Thursday, December 7, 2006

The Advent Season & the Fruits of Christ's First Advent

The season of Advent is an excellent opportunity to reflect on some of our most treasured fruits resulting from Christ's First Advent. I'm thinking in particular about the incomparable fruit of Christian liberty. One of my best classes right now is Exegesis of Romans with Dan Wallace. Yesterday, we were discussing Romans 10 and spent a good deal of time sorting through what it means in 10:4 where Paul writes, "Christ is the end of the law..." There has been disagreement among scholars throughout the years as to what this phrase actually means. Some believe that "end" means "goal" or "fulfillment" while others have concluded that this term means "termination." Wallace explained that if "end" means Christ "fulfilled" the law then it doesn't say anything about whether or not we are still under the law. If Christ is the "termination" of the law then Christians are no longer under the authority of the Mosaic covenant. It is not my intention to sort through the arguments on either side of the interpretation of this phrase mainly because I'm tapped out on writing serious papers right now and this semester needs to get done in a hurry. Let me just say that I agree with Wallace when he favors the second view stating, "Thus, 'Christ is the end of the law, with the result that there is righteousness for everyone who believes' means that Christ has fullfilled the law, so that we are no longer subject to it. His righteousness is available to all who believe, rather than to all who subject themselves to the law." Christ has fulfilled the law and it is therefore terminated. As I summarized in a paper on Rom. 7:1-6 earlier this semester, "Believers are freed from the law's condemnation and the power of sin through Christ's death in order to be joined to Christ, bear fruit for God, and serve in the Spirit." To read more about the Christian's relationship to the OT law, click here.

I only mention Rom. 10:4 because this is what got me thinking about the precious fruits of Christ's First Advent, paricularly Christian liberty. We are not under the law! Isn't that obvious, you might ask? Maybe so but I think many Christians still act as if they are somehow in subjection to the law today. For example, we tie ourselves down with helpful (maybe) but unnecessary moral obligations. I suppose this wouldn't be a huge problem except for the fact that many times we are not content to commit ourselves to various legalisms but we tend to think that other Christians should be bound by the same legalisms as well. Again, some of you may be thinking, "what's the big deal?" It is a big deal to the thousands (millions?) of Christians who have been laboring under the burden of unneccesary legalistic standards throughout the years. I'm reminded of the friends I've spoken to who were just blown away by the refreshing freedom they began to experience after reading Chuck Swindoll's The Grace Awakening. One friend told me that his college was so spiritually oppressive that Grace Awakening became something of a contraband item there. Christian liberty is a radical concept historically speaking and continues to be so for many believers today.

Some Christians certainly complain that too much liberty inevitably leads to sin but Paul addressed this objection head-on in Romans 6. Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase? "Absolutely not!," Paul yelled (well, he probably yelled it as he was writing it, don't you think?). Its not just that we have been freed from our enslavement to the law, although this is true. Paul goes on to explain that when we were freed from sin we became enslaved to righteousness (Rom. 6:18). We died to the law so we could be joined to Christ (Rom. 7:4). The righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us, who walk according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:4). The children of God are led by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:14). "For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject to the yoke of slavery" (Gal. 5:1, NET).

During this Advent season, take some time to reflect on the wonderful gift of freedom that Christ has given to His children. Christian liberty is one of the many precious fruits we enjoy as a result of the First Advent of Christ.

[For further references of Paul's teaching that believers are not under the law, see Rom. 3:28; 6:14, 15; 7:6; 8:2, 4; 1 Cor. 9:20; Gal. 2:16; 3:19, 23-25; 4:25; 5:3, 14, 18, 22-23; 6:2; Eph. 2:14-15]

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