The Standard of Life for Christians (continued)
It is wrong, therefore, to reject the Old Testament or any part of it, as some do, or to set aside the epistles of the New Testament as somehow inferior to the four gospels, or to treat the prophetic element in Scripture as of little or no importance to the Christian life, as others do. As we read the written Word, if we are wise we shall hear the voice of the pre-existent Son speaking to us in the Old Testament, the voice of the incarnate Son speaking to us in the gospel records in the days of His flesh, and the voice of the exalted and glorified Son speaking to us from heaven in the other New Testament books.
To be sure, there is progress in the revelation of God through the Son. In the movement of history, some things are superseded; others may be abolished. Some things are more important than other things. We must read the Book of God, not mechanically, but under the guidance of His Holy Spirit.
Sometimes we are asked: "What does it mean to 'keep' the words and commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ?" We can answer that at least one thing it cannot mean is to put ourselves back under any legalistic system of any kind. But positively we have some texts which shed light upon the problem. One is 1 Kings 14:8, where the Lord speaks of King David as one who "kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes." This is God's pronouncement upon the total life of David, a man who had failed terribly more than once.
Another passage is found in the New Testament in John 17:6. Here we stand upon solemn ground and hear the communings of deity, the Son reporting and praying to the Father. And concerning the men who had followed Him during the days of His flesh. He reports an amazing thing: "They have kept thy word." Reflecting back upon the ways of these weak men, we think of their selfish ambitions, their frequent failure to receive the truth, their quarreling at the Last Supper, the impending denial of Peter and the doubtings of Thomas. Yet the Lord, who knows the hearts of all men, beholds these weak and vacillating men lovingly, and says, "They have kept thy word"!
Surely this judgment is not based upon any legalistic balance between so many things done and so many things left undone, but rather upon the state of the heart and the direction of the life course. They loved the Lord and treasured His words and they were faced in the right direction.
6. The will of God revealed in the written Word must always be seen in the context of God's grace. I have already touched upon this, but now we shall discuss the matter at some length. Nothing could be more crucial. Unless we see the will of God "in the context of His grace," we shall always be in danger of reverting to old systems of legalism or building new ones. It we center upon the "will of God" and ignore that "context of grace," it is possible to erect a legalistic system even on such books as Romans and Galatians!
But consider now how carefully the Scriptures put the will of God in the context of His grace. In Romans 12:1-2 we are besought to realize the "will of God," but the exhortation comes to us "by he mercies of God." In 1 Corinthians 8:7-11 we are taught how careful we should be in our treatment of "weaker brethren", and the ultimate argument used is that the weak brother is one "for whom Christ died." In Philippians 2:2-5 the writer exhorts us to a life of love and forbearance, to be concerned with the good of others rather than our own things.
And how is this lofty ideal to be reached? The apostle approaches his readers through the love and mercies they have found in Christ (Phil. 2:1), and he closes the appeal by setting before their eyes the gracious condescension of the Son of God as He stoops from God to humanity, and then from humanity to death, even the death of the Cross (Phil. 2:5-8).
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 21)