Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Law & grace, an uneven match? (3)

Thank you all for reading along, it makes it more fun for me to do this kind of series on my blog. Studying the Bible and offering a fresh insight on ancient truths. 

In the previous post we saw  how Jesus says about Himself that He came to make the teachings come true, to fulfill the law. I think we (Christianity, the church, the believers) have made the mistake in thinking this was a one time event, kind of a finished chapter. Law being replaced by grace. It is finished, right? But if we continue to read what Jesus has to say about it, we get a totally different picture. In the fifth chapter of Matthew He further explains what 'fulfilling the law' means for every believer.

For example verse 21 and 22, Jesus says: You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Jesus says 'but I tell you...' The Good News translation says 'but now I tell you...' Is Jesus speaking against the law of God? Is He contradicting the words of His Father? That cannot be so.

He gives many examples, as in verse 27 and 28, You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Again Jesus says, 'but I tell you...' In other words: He announces a new area. He does not dismiss the law, but He shows the way the law should work in our hearts. He shows how we should go from obeying or keeping the law (living by the letter) to giving meaning to or fulfilling the law (living by the Spirit). It is no longer about a mere outer sign of obedience but about the inner condition of our heart.

Jesus teaches many valuable lessons in these first few chapters of Matthew to show people what will change with His coming. And then suddenly He comes with the most excellent summary of His long speech about law and grace, in one single sentence. Matthew 7:12,

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

The Good News translation says: because this is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets. Wow, treating other the way we want to be treated, that is the heart of the law, that is the full meaning, that is the fulfillment of the law. How simple can it be? We do not have to choose between law and grace, Jesus brought them together in a new way of life and so they come together in the life of every believer.

Maybe you have never seen it this way, or maybe you have learned it differently. Maybe you are thinking: 'Well Marja, only Jesus could fulfill the law because He was without sin. We could never do it...'
That, we will discuss in the next post.

Thank you for reading along, and please share these posts with someone who might need to hear this.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Law & grace, an uneven match? (2)

'We are no longer under the law. It is all grace!' Familiar words, I am sure you have heard them somewhere. The most logical question that would follow a statement like that, is: so, what then should we do with the law? No longer read it, skip it, ignore it? Well, we do not have to make such a difficult choice; law & grace go perfectly well together. Let's find out what Jesus has to say about it.

Probably the most known and discussed words of Jesus about the law, can be found in Matthew 5:17-18. He says, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Well, is the earth still here? Does heaven still exist? Yes, of course! So the law has not disappeared, but the purpose has changed... from obedience (or keeping) → fulfilling

The Good News translation says it this way: Do not think that I have come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. I have not come to do away with them, but to make their teachings come true. Jesus came to make the teachings (thora, law) come true. We must keep our eyes on Him and listen to what He has to say if we want to learn more about this subject. It is wonderful to see how law and grace come together in Jesus Christ. The one does not replace the other, they will come true (are being fulfilled) in Him.

The apostle John wrote about Jesus: For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. The law came to us through Moses, grace and truth (also about the law) came to us through Jesus Christ. Let's keep Him central in the discussion about law and grace. Let's put everything, that has been written or said about it by other people, in the light of His words.

The apostle Paul for example wrote extensively about law and grace. No wonder really, because he was a scholar (a theologian, a pharisee) and then he came to a living faith in Jesus Christ and personally experienced His grace.  So, law and grace came together in his life as well. He writes in Romans 3:31, Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. The KJV says, we establish the law. Wow, this got me thinking... Jesus came to fulfill the law, or to make the law come true. We, as His followers, uphold what He did. We establish or confirm the law. (we will get back to that in a later post)

In the next post we will look at some more words Jesus had to say about the meaning/purpose of the law.

Thank you for reading along, and please share these posts with someone who might need to hear this.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Law & grace, an uneven match? (1)

In 2004, I started the writing of a series of books on the Ten Commandments in the 21st century, a book per commandment. Five books have been published so far... still five to go :) English is my second language, so the books are written in an uncomplicated manner without the use of difficult words (since I don't know any). During the writing process and the studying of related Bible passages I began to receive more and more insight on the subject law & grace. No theological explanations, but fresh insights on ancient truths.

In the upcoming weeks I will write a series of posts on this subject. Why? Because there seems to be quite some confusion, unclarity and even wrong teaching on this subject. Many evangelical Christians don't have a love for the Law, because to them 'living by grace' means doing away with the law. We are set free from the law, right? Faith has nothing to do with a bunch of rules, but everything with relationship. On the other hand there are denominations where the Law still rules and this can end in legalism = setting the obedience of the rules above the leading of the Holy Spirit. And perhaps many believers and churches are somewhere in between. We don't want to go from one extreme to the other. The Ten Commandments are old fashioned, the grace movement too good to be true, so we get stuck somewhere in the middle.

I have collected some thoughts about law & grace, in random order. Let's see whether you recognize some:
  • The Law has been nailed to the cross
  • We are set free of the Law, no more need of Old Testament teachings
  • It is all grace, there is nothing we can or need to add
  • A lawless society is a disorderly society
  • I am living by grace and do not want to be legalistic, but...
  • Everything changed after the cross
  • But we cannot delete or ignore certain Bible passages
The grace teaching is nothing new, it is the teaching that we can only depend on Gods grace to be reconciled with Him. This was being preached 2000 years ago, and then by our church fathers and now in most churches. There are, however, many different interpretations. In certain circles grace is being kept for the elect or it is something God will bestow on people when He wants to do so, we can not grab it. In other circles grace is being taught as unmerited favor, we can not do anything to make God love us more. So, sit back and relax.

All of this can be debated, but does it mean we have to choose between law and grace? We either keep the law, or we accept His grace. Having both seems an impossibility. Are law & grace an uneven match?

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Take time...

Thought it would be nice to treat you to some worship music from Holland!
Sit down, relax, listen....

Happy weekend! ENJOY.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Blogging buzz...

Things are always moving in the blogging sphere. We bloggers are always thinking, writing, publishing and learning. We go through ups and downs together. Most bloggers are hard working people, like you and me, without a celebrity status or mega sales of their (often self-published) books. We do have a common goal: to improve our writing and share the journey with each other.

Join me for the latest news and happenings.
  • Fellow blogger Aileen Stewart announced on Facebook that her newest manuscript was rejected. Many of us have gone through that phase and I believe we can be a great help by encouraging one another. Aileen is a stay-at-home mom and she writes children's books. She's a great example of someone who keeps pursuing her writing dream. Feel free to visit her blog and give her a thumbs up for all her hard work.
  • Blogger/writer Susan Reinhardt has a new website, make sure to check it out. She always has interviews, reviews and bits & pieces of publishing news. She recently toured the blog-o-sphere with her e-book release The Moses Conspiracy, which is now also available in paperback.
  • My latest release My Neighbor's House received a 5-star review from Readers' Favorite, which can be viewed here. The reviewer wrote me a personal note, saying:  I loved this book and will work through it with a highlighter and journal. It is well-researched, well-written, and logical to follow. Thank you so much. I hope you write more. You can do me a huge favor by leaving your comment at the bottom of the review page, using your FB login. THANKS!
  • Maria Morgan is another fellow blogger who recently launched her first e-book, a devotional called God Speaking. You can simply get it by signing up for her updates. She's asking for feedback from readers. Another great way to interact and learn from each other.
Is any interesting stuff going in your blogging/writing world that will encourage and inspire others? Please e-mail me and I'll announce it in the next blogging buzz.

Happy writing!