A Scriptural explanation of the nature and intent of the law of God, harmonized with the beauty and sufficiency of His marvelous grace.
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“And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:16-17)
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse, for it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” (Galatians 3:10)
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13)
Basically all error within Christendom stems from, or in some way flows out of, confusion about the relationship of God’s law to God’s grace. There are those to whom grace is little more than a religious word and they believe the only hope of man’s salvation finally lies within what he does. The standard of this, of course, will come back to God’s law for there is no other faithful judge of man’s acts. There are others who propose some sort of a mixture of law and grace, stirred until no one could tell which is which, but like oil and water, they will not mix. There are still others who have grace nullifying or superseding the law as though it had been a mistake or an injustice on God’s part.
I hope that in this short written message I may set forth rightly as much as space will allow the unity and purpose of these two great, inseparable and eternal principles of God.
GRACE IS NOT
A PUTTING AWAY OF THE LAW
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:1718)
God’s law is absolutely righteous, fair, holy and complete. To imply or think that it needs revision or replacement is tomisunderstand its purpose. The Lord said, “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” All is not fulfilled! Though Christ on the cross did fulfill the law completely, that is not what thismeans. The purpose of the law is the same today as it was three thousand years ago, and it is serving that same purpose today. Read Romans 3:19-20.
THE LAW REVEALS THE LEGAL
RIGHTEOUSNESS GOD REQUIRES OF MEN
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse, for it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.” (Galatians 3:10-12)
Men are often confused about what God’s requirements of them are. Some imagine it is their own personal interpretation of the ten commandments. Others think “their best” whatever that is supposed to mean. Still others think they are called upon only to live in obedience to their own conscience. The truly ridiculous element in this reasoning is that no matter what their personal choice of standards is, no sane person will claim that he really lives up to it. The fact is that God’s law demands total perfection all the time. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10) “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse, for it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10)Now, how do you measure up to that?
THE LAW WAS GIVEN
TO REVEAL FAILURE
The law was not given to make men righteous, or even to instruct them in being righteous. It was given to show us how very unrighteous we are, and thus to drive us to a provision outside ourselves. “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:19-20) The law was not the origin of its precepts, only the revelation of them. It did not dig a gulf between God and man, it only revealed the one we had dug by sin. “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.” (Romans 3:21-22)
THE LAW GIVER IS
THE ONLY LAW KEEPER
No man has kept God’s law. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23) If the negative were not violated, and they are, the positive must not be omitted. “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) The most minute violation, makes you a most vile transgressor in the courts of the law giver. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10)
On the other hand, Christ Jesus the only begotten Son of God, has perfectly kept the law. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) He did no sin, no transgression of the law. Not only so, but he fulfilled the law. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” (Matthew 5:17)
GRACE IS NOT
A SUPPLEMENT FOR WORKS
Having looked at what God’s law is, let’s turn for a moment to see what God’s grace is. First, it is not, as so many suppose, some kind of a supplement to the works that man does for, or toward God. Much of Christendom imagines that grace means that when we’ve done “our best,” “lived it,” “walked in all the light we can find,” or in more recent days, “done our thing,” God looks on our sincere efforts with compassion and somehow by the cross accepts what we’ve done. This fails to come up to reason, for no one with these proposals, TRULY comes up to his proposed standard, even in his own, clouded eyesight. What is really important, though, is that this notion fails to, in any way, correspond with Scripture. “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law; then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21) “Are you so foolish? having begun in the spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3) “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse, for it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10) “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16)
WORKS DO NOT COMPLETE
OR SUPPLEMENT GRACE
There are those who turn to say, “Well surely we are saved by grace, but there are certain works, or religious acts we must perform if we are to be partakers of that grace.” This is just another subtle way Satan has of denying the sufficiency of Christ’s death. It is this very idea that Paul is dealing with in Galatians 3:1-3. “O FOOLISH Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the spirit by the works of the law, for by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”
GRACE IS GOD GIVING TO MAN
ALL THE LAW REQUIRES
From Adam to Moses, man violated every principle of godliness set before him. God then, through Moses, gave a detailed writing of these principles, called the law. The people at that time in their pride and self-righteousness said, “ALL THAT THE Lord has spoken unto us we will do.” What did they, in fact, do? They further proved that man in his terrible depravity has neither appetite nor capacity to do what God commands. Thus every mouth is stopped and all the world is guilty before God. “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Romans 3:19)
There was, however, an eternal answer to this terrible condition of man. Job is said to be the most ancient book of the Bible and it is prophesied there. “Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers. If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness: Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom. His flesh shall be fresher than a child’s: he shall return to the days of his youth: He shall pray unto God, and he will be favorable unto him: And he shall see his face with joy: for he will render unto man his righteousness” (Job 33:22-26) Notice the truths encompassed here, “DELIVER HIM FROM GOING DOWN TO THE PIT, I have found a ransom” – “God will render unto man His [God’s] righteousness.” Hallelujah! this was done on the cross of Calvary. That is what Elihu was talking about. No other righteousness can justify a man in God’s eyes. Nothing else can let a man see God’s face with joy, rather than irreparable fear.
THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS CAN
BE YOURS, BY FAITH
There is no way you can buy, bargain for, or attain to this righteousness. Israel tried this and failed. “What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Romans 9:30-33) That same miserable failure is set forth in Romans 10:1-3. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” The answer lies in Romans 10:4. Christ is the end (the fulfilling of all demands) of the law, for righteousness, to everyone that believeth.
On Mount Sinai God gave His law to show you your need. On Mount Calvary He gave His Son (grace) to give you your need. If you are trying to perform God’s law for your justification, you are rejecting His grace, the free gift, His blessed Son. God’s law proves you guilty. God’s grace makes you innocent through His Son, my Savior. Won’t you stop trusting yourself, your needs, your religion and trust Him alone?