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A Love-Hate Relationship with the Law

March 4, 2006

Tomorrow morning I’m going to say something in my sermon that I hope is defensible hyperbole. I will say, “If you want to grow in holiness, you’ve got to learn to shut up about the law”. The law cannot make us holy. It exposes our sin, even provokes our sin. We serve in the new way of the spirit and not the old way of the written code. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Paul refers to Moses delivering the Ten Commandments to the people as the ministry of condemnation and death. So I don’t feel my remarks about the law tomorrow will be too outrageous.

The problem is (and it is widely acknowledged to be the most difficult problem of Christian theology) how do I reconcile this with “O how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day.” And now, here’s the answer…just kidding. But it is a helpful step in the right direction when we realize that the Hebrew word “torah” doesn’t have such strong legal connotations. Torah means instruction. As Christians we can meditate upon the torah and find wisdom in it. It is still our teacher, but no longer our schoolmaster. The cane is taken out of its hands. It’s power to condemn is nullified.

A king may put his young son under the tutelage of a schoolmaster and give to the schoolmaster the authority to chastise his son. When the prince comes of age, the old teacher can still be a beloved counselor. But let some overzealous schoolmaster try to swing that cane again around the adult prince, and that schoolmaster is going to get himself crucified.

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