One of the big things that we deal with as peace officers is correctly balancing our enforcement efforts between the spirit of the law versus just the letter of the law (yes, there is a balance). Clearly, however, it is not always an easy balance, and there are indeed times when the "spirit" and the "letter" become one in the same. The same holds true for our lives as Christians as revealed in God's Word, the Bible. My recap of our last chapter-by-chapter study through the
Gospel of John deals just this subject. Let's dig in:
John Chapter 5 contrasts the God's love and grace through the healing power of Christ (and His power in general) with the powerlessness of dead legal ordinances. As stated in my opening paragraph, we see this contrast with what we do in police work. Generally, the goal is to apply the spirit of the law, yet, all-too-often with "the brass," there is an insistance on enforceing the letter of the law. Example? There are those supervisors who will actually write-up an officer who loses his cover (hat/cap) in a foot pursuit or battle with a resisting offender because "policy" says we have to wear our covers! Doesn't make much sense, does it?
Now here in
, Jesus and the paralyzed man He healed found themselves in very similar situation. Instead of praising God for the healing, the Jewish religious leaders were incensed that the now healed man picked up his bed roll and carried it on the Sabbath (see
The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath
John 5 can be summarized as follows: All judgment is committed to Christ so that those who have been born again in Him would not come into judgment. The end of the chapter sets forth the testimonies that have been born to Him, and the guilt therefore of those who have rejected Him as Lord and Savior. To have life (salvation), God's divine power was needed; but in rejecting Him, in refusing to "
repent and believe" (
Mark 1:15) in Him that they might have life, they did so in spite of the most overwhelming, irrefutable EVIDENCE.
In his commentary, John Darby writes: "The poor man who had an infirmity for thirty-eight years was absolutely hindered, by the nature of his disease, from profiting by means that required strength to use them. This is the character of sin, on the one hand, and of law on the other. Some remains of blessing still existed among the Jews. Angels, ministers of that dispensation, still wrought among the people. Jehovah did not leave Himself without testimony. But strength was needed to profit by this instance of their ministry. That which the law could not do, being weak through the flesh, God has done through Jesus. The impotent man had desire, but not strength; to will was present with him, but no power to perform. The Lord's question brings this out. A single word from Christ does everything. "
Rise, take up thy bed and walk." Strength is imparted. The man rises, and goes away carrying his bed (literally, a bed roll or mat). It was the Sabbath-an important circumstance here, holding a prominent place in this interesting scene. The Sabbath was given as a token of the covenant between the Jews and the Lord." Yes I know...pretty deep stuff!
But it had been proved that the law did not give God's rest to man. The power of a new life was needed;
grace was needed, that man might be in right relationship with God in Christ. The healing of this poor man was an operation of this same grace, of this same power, but wrought in the midst of Israel. The pool of Bethesda supposed power in man; the act of Jesus employed power, in grace, on behalf of one of the Lord's people in distress. Therefore, as dealing with His people in government, He says to the man, "
Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee."
Now, the miraculously healed man told the Jewish religious leaders that it was Jesus who healed him. Instead of rejoicing in his healing, the Jews rose up against Jesus under the pretense of a violation of the Sabbath (the letter of the law). The Lord's answer is deeply affecting, and full of instruction -- a whole revelation in fact He declares the relationship, now openly revealed by His coming, that existed between Himself (the Son) and His Father. It shows that neither the Father nor the Son could find their Sabbath (law) in the midst of misery and the sad fruits of sin. God in Israel might impose the Sabbath as an obligation by the law, and make it a token of the previous truth that His people should enter into the rest of God (the point of the Sabbath was to spend time with God, not a bunch of silly rules).
Another truth came out from that which the Lord said: He revealed His equality with His Father (another picture of the Trinity). But the Jews, proud and zealous for their dead religious ceremonies (the letter of the law), saw nothing of the glory of Christ but rather sought to kill Him as a blasphemer. Darby adds that "this gave Jesus occasion to lay open the whole truth on this point. The Son is in full union with the Father, does nothing without the Father, but does whatsoever He sees the Father do. There is nothing that the Father does which He does not in communion with the Son; and greater proofs of this should yet be seen, that they might marvel. This last sentence of the Lord's words, as well as the whole of this Gospel, shows that, while revealing absolutely that He and the Father are one, He reveals it, and speaks of it as in a position in which He could be seen of men. The thing of which He speaks is in God; the position in which He speaks of it is a position taken, and, in a certain sense, inferior. We see everywhere that He is equal to, and one with, the Father. We see that He receives all from the Father, and does all after the Father's mind (this is shown very remarkably in chapter 17)." It is the Son, but the Son manifested in the flesh, acting in the mission (a "call for service") which the Father sent Him to fulfill.
How may we know, then, to which of these two classes we belong? The Lord (praised be His name!) replies that those who hear his Word and believe (pisteuo in the Greek, meaning to totally surrender to Christ in faith) in Christ for their salvation , has everlasting life (such is the quickening power of His word), and shall not come into judgment (ultimatley Hell). He is passed from death into life. What a simple but powerful testimony!
Darby goes on to write that the Lord points out four testimonies rendered to His glory and to His Person, which left them without excuse: John, His own works, His Father, and the scriptures. Nevertheless, while pretending to receive the latter, as finding in them eternal life, they would not come to Him that they might have life. Poor Jews! The Son came in the name of the Father, and they would not receive Him; another shall come in his own name, and him they will receive. This better suits the heart of man. They sought honor from one another: how could they believe? Let us remember this. God does not accommodate Himself to the pride of man-does not arrange the truth so as to feed it. Jesus knew the Jews. Not that He would accuse them to the Father: Moses, in whom they trusted, would do that; for if they had believed Moses, they would have believed Christ. But if they did not credit the writings of Moses (evidence), how would they believe the words of a despised Savior?
The Son of God gives life (salvation and yes, healing), and He executes judgment. In the judgment that He executes, the testimony which had been rendered to His Person leaves man without excuse on the ground of his own responsibility. Here, in
John 5, Jesus shows us both grace (spirit of the law) in contrast to and in balance with the letter of "the Law." It is the Son of God who, with the Father, gives life, and as Son of man judges.
So where are YOU today? Are you serving and seeking God according to the spirit (and Holy Spirit) of the law (grace) or are you holding onto dead religion or so-called "good works" (without Christ) in the letter of the law? Folks, it is only in the the latter that there can be any validity to the former. Accordingly, please consider the following: