A Devotion for 11 February 2021 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. 4Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. 5And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. 6Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. 7Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 8He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:1-8; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
Though I have made more than frequent reference to the benefits of grace versus the Law in my devotions, I do not remember having written a devotion specifically addressing the manner in which these two are related. I will lightly address them in this devotion with the stipulation that literally tomes have been written in times past expounding on the subject, and the Bible references are so prolific as to far exceed the scope of a brief devotion.
Man seems to have little trouble accepting the reality of Law in the orderly conduct of society – whether on the side of Law or in its opposition. There must be set limits on behavior in any society to prevent chaos and hedonistic nihilism. The sinner is one who transgresses the Law; therefore, from whence comes the notion that the Commandments of God have been abolished – they have NOT been abolished but apply with greater force to the Christian today than ever before.
To begin a discussion of the Law of God, let us establish an understanding of which Law is in force – is it the Law of Moses in the rites and rituals of Temple sacrifices, or is it the Law written on Tables of Stone with the very Finger of God? I can assure you that it is the Law of God in Commandments that have forceful bearing on the lives of men and women in what might be termed the ‘post legalistic’ conformity of those who sat in darkness. The Light of Christ has illumined our hearts to justly understand the Mind of God in Commandments and enables us to obey those Laws and Commandments through the appeal of love on the heartstrings of the believer.
The Law is expressed in perfect terms and with stark clarity. There is no room for misunderstanding or equivocation. God’s Law is just as binding, in fact more so, to us today as when first proclaimed atop the heights of Sinai. I have heard egregiously erroneous preaching in our day that Jesus annulled the Commandments of God on the cross – what heresy (anti-nominism). The law and ordinances of Moses were, indeed, nailed to the cross – but not the Immutable Commandments of God. Each man, woman and child shall be held accountable for adherence to the Law of God and Commandments. The summary of the Law given by our Lord in Mark 12:30-31 and Matthew 22:37-40 annulled not the slightest jot nor tittle of the Law but sealed our obedience thereto by virtue of the Love with which God has imbued the hearts of believers.
So, what hope have we all, being guilty of sin and deserving of death, of salvation from the destiny we deserve? Have you sinned? “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) We have redemption through Christ by way of Grace – a grace which arises from the satisfaction (by Christ) of the death-penalty proclaimed by the Law – for Christ satisfied that penalty by His own blood to those who have been found under grace. “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” (Romans 3:24) The ultimate verdict of the Law is death; the ultimate verdict of Grace is Life Eternal.
So, what is the nature of Grace in counter-balance of the Law? “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) While the reward for our works under the Law is death, the reward for the believer (without works under the terms of Grace) is life.
There is one NEW Commandment the Lord gave us which is one of the Spirit – LOVE. This is not a potential, but a kinetic and inward spiritual force that is imparted by God. It is NEVER negative but always positive. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. . . . . 19We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:8-13, 19)
So herein is the source of GRACE – it is rooted in LOVE. It is not legally an act of pardon, but of justification under the terms of the law. Pardon does not remove guilt or pay its penalty – only the payment of the penalty; whereas GRACE absolves the sinner of all guilt under the Law as if he had never sinned. Why? Because our Lord Jesus Christ redeemed us under the Law and paid our penalty so that it no longer applies to us. In fact our sins are no longer accounted to our record. “He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19) So far, there are some points of the ocean deep which no man has seen to touched.
Suppose you were commissioned to measure the distance the east is from the west. How would you accomplish that mission? You can never get to the east by moving in a westerly direction – neither can sin be accounted to the record of a Christian saved by Grace: “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalms 103:12)
There is another quality of Grace that has not been covered herein: Grace is ALWAYS free! Law demands a price – a verdict and satisfaction.
Grace works unseen in the depth of the heart and soul, very much like the morning dew that distills silently and without observation on the petals of the rose at early dawn. It does not condemn but absolves. It does not condemn but justifies.
Allow me to relate this story from a century ago:
“A clergyman walking near a brook, observed a woman washing wool in a stream. This was done by putting it in a sieve, and then dipping the sieve in the water repeatedly, until the wool became white and clean.
“He asked the woman if she knew him.
“’Oh, yes, sir,’ she said; ‘I shall have reason to bless God to eternity for having heard you preach some years ago. Your sermon was the means for doing me much good.
“‘I rejoice to hear it. I pray, what was the subject?’
“‘Ah, sir, I can’t recollect that, my memory is so bad.’
“‘How then can the sermon have done you so much good if you can’t even remember what it was about?’
“‘Sir, my mind is like this sieve: the sieve does not hold the water, but as the water runs through, it cleanses the wool; so my memory does not retain the words I hear, but as they pass through my heart, by God’s Grace, they cleanse it. Now I no longer love sin, and every day I entreat my Savior to wash me in His own Blood, and to cleanse me from all pollution.’” THE CHRISTIAN DIGEST, 1921.
Sometimes our clergy and laypersons feel that our words fall on deaf ears. Perhaps so, but who knows where the seed falls in the hearts chamber to produce fruit in darkness in due season.