“God, having raised up his servant [Jesus], sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:26).
Chesterton once said, “When you break the big laws, you do not get liberty; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.”
Recently, that friend who exploded at Christians who quote the Law in the discussion about homosexuality reacted to a hunting show with rhetoric reminiscent of Dante, describing the relish she would take in seeing the evil hunter stalked and killed and flayed and eaten and crapped out to experience the whole process again and again for eternity. I’ll give her points for descriptive language, but the rant was quite simply hypocritical given her affinity for Rob Bell’s non-committal non-universalist universalism.
Universalism aside, it is a perfect example of what Chesterton meant in the quote above. Those who reject the Law of God as the basis of righteousness and think the fruit of a holy and righteous life as mere legalism outside the purview of Christianity, in the end fall into their own self righteous standards that are based upon nothing but their own opinions. Yet we are told in Acts that God sent Jesus to bless us by turning us from our wickedness.
Of course we cannot accomplish our own righteousness according to the Law. However, Jesus did not remove the standard of righteousness, he said that our righteousness must surpass anything the pharisees practiced. Our righteousness comes from Christ work in us by the Holy Spirit working itself out, and it works for our blessing by freeing us from wickedness.
The Law of God–particularly the ten commandments and their deeper meaning found in the Sermon on the Mount–is our schoolmaster in this process of growing in righteousness, of becoming like Jesus. By it we understand the life of Christ as the standard for our lives, and in its light we see the dirt of our own lives.
Paul himself, the great teacher of grace and faith, used the law and teachings of righteousness to “speak about faith in Christ” (Acts 24:24). In fact we see in Acts 24 that Felix became frightened of Paul’s preaching because “he was discussing righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come” (vs. 25). Interestingly, whereas the insistence of my friend and the tendency of many evangelicals is to avoid discussing the law–that is standards of righteousness–with non-Christians, Paul seems to say just the opposite:
Realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted (I Timothy 1:9-10).
I’m not promoting the mass preachings of hell-fire sermons here. I simply wanted to illustrate how the rejection of God’s law and the ignorance of its proper place and purpose does not lead to a liberated Christianity; it leads to the brutal tyrannies of so many petty self-gods.