Summary: The essentially positive nature of biblical law is seen in Jesus’ dealing with the rich young ruler: "What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Jesus met him on his own ground, saying, “Don’t do this and don’t do that... But if you are
The Conflict of the Ages series of books begin and end with the words “God is love.” That is the central issue in the great controversy. That is the issue that needs to be demonstrated to the universe. That is the core of God’s character. That is the core of all upright character.
One of the foundational problems of New Testament Pharisees was the atomization of SIN into a series of actions. Because the Pharisees of old did not understand SIN and LAW they could not correctly understand RIGHTEOUSNESS. The entire NTstands against their misunderstandings.
Beyond unity, a second aspect of biblical law is that it is essentially positive rather than negative. Jesus plainly indicated that negative religion is not sufficient when He told the story in Matthew 12 of the person who swept his life clean and put it in order but failed to fill it with vital, outgoing Christianity.
The final condition of that person, claimed Jesus, was worse than in the beginning (verses 43-45). “A religion which consists only in thou shalt not’s,” writes William Barclay, “is bound to end in failure. “
The essentially positive nature of biblical law is also seen in Jesus’ dealing with the rich young ruler, who came to Him, saying, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”
Jesus met him on his own ground, saying, “Don’t do this and don’t do that.”
“Ah ha,” the young man replied, “I have already stopped doing all those things. What else have You got?”
Jesus said, “Well, if you are really serious about this whole business, if you really want to be perfect, why don’t you go out and sell what you have and fully serve your neighbor.”
The young ruler wasn’t expecting that kind of an answer. He liked the “limited realm” of righteousness where people stop doing things. He stepped back when Jesus pointed him to the “continuous realm” of righteousness where there is no limit and no end of really caring for other people.
Jesus had pointed beyond the negative ten, to the positive law of love. That, of course, was more than the young ruler was ready to commit himself to. He felt relatively comfortable with the negative law.
He was good at not doing this and that, but he was not ready for the unlimited reach of God’s LAW into (Very area of his life (see Matt. 19:16-22).
I am personally very uncomfortable with this whole concept of being a Christian as Jesus explained it. I am a Pharisee by nature. I am very happy with negative approaches to law because I like to know where the limits are.
I feel more comfortable when I can see the extent of my obligations. That brings limo to the les son of Peter in Matthew 18. Peter was concerned about how many times he should forgive his neighbor. Peter knew what the rabbis had to say on the topic. They had read the hook of Amos.
They had concluded that the Lord forgives three times, and the fourth time He lets sinners have it. Well, rabbinic logic suggested that you cannot be more generous than God. Therefore, they concluded, three times should be the limit of human forgiveness.
Now Peter had recognized that Jesus was not a minimalist. So he doubled the rabbinic three forgivenesses and added one for good measure, coming to the conclusion that seven forgivenesses would be quite generous.
ILL.And that is a lot of forgiveness, if you start thinking about it. If I backed into your car seven times in the next seven days in the church parking lot, you would think that seven is probably about six times too many. But Christ bowled poor Peter over. He said, “Peter, Peter, not seven but 490.” Try that sometime. By the time you get to 490, you’ll not have a car. You will also have lost count (see Matt. 18:21, 22).
In actuality Peter was not asking “How much can I love my neighbor?” but “When can I stop loving my neighbor?” That’s a very human question. I like that question. When can I stop loving my neighbor? That is where we are as natural people.
When can I be pensioned off from all this niceness and give people what they deserve? I don’t like grace. Grace is giving people what they don’t deserve. I don’t mind getting it, but I don’t really like passing grace on to others.
Christ comes back with an answer as to when Peter can stop loving his neighbor. His answer is the terrible story about the two debtors. One man owes one hundred pennies, and the other owes ten thousand talents. The one hundred pennies equals one hundred days wages. That is a stiff debt but not impossible to pay. By way of contrast, ten thousand talents is an absolutely impossible debt to pay. In fact, it would take 160,000 years if one worked seven days per week.