12 ‘If the disease breaks out all over their skin and, so far as the priest can see, it covers all the skin of the affected person from head to foot, 13 the priest is to examine them, and if the disease has covered their whole body, he shall pronounce them clean. Since it has all turned white, they are clean. 14 But whenever raw flesh appears on them, they will be unclean.
Have you ever wondered why the above seems to be in the reversed?
If you are covered absolutely with leprosy, there is nothing in your flesh that is clean. However, if you are NOT covered absolutely with leprosy, you will probably think you are partly clean, partly unclean. You may be still relying on the flesh. God only pronounces you clean either, when you don’t have leprosy or when you are absolutely covered with leprosy. There is no mixture.
Similarly you are either hot or cold, if you are a bit here and a bit there, you are luke warm. This is an analogy of law and grace.
You might say, “It’s not about works, it’s about attitude. God looks at the heart.” But Jesus did not say to the Laodiceans, “I know your heart.” He said, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.” There was clearly something they were doing that made them lukewarm and unacceptable. So what was it?
Lukewarmness is about mixing stuff
When Jesus says he would prefer that we are hot or cold rather than lukewarm, most people automatically think of a thermometer: cold and hot temperatures are good, but being stuck in the middle is bad. As we have seen this is a poor metaphor because there is no middle ground with God. But lukewarmness can also refer to mixing things. When you mix cold with hot you get lukewarm.
Now what are two good things in the Bible that, if you mix them together, you end up with something bad? Here’s a hint – what were the Galatians mixing together? Answer: law and grace.
We all know that the grace of God is good, but what about the law?
“The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.” (Rom 7:12)
Why is the law good? Because it leads us to Christ that we might be justified by faith (Gal 3:24). The law was written on tablets of cold stone. The law has no power to make you righteous and good, but if you are honest, it will reveal your need for a Savior:
“Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.” (Rom 7:13)
The law – which is good – brings despair, condemnation and guilt, and leads us to Christ. God’s grace – which is very good – brings hope, justification and freedom through Jesus Christ. But these two good things cannot be mixed together. If you try to mix law with grace you’ll end up with the benefits of neither.
How do you dilute the power of the law? By lowering God’s holy standards to attainable levels of human performance.
How do you negate the unmerited favor of God? By trying to earn it through observing the commandments and other acts self-righteousness.
The Laodicean’s problem was not that they were complacent, but that they were trying to attain through human effort that which only God can do. Their problem was far more serious than a poor attitude. They were trying to make themselves righteous.
Good and bad zeal
It is good to be enthusiastic for Jesus. But there is good zeal and bad zeal. Look at what Paul said of the Jews:
“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” (Rms 10:2-4)
Bad zeal is what you get when you try to establish your own righteousness instead of submitting to God’s righteousness. Good zeal is what you get when you know that Christ has set you free from the demands of the law and given you his righteousness. When you apprehend what Jesus has done for you, you will be as enthusiastic as a freed prisoner! You will run like a cripple with new legs, like a blind man with new eyes!
Jesus did not suffer and die on the cross to give us a chance to compete for God’s approval. He died to make us righteous. If Christians are apathetic today it’s probably because they’re tired of trying to stir up carnal zeal. They are weary of being told they are not praying enough, reading enough, witnessing enough, giving enough. No matter how much they do, it is never enough. The unfinished work of the law always demands more.
What will set Christians free is the revelation that Jesus has done it all. His was a one-time sacrifice for all the sins of the world. Not only did Jesus die for us but he lives for us, he keeps us, and he intercedes for us. As you begin to understand the significance this, it will set you free like never before.”
You cannot rely on “part law” or “part grace” to be saved. Either its all law or all grace. The problem here is that we are required to obey “ALL law”. That is impossible. BUT when we have died to Christ we are under “ALL grace”. If you under “a bit of law and a bit of grace”, you are like a leper with some raw flesh. You are STILL unclean. I have given up on trying to be righteous via the law… I would rather have all the disease break out all over the skin so that God pronounces me clean.
In Jesus however, I am absolutely clean.