The Inescapable Law
by Preston Foster
As truth-seeking Adventist Christians, we expend a great deal of energy learning to embrace what the New Covenant says about the law. That is, we are not under it. Even this quarter’s SDA Sabbath School Lesson, a repository of historical / traditional Adventist thought, makes it clear (well, kinda, sorta) that as the works of the law cannot save us, we are not under it. Still, many are not comfortable with the seeming ambiguity that comes with being led by the Spirit. They contend that the New Covenant also demands law-keeping (1 John 5:3). They may be right.
Clearly, the Bible says that, under the New Covenant, God will write the law in our hearts (Hebrews 10:16). The question is which law is that?
Some believe that the 10 commandments, being God’s perfect law, is that law that is transferred from tables of stone, by the Spirit, to the chambers of our hearts. Others interpret the Bible to mean that Christ fulfilled the Old Covenant law (Luke 24:44) making it obsolete — though not void (2 Corinthians 3:7, 11, 13, Romans 3:31 KJV), freeing us to live as the Spirit leads, without mirroring the 10 Commandments.
All of this can be debated indefinitely.
One thing is certain. We are, still, under one inescapable law: the law of love (1 John 3:23, 24, 2 John 5, 6). The lawyer, looking to entrap Christ, asked Him what was required to gain eternal life. Jesus told him to read the law of love aloud (Luke 10:27). The lawyer responded, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all the soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thy self.” Jesus told the lawyer, “This do and thou shalt live,” (Luke 10: 28).
Somehow, we avoid this obvious truth, as it often inconvenient for us. Other, more specific laws (i.e. not killing, stealing, coveting, or Sabbath keeping) are thought to be harder to keep. However, I believe the opposite is true. It is hard to love your enemies (Matthew 5: 44, 46).
Have you noticed that there is virtually no faction that is dogmatic about keeping this love of love? It is fairly easy to find vigilant law-keepers and abstainers (of all stripes), who can recite the church manual, verbatim (James 4:11). On the other hand, there are those who chafe at boundaries, thinking that any counsel toward moderation puts the yoke of the law around their necks. Each faction is pre-occupied with the other (Matthew 7:3). Yet, each faction protects the existence of the other, knowing that they provide a useful, work-avoiding distraction. Finding people who are radical about loving God and their neighbor is THE challenge. Who are “The Lovers?” Is there anyone who aspires to be identified as such?
Keeping the law of love demands selflessness, which is the opposite of human nature. Other laws can, rather easily, be kept in letter, if not in spirit. Arguments about the law would be rendered moot if we would accept what Christ and Paul synthesized about the law: if the law of love is kept, it satisfies the whole law — however it is defined (Matthew 22:40, Galatians 5:14, James 2:8). This is where our penchant for works should be employed (James 4:17).
In my favorite sermon, Dr. Martin Luther King’s “The Drum Major Instinct,” he discusses the proper use of our egos and ambitions. Dr. King speaks of how James and John asked Christ for high positions in His Kingdom (Mark 10: 37). Dr. King notes that Christ did not rebuke them. Christ simply pointed out that these positions were reserved for those who were willing to serve (Mark 10: 43-44). Dr. King, concludes by saying that, if, after his death, anyone chose to remember him and “his desire to be out front . . . to be first, to lead the parade,” he wanted to be remembered as being “first in love.”
Where are the other members of that all-too-exclusive club?