Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Against Such Things There Is No Law

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, defines love as being kind. Is true love always kind? Yes. Can true love be anything other than kind? No. If you made a law that forbids kindness, would true love disobey that law and show kindness? Yes. That is precisely Paul's point in Galatians 5:22-23 as he describes the fruit of the Spirit and concludes that there are no (nor can there be) laws against these things. There are (and must be) laws against the desires of the flesh, but the nature of the desires of the Spirit precludes them from laws against them. Why is love always kind? Why must love be kind? Does the law and its just threats have anything at all to do with why love is kind? None at all! Love is kind just because it is the nature of love to be kind! True love does not need law in any sense. However, sinners need law to keep them from abusing love and turning it into lust. If we could desire, feel, and practice love as Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 13, we could indeed "do as we please." Since that is impossible because of indwelling sin, we need clear objective standards describing love for us. We can know that love is the right thing to do, but we do not always know what is the loving thing to do. The Holy Spirit informs us through the Scripture, transforming us thereby so that we become more like Jesus, who always loved God with all his being and his neighbor as himself.

--John Reisinger, Studies in Galatians, p. 430

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Ministry of Death

[God] has made us ... ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.  For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.  Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone ... was being brought to an end...
2 Corinthians 3:6-7
To "hear" the law is to understand clearly the law's terms of perfect obedience and to realize you can never satisfy those terms and are therefore without hope of ever seeing, apart from sovereign electing grace, the face of God in peace.

It is tragic that neither the Judaizers in Paul's day nor many Christians today understand what it means to hear the law.  The Scriptures are replete with statements that a person can "hear" without ever "hearing" (Matt. 13:10-17).  This is true of the law as well as the gospel.  If all you ever heard was, "Thou shalt not steal," you have not heard the law.  All you heard was a commandment.  You have not heard the law until you hear it say, "Thou shalt not steal and if you do I will have you stoned to death."  Now you have heard the law.  If all you heard was, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy," all you heard was a commandment.  If you heard, "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, and if you so much as pick up a few sticks you are a dead man," then you heard the law.  It is the penalty aspect that gives law its status and authority.  You could post a sign saying "50 mile-an-hour speed limit" every hundred yards on every highway in America, but without a fine for breaking that speed limit, police officers to arrest speeders, and judges to collect the fines, you do not have a law--you only have good advice.

In Galatians, Paul uses the term the law to refer to the old covenant in its entirety, including the Ten Commandments.  He states that this law cannot provide help in the fight against sin--either in justification or in sanctification.  The purpose of the old covenant was to expose sin and to drive a sinner to the only viable solution in the battle against sin--the Lord Jesus Christ.  To view the old covenant in any other ways is to misunderstand and misuse it.  The ultimate goal of the old covenant was to do its killing work job and then pass out of existence.

--John Reisinger, Studies in Galatians, p.283-284