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“Love God, and do as you please.” So Augustine is purported to have said. For centuries since, those who have encountered this quote have gone through the same high-speed emotional roller-coaster. First there is the dread that comes with the realization that we do not love God. Then comes the joy of being set free from the law, of being able to do what we want and come away unburdened by guilt. Finally comes the disappointment, the remembrance of that first qualifying injunction. We are not really free to do what we want.

I believe that Augustine’s point was not to undo the law of God. He was no early antinomian. He knew only too well the destructive fruit that flows from pursuing the desires of the flesh. His goal instead, I believe, was to help us see that as we grow in grace, we grow in law. His aim was to show that our obedience to the law of God isn’t supposed to be either a drudgery imposed on us from above or a joyful burden that we take on, a sacrifice we happily offer up to God to show our appreciation for His work in redeeming us. Instead, he wanted to show that as we love God more, as we behold more and more of His beauty, we see and delight in the beauty of His law. It’s not that as we love God our pleasure is to do our duty, but that our pleasure is to do our pleasure, which is His law.

Sounds wonderful doesn’t it? But there’s still the same problem—we don’t fully love God. We are pleased to do that which is anti-nomos, against His law. Last month I argued that we are all legalists, that we all, somewhere in the darkest corners of our hearts, cling to the notion that what we do pleases God. But it is also true that we are all antinomians. We all want to escape from the law of God. To do this we slice and dice our Bibles, trying to keep the law from us. We suggest that God Himself doesn’t care whether we keep His law. We show, once more, that we do not fully love God.

There is only one who loves God. He alone did as He pleased. And it pleased the Father to bruise Him for our iniquities—because He loves us. He has overcome our antinomianism such that we can and do, dressed in the righteousness of Christ, stand before Him, coram Deo. A day is coming when we will do as we please, and please Him. A day is coming when we will love Him, and His law.

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From the September 2002 Issue
Sep 2002 Issue