ďThe Church and The LawĒ†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††May 12, 2013

1 Timothy 1:1-11

 

SI:Last Sunday I started a sermon series on 1 Timothy.

1 Timothy is part of a trilogy of letters usually called the Pastoral Epistles.

†† The Pastoral Epistles are 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus.

The reason they are called Pastoral Epistles is because Paul wrote them

†† to pastors.Timothy was a pastor in Ephesus.Titus was a pastor in Crete.

 

Most of Paulís letters were written to churches.Romans, Corinthians, etc.

†† He wrote them with the whole congregation in mind.

†† But these three letters he wrote to individual pastors about their churches.

And as I said last week, thatís what makes these letters so unique and interestingó

†† in them we hear pastors talking shop.

Paul the great apostolic pastor talking to pastors in local churches.

 

Pastor to pastor, what was Paulís analysis of church?What were his concerns?

There is a bluntness and depth to this pastor shop talk that

†† provides a fascinating glimpse into early church life.

It also show us that very little has changed from then till now.

†† And it enables us to see Christ Covenant more clearly.

 

Credit where credit is due.

Iíve leaned on two 1 Timothy sermon series very heavily,

†† one by Dr. Robert Rayburn, the other by Dr. Ligon Duncan.

 


 

INTRO:There was a movie that came out years ago called Pacific Heights.

A young couple buys a very expensive old house in the Pacific Heights

†† neighborhood of San Francisco.Itís divided into three apartments.

They plan to live in one, and rent out the other two in order to pay the mortgage.

†† They get some good tenants in one of the apartments.

†† But the man they rent the other apartment to is a con artist.

 

Now apparently, San Francisco has the strictest tenant laws in the nation,

†† in terms of protecting the tenant and making it difficult for the landlord

†† to inspect his property or to evict someone.

So as the plot develops, you realize that this con artist knows the tenant laws

†† backwards and forwards.And he sets about doing things to provoke this young

†† couple into breaking the law so he can sue them and get possession of property.

 

He moves in but never pays rent,

†† because he knows that legally the eviction process will take months.

He also knows they cannot inspect his apartment without going through legal

†† rigmarole, so he changes the locks and starts breeding cockroaches.

That drives out the other tenants, and suddenly this young couple is faced with

†† a financial disasteróthey arenít getting any rent, they canít pay mortgage,

†† they have legal bills.

†† I wonít spoil it for you, but they fall into his trap and things get out of hand.

A big part of the tension of the movie is realizing that the lawó

†† which is intended to protect people and propertyóis being used for evil ends.

 

Paulís number one concern in letter, the thing he presses home with Timothy over

†† and over is the supreme importance of the Gospelóthe good news of Christ.

Anything in the life and teaching of the church that detracts from, erodes, or

†† contradicts the Gospel must be opposed by the pastor and elders and deacons.

Because if the Gospel loses its preeminence, then the ministry of the church is over.

†† The church may continue institutionally, but there will be no heart and power.

†† People will not be changed.

 

Paul goes through the teaching and life of the church and addresses certain

†† key issues with Timothy.Here is where the Gospel is in danger, and here.

And the first issue that Paul addresses is how the church uses the law of God.

†† If a church uses the law rightly, then the Gospel is magnified and adorned.

†† But if a church misuses the law of God, then the Gospel is contradicted.

 

In the church in Ephesus, where Timothy was serving as pastor,

†† there were certain people who liked to teach about the moral law.

By the moral law, we mean the Ten Commandments and all of the other laws

†† of Moses that have to do with our duty to God and to our neighbors.

We donít know exactly what it was that these people in the Ephesian church

†† were teaching, we donít know exactly what their main focus was.

Paul doesnít bother spelling it out to Timothy in this letter because

†† he knows that Timothy is dealing with it every day.

 

But whatever it was, it was attractive to people in the church.

†† These teachers were developing a following.

It was interesting to people, it was scratching an itch, it was meeting a felt need.

†† It was seen as something that was helpful to their Christian walkó

†† the next big thing, something exciting, something dynamic.

 

What could be wrong with teaching the moral law of God in church?

What could possibly be wrong with saying:Please open Bibles to Exodus 20?

†† Letís read and study the Ten Commandments.

But thatís exactly the tension and the problem in the Ephesian church.

†† It was wrong.Not the law itself, but the way it was being taught and used.

†† The way it was being applied to the Christian life.

 

Look at verse 8.Paul says:

†† Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully.

This is a huge concern of the Apostle Paul, not just in this letter,

†† but in many of his lettersóthe proper use of the law in the Christian life.

But here, as he speaks pastor to pastor, Paul is addressing the effect of the law on

†† the life and ministry of the church.You have to get this right.This is big.

 

Listen to the way Dr. Rayburn puts it:

There are few perspectives with deeper and broader implications for oneís understanding of the Christian faith and practice of the Christian life than the perspective one has on the law of God.(Says at this point that it is even more significant than if you are a Calvinist or Arminian.)I suspect many Christians do not realize how profoundly their whole understanding of their faith is shaped by the view of the law of God that they have been taught to believe. What one believes about the law determines how one understands the salvation of God!

 

Two headings:

1.Misusing Godís law

2.Using Godís law lawfully

MP#1Misusing Godís law

We donít know exactly what these certain persons were teaching about the law.

But when you look at the Bible and church history, there are two basic ways that the

†† law is misused.Every church susceptible to these misuses of the law, even ours.

These two fundamental ways of misusing the law are usually referred to as

†† legalism and antinomianism.

Neither one of these terms are found in the Bible.

†† They are terms that theologians have coined to help us talk about this subject.

 

Letís start with legalism.

†† Iím sure youíve heard the term, maybe youíve even used it.

We toss around the term legalism far too easily.

†† I donít know how many times Iíve heard somebody sayó

†† That person or that church is legalistic.

Legalism is not a Christian who thinks itís wrong to drink beer.

†† Donít call a fellow believer who thinks itís wrong to drink or smoke or

†† wear makeup or listen to rock music a legalist.Thatís something else.

Itís a problem, but itís not legalism.

 

Legalism is a serious doctrinal error that contradicts the Gospel.

The Gospel is that we are made right with God by his grace alone.

The Gospel is that through the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ,

†† and our union with him, we become the beloved sons and daughters of God.

The Gospel is that it is through faith in Christ alone that we are saved.†††

 

Legalism says that keeping the law earns your salvation and all its benefits.,

†† You get into Godís grace by obeying the law, by doing the right things.

Legalism also says that you stay saved, you stay in Godís grace,

†† and you ultimately get to heaven by keeping the law.

You not only get in by your obedience, but you stay in by your obedience.

†† So if you sin, if you disobey, you can lose your salvation.

And connected to this, legalism teaches that you obligate God to give you certain

†† things you want by obeying his law.In a sense, you buy his blessing.

 

Allison and I once knew a couple who had a number of miscarriages.

They were Christians, but very immature, very weak in faith.

†† They had gotten some legalistic teaching about tithing.

†† This book they had read or preacher they had heard said that if you tithe,

†† if you obey this commandment, then God has to bless you.

I mention that example to point out another feature of legalism.

It always narrows the law of God down to a few specific acts of obedience,

†† or to a few specific and particularly bad sins.It has to in order to work.

It canít take the whole law of God in all of its parts and the searching depth

†† of the law that judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart and tell you to

†† obey that in order to be saved.So it narrows it down to particular things.

Outward actions.Socially damaging sins.That sort of thing.

†† And it leaves all sorts of internal sins untouched.††

We donít have time to explore all the pathologies legalism causes in churches and

†† individualsócriticism, anger, despondency, touchiness, shame.

 

How do I get right with God?

How do I stay right with God?

How do I get Godís blessing?

†† The Gospel says itís through grace, the work of Christ, received by faith alone.

†† Legalism says itís by keeping certain rules and laws.

Itís a deadly error, because it cuts you off from the grace of God.

 

But there is another deadly misuse of Godís law that often crops up in the church.

That error is antinomianism.

†† Anti means against.Nomian, nomos means law.Against-the-law-ism.

What is it exactly?

†† Well, if legalism is the view that the law can be used to earn salvation.

Antinomianism is the view that Godís gracious salvation frees the Christian

†† from the obligation to obey the law.All you have to do is believe.

 

Now, antinomianism is more subtle than it sounds.

†† It is not saying that Christians can lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery

†† and murder with impunity because our sins are forgiven in Christ.

Well, there have been some antinomians that have gone that faróbut very few.

 

Mostly antinomianism teaches that when you are saved,

†† you donít have to be concerned any longer about keeping the law.

When you are saved, you shouldnít think of the Christin life in terms of obeying

†† Godís commandments and getting it right but only in terms of loving God.

And if you do that, just focus on loving God, the Holy Spirit will produce

†† fruit in you without any need for laws and commandments telling you to obey.

If you think about the Christian life in terms of obedience to Godís law,

†† then you will not be a truly free, truly spiritual Christian.

That sounds appealingólove over law.But itís a false, unbiblical contrast.

†† Loving God and loving his law are not contradictory.

And when Christians and churches separate them, and say that weíre just going

†† to love God and not talk about the law and sin, then inevitably, inevitablyó

†† Christian character and morality declines.And God is not loved as he should be.

 

More to the point of 1 Timothy, this view of law erodes and contradicts the Gospel.

†† Because reason God has saved us is so that we can live holy lives.

†† And God has given us his law so that we will know what that life should be.

So what does Paul mean in verse 9 when he says that the law is not laid

†† down for the just, but for the lawless and disobedient, the ungodly and so forth.

 

That certainly sounds, at first reading, that Paul might be saying something like this.

†† That this law is not for justified, forgiven people, law not for Christians.

But that is not what Paul is saying at all.

†† He is making the point that the law is concerned with morality.

†† It is concerned with defining just behavior verses sinful behavior.

 

Look at the context.These people who were troubling the Ephesian church claimed

†† to be teachers of the law, but their teaching was full of myths and speculations.

In other words, they were unconcerned about practically applying the law

†† to the lives of believers.They were unconcerned about practical morality.

That is Paulís criticism.That is what he is telling Timothy he must address.

†† The law is Godís will for how we are to live.It is the judge of all behavior.

 

So what does antinomianism look like in a church?

It usually shows itself in an unwillingness to teach moral responsibility

†† for Christians.An unwillingness to talk about the law and sin and

†† the need to fight the good fight and strive to obey God even when hard.

†† It avoids the nitty-gritty and mostly tries to make you feel good.

 

I have an old friend who lives in another state.

†† He has called me several times over the past year in great frustration.

He says:How can I complain about my pastor?All he preaches on is grace, grace,

†† grace.How can I complain about that?How can I complain about grace?

But there is something wrong.

†† When he comes to any difficult passages that tell us how God wants

†† us to live, any hard subjects, challenging calls to holiness, he skips over those.

 

And my friend has deeper concerns, because he sees a growing lack of self-control

†† in the pastor and his wife in some particular areas that could harm them and

†† the church and he wonders, is there a connection?

Is there a connection between how they are living and his unwillingness

†† to preach on the law of God calling us to live holy lives in response to his grace?

†† Of course there is a connection.

 

Now, let me ask you a question about Christ Covenant, our common life.

Which misuse of Godís law are we most likely to fall into?

†† Legalism or antinomianism?

Are we more inclined to focus on a few key rules and commandments

†† and say obey, obey, obey in order to get Godís grace and blessing.

Or, are we more inclined to say grace, grace, grace and avoid Godís law

†† and the call to a holy life?

 

Iíve got my opinion about which is our greatest danger.

But we must be diligent not to fall off on either side.

†† Big part of that will be using Godís law rightly.Brings to second point.


 

MP#2Using Godís law lawfully

Thatís Paulís terminology.

†† ďWe know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully.Ē

 

First, you use the law lawfully

†† when you use it to get more of Godís grace and blessing.

That might sound like Iím contradicting myself.

†† I just said that legalism is using the law to earn Godís grace through obedience.

†† Legalism is thinking that your obedience obligates God to give you things.

†† That God owes it to you to work things out in a certain way.

†† But weíre not talking about earning or demanding.

The Bible says that there are blessings that follow obedience.

†† And the Bible often motivates Christians to obey Godís law for that very reason.

 

It says over and over and over that in keeping his law there is great reward.

†† It even says that God loves you when you obey particular commands of his.

†† God loves a cheerful giver, that sort of thing.

This is not status, this is not about getting in or staying in or obligating God.

†† But it is acknowledging the fact that Godís law is good, and that knowing it,

and obeying it, and following it pleases him and is the path to the best life.

 

Where is that in this passage?

When Paul starts talking about the law in these verses, and criticizing these

†† people who are misusing the law in the Ephesian church,

†† he gives a list of vices, a list of sins, starting in verse 9.

 

The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the

†† ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane . . .

Did you notice a pattern to this list?

†† Can you see why Paul mentioned these particular sins in this particular order?

†† Let me give you a hint, heís echoing the Ten Commandments.

 

The ungodly and sinner, the unholy and profane refer to commandments 1-4.

†† No other gods before me, no graven images, do not take name in vain,

†† remember Sabbathóbreaking these commandments violate the holy,

†† they profane holy thingsóGodís name and worship.

Then look the next sin on the listóThose who strike their fathers and mothers.

†† Thatís the fifth commandmentóHonor your father and mother.

†† Paul is describing the very worst, actually striking your own parents.

Whatís next?Murderers.The sixth commandment is: Thou shalt not kill.

Whatís next?The sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality.

†† The seventh commandment is:Thou shalt not commit adultery.

†† Itís Godís moral law governing our sexuality.

†† Both heterosexual immorality and homosexual immorality break his law.

 

Whatís the eighth commandment?Thou shalt not steal.

†† What next on his list?Enslavers.Stealing men and women to steal freedom.

†† That was a common practice in the Roman Empire.

Whatís the ninth commandment?Thou shalt not bear false witness.

†† Paul lists liars and perjurersólying under oath.

 

Then look at Paulís last viceóďand whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.Ē

†† One commentator describes this last phrase as a ďrather lame ending.Ē

But itís not lame at all.Paul is making a profound statement about moral law.

†† ďSoundĒ doesnít mean orthodox or correct.It means healthy, life-giving.

Paul is saying that the law, and correct understanding and application of the law

†† is going to have something to say about every aspect of your life.

And that if you follow it, the result will be soundness, wholeness, health, life.

 

If you buy a new car and follow the ownerís manual, you will get many years.

But if you break those rules.If you hitch up a plow and use your new car as a

†† tractor, it will soon be a useless pile of junk.

The law of God is our heavenly Fatherís ownerís manual for human life.

†† If you want a full and rich life, live by Godís law.

If you are truthful, generous, loving, faithful.There will be blessings.

†† If you lie, steal, indifferent, unfaithful.There will be curses.

†† There are laws God has established to govern nature, laws to govern morals.

 

There is not a single commandment that will not enrich your life if you obey it.

So the best thing for you to do is to keep all of Godís commandments

†† with care and attention to detailóthe laws governing your time, your money.

†† your relationships, your responsibilities in the church, and in your family,

†† and to your neighbor.†† Every command is a path to Godís best for you.

 

There are some of you whose lives are a shadow of what they could be for God,

†† and for other people, and for yourself because you arenít keeping Godís law.

You think you know better than your heavenly Father what you ought to do.

†† You are being very foolish.Your life could be so much better.

Second, you use the law lawfully when you use it to love God more.

The Christian life is loving God.

†† Itís not just a list of rules, itís not a code of morality.

†† The Christian life is grace, grace, grace.

Grace to us when we sin and fail and break every one of his commandments

†† in thought, word, and deed.When we sin the same sin over and over.

†† His grace comes to us.

And what is the response to that grace?

†† To love him by obeying him as he wants to be obeyed.

 

After Paul gives t his list of vices.After he runs through the Ten Commandments,

†† he ends by saying:Iíve been entrusted with the glorious Gospel.

Then he gets personal.He starts telling Timothy about himself.

†† Look at verse 12 and following.

 

I was a sinner.I was the worst.I broke all the commandments.

†† But I received mercy.I received Godís grace and patience.Praise him.

Now Timothyówhatís the only appropriate response to that grace?

†† fight the good fight, wage the good warfare, faith and a good conscience.

†† In other words, knowing and striving to follow all of Godís laws in particular.

 

This is the way Jesus put it:

†† ďIf you love me, you will obey what I command.Ē

Where do you need love Christ more?

†† Where do you need to obey his law more carefully and diligently?

Maybe his laws about money and giving?

†† He has many commands about money.Donít love money.

†† Be content with what you have.Give generously and cheerfully.

 

Maybe his laws about rearing your children?

†† He commands you to talk to your children about the faith.

†† To pray with them.To read them the Scriptures.Bring up in nurture of Lord.

†† Are you obeying those commands or forgetting them and letting years go?

Maybe itís Jesus commands about marriage or forgiving your enemies

†† or guarding your tongue.All of us have different weaknesses and challenges.

 

And as you love him and obey him, the Gospel is magnified and adorned

†† by your life.

 

There is a poem about the law and the Gospel

†† written by the old Scottish Presbyterian Ralph Erskine.

 

†† ďWhen once the fiery law of God

†† Has chased us to the Gospel road;

†† Then back unto the holy law

†† Most kindly Gospel grace will draw

 

Heís saying that first Godís law is like fire.It shows us our guilt.

†† It shows us hell and wrath.And that chases us to the Gospel.

†† Chases us to Christ for forgiveness and grace.

 

But what then happens?Do we forget the law?Are we done with it?

†† Not at all.After we are saved, the Gospel kindly draws us back to the law.

 

Why does it draw us back?Because itís through the law that we express

†† our love for God as his sons and daughters, and our gratitude to Christ

†† for his great salvation.

 

We must be a church that uses Godís law lawfullyó

†† to seek his blessing, the blessing of living by his power as the people he as made

†† us to be, and to love him by doing what he commands.