The Apostle Paul said: “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” (Romans 3:31)
Many people mistakenly think that the New Testament in some way depreciates the significance of the law written in the Old Testament. Some say that the doctrine of justification by faith alone supports this. The Apostle says, “By no means!” Why?
Let me ask you a question: what is the rally cry that gets you going? What helps you get out of bed in the morning? I am talking about your “boast” in life. Pastor and author Timothy Keller said, “What you boast in is what gives you confidence to go out and face the day. It is the thing of which you say: I am somebody because I have that. I can beat what comes against me today because I am this. What you boast in is what fundamentally defines you; it is where you draw your identity and self-worth from.”
Take out a piece of paper and write on it whatever you thought of when I asked you the above questions. Finished? Now set that piece of paper aside – we will come back to it. The doctrine of justification by faith alone does something very counter intuitive to all our boastings.
Over the last two weeks, I have asked one of the key questions of our time, “how do you detoxify a situation that you do not have the power to change on your own? I answered that question by saying, “you align yourself with someone more powerful who can” (1 John 4:4). I then gave some basic practical tips that could help those who trust in Christ shine his light into darkness and season society with his flavoring (Matthew 5:13-16).
These practical tips included: greet those you meet, return wrongs with rights, beautify your tongue – by which I meant speak words of blessing and not of cursing, kill with kindness, don’t say everything you think needs saying on every topic, take your cues from Christ and not the world, and finally leave room for God’s vengeance.
These seven tips represent a sampling of the Bible’s teaching on Christian living. While many hail the teachings of Christ in these regards, anyone who has taken them seriously will tell you they are near impossible. How did Jesus himself practice what he preached?
How do you detoxify a situation that you do not have the power on your own to change? You align yourself with someone more powerful who can (1 John 4:4). These basic practical tips continue the list offered in last week’s article.
Don’t say everything you think needs saying on every topic.” Jesus cautioned his disciples about sharing wisdom. While we ought never to shrink back from speaking the truth (Ephesians 4:15), we ought to realize that some people are not ready for the truth. Give those around you just enough truth and wisdom as they can endure and no more. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you (Matthew 7:6).”
How do you detoxify a situation that you do not have the power on your own to change? You align yourself with someone more powerful who can (1 John 4:4). These basic practical tips can help you shine Christ’s light into darkness and season society with Christ’s flavoring (Matthew 5:13-16).
God gave us our bodies with purpose and meaning. Take for example the human tongue. Jesus’ brother James said of the tongue, “It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:8-10) Johaness Benz, who helped lead the reformation in Germany, said something similar of our whole body: “Our whole body was created so that it might offer itself in obedience to the Word of God. For which reason, if it passes over to the service of Satan in obedience to sins, the whole body is dishonored. Therefore, nobody, no matter how powerful an enemy they might be, can dishonor us as much as we ourselves do by the abuse of our own bodies.” The Apostle Paul gives another example of dishonoring the body. Though it has become culturally controversial, you can read about it in Romans 1:26-27.
We live in one of the most advanced societies of all time. However, morally speaking, things have not really changed. In the first century, the Apostle Paul said, “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:29-31) He was painting a painful picture of what happens when the human race refuses to acknowledge God.
The truth about God has been made plain to even the most devout atheist. The invisible God has made himself visible through what you can see. You can think of this as the wind of a tornado. You cannot see the wind of a tornado, but when you see the cone-like shape touch the ground and cloud and debris circling around, you know to run. We can say something similar about God. You cannot see him directly – he transcends creation – yet you can see his fingerprints on his handiwork all around you.
You probably had textbooks in school. For me, they were bricks in my bag, but for many students today they might be a bit lighter and electronic. The textbooks in my day included a glossary in the back. Whenever a glossary term appeared in the text, they were bolded. Those bolded terms signaled to the reader, “If you don’t know what this word means, please look it up in the glossary.”
We need to do the same thing with the term “wrath of God,” which appears frequently in the Bible. Many have misread this term thinking it means that God flies off the handle from time to time, overwhelmed in a flurry of angry passion against you or me. However, if we look at how this term is used of God throughout the Bible, we find the term means something different.
Do you want a three-word definition of the gospel that even a two-year-old could remember? Jesus saves sinners.
If we are not sinners, the gospel message is not good news at all. It would be predicated on a lie, and Jesus would have died for nothing. That is why the Apostle Paul spends from chapter 1 verse 18 to chapter 3 verse 20 in his Letter to the Romans giving a preface to the gospel message. For just as the author of a book will state why he or she went about the effort of writing a book in the preface, so the Apostle states why the All-knowing, Almighty, and Holy God wrote the gospel into his eternal plan for restoring his world. It is as if the Apostle, like a specialist in precious jewels, lays down a black cloth, so that when he places the diamond of the gospel upon it, we will see it in all its multi-faceted splendor.