EXCERPTS FROM “UNDERSTANDING GRACE AND HOW TO INTERPRET IT IN YOUR LIFE AND CHURCH”

Lee Turner

2002

Many pastors, [teachers, dad’s, and mom’s] desiring that their [members or son’s and daughter’s] live holy lives, mix law with grace.

Mixing law with grace only produces guilt ridden, defeated Christians and robs them of joy.” (Emphasis added in brackets) 

Love Is The Fulfillment Of The Law

The Apostle Paul said, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5: 14). The phrase, “A single command” means “one word,” it is the Greek word logos, meaning, “a precept,” “a command.” The Greek word decalogue, meaning the law, is from deca, meaning “ten” and logoa, meaning, “word,” thus, “ten words.” Now under the New Covenant of grace, the law is summed up in a single command—love.

The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Master, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22: 36). Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (vs. 37–40).

Jesus told his followers, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13: 34). By saying, “As I have loved you,” Jesus established a new standard of love, the divine agape love that sent him to the cross.

This is consistent with the rest of scripture: 1) The believer is released from the law because of his new relationship with Christ. 2) God’s law, which is an expression of his holy nature, is fulfilled in love. 3) When a believer acts on the principle of love (which will always be consistent with Scripture), he is fulfilling what the law would have morally required toward God and his fellow men. This is something the believer can never do in his own strength.

Any Christian who thinks he is under “the law” must remember that it consisted of three parts: 1) The “Ceremonial law” that prescribed the tabernacle, the priests and their function; 2) The “Civil law” that outlined how Israel’s civil government would function, and; 3) The “Moral law,” the ten commandments and other laws (or principles).

Someone might say the New Covenant believer is to keep the “Moral law,” but not the other two parts. However, the three parts of the “law” are one, a unity. If you keep part, you must keep them all. Jesus said, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22: 40). The “Law” has now been summed up in a single command—love.

The principle of love fulfilling the law has a direct relationship with maintaining harmony in the local church. All of the commandments are related to relationships. Wagner relates this truth to love fulfilling the law, “It is interesting in this connection to take note of the fact that each of the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20: 3–17) deals with some violation of a relationship. The first four commandments regulate our relationship with God. The last six regulate our relationships with people. ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law’ (Rom. 13: 9,10). Thus the two great commandments embody all others, for the law regulates relationships.”

Love fulfills all the requirements of the law. If a man “loves his neighbor” he will not “kill” his neighbor, “commit adultery” with his wife, or “steal” from him, etc. The believer is released from one set of laws, which he had no power to obey, and now, is bound by the law of love which grace gives him the power to obey. Grace is no longer a set of written commands, but Christ himself now dwells in the believer through the Holy Spirit. Abiding in Christ releases his righteous life in the believer. The Holy Spirit gives both the desire and power to live up to God’s righteous standards, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2: 13).

The dynamic for harmony in the local church is love motivated by the Holy Spirit. Crabb comments: “Congregations have tried many programs to promote better relationships within the church family, but programs are not the answer. Supernaturally–enabled love is. But we often miss the route to that love” The only alternative to this method is lack of harmony in the church. Paul admonished, “You my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command; Love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5: 13–14). Then Paul warned, “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (v. 15).

Legalism leads to critical unloving relationships lacking compassion. The result is a spiritual cannibalism that leads to mutual destruction. Christians often use the phrase “grieving the Holy Spirit,” but there is only one scripture that refers to a believer grieving the Holy Spirit. What grieved the Spirit? The believer violated inter–personal relationships. Paul says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4: 30). The preceding verse says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” This verse eliminates the justification of any criticism, gossip or negative talk toward other Christians. All conversation between believers should be edifying in nature. If this verse were implemented in the lives of believers there would never be any division in churches. In the verses that immediately follow, Paul says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (vs. 31–32). The primary sin that grieves the Holy Spirit is unloving relationships between Christians.

Wagner comments on the importance of loving relationships, “These two commandments and the law of Christ point to the timeless truth that a loving relationship is the most important commodity in life. God is love. He is relationship (sic) of perfect harmony between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He has relationship with angels (Heb. 1: 6). He seeks relationship with mankind whom He created in His own image.” John reminds us that we are made for relationships with the trinity and other believers, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1: 3). Fellowship could be defined as “a joint ownership in a common possession—the life of Christ.” There is no relationship more powerful, permanent and loving than this. The believer is one with God and other believers through the body of Christ—the church. The believer’s ministry is to maintain these relationships, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Galatians 6: 1). A believer is not to go to another believer with a self–righteous, critical attitude, but in humility, prayerful, realizing that he could succumb to the same sin or error.

Paul goes on to say, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (v. 2). By restoring each other, believers maintain harmony in the local church and thus fulfill the “law of Christ.” The Spirit–led Christian will minister harmoniously with others.

Unfortunately, there are many carnal Christians who cause division. People with problems cause problems. If a person has a poor self–image he will manipulate others to increase his sense of self–worth. Until a believer understands his value is related to who he is in Christ and not his performance, he cannot feel good about himself and properly relate to others. Bubna says, “Psychology agrees with the Bible that it is necessary to love ourselves before we can love others. Jesus said: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Until the believer has the proper internal relationship with Christ there will be external problems with others. Foster comments, “The Christian Disciple of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life style. Both the inward and outward aspects of simplicity are essential. We deceive ourselves if we can possess the inward reality without its having a profound effect on how we live. To attempt to arrange an outward life–style of simplicity without the inward reality leads to deadly legalism… Experiencing the inward reality liberates us outwardly.

Speech becomes truthful and honest. The lust for status and position is gone, because we no longer need status and position. We cease from showy extravagance, not on the grounds of being unable to afford it, but on the grounds of principle… Contemporary culture lacks both the inward reality and the outward life–style of simplicity… Because we lack a driving center our need for security has led us into an insane attachment to things. We must clearly understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need or enjoy. We buy things we do not want to impress people we do not like.”

The believer who feels good about himself will feel good about others. If he understands how completely he has been forgiven, he can forgive others.

Wagner comments, “’ Forebearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do you’ (Col. 3: 13 KJV). We cannot presume to obey the first great commandment to love God with our total selves while we are at the same time violating the second great commandment to love our neighbor. On the other hand, we demonstrate our love for God in our readiness to forgive.” If a believer fully understands that Christ has forgiven all his sins, he has no choice but to forgive other believers.

Paul said, “forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4: 32).

A legalist is critical because he does not understand his completeness in Christ. He has never understood his total forgiveness, therefore he cannot feel forgiven nor forgive others.

The emphasis on body harmony does not diminish fidelity to Scripture. There is no dichotomy between adherence to the message and loving relationships. Bubna remarks, “The church needs two legs to walk on: the proclamation of God’s love, and the showing of that love in action. Neither works without the other… We have been ready to defend that truth, even to the point of fighting among ourselves over some particular points.

Through neglecting love, some churches have become cold and people have remained lonely in crowded pews.” Someone may ask, “What about the passages where Christ, Paul and John the Baptist used harsh language of condemnation?” However, they only used harsh language with apostates—those who rejected truth and were leading others astray. Paul did correct Peter, but he did it to his face (Galatians 2: 11), which is consistent with Gal. 6: 1 and Matthew 18: 15. Jesus always spoke with compassion to seeking sinners.