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We have defined Law for the purpose of this study as “religious law viewed as a means to achieve righteousness with God.” Grace we have defined as “that which is freely given by God, received by faith without being earned or deserved.” The essential feature of grace is that we cannot earn it or deserve it. We receive it feely by faith or we do not receive it at all.
Now, I have said that we are not made righteous by the keeping of a religious law, and furthermore that we are not required to observe the Law of Moses. So that raises two important, practical questions. If we are not required to observe the Law of Moses, what are we required to do? What does God expect of us? Secondly, if we are not made righteous by the keeping of a law, how are we made righteous? In what way does God operate to make us righteous?
Well, yesterday I sought to answer the question: What does God require of us? And today I’m going to seek to answer the question: How does it work? Let’s go back for a moment and review the answer that I gave yesterday to the question: What does God require of us? What does God require? God requires of us the righteousness of the Law, the outworked righteousness of the Law, and this is summed up in one word which is love. All the Law is fulfilled in one word which is love.
Furthermore we find that God’s primary requirements of righteousness have not varied from age to age or from race to race. God did not have a sudden change of mind in the middle of human history as to what He wanted. God has always wanted love for God and love for our neighbor. What has changed is the way by which it is to be achieved. Since it cannot be achieved owing to our weakness by the keeping of Law and commandments, God has provided another way. His requirements are the same. The means by which we can achieve them are different.
Then we also said yesterday two important things about love, very important: love is not a sloppy emotional attitude. Love is (a) expressed and (b) developed by obedience. Obeying God’s word is the test of our love, but it is also the means by which His love is developed within us. “Whoso keepeth his word in him verily is the love of God perfected.”
Well, what are we to obey? The answer is: all that the New Testament teaches. And that will keep us busy for quite a while. And furthermore the New Testament leads us back to the Old Testament so we have to go into that. In other words, we have to study the entire revelation of God in His word. Second Timothy 3:16 we might look at. Second Timothy 3:16 and 17:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable [or useful] for doctrine [for teaching that is], for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
All Scripture is profitable for those four purposes. Not merely the New Testament, but also the Old Testament. Books like Ecclesiastes and Haggai and books like that are profitable, they’re useful for the purposes stated here. And the end result is in the next verse:
“That the man of God may be perfect [complete, entire], thoroughly equipped to all good works.”
The implication is clear. If as a man of God you’re going to be perfect, complete, entire, thoroughly equipped, you’ve got to be fully acquainted with all the teaching of Scripture—Old Testament and New Testament.
“For all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
So we need to know the whole counsel of God. And we find that our understanding of God’s purpose and will should ever be increasing and unfolding. We never come to the place where we know it all and we’ve got it all. “The pathway of righteousness is a shining light that shineth more and more each, unto the perfect day.” And if we are walking in that pathway of righteousness, the light will always be getting brighter on our path. Paul said, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect, but I press toward the mark.” He had an objective, and end in view to which he was pressing.
And then we said a little about the nature of love, that God’s love operates, I believe, in two ways. There’s the supernatural experience of God’s love poured out in one act in our heart by the Holy Spirit. But there’s also the outworking of God’s love in our daily living, in the development and formation of our character. And I’d like to point out to you that we leave our gifts at the end of this life, but we’ll take our character with us. The enduring thing is not gifts, but character. And when it comes to building love in character then it’s progressive. And in 2 Peter chapter 1 verses 5 through 7, we find the following progression given to us—faith, excellence, knowledge, self-control, endurance, brotherly love [love for our fellow-believers] and finally charity, divine love that enables us to love the unlovable and even our enemies and those that despise us and hate us and persecute us. But that passage in 2 Peter chapter 1 makes it very clear that that kind of love must be built on a solid foundation of character, and that it’s progressive. We do not achieve it in a moment of inspiration or special blessing in a meeting. It is something that has to be worked out systematically in our daily living. And as we thus work it out we move from imputed righteousness which we receive instantly when we trust Jesus Christ, to outworked righteousness, that which really works out in our lives. The Scripture there is Philippians 2, “Work out your own salvation, for it is God that worketh in you.” God works in you, you work out. But God can only work in you to the proportion in which you work out. When you stop working out God has to stop working in.
And the last Scripture that we looked at, Revelation 19:8, “the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. It’s the outworked righteousness of the saints.” Not the imputed righteousness which is what we start with, but by the time we come to the marriage feast we have to have the outworked righteousnesses of the saints.
Now, in this fourth and final study I want to seek to answer the question How does grace operate? We’ve talked about what and given you a lot of homework. Now we’re going to talk about how. This I think is the most difficult thing for the natural mind to grasp: How does the operation of grace differ from the operation of law? And that is what I am going to seek to answer in outline this morning—how does grace operate?
And first of all, we have to make one basic statement: grace can only come into operation as a result of the atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross. If Christ had not died on the cross as our substitute and our sin offering, there would have been no possibility for grace to operate in our lives. Let’s go to Romans 8:4 for a moment which we’ve looked at once before, Romans 8:3 and 4. Romans chapter 8 verses 3 and 4:
“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.”
Notice, God had to deal with sin on the cross before there could be any possibility of the righteousness of the law being fulfilled in us. The cross is the basic requirement that sets the grace of God in operation.
And now I’ll turn to the outline again and read the statement that I’ve made there: Grace is made possible only by the atonement of Christ who did five things. He did a lot more than five things, but these are five things that I’m specifying.
Number one: He paid the penalty of our past sins.
Number two: He terminated the law as a means of righteousness.
Number three: He settled Satan’s claims against us.
Number four: He put away sin.
Number five: He executed our carnal nature.
Let’s look at the Scripture references for each of those statements. You’ll notice that for the first three statements the second reference in each case is in Colossians chapter 2. We’ll leave the reference in Colossians chapter 2 and look only at the other references first, then we’ll go to Colossians 2. So Christ paid the penalty of our past sins, Romans 3:25, speaking about the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Paul says in Romans 3:25:
“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare God’s righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.”
Jesus, on the cross, paid the due penalty for all past sinful acts. In His forbearance, God had passed over without bringing final judgment on the sinful acts of many proceeding generations, looking forward to the time when all would be settled once and for all by the death of Jesus Christ. So it was the forbearance of God that caused Him to pass over the sinful acts that had been committed by previous generations. And then God sent forth Jesus as a propitiation for all those past sinful acts.
Now the word propitiation is the same word that’s used in the Greek version of the Old Testament for the mercy seat, the thing that covered the ark. And it’s a very vivid picture, because in the ark were the Ten Commandments representing the requirements of the Law. Those commandments had been flouted and broken. But Jesus, by His death on the cross, became the mercy seat that once and for all covered the broken Law. And on that mercy seat was sprinkled the blood of the sin offering. And thereafter, incidentally, it was a sin to be punished by death for anybody ever to lift the mercy seat and look inside the ark again. In other words, once the broken Law has been dealt with, we are never to go back and look at it again. It’s covered once and for all by the mercy seat, the propitiation of Jesus Christ on the cross. The whole question of all our past sinful acts, once and for all has been dealt with by the death of Jesus on the cross. So the devil can never bring up against us anything that we’ve committed in the past if it has been confessed and we have claimed the forgiveness of God through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Never let the devil accuse you about the past.
Secondly, Jesus, by His death on the cross, terminated the Law of Moses.
Now we go to Romans 10:4 which is one of the Scriptures that we have looked at several times. Romans 10:4:
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness [as a means of righteousness] to every one that believeth.”
Do you believe? All right, then Christ was the end of the Law for you as a means of righteousness. Whether you be Jew or Gentile, it makes no difference.
Thirdly, Christ settled Satan’s claims against us, and thus delivered us from the dominion of Satan. Now we can turn to Colossians, Colossians chapter 1 first of all. Colossians chapter 1 and we’ll read verses 12 and 13, though 13 is the key verse, Colossians 1:12 and 13:
“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet [or capable] to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.”
The word power, exousia, is “authority.” Remember Satan has authority over the rebellious. He’s the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. As long as we are in rebellion against God, we are under the authority of Satan. Darkness has authority over the children of darkness. But through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, God has delivered us from the realm of authority of darkness, has translated us out of that area into the kingdom of the Son of His love. I like the word translated because there were two persons in the Old Testament who were translated. Who were they? Enoch and Elijah. And you notice, both of them went complete. They left nothing behind except that Elijah left his mantle. And we have been totally translated, not partially. Our total being has been moved out of the realm of authority of Satan into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love, Jesus Christ. Spirit, soul and body, we are out of Satan’s territory. He has no more dominion over us. No more claim against us, because of what God did through Christ on the cross.
Now let’s look in Colossians 2 and we’ll see these three things set forth in order in verses 13, 14, and 15. We will not look at them in detail. We have commented on some them before. Colossians 2:13, the latter part of the verse it says, through the death of Christ God has forgiven us all our trespasses. All our wrong acts that we have ever committed, God has forgiven us through the death of Christ. Every past sinful act has once and for all been dealt with by the death of Christ. That’s point number one. Point number two, verse 14:
“God has blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us [that’s the Law], and it was contrary to us.”
And it was contrary to us because every time we tried to get to God the Law stood between God and us and reminded us that we were transgressors and we had no right of access to God. But God, through the death of Christ, took it out of the way nailing it in Christ to the cross. When Christ was nailed to the cross, the Law was nailed to the cross in Him. That ended the Law as a means of righteousness.
And in verse 15, thirdly, through the death of Christ God has spoiled the principalities and powers of Satan. That’s Satan’s dominating power had been stripped of all their authority and all their claims over us. Satan has no more claim over us. He has no more authority over us. But you must get them in that order. You’ve got to get verses 13, 14 and 15 in the right order.
First of all, the past has been dealt with. All our sinful acts of the past have been forgiven. Secondly, the Law has been taken out of the way. It’s no longer against us because we are not under it, we’re not related to it. We’re dead to it through the body of Jesus Christ. And on the basis of those two facts, then we are free from Satan’s dominion over us. If any past sinful acts were still reckoned against us, or if we were still required to keep the Law, then we would not be free from the dominion of Satan. Our freedom from the dominion of Satan in verse 15 depends on the other two statements in verses 13 and 14. And if you don’t accept those other two statements, you’re not free from the dominion of Satan. Only when you are absolutely convinced, first of all, that all your past sinful acts are forgiven once and for all, and secondly, when you’re convinced that you are no longer required to be made righteousness by the keeping of the Law, only then can you be free from the dominion of Satan. As long as Satan can keep you in any way guilty, either because of unforgiven past sin or because you’re somehow not living up to the standard that you believe God requires you to live up to, then Satan has dominion over you.
Remember, as far as the Christian is concerned, his basic activity is this: that he’s the accuser of the brethren. He accuses us before the throne of God day and night, and we have to come to the place where we have settled his accusations, where they have no more power against us. Only when we are totally free of guilt are we a match for Satan. His supreme objective is to keep Christians feeling somehow guilty, and he’s been greatly assisted over the centuries by the church, because the average church, when you go into it, in almost everything in it is designed to keep you feeling slightly guilty. Most of the hymns that we’ve sung over the centuries have been sin-centered hymns. And I think most churchgoers feel holiest when they feel guilty. In fact, they would think it was presumptuous not to feel guilty. Do you ever watch the faces of people walking out of church on Sunday morning? They look religiously unhappy. And they think that’s the way they ought to feel.
You know, we go through all the ceremonies of the church and we repeat all the items of the creed and we don’t believe them. If we did believe them, we’d act different. Every major section of the church basically believes the same things. They’re in our creeds or our confessions or our fundamentals. We were helpless, hopeless, hell-deserving sinners, lost, deserving no good. And God in His infinite grace and mercy gave His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in agony in our behalf on the cross. Through His death and resurrection, all our sins can be forgiven, we can be accepted as children of God, and be reckoned entirely righteous. And we go through that Sunday morning after Sunday morning and walk out of church looking as though nothing important has really happened.
In fact, I’ve sometime pictured to myself a real good respectable religious lady. Having said all these things in the creed and sung them in the hymns and her them in collect, she’s walking out prim, proper and she drops her beautiful lace handkerchief. And a little boy scampers up to her, picks up the handkerchief and says, “Ma’am, here’s your handkerchief.” And she’s much more excited about getting her handkerchief back than she is about having her sins forgiven. In other words, one thing is real to her, the other isn’t. It’s just theology, it’s creed, it’s… You think we’re a little fanatical when we jump up and down and dance? Friends, that’s the only logical way to act if we really believe what we say we believe. Anything else is inconsistent. It’s ridiculous. Walk out prim and stiff and proper having said we believe what we believe in our creed. It’s absurd. It just proves we don’t really believe it, that’s all.
The fourth thing that Jesus did by His death on the cross was to put away sin. Now I pointed out to you that our problems in our wrong living are the result, I believe, of two forces working together. The source of sin which is a deceitful corrupt destructive spiritual power at work in the universe, and what’s called the old nature, the carnal nature, the old man which is a nature within us prone to rebellion. And when the force of sin works on the old man the result is sinful living. So we have these two elements in the problem, both of which have to be dealt with, both of which were dealt with by the death of Christ on the cross.
First of all, Christ put away sin. Turn to Hebrews chapter 9, Hebrews the 9th chapter, pointing out here in verse 26 that Christ only had to offer one sacrifice. He was not like the Old Testament priests who had to keep offering the same sacrifices over and over again. Christ only had to do it once. It was one sufficient complete sacrifice that never had to be repeated. And so the writer of Hebrews says:
“For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world [if He’d been like the Old Testament priests, but on the contrary he goes on to say]; but now once in the end of the age hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
Jesus became the sin offering. Isaiah 53:10:
“…when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.”
On the cross Jesus exhausted the sin of the world in his own soul. And when He died sin was put away by that sacrifice once and for all. And as we go beyond the cross we go into a realm where sin has no access, sin has no power, it’s been put out of operation. So Jesus put away sin.
And then the fifth point, in Him our carnal nature, our old man was executed, put to death. Romans 6:6, Romans 6:6:
You know what the problem of the church is? We don’t know it. That’s our problem.
“Knowing this [I’ll read the King James Version and then give you ‘the Prince version’—Romans 6:6:] Knowing this [King James] that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”
Now, whereas the King James uses the perfect is crucified, the Greek uses the simple past was crucified. And if you can grasp it, that’s so vivid. It describes a single historical event that happened once and never had to be repeated. Our old man was crucified in Jesus Christ. When Jesus died on the cross, my old nature died in Him. That ended it.
“Our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin, that is the sinful rebellious nature in me might be put out of operation [rather than destroyed. It’s not totally eliminated, it’s put out of operation, it no longer has any power], that henceforth we should not be the slaves of sin.”
The only way to escape from the slavery of sin is through the death of the old man. As long as the old man lives, he lives the slave of sin. God has only one program for the old man. He does not send him to church or Sunday school or teach him the Golden Rule or teach him to memorize Scripture. You know what He does with him? Executes him. That’s all that God can do for him. Our old man was crucified in Christ on the cross. But the problem is that most Christians don’t know it. Paul says, “Knowing this that our old man was crucified.” First of all, in Romans 6:6 he says, “Knowing,” and then in Romans 6:11 he says, “Likewise reckon… Believe what God says.” God said it, you believe it. God says you’re dead, reckon yourself dead. Accept it, agree with what God says about your old nature. That’s God’s program for dealing with the old man.
Let’s go through those five statements again and we’ll move on. All these were essential. Grace could not come into operation until these five things had been accomplished by the death of Christ.
First of all, Number one: Christ paid the penalty for our past sins.
Number two: He terminated the Law as a means of righteousness.
Number three: He settled Satan’s claims against us, thus delivered us from the dominion of Satan.
Number four: He put away sin.
Number five: In Him our carnal nature was executed.
All right. That being accomplished the way is now open for grace to come into operation. What is the difference in the way that grace operates from the way that law operates? Now I’ll give you just a simple summation which is here in the outline and then we’ll turn to 2 Corinthians chapter 3 and look at Paul’s detailed summation of the difference. But first of all, to give you something to think about I’ll make this statement—Law commands the old man from without. Grace writes upon the heart of the new man within. Essentially, Law is external. It’s outside me. I’m looking at it and I’m saying That’s what I’ve got to do. Grace is internal. It does something inside me that results automatically in my acting differently.
All right. Now let’s turn to 2 Corinthians chapter 3 and see. Here in this chapter Paul gives us a summation of the difference between Law and grace and he points out seven ways in which grace differs from law. I’ll read the first thirteen verses of the chapter because I think you have to have the outline in mind before we go into it. Second Corinthians chapter 3 beginning at verse 1:
“Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or need we, as some others, letters of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our letter written in our hearts, known and read of all men. Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the letter of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward; Nor that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the testament [or new covenant]; not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministrations of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. Seeing than that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look at the end of that which is abolished.”
Let’s go back now to the beginning. Paul, first of all, raises the question, and says, “Do you Christians in Corinth not already know me? Do I need some special letter of recommendation introducing me to you?” He said, “On the contrary. I was the one who introduced you to Christ. Or do I need some letter of recommendation from you to some other church that I’m going to go to?”
Now it’s perfectly legitimate and scriptural to have letters of recommendation. I think it’s very valid. But Paul says, “As far as you Corinthians are concerned, I don’t need any letter of recommendation, because you’re the result of my ministry. When I went to Corinth, Christ hadn’t been named there. When I left Corinth there was a flourishing, active Spirit-filled church.” So he says, “You are my letter. You’re the only letter that I need.” Look in verse 3:
“Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the letter of Christ ministered by us…”
That is one of the most challenging statements that I’ve discovered in the New Testament. Paul says, in effect, to the ancient world, “You want to know what I believe? Go to Corinth and you’ll find out. Look at the people. That’s what I believe. They’re my letter, they’re my theology.” And this continually challenges me because I believe as Christians if I’m a pastor then I ought to be able to say to the world, “You know what I believe? Look at my congregation. They’ll show you what I believe.” I ought to be able to say to the world, “You want to know what I believe? Look at my children. They’ll show you what I believe.” If it doesn’t work, why bother with it? We’ve got to prove it works.
If it could work in Corinth, which was one of the most wicked, dissolute cities of the ancient world, it should be able to work even in Boston. This is a challenge. You see, John says in the first chapter of his gospel, “The word was made flesh.” In his first epistle he says, “We handled Him, we watched Him, we heard Him.” The life was manifested that was in Jesus. You know God’s purpose for the church? Precisely the same, that the word shall be made flesh in us. That we shall demonstrate collectively as a body to the world what the gospel is. Anything less than that is failure. And that’s what God is working at right now. We are God’s corporate word. In us the word is to be made flesh. People ought to be able to see it, handle it, look at it, listen to it.
Now then Paul goes on to explain how this was achieved. It was not achieved by bringing the Law of Moses. In fact, as he points out and the leaders of the church acknowledged, there’d been synagogues in most of the great cities of the ancient world for quite a long while, but it hadn’t changed the cities. The Law had been there and been taught Sabbath after Sabbath for many years, but it hadn’t changed people.
All right. Now let’s look at the points of difference which Paul here brings out between the Law and grace. In verse 3:
“Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the letter of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God…”
There’s the first difference. Law writes with ink on tables, grace writes with the Holy Spirit. And then again:
“…not on tables of stone, [the Law was written on tables of stone] but in the tables of the hearts of believers.”
Here I believe is the very essence of it. The Law is outside you. It’s written on tables of stone, it says, “Do this. Don’t do that. And if you do that, you’ll be punished.” And you look at it and you say, “I mustn’t do this; I must do that.” And you end up by doing the exact opposite of what you decided to do. Why? Because inside you is an uncrucified rebel. And the more he’s confronted with the Law, the more rebellious he becomes. We’ve seen that already. The Law stirs up and strengthens sin. So God says, “Put the rebel to death, create a new nature in him, and then by My Spirit I’ll write on the heart of the new man inside him.”
All right, let’s go on. Verse 6, God hath made us able ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. We don’t write letters. We write spiritual truth on the hearts of believers. And then in verses 6 and 7, the letter killeth but the spirit giveth life. And then Paul talks about the Law as the ministration of death. The Law brings death. The letter of the word kills, but the spirit gives life. So the Law is the ministration of death, grace is the ministration of life.
I don’t know whether you’ve ever stopped to think about the number of funerals that took place in the Exodus. It’s breathtaking. Six hundred thousand able bodied men of war came out of Egypt with Moses, and only two of them, forty years later, entered the Promised Land. Six hundred thousand men had died and presumably about the same number of women. Twelve hundred thousand people died in forty years. That’s forty thousand a year. Thirty thousand people died a year. That’s an aspect of the Law we don’t easily see. The Law brought death. The Spirit brings life.
All right, we’ll go on. Verse 9:
“For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.”
The Law brings condemnation. Grace brings righteousness. A lady came up to me somewhat perplexed at the end of yesterday morning when I said, “It’s the devil who makes people feel guilty.” But it is. You see, we’re not used to thinking that way. I said the devil is the one who makes people feel guilty. We’re so used to thinking that when we feel guilty we’re pretty religious, that we’re not happy if we don’t feel guilty. But remember, it’s the devil and the Law that minister condemnation. Grace ministers righteousness. In the gospel it’s not our aim to make people feel guilty. It’s our aim to assure people that they’ve been made righteous. It’s easy to make people fell guilty. It’s not so easy to assure people that they’re righteous.
All right. Verses 10 and 11:
“For even that which was made glorious [the Law] had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. [That’s the glory of the gospel and of grace.] For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.”
Now Paul is referring to the fact that when Moses came down from the mountain after communing with God for forty days and forty nights and receiving the Law, his face shown so much that he scared his fellow-Israelites. They didn’t want to come near him. So there was a superficial glory. It says “the skin of his face shown.” So in order not to scare them he put a veil over his face and talked with them from under a veil. But when he went into the tabernacle to commune with the Lord he took the veil off. Paul says that veil still remains on the heart of the Jewish people. They cannot see the end of the Law. They see its superficial glory but they do not see that that glory is done away. And so it is today. But the glory of the gospel is eternal. It’s an unfading eternal glory.
Now this to me is very significant. Because I find out that when you have a legalistic religious system it has a certain superficial glory. It has pomp, ceremony, vestments, organs, choirs, a whole array of things that impress the soulish man, but it’s impermanent. The gospel brings a permanent glory, but it’s spiritual. And the soulish man doesn’t appreciate, the soulish man doesn’t appreciate the spiritual glory of the gospel. That’s why religious don’t enjoy the liberty we have in the Holy Spirit, because one is soulish, the other is spiritual. You see, you can have very, very beautiful religious buildings and very well trained choirs and highly educated preachers. It has a certain temporary superficial glory. But the glory of the true gospel is a glory that fills the heart and it’s permanent. And it’s somewhat like what the Lord said, “No man having tasted the old wine, straightway desireth the new. For the old, saith he, is better.” When you’re used to the glory of legalism, you don’t immediately want to go in for the glory of the gospel. But bear in mind, the glory of the Law is temporary. It doesn’t last.
I’ve been in some of the most famous religious buildings of Britain. I grew up in them. I spent hours in them. King’s College Chapel is probably one of the most famous religious buildings in Europe, in fact in the world. And its choir is justly world famous. And I’ve sat in that building and listened to that beautiful music and that beautiful architecture with the carved woodwork, the beautiful stained glass windows, and I acknowledge a certain glory. But you walk out and ten minutes later you’re as cold as a dead duck. It doesn’t last. I don’t know why, but God is really dealing with me about this. We’ve got to see the difference between the superficial soulish impermanent and the true inward spiritual abiding glory.
Finally, the seventh point of distinction, verses 12 and 13:
“Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: and not as Moses who put a vail over his face.”
The Law is veiled. It doesn’t come out and say it clearly, but the gospel tells it like it is. We use great plainness of speech. I made a study once of what it means to be full of the Holy Spirit or filled with the Holy Spirit. And I found there are fifteen places in the New Testament where it speaks about being filled with or full of the Holy Spirit. Interestingly enough, fourteen of them are in the writings of Luke, and one is in the writings of Paul. I discovered that there are eight individuals who are said to be have been at one time filled with or full of the Holy Spirit. And I began to study what kind of persons they were. Let me tell you quickly. Five of them died as martyrs. That’s over fifty percent. So next time you ask God fill you with the Holy Spirit, just pause for a moment and consider the statistical probabilities. I discovered that in almost every case there was a free verbal expression. It came out through the mouth. I discovered in almost every case there was a very powerful impact on the total situation. I discovered that each one of these persons had a free, forgiving spirit. I discovered that each one encountered unusual satanic opposition. And the other interesting point was each of them was a person of very plain speech.
And I’m convinced that the Holy Spirit honors plain speech. He’s the Spirit of truth and He blesses us when we tell it like it is. And I’m suspicious of things that have to be wrapped up in allegories and figures and types. I believe in typical teaching—shadows and types—but never as a basis for establishing doctrine. Doctrine is established from the clear simple statements of the New Testament. Then we can go back to the historical patterns—the patterns of the sacrifices, the tabernacles. I love them but they never establish truth. They only illustrate it. I’ve heard more screwy interpretations of the Feast of Tabernacles than I can count. I’d like to know the real interpretation, I tell you I would.
All right, let’s go back quickly over this and try to arrive at a summation. The seven points of difference between the operation of the Law and the operation of grace.
The Law writes with ink. Grace writes with the Holy Spirit.
The Law writes on external tables of stone or other material. Grace writes on the internal tables of the heart of the renewed believer.
The Law writes letters. Grace writes spiritual truth.
The Law ministers death. Grace ministers life.
The Law ministers condemnation. Grace ministers righteousness.
The Law has a temporary glory. Grace has an abiding and exceeding glory.
The Law uses veiled speech. Grace uses free, open language.
Now let’s look down to the end of the 3rd chapter of 2 Corinthians and look at the closing verse which I believe sums it up, and which is a very beautiful verse:
“But we all, with open face [the Greek says with unveiled face. It’s the contrast with Moses who had the veil over his face.] But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord…”
What is the mirror? The Word of God. That’s right. God’s Word is the mirror. With unveiled face, with opened understanding, we look in the mirror of God’s Word. And as we look the Holy Spirit reveals to us what? The glory of what we are in Christ. We’d better read the verse and then I’ll explain it.
“But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being continually changed into the likeness of what we behold from glory to glory, even by the Lord the Spirit [that’s the right way to put it].”
There’s one of the places that emphasizes that the Spirit is Lord and He’s a person. So you see we are not saying we don’t need the Bible. On the contrary, we’re saying the Holy Spirit only works while we look in the mirror. When we take our eyes off the mirror, the Holy Spirit no longer works. But as long as we’re looking in the mirror, renewed in our mind, children of God, the Holy Spirit reveals to us from the mirror the glory of the Lord. And as we look at that glory, the Holy Spirit changes us into the likeness of what we behold. And we say, “Praise God, that’s glory.” And the Holy Spirit says, “That’s only the first step. It’s from glory to glory.” It’s continually unfolding, increasing and progressing. As I’ve already pointed out, there’s no stopping point.
So, I wonder if we can make that clear, because I believe this is the crux of what I am trying to say. How does grace operate? How are we related to the Scripture? It’s not a set of laws hanging on the wall telling us what to do. It’s a means that the Holy Spirit uses as we look at it with unveiled understanding in faith, the Holy Spirit imparts to us what we’re looking at. It becomes part of us. He writes on the tables of our heart. We see the glory of Jesus and we’re changed into the same likeness as what we behold. The moment we cease to look in the mirror, the Holy Spirit has to suspend His operations; He can do no more for us until we get our eyes back in the mirror.
Keep your finger there and just look for a moment in Romans chapter 8, Romans chapter 8 verse 29, speaking about those whom God foreknew and predestined:
“For those whom God foreknew, he also did predestinate…”
To go to heaven? No. So many people talk about predestination as if we’re predestinated to go to heaven. But that’s not what it says.
“…he did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son,…”
That’s what we’re predestinated to. I have no difficulty in believing that somebody’s who’s conformed to the image of Christ has been predestinated. That doesn’t create any problem. But if a person sits in church miserable, sour and unattractive and says, “I’m predestinated,” I say, “Where’s the evidence?”
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he [the son, Jesus] might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
I want to illustrate this with a little story some of you may have heard before. Just relax for a moment and we’ll come back to the application. A good many years ago, about three or four hundred years ago, I’m sorry to say that the Anglican Church of England was bitterly persecuting the Christians of Scotland. That must have been at least four hundred years ago. It was before they were a United Kingdom. The Scottish believers were known as the Covenanters. Have you ever heard of the Covenanters? They signed their covenant in their own blood, you know. They were a little dedicated loyal group, and they were bitterly persecuted by the Church of England and the British or the English soldiers.
One day a Scottish lassie was sneaking out to a secret meeting of believers and she was stopped by an English soldier, and he said, “Where are you going?” Now being a real dedicated Christian she didn’t want to lie, but likewise she didn’t want to betray her fellow-believers. So she sent a little quick telegram up to heave and got the answer from the Lord. And this is the answer she gave to the question, “Where are you going?”
“My eldest brother died and I’m going to Father’s house to hear the will read.” All right. You see, Jesus is the elder brother. He’s the firstborn among many brethren and the New Testament is His will. And if you study it, it tells us our inheritance. And when you look in it with the eye of faith you see what we become in Christ and as you see the Holy Spirit changes you into it.
All right, we go to one other passage which is Hebrews chapter 8 which points out three ways in which the New Covenant differs from the Old. Now this passage in Hebrews chapter 8 is a quotation of Jeremiah chapter 31 verses 31 through 34. I’m not going to read Jeremiah, but at your leisure you would do well to have a look at it. So Hebrews 8 beginning at verse 7 and reading through verse 12:
“For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. [If the first covenant had been met all men’s needs there never would have been a new covenant.] For finding fault with them [not with the covenant, but with the people, God says], Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. [It’s not like the covenant of the Law. Now the Scripture goes on to explain the nature of this New Covenant.] For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.”
Now looking at verses 10, 11 and 12 you get the three ways in which the New Covenant differs from the Old. In verse 10 the Holy Spirit writes the laws of God not on tables of stone as something outside us that we have to try to keep, but writes them in our hearts and minds where they are naturally expressed in the things that we do. Because Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep thy heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.” What you have in your heart will determine the way you live. When God’s laws are written in your heart you will live God’s way. So this is the first difference. The Holy Spirit writes those laws which God wants to keep. What are the two basic laws? Love for God, love for our neighbor. He writes them on our hearts.
Secondly, every believer knows God direct. We don’t have to teach people—know the Law, because all will know me from the least to the greatest. You notice it starts with the least and goes up to the greatest. “Except you become as a little child you shall in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven.” It starts with the least. Every believer has a direct personal knowledge of God. He’s directly related to God, not through a mediator. Let’s look at two Scriptures. Keep your finger in Hebrews 8.
John 17 and verse 3, Jesus said:
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.”
It’s a direct, personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. And it is not through a mediator. This is brought out in Galatians chapter 3. A mediator is somebody who goes between two persons who are not directly related, but that’s not the way it is in the New Covenant. Galatians 3:19 and 20:
“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. [Moses was the mediator and the Law was not given direct by God. It was given by angels to Moses who was the mediator between heaven and earth.] Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, [there are two distinct persons where you have a mediator, separated by the mediator. A mediator, though he brings people into contact with each other, actually comes between them.] but God is one.”
So when you meet Jesus Christ, you meet God. There’s no mediator. So that’s the second difference. Every believer knows God directly in Jesus Christ. Going back to Hebrews 8 verse 12, the third difference is there is no more consciousness of sin, no more offerings for sin.
“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.”
The very memory of our sin has been blotted out from God’s consciousness. Just turn to Hebrews 10 for a moment at that emphasized again in verses 15 through 18—well I’ll read verse 14 through 18. Hebrews 10 verses 14 through 18:
“For by one offering [by one sacrifice] he [Jesus Christ] hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Spirit also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.”
If our sins have been forgotten, we’re not going to need another sin offering. So the third point of difference is there’s been one final, sufficient sin offering and there are no more sin offerings required. Let’s just read that again to renew our understanding of it. The three ways in which the New Covenant differs from the old according to Hebrews chapter 8, first of all, the Holy Spirit writes God’s laws in our hearts and minds—not on tables of stone. Secondly, each believer knows directly and personally without any mediator. Thirdly, sin has been finally dealt with and put away and no further sacrifice for sin is therefore required.
Now we come to the final summing up statement which I’ve written here and I want to read it out. Grace is worked out by a continuing supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit. The two important words are continuing and supernatural. Grace never operates on the plane of our natural ability, and it’s continuing. Once we start to think that we can do it by ourselves we’re out of grace. Once we start to think it’s all over, I’ve got it now we’re out of grace. You see these are the two big problems that keep us from living in grace. First of all, we begin to think, “Well, now I can really make it. I’ve got it made. I can do it.” You’re out of grace.
The other which is similar is “I’ve got it.” And just when you think you’ve got it, you’re out of it. So grace operates by a continuing unceasing supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit.
I think I’ll just tell you this little picture. To me you can sum up or picturize the difference between law and grace like the difference between a map and a personal guide. The Law is a perfect map. Grace offers up a personal guide. Who is the guide? The Holy Spirit—“as many as are led by the Spirit of God.” So every man says, “Give me the map. I can make it.” God says, “All right. There’s the map. Perfect. Correct.” So off you go and a little while later it’s dark, cold, you’re on the edge of a precipice, you don’t whether you’re facing north, south, east or west. You’re miserable and lonely. You’ve got the map in your hand. You’re lost. And a sweet voice says to you so gently, “Can I help you?” And you say, “God, I need you.” And right there by your side is the Holy Spirit. He says, “Take My hand. I’ll lead you.”
Well, after a little while the scene is changed, you’re right out on the highway, the road is paved, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and you think It really wasn’t so bad after all. I believe I could have made it. And then you turn to the Holy Spirit and you say, “You know, I started out with a real good map. And I think if I were to just take a little time I could find out where we are. And if I really knew where we are on a map I would be able to make it.”
So you get out the map and you start looking at it and after a while you say, “That’s where we are. You see that?” But there’s no one there, because the Holy Spirit says, “If you can do it with a map, you don’t need Me.” Hasn’t that happened to you? If you can make it with a map why trouble the Holy Spirit? But you can’t. But you say to the Holy Spirit, “Here’s a good map.” But the Holy Spirit says, “Thanks, I know the way. I don’t need the map.” You’ve got the choice. Which will it be? The map or the Guide? If it’s going to be the Guide, it’s got to be the Guide all the time, all the way. He won’t have little sections where you can travel by the map and then you need Him again. The Guide all the time, all the way.
In this new life we are one hundred percent dependent on the Holy Spirit. The final Scripture Romans 6:4, Romans chapter 6 verse 4:
“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
Now one important question is, What is the glory of the Father? What is the glory of the Father? I didn’t hear you. The Holy Spirit. Keep your finger in Romans 6:4 and turn to Romans 1:4. Romans 1, 3 and 4 says:
“The gospel concerns God’s Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared [or set apart] as the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, [that’s a Hebraism for the Holy Spirit] by the resurrection from the dead.”
What raised Jesus from the dead? The Holy Spirit. And in Romans 6:4 it says He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. So the glory of the Father is the Holy Spirit.
All right, going back to Romans 6:4:
“…that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in this new life.”
Listen, Jesus didn’t raise Himself from the dead. He totally depended on the Father to raise Him, by the Spirit. And just as totally as Jesus depended on the Holy Spirit for the resurrection, so totally do we have to depend on the Holy Spirit for the ability to lead this new life. We need the Holy Spirit every moment all the way. We cannot do it without Him. This is the biggest problem. And I venture to say that those who have known the Holy Spirit in His power through the baptism, and then try to do without are the deadest of the dead. They’re even deader than the people that have never known the Holy Spirit. And this is our big danger. It’s starting in the Spirit, and then saying, “Now I think I can do it with the map.” You can’t You’re dependent on the Holy Spirit every moment, every hour, every day. Grace operates only by the continuing supernatural presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Praise God.