Don’t you dare think about that red car!
Be honest, did you think about that red car, even though I told you not to? Honestly, isn’t it about time we’ve learned this lesson about how not to teach, at least not as constant norm? The more we teach doing, rather than what not to do, the less we set up those being raised in the Church for failure.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
The best methods for making disciples are to teach the truth, lead by example, and proclaim the gospel. What we do all to often is teach people what not to do by telling them what not to do, leading them to where they are not to go by showing them where they should never go, and by preaching what should not be proclaimed by preaching what to never preach.
The irony isn’t lost on me, not even in the least. I’m doing the same thing, and only for the purpose of exposing this method of discipleship for what it is.
This discipleship method does have its place, but only regarding those already exposed to sin. By teaching youth, for example, those for whom pornography has never even entered their imaginations, it would be wrong to teach them to avoid porn. By making a rule to them that they are to avoid porn, that brings with it the temptation to seek porn. Better to safeguard them from knowing anything about porn until they are spiritually strong enough to automatically avoid it and without having to be told. Then, when they hear to avoid porn, they will think “well duh”.
Mind you, I’m speaking fom a best case scenario, here. Most kids today are so exposed to sin at such a young age that by the time we get around to teaching them what not to do, they’re already doing those things. Why? Because we don’t ourselves refrain from sin and we do nothing to keep sin away from our children.
Instead, we invite in the in door and act like it’s harmless. “oh, you’re a prostitute that loves Jesus? Well come on in and get comfy. We’re getting ready to worship Christ our Lord.” Do you want your 5 year old to come home from Sunday school asking what a prostitute is? Can you imagine the horror of overhearing your own child innocently saying that they want to be a drug dealling gansta when they grow up? If in enters their imagination, it, like a seed, has a chance to germinate, take root. flower, and, unfortunately, produce fruit, and, even more unfortunately, reproduce.
What’s the purpose in this?
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Galatians 3:19 (ESV)
Laws exist to teach that no one is self-justified and to reveal, provoke, restrain, and to condemn sin.
To teach that no one is self-justified
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20
Law is a type of reverse psychology. What this reverse psychology does is cause people to consider what not to do. This requires considering the very thing not to consider. For someone who has never even heard of pornography, all reverse psychology can accomplish is causing pornography to be sought, even if just enough to be able to accomplish obeying the task of avoiding it. But that is what we are doing to children when we teach them to not have sex, or anything else they’ve never even considered doing until we brought it up.
To reveal sin
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. Romans 7:7-9 (ESV)
There every only was one way to know sin and that was to be told about sin. When Cain killed able, there was no law against this behavior, at least nothing codified. Regardless, murder was always wrong. It wasn’t until the law was given that it became revealed that murder was wrong. Being told that murder was wrong revealed just how murderous humanity had become. The laws that Moses gave Israel were not random nor given willy nilly. No, they were sins that the people engaged in as a matter of normal practice. Yep, adultery, for example, was normal to the people, as was burning their own children alive in the arms of a burning bronze idol.
To provoke sin
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:18-21 (ESV)
One way to call out the treasonous is to get them to call themselves out by telling them what they are not allowed to do. Those that refuse to repent and comply automatically call themselves out by their refusal to repent and comply. Those already in compliance with the law, have no need of the law.
The law divides people. It draws a line in the dirt. People will naturally figure out for themselves which side of the line they belong and act accordingly.
To restrain sin
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. 1 Timothy 1:8-10 (ESV)
Law was given to the for the lawless and disobedient, not for the righteous and just. Who should be restrained but the lawless? What needs to be restrained but lawlessness?
If we look at sin like we do the plague, we would treat sin and sinners quite differently. The Church community would be like a reverse-quarantine zone, keeping sin out so that people inside the community can grow strong enough to be sin-resistant out in the world. Once we’ve matured in Christ, then it becomes our responsibility to maintain that reverse-quarantine and go into the world to fish for more souls.
The law acts as an invisible barrier that we all instinctually know is there and to never cross it. It restrains the lawless from joining the lawful and restrains the lawful from joining the lawless. When Jesus fulfilled the law, He made that boundary cross-able. With God’s help we can confess our sins, that we have transgressed against God, and then repent.
To condemn sin.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (ESV)
This is an unalterable eternal fact. The consequence of sin is to be separated from the one sinned against. Having sinned against God, we become (as though) dead to him. The only way to right that relationship is to condemn what killed it. How else can we know that we’ve done wrong unless we’ve been told?
Through life, nature, law, God’s Word, the lives of believers, and preaching the Gospel, sin gets condemned. All these things declare sin to be evil and causes death.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:17 (ESV)
I’ve been searching for a while for the best way to translate the Greek word graphe. The word means “a writing, thing written” and in Scripture is used to reference Scripture itself. The other Greek word used in Scripture is gramma (meaning any writing, a document or record), is used in Scripture to speak regarding all writings other than Scripture, writing in general, and includes where it is used metaphorically.
While I’m not myself a translator by trade or occupation, I’ve studied enough to slowly work my way through the rudimentary translation process. What I’ve reverse engineered is that the Greek word graphe is used to reference any type of official documentation, such as holy writings. That makes the word Scripture the best word for the Bible to refer to itself.
The law, as recorded in Scripture, is thus breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. As we grow older, stronger, and wiser, we can handle hearing the law, without it provoking us to sin. We can read that homosexuality, for example, is abominable behavior without dangling temptation in front of ourselves. No longer needing milk, the law becomes as meat to us.