Afraid of Law

A lot of people seem to have a certain distrust of, or even dislike for, law enforcement. Of course, people who get in trouble with the law have their reasons, but even “law-abiding” citizens often react negatively to the well-hidden patrolman who sits by the highway with a radar gun. Many feel somehow cheated when they see those tricky officers in their unmarked cruisers.

I think it is fear.

We are afraid of getting pulled over, afraid that we might not be paying attention when the speed limit reduces to thirty-five, or afraid the officer might actually catch us when we don’t care about the speed limit. We are afraid of the law.

In our “rational” moments we would never admit to it. We believe we are model citizens, well-behaved and excellent drivers. But, deep inside we know better. We are afraid of the law because we don’t always keep the law.

That’s why you can be cruising down the highway right at the speed limit, with traffic moving nicely, until you near a patrol car driving just under the speed limit. Traffic piles up, brake lights flicker, and everyone is looking at the speedometer. We are all afraid of the law.

That is right where God wants us to be before He moves us on to the relief of grace. He wants us to be afraid of law, to feel trapped, harassed, and guilty. He wants us to get so fed up with “Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not,” so ashamed of our failures and criminal behavior, that when He introduces salvation by grace through faith into the picture we will jump at the chance to be free from law. That is why He gave us law (see Galatians 3:19-25).

But, we are not really jumping. Instead, we are often rather suspicious. There is finality and a kind of morbid safety in laws. At least with law we know exactly what to do and what not to do, at least we have stop signs and speed limits. At least with law we have a way to measure how good we are doing (grammatically speaking, I should say, “how well we are doing,” but, we think we are good).

That’s not the point of faith, though, and not the measure of our salvation. If it were then we would all be hopelessly lost, because we are all criminals. The point of faith is that Christ is good, so we must rely on Him. The point is that God doesn’t care as much about the speed limit sign as He does that we want to obey. It is that want to obey, to serve, love, worship, and live mindful of Him that constitutes faith, our instrument of salvation.

So, we ought to be jumping at the chance God has given us. We do not have to be afraid of law any more. We can put our faith in Christ and rest assured that we are safe, innocent, and lawful. The accuser will not catch us or find us out, if we want to serve our God.

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7 thoughts on “Afraid of Law

  1. I think ‘Justification’ by N.T. Wright would be a good book on this subject if you’re interested.

    I’m continuing to think through this question of justification, atonement, law, etc. It can be a very tangled web.

    • I still haven’t read any NT Wright books. I am getting there, though. I got side-tracked with Donald Miller and some other things. But, I have plans to read him.

      Yes, law and grace is a tricky subject sometimes, but it must be important since Paul talked about it so much. Maybe we don’t talk about it enough. What do you think?

      • Oh, I think we talk about it a lot. . .at least in my circles. Many times the discussion is not well informed.

        I’m summing up a huge amount of work on this subject so this is a gross oversimplification but. . .

        I think that ‘you are not saved by the ‘works of the law”, he isn’t saying that law isn’t important, now you have grace. ‘Works of the law’ were a specific set of ‘badges’ that made a person Jewish or ‘in the people of God’. Food laws and circumcision would be at the top of the list.

        Paul (I think) is saying that those are no longer the identifying marks or ‘badges’ of the people of God but that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is now that badge. The main point I’m getting at here is that Paul’s not saying. . .’the Jews had a legalistic religion and now we’re starting a new one that’s based on grace’.

        That’s all I’ve got time to write now, but it is a huge and important subject, I agree.

      • Mark,

        I agree that for many in Paul’s audience (in Galatians and Romans, for example) the “works of law” they struggled with in this regard were, as you said, those Jewish “badges.”

        However, what Paul says about law doesn’t only apply to the Law of Moses. It also applies to any “badges” we might have today that we use to distinguish “the people of God,” but that are not essentially Gospel badges. What I mean is that Paul’s point is that we are God’s people by grace through faith (the Gospel), and not because we are amillennial or acappella. Even if our positions on those issues are good an right, they are still not the badges of salvation. The Gospel saves, not those laws.

        So, I also agree that Paul is not contrasting a legalistic former Jewish religion with a “new” religion of grace. Salvation by grace through faith has ALWAYS been the only means of salvation, and it is nothing new (that’s the point of Romans 4:1f). But, what Paul is contrasting is a Jewish problem of trying to identify those who are saved based on whether they keep certain laws, and our present-day problem that is very much the same. It’s also the same problem the Gentile Christians had while they were still idolaters (see Galatians 4:8-9, “elementary principles of the world,” compared with the same phrase referring to the Law in vs 4). The problem is man-made requirements of salvation.

        Anyway, I’ll be posting more as I discuss the Gospel in a new series of posts, so check back and offer your feedback. I would love to hear what you have to say as we go through the texts and ideas.

  2. “our instrument of salvation” – I love that phrase.

    I think so many today get the cart before the horse turning salvation into a legal code, rather than an understanding that Jesus became our righteousness. I am not implying that the saved live lawlessly, but live in free to obey. No longer under bondage but saved unto good works.

    Do you think pride can be the root of individuals who think they somehow can meet Gods standards as if they can stand before God blameless in their own righteousness. I do not mean the unsaved, I mean professing Christians who view the law as a means whereby they can stand before God. I know well-meaning people who teach such and when I talk about Grace, I become “liberal” or worse.

    • Hey Randy,
      I agree that “putting the cart before the horse” is a good descriptor. People work to be saved rather than work because they are saved. It’s a fine line in our minds, sometimes (though not in God’s).

      I do think pride can be a major contributing factor…of course that’s not the case with those who are afraid of law…they are not prideful, I don’t think, they are just walking on egg shells. The other side, the pride issue, is those who love the law. And I agree we should love God’s laws for the guidance they give, but what I mean is those who love law because they use it to categorize people and elevate themselves. They feel self-righteous because they think they do a pretty good job of keeping laws.

      That probably deserves another post, and I may tackle that soon.

      Thanks for your comments. It’s good to hear from you again, Randy.

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