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)
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.
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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.