Sometime ago, I was preaching a camp meeting. After several messages, a lady commented to me that I seemed to be rather ‘negative’ in my approach. The response I offer here is not so much a defense as it is a reflection on what was considered a negative gospel.
When God made the covenant with the Hebrews, He delivered it through the Ten Commandments. You might sense a negative air. A careful look may help illustrate this position. In reviewing Exodus 20:1-17, you cannot help but be aware of the negative tone.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me
Thou shalt not make thee any graven image
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain
Thou shalt not kill
Thou shalt not commit adultery
Thou shalt not steal
Thou shalt not bear false witness
Thou shalt not covet
In it (the sabbath) thou shalt not do any work
If we are tempted to lift the phrase “I don’t live under the law but under grace”, let us consider the words of Jesus, the embodiment of grace. In Matt. 7:17, Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” Jesus appears to set an even more intense standard than Old Testament Law. Jesus taught in Matthew 5, “(21) Ye have heard that it was said of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment (22) But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” …(27) Ye have heard it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:(28) But I say unto you That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery in his heart.”
A review of the teachings of Jesus will certainly reflect a strong stand against anything that causes a person to ignore God’s law. To the chagrin of many, there are negative consequences to those who willingly violate the Lord’s standards for living. Knowledgeable disobedience can negate the covenants we make with the Lord.
The gospel is positively clear on the fact that there are a multitude of “thou shalt nots” in the teachings of both the Old and New Testament. There are times when the most positive thing that can be said to someone is ‘no, you can’t do that and be in a right relationship with the Lord’. We must not use grace as an excuse to ignore the law, but rather, by faith in Christ, seek to live above reproach, fulfilling the spirit of the law.
Heb. 10: 26-29 speaks to those who “sin willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth.” There is a stern warning of fiery indignation against those who “insult the Spirit of grace.” This is the other side of the coin of grace.
~ Brother Roy