The Law and the Gospel
(Psalms 19, Exodus 20)
Introduction: How do you view the Ten Commandments? Would you say that you can see a logical connection between the commandments and the last time you saw police lights in the rear view mirror of your car? Jesus didn't help this problem when He explained that the commandments against adultery and killing, included the more common problems of lust and anger. How many people, when they hear of grace are delighted because they think they no longer have to worry about those pesky and inconvenient commandments? Much ink has been spilled on the topic of the law and grace, but I think we will better understand grace if we better understand the nature of the law. We claim that if we are saved by grace, we will want to obey God. But, that is not consistent with equating the commandments with feeling like a police officer is about to arrest us! So, let's take a plunge into the Bible to better understand what it says about the law!
- God's Law and Benefits
- Read Psalms 19:7. I can understand why the Holy Spirit would inspire David to say that God's law is perfect. But, in what way does the law "revive the soul?"
- Can you imagine a police officer telling you, "the speed limit here is perfectly set - and the speed limit will make you happier!" (I love order and hate disorder. Where I work and where I live are in order, with the result that I'm rarely trying to find something. I understand that order improves my life. When people on a road have more than a 20 mph difference in their speed, it creates disorder. When the cars in front of me are stopping, and I have not noticed it, my wife is not happy.)
- Psalms 19:7 also tells us that the law makes stupid people wise, and the reason for this is that the law is trustworthy. None of this makes any sense on the surface. How would you explain it?
- When you are looking for advice, because you are not smart enough (or educated enough) to figure things out on your own, what kind of advice do you want? (Advice you can trust.)
- Why do you want trustworthy advice? (The whole problem is that you do not trust yourself to have the right solution. One thing that separates wise people from dumb people is that the wise people know what to do to live better. This text suggests that the law of God gives dumb people (Hebrew:"silly" or "foolish" people)advice they can trust to live better.)
- Read Psalms 19:8. We just mentioned how the law sometimes feels like the police. In what way does the law bring us joy? (The police officer pulls us over because we have violated the law. If we keep the law, we stay out of trouble. This is cause for joy.)
- Psalms 19:8 tells us that the law is like a flashlight. How is the law like a flashlight? (This goes back to making silly people wise. The law reveals secrets (or at least truth) about behavior. If we follow what the law says about right behavior, we will live smarter.)
- Did you ever feel that if you were smarter your life would be better? If so, why? (You would make better decisions that would improve the quality of your life.)
- Think about the time when you felt most guilty. Did you feel bad because you violated the law, or because you messed up relationships with others? (We can see that this speaks directly to the quality of our life.)
- Read Psalms 19:9-11. Is there a theme here about the law? (Yes! God's law gives us great advice on how to live. If we follow it, it is better than having wealth - our life is sweeter. We are warned against things to avoid, and we are rewarded by doing what is right.)
- Benefits and Self-Denial
- When people tell us that if we are saved by grace we will obey the law because we love God, does that seem to be a totally honest statement? Is it the whole truth? (The Bible texts that we have been reading suggest that we keep the law because we trust God and we love ourselves!)
- Does the theme we have been developing trouble you? The Ten Commandments are a "self-help book" that anyone in their right mind would follow? Thus, keeping the commandments is easy because that is what we do to have a better life?
- Surely not all of God's law involves a benefit to you and me, right? For example, Jesus says (Matthew 22:37-40) that loving my neighbor as myself is a pillar of the law. My neighbor just backed over my bush and broke the trunk in half! Is some of the law just a pain in the neck? Let's explore that next.
- The Sabbath and Self-Denial
- Read Exodus 20:8-11. If your employer gives you a paid holiday, do you complain? Has God given us a weekly holiday with this commandment?
- Who else has God given a holiday? (Our employees and our animals.)
- Is that good for you - to give your workers a weekly day off? (No. This is money out of my pocket. I could be earning from their work.)
- If the Ten Commandments are a bunch of self-help tips, how do we explain the Sabbath commandment giving our workers the day off?
- For that matter, how do we explain the commandments against killing, stealing, adultery, false testimony and coveting? (Can you see the theme here? God's law does not permit unbridled self. You may like your neighbor's car, house, wife, job, or income more than your own. But, you are not allowed to take it. Indeed, you are not allowed to even think about how you would prefer those things, for that is coveting.)
- Read Romans 7:7-9. What does this say about when our human nature is confronted by rules? (We are not satisfied with simply having a better life. We are not satisfied with simple self-improvement. We are satisfied when we are more improved than those around us. We want Sabbath off, but we do not want it off for our workers. If our neighbor has a better car, we want his, he can have our inferior car.)
- The Sabbath and Human Nature
- Read Exodus 20:11 again. What is the reason for keeping the Sabbath - to have a holiday? (No. The Sabbath is blessed and holy because it reminds us that God is our Creator.)
- Read Deuteronomy 5:15. What reason does this give for keeping the Sabbath? (That God redeemed the Jews from the slavery of Egypt.)
- Read Matthew 27:62-63 and Matthew 28:1-4. These verses make clear that Jesus spent the Sabbath in the grave and rose to life on the first day of the week (Sunday). Why do you think He did this? (We see here that the Sabbath is intended to remind us not only that Jesus is our Creator, but that He redeemed us from the slavery of sin. Jesus rested to commemorate His victory over sin! Otherwise the delay makes no logical sense.)
- Read Colossians 1:16-22. When we combine, as Paul does here, Jesus as Creator and Redeemer, how does that help us deal with our human nature? (Two things. First, it creates an attitude of love and gratitude towards Jesus. Second, it shapes our attitude towards others. We were made by God and redeemed by God. Every other person is in the same boat. Why would we think unbridled self is appropriate?)
- Read 1 John 2:3-6. John says a very interesting thing here. He does not say "We know that we are saved if we obey God's commands." Instead, he says that we "know God" if we obey. Why does knowledge of God promote obedience? (The Ten Commandments improve our life. They are a how to book for better living. We run into trouble with the commandments, however, when we seek our unbridled self-interest. Knowing the lesson of the Sabbath, that Jesus made us and redeemed us by giving up Himself for us, teaches us restrained self-interest. It teaches us to want to look out for others.)
- Friend, will you ask the Holy Spirit to help you to know the Jesus who inspires us to a life of restrained self-interest? A life that rejoices in the law, including the Sabbath that reminds us of what God has done for us and of our proper attitude towards others?
- Next week: The Christian Life.