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May 15, 2024: Right Use of the Law

1 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.  (Romans 12:1–2, CSB)

There are three types of Law: moral, ceremonial, and judicial. The latter two no longer hold for Christians. But what of the first? What role does Moral Law play, if any, in a Christian’s life? There is one camp which claims that there is no applicable moral law; this is known as antinomianism. It had its roots in the early Gnostic heretics, and Paul himself denounces it: “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1–2, CSB) Antinomianism made a reappearance in the writings of the Lutheran theologian, Johann Agricola, who taught that a Christian no longer had any need for moral law. From Agricola it spread to several other traditions.

Agricola had departed from Luther. Luther includes the decalogue in his catechisms. For the moral law is a guide for the Christian life. Through it we are instructed in the life that is pleasing to God. It is not the means of salvation but the invaluable guide in living our new life in Christ. Likewise in the Anglican tradition, moral law remains active. This is seen in the Book of Common Prayer which places the decalogue (or the Summary of the Law) at the beginning of every Eucharist. John Wesley describes Moral Law’s importance in Anglican tradition:

The law of God… is a copy of the eternal mind, a transcript of the divine nature; yea, it is the fairest offspring of the everlasting Father, the brightest efflux of his essential wisdom, the visible beauty of the Most High. It is the delight and wonder of cherubim and seraphim and all the company of heaven, and the glory and joy of every wise believer, every well instructed child of God upon earth.

Wesley goes on to describe the use of that law in three uses: 1), to convince the world of sin, 2) to bring the world to faith in Christ, and 3) to “keep us alive.” In the 39 Articles, Article XII describes good works:

Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s Judgement; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith; insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.

Paul in Romans 12 is speaking to those who have already believed in Christ Jesus. Having believed they are to “present [their] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is … true worship.”  The law is indeed written on our hearts but it is also given as the word of God. In Paul’s second Epistle to Timothy, he writes: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16–17, NIV84)

Therefore, Christian, no longer allow yourself to be “conformed to this age”, but open your ears, your heart and minds to be renewed by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Be equipped to glorify God in heart, word, and action. For the word of God is always creative—giving life to death and purpose to chaos.


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