Many people say they are Christian, but are they really? God only knows for sure, but we have been told that by their fruit you shall know them. Some are gnostic Christians. Some are members of cults that claim the name of Christ but reject his person and work. Some are Machiavellian, claiming to be Christian for the purpose of gaining political power.
Question is, how do we evaluate the fruit? What is the standard? We accept this as normal procedure for judging apples, oranges and peaches. The USDA publishes standards for grading everything from fruits to nuts to eggs to meat. They may be questionable, but we depend on these grading systems when we go to the grocery store. We believe in them and believe they are necessary and good. Why not God’s law as the standard for our everyday ethical decisions and actions for everything from how we earn our money to how spend it, from how we respond to injustice to how we treat others, including employees and bosses? What’s the big deal?
Most conservative Christians agree that a function of God’s law is pedagogical, to make us aware that we are sinners. A reductionist view says this is its one and only function, or at least gives that impression. Another antinomian view holds that this function of the Law was completed at the incarnation, death, burial and resurrection of Christ or that it ceases when a person comes to faith in Christ.
But if John encourages us as believers to understand that if we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us, and, if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9-10), how are we to know when we have sinned without a standard by which to judge? Isn’t it clear that the pedagogical function of the Law has not and will never cease.
Rejecting God’s Law is antinomianism. It always ends with everyone making up their own rules as they go, everyone is a law unto himself. We end up with the political golden rule: he who has the gold makes the rules, or its corollary, that political power comes out of the barrel of a gun. These systems of human law are usually contradictory to what God has said he expects of us. They are also a merciless, brutal and often bloody tyranny.
Holding these human standards as immutable, the tendency of fallen humanity is to judge others by our own standards, not God’s, and to fail to judge ourselves by the same standard. This is legalism, worse, hypocrisy. But so is knowing God’s Law in order to apply it to everyone but ourselves. Matthew 7:1-4
By my fruit, I shall know myself. By what standard shall I judge if not the Law of God?