The Law of the Church

As the church watches helplessly from the sidelines as one after another moral tenet of society falls, each one more rapidly than the previous one, she really only has herself to blame.  For having forsaken the law of God, the one called to be salt and light to the world is fighting the cultural wars trying to stand on the one foot of “the gospel of love.”  Yet the gospel without the justice, blood, and righteousness of the law becomes no gospel at all.

Listen to R.C. Sproul:

The law and the gospel may never be absolutely separated…for the gospel has stipulations.  We live in an age in which both Law and gospel have been obscured.  As a result evangelism often is expressed simply as an announcement of redemption without obligation.  We hear preachers declare, “God loves you unconditionally.”  What does this mean?  The danger with such declarations is that they are often heard or understood to mean that God’s love imposes no conditions or obligations upon people.  It suggests that I can have a loving relationship with God even if I do not repent or if I do not embrace the gospel.  It suggests that I am acceptable to God just as I am.  This sounds more like Mr. Roger’s neighborhood than the kingdom of God.”

We can argue over what has caused the church to avoid God’s law, and in so doing trade in its spiritual armor for Mr. Roger’s cardigan and sneakers.  Is it from the decades-old downplaying of the Old Testament by dispensationalists? Has lazy exegetical skills kept us from understanding the distinctions needed in the study of God’s law regarding its categories and uses? Does it come from the fear of being seen as a bunch of thundering theonomists or, worse yet, theocratic terrorists? Has the missional movement’s emphasis on being relevant caused the church to miss the point that many of her members have been moved into relativism?  Have we advertised and marketed the church so much we have sold its very soul? Are we afraid we will no longer be seen as gospel-centered if the grace we preach requires anything of anyone? Surely all these reasons and more are to blame, but one thing is clear.  The church has forsaken the eternal, pure, binding moral law of God, and as a result she does not have just one hand tied behind her back but two.  No wonder the church is punch-drunk.

The church needs to rediscover one of the great promises that was made in the prophet Jeremiah and then repeated in the Book of Hebrews about her. In speaking of the new covenant the Lord Jesus has made with His people, God promises this to the church:

I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” -Hebrews 8:10

For the church to be seen as being in Christ and Christ in the church, she has to show the same is true with respect to His law.  When the knowledge of the Law of God is once again strong in the church, the Lord will be more fully present in the church and she will regain the strength she has lost.

So how does the church participate in seeing this promise fulfilled? Here are five simple, beginning practices that will help.

Pray for the Spirit to renew the church’s love for the Law.  Clearly this is a work the Spirit will have to do, to cause the church to once again say what the Psalmist declares, “O how I love Your law!  It is my study all the day.” (Psalm 119:97).  We must pray for the church to rediscover His law.

Memorize the Ten Commandments.  Every Christian family and every congregation should have a regular plan to memorize God’s ten basic rules for life.  How can we navigate successfully through this world without knowing these ten guides on how to love God with all our being and our neighbor as ourselves?

Recite the Ten Commandments regularly during worship.  Churches should regularly recite the Ten Commandments during worship. How can we expect them to be written on courthouse walls and the consciences of those around us if we do not hear them repeatedly in worship?

Study the Ten Commandments.  Have you gone through a systematic study of the Ten Commandments with others? Have you read through and discussed with others the Shorter and Larger Catechisms statements on the commandments?  The first psalm tells us to meditate on God’s law day and night.  That’s what Jesus did, for the Book of Hebrews, quoting from the Psalms, says the law was in in His heart.  As we read, study, and meditate on the law, our eyes begin to open up to see Christ and the applications He has for our lives.

Use them in evangelism.  As Dr. Sproul says above, if you do not cause the Law of God to be heard when bringing the gospel to others, you are not really bringing the gospel to them.  For ideas on how to do this, see an article I wrote here on the use of the law in evangelism.

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