the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
According to the apostle Paul, all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good action (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Therefore, when we seek to imitate Jesus we may not neglect any part of the Bible in our quest to understand how to live the Christlike life. Remember, when Paul wrote these words he was thinking of the “Old Testament.” Obviously, the principal laid down here applies to the New Testament as well but this passage in second Timothy reminds us that we do not have the option of ignoring any part of God's word.
Unfortunately, many Christians abandon the older Testament and claim we have no responsibility toward “the law” because we are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14). This attitude springs from a lack of understanding about what it means to be under law and under grace. In short, unless a person is born again they are by nature under law because to be under law is the natural state of mankind. This means a man is condemned by the law because he has a sin nature and fails to keep the provisions of God's law. On the other hand, a person who is born again is under grace because they are no longer condemned by the law but by grace ...have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). This does not mean the Believer may ignore the Old Testament; the whole of Scripture informs us concerning the mind of God and guides us in the good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
The Bible plainly teaches that God's choice precedes man's obedience but man's obedience is a prerequisite of knowing the full benefits of election. This principle has been in force since the beginning of time. Adam was “chosen” in the sense that he did nothing to earn his own creation but upon his creation he was required to obey Yahweh in order to fully enjoy the benefits of his “election.” Likewise, the children of Israel were brought out of Egypt on “Eagles wings” by God prior to receiving the law. Once their election was manifest God said, Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:4-6). This is what Jesus Christ has done for us. He gave Himself for us to purchase our freedom from all iniquity, and purify for Himself a people who should be specially His own, zealous for doing good works (Titus 2:14). Hence, to be under grace does not mean we live a lawless life but means we live a life free from condemnation even as we obey God's law in order to express our love for him and the brethren. Truly, all sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4), and the fact that we love God Himself, and obey His commands, is a proof that we love God's children. Love for God means obedience to His commands; and His commands are not irksome (1 John 5:2-3).
Therefore, imitating Jesus Christ in the “hard-to-reach ways” requires a thorough knowledge of God's word. It is much easier to simply ignore the parts of the Bible strange to us but this is not the Christ honoring approach to the Christian life.
Next week: an example of imitating Christ in reference to a “hard-to-reach” passage from the Old Testament.