Friday, August 12, 2016

The Heart and the Law

(All of today's verses are from the ESV.)

"I fought the law and the law won," or was it "I fought the law and I lost?" Paul, a scholar of the Old Testament spoke knowledgeably of what scripture calls "The Law":
Romans 2: 13 "For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus."
When Adam and Eve were created everything that far was good:
Genesis 1:31 "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day."
Therefore Adam and Eve were created "good". I believe that in this context "good" is "beneficial" in that all that was made was pleasing to God! That's measured as "divine goodness" and since only God is good (Jesus said that), Adam and Eve were created pleasing to God because they were made in the image of God. Because they were pleasing to God they had no sin on their makeup. Their soul was filled with Holy Spirit because they were made "in our image" according to scripture.

Right after Adam and Eve were created "good", God gave out his first commandment:
Genesis 2:15 "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
The first command was not "Thou shalt not have other gods before me," but "Thou shalt not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil!" (Or was it?). My contention is that the latter command was another way of saying the former because the "other gods" are Adam and Eve. By disobeying the "do not eat" command, they were doing what was right in their own eyes! Therefore, the first command given to his creation was indeed the first commandment written in stone on Mt. Sinai!

What does that mean? "The Law" was given on day six of the creation and Adam and Eve were under the law as well (for convenience I will use "law" to mean "The Law" to save on precious punctuation).   Man was never without the law and was under the law. Because God made people, not automatons, it was necessary to give them a law so that they could exercise "free will". God wanted his creation to love him because they wanted to love him, not because he demanded it or created people with no will of their own!

God has will. Adam and Eve were created in his image such that they too had will. God's desired is that "my will be done on earth as it is in heaven". He gave mankind that choice. The choice is the exercise of their will, and since it's not forced, it's free will!  God created mankind in complete freedom! It was our own gods which enslaved us and indeed being in sin is slavery because the penalty of sin is death!

From the moment Adam and Eve had other gods before God, or placed their own selves before God, they became slaves to sin, doing what the devil wanted them to do!

Because Adam and Eve (and those thereafter) chose sin the written law came about:

Galatians 3:19 "Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made."

Why the law? It was a placeholder until Jesus came because sin was "in" and a cure was needed. Since we know that Abraham's obedience was credited to him as faith, then those who had faith to obey God's commands were of sufficient faith for the hope of salvation. The law is grace! Think about it! Mankind sinned and deserved death, but God gave us all a way out. We could show faith by obedience and faith is sufficient for salvation!

Adam and Eve disobeyed what was later written in stone and is the law. They made their choice and yielded to temptation. There hearts weren't right because the serpent tripped them up! Adam had been given a standard to follow, but he and his mate chose to disregard that standard.

If they had did God's will as they were designed to do (goodness), they would have obeyed because they loved and respected God. That would have been pleasing to God because that's the way that he created them!

In Romans Chapter 2 (above) Paul is dealing with the same thing as when God dealt with Adam and Eve!  The Gentiles never had a law to follow because the law was given to the Hebrews. However, they did what was right because their hearts were right! They believed and trusted the Lord because they wanted to, not because they were commanded to do so! That's what Adam and Eve should have done!  They demonstrated faith by doing of their own volition rather than because it is written!

The law came about because people's hearts were not right. They did what was right in their own eyes! (Galatians 3:19). They did what they wanted to do because they were in rebellion to the will of God. So that they were without excuse they needed a written standard. God obliged them with "The Ten Commandments!"
Romans 3:19 "Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin."
Adam and Eve pleaded ignorance. Eve  misstated the command "not to eat" by adding "nor touch". She added to what God had said and made herself vulnerable. Adam was ignorant because he used his will ineffectively. Since Eve ate and still lived, his view was that the law was of no consequence. He had yet to understand God's justice although God said "in the day you eat thereof you shall surely die!" She didn't die so he ate of it. He didn't realize that God was speaking of losing his immortality!

Why was the law given? So "ignorance" could never be a reason to sin! It's through the law that we know that we sin. Saying "I didn't know it was wrong," or "I didn't know how wrong," is not a viable reason. Those are mere excuses! One of my favorite sayings is "A multitude of excuses do not make one valid reason!" That's what God means as well!

The Gentiles did have conflicting thoughts: Shall I or shall I not do these things? They had dilemmas just as the Jews did! But they obeyed because their hearts desired to "be good", not because God commanded it. God still wanted people to love them of their own volition using their free will rather than because he was a stern and vengeful God!

Note that the gentiles still heeded the will of God and "did good", but they did it for right reasons. It was to please God rather than through force. That was ALWAYS the reason for the law. It was so that the Jews could check their own hearts. It was always a demonstration to God that they loved him! We demonstrate our love for God by obeying his commands! They are not to earn salvation because that is a gift of God (grace). Before one is truly born-again obedience to the law is "as filthy rags!" After one accepts the salvation offered through Jesus Christ obedience is to show him our gratitude. A heartfelt emotion of gratitude reflects love in the heart!

It's odd that after all those centuries God is still dealing with wrong hearts! Just as Adam and Eve lacked respect for God and disobeyed because their hearts were under the wrong tree, the Jews in the early church were still standing under that same wrong tree for they KNEW the law and it came from "The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil". The Gentiles stood merely under "The Tree of Life" (Jesus) and was there because they wanted to be in spite of Satan beaconing them there with his smoke and mirrors.

Jesus asked them to drink of living water (truth). The truth is that only Jesus made the propitiation for our sins and as such as 'the Way" to salvation. Obedience to the law is NOT the way!  Jesus knocks at everyone's door. The Gentiles came to Jesus because he knocked.  The Jews didn't because the law was a hurdle they could not leap. It was bricks in front of the door which they must stumble over to be saved. On the other hand for the gentiles, the law was something they had not yet learned and were no more than an opportunity to show God how much they loved him! For one the law was still the stone it was carved upon. For the other it was the tablets which Moses broke because Moses knew the law would not stop the rebellion he was seeing. It is love that conquers all!

"The Ten Commandments" (the "Law") is all about love!
Romans 13:10 "Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."
This verse sums up "Commandments 5-10". Those are "doing no wrong to others". Jesus summarized all the commandments when he gave "The Greatest Commandment" and "The One Like Unto It". They are both great: loving God and loving others, but loving others is how we show love to God!

In essence there is one commandment: love God with heart, mind, body and strength. All the others sum up how to do that. That's what God was telling Adam: merely love me, Adam! Adam's heart wasn't right after he was tempted and since then no man's heart is "good" as was Adam's. Our hearts can be made good, but it must be through the goodness that only God as and that's by grace!

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