistent with the Reformed tradition” are? There are many ordained elders and pastors within this denomination who regularly deny the physical bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Is this acceptable? When did it become acceptable to deny this central tenet? We are not speaking about more peripheral issues, such as different eschatological views, but rather issues that are at the very heart of the gospel. How about someone who holds a view that is very similar to Mormonism? There is less difference between historic orthodox Christianity and Mormonism, than there is between historic orthodox Christianity and theological liberalism. Theological liberalism is more akin in its different forms to pantheism, agnosticism, and atheism, than it is to historic orthodoxy. How far do we draw the lines and who will decide. When we lose any sense of boundaries that are created by essentials, than all things are theologically permissible and what is left is to fight over orthopraxy (right action), since orthodoxy has already been lost. This is what we are seeing now within the denomination over the issue of the ordination of active unrepentant homosexuals. It no longer has anything to do with what one believes, but with allowable practices.
What that tradition emphasizes is that while the Holy Scriptures are the only rule of faith and conduct, Christ is present with the church in both Spirit and Word. This means that before I can use any particular statements of Scripture as a guide in life, more is required than simply the ability to read. Otherwise I might read something that was never intended for me and subscribe to a practice that is contrary to God’s will for people in 1995. This is the mistake cults commonly make.
This type of practice certainly seems highly subjective. What does the author not understand about the word “only”? Even with these objections, I might still be willing to approve this statement if we were only dealing with issues that are not essential to what it means to be a Christian, let alone one from the reformed tradition. So, for instance, if we were debating the meaning of Jesus’ words about cutting off a hand or plucking out an eye when they cause us to sin, I would probably ask us to recognize different forms of speech, such as hyperbole (overstatement for the sake of making a point). But we are dealing with such as issues as the meaning of the atonement and the physical bodily resurrection of Christ. If we cannot agree on such essential doctrines then there is truly nothing that unites us as a Christian church or denomination. Unity comes from docrine and theology, not false emotionalism or property.
The 2nd half of the article and my comments will be available in the next post.
Right or wrong? Never ask the question.
True or false? There is no answer.
Life is a journey. We never arrive.
Truth is so final, so settled.
Since we’re on a journey we can never possess truth.
A Christian is not right. They possess no truth.
They are just loving, forgiving people…just like Jesus was.
Live and let live. God accepts you just as you are.
You are a good person.
Sin is low self-esteem. Feel good about yourself.
Whatever you choose, must be right for you.
Whatever works must be good for the church.
Whatever makes you feel must be good for you.
Did you feel worship this Sunday?
We’re all just emerging. We’re all just feelings?
We all just want to be entertained…distracted.
Manipulate my emotions…touch my heart…move me.
Don’t teach me, don’t tell me what is true.
Don’t make me think.
Don’t bother me with truth.
Let’s all just get along.
It has become all too popular for so-called open-minded liberals and moderates to claim the mantle of justice and righteousness in their actions to liberalize the denomination. “Justice” is the rallying call. The movement of “the Spirit” is the reason given for the direction of what is right. The focus of this call to “justice” within the PCUSA and other mainline Protestant denominations continues to be homosexual equality and rights. [Ultimately, this is merely the tip of the iceberg, whose greater portion is made up of theological liberalism, which by all theological definition is an utter denial of Christian Orthodoxy. This is not a mere variation of Christianity, but a 180 degree reversal of theological positions on nearly all aspects of doctrine.]
Let us assume for a moment, as nearly all the leaders of mainline denominations would like, that for the last 1900+ years the Christian church has interpreted the scriptures on homosexuality all wrong, that this is merely an interpretation problem. Having assumed this, we must address the foundational issue that homosexuality is an absolute inherent reality within those who self-identify themselves as such. Yet, what they seem not to realize is that even secular science and philosophy is completely skeptical of this. Even the extremely left-leaning Kinsey report does not support this assertion. Edward Stein (a major secular supporter of all gay rights) in his book, The Mismeasure of Desire: The Science, Theory, and Ethics of Sexual Orientation [New York: Oxford University Press, 1999] presents the scientific research and evidence clearly indicating that a significant portion of sexual identity within homosexuals has to do with choice. On the back cover of the book, the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review, said this about the book, “A landmark book…. It so pulls the rug out from under biological arguments for lesbian and gay rights that anyone from now on who appeals to such arguments will have to answer to Edward Stein’s objections” (from back cover).
The foundation of the argument for homosexual rights and inclusion must be biological determinism. If that foundation cannot be sustained then the next level of logical argumentation is baseless. Even if it were to be sustained, which it clearly is not, then it must be shown that the biological determinism of homosexuality is significantly different than a biological predisposition, similar to some forms alcoholism. Simply because someone has a biological predisposition to alcoholism does not mean that living out an alcoholic lifestyle is a moral good or even morally neutral. The overwhelming biblical evidence that homosexual acts are sin and the utter lack of any scientific evidence that would point to biological determinism does not seem to affect those who continue to push for the full inclusion of unrepentant GLBT self-identified persons into all levels of Christian leadership. Is there something else that informs their so-called acts of justice? It certainly is not the Bible. Nor is it the scientific theory of the day. Is this merely secular “worldliness”, white-washed with a veneer of Christian language? Are these the false prophets and anti-Christs about which we have been warned repeatedly in God’s Word? It seems abundantly clear that this is in fact the truth.
Recently I was involved in both a small group discussion and later was directly questioned about a sometimes very puzzling biblical issue. How does the Old Testament law apply for Christian’s today? Are we to obey all the laws, or does grace abolish the laws?
Let me begin by making some definitive statements about what Paul tells us repeatedly throughout his letters, especially Galatians and Romans, then I will attempt to tie all those aspects together to make some definitive statements about the New Testament treatment of the Old Testament Law.
- Works of the Law do not save because no one can obey the law perfectly.
- People would be saved if they could keep the law in its entirety, but no has or can, except Jesus Christ… the second person of the Holy Trinity, the incarnate virgin-born son of the living God.
- Since it is impossible to be saved by works of the law, right standing with God (being justified) comes only by grace (alone) through faith (alone) in Jesus Christ (alone).
- Paul vehemently resisted any attempt to impose food laws, circumcision and the observance of Jewish high days to the Gentiles, yet he was passionate in sharing the gospel with them that they might be numbered among the “children of Abraham”.
- We are also told in Gal. 3:10 that those who do not keep the whole law are cursed.
o The Law was given to increase sin.
o Part of the power of sin is that it will degrade and twist things that are good for evil ends.
- Does this mean that God is unjust to give a law that people cannot keep and only serves to increase sin? NO!
o We humans are justly condemned because when we sin we are only following the desires of our heart (Eph. 2:1-3).
o The victory of grace over sin is more spectacular when seen in the full light of human depravity (Rom. 5:20-21).
o We cannot really understand how much we have been corrupted until we measure ourselves against the sure standard of the law and when we try to obey and discover that we cannot, we understand just how deeply imbedded those sins are.
Much more on this in the next post.