Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Purpose of the Law

 “Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. 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…” 1 Timothy 1:6-9

God gave the law to people who were rebellious and unrighteous, and therefore, completely unable to keep the lofty moral demands of the law. Why would God, who is infinite in wisdom, give demands to people who are utterly unable to perform them? Either God delights to cause misery in the consciences of those who continually fail to keep His law, and wishes only to bring condemnation to men, or He has another purpose entirely. Obviously, we know that God does not do what I previously proposed. God is a God of love, mercy, and goodness; it would be contradictory to His nature to have a purpose that excludes love or grace toward mankind. So what then was God’s intent in giving Israel the law? The purpose of the law God gave was to lead men to Christ; therefore it wasn't, in the main, given by God in the hope that it would be perfectly obeyed by the people.

The law was meant to show mankind the desperate plight of his own sinfulness in order to lead him to the grace and mercy that is in Jesus Christ. Law prepares the heart for grace. The law was the tutor, or guardian, to lead men to Christ (Galatians 3:24-25). The law imprisoned all under sin so that we would receive the grace that is in Christ through faith (Galatians 3:22-23). The law shuts every mouth, and holds the whole world accountable to God; for no one can be justified by his own efforts to satisfy the law’s demands (Romans 3:19-20). The glory of God in Jesus Christ is the focal point of all of Scripture. The law highlights and magnifies the grace of Jesus, beckoning all people to cast themselves upon this grace. The law’s purpose is to condemn all men so that they might forego seeking salvation through the merits of self-effort, and seek salvation through the mercy of God in Christ.

To miss this is to miss the whole purpose of the law, and to misunderstand this is to misunderstand the whole law. If you don’t get this, you will never understand the cross. That’s why Paul, in 1 Timothy 1:7, said of the false teachers, who desired to be teachers of the law, that, “they understand neither what they are saying nor the things about which they make confident assertions.” They don’t understand that God’s intention was to use the law to show man his corruptness and sinfulness, and thus, show him his great need of a salvation outside of himself; specifically, the salvation by the grace of God through faith alone. Salvation was never meant to be through a righteousness gained by one’s own self before God. This may sound strange, but the law wasn't given primarily to be obeyed. It was given primarily to reveal mankind’s sinful nature (Romans 7:7-12). And by doing that, it leads people to a gracious Savior.

Once the law has accomplished its primary function in bringing people to the mercy of Jesus, it serves an entirely different purpose and function (I will later address the functions of the law in the life of a Christian). It no longer serves primarily as a condemning force leading people to God’s grace; though it ought to serve as a constant reminder to the Christian of his great need for Christ’s grace.

Grace. In actuality, grace is the purpose of the law. It’s all about God’s glorious, undeserved, unmerited, and infinite grace. God’s intention in giving His law was to lead men to the grace of God, so that they may ever exult in His endless mercy and love, and boast only in the cross of Christ. Give up self-effort to earn righteousness, embrace the self-realization that the law provides, and thrust yourself fully upon divine mercy, the grace of God in Jesus Christ. For by works of the law no person shall be justified before God.

By: Chris Blaise

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sound Thinking

How do we properly study the Bible? Should we interpret everything metaphorically? Is everything in the Bible directly applicable? How do I know if what my pastor is saying is true? All of these questions must be addressed in ones own life. One thing I've really noticed my entire life as a Christian is the dire lack of critical thinking in the modern church. Though it is crucial to have a kind and humble attitude towards others faults, I believe this fault is of such significance to where it must be addressed.

A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps. 
(Proverbs 14:15) 

How do we view the world around us, the word of God, and rightly assess the massive amounts of information that we encounter? The way in which we assess and think about things drastically affects the conclusions we make in our minds. If our thinking is faulty, our conclusions will be exactly that: faulty.

Even though I believe the lack of critical thinking stems from faulty education, I believe the issue should be addressed as a personal responsibility in adults. Though there is much to discuss, I would like to address three practical points in Biblical thinking that are crucial for the everyone to apply to their studies.

1. Grasp and apply simple logic

First and foremost we must be able to construct simple logical arguments. Though logic could be discussed in great depth, a cursory discussion of it is of great benefit. To begin with a simple deductive argument we must first discuss propositions. Propositions are statements that can be assessed as either true or false. A deductive argument begins with with a preliminary proposition called a premise. Premises are assumptions that must be agreed upon to continue the discussion. Next, within a deductive argument is inferences. Inferences are building blocks within the argument that lead you down a path of thought. Finally, a deductive argument hopefully comes to a conclusion. A conclusion should be affirmed on the basis of the premises and the inference made from them.

In conclusion here is an example of a deductive argument:

(Premise) All humans are sinful

(Inference) David was a human
(Conclusion) David was sinful

2. Understanding and recognizing fallacies

A fallacy in an argument is a flaw in reasoning. A great way to discuss fallacies is to give examples of them. See if you can see the fallacy in the following argument.

(Premise) All humans are sinful

(Inference) Demons are sinful
(Conclusion) Demons are human

This argument is fallacious because you cannot conclude solely from the propositions that demons are human. To correct the argument you would have to write it as such:

(Premise) All sinful things are human

(Inference) Demons are sinful
(Conclusion) Demons are human

As we critically think about the Bible, what people say, and just life in general, we must be able to recognize fallacies, and be able to assess things in a conclusive manner. As you encounter arguments of various forms in everyday life, try your best to assess them with a sound mind and test if they are fallacious or solid arguments.

3. Proper study of the Bible

No matter how perfect arguments are, they must come from proper information to be useful. A critical aspect of studying the Bible or any text is hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is a just a big word for the study of interpreting biblical or philosophical texts properly. Some simple rules of hermeneutics for Biblical texts are as follows:

1. Assess the context; Scripture taken out of context can convey something much different from it's original intention. 

2. Recognize the cultural context; Who was this written to? Why was this written? When was this written?

3. Realize potential translation clarity; The Bible has been translated multiple times and was not initially written in English.

4. Approach the Bible holistically; To gain a balanced and holistic theological view it is critical to combine verses from the whole Bible, not just build theology from one verse.

5. Recognize literary type; much like assessing the context, recognizing if the text is a narrative, prophesy, poetry, a letter, or history can be crucial in interpreting the text correctly.

Being aware of these rules in reading will greatly benefit you in properly understanding what God is trying to convey with the Word. We are responsible for how we read and what we tell others to be true so we must give upmost effort and attention to rightly reading the Bible.

Even though we barely touched on some of these topics I hope it will be helpful for you to recognize how important critical thinking is. If we have bad logic, can't recognize fallacies, and do not read and understand the Bible properly, a misshapen, malformed, and unhealthy version of Christianity will appear. Sadly we can see it all around is in the form of every variation of false doctrine and heretical systems of belief. As Paul writes to the church at Thessolonica, "Test everything; hold on to what is good." We must be able to properly assess everything we come across and have a sound foundation of truth. And yet as much as we can our minds we must give ourselves to prayer and submission to the one who regenerated our souls and breathed life into us: our great God, the Father of truth and light.

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, that you being rooted and grounded in love may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, length, height, and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." - Ephesians 3:14-19

By: Tim Snyder