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Sunday, July 1, 2007

What Makes a Lutheran Lawful?

As we have been traveling through the book of Galatians on Sunday morning and at our Bible study on Wednesday, it has struck me that we are really giving a bad rap to the law. As Lutherans, when we hear the word "law" we start to feel a little sick to our stomachs, we shake with nervousness, or we just plain run away. We like to think of ourselves as a Gospel church. We tend to think of only negative things when it comes to law and only positive things when it comes to Gospel. Law = Bad and Gospel = Good. Or so we think. After all, Paul tells us that we are set free from the law (Galatians 5:1). We don't need it anymore, we think, we have the Gospel!

As you can probably tell by how I am setting this up, this is not an entirely accurate picture. The law, in fact, is a wonderful thing! The law is a gift from God. Paul, the champion of all things Gospel, puts it this way, "The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good." (Romans 6:12) In the Psalms, David says we are blessed when we "delight in the law of the Lord." (Psalm 1:2)

But how can this be? After all, doesn't Paul teach us that the law brings wrath? (Romans 4:15) Yes, this is true. The law does bring wrath. But, we must ask ourselves, who does the law bring wrath to? The answer is that it brings wrath to those who try and earn eternal life by keeping the law. We cannot be justified (made right in the eyes of God) by the law, but by faith alone. (Galatians 2:15-16) When we try and save ourselves by keeping the law, we see that we only fail. This leads us to Christ who did keep the law perfectly and died for us to forgive us because we can't keep the law perfectly.

But, the law does much more than this! It has nothing to do with saving you, but it has an awful lot to do with you living your life as a Christian! Read the end of any of Paul's letters. He is giving instructions to Christians on how they should live, i.e., he is giving them law! He isn't giving it to them so they can earn eternal life, but he is giving it to them so they can see how to live now that they have eternal life! When God gave the law to Israel on Mt. Sinai in the Old Testament (Exodus 20), he wasn't saying, "Of you want to save yourselves you will do these things." No, he was saying, "Now that I have saved you and you are my children, this is how your lives will look!"

As Christians who have been saved solely by the grace of God, we should happily keep the law. We should read God's Word and be instructed by it, not so that we can save ourselves, but because we have been saved and we delight in God's Word! Thank God that he has given us the law to guide us as his children!

Pastor Bob

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