Major Texts: Psa. 19:7, 8; Exod. 23:1-9; 1 John 5:3; Rom. 3:19, 20; Exod. 20:11,12; Deut 5:15.
The lesson this week raises the question of the relationship that exists, or should exist, between the law and the gospel. in the minds of many, these two are not compatible, at least not easily so. One of the main reasons for this conception is that grace is kind and works by gentle invitation, being careful to allow place for personal volition while the law is seen to be harsh, demanding, requiring things no matter the volitional elements in life. We might say grace works by constraint while law works by restraint; grace does not apply immediate penalties while law seems to. So, in the life of the believer, how do these things relate and interact?
A key text – and a very helpful one it is – is 1 John 2:3,4. This passage suggests or implies that law-keeping may be a consequence of loving, that loving someone produces an interest and willingness toward complying with their desires and even dictums. John goes so far as to say that we believers do not keep “His” commandments, they are masquerades and liars, pretty harsh evaluations indeed.
Some issues and questions to be considered are these:
- What is the purpose and value of law in general terms. Why does law have to be articulated and written down? How would you like to live in a “lawless” place? What effect might that have on your life and living?
- What is the relationship between the character and purposes of God and the moral law he gave to Moses? If God is good, what might we expect of the laws he gave?
- Are there different kinds of law? And, if so, should all law be treated and adhered to with the same degree of diligence? How would you know when or if a particular law is binding in current circumstances? Do you agree that some laws are “universal” while others are not? How would you know the difference?
- Do you support the distinction commonly made between “ceremonial laws” in the Bible, and other kinds of law like “civil” or “moral” law?
- On what grounds would you argue that the 10 Commandments are still binding on Christians today? Could it not be said they were just for the Jews?
- What would you do with the Sabbath as a commandment? Is it possible that the Sabbath could lose its attractiveness and benefit if too much focus is put on the Sabbath as law?
It is helpful to consider the role and function of the Law. It is best to see the Law as something that works to convict us and show us the need of a Savior rather than trying to see it as something that entitles you to salvation if you can just manage to abide by all of its provisions:
- How would you deal with someone who saw the Law as a means to salvation, that if you want to be saved, you much achieve a state in this life where you do not sin?
- Have you ever come under the penalty of any law? If so, how did that affect your need for someone to save you? Or did you prefer to simply tough things out until you found your own solution?
- What has the repeated violation of God’s moral law done for humans? What do you think it would be like to live where all the people kept all the commandments?
- Think about the role of the law in the great controversy. What would the controversy be like if the law was not an issue? What particular significance would you give to the Sabbath commandment in the struggle?
In the bigger picture, the law and the gospel are not in conflict, at least not if there is an element of worship and willing association with one who saved us. Keeping the law then becomes a rather natural out-growth of a new relationship, an outgrowth of new life and also a response to grace. This preserves place for both love and right.