In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. 7 Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: 8 I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:6-8 ESV).
In the well-known confessions of faith that came out of the Reformation and in the catechisms based on them, there is an important place given to the law, especially to the Ten Commandments. Was it right for the authors of those documents to do this? Many churches, even those linked more directly to the Reformation, have deviated little by little from such instruction. It is probably reasonable to assume that many church members would be embarrassed if they had to give the gist of the Ten Commandments in order, or even to give them all, much less have them memorized. Besides what is known as classic antinomianism, there are men who believe in sovereign grace, but who have taken a position in regard to the law which does not reflect the historical position of Reformed and Evangelical churches, in which description I include Baptist churches. However, there are strong Biblical and Christ-centered reasons which show that the composers of the old confessions and catechisms had good reasons to give importance to the law of God and to focus on the Ten Commandments. For those reasons we ought to consider this matter because of its relation to the Christian life.
We know from Hebrews 10:5ff that the verses cited above from Psalm 40 are speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even though the author of Hebrews did not continue to quote all of what we read in Psalm 40:8, because it was not necessary for the point he was making, nevertheless the Lord assures us that these verses of the Psalm show the understanding and the commitment of our Lord in His coming to redeem us. In doing the will of God, taking away the OT offerings as He offered Himself, He did all this as One Who delighted in God’s will, having God’s law written in His heart.
My desire is to direct your attention to this glorious, unique, incomparable Lord Jesus Christ in His relation to the law of God. I want us to see His attitude towards the law, next that it is necessary for us to have the same attitude as Jesus toward the law. Finally, I want to look at how we can have that attitude.
How Christ saw the law, that is, His attitude towards the law. As Psalm 40 shows us, Christ saw the doing of the will of God which He came to fulfill as inseparable from having the law written in His heart.
The Lord Jesus Christ had no sin. By definition, sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). Therefore, Jesus never violated a law of God. On the contrary, it was his delight to do the will of God and keep the law, for various reasons: it was pleasing to the Father, Whose law, like Himself, is holy and the commandment holy, just and good (Rom 7:12); “…in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:11 ESV). Christ knew perfectly the blessedness, the happiness of Psalm 1, not because He felt some obligation keep it no matter what, but because it was His delight. He was able to say with the Psalmist what we read in 119:97, because His own Spirit was in the Psalmist. He always did what pleased the Father (John 8:29).
In Matthew 5:17ff, we have His declaration concerning the law, and the Sermon on the Mount upholds it, as He gave the true meaning of the law, exposing the false explanations. At no time did Jesus undermine, take away, change or replace the moral law, but rather upheld it and magnified it. He would never have violated His own teaching, like what we see in Matthew 5:19-20.
No one should doubt that it was the Holy Spirit, one with the Father and the Son, and so the Spirit of Christ, Who moved the writer of Psalm 119. Jesus must have sung that Psalm, and sung it with all that was in Him.
We ought to have the same love and attitude toward the law as Jesus.
Jesus came to save us from our sins, Matthew 1:21. No one is saved from sin if he walks in disobedience to the law (see 1 John 3:1-9). If sin has a person enslaved, then that person is not saved from sin; if one lives according to one’s own fleshly, natural desires, then there is no salvation from sin.
God predestined us to be like His Son (Romans 8:29, et al.). Surely, being like His Son must include sharing His attitude toward the law. The mind of the believer, even in his war against the flesh, is “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being” (Rom 7:22 ESV).
Paul wanted Christ to be formed in the Galatians (Gal. 4:19), but how is Christ formed in us if we are not like Him in this matter as well as all other matters?
According to Titus 2:14, Christ died to redeem us from all iniquity and purify us. Iniquity must be defined in terms of God’s law. It includes an internal inconformity toward the law, rebellion against the law and law breaking. Without love of the law and without obedience to the law, how can one legitimately and truthfully claim to have salvation from sin in Christ, to be redeemed from iniquity?
No one should misunderstand or twist this. Let me be Biblical, and plain: WE ARE NOT SAVED BY OBEYING, BUT WE ARE SAVED IN ORDER THAT WE MAY OBEY (Romans 6:16-18; Ephesians 2:8-10).
How can we have a love toward the law like Christ?
We must ask this question because the Scriptures show plainly that no one is born with this attitude, nor can it be acquired in our natural state. Romans 8:7, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (ESV). No child of Adam can keep the law of God perfectly. In fact, without the new birth, no child of Adam really wants to keep the law spiritually, though many try to soothe their consciences by keeping some things of the law. The law exposes sin, condemns sin and gives no power to anyone to keep him from sinning, just like a traffic light that cannot make a car stop or go.
The law is always a load no one can carry; it is a cause of irritation as long as a man is in the state he was born in. That is why we ask the question, how can we have a love of the law like Christ?
We must be united to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). When a person is joined to Christ, which happens when a person is effectually called by the Father to Christ, he is born again, becomes a new creation in Christ. When he is “in Christ”, we can clearly affirm 2 things:
1. The one who is in Christ has the blessing of not being condemned by the law because he has the same relation to the law as Christ has (Romans 8:1ff). The law cannot condemn Christ, nor can it condemn those “in Him” because He satisfied all the demands of the law. In that way, the believer is not under the law.
2. He who is in Christ also receives the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. That being true, he loves what the Lord loves and hates what He hates. He is a new creation, born again. All is new. The laws of the Lord (which according to the new covenant, God puts …into their minds, and write(s) them on their hearts.., Hebrews 8:10 ESV), become lovely and serve as a guide to love. Those in Christ are troubled by the corruption that still remains in us, we feel in ourselves our own lack of power, and we are able to see what the Lord has done to free us from death and in order that the righteousness of the law may be fulfilled in us, now that we are not condemned by it. Let us note well that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us as fully justified believers. Now that there is no condemnation to those in Christ, then righteousness (not the righteousness of Christ that justifies, but personal righteousness like He shows in the Sermon on the Mount) can be fulfilled in us, not by the flesh, but by the Spirit. This is set forth in Romans 8:1-4.
Before we were a new creation in Christ the wrath of God was on us, and there was no love to God in us. Being made new, there is neither wrath nor condemnation, and there is love to God and His word, all His word. Before being in Christ the law condemned us and we did not like it, but now that we are saved from condemnation, we see in the law the reflection of our God and Savior, and we love it and honor it.
Judging by what we see here in Romans 8 we have an explanation of those verses that say that we are not under the law but under grace. We are not under the law as a covenant of works in order to be justified, and/or as something that condemns us. But in Christ we are related to the law as a guide, instructor, delight, etc. (1 Corinthians 9:20-21).
Therefore, no one ought to hold to the belief that the believer has no relation to the moral law of God. Putting the law in opposition to love, as many wish to do, is an ignorant and dangerous idea. “Love and do as you please” is a saying that does not take into account the fact that love without law is blind. How many violations of God’s sacred law have been committed in the name of love! For “love” of God, Saul persecuted the church; for “love” of another woman men have broken their marriage vows and committed adultery; and on and on we could go.
Furthermore, no one should be afraid of the idea of law, or obedience, or duty, etc. What we should fear is not having the Spirit of our Redeemer. He knew that God had created blessed men in His likeness, and His law was in them. God is holy and God is blessed. We can only be blessed as we are being holy as He is holy. His law is a guide toward holiness. No one loved the law or obeyed the law like Jesus Christ and no one has ever been fuller of pure and holy joy than Christ. Even on the night when He was betrayed, He said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11, ESV).
The spiritual mind is taken up with the righteousness of the law, not exclusively with that (because all the Scripture is our concern), but the righteousness of the moral law, the Ten Commandments in particular, will not be absent from our contemplation, because by the law we understand the righteousness of Christ and the requisites of love, and to what God has restored us, making us a new creation in Christ. And we will have other benefits also, like learning humility and gratefulness, because when we were weak and even when we were enemies, Christ redeemed us and gave us His Holy Spirit, transforming us.
And now, is anyone, who does not love the law of God, who cannot be subject to the law of God, because you are ruled by the desires of the flesh, reading this? Then come to the cross of Christ and look. He took the punishment that law breakers deserve so that they might be forgiven and reconciled to God and joined to Him Who died there. Believe in Him, trusting completely in Him to be saved from your sins and the horrendous eternal consequences of them, and you will receive pardon and life.
As long as you are separated from Christ, without God, without His Spirit and without His Word dwelling in you as your delight, then you will be an unhappy, miserable person, like the prodigal son who was eating with the pigs. Do what he did. He said, “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned…’” (Luke 15:18 ESV).
The Lord Jesus Christ baptizes in the Spirit everyone who believes in Him. He will transform you. And the things that once seemed foolish to you and made you stumble, will be the wisest and most powerful things you have known in your life. You will love Jesus Christ and His word, and His commandments will be for you the way of love, of freedom and liberty, and of holiness as you journey toward glory being united to Christ and having a spiritual mind which you receive by the grace of God. Those commands won’t be a burden the way they are now, but on the contrary you will be able to say in truth, like the saints in other times, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97 ESV). You will have the likeness of the Lord and grow in that likeness.
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