I start writing this blog post halfway through the Epiphany services of Helsinki rauhanyhdistys. There was a discussion that made me want to write.
I have attended services even since I was a child and have listened to, or at least heard, countless sermons. Still, there have been things that I have never properly understood.
The topic of the introduction was “watching in faith”. Not very many people went up to speak after the introduction, but every time someone finished, there was someone else who wanted to say something. And when there were no more people willing to take their turn, the moderator asked the person who had kept the introduction to give his closing comments without unduly prolonging the discussion. I was grateful for that. We already had a lot of food for thought.
It was a discussion about the third use of the law. That means a doctrine which maintains that the law also belongs to Christians. It became obvious during the discussion that this notion is not biblical. According to the Bible, Christians live under God’s grace, not under the law. The Holy Spirit and God’s grace guide each Christian to live as a believer.
What, then, are the first and second uses of the law? The first use of the law sets the basis for temporal law, the way we order and regulate our everyday life. The second use of the law makes unbelieving people see their sinfulness before God and thereby awakens penitence in them.
A person who has his or her sins forgiven falls into the tender care of God’s grace through the atonement achieved by Christ. The grace that carries and cares for him or her is the most precious thing in human life. Yet, God’s grace encourages us to endeavor in faith and to live in a way that respects the value of the gospel.
Although no human being can ever fulfil the law, Christians want and try to obey God’s will. This is the effect of grace, as is shown in the letter to Titus: ”For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Tit. 2:11–12).
It is comforting to know that we can, at all times, trust in God’s care and believe our wrong choices forgiven. We make bad and erroneous choices, even though we want to live in accordance with God’s will.
During the introduction and the discussion that followed I finally understood something of what is meant by the third use of the law. It is actually strange that I have lived to such advanced age within Christianity, being familiar with that expression but not understanding its content.
I could verbalize my realization like this: as believers, we do not PERFORM faith but rather LIVE of faith. The Bible is not a book of law that could be used to find precise answers to specific problematic situations. A Bible like that would be merely a law book. For believers, however, the Bible is first and foremost testimony of Christ.
Now, someone may quickly read through this blog post, roll their eyes, and ask whatever is new in that – that is how it has always been. Maybe that reader has understood things more quickly than I.
I sometimes need a long time and many repetitions to understand, but when I finally do understand, it is a joyful experience. That is why it is good for me to come to services over and over again, although the speakers may preach about the same texts and give the same explanations, and although I may miss parts of the sermon because I am hard of hearing, have thoughts that tend to wander, and may even doze off for while.
Text: Kirsti Wallenius-Riihimäki
Translation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen
You will find the original blog post here.
HiIjattain päättyneet Reisjärven opistoseurat olivat kesän viimeiset suuret seurat. Kristillisyyden historiaan jää erikoinen kesä. Kaikki kesän suuret seuratapahtumat järjestettiin radion ja netin välityksellä. Kokoontuminen yhteen suurella joukolla ei ollut mahdollista koronaviruksen vuoksi.