Thursday, September 23, 2010

Christ Is the End of the Law. Period. (Part 4)

Christ Is the End of the Law. Period.
  • Part 4 - The Strength of Sin Is the Law
Although there are plenty of other passages to explore, this series is already long enough so I'll end with the verse that says "the strength of sin is the law."  Again, we have taken this to mean that sinful behavior gets strength from the law.  But is that what Paul is talking about in the passage?  He writes:
So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."

"O  Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?"

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.(1 Cor 15:54-57)
In the past I've taken this "victory" to mean "victory over sinful behavior" or "living a victorious Christian life."  But that's not what Paul is talking about.  The victory that is through our Lord Jesus Christ is the victory that he won over Death and Hades.  Death has a sting.  Death's sting is sin.  The strength of sin is the law.  Imagine "Death" to be a wasp with a stinger. Apart from the law, the wasp's sting (sin) has no strength.  It can't kill you.  But then the law enters and suddenly the wasp's sting (sin) receives strength, and by it, kills you. (Rom 7:11 - For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me).  The wasp (Death) is victorious (it kills you), all because its sting (sin) received strength by the law.  The law's strength is not that it gives you power to sin, but rather that it gives sin the power to kill you.  And that would be the end of the story... it would remain to be the present reality.  However, "thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"  The "victory" isn't a victory over sinful behavior.  It's a victory that Jesus wins over Death, because with the law (the strength of sin) taken out of the way, sin no longer has strength.  BTW, please note once again Paul's writing style:  He is speaking in the present tense ("the sting of death is sin, and sin is the strength of the law... thanks be to God who gives us the victory"), but he is talking, of course, about things that are already past, already completed! The law does not continue to be the strength of sin.  It has been taken away.  God does not continue to give victory after victory.  The victory was won, once and for all!

All of this said (everything in this series), there is, however, a place where the law is kept alive.  It’s in the minds of people.  In reality, the law was wiped out, nailed to the cross, annulled, abolished… and yet there are people who keep it alive in their understanding of how they relate to God and how they are to live their lives.  They have either not understood or not believed that they are not under the law and that the law is, in fact, dead.  The Old Covenant has been made obsolete (Heb 8:13), and yet certain people have continued to try to live by it, in various forms.  These people are “under the law” of their own volition, not because God has confined them there.  Paul himself knows that the law has been nailed to the cross and its ministry has ended, and that no one can truly be “under the law,” but at times he speaks of them as such and in one case he says that he meets them right where they’re at in order to “win them.”  In one case Paul says, "For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law."  Out of context it would seem that he's speaking of a coming judgment for those who are under the law, but in the bigger picture I see that this verse is part of a larger case that he is building (in Romans 1 - 3) for those who "rest on the law" (Rom 2:17), showing them that it can't be about law!

And in today’s church, there is an exceeding overabundance of the use of the law - and I'm understating the point (am I wrong?).  These also have put themselves “under the law,” apart from God’s call for them to do so.  And in doing so they are ignorantly (blindly) keeping themselves and others from Christ, or at least from fully experiencing the fullness of Christ.  They have "fallen from grace."  In these cases, I do continue to suggest that there are proper places and times to "use" the law in a different way, kind of like how I see Jesus, as one example, confronting the rich young ruler ("You know the commandments") and Paul, as another example, confronting the Galatians ("Do you not hear the law?")… showing these self-righteous (even if well-intentioned) people the futility of their rule-keeping and law-keeping.  I do think that the law can still "stop mouths."  The desired goal of this somewhat paradoxical use of the law would be to show people that they are not actually under it.  The hope would be that people would indeed do as Paul did: count their laws and rules as rubbish and dung so that they may be found in Christ alone.

However, I don’t see the above two paragraphs as the actual ministry of the law, as I once had seen it.  That’s really what I’m getting at here.

As I said in the introduction, I welcome comments and questions from those seriously wishing to talk this stuff out.  To me, this is serious stuff and I simply have a passion for discussing it with others who also like talking this stuff out.

---------------
Introduction
Part 1 - The Law's Job Is Done
Part 2 - Till the Seed Should Come
Part 3 - The Law Did Not Cause an Increase in Sinful Behavior
Part 4 - The Strength of Sin Is the Law

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