Posts Tagged ‘legalism’

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13) In a recent discussion, regarding the fear of the Lord, this passage came to mind. Upon first reading it was clear; misunderstanding the fear of the Lord and his law makes a verse like this totally indecipherable.

The passage makes a clear statement, but it is confused when making application to ourselves, based upon misunderstanding the fear of God and keeping his commandments. How do we walk in the ‘whole duty of man’ when fear is thought of in terms of punishment and terror? How can we walk in duty and keep his commandments when it is deeply felt that duty and the law only brings death?

While sin works through the law to bring death, it is not the law that actively brings death, (Romans 7:12-13). Even so, some how a fear of fear and the law is so common that the usefulness of Eccl 12:13, which is a concluding idea for the whole book of Ecclesiastes, makes about as much useful sense as a giraffe in the article circle doing polar ice cap research on global warming; it just doesn’t make any useful sense on multiple levels.

Shortly, let’s try to understand godly fear. The fear of God is a reverential love of God and an appropriate faith-relationship with him. Psalms can help us understand.  Psalm 5:7, “But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you.”; Psalm 19:9, “the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever…“; Psalm 118:4, “Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”; Psalm 147:11, “But the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.

Fear and love for God rest hand in hand. The fear of the Lord is pure, and for the Christian is doesn’t deal with punishment, or an expectation of being ‘smote on the mountain’ if you miss step on Sunday ritual saying a bad word in front of the preacher.

Keeping his commandments also involves love. Matthew 22:36–37, ““Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”; 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” Keeping commands according to the Word of God is not for the sake of gaining the relational love of God. If we think about the commands in this way we’ve foolishly given way to the adulterous legalism Christ warns against. By faith we put to death the deeds of the flesh, in the power of the Spirit of God. By faith we obey the command to love, knowing that we have first been loved by Him, and are empowered by him to do such.

Hopefully this passage is less of a burden and more of a sweet word to encourage simplicity of life. The manner of simplicity that allows us to walk in freedom. The end of the matter is at hand; fear God and keep His commands.

All this dwelling upon sin is sort of depressing. It has the vague ring of staunch legalism, and poorly sung hymns echoing in the background, all while wearing old-starchy-Sunday-clothes. I mean we are under grace and not the law, so what’s the big deal? Sin and death have been defeated; by faith in Jesus Christ our record of debt is nailed to the cross. Why focus upon what no longer has dominion over those freed from the condemning power of sin?

It’s simple—sin is alive in us. Praise God, there no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Nevertheless, indwelling sin still remains. Yes, the old has gone and the new has come, but as the apostle Paul so aptly instructs, “I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but is see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” Even though through Jesus we are free there is still indwelling sin.

Colossians 3:5 gives us an indication that indwelling sin is no surprise for the believer, and that we are to actively be seeking sin’s death, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” John Owen writes in his book, The Mortification of Sin, that those, “Who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.

Biblically speaking, the mortification of sin is the settled work of the follower of Christ. Walk away from notions of legalism, understanding where redemption resides, and actively seek to put to death the deeds of the flesh by the power of the Spirit.