Understanding the Truth of Your Weakness and the Law of God
As we have walked through the Ten Commandments they each in their own way have both pointed us to the beauty of the Lord and reminded us why life is so much better when men order their lives according to His truth. However, we know that the problem with me is that they do not, because they are sinners, by virtue of Adam’s fall in the garden. In the next section of the WLC we are going to hear a number of catechism questions that explain to us what sin is, what sin does, and how we can flee from both its power and its evil. Sometimes this part can get skipped over because it meddles too much, well dear friends sometimes we need to be meddled with, challenged that we might more clearly see Jesus. Now to the Q/A:
Q. 149: Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
A. No man is able, either of himself, or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed.
Having completed the ten our Divines now come to the first use of the law. They have, in various ways, mostly by the what/why/how structure of the catechism’s take on the commandments, already in some sense done this. However, they want to always ensure that as we as believers are molded and formed into the image of God so that we do not forget that at its base the law acts as a mirror for us. In other words, the more the law is in our eyes the more we see the glory and perfection of the person of our Lord, and by that our inability to either match-up with Him in His holiness or keep the law perfectly in order to be saved is made known to us.
It is important for believers to never fail to recall that we are sinners, even after the historical application of the redemption purchased by Christ. Read Romans 7, or Romans 3 for that matter. We still struggle with the old man within us and when we cease to fight, we will be crushed by the weight of it. Romans 6 of course is taken up with recoiling against the idea that the free grace granted in justification (Romans 5) means we no longer need to follow the law, that we can be antinomians, that is outside the law. We are never away from the content of the ten commandments. This is a mercy from our God. But how? Jeremiah 31 testifies that we have them written on our hearts. 2 Timothy 3 reminds us that we have them in word and deed in the Holy Scriptures. They together in concert provide the good work of keeping us humble, and focused on what we were made to do, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. In what way does the law’s reminding us of our sinfulness do that? Well, again in awakening our conscience it moves us by grace through faith to look alone to Christ for our hope and peace. Confession of sin is truly a blessing for the soul.
Notice with me how Isaiah speaks about it in Ch.6:7 of his prophecy, “So I said: ‘Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’” He recognizes his sin only in light of the presence of Jehovah. As long as we keep the one along with the other it has the effect of not only moving us to repentance, but repentance by faith.
Isaiah’s entire tone in this scene is of a man who knows the Lord, as He is. Martin Luther is quoted as saying that when the devil came and threw his personal transgressions of the law in his face he would turn and respond with a yes, it is true, I have sinned, in thought, word, and deed, and yet despite this I fear not your accusations oh evil one, because my sins are forgiven in Christ Jesus, washed away by the blood of the lamb. I enjoy this idea (even if it is apocryphal) primarily for the reason that it perfectly summarizes for us what the catechism lesson today is encouraging us to know. You are a sinner, dead in your sins. Acting as if the grace of God received by the gift and grant of faith changes the reality of our need to be sanctified, to grow in that renewal of the image broken in the fall, mistakes what the gospel does and what the gospel offers in this life.
To further think about this let’s go to Paul in Galatians 2:17-21. First, he writes: but if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!“ Why is this the case? Read v. 20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” For our purposes today this living by faith is a holy resting and trusting in the finished work of Christ, and then in light of that with great hatred and grieving of our own sin seeking to be conformed away from the old man to the new man we are in our Savior. To go back to the language of the Larger Catechism for a second we heard the divines report that no man in himself, either in his natural state, or through the grace received in redemption can at any point in this life say that they do not, cannot, or won’t anymore break the commandments of God, to, in a word, sin. In fact we have a set of bible verses just for this occasion:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. – 1 John 1:8-10
In closing, it is a dangerous way of thinking to consider ourselves outside the need of the means of grace, outside the call to sanctification. Often we do not take advantage of worship, prayer meetings, the Sabbath Day, singing, etc… because we don’t think we need it. Brothers and sisters, if this catechism question teaches us anything it is the simple message that we need Jesus, and to especially experience the free offer of His forgiveness, daily, weekly, regularly, through the reminder offered in the Holy Spirit’s ministering labors. You, and I, are sinners saved by grace, cleansed and being cleansed, for the glory of God, both now and forever.
Here is a word more:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church