Lord's Day Liturgy

The Law as Revealed Will

Those who believe in the sovereignty of God may not use the sovereignty of God as an excuse for their sin, but they can sometimes get close to doing so by acting confused. So if God ordains and works all things, that must include sin. If God ordains sin, how can He hold us accountable for it? This is a question that comes up in Romans 9, but one way to get help by looking at the law.

If God did not ordain sin, then Israel and his family would have died. Joseph’s brothers barely avoided murdering him, they sold him into slavery, and what they meant for evil God meant for good (Genesis 50:20).

Even more, nothing happened to Jesus that was not according to the predestined plan of God.

this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:23 ESV)

The most heinous, wicked sin of all time will be rejoiced in for eternity, even as it was by the believers in Jerusalem who lifted their voices to God who did “whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:24-28, see also Isaiah 53:10). The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes:

WSC 7: What are the decrees of God? A. The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.

This is God’s sovereign will; He is the one “who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11 ESV).

But as we exalt His power and authority, how do we also exalt His righteousness? God’s law is God’s revealed will.

WSC 39: What is the duty which God requireth of man? A. The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to his revealed will.

In His law, we learn what He wants (Romans 7:7). The law does have a few other purposes, but its clarifying work here keeps us from rationalizing our sin in theological terms. He has told you, o man, what is good and what He requires. Submit to His sovereignty, repent from your sin.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Communion Renewal

Paul established in Romans 6 that no one has power to resist sin or seek a new master apart from being united to Christ. Then he established in Romans 7 that the law, holy and good as it is, has no redemptive power, only a revealing work of sin. So we must be dead to the law and united to another, to Christ. The branches must abide in the vine if there is to be any fruit.

What a blessing to have a weekly time not just of remembrance, but of renewal in that communion.

By analogy, a marriage covenant is made by vows, recognized by law, and consummated in the marriage bed. The vows stand until they are broken; legal union exists between the husband and wife. The marriage bed isn’t making something true that wasn’t, but it is an experienced renewal of union and intimacy.

In Christ we are not ever out of Christ. That’s the logic of spiritual reality. And our understanding of it, our appreciation of it, and our application of it can get better and be more consistent.

We are proclaiming Christ’s death until He comes, doing it in remembrance of Him. But we are actually communing with Him, as we eat and drink by faith we are renewing our minds in the realities of our union with His body and blood.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Wretched Isn’t All

Those who fear God and are convicted by the Spirit before the standard of the law in Scripture usually don’t have good things to say about themselves. Agur said he was too stupid to be a man (Proverbs 30:2). Bildad told Job that before God, man is a maggot and a worm (Job 25:6), and he wasn’t wrong. Paul said he was wretched (Romans 7:24).

Wretched is one of those words that we feel more than we could define. We know it’s not good, a despicable character. The word Paul used is talaiporos (ταλαίπωρος), meaning miserable. It’s the antonym of μακάριος, blessed. In Romans 7 it’s not a natural conclusion, but a supernatural verdict in light of the law.

In any myth worth the breath it takes to tell, the wretch is the one to hate, the one to banish, the one to scapegoat.

It’s part of our identity, who we are. But wait, for believers there’s more.

Luther could say he was simultaneously justified and sinner (simul iustus et peccator). Paul could say he was the chief of sinners in order to be a recipient of God’s mercy and perfect patience (1 Timothy 1:15-16). And best of all, Jesus said He didn’t come to find the righteous, but sinners. The healthy don’t need a doctor (Mark 2:17). Jesus calls wretches.

So you are a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad wretch. You are also born again, declared righteous before the Judge by the Judge, adopted as His child, saved by amazing grace.