Thursday, February 11, 2016

Delighting in the Law - January

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,
  “That you may be justified in your words,
    and prevail when you are judged.”
But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:
  “None is righteous, no, not one;
    no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
  “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
  “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
  “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
  “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
    in their paths are ruin and misery,
    and the way of peace they have not known.”
  “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
(Romans 3:1-31 *) 

Saturday Outreach
01/16, 01/23, 01/30 - 2016

Considering the Law in Gospel Presentations

This month we thought we’d take a brief look at “the Law”, and its use in gospel presentations.  Our intention is not to explain how it can be used in evangelism - likely all who read this blog have some basis in understanding on that point from the likes of Ray Comfort - but rather discuss some potential pitfalls we can fall into when using it during evangelism.

Gospel Framework

First, let’s look at a good 4-point framework to the gospel to see where “the Law” fits into it and to keep it in perspective with a gospel presentation, overall.

  • Who God is: this is the driver behind why it matters that we sin.  Without an accurate understanding of who God is, in particular as our Creator, we can’t see how our sin is an offense or understand why He punishes like He does.
  • Who man is: the Bible shows us extensively that he is a sinner, bent toward evil, and at war with his Creator.  This is where “the Law” can be helpful in helping men see their sinfulness.
  • Who Jesus is: leaving out an accurate picture of who God is and who man is can make for a weak, nearly useless gospel.  But to leave out Jesus, His perfect life, His propitiatory sacrifice, His taking of God’s wrath in our place, and His promise to return as both Judge and Savior, is to not share the gospel at all!
  • Our Response: Knowing who God is as Holy Creator and who man is as wholly rebellious creation and who Jesus, fully God and fully man, is as the perfect sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God, requires a response: repent and follow Christ.

Notice that “the Law” can be a part of the process, but that it is by no means all there is to a gospel presentation.  We would also argue it’s not even the primary part of a presentation.  By that we don’t mean its use necessarily needs to be short, but there needs to be a balance so it remains proportional with the entire gospel presentation.

Context in this Blog

What proportion of Law should be used really depends on the context of the presentation, and there’s no hard and fast rule as to how much Law is too much.  For example, in a one-on-one conversation, you may only ever get to talk about Who God is and Who man is, so “the Law” may have greater predominance.  After all, if the person refuses to see themselves as a sinner, deserving the wrath of God, then what use is Christ to them?

In this blog, however, we are speaking for the context of an on-the-box presentation with no specific individual being spoken to (no heckler, for example).  In this case, the goal is to keep “the Law” in balance so that Who God is and Who man is are driving forces towards the proclamation of Who Christ is.  That is, care needs to be taken in these cases that the message doesn’t “camp out” on “the Law”.  To do otherwise is to “block” the Gospel by using time on the box that someone else could have been using to proclaim Christ.

Reasoning for this Blog

There are many aspects to giving the Gospel, but as we have a tendency to lean heavily on things where we feel we have more control over (apologetics, explaining “the Law”, etc) as opposed to those we don’t (salvation!), this time around we wanted to focus just on the use of “the Law”.  Another time we may write about apologetics, though some of the issues of the focus drifting off the Gospel because of declaring “the Law” can also be said of apologetics.

Why write this at all?  Far too often, well meaning men have expounded upon “the Law” with such a heart-felt desire for people to see their sinfulness that they end up minimizing, neglecting, or even forgetting about mentioning the Gospel!  We decided to write this as an encouragement and exhortation for all to continue to refine the presentations towards a careful rebalancing of the message, for the glory of our Savior.

Definition of “the Law”

You may have noticed that each time it has been mentioned so far, we’ve used quotes around “the Law”.  When you hear this term used in the context of a gospel presentation - particularly from a group like ours that uses a lot of material obtained from Living Waters - what is actually meant by “the Law” are the 10 Commandments.

While the Law (no quotes) in the Bible includes these 10 Commandments, really there’s much more in mind when it’s used in both the Old and New Testament.  When Paul speaks of the Law in Galatians, for example, he isn’t speaking of just the 10 commandments when in Gal 5:3 he says that if the Galatians receive circumcision, then they are obliged to keep the whole Law...including circumcision as part of the Law.  Even we, ourselves, when speaking of particular sins such as homosexuality, fornication, beastiality, etc pull from outside the 10 Commandments and (directly or indirectly) from the Mosaic Law.

The general argument given for “watering down” the Law to just the 10 Commandments is relatability.  While many people we might speak with know nothing about what the Bible says, nearly all of them have heard of the 10 Commandments at some point.  Using the 10 Commandments can be a good starting point when broaching the topic of what is means to be a sinner, and who defines what a sinner even is.

However, it's important that in our effort to simplify, that we don't forget the scope of what the Bible means by the Law.  We also need to remember the original audience was not post-Christ Christians but pre-Christ Jews.  That doesn’t make it invalid to use, but something to keep in mind.  Even in the Bible we see that Paul needed to argue against error creeping into the early church by Judaizers who tried to place the Gentiles Christians under the bondage of the Law, particularly with circumcision. (Acts 15:1, Gal 3:1)

We don’t want to wander into the unbiblical arena of making the Law sound like something we must obey for salvation!  More important than all of that, though, is that when we use the Law we don’t want to simplify the Law or “the Law” to be what defines a sinner.  We are not sinners because we break one or more of the 10 Commandments, but that we break those commandments because we are sinners.

Listen to Paul’s answer in Galatians when he asks the obvious question that comes from saying that Law is of no use for salvation: “Why the Law, then?” (entire Law, after showing it was given 430 years after the promise [through which salvation came] to Abraham, Gal 3:19).   His answer?  “because of transgressions”.  The Law was given to show God’s chosen people that they were sinners.  It also acted as that impossibly high standard that would bring them understanding of who they are.

Advantages to Using “the Law”

Teaches Who God is

The Law reflects the very nature of God, having been given by Him to the Israelites to know how to live to rightly before Him so that He would be accurately portrayed among the nations.  The 10 Commandments, as a summary of that Law, are therefore much more than a list of dos and don’ts - it shows us who He is.

For example, when God says “you shall not bear false witness” (lie), He was not setting a rule to define the bar for entry into heaven or as a test for salvation.  Rather, because He does not lie (Titus 1:2, Numbers 23:19, etc), it is only natural that He requires that mankind, as His creation and as His image bearers, also not lie.  It flows naturally from who He is.

Causes One to Understand Their Sinfulness, Experientially

Paul demonstrated this when he said, “I would have not known sin except through the Law; for I would have not known about coveting if the Law had not said ‘You shall not covet’.” (Rom 7:7b)

Take careful note that Paul is not talking here about an intellectual understanding that coveting is a sin.  He is not saying that he learned what “coveting” means and what its bounds were and what was/was not coveting by looking at the Law and studying it closely.  Rather, he is saying, if this author can be so bold as to offer a simplified summary, “I never coveted so much until I knew that I wasn’t supposed to covet!”

We see this in the next verse when he goes on to say, “But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind...” (Rom 7:8)

Paul knew, experientially, that he was a sinner.  He didn’t become a sinner by coveting, he coveted because he - as with all men - are wicked by nature.  His nature bent him towards rebellion, and the Law helped to focus that rebellion into a particular sin by simply saying to NOT do that sin. (cf. Rom 8:7-8, Rom 5:12,19a)

It should be noted that we don’t only rebel against God’s Law, but our heart is always ready to rebel, given the chance.  As a simple example of this, consider speed limits.  When told the speed limit is such-and-such, our first reaction is not to try to stay well within the bounds of the law lest we break it by mistake but, rather, to push against that limit as far as we think we can get away with.  God’s Law works like this - to set a limit to show that we press up against, and beyond, that limit in response to knowing what that limit is.  If He has granted us eyes to understand our state, it’s that knowledge of our rebellion that causes us to fall on our knees knowing not just intellectually that we’ve “liars”, but experientially that lying flows naturally from our very heart.

In summary: It is there to show that we are naturally rebellious, and to feel the weight of that rebellion in ourselves, and to ultimately go, “Whoa - I’m NOT good!”

Leads to Christ

To complete the previous point, as Paul speaks in Galatians, it (the Law) works as a tutor to lead to Christ (Gal 3:24).  Reaching the understanding of one’s sinfulness isn’t conversion, itself.  If that knowledge merely leads us to try better, give more, lie less, then we remain under God’s wrath (Rom 3:36).  But, when God allows one to understand, the weight of who God is and who we are presses down on us until we see no escape from God’s wrath except in the blood of Christ who died as a sacrifice to bare that wrath on our behalf.

Much More

There is much we glean from knowing and studying the Law.  As the Psalmist did, we should delight in God’s law (and every word that proceeds from His mouth, Ps 119:174, Deut 8:3 [c.f. Mat 4:4]).  Because the focus in this blog is not on all the benefits of using or knowing it, particularly as believers, we recommend the following summary article from GotQuestions:

What should Christians learn from the Mosaic Law?

Pitfalls when Using the Law

The Law is a very useful tool, but there are some pitfalls we can easily fall into.  In our attempts to help people see themselves as sinners, we can overstate the Law or its importance or over-stress the Law’s requirement for salvation.  Even if we have it right in our head, if we aren’t aren’t precise with our terminology, hearers can easily misunderstand, seeing the Law as the “test” of whether or not one can go to Heaven.

Below we offer a couple specific considerations when using the Law in presentations…

Pitfall #1 - Implying (or Stating) that People are Judged by the Law

When Jesus says “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48) he was not saying that perfect obedience to the Law is the standard for entry into Heaven.  Putting aside that He was speaking to a Jewish audience who knew the Law from birth and before the New Covenant, He was showing, like when the Law was originally given, just how far men are from God in terms of righteousness. (cf. Matt 5:20)

A commonly overheard statement - what we are arguing here is a mis-statement - is phrased something along the lines of, “When you die, God will judge you according to His righteous Law...” or “If you were to stand before God tonight, and He was to judge you according to your sins, would you go to Heaven or Hell?”

Before we continue, let’s be clear here - the Bible does speak of judging every idle word (Matt 13:36) and deeds done in the body (2 Cor 5:10) and that sort of thing, but this is different than a judging that leads to condemnation, which is the area we are concerned with for non-believers.

Nowhere does the Bible teach that God will judge us unto condemnation by the Law, the 10 Commandments, or any other set of rules.  Rather, it explicitly says that if you have rejected Christ, then you are judged already (right now, before you die - John 3:18).  For those who have rejected Jesus, the wrath of God abides on them (present tense - John 3:36).

The point is well taken that this use by the presenter is being stated in such a way to get people to think about their current state before a Holy God.  But the argument this author would make against its use is that it is better to get them to think in a way consistent with Scripture rather than risk leaving them with a wrong understanding of Salvation.  In short, watch the oversimplification lest it become (or sound) unbiblical.

If this is a style you feel useful when helping people see their sinfulness, then consider being intentionally clear that it’s an illustration, only, and that there is no condemnation for obeying/disobeying the Law, but only for rejecting the offer of Salvation found in Christ Jesus.

Pitfall #2 - Making the Gospel “Jesus Obeyed the Law Because We Can’t”

Along the same lines as the previous point, another unintentional consequence of using the Law is that we can start to speak as if the gospel is we “must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (see above) but since we can’t, Jesus lived perfectly for us.

Put in another, highly simplified way, this version is “You need to jump over the Law-hurdle to be saved but, since you can’t, Jesus jumped it for you.”  Brothers - that’s a works based religion in disguise!  All that has been done is to offload the works onto someone else.  If our salvation is on the basis of Him fulfilling the Law (alone), then it still makes works, and not faith, the means of salvation.


“...if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly,” (Gal 2:21)


“...if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed be based on law.” (Gal 3:21)

Now this is not to mitigate the work Christ did - let it never be so!  But our problem since Adam is NOT that we are supposed to be perfect and fail to be and therefore need someone to be perfect for us.  Rather, we fail to be perfect because we are corrupted, sinners, not one of us doing good, and not even seeking to do good, and need someone who lived perfectly to die on our behalf to take the wrath reserved for us.  Our inability to be perfect is EVIDENCE we are sinners, not the reason we are sinners!

So, while the concept of all other religions being a “do” religion and Christianity a “done” one is a helpful distinction when discussing religions, care needs to be taken that “done” = “wrath of God satisfied by being poured out against Jesus who was the perfect (no blemish, perfectly righteous) sacrifice”.  Otherwise it’s just a “do” religion in disguise!

Pitfall #3 - Insistence that the Law Must be Used

Wait!  Before you pick up the rocks to stone with, consider this: in order to be saved, one must have a contrite heart over their sin, repent over that sin, and place their faith in Christ as redeemer who bore the wrath of God against them as sinners.  They don’t need to know the Law, be taught the Law, or understand the Law - and they certainly can’t begin to obey the Law until the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit begins (after salvation).  And even then, the "Law" to obey is love your God with all your heart, body, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)

On this side of Christ, the Law can be a valuable tool when witnessing to help people experientially know that they are sinners (see above), but salvation does not come through it (directly) and if you find yourself talking more about it than grace or Christ or who God is, consider whether or not you might have fallen into the trap of elevating it too high - particularly if you are not speaking to someone one-on-one, but doing a general proclamation.

Pitfall #4 - Taking the Court-Room Analogy Too Far

If you don’t know this analogy, it’s basically comparing a judge in a human cout-room judging someone impartially on the basis of a crime they committed.  This is a very helpful analogy when talking about impartiality (your good deeds are irrelevant to offsetting your crime) and the loving, unexpected payment by the Judge for your crime that we can see in Scripture.

However, with all analogies there are limits.  First, back to a point made earlier, you won’t stand in a court-room to be judged unto condemnation.  The Bible does speak about judging in the sense of judging every word and deeds done in the body and the like, but that’s not to decide whether you go to Heaven or Hell.  Because of our context as an evangelism team (preaching salvation in Christ), we should stay away from implying judgement unto condemnation on the basis of our works.  Lacking further clarification, the court-room analogy can imply that.

Second, there’s an inherent limitation to using this analogy with explaining what it means that Jesus saves.  This is because the “end of the story” of the analogy (as it relates to actual court-room experiences) is the payment of our debt.  Whereas, in Christ, the debt is canceled so that we can be made alive in Christ (Col 2:13-14).  Rather than the end of the story, it is the beginning.  This is not to say don’t use this analogy because of this limit, but, oh - its use can almost make salvation sterile...a business transaction.  But there is so much more.  Our debt has been canceled - grace!  We have been adopted as sons - grace!  We have a personal relationship with the living God - grace!  We have a sure hope in Jesus’ return - grace!  We await an imperishable inheritance - grace!  Underserved grace upon grace upon grace.

One last problem, and one this author heard recently from our own box, was the accidental heresy that Jesus is like a public defender who stands between Judge and man, arguing our case.  No!  The Judge, in this analogy, IS Jesus.  Fully God, He has been given full authority to judge (John 5:22, 27, Jam 5:7-9, Rev 19:11-16).  In a decision that was fully determined and agreed upon by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in unison from before the foundation of the world, the Father sent the Son to earth explicitly to die so that in His death He would demonstrate His love (Romans 5:8) by taking the wrath of all who believe in His name (Rom 5:9).  Jesus, in full agreement with the Father, came, laying His life down willingly (John 10:17-18), submitting to the death and the wrath (Mark 14:36).

To be clear on this - there is no cross purpose in salvation within the Trinity.  Jesus did not jump between us and the Father to save us at the last minute nor argue or plead our case or anything like all.  They worked together in full agreement and unity.  In this case, the stretching of the analogy, while well meaning, fell outside the bounds of Scripture so far as to deny the unity of the Trinity.


The Law is a tool that can be optionally used during a presentation to help illustrate the sinfulness of mankind in the context of the God of the Bible if its use is to point people to Christ and so that they feel the weight of their sinfulness.  We have no problem with it’s use, but we hope we’ve shown some ways where we can slip into various pitfalls such as overemphasizing it or to use it in such a way that it sounds like “rules unto salvation” for those passing by, or even in a gimmicky way (we didn’t discuss this aspect, but reliance too much on “Good Person Tests” as almost a game we play with people would be an example of this).

At the end of the day, our primary focus with all presentations should be to make Christ known.  How that looks from one opportunity to the next will vary and, in the case of one-on-one conversations, working to show man as sinner from Scripture is a must if they are to see their need for Christ and so the Law might be particularly helpful.  However, in cases where a general proclamation is being made from on-the-box to no specific listener (again, no heckler), then a presentation that is mostly, or completely, about the Law actually falls short of being a Gospel presentation.  It’s missing the “Who Christ Is”, perhaps even the “Who God is” and “Our Response” points we outlined at the beginning.

We encourage each man to consider their own presentations in light of what has been discussed in this blog and in the light of Scripture.  May we all press on toward the goal of accurate, Bible-focused, and Christ honoring messages, sharing the full Gospel for Christ’s glory!

Come Join Us - 6-9 pm
See the calendar on the upper, right-side of this page for our location each week...

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Abortion Clinic
Mission Hills
01/09, 01/16 - 2016

Every Wednesday and Saturday at 8-10 am
10200 Sepulveda Blvd
Mission Hills, CA  91345

No Experience Needed and no need to say anything if you are not ready - come hold a sign, pray, and bring encouragement to those who are standing for the innocent.

Wednesday Outreach
North Hollywood

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Please stand with us for morning evangelism on Wednesdays at 6:00 AM at the North Hollywood Metro Station on Lankershim Blvd.

It's a great opportunity to share the truth with the thousands of commuters who pass through this area.

Please watch for text announcements on Tuesday evenings. Don't forget to RSVP if you plan to join us on Wednesday mornings.

Articles and Media

(Wretched - 6:56)

(Wretched - 5:29)

(Acts 17 - 16:56)

A remarkable conversation took place on ABC’s The View last week.
It began with an American Atheists billboard featuring a picture of Santa Claus that says, “Go ahead and skip church. Be good for goodness’ sake.” One of the hosts, Joy Behar, wondered if religious people would take offense at such a statement.

Tim Challies
When Your Goodness Goes Splat
At some point, each one of us becomes proud of our goodness. We become proud of a good thing we have done. We boast, even if only in our own minds, about the purity of an action, the extent of a sacrifice, the value of a gift. We elevate this good act as if it could be held before God as evidence that we aren’t really all that bad, or that we are working our way back toward goodness. We elevate it as if it is worthy of his attention, his favor.

When the Mormons Come Calling
These Mormon missionaries always look happy and confident. They are sure they have compelling answers to life’s deepest and most urgent questions—the source of ultimate truth, the identity of God, the purpose of life, the answer to what lies beyond the grave. They look happy and confident, but I know better. I know they are miserable. They are miserable because they are being sent on a spiritually-bankrupt one-year mission to fulfill a man-made law. This cannot generate true joy.

The doctrine of Scripture is foundational to the Christain faith. But there is more to say about Scripture than simply, “The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.” If you don’t grasp what the Bible is and how it came to be, you’ll never fully grasp its meaning.

Adam4D: What changes a “clump of cells” into a baby?

* All verses from the ESV, unless otherwise noted