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The Law - Reflections for Personal Devotion and Conversation with Others

Inspired by Sermon 34 in the Standard Sermons of John Wesley
By: Lauren DeLano

1. What is the moral law of God and how is it distinguished from the “ceremonial laws?” What is the origin of each of these understandings of the Law?

 

Much of Protestantism gives us a negative understanding of the law. The law is associated with sin and is dangerous in the way it can lead us into legalism and self-righteousness. From this perspective, the Law distracts us from the grace of Christ and from the idea that we are saved by grace through faith alone. The gospel stands over and against the law. In Christ, we are free from the law.

 

Wesley, on the other hand, gives us a more positive view of the law, and one that is more catholic in scope. He makes a distinction between the moral law of God and the regulations and rules around rituals and community life. We are free from what he calls the “ceremonial laws,” but not from the moral law of God. This moral law reflects God’s will for creation. Its origins are in the beginning. It is a “copy of the eternal mind.” It is all that is holy, just, and good. While related, it is not the same as the law of Moses, written on tablets. What is the moral law of God and how is it distinguished from the “ceremonial laws?” What is the origin of each of these understandings of the Law?

 

2. How does the law lead us to Christ?

 

The law, and our falling short of the law, leads us to our need for Christ. Christ reveals to us that the law calls for more than outward obedience. It “extends to our hearts, our intentions, and all inward thoughts.” How does the law lead us to Christ?

 

3. How does Christ lead us back to the Law of God?

 

The law leads us to life. First the law leads us to Christ, and then, as Wesleyans, we believe that Christ leads us back to the law – back to the moral law of God, the law characterized by mercy and truth, the law reflected in the virtues of humility, kindness, patience, gentleness, temperance -- the law of love. In Christ, this law is written on our hearts, as we are saved by grace through faith. From a Wesleyan perspective, gospel and the law are joined together. Faith leads to good works. In Christ, we are transformed and empowered to grow in this law – not to earn salvation but to be instruments of God’s will in the world. How does Christ lead us back to the Law of God?

 

4. How does our idea of the law change when we understand it within the language Wesley uses: “a copy of the eternal mind, a transcript of divine nature” or “the face of God unveiled?”

 

As mentioned above, we often think of the law as a negative thing that has been overcome by Jesus and the Gospel. Instead, Jesus helps lead us to the law, so we might not think of the law as something to disregard, but instead something that shows us exactly who God is and who we are called to be. Not only is it a list of rules and regulations for how to be a Christian (which is how we usually think about it), but instead it’s a guide to the way our hearts should be. In fact, when Wesley talks about the law he lets us know that the law is “a copy of the eternal mind, a transcript of divine nature” and it is “the face of God unveiled.” What beautiful language is used as we think about the law, and the way it gives a glimpse of who God is. How does our idea of the law change when we understand it within the language Wesley uses: “a copy of the eternal mind, a transcript of divine nature” or “the face of God unveiled?