07 December 2010

A survey of the Old Testament Law--Introduction part 1

We are beginning a brand new series, studying what we call “The Law.” You may hear it called “The OT Law” or “The Law of God” or “The Mosaic Law.” And you may hear people teaching that the Pharisees thought they were saved by the Law, that Jesus kept the Law that Jesus fulfilled the Law. And what we’re going to do over these however-many months is to study this Law. But first we need to understand what the Law says, its purpose, what does it mean for us and so on—to sort of see the background of this Law and the reason God gave it. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s go ahead and dive right in. We will start with Romans 2. The book of Romans was written by the apostle Paul, the same man who wrote the epistle to the Philippians that we spent the last couple years studying. At the time when Paul wrote this letter, the church in Rome was made up of both Jewish and Gentile Christians. Many times in the first few chapters he uses the phrase “to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.” And to address them both, he makes many references to “The Law.” In fact, Romans contains more verses about the OT Law than any other book in the NT.

To begin with, let me just say this—when you start reading about “The Law,” after a while you realize that “Law” is singular. You never read about “The Laws”—plural. It is always called “The Law.” The Law of God is one Law. And if one part of that Law gets broken, then the whole Law is broken. Galatians 3:10For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them." Think about holding a chain in your hand. Do you have one chain--or many chains? Well, you have ONE chain. That chain is made up of links. And if you break one of those links, how many chains have you broken? It’s not that you simply broke one link of that chain—you broke the whole chain. The same is true with the Law of God—if we break one commandment we have broken them all. James 2:10-1110 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So many people, if someone asks them if they're saved, they’ll say “Well, yes, I try to keep the Ten Commandments.” Or they’ll say “Well, it’s not like I've ever killed anyone.” OK, great—they’ve never killed anyone. Have they ever lied? Ever talked back to their parents, taken anything? Well, truth be told, yeah probably.
Then they have broken the Law of God—the whole Law—and they must be punished. 1st John 3:4 (KJV)Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And how many people have sinned? Romans 3:23All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. So, obviously, the purpose of the Law was not to make anyone righteous. Then what was the purpose of the Law? Well, there are at least three purposes.

One purpose of the Law is to judge sinners. Romans 2:12-16--12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel. What all this means is, that even though the Law was given to the Jews through Moses, we Gentiles, even though we were not given the Law, know the things contained in the Law—it’s not right to steal from someone; it’s not right to lie, and so on—and because we know these things in our conscience, yet still do them, we are in fact guilty for doing them. Because of that fact, when sinners who never believed in Christ or who never turned away from their sins stand before Christ, they will all be judged by that same Law. HOWEVER—If we are in Christ, we are not under the Law; we will see that in a little while. Romans 3:19-20--19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. So, one purpose of the Law is to judge sinners.

A second purpose is to show us what sin is until faith has come. Romans 7:7--What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” John Gill says about this verse—
“When the law came and entered his conscience with power and light attending it, then he saw, such innumerable swarms of lusts in his heart, and these to be sinful, which he never saw and knew before: just as in a sunbeam we behold those numerous little bits of dust, which otherwise are indiscernible by us. Now the law is of such use, not only to discover the sinfulness of outward actions, but also of inward lusts and desires.”
Paul says in Galatians 3:19-2219 What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made…For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 22 But the Scripture has imprisoned all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. If your child doesn’t know that you don’t want them to do something, and they do it, do you really have a right to get angry with them? No. BUT—if you tell them, in no uncertain terms not to do something and they still do it—things change then, yeah? That’s the purpose of the Law—to tell us what God requires and what He condemns. 1st Timothy 1:8-108 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine. The Law shows us what sin really is. BUT, while we walk around in these bodies of flesh with a spirit that is dead to God, our mind and our spirit do not want to do the things of God. Romans 8:5-8-- 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

The third purpose of the Law is to point us to Christ. Galatians 3:23-2523 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. The word “tutor” (“schoolmaster”—Galatians 3:24 (KJV)) is not really a good word to use to translate the Greek. In fact, we really don’t have a word in English that does it justice. The word Paul uses means, literally, a servant who is assigned by his master to accompany a child to school, make sure the child went to their classes, got their assignments, and completed them. They literally walked the child everywhere by the hand and kept an eye on them for their master. That was the job of the Law. It was meant to paint a vivid picture of the coming Savior and Messiah, Jesus Christ. However, by the time the Pharisees had become the self-appointed guardians of all things spiritual, they had elevated the status of the Law to the point that they were teaching people that one is saved by keeping that Law. That was never meant to be the case. If you ever want to read more about the purpose of the Law, read Hebrews 8-10. Hebrews 10:1-41 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. It had gotten to the point that the religious leaders were staking their salvation on outward religious practices. But, again, this was not what God wanted. The Law was simply a shadow of the Savior. Psalm 51:16-1716 You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise.

Christ, when He offered up Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, didn’t simply cover over the sins of those who believe in Him—He takes them away completely—FOREVER!! Hebrews 10:11-1411 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. The Law was a shadow to point us to the fullness of perfection that we have in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Those are three purposes of the Law. Now let’s see what the Law does and what it doesn’t do. We are not saved by keeping the Law. Galatians 2:16Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. We talked earlier about how we have all broken the Law of God at some point in our lives. There is nothing we can do to unbreak that Law. We need someone who will take the penalty for our sins upon Himself and take that penalty away. We have such a one in Christ. Galatians 3:11-1411 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall live by faith." 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but "the man who does them shall live by them." 13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. A person who does not accept the payment that Christ made will stand before God on that final Day and be forced to plead their own case, and let me tell ya, they won’t stand a chance. All the books will be opened, containing all the “good” things they did—but, also, all the sins they committed. And all they will be able to do is stand there as count after count, charge after charge, is read. And when all the charges are read, they will have no one to appeal to, no attorney, no lawyer, no one to mediate for them—they will stand naked and exposed before the pure and holy justice of God and will be declared “Guilty as charged.”

So, the Law was not meant to save us, it was in fact meant to guide us to the One who would save us by fulfilling it—which is what Christ did. In the Sermon on the Mount, he tells the people, Matthew 5:17-18“17 Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” Here was the living, breathing embodiment of the Law standing in their midst, and so many of the teachers who should have know it—didn’t. In fact, on more than one occasion He told them “Go back and read your Scriptures”—that is, the OT—“and you'll find Me all over it!!” And by His death and resurrection, He removed the veil and rendered unnecessary all the rituals and ceremonies, which were simply a shadow, because now we have the real thing—Jesus! Colossians 2:15-1715 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. 16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. But, even after His death and resurrection He was still having to show people that He was the fulfillment of the Law. Luke 24:44-4544 Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.

Finally, Christ has shown us that to fulfill the Law does not mean to go through rituals and ceremonies and sabbaths and new moons and killing bulls and goats. He has shown us that love is the fulfillment of the Law. Romans 13:8-10--8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Here we have another case of Paul quoting Jesus. These were almost the exact words we find Jesus speaking in Matthew 22:35-3935 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" 37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." Paul says in Galatians 5:14All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” James 2:8If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well.

You see, the righteousness that God requires is not simply outward observance of ordinances. God wants to change our hearts to love Him and worship Him in spirit and in truth. And if we love God, then we will want to obey His commands. The heart that loves God loves His Law. Read Psalm 119 and all you will find is a heart that loves God and sees His commandments and statutes—not as a grievous burden that must be carried grudgingly—but a heart that delights in obeying those statutes. Next week we will talk more about the heart that loves God’s Law, and we will talk about how Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law.

Jesus Christ is Lord.

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