Monday, October 13, 2014

1 Timothy 1: The Law in the Gospel




1 Tim 1:8-17 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the glorious gospel of the blessed God with which I have been entrustedI thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Gospel (euangelion) means "good news" and yet Paul declares the law is part of the gospel: "the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the glorious gospel of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted" (1 Tim 1:9-11). In other words, we can't preach the gospel (good news) until we have proclaimed the bad news (law defines what is sin and sinner). The good news is not good news if we don't know what is the bad news.

A story was told about a church that put out a banner on its fence declaring, "Jesus is the Answer!" and a passer-by scribbled these words underneath the declaration: "But what is the question?" Another way to say this is: the good news of grace has no meaning apart from the bad news of the law. You can't preach grace without also preaching law.

Paul affirms that the law is good if "one uses it lawfully (NET: legitimately), realizing that law is not laid down for the just." So, the law was necessary for the unsaved to explain and expose sins. Without the law, how would people know that God considers these actions as sins: striking parents, wanton killings, sexual immorality (any kind of sex outside the normal one man-one wife marriage), homosexuality, slavery, lying, false declarations, and whatever that is contrary to ethical and moral integrity? If we don't declare God's law, we will be defeated by clever arguments why a particular behaviour (e.g. homosexuality) is not willful rebellion against God's moral standards but just a lifestyle choice. So, people needs to know the bad news (such conduct attracts the wrath and judgment of God) before they are ready to hear the good news (God has made the provision to save sinners from his wrath and judgement at the Cross).

Furthermore, if people do not acknowledge their conduct as sin, then there is no need for grace nor for a Saviour to save us from our sins.Without the condemnation brought by the Law, there will be no need for grace. And the law is part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ because the Gospel does not begin with "believe" but with "repent": "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). If there is no sin, there is no need for repentance. And there is no reason to believe.

For churches that preach grace only without law, I suspect they are no longer preaching to the unsaved but to the saved. If we are focused on preaching the Gospel to the lost, we must begin with the Bad News of Sin in order to make the Good News (Gospel) comprehensible. Only a sinner needs a Saviour. Only a man condemned by the law needs the grace of God.

So, Paul affirms: "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost." (v.15).

May we as churches fulfill our real mission to preach the Gospel to the unconverted, and not keep trying to convert the converted!

Father, thank You for the Law, for without it, we would not have known sin, and our need for a Saviour. Amen.

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