Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 3 Study # 1
Thesis: Clarifying the "Law" in terms of its function requires us to make a distinction between its spheres of function.
Introduction: In all of our studies thus far, we have focused upon Paul's intense demand that believers stay as far away from being "subject to the Law" as we possibly can. In the course of that study, we have insisted over and over that we are "not under the Law" and that the "Law" was designed for revelation, not regulation. But, at the end of the day, everyone goes away from our Bible study knowing that they must submit to the law or face the consequences. If we get into our cars and go peeling out down the street and lose control of our car and crash it into someone's mailbox and then slide across their yard gouging out deep ruts in their lawn and end up crashing into their vehicle and coming to a sudden stop, we know that when the cops have come and taken down all of the facts, we are going to be subjected to the penalties of the law -- and all of the "I'm a Christian and Christ has paid for my sins" stuff will not have any sway in the view of the neighbor, the police, or the judge. So, we sit politely and listen to the teacher say, "Do not submit to the yoke of the Law", but we go out of here knowing that we had better be in submission to the law, or else.
So, we live with an uneasy imbalance. We know Paul insisted that we refuse to put ourselves under the law, but we also know that if we do not have law, and enforcement of it, our entire culture will disintegrate around our ears. Every parent in this room knows that if he does not have the authority to put his kids under his 'law' and the authority to enforce that 'law', the kids will, for the most part, simply go their way, thumbing their noses at their parents.
So, how do we maintain the thesis that we cannot afford to be "under the Law" while knowing full well that we have to have "Law" for any culture to survive?
March 13, 2007
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- I. We Must Make the Distinction Paul Made.
- A. Paul was fundamentally addressing one issue and not the other.
- 1. The one issue Paul was addressing is a man's relationship to God.
- 2. The other issue that Paul was not addressing is a man's relationship to other men.
- B. Because of this distinction, Paul was not attempting to tear down Israel's national identity, nor to undercut its foundations in the Law.
- II. We Must Not "Mix" the Issues.
- A. Paul maintained the distinction in Romans 13:1-14, particularly in 13:5.
- 1. Here he addresses the issue of the "wrath of man" who "bears the sword" against those who break the law.
- 2. And he addresses the issue of "conscience" where the way a man treats other men has a bearing upon his relationship with God.
- B. In Israel's "theocracy" this distinction existed and was maintained.
- 1. The "Law" clearly laid the foundation for "national function".
- a. How do we say that it was not intended for "regulation" when it clearly was intended to give the judges of Israel the basis for their treatment of men brought before them because of the evil they had created?
- 1) Clearly there are differences between man in his relationships with men and man in his relationship to God.
- a) First, there is a significant amount of "distance" in a man's "life-integration" with other men. I can buy vegetables from a farmer with whom I have an almost complete "relational distance". No man "is an island unto himself" in a final sense, but no man's life is really dependent upon every other man's activities either. Adam and Eve initially had no other human beings to make their lives possible. Noah only had seven other human beings to make life possible.
- b) Second, the focus of man's life with other men is fundamentally physical. We recognize that no man is really "dead" until his body ceases to function. There are issues of the quality of a man's life that go beyond the physical, but the bottom line is physical functional capacity.
- c) But, with God, there is no "life" where there is "distance". If God puts any distance between Himself and a man, the man is instantly "dead". Man cannot sustain himself at any "energy level" without an immediate and immanent presence of God's power. Likewise, there can be no emotional life without God's immediate presence; nor can there be any spiritual life in a vacuum where God does not have an immediate presence.
- 2) In the relationships of men with men, external conformity is "enough" to provide for an acceptable level of "community harmony". But, there can be no "harmony" with God at a merely external level. Harmony with God is not the same issue as "community harmony". The difference is this: men can function with men even when there is antagonism between them because men do not have a physical/emotional/spiritual unity with each other. They can "get away" from each other -- generate distance to permit the existence of antagonism without producing murder.
- b. Men, when they seek to apply the Law to the problem of man's evil behavior, invariably do so in these two distinct realms.
- 1) Israel, as a theocracy, had no jails or prisons. All "law" was underpinned by the exercise of the "sword": i.e., capital punishment.
- a) There were capital crimes without appeal.
- b) All other crimes became capital crimes if the perpetrator of them refused the "lesser" consequences. If a man robbed his neighbor, he was assigned a certain level of restitution. But what made him "restore"? Only the threat of death.
- c) In addition, there were crimes against men and crimes against God, but there were few "penalties" imposed by men when the crime was against God. If a man robbed his neighbor and then recompensed his neighbor according to the laws of restitution, that was the end of it -- even if he never took a sacrifice to the priest for his sin. No man forced him to obey the divine commands that had only to do with his relationship with God.
- 2) There were some crimes against God that had "human" penalties, but, for the most part, these were only of the highest order of violation.
- a) Ostracism was commanded for a certain few "crimes against God".
- b) Death was commanded for a certain few "crimes against God".
- c) But, for the most part, a person could live a godless life in the midst of Israel and no one but God would ever act against him.
- 2. The Law also, just as clearly, laid the foundation for "the manifestation of Sin".
- a. The very fact that there were significant, and extremely numerous, violations of the laws of the land proved that the presence of "Law" did not restrain men from their violations of it.
- 1) Even in the realm of "men with men", the Law revealed the presence of Sin.
- 2) Much more so, in the realm of "men with God", the Law revealed the presence of Sin.
- b. The only thing the "Law" actually did (beyond "revelation") was to impose consequences upon men in the face of their bondage to Sin.
- 1) This imposition of consequences had one impact: it caused men to be careful about which sins they committed.
- 2) This imposition of consequences has a very real and beneficial impact upon the realm of "men with men" in terms of "community harmony" in that it forces men to be careful about how they live in their selfishness.
- 3) But, this imposition did nothing in terms of actually regulating Sin because that issue is a "man and God" issue.