Be Like Abe Part 4
This week, we continued in the “Be Like Abe” series; examining grace and what it is that Abraham believed that God counted as righteousness. Titus 2:11-12 focuses on how grace teaches us to say no to ungodliness. In Romans 7:9, Paul says that when law came, sin was revived. Some translations say that sin sprang to life. However, the Greek word that is used there, anazao, only means to revive. So that means that sin had to have been alive, was put to death and then was revived.
I believe that one way of looking at this relates to when we receive Christ and forgiveness of our sin, we enter a life of grace by faith apart from the law. As we (supposedly) “mature” in the Lord, we are put back under law with all of the rules and regulations of being a “true Christian.” In doing so, we resurrect sin. Paul said numerous times in numerous ways that law magnifies sin and brings death to us. Law does not stop sin, but defines and magnifies sin.
Another related view of this statement in Romans 7:9 takes us all the way back to the Garden of Eden. There were two important trees in the Garden – the Tree of Life that they were to eat freely from, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that they were NOT to eat from. “Knowledge of Good and Evil” sounds a lot like law in its goal of showing us how to be right before God by doing good and avoiding evil. God told Adam in Genesis 2:15 that if he ate of the tree, he would surely die. God did NOT say that He would strike Adam down as punishment for his disobedience. He said that if he ate of that tree, death would come. Go back to the many times Paul equates life under the law to death. It is fruitless and does not produce righteousness.
For further evidence that this tree did represent life by law, we should look no further than what happened when they ate of it. The results were EXACTLY what happens when we live by law and fail (sin). Adam and Eve were ashamed, they covered themselves with fig leaves because they were suddenly ashamed of their nakedness, and they avoided God. When you are not under grace, but law, when you sin you are ashamed and try to hide from God (as silly as that notion is). You will avoid Him until you feel you have paid for your sins and are once again worthy to be in His presence. Of course, our works never make us worthy, so we either never come back or we lie to ourselves by somehow thinking we’ve managed to produce righteousness.
Under grace, we feel guilty for our sins, but that grace draws us nearer to God for help in dealing with our sins, as opposed to separating us from Him. Grace helps us understand that He loves us, and that love is unconditional. He doesn’t want you to struggle with sin. He wants to help you overcome it. You can’t do it yourself!
If we were to look at what I would call a timeline of law and grace, it would look something like this. At the fall, God placed a wall to keep man from continuing to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There was an era of grace that lasted between Adam and Moses. This was the time that Abraham lived in. He could be considered righteous by only believing God. Then when the Law came through Moses, that wall was removed. Man was freely eating of that law tree, and it was producing death. It continued to do so without restraint until Jesus Christ came and fulfilled the law, became a sacrifice for us and resurrected. This resurrected the wall that kept man from eating of that tree. We can still, by our own will, eat of it. We can reject the work Christ did and go back to eating of law.
Now, the exact opposite happened with that other tree. Man was kept from eating of the Tree of Life out of God’s mercy. Once man had the knowledge of law, sin and condemnation, it would have been brutal to live eternally. Cutting man off from that tree was not a punishment, but protection. So, why did God put that tree in the Garden if He knew what it would produce? Why create it at all? Was God just playing some cruel game with His creation? This could be discussed in many volumes, but the very short answer is that He HAD to do what He did. Man could believe God at His Word – which is a demonstration that we love Him, or we could choose to disobey and NOT trust Him. Love is not love unless there is a choice to not do so. Without the option of a choice to disobey, obedience is not genuine. How amazing is God’s grace and mercy, that even in our disobedience, He began to immediately make a way to overcome it.