SPEED LIMIT – 55
T. PIERCE BROWN
Frequently I have heard persons who wanted to do something very much say, “I wanted to do that in the worst way.” Then they frequently did it exactly that way! When I was a boy, I may have thought, “I want to drive a car in the worst way,” and when I got one, did that. The fact that I went toTexasagain very soon after I learned to drive did not help the situation much. In those days, I think theTexaslaw was to drive “at a speed reasonable and proper.” Apparently every person interpreted that according to the dictates of his own conscience, for trucks and busses would pass me when I was doing at least 75 MPH, and I seldom drove much slower except in traffic.
When it became unlawful to exceed 55 MPH, several passages seemed to take on new meaning for me. 1 Timothy 1:9 says, “Knowing then that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient – .” It was hard for me to sit in a car capable of doing 120 MPH without straining and hold it to 55 MPH, especially when everything from motor scooters to eighteen-wheelers were passing me as if I were standing still.
Although I was “in bondage” to the law (felt restricted by it), my wife seemed not to be bothered by it at all. She seemed to have a built in speedometer that kept her below 55 MPH. So she was not under bondage to the law in the sense I was, for the law written on her heart made her free from the law written on the books.
Notice a VERY important point, however. She was NOT free to break the law any more than I was. She was only free from it in the sense that she did not feel any galling restriction from it. Sometimes we read things concerning “Law vs. Grace” that are exceeding harmful and unscriptural. Some teach that grace excludes law, so one is apparently free even from the obligation to obey the gospel! Or, having obeyed the gospel, and now being under grace, he is free to disregard “the letter of the law,” especially if he thinks he manages to keep the “spirit” of it. Such implications and conclusions are unwarranted, unscriptural and dangerous.
But the first point we make is that many of God’s laws may seem binding or unduly restrictive because of our wrong attitude. Tomijo was bound by the 55 MPH speed limit in one sense the same as I. But in a very significant sense, she was not bound by it at all. It did not have any effect on her. A different or higher law controlled her. But she might not have been controlled by that higher law, if she had not had respect for law in general!
I deem it worthwhile to consider a similar principle with regard to some of God’s laws. For a Christian, a new Creature in Christ, the laws of man or God relating to child abuse, driving while drunk, and maybe dozens of others, have no effect on his actions at all. So, in a very deep sense, he is free from them. One might say then, that in a very restricted sense, God’s grace frees a man from law. But CERTAINLY NOT in the sense that he can disregard or disobey them. But only in the sense that one may so absorb the spirit and nature of Christ that the mere statement of law is no longer the basic motive for his actions.
Is that not really part of what Jesus was pointing out when he said in Matthew 22:37-40 that when loves the Lord with all his heart, and his neighbor as himself, on these hang all the law and the prophets? When a man has these two highest laws written in his heart, can he feel any restrictions from a law that says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” or “Thou shalt not steal”? Is not this a part of what Jesus meant when he said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light?”
In that connection, I remember a statement made by Charles H. Robertson at ACC many years ago which almost brought me out of my seat with my hand raised in protest (for a few seconds). He said, “When a man becomes a Christian, he can do as he pleases.” I feel sure that he said it that way to shock us into thinking, as Jesus did on some occasions. He did not mean that when a person becomes a Christian he is free FROM obedience to the laws of God to do as he pleases. He is free UNDER those laws – free BECAUSE of them – to do as he pleases, for in order to be a Christian, he must PLEASE to do the will of God. The astronauts became free from the law of gravity because they respected and obeyed ALL the laws of motion and physics. When a man decides he will be free from the law of gravity in the sense that he can disregard it and break it with impunity, he will discover that when he tries to break it, it will break him! But when Jesus said in John 8:36, “If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed,” he meant far more than many of us realize.
One may also properly say, “When one becomes a Christian, he can NOT any longer do as he pleases.” Little logicians among us may say, “Two contradictory statements cannot both be right,” but perhaps greater logicians may realize that two statements may seem to be contradictory because the terms in them are referring to different concepts. The Lord often made statements that were apparently verbally contradictory – paradoxical.
This in no sense implies that there are real contradictions in the statements of Jesus or the gospel records that cannot be reconciled, as some who claim to be Christians are bold to teach. It does mean that two verbally contradictory statement may both be right, PROVIDED the terms in those statements do not refer to the same thing. For example, if one asks, “Did Christ WANT (will) to die?” one can say either “Yes” or “No” and be right, depending on whether he speaks of his will (boule) or his will (thelema).
We consider it a law to “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is” (Hebrews10:25). But I do not remember thinking of it as a binding law in many years. (Of course it is binding in the sense that I am under the necessity of obeying it, and it applies to me, but not binding in the sense that a suit that fits me does not feel “binding”. I think I am free from that law in about the same sense that my wife is free from the 55-MPH speed limit. I am not free to disregard it. But if I never assemble because of any other reason than “The law says so,” I think I shall never understand the meaning of freedom in Christ.
So if one wants the greatest freedom possible, he must first learn the inner discipline of so letting the life of Christ dwell in our mortal flesh, and so become partakers of the Divine nature that we feel no burden from any law. It is as if the law of aerodynamics frees the astronauts from the law of gravity at some point, but they had to start by being respectful and obedient to both, and are never free from either in EVERY sense. But those who soar in the celestial heights DO have a special kind of freedom that most of us earthbound mortals do not really understand. Those who have risen to spiritual heights closer to God than most of us are free from the feeling of being bound by law in the sense of thinking, “I have to do this or be lost.” They are not free from the necessity of obeying the law, but they obey it because it becomes their “second nature” rather than because they feel that is bound on them. This may be a part of what Jesus meant when he said, “If the Son of Man makes you free, then you shall be free indeed.”