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Why didn't God just start with grace?

Why didn't God just start with grace?   Why put His people through the Old Covenant Law with it's painfully exhaustive list of "do's and don't's?"  Why not go right to the good stuff?

Because the Law had a temporary, but genuinely merciful purpose. 


Our tour group was pulling over at a rest stop in Denali National Park, Alaska.   As we were getting out, our tour guide immediately cautioned that we were in active Grizzly habitat.  There was a sign about 300 feet away that read, "Warning, actively grizzly area.  Stay away."

If we had chosen to ignore the posted warning sign and gotten between a Grizzly sow and her cubs, the surgeon's needle sowing our scalps back on would have served as a painful reminder just how foolish it would have been to ignore the clear and present danger. Ignorance hurts.  Foolishness hurts even more.

Similarly, our medication bottles often come with a warning label saying, "Do not exceed recommended dosage."  The label itself cautions that there is something at risk: You.  But, "If one pill makes me feel good then five pills would make me feel great!"  Maybe so, but the intense vomiting or drug-induced coma that follows will be a painful reminder that sin hurts. 

The law was a temporary form of grace.
  The Old Covenant couldn't offer a cure for foolishness and the even greater pain of trying harder not to be so, but it mercifully made clear the painfulness of chosing against life.  Against health.  Against wholeness. 

We'd beg God to free us from chronic arguments with our spouse, the addiction to emotional eating, the pull of porn that won't let us go.  Sin hurts.  Ignoring the warning signs hurts.  And when it hurts that badly, you want help:  When you spin your wheels long enough, you want to stop the madness.



"As long as an intense longing for deliverance from sinning has not been wrought, they will naturally fall back into the power of the law and the flesh.  The holiness which the New Covenant offers will rather terrify than attract them..."  - Andrew Murray

Ask any addict or person who has tried harder to be a better person:  Grace is far more attractive to the powerless than it is to the prideful.  The Old Covenant Law's painful exposure mercifully ushered in a craving for authentic goodness, a desire to get out from underneath sin's manure pile.  Sin hurts.  Goodness restores us.  We'd beg God to free us from something that had a hold over us.

Law created a craving for grace. 


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Reader Comments (7)

The answer I have for this question, briefly follows.

The need for Law, was because of man's ignorance of God's thoughts and ways, in order to prosper in His Creation. It's probably why the Church still uses laws in its teachings.
The arrival of the New Covenant came with "grace and truth" (Jn.1:16). It's like a "smart phone;" instructions (laws) are necessary until one comprehends its design and purposes. Jesus brought truth which revealed God's will in His creation of this world.
God's truth is written in our Bible, which must be examined (meditation) for God's revelation. Man's truths about this world are purely subjective and speculative.

January 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Wong

Thanks for your thoughtful response, Joseph. I agree that the Law was to awaken people to God's ways. Ironically, it served to only inflame sin rather than tame sin.

Great smartphone metaphor! It's as if the New Covenant of grace is that intuitive "love God, love neighbor" that all the Law and Prophets now hang upon and are subsumed under. Because God's ways are now "written on the heart," we can move more intuitively with His Spirit.

P.S. It's ironic that I had a seminary professor long ago named, Joseph Wong! Great man.

January 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJim Robbins

I am so please to receive your response to my comment. It was my attempt to get your attention. The concept in your book (learned from reviews, not by reading.. yet) is a concept the Lord has been nurturing in me for over 25 years.
To the Good Heart, are additional Scripture which complete the concept. How does Scripture answer the question, "If my very heart seeks to do what is good, why do I still sin?" I found three passages that answers that question: Rom. 7 (flesh), Rom. 12:2 (mind), and Eph. 6:11 (Devil).

BTW, there are many Joseph Wongs in ministry. I have served the Chinese churches on the West coast for over 50 years. I know a Joseph Wong who taught at Arizona Bible, and Multnomah Bible. Then there was a prof. at Asbury or Concordia? Seminary.

January 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Wong

Hey Joseph. You raise an important question, if I may paraphrase: "If a Christian's heart has been made pure and good by Jesus, then why can a Christian still sin?" You're right to point out the remaining sources of sin:

1. The flesh - that remnant of our former selves. This is not our "old nature" for that was removed with the old heart. Rather, the "flesh" is a lingering echo of our former self-bent nature.

2. "Sin in the flesh:" Again, the sin isn't in the heart any longer, but acts more like a stubborn virus lodged in our bodies.

3. The enemy: One of Satan's favorite tricks is to whisper a sinful thought to us, then blame US for it.

4. Though we have access to the mind of Christ, our reminds are still being renewed.

January 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJim Robbins

Dear Jim;

Thanks for "squarespace services" to revive my desire to establish contact with you. Not just to challenge your concepts, but to add, what I've been learning to this "truth."

I consider the "flesh" to be referring to our bodies, period.. (which could seem like a remnant of the old) "Who will deliver me from this 'body' of death. Why is our body the culprit for our sinning? Because we, as a natural man does, tend to walk by the flesh. [R0m.8:1-6]
Our flesh, with its senses tells me that the real world is detected by them. That world is what is "real" to me, by which I am to walk. We must learn to walk by the spirit, which understand that the "reality" that matters, are invisible to our flesh and are spiritual. We must learn to set our minds on the things of the spirit, rather than the things of the flesh.
Rom. 8 gives the answer to the cry of despair at the end of chapter 7.

Jesus brought grace AND truth to the new covenant. (Jn.1:17)
3 John 1:4 suggest the greatest thing for a Christian to learn is to walk by truth. ("no greater joy...") The problem is not waking by truth. The problem is knowing which truth to believe. The truth we believe form the reality we perceives. (see Chris Thurmond's "The Lies We Believe") If we believe lies, our perception of reality is false, and we will be walking in darkness.

Therefore, Rom. 12:2, tells us that the way to change our behavior is to "renew our mind." We need God's Truth to give us a correct comprehension of the reality. It seems that we all tend to walk in harmony with the reality, we perceive. If we believe in evolution, our conversation, our debates, our teachings will be in harmony with the 'reality we believe.'

So, in brief, those are the two obstacles to our walking godly lives: our flesh, our un-renewed minds. When we know the truth, meaning the realities truth reveals, Satan attacks us with fear, (Yes, he also tempts, and deceives) being different, being unreasonable to our physical senses. Only our "conviction," and our "assurances" through FAITH (Heb.11) will enable us to triumph and please God.

I look forward to your response.

Joseph Wong

September 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Wong

Hi Joseph, You make a good point about the role our bodies play in "the flesh." With the senses we receive information about the world, and with the mind we interpret [for better or worse] those sensations and images. Our interpretation of what is real and true may not always be accurate; therefore, we need the renewing of the mind, as you suggest.

I don't believe the body is the exclusive manifestation of "the flesh," but a very significant one for sure.

September 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJim Robbins

Hi Jim;

I find that my writings are not always grasped. It is one of the reasons I have not produced a book. Writing is a challenge for me. I've shared a portion of what I would include in a book I would entitle, Truth-based Living. I believe it is the goal for every Christian to master.

I see that the righteous heart is only a part of the reality in God's salvation of the sinner. What I consider to be sanctification, is the process by which the righteous believer learns to live righteously. (I think it is the spiritual maturity that Willow Creek's "Reveal Now," is seeking)

I believe this process is summed up by the apostle John in 3John1:4. "I have no greater joy than to hear my children are walking according to truth." Walking by truth is the core concept which encompasses the other NT exhortations: walk by the spirit, and walk by faith.

Let me offer a brief summary, for your consideration
The purpose for walking by truth, is to discern the realities God created. What is truth? Truth is a statement, giving an accurate description of a reality. It's purpose is to enable us to comprehend the reality. Only God's truth is reliable for this task. Man's truth is subjective and experiential, very unreliable, and a suspect to falsehood. The issue for truth is not in being relative, but whether it is reliable.

A very important aspect in learning the reality is its design and purpose. (vs. size, color, texture, etc.) Does God's truth reveal those qualities about His creation. For instance, "What is a woman?" The aspect of reality that's important are the invisible qualities. The invisible qualities are the spiritual qualities. It is these qualities which are to guide our responses to the realities. The physical realities are minor. Jesus said, "It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh accomplishes nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." (Jn6:63)

Secondly, we are to walk by the spirit, and not to walk by the flesh. The spiritual realm is invisible to our flesh. But it is natural and easy to set our minds on things of the flesh, the physical things. The answer to the despair of the Christian in Rom. 7, is in Chp. 8:4 "in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit."
(beware of the translators, who renders "spirit." "Spirit." :-()

Finally, we are to walk -not by sight- but by faith. All spiritual realities are perceived in our minds by faith. Faith is our assurance and our knowledge of what is not seen; "I know that my Redeemer lives." When our minds are renewed with the spiritual realities, we will walk in harmony with them. Faith is a result of truly "hearing" truth. I teach that Psalm 23 is made possible for us, if the first five words are real to us. Do we walk by faith, when we see the valley of the shadow of death?

It is my desire and hope that what I wrote will stir up some thoughts for you.
His and yours,
Joseph Wong

September 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Wong

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