Christian And The Law
Elder Wm. Doyal Thomas
Pastor - Philadelphia
Decatur , Alabama
What is a Christian? What is meant by the term, "the law"?
A Christian is one who has been "born from above", (John 1:13),
and has, by this transaction of God, been made to be a "new creation"
(II Corinthians 5:17).
A Christian is a believer, or follower, and as such, has been rendered
teachable by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit when He regenerated
and made new that which had been slain by sin, and is responsible to so
act in accordance with the new man that now exists and did not exist before.
It is acknowledged that one can indeed be a Christian, and yet lapse into
a mode of conduct that is, to say the least, most unbecoming to the state
into which he has been placed. Thus, a disobedient Christian is here in
view; but still a Christian, and one who has subjected himself, or herself
to the disapproving frown of our Holy God.
By the term, "the law", we mean, "That standard that God has declared to
be the mark of acceptable behavior and conduct before Him, in holiness".
I would also remind myself, and you, that man has NEVER been allowed to
be apart from the law of God, but has ALWAYS been responsible to his Maker
to obey Him, and is fully accountable for every failure in doing so.
It was deliberate, pre-meditated rebellion that Adam exhibited when he
chose to be with, that is, to be in harmony with his wife, now deceived
by Satan, in the Garden of Eden. He had been commanded to obey God, but
he violated God's law, and the consequent penalty fell upon him. Was Adam
free from the "law of God"? If he was, then why did the penalty come upon
him? If he was not free from the "law of God", then it is EVIDENT why the
penalty fell upon him.
In studying this stupendous subject, "The Christian and the Law", we will
divide our examination into two parts. Part I will deal with the Christian
and his responsible conduct toward God. Part II will deal with the Christian
in his responsibility to the laws of the government under which he lives,
"Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord
Jesus, that as ye have received of us how you ought to walk and to please
God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye, know what commandments we
give you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification,
that ye should abstain from fornication: That everyone of you should know
how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust
of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man
go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord
is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.
For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness."
According to the teaching of Scripture, as set forth in the text of verse
4, specifically, as well as throughout all of Holy Writ, the Christian
is to walk in a manner that is worthy of God who has called him to walk.
Thus, the walk is to be both acceptable and pleasing to God. It is to God
that man is responsible. There is not, nor can there be any other meaning
of this Scripture. God's people are to walk before Him in an acceptable
and pleasing manner.
We now pose four questions, which become the criteria by which we will
ascertain the quality of our walk before God, as His professing, believing
children. Everything that we do should allow us to answer in the affirmative
each of these four questions.
Is our walk God honoring?
Is our walk Christ magnifying?
Is our walk Holy Spirit sanctioned?
Is our walk good for us?
OUR WALK GOD HONORING?
Our text has clearly enunciated the requirement that God has levied against
us that our walk honor Him. Of this fact there can be no doubt. "Furthermore
then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as
ye have received of us how you ought to walk and to please God, so ye would
abound more and more" (I Thessalonians 4:1).
A careful exposition of this text, in the setting of the context that is
established through verse 7 of this chapter will reveal some remarkably
clear instructions, and any deviation from these plain teachings will,
without fail, render the ones here addressed as "brethren" without
excuse before God. There will be no possibility of misunderstanding, nor
any violation of these directions acceptable to God who has commanded these
things. And He has commanded. He has not presented an optional package
from which "brethren" can pick and choose that which appeals to
his or her personal, carnally influenced preferences.
Take note, "... ye have received ..." referring to instructions
given in the form of commands. These commands are God given, and are so
designed by Him as to produce "pleasing" to Him when obeyed and observed
by those He addresses. In this case, "brethren", which I believe
also implies "Christians". So, the commands are directed to Christians,
for their instruction and obedience. Are Christians, in any way, at any
time, free to disregard these commands? When? Under what circumstances?
Verse 7 of these texts declares that God has not called His people to a
life, even temporarily or momentarily, to be lived in an unclean or impure
manner. Rather, and quite contrary, the Christian has been called unto
holiness. So, he is required to walk.
Peter, in his writings, was led by God to so teach as well. When you read
the words that God the Holy Spirit "breathed" (theoneustos), you are reading
the exact, specific, and unerring words that were directly sent forth from
the mind and will of a Holy God. Note carefully what Peter said: "Wherefore
gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace
that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient
children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your
ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy; for
I am holy." (I Peter 1:13-16).
In the heavenly scene described by the Apostle John, we read words that
declare that God is holy, and that His creatures are to recognize Him as
such, and are to honor Him because He is so. And they, being His creatures,
must worship Him who is holy. "And the four beasts had each of them
six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not
day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was,
and is, and is to come." (Revelation 4:8)
God is holy. He is also just, and righteous, and merciful, and omniscient,
and omnipotent ; and every other attribute by which He presents Himself.
But he is essentially, eternally holy. Note: In this text, it was not said
of Him that He is Omniscient, omniscient, omniscient; nor that He is Omnipotent,
omnipotent, omnipotent. BUT, that He is Holy, holy, holy.
And Peter had instructed believers, or Christians, to "be ye holy, for
I am holy". Thus, without possibility of honest misunderstanding, God's
people are taught to walk pleasing to Him, in
manner of conversation, striving to live a holy and honorable life. This
kind of life is God honoring, and therefore is the answer to our first
question as we, in this life seek to live qualitatively before Him.
Christian, you and I are enjoined to examine our walk, and to make self-judgement
of that walk so as to put off those thoughts and actions that are motivated
by self-will, and to put on those thoughts and actions that truly adorn
us with that which is well pleasing in His sight. We are instructed to
"walk in the Spirit", and the result is, you "shall not fulfill
the lust of the flesh". (Galatians 5:16). For every moment that
you are walking in the Spirit, for that same moment at least, you are not
fulfilling the lust of the flesh. And as you seek His mercy and divine
enablement to walk more pleasingly, you will indeed be experiencing His
sanctifying power progressively leading you to become more and more pleasing
and acceptable in your walk.
It is scripturally undeniable that when Christians walk as God commands
them to walk, then they honor Him. Obedience on our part is what honors
Him. As Christians, we are required to obey Him, and to so honor Him. Christians
are without excuse when they do not so obey and so walk. And at the Bema
of Christ, all these wayward excursions will be revealed, and there will
be suffered loss of reward for the wood, hay, and stubble that was so produced.
Let me take a moment and tell you what responsibility really is in this
matter. God, in His wondrous creative work has given us intellect, sensibility,
and will. He has endowed us with the element known as conscience which
is in man, the power of judgment. Conscience evaluates our acts and declares
them to either conform, or not to conform to the law of God, as He made
it known. Those acts that conform become obligatory. Those acts that do
not conform are forbidden. What is responsibility then? To obey God so
as to walk pleasing, or in conformity with the law of God. That is responsibility,
and nothing short of that kind of a walk before God is acceptable to Him.
OUR WALK CHRIST MAGNIFYING?
Does the quality of the walk of a Christian magnify the Name, Person and
work of God's Christ and our Saviour?
In the Lord's prayer, Jesus, praying to the Father said, "And this is
life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ,
whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished
the work which thou gayest me to do. And now, 0 Father, glorify thou me
with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world
was. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of
the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept
thy word". (John 17:3-6).
Our dear Lord, as expressed here, has so wonderfully interceded with the
Father in behalf of the elect, and His words are so very much instructive
to us. Listen to Him! He says that He has manifested the Name of God before
men. How did He do it? One way that stands out is this: He, though He were
God, "... humbled Himself and became obedient, even unto the death of
the cross." (Philippians 2:8). By becoming obedient, Jesus Christ
magnified God, the only Lawgiver, by becoming submissive to the Eternal
Will by keeping the law of God, nothing lacking.
Do the Scriptures teach that Jesus Christ kept the law of God? Listen to
Isaiah as he speaks prophetically of the Lord's Messiah. "The LORD is
well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and
make it honourable." (Isaiah 42:21). Isaiah is declaring (theoneustos)
the LORD (Yahweh) is well pleased with the work and accomplishments of
"His Righteousness". This is clearly a representation of the Messiah Himself,
Jesus Christ. And why is Yahweh well pleased? Here's why. His Righteousness,
the Lord Jesus Christ will "magnify the law, and make it honourable".
Did Christ accomplish this prophetic end? "For Christ is the end of
the law for righteousness to every one that believeth". (Romans
10:4). All that the law of God demanded of men was met in the Person
of Jesus Christ when He, in perfect obedience fulfilled all requirements,
so that judicially speaking, the elect were successful in meeting these
requirements, but in their Substitute, Jesus Christ the Righteous.
Now, as a Christian, the obedience that Jesus accomplished is shown to
be the expected conduct of each one that is found to be in Him. "Let
this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:" (Philippians
2:5). Clearly, Christians are instructed to be obedient to the commands
and instructions of God. And when this occurs, the Name, Person, and work
of Jesus Christ is magnified in the life of that obedient child.
Would you magnify Him? Then walk in accordance with His ways and give heed
to observe and do all that He has told you to observe and do. Would you
bring to Him great glory, honor, and praise? Then walk in His precepts,
principles, and ways. You can not honor Him while you walk contrary to
OUR WALK HOLY SPIRIT SANCTIONED?
When men act in accordance with the "lust of the flesh, the lust of
the eyes, and the pride of life", (I John 2:16) are they
acting with Holy Spirit sanction? Obviously, they are not, for the Scriptures
teach that these things are not of the Father, but of the world. And further,
these things are condemned by God to pass away along with the world. There
is no honor shown to Christ when this is the nature of the walk. Rather,
great dishonor is shown by this mode of conduct.
This being established, we need to look at the manner of life that Jesus
lived that brought forth the manifestly declared and displayed sanction
of God the Holy Spirit. When we can ascertain from the Scriptures what
things the Holy Spirit sanctioned in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ,
we can also see how we ought to live if we expect to receive the sanction
of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Upon preparation arrangements that Jesus submitted to as He set out to
enter public ministry (service), we see notable example in the book of
Matthew. "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be
baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized
of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer
it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.
Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway
out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw
the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon him: And, lo,
a voice from Heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well
pleased." (Matthew 3:13-17).
In this remarkable narrative, we can discern much spiritual truth, and
thus, much spiritual instruction. Obedience is here taught. And Jesus Christ,
God Himself, in His humanity is the Perfect Example of obedience and humility.
When He said to John, "... for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness",
He was declaring that servants must be motivated to walk pleasing to the
Father. By submitting thusly, He did that which not only God the Father
had directed, and then declared His satisfaction with the Son's performance,
but that also which God, the Holy Spirit sanctioned. Witness the appearing
of the Spirit of God in the form of the dove that descended and lighted
on Him. Would God have sanctioned this act of perfect obedience had it
not been an act of perfect obedience?
We also learn that the work that Jesus accomplished during His sojourn
among men was always that which "pleased the Father" (John 8:29).
In this same discourse, Jesus also said that the Father bears witness of
Him. Likewise, He teaches us that the Holy Spirit never bears witness of
Himself, but rather, the Holy Spirit always bears witness of the Son. (c.f.
When the Lord Jesus had fully kept the law of God, and had magnified it
before men. He was then subjected to the greatest passion that was ever,
or shall ever be exhibited. He was brought under the judgment of lying,
sinful men who brought all manner of false accusation against Him, and
proceeded to crucify Him as a common criminal. And God permitted this to
be so, for it was the eternal purpose of God that this innocent One would
die in the room and in the stead of guilty, depraved, but elect sinners.
And God, the Holy Spirit, in eternal covenant stipulation had fore sanctioned
this awesome work.
But in addition to what God had permitted wicked men to purpose in their
evil hearts to do, He had also determined that the perfect obedience that
His Son had accomplished in keeping the law of God, magnifying it, and
declaring it to be holy. He would also bring His holy, righteous judgment
to bear upon His Son. Sin must be punished, and Jesus was now openly manifested,
the Lamb of God. God would now, in His Person, punish sin to the full extent
of divine justice.
When, therefore, the judgment and wrath of Holy God fell upon the Person
of Holy God, it was still God, the Holy Spirit that sanctioned the death,
and manifested that eternal propitiation had been extracted. He did this
by raising from the dead the Lord Jesus Christ and openly putting Him on
display before witnesses that it might be affirmed that God was satisfied.
Praise the Lord, the Holy Spirit has sanctioned the work of the Lord Jesus
Christ in His keeping the law of God! It is done, and God has published
abroad the purpose, intent, and result of it all. "This is he that came
by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water
and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit
is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the
Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three
that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and
these three agree in one." (I John 5:6-8).
OUR WALK GOOD FOR US?
My dear one, at every mention of those benefits that accrue to Christians,
we have scriptural affirmation that it is and has always been in the best
interest of God's elect that they walk pleasing with the stipulations of
the law of God. Not a single instance can be found, and not a single suggestion
contrary, can be produced that will indicate that it would be better for
Christians if they did not walk according to the demands of the law of
Can you and I not come to the position that allows us to see that the only
alternative to walking as a God fearing, law of God believing Christian
is to walk as a complete and utter outlaw? Think of this. If you and I
do not walk as an obedient child, being guided, led, and directed by the
Holy Spirit into a manner of life that is lawful, then we are, without
doubt, and outlaw. And this designation, "outlaw" is not too severe. If
you and I are not a law-abiding person, then you and I are outlawed! What
saith the Scriptures? "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit,
If so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the
Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." (Romans 8:9).
Is our walk good for us? If one is born of God, then that one has the Spirit
of God, and that one has the good benefits that come by and through the
work of the Holy Spirit who is in that one. It is good for them then to
walk in harmony with the leading and teachings of the Holy Spirit who guides
and directs a life that is in keeping with the law of God.
On the other hand, if one is still unregenerate, then the Holy Spirit does
not dwell within that one, and old things are still old things. Nothing
is newly created, and consequently all thoughts, motives, and actions flow
from the old fallen, sinful man. In this awful state and condition, nothing
that comes forth is good for the individual so afflicted. Nothing good
can come out of a cesspool of sin and corruption. From an evil heart still
proceeds evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, blasphemies, etc. It is not
good to be a dead sinner in whom there can be no steps taken that even
resembles a lawful and pleasing walk before God.
But for the Christian, in whom God the Holy Spirit dwells, there is now
godly, honorable motive that produces in the re-created being a walk in
lawful pleasing. Admittedly, the walk is often times feeble and faulty,
but nevertheless, it is a walk that is being more and more conformed to
that perfect walk of accomplished sanctification that God has begun, and
will most surely complete.
Remember, no man can keep the law that God wrote down and gave to Israel.
That law does not give life, neither was it intended to give life. Rather,
that law condemns men for not doing all that it demands of them. But Christ
kept that law for us, and has placed us under the perfectly completed righteousness
that He accomplished for us. And now He has insured that we be under the
law of God to walk by the Spirit's leadership so as to exhibit and manifest
that He has placed us there so that under leadership of the Holy Spirit
we can be led to walk step by step in a way that will please God. Being
His people, He enables us now to walk as He directs. And it is good for
us to do so.
God said to Israel, as His representative people, "Blessed is every
one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways. For thou shalt eat
the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with
thee." (Psalms 128: 1,2). "Where there is no vision, the
people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." (Proverbs
And to the Lord's saints during the age of the New Testament Church, even
now, He said, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared
to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we
should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking
for that blessed hope, and glorious appearing of the great God and our
Saviour Jesus Christ: Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us
from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of
good works." (Titus 2:11-1 4).
And Peter wrote to present day saints and he said, "Seeing then that
all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to
be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto
the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be
dissolved, and the elements melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according
to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth
righteousness." (II Peter 3:11-1 3).
What about Christians and the law?
"Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren and exhort you by the Lord
Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please
God, so ye would abound more and more." (I Thessalonians 4:1).
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