"Where There Is No Law"
1st Sunday in Lent – A LSB #561
Text – Romans 5:13
For sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.
WHERE THERE IS NO LAW
There I was completely wasting, out of work and down all inside it’s so frustrating as I drift from town to town. Feel as though nobody cares if I live or die. So I might as well begin to put some action in my life. Breaking the law, breaking the law Breaking the law, breaking the law…
So much for the golden future, I can’t even start I’ve had every promise broken, there’s anger in my heart You don’t know what it’s like, you don’t have a clue If you did you’d find yourselves doing the same thing too. Breaking the law, breaking the law Breaking the law, breaking the law…
In 2009, VH1 named that the 12th greatest hard rock song of all time. The lyrics describe someone who’s tired of everything that comes with an ordinary life. That life has become boring, which leads the person to take a chance and start breaking the law.
Before the 1960’s, the people of our nation had a greater sense of personal respect for the law. Today, many people are just flat out angry. The news media puts it on the airwaves, but we see it in our daily lives too. Road rage, mass shootings, violent protests, or we kick the dog, yell at the children, and give the cold shoulder to our friends or spouse.
And what we’re doing is essentially breaking the law. No, it’s not like exceeding the speed limit while driving your car, but when we act out against those who love us, we’re not following the instructions our Creator and heavenly Father gave for how to operate the life He’s blessed us with. It’s exactly like you saw in the children’s message. When you get a new-fangled gadget, like a solar powered flashlight, something you’ve never seen before, it’s helpful to read the instructions if you’re trying to use it. The manufacturer gives them to you to be helpful, not to take away your freedom.
When you refuse to follow God’s instructions for life, it may feel as if you’re taking your life back. Breaking the law can feel invigorating as you tear free of the bonds that are limiting you. I’m sure, if a train could feel, that in the 1st few seconds of leaving the track there’d be a tremendous surge of energy as it breaks free of the constraining tracks.
But you know what comes next, because you too have experienced the law of gravity. That train would come crashing back to earth in certain destruction. The law of sin works in a similar way. Refusing God’s instructions, or breaking the laws of God, can seem freeing and exhilarating at 1st, but then you also come crashing back to earth.
The reading from Genesis 3 gives you and I a picture of that from the very 1st ever crashing back to earth:
[The serpent] said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:1b-8 ESV)
That’s a long selection to be reading again, but there’s a lot going on there in relatively few words. Satan asks if God actually gave instructions about one particular tree. Eve tells him that God did. Then repeats the instruction, except, comparing her words to those of God in chapter 2, she adds, “Neither shall you touch it.” Then the Great Deceiver says to Eve, “You shall not surely die.” He’s now twisting the essence of God’s instruction from that of a life-giving word to that of a limiting and restricting word. The Devil slanders the motive and the intent for which God gave Adam the instruction. Eve falls for it and Adam too. Then, the crash:
“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:7-8 ESV)
It probably doesn’t sound like much of a crash, certainly not like that of a ninety car train going off the tracks, but in those brief words we hear the very 1st symptoms of what turned out to be the corruption of the entire created universe. Adam had failed miserably in his role as head of the family and as head of the people of God.
Each of us has followed in his footsteps of failure and rebellion. What is so notable however, is the response of the heavenly Creator. “But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “where are you?’” God didn’t say, “Adam, what have you done?” Given that God surely knew where they were, this question has a much deeper intent.
Certainly, God was reinforcing the reality of how his children had distanced themselves from God by trying to hide. Behind that word of rebuke, though, it seems that God’s question implies a yearning, an invitation that His children come back to Him.
What makes this astounding is that this is the 1st first word spoken by Yahweh after His creative word, and, as such, sets the theme for all the rest of Holy Scripture, which is a recital of God’s desire to bring His children home. And if they do not come home, God will find ways to come into their world to bring them home. He will send patriarchs and matriarchs, prophets, judges, elders and in the fullness of time, His Son. So this 1st Sunday of Lent marks a step toward the supreme gift of God’s love for the world, the gift of Him who came “to seek and to save that which is lost.”
People of the world would like to get rid of God’s law; even though they certainly have laws of their own that they think everyone should follow. St. Paul, in his letter to the church at Rome, is emphasizing that where the 1st Adam failed, the 2nd Adam Jesus came to completely replace him. The 2nd person of the Trinity came to die for our sins, and that is finished.
Then He rose to life to begin the new creation in His own flesh and blood. As we are grafted into that tree by faith, we also are now part of the new creation. Clearly that isn’t perfectly complete yet, but we are on our way. You are a new creation in Christ Jesus, and it’s not just a slogan or a marketing ploy. It is a statement of fact.
You and I can find rest in that fact. We have forgiveness, life and salvation because of Jesus & that same Jesus promises that nothing can snatch us out of His hand, nor out of the hand of His Father. The gracious gift of salvation attained by Jesus Christ far exceeds the terror and power of sin and death. What a glorious truth in which you and I exist!
Yes, our heavenly Father and His Son have given us laws to follow. They are similar to the instructions for any new-fangled gadget you may buy. They are to help you use that gadget called your heart and body and soul to God’s glory and for the benefit of your neighbor.
Yes, the Law certainly makes us uncomfortable, and even angry, by showing us our sin, but that is no reason to willingly break it. Only for this purpose does our Lord permit us to look into the depths of human depravity – that we rightly estimate the depth and greatness of His compassion and forgiveness. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all human understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
 “Breaking The Law” is track #1 on the album British Steel, by the rock group Judas Priest. It was written by Rob Halford, K.K. Downing & Glenn Tipton.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet