In the last two articles (Part1 & Part 2) I have discussed the roll of grace in the gospel, and specifically, the way that grace is the catalyst for transformation. This entire blog is dedicated to explaining a paradigm shift that I believe will be beneficial for any believer searching for a more consistent view that will help make Christian doctrine seem more congruent and less schizophrenic; A view, where 1John 4:8 & 16 can make sense without any possible contradiction. One can be confident that God is love without convoluting the definition of love to include torture and various other damnations.
So then, if grace is the catalyst for transformation what roll should law play? To answer this question in the simplest manner I would suggest that it should be used for direction. Not as a legal requirement but as a guide. One of my favorite verses is found in the epistle to the Galatians. “Gal 6:7-8 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. (8) For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” I can hear you pausing now and saying *damn Joe* you have written one hundred and forty posts about unconditional grace and this is one of your favorite verses? ;) Yes, it is one of my favorite verses because it explains very succinctly the law of karma… what goes around comes around.
The problem with the cautionary scriptures resides in the view that the Law of God has eternal consequences and punishment. I don’t think that the scripture suggests that at all. I think our understanding of the scripture and the grammatical historical hermeneutic of the Scribes and Pharisees leads one to believe it but, I think that in using Jesus and his followers heremeneutic, redemptive historical hermeneutic that one can come to very different conclusions about the eternal consequences of the law.
If one is not being adjudicated righteous by obedience to the law--- the law, can lose its damning qualities and begin to have instructional, tutorial, guiding qualities. It can be used as an ideal to reach toward instead of a taskmaster that must be met or suffer pain of dire consequences. It can be a reflection of the heart of Father God explaining how he would have us treat one another.
Galatians 6:7-8 is the description of the reality of what will happen especially in this life. Humanity has instituted laws to regulate behavior for the good of the society or group. Murder will be punished by life in prison. These penalties are not eternal they are temporal and they actually work well in deterring unwanted behavior. I know from experience that bad choices, selfish choices will result in bad results. Yet, within God’s grace I have found redemption of my worst failures. This is not just in eternal terms… the redemption for me has been temporal. I am sure that it is that way with many of you.
Eternal consequences are mitigated by grace. There is much more to say on this but I think that it will be better addressed in subsequent posts. What if we treated the law as a guide and not as a yardstick to be met? How would that change things? How would that allow grace to transform us? Especially if the entire ecclesia was on the same page. I can dream can’t I?