The Law and the Gospel

 

by Matt Slick

The Law is the do’s and don’t’s of moral behavior.  God gave the Law so that people would have a guide to live by and a standard by which they might recognize God’s purity and their sinfulness.  There are 613 commandments in the Old Testament.  They oversee moral, judicial, and religious behavior.

The Law is a reflection of the character of God because the Law comes forth from the very heart of God.  The Bible says out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt. 12:34).  When God gave the Law, He was speaking out of the abundance of His heart.  He was speaking from what was in Him.  Therefore, the Law is good, pure, right, and holy.  It is wrong to lie because it is against God’s nature to lie.  It is wrong to steal because it is against God’s nature to steal.

This Law, then, by its very nature of coming out of the heart of God and being spoken to men, is a standard for human conduct--a perfect standard. Because it was perfect and we are not, it is impossible for sinful people to keep.  It was for this reason that the Law became a stumbling block.  It became an obstacle to Man because it is an unattainable perfect standard.  The Law, then, brings about the opposite of what it requires.  The Law says to be perfect but shows you where you are not.  It says to be holy but condemns you when you are not.  Since it is not possible for us to keep the Law and therefore earn our position with God, we then need the holiness of God given to us--because there simply isn’t any way for us to attain to the standard of God.  Therefore, " . . . the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith." (Gal. 3:24).  That is, the Law shows us that we can’t get to God by what we do.  We need the grace of God in Christ Jesus manifested in His sacrifice.

  1. The Law reveals our sinfulness.
    1. "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." (Rom. 3:20).
    2. "What shall we say, then?  Is the law sin?  Certainly not!  Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law.  For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet.’" (Rom. 7:7).
  2. The Law is for those who are not under grace.
    1. "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God;" (Rom. 3:19).
    2. "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." (Rom. 6:14).
  3. The Law justifies no one.
    1. "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law." (Rom. 3:20).
  4. The Law makes no concessions; it makes demands.
    1. "Cursed is every man who does not abide by everything written in the book of the law to perform them." (Gal. 3:10).
  5. The Law is spiritual: It works on the Spirit--not on the body.
    1. "For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh." (Rom. 7:14).
    2. "Thou shalt not . . . " applies to the heart and not the body.
  6. We are made righteous in God’s eyes by grace apart from the Law of God.
    1. "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law." (Rom. 3:28).
    2. "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," (Rom. 5:1).
    3. "know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." (Gal. 2:16).
  7. The Law brings judgment.
    1. " . . . because law brings wrath," (Rom. 4:15).
  8. The Law prepares us for the gospel.
    1. The Law shows us that the free gift of the gospel is the only way to attain righteousness.
    2. "The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith." (Gal. 3:24).
      1. Being saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8) is only found in the Christian religion.  Only Christianity has the message of free, unearned grace.
  9. The Law is for the ungodly.
    1. "But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God," (1 Tim. 1:8-11).
  10. The Law differs from the gospel in:
    1. The manner of revelation.
      1. The Law is revealed in the hearts of man.
        1. "For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts . . . " (Rom. 2:14-15).
        2. It would be impossible to convert anyone if the Law had not been written on their hearts because the Law reveals sin (Rom. 3:20).
      2. The gospel is by direct revelation; it is not written on the heart.
        1. "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand," (1 Cor. 15:1).
    2. Contents.
      1. The Law tells what people are to do (our works).  It makes demands (Deut. 27:26).
      2. The Gospel reveals what God is doing (God’s work).  Therefore, it makes no demands on us except faith (Rom. 6:23).
      3. The Law is the list of do’s and don’t’s (Exodus 20)
      4. The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for sins (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
        1. It contains grace and truth (John 1:17) because the gospel is about Jesus.
    3. Promises
      1. The Law and the gospel both promise eternal life:
        1. The Law by complete obedience to all its commands (Lev. 18:5; Luke 10:26).
        2. The gospel by grace unconditionally (Rom. 3:22-24, Eph. 2:8-9).  It demands nothing--makes no threats.  It removes from sinners the desire to sin.
  11. Effects of preaching the Law.
    1. It tells us what to do but does not enable us to do it.  This can frustrate us because we cannot keep it!
    2. Reveals to man his sins.  It offers no help to get him out; it hurls man into despair.
      1. " . . . I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’" (Rom. 7:7).
    3. It brings to our awareness damnation, hell, and hopelessness.
      1. "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." (Isaiah 59:2).
      2. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree'"--(Gal. 3:13).
  12. Effects of preaching the gospel.
    1. It demands faith and gives it to us.
      1. "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ." (Rom. 10:17).
    2. It does not reprove the sinner.
      1. "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 8:1).
    3. It does not require anything good for man to do either in heart, mind or body because it is a free gift.
      1. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 6:23).
  13. Who the Law and the Gospel are preached to.
    1. The Law is preached to sinners--those secure in their sin.
      1. "But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching," (1 Tim. 1:8-10).
    2. The Gospel is preached to those who are alarmed, frightened, smitten by the law--to those who are made thirsty for the Gospel message.
      1. " . . . through the law we become conscious of sin." (Romans 3:20).
      2. "So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith." (Gal. 3:24).

 

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CARM ison