The Law of God and the Church (7)
Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1.1, 2
The indispensable Law
We have seen that the Law of God is indispensable to a healthy, growing Christian life, as well as to the nurturing of a healthy, growing local church. The Law, written by the Spirit on our hearts and minds, becomes the rule book which the conscience consults in processing thoughts and affections into words and deeds. Without the Law available and embedded in our conscience, we will be subject to whim or the pressures of the day regarding our spiritual vitality and moral choices. We need the Law for the purifying of the conscience and the nurture of our souls.
The Law of God is the curriculum of God’s Spirit, by which He forms the believer and the congregation into the image of Jesus Christ. The fashionable neglect afforded the Law of God by contemporary Christians is an unwise posture and course. Instead, we should seek ways to be more firmly grounded in the Law of God, until we all, as individuals and congregations, delight in that Law and in the use the Spirit of God makes of it in our lives.
The Law will not save us; however, the Law remains as the platform and footprint on which we and our churches grow increasingly into the image of Jesus Christ. It is a most essential component of a good conscience and a strong soul.
Getting the cornerstone in place
How then shall we set about to restore a proper place for the Law of God in the teaching of the Church? Psalm 1 points us in the direction of a proper course concerning the Law of God.
First, we must understand the place of the Law in the canon of sacred Scripture. In one sense, all of Scripture is the Law of God, in that all of Scripture reveals the norms and standards and guidelines whereby God intends His people to know and serve Him. The Law of God, given through Moses, acts rather like a cornerstone for the rest of Scripture, giving shape and direction to the life of faith, and a manifestation of God’s glory in love to God and neighbors. The Law of God is the acorn to the oak of all divine revelation. And at the heart of the Law of God – the nucleus of the Law, as it were – as well as its end, is our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is both symbolized and foreshadowed in the Law, and the end toward which obedience to the Law of God carries us.
We can understand neither the rest of Scripture nor the work of Jesus Christ apart from a good understanding of the Law of God and its importance in the life of faith. Without such a settled conviction concerning the role of the Law in Scripture, we will have a hard time establishing any place for it in the life of the believer or the church.
Individuals and the Law
We restore the proper place of the Law of God in the life of the Church first, by encouraging and exhorting every believer to make meditation on God’s Law part of their daily devotional life. If only to spend time each morning meditating in listening prayer on one of the Ten Commandments, this would be a quantum leap beyond where most congregations and believers are at present.
But then we must also teach the Law of God in a thorough and systematic manner – through preaching, in Sunday schools and Bible study groups, and as part of the written communications of our church. It will not do simply to offer a series of messages on the Law from time to time. While that is a good idea, the Law of God, as the cornerstone to all of Scripture, should have some place in all our teaching and preaching. We can incorporate reading from the Law of God into the liturgy of our Lord’s Day worship and thereby encourage church members in daily reading and meditation on the Law.
The Law and disciple-making
Then we must begin to use the Law in the work of disciple-making, including the work of church discipline.
Elders and other church leaders should devote special attention to reading and discussing the Law of God, so that they may be equipped to deliberate situations that may arise from time to time within the church. Like Ezra, church leaders should set their hearts to study the Law of God, and to do it and teach it in all aspects of the life of the congregation (Ez. 7.10). Parents and church leaders should also acquaint themselves with the Law, so that they may teach it effectively to the children of the church (Ps. 78.1-8).
The goal of all Christian instruction is love – for God and neighbors – and the standards for love are sketched out in the Law of God (1 Tim. 1.5; Matt. 22.34-40). Thus, the Law must play an important role in our work of making disciples who are equipped to minister the love of God to others (Eph. 4.11-16).
Witness to the world
Finally, the Law of God must feature in the church’s witness to the surrounding community – both to individuals in need of saving grace, and to the powers-that-be concerning their duty to rule according to God’s good purposes and plan.
We must be neither afraid nor reluctant to say to the lost or to those in places of power and influence, “This is what the Lord says,” and then proceed to explain more carefully what, in their heart of hearts, they know most certainly to be true. Churches need to create ways of speaking into the needs, issues, and culture of their communities, using the Law of God as the foundation for promised blessing and the standard against which all other social and cultural standards must be compared.
The Law of God must become more central to the lives of believers and their churches, for the purifying of conscience, and to know the fullness of God’s blessings in Jesus Christ.
1. What is your own practice in becoming more familiar with and obedient to the Law of God?
2. It’s not enough that individual believers make this commitment to the Law. Churches must embrace it as their standard of conduct for wisdom, goodness, righteousness, justice, and love. Explain.
3. Why is it important to have the Law of God as part of our witness to the saving work of Jesus Christ?
Next steps – Transformation: Make sure you have a discipline in place for learning and growing in the Law of God. Then, see what you might do to help this become a more central aspect of your church’s life and work. Talk with a church leader and see what you can do to help.
T. M. Moore
All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here. Check out our newest feature, Readings from the Celtic Revival (click here).
A helpful way of teaching learning the Law of God is through a question-and-answer approach – an approach called catachesis. Our A Kingdom Catechism leads through a deeper understanding of the Law of God through a catechetical format. You can learn more about it and order a free copy by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.