3 Parts Of The First Commandment – Part 2

Last time we talked about the requirements of the First Commandment. Today let’s dive into the other two categories and try and find a way to help us defeat the idols we fall for in our daily lives. But first, let’s read the rest of the text for the commandment:

For I am the Lord your God, a jealous God, recompensing the sins of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generation to them that hate me, and bestowing mercy on them that love me to thousands of them, and on them that keep my commandments.

Exodus 20:6 (LXX2012)

When children today are taught the commandments this portion of the text is sadly cut off in most cases. This portion contains, not only what we already know, that God judges those who worship any other than Him; but it also tells us that great mercy is given to 1,000 generations if only one would trust Him. This is the secret, I think, in keeping this command.

The Blessings of the First Commandment

For if you rest, you shall be undismayed; and if you sleep, you shall slumber sweetly.

Proverbs 3:24 (LXX2012)

The blessings of the first commandment are the greatest of all. God promises to be our God. He says He will govern and uphold us. He will keep us, protect us in our greatest fear, love us through our biggest messes, and provide for us whenever we have a need.

God will through means, that is, through the governing of creation, provide for us all that is necessary for both this life and the next. He will not rain down from heaven our food as for Israelites in the desert, but rather will enable us to gain what we must, to barter for what we need.

The Perversion of the First Commandment

Finally, we have the way in which Satan seeks to pervert the first commandment. Satan looks to bring evil upon us. In doing so, he is craftier than any other. Thrusting torments at us he tricks us into thinking it comes from God. We do not have enough money, or a big enough house, because God has not fulfilled his end of the bargain. We lose our job or fail in a venture because God did not prosper our way.

In doing so, Satan manipulates us into despising God and turning to other means to supply our want. We then make idols out of other ways to provide our needs. Abandoning the God that could save us from all this trouble.

Even worse, the evil one tricks us into thinking that now God owes us something and thus we make God out to be a debtor.

Keeping the Command

It is this great trick of the devil that hinders us from trusting fully in God. Because at the very root of our distrust is our firm belief that God either will not supply us our need or that He will instead meet out judgement on our heads.

Yet when we come to acknowledge that God is constantly providing us precisely what we need (though not in the manner we expect it) we begin the very long journey of trusting in Him whom we have not seen. Just as Jesus has taught:

Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed.

John 20:29 (WEB)

Conclusion

What struggles do you face that keep you from believing? Let’s talk about them in the comments below. There is much that can prevent us from seeing God for Who He is. One job of the Church is to help one another see the One True God and realize His great love for us.

Next week, let’s take a look at the second commandment, how to use God’s name.

Until then, “be a sinner and sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be stronger”. God love you and keep you. Amen.

3 Parts Of The First Commandment – Part 1

Now that we have a firm idea of what to look for when studying the commandments (The Requirement, Blessing, and Perversion) we are ready to study in a little depth the first command.

The First Commandment

You shall have no other gods beside me. You shall not make to yourself an idol, nor likeness of anything, whatever things are in the heaven above, and whatever are in the earth beneath, and whatever are in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to them, nor serve them;

Exodus 20:3-5 (LXX2012)

The First Commandment is the most important of all. Fundamentally, the breaking of any of the other nine commandments is also a violation of this First Command. Also, The keeping of this commandment requires that the other nine follow suit.

Therefore, a strong understanding of what it means to have no other gods but God is critical to keeping and understanding all of the commands.

The Requirement of the First Commandment

We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

Luther’s Small Catechism

In this commandment, God forbids idolatry, that is, having any god before Him.

What is a god?

But what does it mean to have a god? In order to know that, we must know what a god is.

A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; as I [Luther] have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.

LC I:2

In short, a god is that which we trust with our whole heart. Most of us would have to admit the thing we trust most is not god. In fact, I would bet that the thing we both trust more is wealth.

When we have money, we rest secure. Yet the moment we lack sufficient funds, we instantly enter into a panic. Why? Because without that money we cannot meet our needs. We cannot pay for food, rent, taxes, etc.

This alone should convict our souls of damnable idolatry. In our section on the Creed we learned that God “richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil”. So if we are looking to money to meet those needs, we do not look to God. We have made money our god.

A Subtle Idol

There is yet another, more subtle way to create an idol. We can be like the man from Jesus’ parables of the talents. We can make God into something He is not, most commonly a debtor. For has the servant in the parable made his master out to be a “hard man”, so he received a hard master. We, Who make God out to be a debtor, make Him into no god at all, but rather into a weaker figment of our imagination that cannot accomplish the things we need a God to do. This is even worse than to trust in money which is at least capable of some meager aid.

We ought to examine our heart as to whether we have the One True God or a false one. Does our heart look to God for only good and comfort? Or does it look elsewhere?

Conclusion

In my next post we will look at the blessings and perversions of the First Commandment, which will hopefully shed some light on how to overcome our failures in keeping the requirements we have just learned.

I would love to hear in the comments below what some of the biggest idols are that we struggle with every day.

Until then, “be a sinner and sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be stronger”. God love you and keep you. Amen.

3 Qualities of the 10 Commandments

The last few posts have given us a good foundation from which we may begin to understand the purpose and use of the commandments. If you haven’t read those posts, I recommend going back and checking them out before reading on.

The 3 Qualities

Now as we begin to discuss the first of the Ten Commandments, we need to keep in mind three things that come with every commandment:

  1. The Requirement of the Command
  2. The Blessing of the Command
  3. The Perversion of the Command

The Requirement

The most natural thing to understand about the commandments is that they require something of us. It becomes our duty to please God in a particular way.

Now, if you remember some of my previous posts on Law & Gospel you are probably objecting “I thought we do not have to do anything?”. You would be correct in a sense. As we go through the Commandments you will find, as you likely already know, that it is impossible for us to keep any one of these commands perfectly. That is because it is not our place to be keeping them. As the Anglican theologian Richard Sibbes once said:

God knoweth we have nothing of ourselves, therefore in the covenant of grace he requireth no more than he giveth, and giveth what he requireth, and accepteth what he giveth.

That is to say, God gives us the ability to fulfill all that He requires of us, and He does this through the faith He grants us. So whenever you hear God say “Thou shalt…” the Christian would rightly respond “I will, by God’s help”. Anything else is simply nothing at all.

The Blessing

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul; to keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his ordinances, all that I charge you today, that it may be well with you?

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (LXX2012)

A less obvious quality of the Commandments are the blessings which come with them. Every command brings with it a promise of God. Not a promise to help us fulfill the command as mentioned above. But a promised aid in our life.

When parents require their children to do their homework, this is certainly a command. But it is also a blessing. It brings with it the lessons of hard work, discipline, and education. In this way, each commandment brings with it a unique gift from our Blessed Lord.

The Perversion

You son of the devil, full of all deceit and all cunning, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?

Acts 13:10 (WEB)

Finally, every command brings with it a perversion of Satan. Satan cannot create anything, for God created all things and He made them good. To get around this, Satan perverts the good things God gives us into terrible hateful things.

We, humans, have no need to learn the art of perverting the commands. We are already very gifted at this. But it is important to recognize the perversion because often the perversion hides the very blessing that would free us from Satan’s grasp at that moment. This he desperately seeks to hide from us. We must see past his illusion into the bright beautiful truth of God’s blessing.

Conclusion

Now that we have a good grasp of the three ways in which each of the commandments are used we are well prepared for the next blog post where we will dive into the first commandment.

Try using these categories and think of some of the ways you have personally seen a commandment used in one of these three ways. Then let me know in the comments below or through my Contact Page.

Until then, “be a sinner and sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be stronger”. God love you and keep you. Amen.

3 Ways The Law Applies To Christians Today

Last week, we talked about how the doctrines of Law and Gospel have been horribly misused in the Church today. In order to help prevent further misunderstanding, and to prepare for our upcoming discussion on the Ten Commandments I would like to briefly cover the three uses for the Law today.

The Three Uses of the Law

We know now what the Law is, the teaching of what is pleasing to God and the rebuking of sin. This is a very necessary doctrine and most certainly has its place in the Christian Church. We can also know from the preaching of Jesus Christ, particularly from His Sermon on the Mount, that none of us can perfectly keep this Law. So how are we to use it correctly?

The three ways to use the Law are:

    1. To maintain external discipline in society

The Law serves to show us how to establish a just society. To outlaw and to punish justly certain crimes such as murder, theft, and rape(Deut. 16:20). It also serves to teach how to guard certain rights such as private property, right to justice, fair treatment for poor and rich alike (Isaiah 1:17). We are under no obligation to implement these laws exactly as they are found in Scripture. Only to learn from them the true definition of a just society.

    2. To reveal to us our sin

The second use is as a mirror. The Law reveals to us our sin. Showing us just how sick we truly are and how deep the infection goes (Romans 7:7). Without the Law, we could easily convince ourselves that we are relatively good people deserving of some good in this world and a comfortable place in the next. However, the Law will show us that we are eviler than we ever dreamed in our darkest nightmares. The mobs that run the streets would look like an old lady’s tea party compared to the wretchedness in our hearts (Romans 7:18-20).

The Law reveals this to us that we may be properly prepared for the Gospel. When a person has come to the revelation above, they are ready for the Gospel.

    3. To guide Christians (and only Christians) to the knowledge of what pleases God

The third use of the Law applies only to Christians. It reveals to them what things please God. This has no place in the discussion until a person has received their faith and is among the elect of God (Heb. 116). If you are not saved, the Law is nothing to you but threats. For the unregenerate will follow the Law only out of fear. Yet, even their obedience is a sin to God for it comes not through faith. To reject the sacrifice of the Son of God is so horrible, no good deed could erase it. However, the regenerate, the Christian, would follow the Law from pure love, out of a sole desire to please the God they love (Galatians 1:10). It has nothing at all to do with earning or deserving their salvation. That has already been given them freely. It has everything to do with love for their Savior.

Conclusion

Today we have finished up our mini-series on the doctrines of Law and Gospel by covering in brief the three correct ways to use the Law. Next time we will begin our series on the Ten Commandments.

As always I would love to read your comments below or through my Contact Page.

Until then, “be a sinner and sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be stronger”. God love you and keep you. Amen.

3 Methods To Misapply Law And Gospel

Last week, we introduced the two great doctrines of the Bible, Law, and Gospel. We also very briefly talked about the correct way to make use of these two doctrines. Unfortunately, most Christians today unintentionally confuse these doctrines, causing great harm. Today we will cover three general ways these doctrines are abused.

The Heresy of Confusion

The great heresy that I believe plagues today’s churches is the confusion of these two great doctrines in the following three ways:

  1. The preaching of the Law only apart from the Gospel
  2. The preaching of the Gospel only apart from the Law
  3. The improper mixing of Law and Gospel

Preaching Law Alone

Do we then nullify the law through faith? May it never be! No, we establish the law.

Romans 3:31 WEB

When pastors only preach the Law, that is, only preach what pleases God and rebuke all sin they leave their congregation either in the depths of despair knowing they can never please God. This was the very state of Judas after betraying our Lord. Or, they leave them in the very hand of Satan, having puffed up their pride making them think they could actually please God by keeping perfectly the Law.

Preaching Gospel Alone

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? May it never be! We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer?

Romans 6:1-2 WEB

When pastors only preach the Gospel, that is, teaching that Christ has paid for all sins, he leads his congregation into a life of debauchery and sin. For they become comfortable in their failings and believe that because Christ has paid their debt they may continue in their immoral ways for, surely salvation is free.

Confusing Law and Gospel

In those, there are some things that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unsettled twist, as they also do to the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

2 Peter 3:16b WEB

These two ways of preaching are usually easy to detect and, for the devout Christian, easy to abandon. However, the true danger lies in the improper mixing of the two. For when pastors mix incorrectly these two doctrines you will hear such things as if you are homosexual you will go to hell, if you commit suicide you are lost, if you do not produce good fruit you are not saved, and if you do not repent you are damned. It tells you that if you doubt your salvation look to your own worry and that alone tells you that you are elect.

I am deeply saddened when I think of how many souls have been robbed of the hope of Christ by these lies. How many people have been fed a false Christianity and therefore abandoned the faith because of this heresy. So I will lay out here what the proper use of the Law and the Gospel are. So that we may quickly recognize these lies and also that we may share the truth with those in desperate need of it.

Conclusion

Today we looked at the three general ways that the Law and the Gospel are misused in the Church today. Next week we will conclude our mini-series on Law an Gospel by discussing the three proper uses of the Law in preparation for talking about the final fundamental doctrine of Christianity, the Ten Commandments.

For now, I would love to hear from you. Are there ways you can see where this confusion of Law and Gospel has been used to confuse or hurt you in your Church? Please feel free to share your story and/or opinions in the comments below or to me directly through my Contact Page.

Until then, “be a sinner and sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be stronger”. God love you and keep you. Amen.

2 Primary Doctrines of the Bible

Since beginning this blog I have attempted to cover, in brief detail, the fundamental building blocks of the Christian faith. However, I skipped over the traditional first section, the Ten Commandments. The reason for doing so is that the Ten Commandments are associated with, what I believe, is the biggest heresy plaguing the Christian Church today. I wanted to put as much focus as I could on the other doctrines that we may be well prepared to take on this heresy.

The true light of the Ten Commandments has been dimmed greatly in recent years, as many take on the role of a pastor without a thorough understanding of the two great doctrines of the Bible. Though the Bible contains many doctrinal, historical, and scientific facts, its primary purpose is to teach us these two great doctrines. These two great doctrines are the Law and the Gospel (2 Corinthians 7:10).

The Law

According to the Formula of Concord, the Law is defined as:

Teaching what is right and pleasing to God, and rebuking everything that is sin and contrary to God’s will. Everything that rebukes sin is, and belongs to, the Law.

(Ep V:3)

The Gospel

The Gospel is also defined in the Formula of Concord as:

The kind of teaching which shows what a person who has not kept the Law (and therefore is condemned by it) is to believe. It teaches that Christ has paid for and made satisfaction for all sins. Christ has gained for an individual – without any of his own merit – forgiveness of sins, righteousness that avails before God, and eternal life.

(Ep V:5)

Preaching of Repentance

As can be seen in many places in the Bible the Gospel often includes the preaching of repentance (see Mark 1:15, Acts 20:21). This is because the term ‘Gospel’ is often used in a general sense. The preaching of repentance properly belongs to the Law. Therefore, preaching the Gospel is often preceded by the preaching of repentance. It serves as a bridge between the Law and the Gospel.

To the Gospel belongs solely the preaching of consolation and comfort. It points away from our own works to those of Jesus Christ and saving faith which God bestows.

The Right use of Law and Gospel

Therefore true Biblical preaching would follow the general pattern below:

  1. Present the Law revealing the great sin that lies within us (which only the Law can reveal):

Let all the house of Israel therefore know certainly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.

Acts 2:36 WEB (emphasis added)

2. Then give a call to repentance. For God, through His Word will work a sorrow unto repentance.

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Acts 2:37 WEB

3. Finally, bring comfort to their souls, in its proper time, through the Gospel. Pointing only to the work of Christ.

Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all who are far off, even as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.”

Acts 2:38-39 WEB (empasis added)

Conclusion

Today we have introduced the two great doctrines of Law and Gospel along with a very general introduction to the proper use of these doctrines. In the next blog post, we will look into the abuses of these great doctrines and how they have harmed many Christians today.

Please feel free to comment below or send me a private email through my Contact Page. It is always a pleasure hearing from my readers.

Until then, “be a sinner and sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be stronger”. God love you and keep you. Amen.