Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,’ “You shall not covet, and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law’.
Last week, we looked in detail about how the whole of the law is summed up in the commandment of loving our neighbor as ourselves. We also saw how people take loving God out of the picture and try to only love their neighbors. But we saw how that is impossible because in our natural state we are all selfish and incapable of loving others like ourselves.
Today, we are going to see how God transforms that inability and enables us to love one another.
FROM GOD’S PERSPECTIVE
In order to be able to love one another, we must primarily see ourselves in the light of how God sees us. For that to happen we must come before God’s presence. After all, we are created in the image and likeness of God.
Romans 1 describes how our relationship with God was broken because of sin. As a result, people started worshipping idols instead of God. They conjured up forms and shapes of what they thought God looked like, instead of looking to the Creator God who had lovingly made them in His own image. They lost all touch with God and began to lead perverse and immoral lifestyles.
That is when God gave man the Law to draw them back to Him.
YOU FAIL ONE, YOU FAIL ALL
The Law or the Ten Commandments were a perfect reflection of God’s love and character. It was supposed to reflect the living God who is a Spirit and not a created object. The Law also pointed out man’s sinful state. The Law was designed in such a way that it would have been impossible for man to fulfill it. Even if we attempt to fulfill them, we will definitely fail in keeping the 10th commandment, that is, ‘thou shall not covet’.
Trying to keep the commandments is like writing the old SSLC exam – even if we failed in just one subject, we had to rewrite the exam for all the subjects. Similarly, even if we kept all the 9 commandments and yet failed only in one, we would still have failed all of God’s laws.
But the problem is that it is hard to convince a man that he is a sinner. We may not have committed any major crimes, but our heart is sinful and wicked before God. That’s why Paul cried out saying, ‘Who can deliver me from this wretched sin? Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus!’
THE LAW – OUR TUTOR TO CHRIST
Galatians 3:24 says, ‘Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith’. The law was given to be our tutor or a school master. It was supposed to bring us to Christ.
This happens when it shows us that we are sinners and in need of a Savior. Ironically, if God had sent Jesus before giving the Law, people would have said that they were capable of observing the Law and there was no need for Jesus. But by giving us the Law, God revealed to us our incapability of following the Law. It taught us that we are sinners in need of Christ.
We see this reiterated in Romans 8:3 where it says, ‘For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh’.Again Romans 7:7 says, ‘What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law’.
The Law could not save us or make us perfect before God because we who were meant to follow the Law were weak and incapable of fulfilling it. Therefore God sent His own Son in the likeness of the weak man. This was represented in the Law and the sacrifices. The Law convicted us of our sins and the sacrifice, Jesus on the Cross, justified us before God.
WEAR HELMET OR BEAR THE PENALTY
Let me explain this with an example. In many Indian cities, the law now says that we must wear helmets while riding motorcycles. The helmet is meant to protect our lives from any injuries. Many people obey while many others rebel. But until the law came, not wearing the helmet was not an offense.
Similarly, Paul teaches that if the law were not there, he wouldn’t have ever known what sin was. In Romans 7, he continues to say that, ‘For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said you shall not covet. But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire’.
Sin is similar in that it takes the opportunity and produces evil fruits.
Let me share a personal experience in this regard.
As a young boy, I was not allowed to watch any movies. So I never even bothered to look at movie posters because they didn’t make any sense to me. One day, a preacher preached in our church denouncing movies and to make his point he indicated that a particular movie poster that was in town at the time was bad. Until then, I had never even noticed that poster. Because he referred to it specifically, I was curious. My friend showed me the poster in question!
So what do you think prompted me to look at the poster? Not because of the preacher’s reference to it, but because of the sin that was lying dormant in me waiting to pounce. It’s like telling a child not to touch the ice cream in the fridge. The child probably didn’t know about the ice cream, but now that he is aware of it, he is going to be tempted to dig into it. Or it’s like telling a man not to think of monkeys while taking medicines. Until then he wouldn’t have made any connection between the two. But now suddenly he will be only thinking of the monkeys while taking medicines.
Similarly, the purpose of the law is to expose sin. The law does not cause us to sin. It only brings out the evil intent of our hearts.
Romans 7:9 say, ‘I was alive once without the law. But when the commandment came sin revived and I died’. It says that when he understood the commandment, he was able to see his sin. Before the law came, he thought that he was spiritually fine. But in light of the law, he realized that he was a sinner. He was able to appreciate the Cross better then.
Let us now quickly look at some of the attributes that the Cross brings to our lives.
REVEALS OUR SINFULNESS
Ephesians 2:1 and 5 says, ‘And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins. Even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)’. The Bible says that we were alive physically but dead spiritually. There is no relationship with God and no connection with God. The Cross tells us that since we were spiritually dead, Jesus had to come, die and save us from spiritual death. He became cursed for us and He redeemed us from the curse of the law. He was innocent but He became our substitute.
1. SHOWS OUR HELPLESSNESS
Romans 5:6 says, ‘For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly’. It is talking about our inability and helplessness to save ourselves. We are unable to get out of sin’s clutches and the bondage of Satan. We were without strength and helpless.
2. MAKES US BORN AGAIN
Somebody brought a man to me saying that he had bad habits and they wanted me to pray for him and keep him so that he could be fixed up. They were quick to point out that he was a fifth generation Christian. But the point is that no matter what our Christian pedigree is, we cannot be fixed until we are born again. We were condemned and deserve to die. We can be made whole again only if we are born again in Christ. We see Jesus telling Nicodemus that ‘unless you are born again, you cannot enter into the Kingdom of God’. We are born again not with the corruptible seed but with the incorruptible seed of the Word of God.
3. MANIFESTS GOD’S GRACE AND LOVE
The Cross tells us that if it were not for the grace and love of God, we wouldn’t be changed. God took our sin and curse and became like us so that we could become like Him. God turned His face away from His Son so that He could turn His face towards us and bless us.
4. UNITES US AS ONE IN CHRIST
The Cross tells us that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are a new creation. The old life is gone and buried. As a new Creation, we see everyone and everything differently. We now think and act totally differently. Ephesians 2:8 says, ‘you were saved by grace through faith’. Our Salvation is a gift of God and nothing special about ourselves. Further, 2 Corinthians 5:15 -17 says, ‘and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things have passed away, all things have become new.’ It says that we don’t look at anyone the way we used to before.
Earlier, it was important to Paul to know what Jewish tribe every person that he met was from. Not anymore. Paul says that the New Testament church was now united. Jews and Gentiles worshipped Jesus and fellowshipped together. Even in our day and age, we are all often divided by language, race, caste, state, economics etc. But we are meant to be united in Christ Jesus. No class or division. If our churches can come together and love one another, we will be great testimonies to this world. 5.
5. GIVES US THE HOLY SPIRIT
While in the past, our forefathers did not have the presence of the Holy Spirit with them, we now have the gift of the Holy Spirit. They only had a symbolic cleansing of their sins but we who are under the New Covenant have been cleansed through the blood of Jesus Christ so that our hearts and bodies can become the temple of God. The Holy Spirit now dwells in us and He produces within us the fruit of the Spirit, which is love.
Therefore, this realization of the significance of the Cross in our lives transforms our attitudes. We can love others as we love ourselves. We now know our past condition and our present status. We were redeemed and purchased by the grace of God. There is no boasting and no comparison. All of us had fallen short of God’s standards and have now been made perfect. This new perspective enables us to love one another.