(The art of Christian existence)
By Pete Coker
Many often think of spirituality in terms of other worldly bliss, a mystical euphoric experience, or supernaturally embodying godly wisdom, knowledge, and discernment. There seems to be a human desire to inhabit the heavenly realm and all that we imagine it to encompass. Inwardly we may yearn for the reality of our spirit coming to complete fruition when we are raised incorruptible in the presence of God. A general desire for perfecting and completion is common to all mankind, secular and religious. In Christ, we desire to overcome the flesh (our old nature) and become more Christ-like. Christ gave us basic commands, the example of Himself, the leadership of the Apostles and the ministry of the Holy Spirit (the Comforter) to help us live spiritual lives in His kingdom.
In much of Christendom there seems to be a certain phobia to any mention of “law” in relation to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ, on the other hand, seemed to have no such phobia. Since New Testament scriptures teach us that we are no longer “under the law,” the tendency is to ignore the law altogether. Some have claimed the coming of Jesus and the New Covenant model completely negates the law and the prophets of the Old Covenant. Others claim many Old Covenant laws are still valid and in effect. Jesus said He did not come to destroy the law – and the Apostle Paul said the law is good and still has its purposes. Some passages of scripture appear to take a hard line against the use of the law. This inquiry is to see what constitutes living a Christian spiritual existence and what roll, if any, does God’s law have in the life of the believer in Jesus Christ.
A New Nature, a New People, a New Spirit
Christians learn from God’s Holy Scriptures that believers take on a new nature, a spiritual nature when they are born again in Christ Jesus. We also learn this new nature is in addition to our old nature which the scriptures refer to as “the flesh” or the “old man.” We are comprised then of two natures, flesh and spirit. Jesus taught that we are first born in the flesh (of the water) and that we are “born again” (born of the Spirit) when we repent and commit to follow Him (John 3:3-7, 16). We also discover from scripture that these two natures continue in us and are at war within us. In the book of “Romans,” the Apostle Paul informs us that our “spiritual nature” serves the law of God and our “flesh nature” serves the law of sin.
“For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.” Romans 7:21-25.
We are therefore, both spiritual and physical beings. Redeemed spiritually, that we may be redeemed physically, the whole man. Our spiritual redemption should make a physical difference. We are redeemed through the grace of God in order to redeem.
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” Romans 12: 1-2.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16.
Paul, in Romans, goes on to say; …and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12: 1-2). Our involvement with the physical world is to prove God’s will, to be good, acceptable, and perfect. That is, to be overcomers of the “law of sin” in our members. Proverbs 28: 4 tells us, “They that forsake the law, praise the wicked; but such as keep the law contend with them.” If we as God’s people accept God’s good and perfect ways and allow them to transform us through the Spirit of God, we then contend with the wicked. Contrarily, if we do not, we inadvertently praise the wicked. As is often said, talk is cheap. If we are not being transformed and demonstrating God’s good and perfect ways, then what’s the difference in the Christian existence compared to the non-Christian. We continually prove the will of God in our goodness and perfecting; being transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Psalm 45 says to “offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.” The scriptures in Psalm 18:20-21 declares, “The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness….for I have kept the ways of the Lord.” Being led by the Spirit (being spiritual), exhibits God’s ways by continually putting to death the deeds of the flesh.
Pursuing obedience to the law through the flesh will not result in producing spiritual fruit, only the Spirit of God can produce fruit in us. We can participate in putting to death the deeds of the flesh; but, only the Spirit has the power to grow spiritual fruit in us (Galatians 5: 19-21). The scriptures tell us to sanctify ourselves and be holy (Leviticus 7: 20). First Thessalonians 43 says, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification…” We are sanctified by genuinely being a God-fearing, God-obeying, God-worshipping people, not, by being pious nor by having an emotional façade of spirituality.
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming… But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” (Colossians 3: 5-6, 8)
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another… forgiving each other;…And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3: 12-14)
Law, Traditions, and Hypocrisy
Biblical spirituality begins with surrendering our minds, our thought lives, to the Spirit of God and pursuing a life of applying God’s thoughts and logic to our inner man. A careful review of Jesus’ condemnation of the Scribes and Pharisees reveals that His criticism was not because they observed and kept the law. Christ commends their keeping the law. But, He did condemn their adding to the law, their twisting of the law, and creating human traditions contrary to God’s laws. But mostly, He condemns their hypocrisy, for their thoughts and motives were far from love for God.
“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses seat, Therefore, whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say; and do not do.” (Jesus from Matt. 23: 1-2)
“Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law; justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” (Jesus from Matt. 23: 23)
In the two previous verses, Jesus demonstrates that by focusing attention on the minor aspects of the law (the letter of the law), they were neglecting the more important aspects of the law and were thus subverting the original intent and correct use of the law. Notice also that Jesus tells the disciples and the multitudes to observe and do the works of the law, but not the works of the Scribes and Pharisees. Christ turns the focus to the justice, mercy, and faith of the law and then adds that these should be done without leaving the other matters undone. This is often overlooked in our age of antinomianism. The original intent of the law is also referred to as the spirit of the law. To illustrate this principle consider the following court case:
The State v. Smith Clark, 1860 from the Supreme Court of New Jersey. In this case the offense was described as follows:
“The defendant [Smith Clark] did maliciously and willfully…break down…twenty panels of rail fence belonging to and in possession of George Arnwine. The…[law] provides that if any person or persons shall willfully…break down…or destroy any fences…belonging to…any other person…[they] shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Smith Clark confessed to intentionally destroying George Arnwine’s fence, therefore under the law, he could have been found guilty and sentenced. But, there was more to the story:
“The defendant offered to show, by way of defense, that at the several times when he broke down the fence, he had title to the land on which it was built, and…that the fence which was destroyed was erected…upon [his] land.”
The fence that Clark broke down was wrongly built by Arnwine on Clark’s property. Arnwine was the real abuser of the law. The court correctly concluded:
“The language of the act, if construed literally, evidently leads to an absurd result. If a literal construction of the words of a statute be absurd, the act must be so construed as to avoid the absurdity.”
This illustrates how justice is served by correctly applying the spirit of the law in order to uphold the original intent of the law. Thus, the law when used correctly is good. The the spirit of the law was to be used to uphold the original intent of the law to secure proper justice.1
“Even so you outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Jesus, from Matt. 23: 28)
“Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.” (Jesus, from Matt. 23: 26)
The Scribes and Pharisees were great at appearing godly and spiritual. They loved to have the best seats in the synagogues, the best places at feasts, and they loved to be greeted in public as Rabbi. They also loved to make long prayers to appear spiritual, but, the scriptures reveal, they did all their works in order to be seen as spiritual, not for the love of God.
R.J. Rushdoony describes [three] characteristics of Jewish religious piety at the time of Christ as follows:
“The three characteristic marks of Jewish piety in our Lord’s day were almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. Our Lord does not ask us to set aside these activities. Rather, He exposes the falsity of pietism which seeks self-styled holiness and a man-centered focus of sanctity rather than the Kingdom of God. False piety has man in focus; true piety seeks the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. False piety trusts in its own works rather than God’s providence; true piety knows that God’s providence ordains and rules in all things and rests therein. Because true piety rests in the fact of God’s providential government, it works in faith and is not anxious about the morrow (Matt. 6: 34).” (R.J. Rushdoony, Systematic Theology, Vol. I, pg.157)
Jesus identifies Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the thoughts and intentions of the religious leaders of that day:
“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”And he said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.” (Jesus, from Mark 7: 6-9)
Jesus brings into focus that true spirituality begins with the inner man; to the heart, the core of man’s being. Being first, transformed in the inner man and subsequently producing proper outward practice. As an example Christ said it was not enough to not commit adultery in the physical realm only, but also in our thought lives as well. Thus, Jesus reveals that a man must not even look at a woman with lustful thoughts! Our righteousness must exceed that of the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees. Our thought lives should be in synch with our religious praxis. Above that of right action, there must also be right thought, attitude, and motive.
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” (Jesus, from Mark, 7: 21-23)
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught his disciples like-principles concerning murder. For one to think murderous thoughts, to insult and belittle a brother, and not be reconciled, is guilty of murder. Jesus takes the same principle to our thoughts and motives concerning; oaths, divorce, retaliation, and hatred for enemies.
Walk by the Spirit
True Biblical spirituality is not reflected in a temporary emotional awareness of God, nor a deeper state of consciousness, but in obedience by grace through faith, a continual life of renewal and transformation, and the observable evidence of the Spirit’s pruning and fruit bearing. In Galatians chapter five the Apostle Paul explains that the fruit of the Spirit is; “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” In verses 16-18 of the same chapter, Paul says: “But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
Test the Spirits
The Apostle John says in I John (4: 1) not to believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God. This reminds us that that not all spirituality is from God. Since thoughts, ideas, and beliefs are spiritual in nature we are expected to test the spirits, as not all spirits are from God. Satan and his fellow fallen angels are entirely spiritual beings and have observed and deceived mankind from the beginning of man’s history.
When Jesus began to show His disciples that He would suffer and die in Jerusalem the Apostle Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. Peter, being completely committed to Christ likely thought that he was allied with Jesus and willing to stand for Him. But Peter’s thoughts and feelings were from a human perspective. Jesus, responding to Peter said, “Get behind Me Satan!…for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Peter could not see the bigger picture. He did not understand that Christ must first die and that this was part of God’s overall divine plan. In like manner, our thoughts and feelings can often be deceptive, lacking eternal perspective. Although we have the Holy Spirit in us, we still have a human nature that wars against the Spirit.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55: 8-11)
God’s Word says that His thoughts and His ways are superior to that of man. He has sown and revealed His thoughts and ways through His Word, which came from His mouth.
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of the soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb. 4: 12)
In order to test the spirits there must be a source to test them by. That source must be reliable, true and infallible. The one true infallible source is God. God revealed His higher truths, thoughts and ways, first through His law and the Prophets, then through the living word, Jesus Christ, and finally through His Inspired Word. The scriptures teach us to reason from the scriptures, God’s divine revelation to mankind. That is, to be determinative from infinite (God) to finite (man). To reason from the inner mind to the outer spiritual world, from finite to infinite is to determine truth from the senses, i.e., experiential. To be determinative from the experiential, inadvertently makes human sense-experience and human reason its governing authority, and not God’s revealed law-word.
“We also have the prophetic word made more sure, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, know this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (II Peter 1:19-21)
Jesus also warns to beware of false prophets in the midst of believers who do not do the will of the Father.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? So every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, you will recognize them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven. On that day many will say to Me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt. 7: 15-23)
Jesus makes it plain that there are false prophets in the midst of believers and that we are to beware of them. He compares these false prophets to bad trees that can only bear bad fruit. Jesus also informs believers that these false prophets come in sheep’s clothing, pretending piety and religiosity, but inwardly are like ravenous wolves. This description fits well with the hypocrisy He describes concerning the Scribes and Pharisees. They were lawless in their thoughts and motives, though they appeared to be keepers of the law outwardly. Christ revealed their hypocrisy, showing that in their hearts they were hostile to God’s laws and ways.
Christ’s Law and the Way of Righteousness
The Law of Christ is that we love one another as He loved us. The Law of God and the Law of Christ are synonymous. Christ came to do the will of the Father and the will of the Father was to implement a new covenant. The new covenant, however, is not a total rejection of the old covenant. The moral law remains, as do many principles found in the old covenant. Ceremonial laws are fulfilled in Christ and are no longer necessary. Much of the law is a reflection of God’s holy character and gives us insights to the nature of God. Jesus said He did not come to abolish the law and in fact He kept the law perfectly. He was completely submissive and obedient to the Father and said he came to do and say only what the Father had instructed. Christ in revealing the thoughts and intents (hearts) of the Scribes and Pharisees showed that in their hearts they were hostile to God’s laws. Jesus instructed His followers to do what the Scribes and Pharisees say but not to do as they do. The law and ways of God were not written on their hearts. They did not love and embrace God’s holy law and ways.
The Ten Commandments give us the general principles of God’s moral law to mankind. We are told in Exodus (20: 3-17) and Deuteronomy (5: 7-21) that morality is not to be derived from human standards or conclusions determined by society, but from God and His declarations. Good and evil, right and wrong are to be derived from the highest authority of morals and ethics known to mankind, that of the Creator of mankind.
We are instructed in both old and new testaments that the will of God is found in the moral law. God’s moral law and statutes are summed up as man’s duty to God and his duty to his fellow man. Ceremonial laws, which were a typology or foreshadowing of Christ have been fulfilled in the coming of Christ and consequently were abolished with His coming. The shadow was replaced by the substance. The New Covenant was not intended to abolish God’s law but was intended to end God’s covenant relationship with the nation of Israel. The New Covenant in Christ begins God’s relationship with the gentile world.
Neither Jesus nor any of the New Testament writers negated God’s moral law; they simply put the correct emphasis of grace, mercy, and faith over the law. Salvation was then not of works, but through faith, the gift of God by grace. The Law of God was to be embraced by the inner man, written on the heart, but not a means of salvation, nor to be pursued in the flesh. The New Testament writers gave special attention to discerning the “spirit of the law” (God’s original intent) against its perversion, by the letter of the law. The scribes and Pharisees perverted the law, using the letter of the law incorrectly and thereby changing God’s true intent and correct application of the law.
The Apostle Paul said the law is good when it is used correctly (I Tim. 1: 8), and in I Corinthians says, “Not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ” (I Cor. 9: 21). The double-negative of “not being without law…,” implies a positive. In other words, under the Law of Christ we still have God’s Law. In the New Covenant we are under Christ or under His authority. Our liberty in Christ is under His authority and does not excuse us from an obligation to God’s law. Paul reminds us in Romans 3:31: “Do we then nullify the law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.”
“Now we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the glorious gospel of the blessed God…” (I Timothy 1: 8-11)
The moral law is by no means the way to salvation, salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Christ and the Apostles instruct believers to be transformed and conformed into Christ-likeness. That is to be righteous and holy in our thoughts and actions. Jesus said, “If you love me keep My commandments” (John 14: 15).
In Christ, believers are free (unbelievers are not) from the condemnation (guilt, curse) of the Law and declared righteous by God. As such, the Christian life is an ongoing conformity to Christ-likeness through the power and working of the Holy Spirit of God.
“…When one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (II Cor. 3: 16-18)
God’s law informs the world of His holy character and what He requires of man. The law itself convicts man of sin; the “work of the law” is to make him feel guilty when he sins and thus drive man to restoration with God. In Christ, the purpose of the law is as a guide, a rule to measure by, a compass to the will of God. The law in and of itself cannot empower believers to be obedient and conform to the image of God. It cannot supply the motivation to walk in righteousness. Righteousness can only be pursued in Christ by faith. Only when led by the Holy Spirit can believers overcome the flesh and walk in the way of righteousness.
“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8: 3-4)
“What shall we say then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.” (Romans 9: 30-32)
Paul also says that the principles of God’s Law are still valid under the New Covenant in Christ’s Kingdom. Consider his application of the Old Testament command in Deuteronomy 25: 4, as used in I Corinthians 9: 9: “For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘you shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Paul, while defending his ministry in Christ shows that as a minister of the Gospel, devoted to the ministry and growing the Kingdom, he is entitled to receive just compensation for his labors. Paul reiterates this principle in 1Timothy 5: 18 and expounds further that “the laborer is worthy of his wages.” R.J. Rushdoony notes that this principle carried out further implies that employers are obligated to pay an employee a fair wage, not an artificially low wage. The Apostle Paul not only supports the use of the moral law but also carries out the principles of old covenant law as well. In II Timothy Paul describes the use of the Old Covenant, Law, and the Prophets as follows:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3: 16-17)
Led by the Spirit (Not by the Law)
The Apostle Paul teaches in Galatians 5: 18; “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Paul also stated in Romans 8: 13-14; “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.”
The nature and work of the Holy Spirit to believers is as: a comforter, counselor, and advocate. The Spirit seals believers in the faith, and gives them a new nature. The aim of the Spirit is to glorify Jesus Christ.
The functions of the Holy Spirit include not only dwelling in believers, but also: teaching, bringing remembrance, bearing witness, conviction of sin, guides, speaking and declaring, interceding, calling ministers, sending out workers, helping, empowering, and forbidding certain actions. The Holy Spirit also inspired the scriptures and speaks through them.
Prior to His ascension, Jesus proclaimed that He would not leave us as orphans. He said He would send believers the Holy Spirit as a helper. Faith in Christ is empowered by the Holy Spirit to help believers carry out the will of God.
Galatians 8: 5 reveals that: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. The Apostle Paul warns that: “The works of the flesh are evident, which are – adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, divisions, strife, homosexuality, thievery, revilers, covetousness, and extortioners”(Galatians 5: 19-21, I Corinthians 3: 3 and I Corinthians 6: 9-10). Paul then exhorts believers; “I say then, walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Galatians 5: 16)
“For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law but under grace…having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness…for just as you presented your members as slaves of unrighteousness, and of lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.” (Romans 6: 18-19)
Being set free from sin under grace should produce more righteousness and not lawlessness. Grace and liberty in Christ does not mean believers are free to break the law without regard. It means believers should be transgressing the law less and less, trading in lawlessness for righteousness. Spiritual growth in God’s Kingdom ought to be putting to death the works of the flesh and progressing in righteousness.
Jesus used the illustration of the vinedresser (God), the vine (Jesus) and believers (Branches), to show that the believers spiritual growth is an ongoing process designed to bring glory to God.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (Jesus, from John 15: 4-10)
“You are the light of the world…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 5: 14, 16)
Jesus final commands, the Great Commission, shows the extent to which He expects mankind to glorify God, the Father. Jesus expects to use His kingdom citizens to:
(1) Make disciples of all nations; all tribes and people groups.
(2) Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
(3) Teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you.
One quickly realizes that these simple commands are impossible for mankind to accomplish in the power of the flesh. Only by being empowered by the Holy Spirit can the Church, the bride of Christ, hope to accomplish the task set forth by Christ Jesus. One of the manifestations of God’s love to mankind is that He chooses to use mankind to accomplish His purposes. Jesus said He sends the Promise of My Father… with power from on high (Luke 24: 49). St. Luke adds these words of Jesus in (Acts 1: 8): But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Christ thus empowers His church by the Holy Spirit to accomplish the commands of Jesus and make disciples of all nations, of every tribe, people and tongue.
“And He who conquers, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give authority over nations…” (Jesus from Revelation 2: 26)
The goal in conquering in Christ and doing good works is not the means to build up power. Power is in Christ’s hands and is delegated and bestowed at His discretion, when and where He chooses. The believer’s goal is obedience to Christ Jesus, not the accumulation of power. By obeying Christ’s commands through the power of the Holy Spirit, by being salt and light, and having love for one another in the body of Christ we honor and bring glory to God.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jesus from John 13: 34-35)
“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘you shall commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, you shall not covet, and if there is any other commandment, all are summed up in this saying, namely, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13: 8-10)
Just as believers are not under the law, nor does the law directly affect our spiritual growth, the law is not without its purposes. The law instructs believers in knowing what God expects in the realms of morality, ethics, virtues, and beauty. Lawlessness is condemned in both old and new testaments. Jesus and the New Testament writers condemn hypocrisy, immorality, lawlessness, etc.
Ultimately, believers are to live by the Law of Christ, to love one another and love their neighbors as themselves. Christ has commanded believers to continue in love, by making disciples of all nations and teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded. In observing Christ’s commands Christians are instructed to transform, by faith, their thoughts and actions. Transformation requires genuine commitment, a willingness to grow through pain and hardship, and the willingness to live a counter-culture lifestyle in pursuit of God’s will.
Believers are instructed to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh, and to abide in the love of Christ. Abiding in Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit produces spiritual growth in the believer. The book of Ecclesiastes says the various seasons of our lives are for our good and our growth. As we grow spiritually, we continually prove the will of God and glorify our Father in Heaven.
“The spirit of grace, therefore, causes us to have faith, in order that through faith we may, on praying for it, obtain the ability to do what we are commanded. On this account the apostle himself constantly puts faith before law; since we are not able to do what the law commands unless we obtain strength to do it by the prayer of faith.”
(Augustine, On Grace and Free Will, 28, in NPNF 5: 455)
- [From the early twentieth century onward the term, spirit of the law has acquired a new meaning. The new meaning is an abstract form of the original concept. In its new form it destroys or at least does violence to the idea of original intent. It provides for a perversion of justice and robs from the law its initial purpose of justice, mercy, and faith. Liberalism uses this tool to attack and destroy biblical law and any civil laws based on concepts of biblical justice. It ultimately purposes to replace any hint of biblical or God ordained law with man-made laws based on reason and empirical philosophies]. (See also, the Humanist Manifestos)
- The Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers. Nashville, Camden, New York. 1985
- Layman’s Bible Encyclopedia. The Southwestern Company Nashville Tennessee. 1964
- Pictorial Bible Dictionary. The Southwestern Company, Nashville Tennessee, 1976
- Einwechter, William O., Ethics and God’s Law – An Introduction to Theonomy. Preston Speed Publications. Mill Hall, Pennsylvania. 1985
- Gentry, Kenneth L. Jr., Th.D., The Law of Christ and God’s Law. Online Article. Kenneth Gentry.com
- Morey, Robert A., Dr., How the Old and New Testaments Relate to Each Other. Christian Scholars Press. Las Vegas, Nevada. 2002
- Olson, Roger E. and English, Adam C., Pocket History of Theology. InterVarsity Press. Downers Grove, Illinois. 2005
- Rushdoony, Rousas John., The Institutes of Biblical Law. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company. 1973
- Schaeffer, Francis A., True Spirituality. Tyndale House Publishers. Wheaton, Illinois. 1971
- Barton, David, Original Intent: The Courts, the Constitution, & Religion, The State v. Smith Clark; 1860, from The Supreme Court of New Jersey Wallbuilder Press, 2000
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