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Monday, September 3, 2012

Lawless and Disobedient

Lawless and Disobedient

Paul describes three pillars of love:

  • a pure heart,
  • a good conscience,
  • and a sincere faith.

Without this foundation, a Christian will swerve away into worthlessless, characterized by doctrine that rejects Christ, treasuring instead myths and endless genealogies.

A leader or teacher who has swerved from the foundations of love will not understand the lawful use of the very law they desire to teach. The utterly unlawful way of using the law is to consider it a path to justification. The most fundamental purpose of law is not to guide good people, but to convict bad people of their sin.

"The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted." 1 Timothy 1:9-11 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is this a comprehensive list of sins? What common element connects each sin in this list?

God's purpose in laying down the law at Mount Sinai for Moses to deliver to the people of Israel was to convince the people of their intrinsic bent toward sin.

LAWLESS: anomos (lawless, not subject to, wicked); from a (not) and nomos (law, regulation or principle); from nemo (to parcel out, especially food or grazing to animals)

DISOBEDIENT: anypotaktos (unsubdued, insubordinate); from a (not) and hypotasso (to subordinate, to obey); from hypo (under) and tasso (to arrange, assign or dispose to)

These words characterize in general terms those who are under the law. From Adam and Eve's disobedience, to the idolatry of the nation of Israel; from the shameful malice of Joseph's brothers to King David's adultery and murderous machinations; from the rejection and killing of every prophet to the murder of the Anointed Son of God, Jesus the Christ, the Bible condemns natural humans as lawless and disobedient.

The Law seemed to do little toward changing the hearts and behavior of the people. From commoner to king, people continued to disobey specific commands laid down by God.

"Lawless" is a direct reference to all non-Jews:

"To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law." 1 Corinthians 9:20-21 (ESV)

"Those outside the law" is a translation of the very same Greek word translated in 1 Timothy as "lawless".

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What effect has the Law of the Old Testament served? Paul regarded the law as meant for the Jews...was it not meant for the entire world?

"Lawless" characterizes those not under the law, the non-Jews, the Gentiles, tribes and dynastys outside of the nation of Israel.

"Disobedient", however, appears to target those to Whom God directly gave the law: the nation of Israel.

The word translated as "disobedient" implies more than simply breaking a rule. To be insubordinate is to reject authority, to refuse to acknowledge another's right to make the rules.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews uses the same same word:

"What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet. - Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him." Hebrews 2:6-8 (ESV)

God created humans to rule as stewards of the world. Yet, after the curse of sin, there was much that became disobedient to the rule of humans: animals became predators, plants became invasive weeds and thorns, childbirth became painfully dangerous, and most telling of all, the human heart became deceitful and prone to disobedience.

"For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand." Romans 7:14-21 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Can the words "lawless" and "disobedient" be easily distinguished? What behaviors or groups seem connected more strongly with being "lawless" than "disobedient"? Would you say your besetting sins are lawless or disobedient?

Image provided by Anders Sandberg, Creative Commons License