Modern evangelical Christianity has at times lost its way when it comes to the role of “the law” in the life of the believer. Ask the average Christian their perspective on “the law” and they will most likely tell you that it “isn’t for us today” . . . “No law” for the Christian! To attempt to clarify that thinking we must highlight the following statement from Paul in Romans:
- “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” (Romans 3:31)
The Greek for “make void” is “καταργέω”, katargeō, which Strong’s tells us means “to be (render) entirely idle (useless), literally or figuratively: — abolish, cease, cumber, deliver, destroy, do away, become (make) of no (none, without) effect, fail, loose, bring (come) to nought, put away (down), vanish away, make void.” Ouch! The church has been busy doing all of those things with the law, when we are in fact supposed to “establish” it. “Establish” in the Greek means to “abide, appoint, bring, continue, covenant, establish, hold up, lay, present, set (up), stanch, stand (by, forth, still, up)”. The “God forbid” tells us that Paul anticipated the errors that a surface understanding of all that follows in Romans might lead to. He uses those “God forbid” alerts sparingly.
Clearly Paul’s labors in the book of Galatians leave no doubt that “establishing” the law is not “becoming a circumcised Jew” as some were preaching in his day. Rather it points to the fact that God’s notions of right and wrong have not changed since the creation of the world. Salvation in Jesus, rather than giving us license to live as we see fit, gives energy and ability to live our lives holy, to God’s defined standard, just like He did.
Let’s focus on this concept of “no law” for Christians as an expression of “grace”. In the Greek the particle “a” means “no” . . . and the word for “law” is “nomia”. Put them together and we get “anomia” – “no law”. And that word is used in the New Testament, here by Jesus himself:
- “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (ἀνομία, anomia)” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Jesus tells us that there would be those who were into “anomia”, “no rules”, that would bear His name, preach in pulpits, even see miracles done in His name. Yet they never knew Him at all, and will be cast into hell at the final judgment. That should solemnize us all – there really is a need to get this right. Now we know that “anomia” – “no rules” – for the Christian not only is not grace, but is in fact bad, very bad.
Now God has a pecking order of “righteousness”, some things more important than others. Although not a Bible term, “legalism” refers in simplest terms to a condition where we ignore God’s big commandments and spend all our time focusing on little, largely inconsequential stuff. If our group is distinguished by how we observe a day of rest or by how and when we perform “the act of marriage”, or by not eating pork or even by what Bible translation we use – instead of by our love – we are in trouble. Jesus addressed this in His rebuke of the religious leaders in His day who were meticulous about “tithing” the mint from their gardens – every tiny tenth leaf went to the temple – but ignored widows and the needy.
We can’t hide imbalance, no matter how sincere we are. And to whatever extent some of us in ATI have been guilty of that, we bear our shame. Some, finding imbalance, have rejected all attempts to live a holy life, citing the “freedom” of this fake grace. Neither is correct. Solomon wisely said:
- “Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” (Proverbs 4:27).
Conservative, liberal, right, left, let’s be done with that. Let us learn how – in simplicity – to obey, follow and love Jesus in the power of His righteousness seeking grace.