Holiness Makes Obedience To Divine Law Possible
“Because we are not under the dominion of the law as were the Jews, before the Gospel dispensation, that does not free us from obedience to the law.” Jesus set the matter in a clear light in The Sermon on the Mount, in which He said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfil.” Men had been trying to work out their salvation by their works of righteousness, but had failed. Salvation cannot be obtained by our good works for all our good works will not atone for our sins. More than that, no man ever could keep all the law of God in his own strength. If he fails in one particular he is guilty. St. James says, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point is guilty of all.” The law is not like a string of beads independent of each other, so that if one be broken the other is not affected. It is rather like a golden ring. A break in it is a break of the entirety of the ring. A break in the law of God is something done contrary to the divine will. The ten commandments are cautions to us, put up at the ten points or principles where it is possible to act contrary to the divine will
.Jesus came that we might obtain the power to keep the divine law, which the Jewish church had failed to do.
There are many people today, who assert that it is impossible to keep the law of God. If that be true then God has commanded an impossibility. We had rather be a Pharisee relying on our good works to get us into heaven than a professed Christian denying that there is power sufficient in divine grace to keep us from breaking the law of God.
Jesus came to save us by His atonement so that we can keep the law of God. He came to create us anew for good works. Paul says, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” The people who say we cannot be kept from committing sin, contradict this scripture as well as the whole trend and teaching of scripture.
Our actual sins or sins of action are voluntary. John Wesley defines voluntary sin as “The willful transgression of a known law.” St. John says the same thing virtually when he says, “Sin is the transgression of the law.” He also says that “whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin” and “whosoever committeth sin is of the devil.”
The prophet Jeremiah foretold this when he said, “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts.” That is, God puts such a love for His commandments in the hearts of His children that they delight to keep His commandments. Jesus said to His disciples, “If ye love me ye will keep my commandments.” Every regenerated soul keeps the divine commandments because he loves God. This love has been “shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Spirit.” It is a supernatural love. Such a soul can say with Jesus his Elder Brother, “I delight to do thy will, O God.”
This love-sacrifice is entirely different from the service of a slave. Those of the Jews who sought to keep the divine commands, were like slaves, who obey from servile fear or like the ritualistic devotees of today. We once went to a camp of volunteer soldiers during the Civil War. A spirit of cheerfulness and joviality pervaded the entire place. Later we saw a carload of substitutes, who for a certain sum of money had taken the place of drafted men. They had to be guarded by armed volunteers lest they run away. Their countenances were devoid of animation. It was an enforced service. This shows the difference between a love service and a forced service.
The illustration of two commanders and their followers taken from the classic legends of Greece is often used to illustrate the difference between love service and a forced service. When the first commander and his company sailed by the enchanted rocks, where the beautiful sirens sported, he was obliged to put wax in the ears of his men lest they hear the bewitching music of the sirens, and also to tie them to the mast of the ship lest they leap overboard to go to the charmers. But the second commander had Orpheus, a musician, whose music so surpassed that of the sirens as to make it sound discordant. He had the power of a superior service. It is so with a true child of God. Duty is a delight and disobedience is repugnant, because of the divine love in the heart. It overcomes the desire of doing evil.
But there is one drawback even in this love service. It is before divine love has been made perfect in the heart. Before that time, strange as it may seem, divine love within the heart at times has to struggle with the carnal nature in order to do that which we delight to do. Entire sanctification, as we have shown before, removes this warring element from the soul and makes it a delight to do the will of God.
But the objection is often made in the form of this question. Is not the love of God put in the soul at regeneration perfect? We reply, Yes, in kind but not in degree. This love is not perfect because it is mixed with the tendencies of the carnal mind or, to state it in another way, it is associated with the carnal mind. Just as other minerals are mixed with the veins of pure coal in the earth and when brought to market the whole mass is called mixed, although the coal itself is pure. This is what St. John means when he says, “Herein is love with us made perfect.” This is the marginal translation of I John 4:17. When the man of sin is cast out of the heart, then our love service is free from all internal hindrances. This is religion made easy.
Is not this reasonable? Is it not in harmony with common sense that the hindrances to our loving God with all the heart should and must be removed from our nature that we may keep the great commandment, that includes all the other commandments, viz. to “love the Lord with all the heart?”
Thus far we have been considering voluntary sins. We now take up involuntary sin-those that we unwittingly commit, otherwise called sins of ignorance; sins that fall below the divine standard of rectitude. What is our relation to them? Can we render a perfect service to God? We reply, NO. Consequently provision has been made in the divine economy to justify certain people who fail in rendering a perfect service to God. Under the Old Testament economy a sacrifice was offered every year for sins of ignorance. Under the New Testament dispensation, “love is the fulfilling of the law.” For, says Paul, “the end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned.” God allows perfect love to fill up or supplement our imperfect service, just as a father accepts the love and devotion of a child who is making sad mistakes when trying its best to please its parents. He allows the love of the child to fill up the imperfection of its service.
Therefore if our hearts be full of love to God, we can come up to the spirit of the law even if we fail in the letter.