THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL

We live in a day and age where people say “rules are meant to be broken.” We love our independence and frown at the fact that we are under a perfect Lawgiver. No matter how independent we consider ourselves, we as creatures of an Awesome Creator, and are accountable to Him. The Bible does not try to prove His existence but boldly declares that ‘in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth’. We are not only created by Him but we have been created in His image. If only we paused and thought about this truth deeply we, as mankind are unique and are different from the animal world. We were made to have dominion over the creatures of this planet. We have been made with an incredible ability to think and reason and even act as moral beings (Gen 1:26-27).

Even though the Law of Moses was given in the book of Exodus we know from verses like Romans 2:14-15 that “the works of the law are written on man’s heart”. So definitely Adam, Eve and people who lived before the Law of Moses were accountable to a righteous Creator. As one theologian said “Adam knew it was wrong to dishonour God’s name and beat his wife.” When Adam and Eve disobeyed by eating the forbidden fruit, they failed to trust God’s word and therefore to love God above everyone else. So, we can say that our first parents broke the eternal and moral law of God which was written upon their hearts even though they did not have the 10 commandments in their hands. The sad reality is that from that day onwards we have lost all our ability in ourselves to obey and fulfil God’s law and gain eternal life (Rom 8:6- 8).

Did God lower His standard of perfection just because sin entered the world? No! Certainly not. We see that God visited the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in judgement (Gen 18) and also the entire human race when He sent the great flood during the time of Noah (Gen 6,7). We can safely say that even before the Law of Moses was given God judged His creatures by the eternal, moral Law that flows from His perfectly righteous character. The 10 commandments are a wonderful expression of His just character. During the time of Moses and the covenant with Israel God gave many additional laws to Israel. One of the main reasons for giving so many commandments was to let Israel know how Holy God is and also how impossible it is to fulfil the law in their own strength as a covenant of works (Rom 3:20). Israel did say that they would fulfil all these covenant stipulations and be blessed by keeping the land (Deut 27-29). But their history in the Old Testament clearly shows how terribly they often failed. God’s patience finally ended and they were exiled out of the land because of unfaithfulness to the Covenant (Daniel 1:1-2).

The story of mankind would remain a tragedy had not the Law giver Himself made a way for us. Mankind like Israel will never be able to inherit the eternal life with God because of our weakness to obey God perfectly (Rom 8:3). But praise be to God for Christ our horn of salvation! The Incarnation of the Lord Jesus is the dawning of hope itself! It is very interesting to note how Jesus talked to religious, self-righteous people. To Nicodemus, He said, “You must be born again”. In other words, all your religious activities mean nothing as God must give new life from above. He even spoke to a lawyer in Luke 10:25-28 who was asking about inheriting eternal life. Jesus took him to the Law and later said “do this and live”. The Lord Jesus knew that he could not do it and so could not inherit eternal life by himself (Gal 2:21). So, He used the Law to expose the man’s lack of righteousness. The real Law keeper and Saviour was pressing the lawyer to acknowledge his inability and trust in Jesus who is the hope and fulfillment of all God’s promises.

Our Sovereign God in His free grace from eternity past had given a redeemed people to His Son (John 17:6). The Son had agreed to obey the Father’s will Hebrews (10:5-7). He had agreed to come in the fulness of time as the perfect Mediator for His people (1 Timothy 2:5). The one who is the Eternal Word of the Father (John1:1). The unique Son of God who is equal to God took on human flesh for us (Phil 2, John1:14). He came to obey and fulfill all righteousness (Matt 3:15). He was tempted at all points and yet without sin (Heb 4:15). He submitted Himself to the plan of God and became for us our great Passover lamb (1 Cor 5:7). He became sin who knew no sin that we would become the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor 5:21). He became our wrath absorbing sacrifice so that we can have the forgiveness of sins by His work on our behalf. He has become our sufficiency and our righteousness (1 Cor 1:29-31). The coming of Christ has brought us from the shadows and ceremonies of the Mosiac covenant to all the realities they were pointing to (Col 2:16-17). We have been brought into such an enlarged freedom from all the ceremonies, feasts and Old Covenant civil laws Galatians (4:1-7). But the most wonderful freedom is from the curse of the law that was going to sentence us to hell (Galatians 3:13-14).

Does this mean that the believer living under the New Covenant is freed also from any obligation to the eternal, moral law that flows from God’s righteous character? Certainly not! The very verses promising the New Covenant gives us clarity in Jeremiah 31

33 “For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD: “I will

put My law within them and write it on their heart; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their wrongdoing, and their sin I will no longer remember.”

The law has become our delight now by the work of the Spirit in our hearts. The great secret of loving God and loving our neighbour as ourselves is a precious reality now in the believer’s life (John 14:15). When we walk by the Spirit in love we begin to walk according to the righteous precepts of God. For example, the believer loves God and so would hate to take His name in vain. The believer loves others and so will hate to steal from his or her neighbour because that will cause loss to someone he or she loves. And so, walking by love, by the power of the Holy Spirit fulfills the law in the believer’s life (Gal 4:14, Rom 12:8-10). The sense in which this takes place is very important. The believer is not under the Law as an arrangement of works to gain a standing before God. But the believer is in grateful love with God’s law and desires to walk in it as it is a guide for his or her life. Of course, the believer will not be able to love God and man perfectly in this life but in Christ, every growing step is a delight to the Heavenly Father. So, in conclusion, Let us continually rejoice that-

“you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, 19 and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words, which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. 20 For they could not cope with the command, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I am terrified and trembling.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.” (Heb 12:18-24)