This is the 22nd and final part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

The apos­tle Paul writes through­out his epis­tles that the law was given for a dif­fer­ent covenant and that believ­ers are not under its juris­dic­tion. He makes no qual­i­fi­ca­tions in this: he does not sep­a­rate the law into com­po­nent parts – moral, civil and cer­e­mo­nial – and he does not pre­scribe com­mands of the Torah for our Chris­t­ian walk.

Paul warns us of the power of the law to pro­mote sin in the flesh and implores us not to sub­mit to its yoke of slavery.

While John is often referred to as the apos­tle of love, love is a major focus of Paul’s teach­ing. (A search for “love” in the Pauline epis­tles returns 115 results in the ESV.) It is love that ful­fills the law in the Chris­t­ian; it is a per­fect love of God and of neigh­bor that is a reflec­tion of the rela­tion­ship among the Trin­ity and it is a per­fect love of God and of neigh­bor that is the out­work­ing of our com­pleted Christ-likeness in glory.

Until then, an increas­ing reliance upon the love of Christ – given to us by His Spirit –molds us more and more into His image.

No law can pro­duce the fruit of the Spirit. All that the law can do is pro­duce sin, despair, self-condemnation and self-righteousness in our remain­ing imperfection.

It is our union with Christ through His Spirit that results in our sanctification.

“I have come to real­ize,” writes Jerry Bridges, “that the deep work of spir­i­tual trans­for­ma­tion of my soul has been what the Holy Spirit has done, not what I have done. I can to some degree change my con­duct, but only He can change my heart.”[1]

Thus, while Paul gives us imper­a­tives in his expo­si­tion of what it means to be a fol­lower of Christ in our hearts and in our con­duct, those imper­a­tives have their basis only in the indica­tive of what Christ has done in us.

“[1] There is there­fore now no con­dem­na­tion,” self or oth­er­wise, “for those who are in Christ Jesus. [2] For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” ().

Next: Com­men­tary on this series, the after­math of the paper, and fur­ther thoughts on the Gospel vs. Law sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion debate — per­haps sev­eral posts!


[1] Jerry Bridges, The Dis­ci­pline of Grace (Col­orado Springs: Nav­Press, 2006), 106.

 


8:1 There is there­fore now no con­dem­na­tion for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (ESV)