Love for Christ and Law Keeping

Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by Peters, Jul 22, 2005.

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  1. Peters

    Peters Puritan Board Freshman

    "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15).

    How does one nurture this love for Christ before law keeping?
     
  2. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I would say that it is not just in law-keeping that one shows love for Christ, but in believing that Christ would not lead us anywhere but for our immediate and ultimate good; and that believingly keeping His law is our best road in our love for Christ.

    If you have been introduced to Christ as being the God-man who covered all our sins, and granted us confidence to approach God's throne through His righteousness ( not just religious words, but a very real and important turning point in your life ) then implicit trust in His leading, as being in His providential care, is involved. And therefore believing in and trustingly keeping His commandments are an expression of that faith.

    But on the other hand, merely keeping the commandments alone does not lead to faith. And lack of faith means lack of love for Christ. Any emphasis on law must be preceded by, and must be an expounding of, love for Christ and our neighbour, and of trust in His leading.
     
  3. JKLeoPCA

    JKLeoPCA Puritan Board Freshman

    in my opinion,

    The law keeping aspect of the Christian life is out of a spirit of gratitude. The Laws Hold us as guilty before them, point us to the grace found in Christ who fulfilled the laws demands, and shows us what a life of pleasing service looks like. As a Christian i do not see the laws as a check list to achieve something, but that they are things that my Father finds pleasing, thus as His child I want to do them, although I know my attempts don't earn me anything. I just want to do that which pleases and honors my Father (a strange concept in our day).

    :2cents:
     
  4. Peters

    Peters Puritan Board Freshman

    So it is faith alone that nurtures love for Christ and law keeping is just a consequence?
     
  5. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Every use of the means of grace is a nurturing towards love to Christ.

    Every means we have we shoudl use to nurture that love.

    By prayer, the sacraments, the preching of the word, the reading of the word, etc., it is stregnthened. (1 Peter 2:2; Acts 20:32; Rom. 1:16-17; Matt. 28:19; see Acts 2:38; 1 Cor. 10:16; 11:23-29; Luke 17:5; Phil. 4:6-7)

    But, we must remember, it is wholly by the grace of Christ that such love overflows and errupts. WCF 14:1, "is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts." WCF 16:3, "Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ."

    John 15:4-6; Rom. 8:4-14; Ezek. 36:26-27

    John 15:4-6 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

    Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

    Ezekiel 36:26-27 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
     
  6. Peters

    Peters Puritan Board Freshman

    Scott, would you not say that all of these things are commanded of us? How does one love Christ before any of these things manifest that love? I want to see if it´s possible to *not* understand John 14:15 this way:

    "œIf you have been justified, keep My commandments"

    These are not loaded questions, by the way. I really want to know what you guys think. Thanks to those who have commented thus far.
     
  7. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome." 1 John 5:3
     
  8. Peters

    Peters Puritan Board Freshman

    That is definitely a relevant verse, John "“ thanks. So is this the way of things:

    If you obey My commandments you will keep My commandments.

    [Edited on 7-23-2005 by Peters]
     
  9. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    You lost me, Marcos. I'm not sure I'm understanding the problem. As I understand it, those who are not in Christ cannot keep the law even if they keep it to the letter, because the commandment is to love God and your neighbour. The one not in Christ is not doing that, no matter how strenuously he keeps the letter of the law.

    Also, faith fulfills the law, and without faith it is impossible to please God. The one not in Christ does neither of these, either express faith or please God, again no matter how much he keeps the letter of the law.

    And finally, even the smallest of sins cannot ever be atoned for by keeping the law without flaw after the fact.

    Even the person who is in Christ cannot bear the weight of keeping the whole law, no matter how hard he tries. That is how deep the hold of sin is. So whether one is in Christ or not in Christ, one cannot please God by keeping the law. So one cannot become a Christian by keeping the law.

    But that was not your original question. You want to separate love for Christ from keeping the law. And that is the point I'm trying to raise here. I don't think you can. Just becoming a law-keeper after becoming a Christian can become nothing more than pretense. It is not that keeping the law makes you a better Christian; it is in the practice of keeping the law that you learn more and more to please God through faith and love. As they say ( Francis Bacon, I believe it was ), practice makes a better man. The law instructs you in righteousness, matures you in faith, and nurtures you in fellowship with God and with your neighbour.

    So if you meant to say that keeping the commandments instructs you in keeping them better, just because of thankful love, then I would agree: keeping the commandments leads to keeping the commandments. I just don't see how one has love for Christ before keeping the commandments; for no one can keep the commandments to begin with; and turning in love to Christ is a much a keeping of the commandments for a new convert as a more mature and fuller keeping of the law is for the more mature Christian. So just becoming a Christian is already a keeping of the commandments.
     
  10. Peters

    Peters Puritan Board Freshman

    Sorry, John, for being unclear. Because you quoted 1 John, which I assumed was your equating law keeping with love for Christ, I just put that together with John 14:15 to see what it would look like. It looked like this:

    If you obey My commandments you will keep My commandments.

    What does it mean to love Christ before law keeping? How is it done, since Jesus intimates that our love for Him can be present in the soul prior to keeping His commandments?

    Is this an issue of sanctification by faith and not justification by faith.
     
  11. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    Are you getting at the idea that love for Christ is the motivator, then asking, How can I love Christ more?

    Sanctification is a benefit of justification, it's a package-deal from what I understand; if you are justified, you will be being sanctified in this life. Effort doesn't do it, for the reasons John stated so well, trust in Jesus and what He has done for us is a means both to loving Him more and to sanctification, so in that sense it probably is by faith.

    Sanctification-by-faith is a buzzword of Wesleyans and other revivalist perfectionists, so you might get some sparks if you use that phrase here. I'm sure you didn't have that in mind, though.
     
  12. Peters

    Peters Puritan Board Freshman

    Hey Meg

    Kind of, I think. However, not so much that I become a great law keeper (even though this will certainly result) but so that I become a great Christ lover. That is, a lover of Christ irrespective of the consequences, a lover of Christ because of who He is objectively. Pefect law keeping, then, does not become my goal in sanctification (because it is only a consequence), but growing in love Christ does.

    Would you call this sanctification by faith?
     
  13. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Marcos:
    It sounds something like sanctification by works through law. Not that I don't unuderstand that you're talking about love for Christ before law-keeping; I think I understand that. Its just that this forces the issue of law-keeping being a separate part of sanctification after law-keeping, which is Federal Vision theology. There is also a shadow of five-year-old Theonomy in there. In trying to explain things, I am trying to avoid, even evade, these ideologies.

    I'm not saying you're a FV-ist. I'm just very reluctant to satisfy your question when it seems to have to result in that direction.

    [Edited on 7-24-2005 by JohnV]
     
  14. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    Could you unpack that, John? I don't see anything about falling out of the covenant or about justification in there at all specifically. Did I miss something?
     
  15. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Meg:

    I'll try. I did not mean to give a whole account of the salvation process, but merely to put the before and after part into its temporal setting. So this entire thought is within the covenant, not outside of it.

    The part about Federal Vision which I was pointing to was the part where justification becomes a faith plus works after the original justification. I'm no expert on FV, but I've noticed that these men tend to make two justifications: one at conversion, which is partial justification; and one at judgment, which is the overall justification. Since it is that the second one counts more heavily than the first, it follows, for them, that there must be a faith plus works according to the law. Because it is not what the gospel says, but is a subjective interpretation, it is hard to pin it down to this specific charge, since their defending of their views give first this meaning then that meaning to what they're saying.

    But the point of my reference was not to suggest that FV was being argued for, but rather to give an example of the end result of separating the before and after, as the question would have it. To say that there is a before to law-keeping in being a Christian, and an after, is to suggest that becoming a Christian is not a law-keeping on its own. I am saying that "after" one becomes a Christian it is more a matter of keeping it more than there is one of not keeping it "before", but still a Christian. I was not talking about before becoming a Christian.

    Before one is a Christian, then even if a person keeps the entire law whole, but has not faith, he is not keeping the law, since love for God with the whole heart, soul, and mind is the summary of that law. But as a person becomes a Christian, truly so, then it is because of the love that is kindled in his heart; which, though it may not as yet be accompanied by fuller knowledge of the law, is fulfilling the summary of that same law, by loving God with all the heart, soul, and mind. As one matures in faith, in faith-experience (through trials), and in knowledge of Christ and of God ( through reading and prayer ), one also matures in law-keeping. It is that he wishes to live for his Saviour with all his heart, not that he thinks that his works will win him anything on their own. They do win him something, for there is reward for faithfulness, but works are the result of an active faith.

    Someone once remarked that, between opinion and knowledge, the more one knows with certainty and the less he merely opines, then the less he acts on faith. For, it was held, that faith belongs with opinion, not with sure knowledge. But of course our rejoinder to that is immediately that it is foolish not to believe and have full faith in what you know with certainty. And that is how we answer to those who think our faith is built upon our uncertain opinions, or beliefs that spring out of our own imaginations and limitations. Our faith comes from a God who communes with us through His Spirit and by His Word. But we do not know Him yet as fully as when we have lived under His guidance for many years; and not yet as fully then as when we shall behold Him face to face. In comparison one would say that he did not keep the law back then, not as he does now. But that is not how God sees it. For it is Christ's law-keeping from start to finish that earns us justification, not ours. So there is no real before and after in justification, except in our perception of our own sanctification. And our sanctification is being led by the Spirit, not by ourselves.

    Marcos is quite right, I think, that law-keeping leads to more law-keeping. But that is because it is exactly the same as saying that love for Christ leads to more love for Christ. Therefore, the original love for Christ was also a law-keeping. We are no more justified after many years of service as we are at the start, for one is either justified or one is not; and it is by Christ's eternal merit, not our temporal merit, as if we had any. Marcos had to be referring to sanctification, for law-keeping is something that grows with faith.

    [Edited on 7-24-2005 by JohnV]
     
  16. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    Yes he was, I'm sure, referring to sanctification. I just didn't see the FV connection. It seems when I look back, that I mightn't even have been a Christian as late as last year. But I'll probably think that next year about this year.
     
  17. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I was just thinking about that today too. Here's my thoughts. You know, when I read my notes I sometimes think to myself, "I wrote that?" Sometimes I wonder what I was thinking, but also a lot of the time I remember what I was thinking, and I can see the many little steps I took in faith and growth. I don't mark up books, I take notes. That way when I read that book again, it is like the first time; and I take more notes. I try to keep up with rereading my notes, so as to keep a thread on as much as I can. I always think that yesterday I was not the Christian I want to be today. But there are the notes to prove that sometimes I am not the Christian today I was back then. Those notes help a lot.

    Just think of it, 104 or more sermons a year, almost daily discussions on the Board, books I've read, lectures I've attended, and little things you come across in everyday living, all piling up in notebooks, like a spiritual-life journal. I'm always afraid of losing a good thought. And if its a bad thought, then its still a good thought to jot down "bad thought", and keep the note.

    Why tell you this? Because you weren't not a Christian last year. It was Christ that saved you; and all you're looking back on is last year's sanctification compared to this year's. So if you see that much growth from year to year, then there is much to be thankful for.
     
  18. Peters

    Peters Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi John


    Are you sure? Why can´t law keeping be a consequence of sanctification instead of the goal?
     
  19. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Marcos:
    Your original question was: "How does one nurture this love for Christ before law keeping?" To this question I replied with a verse from 1 John 5, namely, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome." And you came back with "If you obey My commandments you will keep My commandments."

    So I took it to mean that your question could be taken two ways, whether is was asking about a deliberate attempt at law-keeping which is a result of original justification, or a law-keeping in and of itself, as a work not of faith, but as if separate from the original justification. I believe that justification is a once for all declaration, an acceptance into the fellowship of God on the basis of Jesus' righteousness, in that He gave His life as a ransom for those who are saved. Nothing need be added to that. I believe also, that the Holy Spirit works righteousness in the justified person through sanctification. Though it is an ongoing sanctification throughout this life, yet it is an assured finished work when this life is over, regardless of any limits that man may put on what a sanctified life would consist of. That is, nothing need be added to it. But the marks of sanctification can be seen in this life already.

    So law-keeping is both a consequence and a goal of sanctification. Law-keeping is a work of faith. But I don't think it is to be separated from the original work that is done by faith when one submits to Christ in the first place, for that too is law-keeping. That is the whole point of the law. But law-keeping in and of itself, apart from faith, is futile. Without faith it is impossible to please God. And though one may do the mightiest of works of faith, but have not love, it is nothing. So we have three things here: faith, love, and hope ( implied in the work of sanctification. ) "But the greatest of these is love."

    The artificial separation of these resulting in two justifications, the lesser at conversion, the greater at judgment, is a necessary consequence of seeing law-keeping as a separate work apart from faith, apart from the original justification. I don't mean as a part of sanctification, but as a separate justification.

    So I am agreeing with you that, "If you obey My commandments you will keep My commandments." But then you can't separate the goal from the consequence. In other words, love for Christ results in law-keeping; law-keeping is love for Christ. But law-keeping without hope, without love or faith is not law-keeping at all.

    That was why I reacted the way I did to
    I didn't mean to disagree, or to charge you with FV-ism, but rather wanted to be clear about separating law-keeping from that.

    Sorry about muddying the waters, Marcos.
     
  20. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I think I need to amend this, as it sounds as if our participation in sanctification is denied on the same basis as our participation in justification is denied. I would vehemently argue against this. This is carelessness on my part. I apologize.

    What I mean is that the work of the Spirit is done in us, as assuredly as our justification is done for us. This comfort keeps us from remorseful living, and gives us hope. Sanctification is applied to us as we work in hope of the final assured victory. To this we add all our effort. But the same assurance applies, as it is one hope, one faith, and one love that works in us by the Holy Spirit.
     
  21. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Law keeping is impossible without knowledge of the law.

    It is also impossible if the law isn't available to do its work.

    Let me explain.

    Psa 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

    According to this verse we need the word of God to convert or revive the soul. It must first be available. Then we must seek its treasure. We must sell all we have and go get the pearl of great price as in the parable Jesus told.
    We must seek Him while he may be found. We must seek His righteousness and Kingship.
    Then we must meditate upon his word day and night.


    Jos 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success



    Psa 1:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
    Psa 1:3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

    What does it mean to meditate? I think it means to prayerfully think and decifer the meanings and applications to which God is glorified in our thoughts and actions.


    (Psa 119:11-16 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes. With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.

    The best way for me to meditate and guard my affections are to memorize prayerfully the word of God. Select whole passages or verses that speak God's truth to your heart.
    As King David said. "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee."
    This is a simple but very effective way to keep your heart in the way that you should go. The word will make your spirit alive and alert. It will bring conversion and love for Christ. It will guide your conscience. It will draw your affections to the one who wrote you such a wonderful love letter. It will reveal His majesty and wonder.

    So if you desire this love that will keep your heart in his law, prayerfully meditate and memorize the word of God. Hide it in your heart.

    I use to carry verse packets with me so that I could memorize God's word. They were index cards in a pouch. I would memorize verses in portion while praying. It is very rewarding.

    This is a good Place to start. Psalm 2, Psalm 8, Psalm 19.

    (Psa 19:9-14) The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

    [Edited on 7-26-2005 by puritancovenanter]
     
  22. Peters

    Peters Puritan Board Freshman

    How does this fit with being justified by faith *apart* from the works of the law if faith in Christ is law-keeping?

    No need to apologise, brother. I understood what you meant"¦I think :D
     
  23. Peters

    Peters Puritan Board Freshman

    Martin

    I like what you wrote, brother. It reminds me of John Owen's book The Glory of Christ. The whole thrust of the book was that we must behold the glory of Christ *by faith* now, in this life, and this can only be accomplished through the Scriptures, prayerfully, studiously, and meditatively.

    This is what sanctifies the believer "“ beholding the glory of Christ *by faith*.
     
  24. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Again, I was unclear. Thanks for pointing that out.

    When the Spirit bends our hearts unto faith and obedience, it is an act of God apart from any of our works. But this first act of faith is a work coming from that faith too, in that the heart turns to God. When we submit to Christ, and that is called a conversion, it is an act of obedience. It is not a result of obedience, but and obedience as a result of being granted repentance and faith. But an obedience implies a law to obey. So, technically, even the first act of faith is a law-keeping; in fact the law-keeping that starts all subsequent law-keeping which is an overt effort of the penitent. So we are saved unto faith apart from works; but from the very first there are works resulting from that faith.

    But, Marcos, I'm being too technical probably. This may not be answering your questions.
     
  25. Peters

    Peters Puritan Board Freshman

    John, do you think that faith is commanded in the Law?

    This seems to be the only way to make sense of what you´re saying. This way, by a sovereign act of the Spirit of God, faith, as a work, can be wrought in us *apart* from any contribution (obedience) on our part.

    Is this what you´re saying?
     
  26. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    That would be fair, I guess. We are commanded to keep the law, and we are told that faith fulfills the law. So it follows that faith is a command implied in the law. It would also explain to us what the Reformers meant by Total Depravity.
     
  27. Peters

    Peters Puritan Board Freshman

    Then we are sanctified in the same way that we are justified - by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone?
     
  28. just_grace

    just_grace Puritan Board Freshman

    Commands...

    His commands are not burdensome, look at the ark that contained the commandments, quite small and light and carried by 4 people, He just wants us to love one another as He loved us.

    Because it's ALL GRACE.

    David

    [Edited on 7-28-2005 by just_grace]
     
  29. Robin

    Robin Puritan Board Junior

    Marcos,

    You've (perhaps inadvertently) missed the meaning of this important Text by changing the wording. It reads:

    John 14:15"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

    The context of the entire conversation, Jesus describes (indicative language) what "being in the Spirit" is like. Keep reading, Jesus makes the "I will" statements in verse 18. He WILL ask and the Father will give....This is covenant/Gospel language. It is an oath Christ is swearing to fulfill His covenant promises the same as YHWH does in the OT.

    Think about it....the sense of "you will" XYZ is either an indication of WHAT IS (indicative); or it is a command TO DO XYZ (imperative.) The context of Jesus' entire mono-log reveals the truth.

    Faith is NOT a work! It is a gift - the connection that links us to Christ. To think that faith is a work in any sense, misses the understanding of the "call to faith" in the Gospel.

    Btw, your original question of "loving Christ".....we can only love Christ because He FIRST loved us. That's the answer. He does the work; He gives dead-souls, faith.

    Ezekiel 37 (read the entire chapter) in the valley of dry bones...the bones are dry, scattered....NO hope of regeneration. Until, the Gospel is proclaimed - then the breath of Life: the Holy Spirit bids them stand and live, Etc. This is a prophecy about the church age, where the Gospel is preached and creates faith in the hearts of the "dead."

    Let us ALL be very careful with God's Holy Word....and never-ever read a Bible verse. Read the whole book; chapter; epistle, Etc. Find out what the writer intended to communicate to the reader.

    :candle:

    Robin
     
  30. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Marcos:

    Thank you for your questions. Its helped me a great deal in going through some questions that I myself had. Last night a light came on. Dealing with your questions sparked it. Thanks.

    As to answering your question, there is a yes to it and a no to it. Of course it is all grace, from first to last. But the sanctification requires your participation, otherwise it is dead works. It comes out of faith, but is an active living in faith.

    For example, last night was the night after a rain. I always get complaints in my job after a night's rain. They're really a nuisance, because it doesn't change anything. But the thing everyone else in my job does is become just like the petty complainers, becoming petty themselves. But I want to be like Christ, not like the petty complainers, so I do my best to satisfy the complaints, even though it won't change a thing. But it may happen that a clumsy guy like me, doing what I do, with the Holy Spirit working through me, I might change something. People may take notice of the example. But even the most eloquent and erudite won't make any difference if they are working outside the Spirit's influence. I believe in Christ, and I believe in truth, and I believe in God's love. So I want more to be like Him rather than become like the petty complainers.

    That's a work of faith. It so happens that it is also obedience to the law. The law teaches me how to do that, to live for and like Christ out of love. That came out of the original justification, for Christ did it all; but it is a work of sanctification now.

    If I did the same as all my co-workers, and said, "But I am a Christian!" I would just be a noisy gong. Do you see? Claiming sanctification without applying your faith is really fooling yourself. Yet the fact that you can work on applying your faith is a grace as well. The two work together. This makes it very clear to the person who is living his faith that his faith or his works are not meritorious in themselves, but are granted abilities which will be applied as merits on the basis of Christ's merit. A person who pats himself on the back for his faith or his spiritual growth has completely misunderstood. But a person who sees Christ patting him on the back for what Christ Himself has given sees it rightly.
     
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