Obedience and Delight
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.- Psalm 1:1-2
Having finished our study of the Ten Commandments as exposited in the Heidelberg Catechism, we should now address two errors that often arise in thinking about God’s law. The first error says that Christians can fully obey the commandments before they are glorified. This view is common in the Wesleyan tradition, which speaks of a second blessing of God’s Spirit that enables believers to refrain perfectly from sin. The second error views the Creator’s law as an enemy that opposes the gospel in all of life.
For the most part, the Reformed tradition has consistently opposed both views, as evidenced in question and answer 114 of the Heidelberg Catechism. After devoting twenty-three questions to the Ten Commandments and how we may rightly obey them, the catechism immediately reminds us that “in this life even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience [that God requires].” This is key to the Bible’s teaching on sanctification. We are told that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8). Moreover, the Apostles’ rebukes and ethical teaching presuppose that the communities they addressed still wrestled with sin. Even our Savior’s teaching on church discipline indicates that believers will sin until they die or Jesus returns, whichever comes first (Matt. 18:15–20).
These truths should help us deal with church life more realistically. They should keep us from promising that all of the same temptations believers faced before conversion will be fully eliminated. They should also prevent us from becoming cynical when other people sin. Christians are not yet perfected. We should not be surprised when they fall, and we should also develop safeguards in our congregations to help prevent opportunities for grievous sin to take place.
On the other hand, we must not be defeatists, for real victory over sin is possible in the Christian life. When God’s Spirit indwells us, He creates a true love for the law in our hearts and a desire to follow it in gratitude for our salvation. We see evidence of this in today’s passage and many others that reveal the delight of old covenant saints in the law of the Lord. Law and gospel are not opposed in all spheres of life but only in justification, and we should seek daily to delight in God’s commandments.
True love for God’s law is not legalism (adding to God’s rules or demanding that we obey the civil and ceremonial laws fulfilled in Christ). Love for the law makes us try to follow it truly without imposing unnecessary or ungodly burdens on others. Do you love God’s law or do you consider it an enemy? If you have been born again, the law of God is on your side. You please God as you follow this law, by the Spirit, and thank Him for declaring you righteous in Christ apart from the law.
Passages for Further Study
Romans 7:22; 16:19
1 John 2:1–6