This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
We’re going to deal with the theme of law and grace. I believe this is one of the most important themes that Christians need to understand. And I find that very few do understand it. I find that very few have really given careful consideration to this question of what is law and what is grace, and what is the difference between them, and what is our relationship to each of them. Just to give you some indication of the emphasis that’s placed upon this theme in the New Testament, we could say that one epistle of Paul— the epistle to the Galatians—is really devoted to this theme. Galatians contains six chapters and the phrase the law occurs twenty-eight times in Galatians alone.
I’ve also checked through the other chapters of the New Testament and I find that apart from Galatians there are at least twenty-seven other chapters in the New Testament which touch on the relationship between law and grace. In other words, it is one of the major themes of New Testament teaching.
So far as I can recall, I’ve never heard any teaching systematically on this theme in over thirty years as a Christian. And it’s with some trepidation that I launch into it myself. However, I have become convinced that many problems that Christians experience, that they struggle against unsuccessfully, are rooted in a failure to understand what is law and what is grace—how law operates and how grace operates. And that we will not be able to live the kind of life that God wants us to live, we will not be able to enjoy the salvation that God has provided, until we are clear about this distinction.
As a professional philosopher many years ago, I specifically studied methods of definition. That’s what I wrote my dissertation for a Fellowship at King’s College, Cambridge. So I’m going to begin with some definitions. I’m perfectly well aware that you can define a thing without understanding it and you can also understand a thing without defining it. However, I think it’s necessary to just lay some basic definitions down, otherwise we’ll be confused through the remainder of this study.
In these studies the word law means “religious law, viewed as a means to achieve righteousness with God.” Our teaching does not apply to secular or civil law, viewed as a means of preserving social order. I believe that secular or civil law is a necessity; it’s ordained of God and all Christians should be in submission to the law of the land and other forms of civil or secular law that apply to them in their situation. But we are not talking about secular or civil law. We are talking about law viewed as a means of achieving righteousness with God. And as an introductory text we could look at Romans chapter 10 and verse 4. Romans 10:4 when Paul makes what is a very profound and far-reaching statement.
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”
I marvel at the accuracy of Scripture when you consider that these were not philosophical treatises, but these were letters written under pressure in strange circumstances in somebody’s home, or in a jail. I am always impressed by the tremendous accuracy.
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”
When you believe in Jesus Christ as the New Testament defines believing in Him, that is the end of the law for you as a means of righteousness. The moment you put your faith in Jesus Christ, that’s the end of the law as a means of righteousness, for righteousness. It’s not the end of the law as a part of the Word of God. As a part of the Word of God, the law endureth forever. Not the end of the law as a record of Israel’s history, but it is the end of the law as a means to achieve righteousness with God. And there are no exceptions for Jew or Gentile. It’s to “every one that believeth.” The moment you exercise faith for salvation in Jesus Christ, that ends the law as a means of righteousness. That simple statement by itself when carried to its logical conclusion would make the most far-reaching changes in almost all sections of the Christian church.
Going on with our definitions, when we use the phrase the law in these studies and in the New Testament, we mean specifically the Law of Moses. It’s most important to understand that. The Law all through the New Testament means “the Law of Moses.” You might say therefore that, “I’m a Gentile. I’ve never been brought up under the Law of Moses, so these studies don’t concern me.” But in actual fact, they do, because of what Paul says in Romans chapter 2 verses 14 and 15. Romans chapter 2 verses 14 and 15. Paul is here explaining the function of the Law—what it was intended to do. And he adds that though Gentiles, for the most part, were never brought under the Law of Moses, yet in a certain sense very often they become a law to themselves. We’ll read his words and then try to explain their meaning.
“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law [that’s the Law of Moses], do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another...”
In verse 15 in the Greek — the English does not reveal this, but the Greek makes it absolutely clear that it’s not the law that is written in their hearts, it’s the work of the law. In other words, there can be and frequently is in the heart of a Gentile something that operates in the same way as the Law of Moses does for a Jew. What does the Law do? The Law presses home the question of personal responsibility and personal guilt. And so inside a Gentile, Paul says, there can be a kind of law court. And their thoughts are either accusing them or else excusing them. Their conscience sits as judge.
For instance, I’ve discovered in traveling amongst many nations that for many different nations one thing that’s regarded as sinful is to lie. Now this is not true of all people. Some people tolerate lying. For some people it’s a question of whom you lie to. For a Moslem it’s wrong to lie to a fellow Moslem, but it’s all right to lie to somebody who’s not a Moslem. That kind of principle applies in many religions.
But you see, let’s suppose we have a Gentile whose code of ethics says it’s wrong to lie. So he tells a lie and he comes into this situation where the “law court” comes into operation inside him and the thought says, “Now, you told a lie.” The other one says, “Well, it wasn’t really a lie. It was just a different way of expressing the truth.” And the other thought says, “No, you told a lie. It was a lie. You knew it wasn’t true.” And the conscience, meanwhile, is the judge. So you have inside such a person the operation of the law. Not the Law itself, but the functioning of the law inside the consciousness of that person.
And so it will do for a Gentile what the Law of Moses was designed to do for a Jew. In other words, the reason I’m telling you this is that this teaching does not apply merely to people of Jewish background who’ve actually been under the Law of Moses, but it applies to all people who have in some way a kind of moral or legal code operating inside them. And that is true, I would imagine, of every person here in this study today. There’s not one exception to that. So in some way or other, some more strongly and effectively, some in rather a weak and ineffective way, we know what it is as Gentiles—and I’m a Gentile—to be a law to ourselves. There is something inside us that functions like a law. And I’m sure if we look back over our lives we can remember many incidents when this law court went into operation inside and we were trying to excuse ourselves, and yet at the same time we were our own accuser and conscience was there to give the verdict. So this is what we’re talking about.
Now, I think it is a fact if we look at Christendom—that is, the whole spectrum of professing Christians—that we find various forms of special religious law, which are not the Law of Moses, but are regarded as being very solemn and very necessary by the people in that particular group or under that particular form of law. And in the outline I’ve listed Baptist, Catholic or Pentecostal. Those are only examples.
Now, I’ve never been brought up as a Catholic, but at least until recently I think it would be undeniable that Catholics lived under a very rigid religious law, which was not the Law of Moses, which is not found in the New Testament, and yet which was regarded by them as essential for achieving righteousness. And just to take a few examples of such a law, for instance, it was normally considered completely wrong for a Catholic to marry a non-Catholic. Now there’s nothing in the New Testament about that. It was considered wrong until just recently for a Catholic to eat meat on Friday. It was a mortal sin, I believe, for a Catholic not to attend Mass on Sunday. Now you cannot find any of those things in the New Testament. They are not part of the Law of Moses, but they are a very real religious law for the people who are affected by them. And the effect is the same for such a person as the Law of Moses for a Jew in the respects in which we are speaking about.
Or you can take people brought up, shall we say, in the Holiness or the Pentecostal tradition, which I’m quite closely familiar with. There are many rules or laws, many of which were regarded as extremely important for righteousness. You must not consume alcohol. You don’t find that in the New Testament. You must not smoke. I don’t find that in the New Testament. I don’t find a word about smoking anywhere in the New Testament. You must not attend the movie theater. There’s nothing in the New Testament about that. What always surprises me about the people living under that particular rule is it was wrong to go to a movie theater but apparently there was nothing wrong when television came and having the same movie on your television screen inside your home, because it wasn’t covered by the law. And for many such people it was really very serious to wear makeup. There are some sections of the Holiness movement that will not permit their women to wear any kind of jewelry, certain lengths are specified for their dresses, if they attended youth camps in some cases mixed bathing is not permitted, and all sorts of other regulations are given out about clothing.
Now if you’ve not been in a group like that you can smile. But believe me, for those who’ve been brought up in those groups, these are very serious important questions. And people feel really condemned and guilty if they violate such laws. They remind me of a Jewish friend of mine who was brought up in a sort of fairly strict Orthodox Jewish home, and he told me the first time he ate ham he really expected to die; he just wasn’t sure if he’d survive. But once he got over the first shock, he found it rather enjoyable. And there have been Christians, I know, who thought that, you know, that if they were in the movie theater and Jesus came, they would miss the rapture. But when they got over the first shock, they enjoyed the movie too.
So I hope you understand that we’re not talking about something that’s remote and doesn’t apply to us. It applies, I would imagine, to every person here in some measure or degree. And I would say probably at least ninety percent of the people here are not clear as to what really does matter and what really does not matter. And the real ultimate purpose of these studies is to try to find out what does matter and what doesn’t matter.
All right. Now we’ll take the definition of grace. I think to try to define grace is almost presumptuous in a way, yet it’s important. So the definition that I have given is that grace means “that which is freely given by God, received by faith, without being earned or deserved.”
There are two important facts about grace. First of all, the most important is we cannot earn it, and we can never deserve it. Anything that we can earn or deserve is not grace. Automatically it is not grace.
The other principle which is also important is that grace is normally received by faith. I think Ephesians 2:8 is probably one of the standard texts.
“For by grace ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God...”
So I say, “Well, I was saved by grace, but after all, at least I had the faith to receive the grace.” And I begin to feel quite spiritual and God says, “But don’t forget, I gave you the faith. You didn’t even have that of yourself.” Grace has nothing to boast of. I believe one of the hardest things for man is to receive the free grace of God, because we always like to think we’ve done just a little to earn it. And after all, there was some special reason why God should have chosen me. Not according to the Bible.
Now the next point that I wish to establish is this, that in all human history and in all the revelation of Scripture there are only two possible ways to achieve righteousness, and anybody who seeks to achieve righteousness is going to follow one or the other of these two ways. And furthermore, each way excludes the other. If you go one way, you cannot go the other way. You cannot mix them.
I don’t know how I can press this home upon you, but here’s the root of our problems. People want a little law and little grace, and God says, “No. That’s out.” If it’s of law, it’s not of grace. If it’s of grace, it’s not of law, but do not try to mix them. They will not mix.
Let’s look at just a few statements that are given there in your outline. In John’s gospel chapter 1 verse 17, one of the key Scriptures for this study, John 1:17.
“For the law [the Law] was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
You see the but? How did the Law come? By Moses. How did grace and truth come? By Jesus Christ.
They’re absolutely distinct.
And then in Romans in 6:14 another key Scripture that we’ll probably go back to a good many times, Romans chapter 6 and verse 14 spoken to Christians.
“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
Notice the latter part of the verse first, not… but. “Not under the law but under grace.” If you’re under grace, you’re not under law. If you’re under law, you’re not under grace. You cannot be in both conditions. And notice the amazing inference from the first part of the verse. “Sin shall not have dominion over you.” Why? Because you are not under the law, but under grace. If you are under the law, sin has dominion over you. As long as you remain under the law, sin has dominion over you.
Let me say this right now, because it’s in my heart. See, most people have got the impression that grace is really the right way for a Christian to do things. But if you find grace too difficult then it’s all right to try and do it by law. It may not work so well, but basically you’ll get more or less the same result. As I understand the revelation Scripture, that is completely wrong. Grace and law are opposites, and what is achieved by grace cannot be achieved by law. In fact, law produces the exact opposite of grace. They’re not two alternative ways of doing the same things. They’re two opposites which produce directly and diametrically opposite results. Let’s look in Romans 10, Romans 10 verses 5 and 6. Where Paul speaks about faith, understand that he’s talking about grace, Romans 10:5 and 6.
“For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.”
All right. The law is clear. If you want to be made righteous by the law, you’ve got to do everything it says all the time. Then you don’t need grace. But if you can’t be justified by the law, then you have to accept grace or not be justified at all.
“And the righteousness which is of faith [that is, of grace] speaketh on this wise [it doesn’t talk about what you’re going to do], Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven?”
It talks about what Christ has done. All right. The law says, “This is what you’ve got to do and keep doing all the time.” Grace says, “Someone else has done it for you.” They’re totally different.
Now I believe that there are only two kinds of religion in the world. There never have been more than two. There never will be. There are only two possible kinds of religion. One is a religion of law or works, the other is a religion of faith or grace. Law and works on the one hand, faith and grace on the other hand. And I believe by divine design these two types of religion are presented to us at the very threshold of human history. And it’s very significant to look at them. They are the religion of Abel, which is the religion of faith and grace; the religion of Cain which is the religion of law and works. I think we ought to read the first 8 verses of Genesis chapter 4, Genesis the 4th chapter. There is so much in these verses, Genesis 4:1 to 8. This is the first recorded incident of human history after the fall. The more I think about it, the more significant it becomes to me. And we’re presented immediately with two forms of religion. The first thing in human history after the fall is religion.
“And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. [Cain means ‘gotten, acquired, achieved.’] And she again bare his brother Abel. [Abel in Hebrew is habal, and it means ‘vanity or frustration.’] And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering. But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect.”
Understand that this means that the Lord bore testimony that He had accepted Abel’s offering, but He withheld the testimony of acceptance from the offering of Cain. And this was obviously done in such a way that it was known to all concerned. It was not something invisible, whatever it was, and most commentators believe that a supernatural fire fell upon Abel’s sacrifice and consumed it. We cannot prove this, but we do know for sure that there was a supernatural testimony vouchsafed to Abel’s offering which was withheld from Cain’s offering. And this made Cain extremely angry. You see, nothing upsets a religious person more than to tell them that their religion doesn’t work. You really want to make a person angry, that’s the way to do it. And it says at the end of verse 5:
“And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.”
A different look came on his face. I feel I could say that the sanctimonious religious mask slipped and something else appeared underneath.
“And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. [Now that’s a verse that’s hard to analyze, but we won’t attempt it.] And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him [killed him, murdered him].”
Bear in mind the first murder in human history was a religious murder. Religion was the source of the first murder.
Now we need to read also one verse in Hebrews chapter 11 and verse 4, Hebrews the 11th chapter and the 4th verse.
“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.”
That verse is packed with meaning. Notice that the writer of Hebrews emphasizes it was by faith that Abel brought his offering and he also brings out that Abel’s offering received supernatural testimony from God. God testified of his gifts and acknowledged his righteousness, which was received by faith.
So we look now at this little outline and you see seven points in which Abel’s religion differed from Cain. And let me emphasize once again I believe that in these two outlines we have the outline of all human religion. Every religion that’s ever been practiced falls into or other of these two categories.
All right, noticing then point one, as the writer of Hebrews points out, Abel offered by faith. I think the implication is clear. Cain did not offer in faith. He just did it because that’s what he wanted to do. Now you don’t need to turn to Romans 10:17, but a basic fact is brought out there, “faith cometh by hearing the word of God.” So if Abel “offered in faith,” it means that he had a word of God in which he put his faith. Revelation had been granted to the human race of the type of offering which God would accept.
Abel received God’s word; Cain refused God’s word. He did not accept the revelation which was made available.
Now in that connection it’s perhaps good to look are Romans chapter 10 verse 3, which is again another key text in our study, Romans 10:3. It talks about Israel in the time of Paul.
“For they [Israel] being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”
If we go about through our own works to establish our own righteousness, we have refused to submit to the righteousness of God which is by faith. There is a rebellion within us against the Word of God. That was in Cain. He was a rebel. He refused to accept the revelation of God’s Word which was accepted by Abel.
Going back to your outline, the third point is that Abel offered a sacrifice which by its death and shed blood acknowledged the need for propitiation for his sin. And in Romans 3 we find this phrase. Perhaps we could look there for a moment. Romans 3:25, speaking about the death of Jesus Christ, we find the fulfillment in God’s purpose of that which Abel’s slain lamb merely typified. Speaking about the death of Jesus Christ, it says in Romans 3:25:
“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past…”
So Jesus Christ is a propitiation for sins we have committed through faith in His blood. The sacrifice of Abel’s lamb was just a foretype of the death of Jesus, the Lamb of God on the cross. So Abel offered a propitiation. He acknowledged that there was a sin that needed to be propitiated. Cain did not offer a propitiation. There was no sacrifice, no death, no shed blood. He brought the works of his own hands, which were the fruit of the earth. But if you turn back to Genesis 3:17, the previous chapter, when Adam sinned it brought a curse upon the earth, a divine curse, Genesis 3:17, after Adam’s sin had been brought to light God said to Adam:
“…Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake…”
So the ground from then on was cursed. And in a sense Cain offered an affront to God because he offered Him the fruit of something which God had declared to be cursed. And when we offer God our own religious works, we’re offering God the outcome of something which God declared already to be unacceptable, because God says, “You’re a rebel. And I will not accept a rebel’s deeds.”
Going back to the outline then, the fourth fact about Abel and Cain is that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by God; Cain’s sacrifice was rejected by God. And please note, there’s nothing in between acceptance and rejection. Your relationship to God is either one of acceptance or it’s one of rejection. There’s nothing in between. There’s no neutrality.
The fifth fact, which I believe is very important, is that God sovereignly bore supernatural testimony to His acceptance of Abel’s sacrifice. But He withheld supernatural testimony from Cain’s. Now I am convinced from the study of the Scripture that wherever God by revelation requires man to believe and do certain things, God will always give supernatural attestation to His own revelation. It’s only reasonable. If God says, “In faith I require you to do this,” then when we do it we have a right to expect that God will supernaturally attest His approval of what we do. And as I study religion right down through the Bible, I find that every time that a man in faith accepted divine revelation and acted upon it, he received a supernatural testimony from God. And I believe there is something wrong with a religion that does not have a supernatural attestation.
And this is just the point at issue, because this is what made Cain so mad. His brother’s got a supernatural testimony and his didn’t. And that’s just what makes people mad today. “What’s the use of speaking in tongues? What have you got that I haven’t got?” “Well, I speak in tongues.” And that’s a supernatural testimony from God. The apostles had it and I’m glad I’ve got it, and I believe every Bible believing Christian should have supernatural attestation of his faith. If we don’t have it, there’s something missing.
Now, we’re coming right down to the nitty-gritty at this point. Point number six. Notice the different results of the two religions. Abel’s religion produced a martyr. He was the first martyr. What did Cain’s religion produce? A murderer. And I venture to tell you that religion either produces martyrs or murderers, according to the kind of religion.
All right. Now we’ll look forward to the close of the age. I believe that at the close of this age the Scripture clearly indicates that in Christendom there will only be two groups. There will not be Catholic and Protestant, nor Presbyterian and Baptist. God has got different names for them. One group will be called the Bride, the other group will be called the Harlot. Those are the only two groups. Everybody here who survives to the end of the age will be in one or other of those two groups. Abel’s religion will produce the Bride. Cain’s religion will produce the Harlot. I think we need to know this.
Let me say without going to far, consistently through human history the enemies and persecutors of Abel’s religion have been the followers of Cain’s religion. Which religion did the Pharisees and the religion leaders in the time of Jesus, follow? Were they following the religion of Abel or of Cain? Of Cain. And what did they do? Just what Jesus said they would do? The works of their father who was a murderer. He told them plainly. He said, “You are of your father the devil. He was a murderer from the beginning, and you’re murderers. Your religion makes you murderers.”
One of the most remarkable statements in the Bible is found in Revelation 18. Revelation— Well, let’s read Revelation 17 first—17 and 18 together deal with this false religious system which will be the climax of Satan’s religious activities at the close of the age. We’ll read Revelation 17 verses 1 through 7, and then we’ll read a few verses in Revelation 18, bearing in mind that they all speak about the same thing. Beginning in Revelation 17:
“And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Com hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore [the great harlot] that sitteth upon many waters; With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness; and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour [This is a picture of a very elaborate ritualistic religion, and the whole of these chapters fills out this picture.] and decked with gold and having precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AN ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. [Listen, verse 6.] And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus [Which line is she in? The line of Cain.]: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration [in modern English, amazement]. And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel?”
We don’t need to read any further. Now I’ll read on into Revelation 18 and bear in mind we’re seeing the same thing depicted. Verse 1 through 4.
“And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heave, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not her plagues.”
We’re warned against this religious system. Now moving on to the last two verses of Revelation 18.
“And the light of a candle [this is the result of God’s judgment upon her] the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.”
Notice that the secret power in this system is the satanic supernatural, sorcery. And notice the next amazing verse.
“And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.”
That tells me that every murder originates from false religions. We’re not dealing with something unimportant and trifling. We’re dealing with something of first-rate importance and significance.
I’m going to say things which are very far-reaching, and I trust that God will enable you to see them. I want to give you seven facts about the Law of Moses.
The first is that it was given through Moses. We’ve already looked in John 1:17, the law was given by Moses. A single act at a single point in human history. And notice also Romans 5:13 and 14, Romans 5:13 and 14.
“For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses...”
Notice we have a time period—from Adam to Moses is the same as the period until the law. From Adam to Moses there was no God-given system of religious law in the world at all. Man was ruled by conscience, but when Moses came the Law was given by Moses. At a certain specific point in human history, the Law was given.
All right. The next fact about the Law of Moses—fact number two—is that it is a single, complete, perfect system to which nothing can added and from which nothing must be taken away. Look there in Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy chapter 4 verse 2. Deuteronomy by its title means “the recapitulation of the law.” The law was given initially in Exodus, but about forty years later, just before Israel were due to enter the Promised Land, Moses recapitulated the law to them, and this is the contents of Deuteronomy. And in verse 2 of chapter 4, Moses said:
“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it…”
You’re not to add to it, you’re not to take away from it. God gave it exactly the way He intended it to be. There were no slips, there were no errors, there were no omissions—it was just the way God intended. If you want a confirmatory Scripture, you can turn to Deuteronomy 12 and verse 32. Deuteronomy 12:32:
“What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shall not add thereto, nor diminish [take away] from it.”
It’s exactly the way it’s to be and it will never change. It’s completely unchangeable. Matthew 5:17 and 18, Matthew 5:17 and 18, the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, which we’ll come back to again later.
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 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.”
No language could say more clearly that the law is not to be meddled with. A jot is the Hebrew letter iota the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, about the size of an English comma. A tittle is a little twiddle on the top of some letters that distinguishes from other letters, smaller than a comma. So Jesus said, “So exact and so perfect was the law as given through Moses, that not one little letter or even one part of a letter was ever to be removed from it.” Language could not say that more emphatically. And then we could look in Romans chapter 7 and verse 12.
“Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.”
There is nothing wrong with the law. It’s exactly the way God intended it to be.
All right, the third point is that if we are to achieve righteousness by keeping the law, it must be all or nothing, and there is nothing in between. Now here’s where the human mind likes to play little games with God. But God says, “No games. You either keep the whole law all the time or you don’t bother with it at all, because it’s of no avail.”
Look in Galatians 3:10, Galatians 3 and verse 10.
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse:”
That should give everybody reason to pause. Anybody that’s being made righteous by the works of the law is under a 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.”
Once you come under the law, you have no more options. You’ve got to continue all the time to do all the things that are written in the law. And if at any point you fail, you are under a curse. Let me say that again. You’ve got to continue all the time to do all the things that are written in it. Not one omission or exception is tolerated. And in James chapter 2 the same is brought out again. James chapter 2 verses 10 and 11.
“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.”
You keep 99.9 percent of the law and God said, “But you failed in one-tenth percent; you’re a lawbreaker. It’s either all or nothing.”
All right. The fourth point is Christ fulfilled the law. And He fulfilled it in three ways. Let’s go back to Matthew 5:17, look at the Scripture once more, Matthew 5:17.
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”
Now we have to understand in what sense Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses. And I suggest to you He fulfilled it three ways. First of all, He kept it perfectly. He’s the only person under the law who ever kept the entire law without breaking one point at any time. Turn to John chapter 8 verse 46, John 8:46, He said to the religious leaders of His day:
“Which of you convinceth me of sin?”
And none of them had one point they could put their finger on. Believe me, if He ever violated the law in any detail, they would have known all about it. He kept it perfectly.
Secondly, He fulfilled the law by fulfilling all its prophecies. Everything the law prophesied about Messiah, Jesus fulfilled. Look in Luke 24 verses 26 and 27. These are words that Jesus spoke to His disciples after His resurrection. Luke 24 verses 26 and 27.
“Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”
Moses represents here the first five books including the Law. So everything the Law predicted of Messiah was fulfilled in Jesus. He fulfilled all the prophecies of the Law and of the prophets.
Thirdly, He fulfilled the Law by paying its final penalty on our behalf. This is most important. Romans chapter 6 and verse 7, Romans 6 verse 7:
“For he that is dead is freed from sin.”
Now that’s the King James translation, but it’s not literal. And I think you’ll find most of the modern versions different. What it says is, “He that is dead is justified from sin.” That’s what it means. The last thing the law can do to you is put you to death. That’s its final act. And no matter if you’ve fifteen capital offenses, the Law can only put you to death once. And when it’s put you to death, that’s the end. The Law has nothing more to say to you, it can do nothing more to you, you are no longer under the Law. Death is the end of the Law. It’s the only way out from under the Law. Once you come under it, there is no other way out but death. It’s a life sentence. But Jesus died for those that were under the Law and paid their penalty on their behalf. So “He that is dead is justified from sin.” There’s nothing more to worry about. It’s finished. And looking again in Romans chapter 7 and verse 4, Romans 7 verse 4.
“Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ…”
So when Christ died, He died as my representative. He paid my penalty. He died to the Law and I died to the Law through His death. Therefore, because I’m in Christ the Law has nothing to say to me. I’m outside its territory finally and forever.
There’s another Scripture which we could put in there which is Galatians 2:19 and 20, Galatians 2:19 and 20. Paul is here applying this truth to himself.
“For I through the law am dead to the law…”
The Law said “You die”—all right, I died. So that’s it. The Law and I have nothing more to do with one another. Death has separated us.
“I through the law [because of the sentence of the law] am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ…”
Christ’s death was my death. When He died on the cross I died in Him. That was the end of the Law. Praise God. So Christ has fulfilled the Law in three ways.
One, by keeping it perfectly.
Two, by fulfilling all its prophecies,
Three, by paying the final penalty.
Now we are getting really warm at this point. This is where it becomes, I would say, almost tense. The fifth point, Christ is the end of the Law. We’ve already looked in Romans 10:4, but we can look there again, Romans 10:4.
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.”
Do you believe? All right, then Christ is the end of the Law for you. Whether you be Jew or Gentile, it makes no difference. In fact, this is primarily addressed to people who are Jews. Ephesians 2, and we’ll come back to these Scriptures later on, Ephesians 2 verses 14 through 16. And in Ephesians 2, in this part, Paul is talking about the difference between Jew and Gentile. Jew is those who were close to God. Gentiles are those who were far from God. And he says:
“For he [Jesus Christ] is our peace, who hath made both one [who’s both? I wanted to hear that from you—Jew and Gentile], who hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us...”
He’s referring to the temple of Herod which stood in his day in which there was a certain wall beyond which no Gentile was allowed to go any further. So there was a wall of division between Jew and Gentile. But he says, “Jesus has broken down that wall of division, separation between Jew and Gentile.”
“Having abolished in his flesh the enmity [between Jew and Gentile which was what?], the law of commandments contained in ordinances…”
Jesus has abolished in His flesh the law of commandments contained in ordinances. Notice, included in that are the commandments and also the ordinances. The commandments are the direct requirements of prohibitions: Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal… The ordinances are the way of living that works out the commandments; certain things you have to do, certain procedures that you have to follow. The entire Law is summed up in the phrase “the law of commandments contained in ordinances.” Jesus has abolished it in His death. It is the enmity between Jew and Gentile.
Let’s be honest for a moment. You don’t have to say anything out loud, is there enmity between Jew and Gentile? The answer is there is. What is the source of the enmity? The Law, because it has separated Israel from all other peoples.
We’ll come back to this because it comes out again in our next study, but it’s a fascinating fact that when you are under a religious law, it puts you with enmity with those that are not. Why are the Baptists at enmity with the Pentecostals? Because of their religious laws. Why are the Catholics at enmity with the Baptists? Because of their religious laws. Religious law produces enmity.
See, the trouble with us is, I’m going ahead of myself, we Christians have re-erected the middle wall of partition, only we label Baptist or Catholic or Pentecostal or Holiness. But every time you get religious law you get enmity. Jesus abolished that enmity by His death.
“…the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain [what’s the twain? Two. Who are the two? Let’s be clear. Jew and Gentile] one new man…”
There’s nothing new about a Gentile. There’s nothing new about a Jew. But what we are in Christ is new.
All right. One other passage—Colossians 2:14, 15 and 16. This speaks about what God has done through the death of Christ. We will not go into the background, but beginning at verse 14, through the death of Christ on the cross, God:
“Blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross...”
We sing in our hymns that Jesus nailed our sins to the cross, but that’s not what God says. God says Jesus nailed the law to the cross. That was the thing that stood between God and us. It had to be taken out of the way before we could be accepted by God. It’s the handwriting of ordinances. Why does Paul say handwriting? What’s the emphasis? Well, who wrote the Ten Commandments? God. And my estimate is that only God can blot out what God has written, but God can do it, otherwise He’s not sovereign.
Leaving out verse 15, which just tells us that because the law has been abrogated Satan has no more claims over us, no more power over us. We go on to verse 16, which is the practical application. Notice that there’s a “therefore” in verse 16. And I’ve said many times but I’ll say it once more. When you find a therefore, you need to find out what it’s there for. All right, the therefore is there because of the preceding two verses. Because God has blotted out the handwriting of ordinances, okay?
“Let no man therefore judge you in [food], or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days...”
Notice, the commandments are included in “that which has been blotted out,” because it’s the fourth commandment which speaks of the Sabbath. This is confirmed by what is in Ephesians 2:15, “He abrogated the law of commandments contained in ordinances.”
If I believed that I was under the commandments I would have no alternative but to be a Seventh Day Adventist. There would be no other logical course to follow. No one can ever convince me that Sunday is the Sabbath. It’s different in its origin, it’s different in its nature, it’s different in the way it’s observed. There is no similarity. I’m glad that Paul put in that therefore. “Let no man therefore judge you in what you eat, in what you drink, your religious observances, the celebrating of the new moon, or the Sabbath days.” So if a Seventh Day Adventist comes to me and wants me to feel guilty because I’m not observing the Sabbath, I’d have to say, “God told me not to let you judge me in respect of the Sabbath. I’m under a sacred obligation not to let anybody make me feel guilty.” “Let no man therefore judge you in respect to the Sabbath.”
Number six, Christians are not under the law. Romans 6:14, I think we’ve looked at that one before, but we’ll look it again, Romans 6:14.
“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
Okay. Romans 7 verses 4 through 6, Romans 7 verses 4 through 6, we’ll come back to these again later.
“Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”
Notice, the problem here is specifically for Jews. Every Jew who’s confronted with the claims for Jesus Christ and prompted to accept them is always tormented by the suggestion that he’s going to be a traitor to his own people. He’s betraying something sacred. And Paul expresses it this way. If a woman is married to a man, and she wants to marry another man while the first man lives, she’s an adulteress. But if her fist husband dies, she’s set free from the law of her husband, she’s free to marry the other man.
Now what Paul says is Israel was married to the law, and as long as the law lives, if Israel were to turn to anyone else they’d be adulterous. But what Israel has still got to learn is that the first husband died. Now they’re free to be married to Christ, the resurrected Messiah, without being adulterous, without committing that treason. Going then—verse 5 of Romans 7.
“For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law [that’s a breathtaking statement, we’ll come back to it], did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held…”
All right, we don’t need to read further. We are delivered from the law. And then in Romans 8:14, and you need to put side by side with this Galatians 5:18. Find both passages of Scripture and we’ll read them together. Romans 8:14, Galatians 5:18. Roman 8:14 says this:
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”
How do you live as a son of God? You are led regularly by the Spirit of God. That’s the mark of the children of God. They are led by the Spirit of God. Now turn to Galatians 5:18.
“But if ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”
The only way you can live as a child of God is by being led by the Spirit. But if you’re being led by the Spirit, you’re not under the law. The moment you go back under the law you’re not living as a child of God any longer. You’ve lost your inheritance.
All right. Going back to the last statement, Christians are warned against going back to the law, we’ll go through this quickly because we’ll come back to it in subsequent studies, Romans 8:15, which is the next verse after Romans 8:14, strange as that may seem, and it presents two alternatives.
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God [that’s the first alternative], they are the children of God. For ye have not received [this is the other alternative] the spirit of bondage again to fear...”
That’s legalism. Bondage is such a nice word we don’t mind it, but it says literally “slavery”: “You have not received the spirit of slavery to fear.” The law says, Do this, and if you don’t you’re a transgressor. Do this, and if you don’t it you’ll die. If you do that, you’ll die. Paul calls that the spirit of slavery that motivates you by fear. And let’s be frank. Looking back over the past centuries the majority of Christians have been under the spirit of bondage to fear. Their religion has been motivated by fear of doing the wrong thing and being guilty and going to hell. That’s not from God.
And then Galatians 3, the power of these Scriptures overwhelms me, and you know I marvel that for so long I didn’t see them. The only other thing that surprises me more is that most Christians still haven’t seen them. Galatians 3:1 through 4.
“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you…”
Were these Spirit-baptized Christians? Yes or no? Yes. And yet they were bewitched. Is it possible for Spirit-baptized Christians to be bewitched? It must be, and it frequently happens.
“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?”
Haven’t you seen Jesus on the cross paying the final penalty, putting an end to the law?
This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Did you have to get circumcised before you received the baptism in the Holy Spirit? No. You listened to a preacher and received the Spirit.
“Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain?”
That’s a very solemn thought. If you go back under the law, all the rest was vain. You read Galatians. Paul is deeply concerned. He says, “My little children of whom I travail again in birth till Christ be formed in you.” It’s an amazing fact about Galatians. There were no moral problems in the Galatian church. In the Corinthian church there was a man with his father’s wife, there was drunkenness at the Lord’s Table, everything. But when Paul stated the letter to Corinthians he could take time to thank God for the grace of God which was bestowed upon them. When he wrote to the Galatians, who had no moral problems but only the problem of going back under the law, he didn’t have time to thank God. He said, “I marvel that you are so soon turned from the grace of God unto another gospel.” He was much more upset over the Galatians with their legalism than he was with over the Corinthians with their immorality and their drunkenness.
Finally Galatians 5:1 through 4.
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of slavery.”
What’s that? The law, that’s right. We talk about bondage to drugs and that’s valid. But the bondage that concerned Paul was the bondage to the law.
“Behold, I Paul [he puts his own personal authority in] I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised [as a way of observing the law], that he is a debtor to do the whole law.”
You cannot choose one little part of the law and say, “I’m going to do that but leave out the rest.” It’s all or nothing. And once you start to be justified by the law, Christ is of no more avail to you. And this is exactly what he says in verse 4.
“Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”
You have to decide: is it grace or is it law? If it’s grace, it’s not law. If it’s law it’s not grace, and you cannot mix them.