|Volume 23 Number 1 January 2021
Cecil May, Jr.
Most of us can identify with Paul in Romans 7. “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (15 ESV). “For I have the desire to do what is right, but I do not do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (19-20).
If we do actually identify with Paul, the following statements are also true of us. “Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good” (16). “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being” (22). I “hate” the sin that I am doing (15). “I have the desire to do what is right” (19).
Paul cried out in anguish, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Then, he answered his own questioning cry, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (24-25a). Yet, even after thanking God for his deliverance, he acknowledged the struggle continues. “So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (25b). His next words are, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1).
There are two stated qualifications to be one for whom there is no condemnation: be “in Christ Jesus” (8:1) and “walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (8:4). Faithful Christians have a particular mind set. Paul said to the Colossian Christians that you were “buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. …If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 2:12; 3:1-2).
One biblical way to describe a “faithful Christian life” is a mind set on things above. Another is, “walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4). Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5).
Paul’s struggle with sin did not end when he became a Christian. What ended was condemnation because of his sins. A child of God can so sin as to fall from the grace of God into eternal condemnation (Galatians 5:4), but the faithful do not fall from grace whenever they sin. God does not count their sins against them (Romans 4:8). Their sins are cleansed by the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7). They are not condemned (Romans 8:1).
Christians, whose whole life is aimed at Heaven, who struggle with sin but hate it, who truly will to do and want to do as God directs “by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
The Second Greatest
Commandment Given by the Lord
A scribe asked the Lord, “Which is the first commandment of all?”
Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one, And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31 NKJV)
The “first,” foremost, chief and greatest commandment is for a person to love God with all of one’s being. This is the vertical relationship that mankind can have with Almighty God. This is the most important commitment that a person can ever make. The second commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” is horizontal; it is our relationship with our neighbor. The fulfillment of the second command is predicated upon one being in submission to the first commandment. The apostle John wrote, “And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (John 4:21). John also wrote, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20). As you can plainly see, these commandments are bound closely together.
Now, if this is true regarding our brother and sister in Jesus Christ, would not the same principle be applicable concerning our relationship with our neighbor who is made in the image of God? A certain lawyer asked the Lord, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told of a man who had been stripped of all his clothing, severely beaten and left for dead. Two of the leaders among the Jews saw him and kept walking; however, a Samaritan stopped and gave aid to him as well as additional future help (Luke 10:25-37). An important lesson in this story is that whoever is in trouble or is in need is our neighbor and not just the ones who live near us.
This love (agape) is defined as, “affection, good-will, love, benevolence: Of the love of men to men; especially that love of Christians toward Christians” (Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon). This love cannot be legislated by the government or by any human organization. This love has to come from a heart that possesses the love for God. The apostle Paul wrote, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the Law” (Romans 13:8). Paul mentioned commandments that one should keep. “And if there are any other commandments, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Romans 13:9).
He also wrote, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). This statement is so profound! This love is greatly needed in our world today and in our own nation. There is so much hatred in the hearts of many people. There is “harm” being manifested by evil deeds done by individuals and groups. In contrast, people who have the love of God in their hearts will only do good to their neighbors. This love is one of the attributes of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Love is “a more excellent way” and its characteristics are found in 1 Corinthians 12:31; 13:4-7. One characteristic of love is being kind to one another, which is greatly lacking in our society today! In closing, remember, “And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).