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The Law of God (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
December 29, 2023 3:00 am

The Law of God (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 29, 2023 3:00 am

God’s law is often accused of being an outdated and restrictive means of control that ruins life’s fun—but it’s actually one of the ways God loves and protects His children! Find out how that works when you listen to Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at tfl.org thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!





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Some people look at God's law and think of it as a restrictive means of control, something that takes all the fun out of life. Today on Truth for Life, we'll find out that God's law is actually a means of loving and protecting us. Alistair Begg is teaching from Hebrews chapter 10 and Romans chapter 8. We say no to sin and yes to righteousness, not as a result of struggling to keep the law but by the power of the indwelling Spirit. The believer gives up looking to the law in terms of any of the ceremonial legislation and mosaic material. That's why we're not doing the sacrifices.

That's why we're not going back to these things. That's why the Council of Jerusalem in Acts chapter 15 was so crucial, because they were hammering out these very issues. Well, what part, then, does all this old stuff fit in our newfound profession of faith in Jesus?

And as they worked that out together, they were laying down, if you like, a foundational premise from which everything else must follow. So the believer gives up looking to the law for justification or for sanctification. When the Reformers picked up this material, they spoke in terms of the threefold function of the law. And they spoke of the law, first of all, in terms of its civil or political function—obviously, within the context of the Mosaic law. But even beyond that, the Reformers were quick to point out that, as we said in the outset, the Ten Commandments—the moral law of God—actually are a specific summary statement of how the world is able to work perfectly according to the plan of the Creator. When people come around and say, you know, the pathway to freedom is to overturn these dreadful and ridiculous commands of God, then the Reformers said, No, that is actually the pathway to chaos, because the law of the Lord is perfect. There's a reason why the Ten Commandments are in the rotunda where the Supreme Court sits.

There's a reason why British jurisprudence and American law is as it is. It was because, at the outset of things, the founders of the nation agreed with the Reformers about the civil and political place of the law in establishing the bounds of a civilization and of a country. Secondly, they referred to it not only in terms of its political function but in terms of its pedagogical function. And this they were simply picking up, again, from Galatians, where Paul talks about the law as a teacher leading us to Christ.

And it is in that use of the word, which gives us our adjective pedagogical, that the Reformers were speaking. So they said, When you take the law of God, what it actually does is it performs the function as per the Roman slave of leading us to the Lord Jesus Christ. Bolton, when he was thinking of this, he said, You know, it is the law that leads us then to Christ to discover the way of salvation, and Christ then returns us to the law to frame our way of life. But that is to anticipate my third point, to which I'm just about to come, but under the pedagogical function of the law, listen to Luther. Luther regarded this as the most valuable contribution of the law.

This is what he said. As long as a person is not a murderer, adulterer, thief, he would swear that he is righteous. This is what I was saying this morning about the place of the law. We need to teach our children the law so they can realize how bad they are. Otherwise, they're gonna buy the lie.

They're really quite good. And especially if we keep telling them that as well. As long as you're not an adulterer, a thief, or a murderer, you'll swear that you're righteous. How is God going to humble such a person? Except by law. The law is the hammer of death, the thunder of hell, and the thunder of God's wrath to bring down the proud and shameless hypocrites. When the law was instituted on Mount Sinai, it was accompanied by lightning, by storms, by the sound of trumpets, to tear to pieces that monster called self-righteousness.

Now, think about who's writing this. This is Luther. That monster called self-righteousness. He knew about the monster. Every time he looked in the mirror, he saw the monster. That was his whole deal. He was righteous.

And yet it didn't work. As long as a person thinks he's right, he is going to be incomprehensibly proud and presumptuous. He's going to hate God, despise his grace and mercy, and ignore the promises in Christ.

The gospel of the free forgiveness of sins through Christ will never appeal to the self-righteous. This monster of self-righteousness, this stiff-necked beast, needs a big axe. And that is what the law is—a big axe. Accordingly, the proper use and function of the law is to threaten until the conscience is scared stiff.

Just in passing. If I—and let's not do the royal we at the moment—if I am not careful, I may find in my teaching that a neglect of that element is a key reason for how it is that people are able to walk in and out of Parkside Church self-righteous, smug, and say to you afterwards, That was really good. I enjoyed that. And you just say to yourself, Apparently they never heard a word of it. But no, maybe they heard every word of it. But maybe there was no axe.

Maybe there was no law. Maybe there was no expression of the condition of the heart of man irrespective of what that man or woman conceives of themself to be. That is not brought about as a result of our pointing out sins and faults and flaws. It's simply as a result, says Luther, of wielding the axe of the law of God, which shows a self-righteous individual their need of a Savior. The Holy Spirit will do the work of convicting. But our responsibility is to say, not just, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, but you are a sinner, standing before a holy and a righteous God. Now I'm just preaching to myself. So the threefold use of the law in the civil and political dimension, in the pedagogical dimension, and then thirdly and finally, the place of the law of God as the rule of life for believers.

That is Bolton, I said I anticipated a moment ago. In other words, as a believer, you are free from the law as a way of salvation—either justification or sanctification—but not free from the law as a way of life. Freedom from the law is not freedom to disobey the law. Again, Bolton, the gospel sends us to the law again to inquire what is our duty in being justified—not to be justified, but what is our duty having been justified. Not justified by keeping the law, but having been justified, then keeping the law, made aware of our sinful condition. Now, when we, as it were, get up off our knees in that awareness of the provision of salvation in the atoning work of Jesus, when we get up from our knees, it is not then to find the moral law of God abrogated. It is not then to find that the moral law has been set aside. But rather, it is to discover that the very moral law of God is now actually, if you like, impregnated into the very fiber of our newfound life in Christ—that it has actually become part and parcel of us. Says John Murray, if the cross of Christ does not fulfill in us the passion of righteousness, we have misinterpreted the whole scheme of divine redemption. Now, Luther regarded the second use of the law as the most important. Calvin regarded the third use of the law as most important. This is what he says, The third and principal use, which pertains more closely to the proper purpose of the law, finds its place among believers, in whose hearts the Spirit of God already lives and reigns. We began, Lord, reign in me.

Reign in me. This is the cry of the believer. This is not the cry of the unbeliever.

The unbelievers have no interest in God reigning in them. There's no concept of it at all. You're here tonight, and we started with that song, and you said, having a clue what these people are on about. Well, that's okay, because I'd love to talk to you about what it really means, and be glad to.

Others would. But no, that's what he's saying. In the Spirit of God already lives and reigns. For even though they have the law written and engraved upon their hearts by the finger of God—that is, have been so moved and quickened through the directing of the Spirit that they long to obey God—they still profit by the law. Now, it's by means of the law—and again, this is Calvin—that the believer learns thoroughly the nature of God's will.

It is by means of the law of God, his moral law, that as a believer I am kept from the slippery paths of transgression. It is… You see, it is when you're driving down the road and you come to a sign that says it's got a one-in-twelve degree or whatever that thing is—it's mathematical, I shouldn't mention it—but if it's a steep hill, all right? There's a big sign that says, Steep Hill, Don't Kill Yourself. Now, it's there. You say, I hate that law.

Somebody coming here and putting that thing up there. If I want to kill myself, it's up to me entirely. No, it's actually a very important thing, because you might kill somebody else in the process even if you're stupid enough to think in that way. But it is the moral law of God that keeps us from transgression. Think about it. You see, the people who reject the validity of the law of God in the life of a believer argue with me along these lines.

And this is what they always say. They say, Oh, you don't understand the Bible, Alistair, because love replaces law. In the living of the Christian life, we no longer operate under law—after all, Romans 6, which is then misquoted as per usual—but we are simply moving according to love as the rule of life. So they reject the idea of the believer being taught and guided by the Spirit of God to display his love for God or her love for God by keeping his commandments. And instead, they say, how we live is not by rules but is according to the judgments of our own heart as constrained by love alone. Okay?

Dangerous. Thomas Taylor in an earlier era says, If you're gonna try and love God and obey God according to the spiritual promptings of the moment, look out. To say we obey God by the Spirit without a law or a commandment is a mere pretense. For is there any obedience without a law? What can be more ridiculous than for a subject to profess obedience to his prince but yet will not be under any law?

Or Anthony Burgess, 1700, 1646. To substitute the judgments of our own hearts for the law, wrote Burgess, was, quotes, to have the Son follow the clock rather than the clock follow the Son. The Puritans, in the same way, were aware of the fact that it was possible for the believer to keep the law in an external way, in a fastidious way, in a moralistic way. And that's why the Reformers said, The true keeping of the law in the life of a genuine believer is according to, a quote, evangelical ability. And what they said—and Alec Metea picks up on this in some of his stuff—they essentially said that God has, if you like, fashioned the believer's heart in the shape of his law so that he keeps the law not by natural endeavor but as the impact of the energizing power of the Spirit of God. The Westminster Confession helpfully again, The Spirit of Christ subdues and enables the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully, which the will of God reveals in the law requires to be done. I will always obey your law forever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, says the psalmist, for I have sought out your precepts.

If you think about this, it all fits, doesn't it? Because God gave the Ten Commandments not to the surrounding nations but to his people. He gave them not in order that they might be redeemed, but he gave them because they had been redeemed. He gave them not… He didn't take them out of Egypt because they kept the Ten Commandments.

They were to keep the Ten Commandments because he took them out of Egypt. In the same way, the Sermon on the Mount is not an ethical, moralistic code but given by Jesus to help people that would like to be accepted by God to try their best and do these things, but rather it is a handbook that is given to us by God's grace as a result of his goodness to us in Jesus. In fact, the Puritans believed that the highest spirituality was to be seen in a life that rejoices to be commanded.

A life that rejoices to be commanded. Samuel Rutherford, he gets it perfectly when he says, the law of God—and I've quoted this to you on a number of occasions—the law of God, honeyed with the love of Christ, has a majesty and power to keep from sin. Or John Owen, a universal respect to all God's commandments is the only preservative from shame. A universal respect to all God's commandments is the only preservative from shame. Now, think about it. If you're going to try and navigate your Christian life on the impulse of the moment, I don't know about you, but some of my impulses would get me in really, really bad trouble.

So what is it that keeps me? It's the law of God. God said, Don't. And what God wants, God wills. What he demands, he enables. You're not asking us to try and go out and do this on our own.

No! He has redeemed us, and the promise and the wonder of it all is that I will take my law, and I will write it in their hearts, and I will establish it in their minds. That's why we read from Hebrews. I'd better not start on Hebrews right now, but that's why we read that section. All that God wants, says the writer to the Hebrews in that chapter, all that God wants in terms of salvation has been achieved. All that we need in Christ has been accomplished. And the Holy Spirit then testifies to that—that's the significance of the quote—that's what he says, and the Holy Spirit bears witness to us. So what does the Holy Spirit… How does the Holy Spirit bear witness? He quotes the Bible, quotes the Old Testament. What does he quote? Quotes Jeremiah 31, the promise of God, that I will write my law in their hearts.

There's no conflict between that heart and the requirements of holy living. We make progress. We make progress in our Christian lives as we are obedient to God's Word.

Well, I think I've said more than enough. Let me just try and wrap it up in this way. Let's say again that the church in every generation, including our own, is tempted to fall off one side or the other of the striding edge of God's perfect law of liberty—to fall into the gully either of legalism or of license. Years ago, I remember one of my pastors decided that he was going to rewrite one of the Easter hymns, because he didn't like the theology of it. Unfortunately, it was one of my favorite hymns, and maybe one of yours too. It's written by our Irish friend Cecil, whatever her name was.

And there is a green hill far away outside a city wall, remember? And then the line that reads, the verse that reads, Oh dearly, dearly has he loved, and we must love him too, and trust in his redeeming love, and try his works to do. And my pastor said, No, we gotta get that changed. So we're changing it to, Oh dearly, dearly has he loved, and we must love him too, and trust in his redeeming blood, not try his works to do.

Now, I never had the chance to talk to him. He may simply have been seeking to counteract a view of the Christian life which was essentially legalistic. But in doing so, he ran the risk, not of getting the pendulum back to the middle but actually getting the pendulum off on the other side altogether, so that you have this constant dilemma where people say, you know, well, the key to effective Christian living is just get yourself out of it. I mean, just get out of it.

I mean, just let God do everything. It's never seemed to work for me at all. Never turned my TV off. Never pulled me out of a movie theater.

Never caught me at nine o'clock with a girl I shouldn't be with and whisked me out of the car. Never! Never!

Never! I guess passivity is not the key. But neither is slavish absorption. Because the law is not the means of our justification nor of our sanctification. But it is written in our hearts, I very much doubt, said one of the Puritans, whether if God did not command us to do more than we can, we should do as much as we do.

He that endeavors, Bolton, he that endeavors not to be better will by little and little grow worse. Okay, one Luther quote, and then we're done. There are three ways in which the law may be abused. First, by the self-righteous hypocrites who fancy that they can be justified by the law. Secondly, by those who claim that Christian liberty exempts a Christian from the observance of the law. These, says Peter, use their liberty for a cloak of maliciousness and bring the name of the gospel into ill repute. Thirdly, the law is abused by those who do not understand that the law is meant to drive us to Christ.

When the law is properly used, its value cannot be too highly appraised. It will take me to Christ every time. Every time. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. Well, not only is today the last program of the week, it's Truth for Life's last weekday program in 2023. And as we think back on how God has blessed this ministry, we want to thank everyone who has studied along with us, all of you who have prayed for us and who have listened or donated to make all of this possible. And as we close out this year, Alistair is here with a few words for us.

Thank you, Bob. And here we are with just a few days from the close of 2023, a year in which we have benefited from studying and learning from the Bible, getting to know Jesus better. And as you benefit from these daily messages, you have your fellow listeners to thank because by their giving, we're able to produce and distribute the program. We're able to make the online teaching library free so that it can be accessed all around the world. So let me say that if you've been listening but have yet to move from listening to giving, this would be a great time to make that transition before the year is out. Your gift of any amount will help to bring Truth for Life to others in the new year, the same way that others have made the teaching available to you throughout 2023.

And Bob has the details on how to make that happen. You can make your year-end donation securely online at truthforlife.org slash donate. And as a reminder, if you're in the US, you'll want to do that before midnight on December 31st, so your donation will be tax deductible for 2023. When you give, don't forget to request a three-pack of the Gospel of John. Again, the link is at truthforlife.org slash donate. And if you're mailing your donation, be sure it's postmarked before December 31st.

You can mail it to Truth for Life, Post Office Box 398000, Cleveland, Ohio 44139. Now we want to wish you a blessed weekend as you ring out the old year and bring in a new one. Join us Monday. We're going to begin another year of Bible study together, and you need to brace yourself. We'll be looking at a Bible verse that could greatly impact any resolutions you make for 2024. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-29 05:05:14 / 2023-12-29 05:13:47 / 9

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