Tag Archives: legalism

Confession

Confession

confessionI’m so glad that that we no longer live in the horrific age of the inquisition. In those days the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope held sway; any that dared challenge his authority and church dogma, refusing to recant, were horribly tortured in order to extract a confession and then burnt at the stake without mercy:

“Anyone who attempts to construe a personal view of God which conflicts with Church dogma must be burned without pity.” Pope Innocent III

What is confession?

Today, in modern times, the word confession is used more in the context of a criminal admitting to a crime, which interestingly enough – according to the principle in UK law called corpus delicti – isn’t on its own enough to convict.

Wikipedia defines confession as :

“A statement – made by a person or by a group of persons – acknowledging some personal fact that the person (or the group) would ostensibly prefer to keep hidden. The term presumes that the speaker is providing information that he believes the other party is not already aware of, and is frequently associated with an admission of a moral or legal wrong:”

Confession for a Catholic

For many though, the word conjures up the confession booth and the penitent confessing both mortal and venial (less serious) sins to a Roman Catholic priest in order to receive absolution. This is called the Sacrament of Penance.

By the way, Catholics believe that mortal sins, are those which if not forgiven before death, send a person to hell because they separate the person from God’s grace (go figure that one!) Sins such as: Murder, Adultery, Masturbation and deliberately missing Mass – amongst many other sins in the list!

The Bible has one category … sin!

Confession in the Old Testament.

Where do these Catholic ideas of confession come from then? Well to some extent they are modelled on Old Covenant biblical practices: Under the law, if you sinned, you came to the priest with a sacrifice and confessed your sin in order to receive forgiveness.

Leviticus 5:5 “And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess (Hebrew ‘yadah’) that he hath sinned in that thing:”

Later on in the Bible, the people confessed as a nation for their sins:

Nehemiah 9:2 “And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.”

It’s important to realise though, that ‘confess’ is not the only translation of the Hebrew word ‘yadah’, as in many contexts it means ‘to praise’ or ‘give thanks.’ In fact, this is where the name Judah comes from and is its first usage in the Bible:

Genesis 29:35 “And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.”

Confession for a Protestant

What about Protestant Evangelicals though, what do they believe? Well certainly they don’t believe that forgiveness of sins is administered by a priest. No, they believe that they have direct access to God and can therefore confess their sins privately whenever they wish – basing this on 1John 1:9.

Indeed, this kind of freedom and access to God, was intuitively understood by King David living thousands of years earlier under the law. Somehow he looked forward to the time when the believer could approach God directly without mediator or priest:

Psalm 32:5 “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.”

Of course, the Catholic might reasonably ask the Protestant: “how do you know you have been forgiven though?”

This is a good question. A Catholic believes that he or she knows that they are forgiven because they have received absolution from a priest. The Protestant … not so much?

That is why I believe, that 1 John 1:9 is not some miraculous bar of soap to be applied after sinning. No, under grace the believer confesses any sin knowing the certainty of total forgiveness.

Colossians 1:14 “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”

Under the Law you confessed to get forgiven; under Grace you confess because you are forgiven!

By the way, the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 brilliantly illustrates these ideas, as when he eventually returns home to his Father with his practiced confession and suggested penance, the Father has already forgiven him and instead showers him with love and affection that he doesn’t deserve. That’s grace for you!

Luke 15:18 “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.”

New Covenant Confession

So then, what does New Covenant confession look like? Firstly, a conversion experience is accompanied by the confession of sin and repentance:

Acts 19:18 “And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.”

However, like the Hebrew word for confess, the word Greek word for confess ‘homologeo’ is not exclusively used in regards to sin either but simply means to agree or to say the same thing as another.

John uses the word extensively in his Epistle in regards to the believers confession or statement of faith:

1 John 4:15 “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.”

1 John 4:2 “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:”

2 John 1:7 “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”

The Apostle Paul also used the same word in the famous salvation passage:

Romans 10:9 “That if thou shalt confess (aorist) with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession (present tense) is made unto salvation.”

Confession to one another.

Just to finish though, James also talks about confession but in the context of confessing sins to one another (not a priest).

James 5:15 “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

What this verse is saying, is that if you have sinned against someone go and put it right – as Jesus explains in Matthew 18. Maybe though, James is thinking of when Abimelech inadvertently sinned against righteous Abraham?

Genesis 20:8 “Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.”

Read More:

What to do when you sin

Can you miss the grace of God?

Sinning wilfully

A driving analogy

Are future sins forgiven?

Total forgiveness

My Kindle books

Gods Grace Works BookLatest book Gods Grace Works Every Day

 Kindle book – Christ in You

Kindle book – Christ the End of Law

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Does grace work?

Grace workDoes grace really work? In this article, I want to address the issue and perception of some, that those of us who preach grace teach and encourage spiritual laziness, because we talk about effortless change and rest. In other words, we are portrayed as believing that there is nothing for the believer to do – it’s all up to God because we are under grace. It follows then, we are encouraging people to behave like spiritual bums who slob it out in the heavenly departure lounge until Jesus returns! I believe that if grace is truly been preached nothing could be further from the truth.

My experience

Actually, I know from my experiences this year, that a revelation of God’s abounding, super, amazing, hyper-grace will result in you working far harder and producing more fruit in a shorter time than you ever thought possible. I mean, allow me a little foolish boasting on my part – this year I managed to write two Kindle books (I don’t know if they are any good,  you’ll have to read them and tell me what you think) but if you had told me that I would accomplish that a couple of months ago – I would have not believed you! I’ve noticed also that instead of reading a portion of scripture a day I’m reading chapters. Is this because I’m disciplining myself? No its happening quite naturally because I’m hungry for the word – ok boasting over!

The fruit of grace

No, grace empowers; it transforms; it produces vision and action; it results in fruit for God; it produces holiness – GRACE WORKS.

1 Cor 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

In fact, if it doesn’t produce the above then was it really grace? No, I don’t believe so. Grace in the believers life will always have an effect. It is the antidote to sinful behaviour and addictions. It will teach you to deny ungodly lusts.

Titus 2:12 “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;”

Grace empowers

Therefore, what sinners (including sinning believers) need more than anything, is more grace not more law because that is the only thing that will empower them to change. Like the woman caught in adultery in John 8,  Jesus first took away the power of sin (the law) by removing any condemnation by saying: “neither do I condemn you”.

Then he follows with a command not to sin because grace has empowered her. Jesus therefore came to free us from the power of sin so that we would be his special people zealous for good works.

Titus 2:15 “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

Evidence of faith?

It follows then, that works follow grace; there should be evidence that someone is saved! True grace will transform and reform you from the inside out and if over time there isn’t evidence of any transformation, you should wonder whether you have received God’s grace in vain.

2 Cor 6:1 “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.”

Ask yourself, is there enough evidence to convict you as christian? Are you truly holy or different from the man in the street or do you watch pornography and cheat on your taxes like everyone else? Even worse, does the fruit of your life actually contradict the message you preach?

Titus 1:16  “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”

Faith works

James tackles this very issue of genuine faith in his Epistle, when he makes the assertion that faith or believing on its own is not enough to save. That seems a heretical statement to evangelicals but what he’s saying is that saving faith is more than an acknowledgement of the facts and a reciting of the creeds. As he points out later, even the devils believe – and they are not saved!

James 2:17 “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”

Faith therefore has to come alive and produce fruit or works to be seen as genuine faith, gold tested in the fire – FAITH WORKS!

1 Peter 5:17 “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:”

For example, how do we know Abraham had faith, can we see right into his heart? No, his works recorded for us in scripture are the evidence of his genuine faith! He was tried and found faithful. This is the kind of faith that the Apostle Paul believed he had found in his protege Timothy:

2 Timothy 1:5  “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.”

Faith and grace therefore go together like salt and pepper. Grace is towards all but it is not received by all. Faith is the supernatural ability given by God to receive from the unseen realm all that God has provided through his grace.

False faith

Hence, not all what looks like faith is faith. In the Bible there are example of those who look like the genuine article but in fact are not. One such case is  of Simon the sorcerer:

Acts 8:13 “Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.”

Was Simon a genuine believer? On the surface yes, but as it turns out heart was not right before God and the is no record of genuine repentance. In fact, historical records shows us that he became an enemy of christianity and the source of gnosticism. So, what did Simon believe? I think he believed the evidence of the miracles but he didn’t experience new birth himself.

Maybe that is what in the writer of Hebrews 6 had in mind – in that interesting passage which some claim proves a believer can lose their salvation. In fact, it is nothing of the sort, the writer is concerned for his Jewish readers that they may turn out just like Simon the Sorcerer. The test is the fruit.

Hebrews 6:8 “For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.”

Therefore, just because a person says they are a christian doesn’t mean they are! In fact, Paul prophesied that there would be attacks against the church from within and without.

Acts 20:30 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

Even today, there are still those who want to dilute the message of grace by mixing it with a little bit of law. Unfortunately, that nullifies grace working and that is exactly what the enemy doesn’t want – GRACE WORKING!

New Creation Church Gosport 

Further reading:

United as one (song)

What is the kingdom of God?

What is holiness

Work out your own salvation (prophecy)

Training for reigning

 

Download my Kindle books on Amazon:

Christ the End of Law
Christ in you the hope of glory
Christ the End of Law KIndle Amazon

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Freedom from sin

can a believer sinChrist in you (part 3).

If you could take a pill to be totally free of all sin would you do it right now? If you are born again then your answer would be mostly likely a resounding yes! The desperate man at the end of Romans 7 we have been discussing in the previous post, would certainly grab the chance. I mean, as believers, don’t we all long for that day when we will be in heaven where we will we never ever sin again – a glorious thought!

The God’s-pill

However, the Gospel (God’s-pill) is not just a promise of freedom from sin in the future, its freedom from law of sin and death NOW.

If you jump back a few chapters in Romans to chapter 6, it is clear that the crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the means by which God had not only forgiven all you sins but has dealt with sin in the flesh. Therefore, your freedom is a done deal. It happened 2000 years ago!

Romans 6:18 “and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness”

Romans 6:22 “but now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome eternal life.”

When Jesus was crucified you were crucified with him

Romans 6:6 “knowing that our old self was crucified with him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin”
When Jesus died you died with him

Romans 6:7 “for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ….”

When he was buried you were buried with him

Romans 6:4 “therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death”

When he was raised you were raised with him

Romans 6:4 “in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father so we too might walk in newness of life”

The resurrection of Jesus therefore is the key. Life is more powerful then death. Light always overcomes darkness. Therefore, resurrection and eternal life defeats and trumps death completely.

1 Corinthians 15:54 “Death is swallowed up in victory”.

One of my favourite scriptures and the one of the best bits in the Bible (in my opinion), is Romans 8:1. It’s like a victorious fanfare of trumpets announcing the termination of the wrestling match of Romans chapter 7.

Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, for law of the spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

Wow! What this amazing verse is saying and we have been saying already, is that resurrection life, christ in you, the law of the spirit of life, breaks the hold, the chains, the patterns and the habits of sin in our lives! Just like Jesus came to life and walked out of that tomb, so God is able to raise you from the dead! Similarly, as Jesus called forth Lazarus from the tomb –  so he calls your name!

No condemnation

It’s because we have been set free, that there can be NOW (this moment and at any moment), NO (zero) condemnation or future judgment and penalty for sin. Nothing you do, no sin you can commit (even right now), is going to suffer a penalty because when Jesus died you died!

In the next verse, verse 2 of Romans 8, the writers gives a bit more detail how this is possible. He explains how what the law was powerless to do (free you from the law of sin and death), God did at the cross and judged sin in the flesh. So, not just sins were dealt with and judged but the whole of your sinful flesh was judged – exhausting any possible future penalty.

Romans 8:2. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: “

This is the ‘too good to be true news’ that is the Gospel of Grace – and the legalists hate it! Without conditions, caveats and multiple hoops to jump through, they just can’t cope – indeed the original translators of the KJV even added extra text (without any authority I may add), “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Why? Because they couldn’t believe verse 1 was that good!

How can it be that good? Surely, the first thought that goes through the mind of the believer is: “yippee, lets go out on the town and sin as much as I can get away with.” Of course, that takes no account that if you are born again you actually do want to live Holy and you have a new nature. In fact, now you are a willing slave to righteousness and to God. Romans 6:18 and 6:22.

It’s a bit like thinking that if you said to your children that they could now do what they liked, that they would somehow smash your house up, drink all your beer and drive your car into a wall! No, if they really are your children and truly love you they probably won’t in fact. This however is the risk of grace and of love that God undertakes. The good news is, that God now treats us as a sons who are led by the spirit of God (Romans 8:14); the law is for immature kids who need rules.

Therefore, when Jesus said the following he wasn’t kidding:

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Let’s us therefore, learn to stand and enjoy this freedom that Christ has purchased:

Galatians 5:1 “It was for freedom that Christ set us free, therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject to a yoke of slavery”

Further articles:

Next post (Part 4)

Why do I sin (Part 2)

Christ in you (part 1)

New birth (Audio)

You must be born again

The law of christ

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The law of christ

the lawAs a child, I was brought up in the Exclusive Brethren: a christian sect that was birthed in revival but unfortunately largely ended up legalistic, religious and dead. The Gospel was preached for salvation but unfortunately those “breaking bread” , or officially part of the congregation were expected to adhere to the unwritten rules. Rules like: no television, radio, pop-music and a strict dress code in church. Of course this sort of legalism isn’t exclusive to the brethren (excuse the pun) and most christian denominations exhibit similar manifestations of joyless religion. However,  I do honour my heritage, because for one thing it gave me a love and knowledge of the scriptures and a hunger and a thirst for the truth.

The religious right

In Jesus day, likewise there were religious groups that started off with a genuine desire to arrest the moral decline in the nation. One of these was the Pharisees or ‘separate ones’ and their mission was a determination to get back to the Bible, or in their case the Torah or Law. Unfortunately,  in their zeal they elaborated the law with their own self-righteous additions to which Jesus often sarcastically refers to ‘your law’ meaning the extra interpretations, interpolations and additions the Pharisees had introduced.

This meant of course, that Jesus often came head to head with the Pharisees  because he revealed their double standards. On one such day, a teacher of the law or lawyer, was trying to trap Jesus with a clever question:

What is the greatest commandment?

Matthew 22:42 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets”

What a brilliant answer! The Pharisees had complicated the law and made it even more difficult for the man on the street to understand let alone keep. In a paragraph, Jesus has reduced the whole of the law and the prophets to basically: love God and love man. Who can’t understand that! Who needs a lawyer or a pharisee! Its like a complicated quadratic equation being simplified  to x= a + b!

Paul’s teaching on the law of christ

In the Epistles, the Apostle Paul takes the truth that Jesus revealed in the Gospels and further amplifies it. In Galatians he refers to it as the Law of Christ:

Galatians 6:2 “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

In Romans, Paul shows how that loving God and loving man is the fulfillment of the law:

Romans 13:8 “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law “ For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

The end is love

The grace of God therefore, through Jesus, has successfully achieved the end that the law had no power to achieve because of the weakness of the flesh.

Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

Bible teacher Derek Prince said the following: “Both under law and under grace the end to be achieved is love. But under law the means used to that end is an external system of commandments and ordinances, imposed upon man from without; and under grace the means is a miraculous and continuing operation of the Holy Spirit within the believers heart”

A believer therefore, is not trying to produce good or loving behaviour by a set of rules that he or she keeps. No, a new law is at work because a new power is at work in our lives – the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit: God’s love has been poured into our hearts so that as we experience God’s love towards us, it causes us to reciprocate and also express that to others.

Romans 5:5 “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

A person full of the Holy Spirit therefore doesn’t need the law!

Galatians 5:23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

A man in love with his wife doesn’t need the law “do not commit adultery”.

Consequently, under the new covenant, we walk by the spirit and operate by a different set of rules or laws. There has been a change of covenant; a change of law. Hebrews 7:12.

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 3:27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

The law of liberty

Therefore, the believer under grace is called to freedom and liberty. James talks about this freedom as the law of liberty:

James 1:25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

James 2:12 “So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.”

In other words, you are free to do what you like as long as it brings glory to God and blesses those around you.

Again, Derek Prince puts it this way: “as a christian you are free to do anything that you can do with perfect love in your heart towards God and man. Your are not free to do anything that cannot be done in love”.

How is this worked out practically?

There are three ways practically this is outworked:

Does it bring glory to God?

Firstly, loving God means bringing glory to God. So, I don’t have to follow complicated dietary laws as per the law. No, its as simple as:

1 Cor 10:31 “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God”

Is it beneficial?

Secondly, what I do or do not allow or participate in, is governed very simply by nothing is unlawful as long as it is beneficial and doesn’t control me:

1 Cor 6:12 “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful to me but I will not be brought under the power of any”

For example: I believe a christian is free to drink or not to drink alcohol but if we become addicted or drunk, then we are under the power of alcohol and are behaving foolishly and are indulging the flesh. In addition, we must take the truth of Roman’s 14 into account, whereby if my “freedom” affects the conscience of my brother or sister and causes them to stubble, then love for my brother overrides my freedom!

Romans 14:21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

Serve others

Thirdly, I don’t use this liberty to indulge the flesh. No, I use it to serve others. So, by all this we are establishing and fulfilling the law: love your neighbour as yourself.

Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

The Royal law

James calls loving your neighbour the Royal or Noble Law:

James 2:8 “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:”

As believers therefore, we are called to behave and act like nobility or kings! God wants us to reign in life!

Romans 5:17 “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.”

Therefore, because we are under grace doesn’t mean we are lawless. In fact, the whole of the New Testament is full of commands. Don’t get drunk on wine; Do not love the world; Husbands love your wives and so on. In fact, Paul refers to these as the commandments of God some of which he gave under apostolic authority. However, again these commands  are describing the behaviour of etiquette of royalty. In other words this is who you are so live like it!

The Jesus commandments

Thankfully, Jesus didn’t leave us another 613 commandments to keep. No, he said if you love me keep my commandments one of which was love one another.

Love one another

John 15:12 “This is my commandment that you love one another just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

John in his Epistle further reiterates this:

1 John 4:21 “And this is the commandment we have from him that the one who loves God should love his brother also. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God and whoever loves the Father love the child born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not burdensome.”

Love God

The second is simply to believe in the name of his son Jesus Christ, in other words love God with all your heart.

1 John 3:22 “and whatever we ask we receive from him because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another just as he commanded us. And the one who keeps his commandments abides in him and He in him.”

In conclusion therefore, Paul neatly wraps up the way a christian is to live with a simple rule or canon.

Galatians 6:15 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.”

Further articles:

Do not steal (Part 3)

Jesus and the mosaic law (Part 2)

The end of the law (part 1)

Living by law or grace – prophecy

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Do not steal

the lawYou read the law – do not steal. Is this law good? Absolutely. The law do not steal is necessary in society to restrain evil. Stealing will never be ok with God. Often people try and justify stealing: for example, they might justify stealing from their workplace because according to them, the employer owes it them and it’s not hurting anyone else.

The point is though, as a believer is this law going to help you stop stealing? Well, if you are a thief, say a kleptomaniac, the fear of the penalty of the law: “do not steal” may restrain you for a while, but it will not change your desire or compulsion to steal.  The law has no power in itself to help you become holy. Not even 0.00001%. It is very good however at identifying your failure but only the Gospel and the grace of God has the power to transform you.

So, does this mean that a born again thief might revert back to stealing? Yes of course, he might struggle with the sin and fall to temptation but if he is truly born again, along with the desire to steal because of the flesh (body and soul),  will be the new desire not steal because his spirit man is like Jesus. Therefore, when you are truly born again a miracle takes place : you have a change of nature.

Does it matter if I sin?

Therefore, as believers does it doesn’t matter if we continue to steal –  say download a couple of pirate videos or music tracks, because we are under grace not law?  I believe it matters tremendously, because when we continue to sin we are enslaved to that sin. We are not free. Of course, where sin abounds grace even more abounds but sin always harms others and ourselves. It continues to be deadly and dangerous!

Don’t give the devil an opportunity

For example, if as believer I go out and steal a car I probably will end up in jail just like the unbeliever. I mean, how is it loving your neighbour to steal his car? Do I lose my salvation or relationship with God because I stole a car? No, because I’m under grace but you are giving the devil a big opportunity to mess up your life and the lives of others!

Ephesians 5: 27 “and do not give the devil an opportunity. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

Get a job!

This is not Paul preaching law and laying down a load of rules. He’s not some pentecostal holiness preacher thundering from the pulpit at all the miserable sinners at Ephesus! No, he is  like a father entreating his children from a grace perspective: from an identity perspective – this is who you are, therefore live like it! Put off the old man and put on the new  (Ephesians 5:22).

In the first three chapters of Ephesians Paul establishes all this positive truth about our standing as believers in christ  that our identity is a son seated with Christ in the heavenly places. In  chapter 4 he changes tack to apply this truth to our lives practically.

Ephesians 4:1  “I therefore the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called”.

So, Paul says to the former thief: get a job, earn an honest living and give to the needy! That’s what a christian or one who is christ like looks like! That is loving your neighbour as yourself. Love is the fulfillment of the law. I mean, you may never steal a penny from anyone but still be like scrooge never giving a penny to anyone!

A short man repents

I love the story in Luke 19 of Zac the vertically challenged tax-gatherer because it illustrates the truth that the kindness of God not the law of God leads men to repentance. Zac was a thief. He defrauded people (v8). He was not popular – not surprising! Why did he want to see Jesus? Was it curiosity? Maybe he had heard stories from another tax-gatherer turned disciple – Matthew. Who knows. The fact is, he was pretty determined to see Jesus because  I’m sure climbing sycamore trees was not something he did every day! Little did he know, that Jesus was looking for him! Indeed, he probably didn’t even realise that he was lost as Jesus describes.

What If Jesus had dragged Zac out of the tree and accused him of stealing? The crowd probably would have applauded and executed any punishment that Jesus decided. Did he deserve that? Probably. Instead though, Jesus picks out Zac, the most hated man in town and invites himself to dinner! He gives him a blessing! What does this do to the heart of a man who probably has a complex about his size and is hated by everyone? It melts his hard heart.

What is Jesus doing? He is teaching him to give freely rather than steal starting with a free meal for Jesus and his disciples! This is how grace works and notice the speed it works! Even before Jesus has cleared his preaching notes away, Zac is repenting at a level many christians never practice and at a level far in excess of what the law required. Did Zac say a special prayer or stick up his hand to get saved ( nothing wrong with that by the way!) No, he responds to Jesus invitation and repentance is the fruit. Zac  is declared by Jesus to be son of Abraham. In other words he’s saved!

The thief on the cross

Let’s finish at the end of the Gospel. On the cross Jesus again encounters two criminals ( Matthew’s tells us that they were thieves.) Both have completely different reactions. One, insults Jesus; the other publicly confesses his guilt. Now, this repentant thief has no opportunity to change his ways or right any wrongs but Jesus tells him that he’s going to make it heaven – what amazing grace!  So, Jesus lays down his life and arrives in paradise with his first fruit – a thief saved by grace!

Further articles:

The woman with the flux of blood

Jesus and the mosaic law

The end of the law (part 1)

Living by law or grace – prophecy

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The end of law (law series part 1)

end of lawEnd of law for righteousness

Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.

Most protestant christians don’t believe they are saved by works. In other words, they don’t believe that keeping the law will ever make them righteous. And yet, many would say of this verse: “well it only says the end of the law for righteousness”,  implying that we do need the law as a standard to produce correct behaviour in a christian’s life.

Hebrews 7:19: For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

Well, this verse clearly says that the law made nothing perfect, so why do we think its going to bring perfection or holiness once the believer has experienced salvation? I mean, are we saying that although the law isn’t capable of producing righteousness before were saved, somehow it is capable of producing and maintaining righteousness after we are saved? Go figure!

We need the law to point out sin?

Anyway, some might say: “we need the law to point out sin”. Now, they are right in identifying the strength of law, its expertise: forensically pointing out sin. Indeed, nothing escapes its perfection, skill and legal prowess.

Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Does that mean then, that pastors and preachers should preach law every Sunday to convict their congregations and keep them in line? Well yes, if their congregations are unsaved because the law is designed by God for just such people. The law is tailor-made for the unrighteous:

1 Timothy 1:9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers

Therefore, if you are preaching the law from the pulpit at believers then you are preaching the wrong covenant and preaching death! In fact, you are putting your congregation under a curse. (Gal 3:10).

Not under law

For the believer however, NO! The law’s task is complete. Law was designed by God to lead us to Christ by demolishing our self-righteousness and showing us we need his righteousness.

Galatians 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

So, once we have been brought to Christ, the law’s schooling and discipline is over. We have graduated from law school, we are now in the school of faith and of the spirit.

the lawCome on! It’s time to take off the trainer wheels and get pedalling!

In Romans 7, Paul illustrates the legal basis by which this marriage to law is terminated. He shows, that we are delivered from the tyranny of law by death – our death in Christ. Therefore, even though the law is not dead, we are dead to the law!

This means three things:

We are not under law but under grace

Romans 6:14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”

We are delivered from law

Romans 7:6 “But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”

We are dead to the law

Romans 7:4 “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”

Galatians 2:19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.

How did we die to its demands? Through the crucifixion and death of Jesus.

Galatians 2:20 “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

The law and all of it’s demands therefore, was removed and nailed to the cross of Jesus:

Colossians 2:14 “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;”

Jesus completed the law

Jesus though, was the only human being qualified to do this because he came under law (Galatians 4:4) and perfectly fulfilled it by living a perfect life. When he died at the cross, he completed every requirement of the law and not only that, every shadow and type and detail of the law that alluded to him.

Matt 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Ah, some will say, Jesus said that as long as heaven and earth exist the law applies.  So, it must apply to us today? Please read carefully! Jesus said that he didn’t come to destroy the law but to fulfill or complete. So, at the point Jesus was speaking (before the cross), the law hadn’t as yet been fulfilled or completed. However at the cross it was perfectly fulfilled.

Hebrews 7:12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.

At the cross then, there was a change of covenant and a change of priesthood. Jesus is now the high priest of our confession. We are under a new covenant and so indeed, there has been a change of law.

Dead to the ten commandments

Now of course, some legalistic believers wriggle here and divide the law up into three parts: the ceremonial law,  the judicial law and the moral law and claim that only the first two parts have been done away with and that the moral law or ten commandments still apply.

Firstly,  there are no grounds in scripture to dissect the law in such a way, as the law is always viewed as one complete whole and system of 613 commandments.

For example James 2:10 says:

“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the lawSo speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.”

Secondly, Paul blows this theory wide open in 2 Corinthians 3 because he refers to the centre-piece of the law: the Ten Commandments (clearly referred to as the ministration of death engraven in stones) –  as done away!

2 Cor 3:7  But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:

And again:

2 Cor 3:11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.

And yet again further down, he makes clear the ten-commandments have been abolished.

In Colossians 2, as we have referred to earlier, Paul shows that the whole law including the ten commandments is blotted out:

Col 2:13 “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

Further down, Paul gives details of this freedom from the law and all its various ordinances:

Col 2:15 “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:”

If you still not convinced, Paul says it a different way in Ephesians 2:14-15:

“For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;”

So what separated Jew and Gentile? It was the law. Gentiles were never under the law even though they “instinctively do the things of the law”  (Romans 2:14) . However the cross has removed that difference and both jew and gentile are made righteous by faith apart from law.

Conclusions

In conclusion, therefore the believer in Christ  is not under any part of the law.

We are not children of Moses but the children of Abraham. Abraham the man of faith was never under law!

Of course, does this mean, that a believer is lawless, that we are spiritual anarchists? Of course not but we will discuss this later on in the series.

Why not sign for email updates and ensure you get the next post of the law series part 2 Jesus and the law

Further articles:

Living by law or grace – prophecy

The law our school master

The shadow of the law

613 jewish commands

 

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The Dangers Of The Holiness Movement – Dr Harry Ironside

The following is part of the testimony of Dr Harry Ironside regarding the holiness movement and doctrines such as the “second blessing”. The complete testimony can be read here:

As nearly as I can now recollect, I was in the enjoyment of the knowledge of God’s salvation about a month when, in some dispute with my brother, who was younger than I, my temper suddenly escaped control, and in an angry passion I struck and felled him to the ground. Horror immediately filled my soul. I needed not his sarcastic taunt, “Well, you are a nice Christian! You’d better go down to the Army and tell what a saint you’ve become!” to send me to my room in anguish of heart to confess my sin to God in shame and bitter sorrow, as afterwards frankly to my brother, who generously forgave me.

From this time on mine was an “up-and-down experience,” to use a term often heard in “testimony meetings.” I longed for perfect victory over the lusts and desires of the flesh. Yet I seemed to have more trouble with evil thoughts and unholy propensities than I had ever known before. For a long time I kept these conflicts hidden, and known only to God and to myself.

But after some eight or ten months, I became interested in what were called “holiness meetings,” held weekly in the “Army” hall, and also in a mission I sometimes attended.

 At these gatherings an experience was spoken of which I felt was just what I needed. It was designated by various terms:

“The Second Blessing”; “Sanctification”; “Perfect Love”; “Higher Life”; “Cleansing from Inbred Sin”;

Substantially, the teaching was this:

When converted, God graciously forgives all sins committed up to the time when one repents. But the believer is then placed in a lifelong probation, during which he may at any time forfeit his justification and peace with God if he falls into sin from which he does not repent.

In order, therefore, to maintain himself in a saved condition, he needs a further work of grace called sanctification:

This work has to do with sin the root, as justification had to do with sins the fruit.



The steps leading up to this second blessing are, firstly, conviction as to the need of holiness (just as in the beginning there was conviction of the need of salvation).

Secondly, a full surrender to God, or the laying of every hope, prospect and possession on the altar of consecration; thirdly, to claim in faith the incoming of the Holy Spirit as a refining fire to burn out all inbred sin, thus destroying in to every lust and passion, leaving the soul perfect in love and as pure as un-fallen Adam.

One lady told how for forty years she had been kept from sin in thought, word, and deed. Her heart, she declared, was no longer “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,” but was as holy as the courts of heaven, since the blood of Christ has washed away the last remains inbred sin. Others spoke in a similar way, though their experiences were much briefer. Bad tempers had been rooted out when a full surrender was made.

 Evil propensities and unholy appetites had been instantly destroyed when holiness was claimed by faith.

Eagerly I began to seek this precious boon of holiness in the flesh. Earnestly I prayed for this Adamic sinlessness. I asked God to reveal to me every unholy thing, that I might truly surrender all to Him. I gave up friends, pursuits, pleasures – everything I could think of that might hinder the incoming of the Holy Ghost and the consequent blessing. I did not, however, obtain what I sought, though I prayed zealously for weeks.

At last, one Saturday night I determined to go out into the country and wait on God, not returning till I had received the blessing of perfect love. Falling on my knees beneath a sycamore tree, I prayed in an agony for hours, beseeching God to show me anything that hindered my reception of the blessing. I struggled against conviction, but finally ended by crying, “Lord, I give up all–everything, every person, every enjoyment, that would hinder my living alone for Thee. Now give me, I pray Thee, the blessing!”

As I look back, I believe I was fully surrendered to the will of God at that moment, so far as I understood it. But my brain and nerves were unstrung by the long midnight vigil and the intense anxiety of previous months, and I fell almost fainting to the ground. Then a holy ecstasy seemed to thrill all my being.

My troubles were all ended now. The wilderness was past, and I was in Canaan, feeding on the old corn of the land. Nevermore should I be troubled by inward drawings toward sin. My heart was pure. I had reached the desirable state of full sanctification. With no foe within, I could direct all my energies toward vanquishing the enemies without.

 This was what I thought. Alas, how little did I know myself; much less the mind of God!

For some weeks after the eventful experience before described, I lived in a dreamily-happy state, rejoicing in my fancied sinlessness. One great idea had possession of my mind; and whether at work or in my leisure hours, I thought of little else than the wonderful event which had taken place. But gradually I began to “come back to earth,” as it were. I was now employed in a photographic studio, where I associated with people of various tastes and habits, some of whom ridiculed, some tolerated, and others sympathized with, my radical views on things religious.

Night after night I attended the meetings, speaking on the street and indoors, and I soon noticed (and doubtless others did too) that a change came over my “testimonies.” Before, I had always held up Christ, and pointed the lost to Him. Now, almost imperceptibly, my own experience became my theme, and I held up myself as a striking example of consecration and holiness!

This was the prevailing characteristic of the brief addresses made by most of the “advanced” Christians in our company. The youngest in grace magnified Christ. The “sanctified” magnified themselves.

A favorite song will make this more manifest than any words of mine. It is still widely used in Army meetings, and finds a place in their song or hymnbooks. I give only one verse as a specimen:

The people I know don’t live holy;
 They battle with unconquered sin,


Not daring to consecrate fully,
 Or they full salvation would win.


With malice they have constant trouble,
 From doubting they long to be free;


With most things about them they grumble;
 Praise God, this is not so with ME!



The first ecstatic experiences seldom lasted long. The ecstasy departed, and the “sanctified” were very little different from their brethren who were supposed to be “only justified.” We did not commit overt acts of evil: therefore we were sinless.

Lust was not sin unless yielded to: so it was easy to go on testifying that all was right.

 My thoughts of sin, as well as of holiness, were very unformed and imperfect. Therefore it was easy, generally speaking, to think that I was living without the one, and manifesting the other. When doubts assailed, I treated them as temptations of the devil. If I became unmistakably conscious that I had actually sinned, I persuaded myself that at least it was not willful, but rather a mistake of the mind than an intentional error of the heart.

I did not dare open my heart to my assistants in the work, or to the “soldiers” who were under my guidance. To do so I felt would be to lose all influence with them and to be looked upon as a backslider. So, alone and in secret, I fought my battles and never went into a holiness meeting without persuading myself that now at least, I was fully surrendered and therefore must have the blessing of sanctification. Sometimes I called it entire consecration and felt easier. It did not seem to be claiming too much. I had no conception at the time of the hypocrisy of all this.

What made my distress more poignant was the knowledge that I was not the only sufferer. Another, one very dear to me, shared my doubts and anxieties from the same cause.And now I began to see what a string of derelicts this holiness teaching left in its train. I could count scores of persons who had gone into utter infidelity because of it. They always gave the same reason: “I tried it all. I found it a failure. So I concluded the Bible teaching was all a delusion, and religion was a mere matter of the emotions.” Many more (and I knew several such intimately) lapsed into insanity after floundering in the morass of this emotional religion for years and people said that studying the Bible had driven them crazy. How little they knew that it was lack of Bible knowledge that was accountable for their wretched mental state – an absolutely unscriptural use of isolated passages of Scripture!

I observed that the general state of “sanctified” people was as low, if not often lower, than that of those whom they contemptuously described as “only justified.” 

Finally, I could bear it no longer, so asked to be relieved from all active service, and at my own request was sent to the Beulah Home of Rest, near Oakland.

 

I had now been for over five years labouring in the organisation with which I had linked myself, and ever seeking to be certain that I had attained a sinless state. In some twelve different towns and cities I had served, as I thought, faithfully, endeavouring to reach the lost, and to make out of them staunch Salvationists when converted.

At last, it began to be clear to me that the holiness doctrine had a most baneful influence upon the movement. People who professed conversion (whether real or not the day will declare) struggled for months, even years, to reach a state of sinlessness which never was reached; and at last they gave up in despair and sank back in many instances to the dead level of the world around them. The standard set was the unattainable. The result was, sooner or later, utter discouragement, cunningly-concealed hypocrisy, or an unconscious lowering of the standard to suit the experience reached.

When I went to the Home of Rest, I had not yet fully given up seeking for perfection in the flesh. In the rest home I found about fourteen officers, broken in health, seeking recuperation. I watched the ways and conversation of all most carefully, intending to confide in those who gave the best evidence of entire sanctification. There were some choice souls among them, and some arrogant hypocrites. But holiness in the absolute sense I saw in none.

Deliverance came at last in a most unexpected way. A lassie-lieutenant, a woman some ten years my senior in age, was brought to the Home from Rock Springs, Wyoming, supposedly dying of consumption. From the first my heart went out to her in deep sympathy. To me she was a martyr, laying down her life for a needy world. I was much in her company, observed her closely, and finally came to the conclusion that she was the only wholly sanctified person in that place.

Imagine my surprise when, a few weeks after her arrival, she, with a companion, came to me one evening and begged me to read to her. In God’s providence a pamphlet caught my attention which my mother had given me some years before. Moved by a sudden impulse, I drew it forth and said, “I’ll read this. It is not in accordance with our teaching; but it may be interesting anyway.” I read page after page, paying little attention, only hoping to soothe and quiet this dying woman. In it the lost condition of all men by nature was emphasized. Redemption in Christ through His death was explained.

I was startled after going over the first half of the book when Lieut. J–exclaimed, “O Captain, do you think that can possibly be true? If I could only believe that, I could die in peace!”

 Astonished beyond measure, I asked, “What! do you mean to say you could not die in peace as you are? You are justified and sanctified; you have an experience I have sought in vain for years; and are you troubled about dying?” “I am miserable,” she replied, “and you mustn’t say I am sanctified. I cannot get it. I have struggled for years, but I have not reached it yet. This is why I wanted to speak to you, for I felt so sure you had it and could help me!”

We looked at each other in amazement; and as the pathos and yet ludicrousness of it all burst upon us, I laughed deliriously, while she wept hysterically. Then I remember exclaiming, “Do you think,” she asked, “that it is because we depend upon our own efforts too much?Can it be that we trust Christ to save us, but we think we have to keep saved by our own faithfulness?” 

”But,” I broke in, “to think anything else would open the door to all kinds of sin!”

We saw that we had been looking WITHIN for holiness, instead of WITHOUT We realized that the same grace that had saved us at first alone could carry us on.

I can but praise Him for the matchless grace that gave me to see that perfect holiness and perfect love were to be found, not in me, but in Christ Jesus alone. 

And I have been learning all along my pilgrim journey that the more my heart is taken up with Christ, the more do I enjoy practical deliverance from sin’s power, and the more do I realize what it is to have the love of God shed abroad in that heart by the Holy Spirit given to me, as the Earnest of the glory to come. I have found liberty and joy since being freed from bondage that I never thought it possible for a soul to know on earth, while I have a confidence in presenting this precious truth for the acceptance of others that contrasts with the uncertainty of the past.

Grace a licence to sin? 

Sinning Willfully

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