A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

The Law, Wrongly Used, Only Promotes Sin — Including Abuse

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. (1 Corinthians 15:56)

For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:5-6)

Recently we have seen even more reports of “model Christians” fallen in sin. Here you have highly publicized “perfect” Christian individuals or families or church leaders. They have it all right, supposedly. They write books and go on television while we all ooh and aah and wish our botched up lives or families could even approach the heights of holiness these people apparently have achieved.

And then they fall. Turns out the image we thought was real was flawed all along. And the non-Christian world blasphemes the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

God’s Word is very plain. We do not follow Christ by doing the works of the Law. We do not make ourselves holy, and give ourselves victory over sin by looking at the Ten Commandments written in stone and then sucking it up and making ourselves obey them, along with scores of other “Christian” laws – dress this specific way, wear your hair in this manner, follow this specific model of family life, do….do….do… and you will earn God’s favor. Nope. What will happen is that this Spirit-less approach to walking with Christ will FEED and empower our sinful flesh.

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” (Galatians 3:10-12)

In contrast, it is by the leading of the Spirit of Christ in the Christian that victory is gained over sin:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
(Romans 8:1-5)

And again-

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:12-15)

By the Spirit. Not by the Law. In Christ we now have the Law of God “written on our hearts” (see Jeremiah 31:31ff applied to the Christian in Hebrews 8). We love God, we love His Law, and the Spirit within us leads us to live out this love by obeying the Lord. Not to earn the favor of a threatening God who delights in catching us messing up.

Now, here is the point. Any system of so-called “Christianity” (or any false religion for that matter) that puts people under a system of so-called “divine law,” is only going to feed the power of their sin. So it is not surprising, for instance, when we see the Bill Gothards of this world and their zealous followers falling even further into the grip of sin.

Churches that promote the misuse of God’s Law as some means of setting us right with God are going to be fertile soil for abusers to flourish.  Set down rules, tell husbands and wives and families that they must function in some very specific way as set forth in some prescribed model (beyond Scripture), and you have just energized the sinful flesh. Do not look at a woman. You must dress in a specified manner. This is how a godly person uses money. Here is the divinely-approved daily schedule for your family. Teenagers, here is how to have victory over sexual temptation.

This is Law. Worse, it is man-made law parading as the Law of God. And it can only condemn because it feeds our flesh. It is, as Paul says, the power of sin. If we are to have victory, if we are going to be set right with God, then this energy of sin has to be dealt with once and for all. The good news of the gospel is that at the Cross and by His perfect life, Jesus Christ has done just that. We have died with Him, been raised with Him, and the Law no longer has claim upon us to condemn us. We walk by the Spirit and no longer need a thundering mountain shouting with a voice too terrible for us to bear.

* * *

Ps Dave Orrison’s recent post reflecting on The Duggar Thing is an apt illustration of this same principle. Here is a brief quote from his post:

The Duggar parents made the statement, to People magazine, that they were shocked when it happened. They said:

“When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes, and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before.”

In that brief statement is a revelation. In just nine words, the Duggars summarize why legalism does not work to curb sin.

“We had tried to teach him right from wrong.”

When spirituality can be reduced to a list of things that are right placed against a list of things that are wrong, there will be no victory over sin. The desire to make spirituality a lazy process of list-keeping is what has harmed the church’s testimony in the world and the Christian’s ability to live rightly.

10 Comments

  1. Mark

    Only ONE way. Pride says no, no, no I’m my own god and have no use of any other spirit or power then mine, I’m in control, I’m entitled to rule. But when humility comes (if it ever does) it says no, no, no I have no power, I have no control over my life or others. I bow to His Spirit, to the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. Now daily, this is the Spirit that imparts and builds my life into a living testimony of His Holy Glory.
    Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it….. Psalm 127:1
    GOD is good !!

  2. rebecca

    I remember studying Galatians in 1998 and thinking, “This seems to be saying that the more a person tries to live by the law, the more he’s going to go into sins of the flesh.” It was a radical new thought, and one I couldn’t wrap my mind around. A period of epiphany for me, for sure, and a turning point in understanding of what new life in Christ really means. It’s a crucial underpinning in standing against abuses and proclaiming that all sins are not equal.

  3. Stina

    Thank you, love this!

  4. Mark

    Rebecca,

    “This seems to be saying that the more a person tries to live by the law, the more he’s/she’s going to go into sins of the flesh.”

    Wow! this is “spiritual mechanics 101” — the consequence of believing righteousness can be self generated. Sometimes I wonder if the abuser has so bought into the power and control entitelment mentality because of the deceit of following the law, now using their own power and generating their own righteousness, “I’m so proud of my righteousness” these enemies of the cross proclaim. It’s a death spiral they and anyone in their lives enter into.

    The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law.

  5. Savedbygrace

    Hi Jeff
    You wrote:

    Recently we have seen even more reports of “model Christians” fallen in sin. Here you have highly publicized “perfect” Christian individuals or families or church leaders. They have it all right, supposedly. They write books and go on television while we all ooh and aah and wish our botched up lives or families could even approach the heights of holiness these people apparently have achieved.

    I would be interested in your and others opinions on my current circumstances:

    I am in ordained pastoral care ministry but have been separated from my husband because of his abuse of me. The head of my denomination has given me a period of ‘grace’ to see if my husband and I reconcile, if we do not I will have my licence to minister removed. I will then be faced with 2 options, either lose my job or if I want to keep it — I have to ‘revoke holy orders’ and then get reissued with a licence as a lay person. They have said they do not have a problem with my ministry but it is to ‘protect’ the status of ordination, but isn’t this just perpetuating a climate that says our leaders have to appear ‘perfect’? I find it very hypocritical.

    I think this approach places a lot of pressure on leaders to appear ‘perfect’ and any wonder sin goes ‘underground’ and leaders do not make themselves accountable or ‘real’ enough to get help. The devil is having a field day 😦
    Jeff do you see any scriptural justification for their stance ?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Saved by Grace – You mention that you will have your license removed. Is your husband/abuser a professing Christian and in the same church? If so, what disciplinary action is the church talking about taking toward him? In what ways, if any, have they come to your aid in helping you get free of this abuser?

      Does your church reject all divorced people as candidates for ordination?

      No, I see no scriptural justification for their position.

  6. Savedbygrace

    yes my husband is a professing Christian, we attend the same church, tho different services, he is getting a lot of support and ‘help’ I have received one visit from the ministers wife ( 4 months after the separation) but no pastoral care.. tho I have some supportive friends who I keep in touch with. My ministry is not based in my local church. My denomination has the position of not licensing anyone who is divorced, has ever been divorced or is married to someone who has been divorced.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Savedbygrace – There are numbers of reasons here then that I would recommend departing from that denomination. First, they have failed to bring your abuser under church discipline if I understand the situation correctly. Second, they really are bringing YOU, the victim under church discipline- threatening to remove your ordination. Third, their stance on divorce is absolutely unbiblical. It punishes the innocent. And guess what? They can refuse to ordain divorced people or people married to a divorced person all they want – and think that somehow they are “protecting” their holy orders, but I can tell you that there are myriads of sins that they are allowing to come in, including into the pastoral office.

  7. Free

    I struggle with these verses. I want to and love to do what’s right. I have peace and integrity knowing I do the right thing even when I’m tired, overworked, deeply hurt etc. God is good and so I want to do the good and right things here. This is how I teach my children too. I’m proud to be free to make good and healthy choices. Im no longer a slave to people’s opinions about what is good or bad. I know CLEARLY the difference now (since I’ve put a boundaries that I guard intensely and I’ve stopped contact with all abusive people and abusive enablers in my life.) and I stand up for doing what is right gladly and boldly.

    Is that legalistic? That’s what some in the church are saying. The way they speak reveals they want to be free of being responsible to do good all the time because God “hasn’t changed them yet.” and be user they’re “not perfect” and “His grace is enough.”

    Well I’m not “perfect” either (HATE that phrase btw) but the way I live is to do what is right. And I don’t stop. I fight for it. That includes when I do sin to genuinely repent and do what is right. Right? I have that heart now. I want to be respectful and good to others and in my daily business. I HATE sin, call it what it is and steer clear of it.

    The Ten Commandments and all Jesus said is wise to follow. He IS LORD. These verses aren’t saying throw the laws away. You can’t be right with God by following them because you haven’t ever followed them all perfectly and if you break one- you break them all. No one has followed them as required except for Jesus who is God.

    In fact we’re born sinners. Only because of Christ alone and His death which served as payment for His children can one be free from the penalty of Hell.

    Jesus said if you love me obey my commandments, right? So how can someone say they love Him and create such abuse and deception and twisting of scripture. This is not a simple typo or tiny misunderstanding they produce. This is an evil and calculated plot.

    I teach my kids right from wrong and discipline/correct them when they intentionally do wrong. They have time to think about what they’ve done and how it was wrong. We always talk at the end. They must reflect some understanding of their part to move forward. Otherwise a privilege will be taken away temporarily. This helps to push them toward looking at the truth of the matter. It’s effective. They know what matters most is not avoiding consequence but doing what is right because it’s right which is the only way to live. God is good and has no sin in Him and He is the One we follow. He does what is right.

    Now that I’m “free” of the abuser – I’m free to heal and therefore model for my kids respect, genuine love, care, concern and healthy language, actions and healthy living.

    I confidently say I have no other gods before my God – not myself, not the church and it’s churchianity, not the world and not anything in it. Before this I was a slave to the opinions of idolatrous and unrighteousness people. I didn’t want that life and they HATED me for that. They manipulated tirelessly to push me to live the way they did, and then when I did do what they did then they had a reason to point at me as the reason for the “hard times” (abuse!) What utter and complete INSANITY.

    Now I’m free and I fight for what is right. It’s exhausting at times, oh yes. But I sleep well at night so-to-speak because I know where my loyalty lies – With God and that means doing what is right no matter the inconvenience or result. Keep going.

    Does this mean I’m legalistic? Your thoughts please…Barbara, Jeff, Survivors. Thank you.

    • You don’t sound at all legalistic to me, Free!

      That’s what some in the church are saying. The way they speak reveals they want to be free of being responsible to do good all the time because God “hasn’t changed them yet.” and be user they’re “not perfect” and “His grace is enough.”

      I think you have probably accurately discerned the subtle libertinism of those people.

      Libertinism is the opposite of legalism. Libertines like to downplay the law, whether that be the commandments of Christ and his apostles in the NT, or the ethical principles of Mosaic Law that often still apply today some shape or form, if not in precisely the same way since the New Covenant came in.

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