Exodus 19:1-8, 20:1-21
Dr. S. Lewis Johnson illustrates God's plan in history with the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai.
Time for us to begin. Let’s open our class with a word of prayer.
[Prayer] Our heavenly Father we thank thee for the word of God and for the clear revelation that is given us concerning course of the ages. We thank Thee for the manifestation of the grace of God and we thank Thee for way in which that hast in sovereign grace and power, infinite power, determined our days and the days and the days of all who have lived upon the face of this globe. As we read the Scriptures, Lord, we recognize that there is a glorious consummation that lies in the future.
We again ask that Thou would guide us as we study the word of God. And we ask especially, Lord, that our studies may not be simply studies and end with the knowledge that we obtained or the knowledge that we think we have obtained but that they may also be the means by which our lives become more conformable to that that is set forth in the word of God as Thy desire for us.
We thank Thee for the perceptive will of God that is set forth in holy Scriptures. And enable us to Lord by Thy power and grace to be pleasing to Thee as created beings and then particularly as members of the body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ the church. We thank Thee especially for the redemptive work by which we have the sense of assurance that we belong to Thee. Lord, we ask now that Thou be with us as we study the Scriptures.
For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
[Message] Well as most of you know we are studying the “Divine Purpose of History and Prophecy.” And this is the fourth of our series of studies. We looked first at the creation and then we looked at the fall. A very solemn chapter, the third chapter of Genesis it helps us to explain a great deal at what we see in our society at the present time. In fact it’s a very terrifying thing when you think about it. Svetlana Alliluyeva, the daughter of Stalin, has said, “It is human nature that rules the world not governments and regimes.” Now that’s a terrifying thought, “It is human nature that rules the world not governments and regimes. Regardless of who you may be planning on voting for it is terrifying to think that its human nature that rules the world. Now, of course, I’m not suggesting that ultimately human nature does because ultimately divine nature does, the Lord God in heaven. But it’s terrifying to think that fallen men and women are in control of the affairs of our lives. The daughter of Stalin has learned some things, evidently, and she had a very good example of a fallen man in her own father.
When we look then at our third study at Abraham and the Abrahamic covenant and the Abrahamic covenant promises. And we underline, of course, the fact Abraham was justified by faith, and that he was justified by faith as a pattern of individuals who are justified before the Lord God for that is the only way in which we can be justified is justified by faith on the principle of grace.
Now, we want to take a big step forward because we are not dragging out this series of studies. So we are going to move on the next great event in the divine purpose in history and prophecy in the Old Testament so we are looking at the giving of the Mosaic Law. Now, you may remember as you reading the Bible and I do hope that you will make it a habit to read the Bible nothing can be more significant for you than to continue to read the Bible.
But you may remember that three hundred years, as you begin the Book of Exodus, have transpired between the death of Joseph and Israel’s oppression described in the first chapter of the Book of Exodus. But the Abrahamic covenant promises, which were made so many years before, clearly still hold because we read in chapter 2, verse 23 through 25 of the Book of Exodus.
“Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage and they cried out and their cry came up to God because of the bondage so God heard their groaning and God remembered his covenant with Abraham with Isaac and with Jacob and God looked upon the children of Israel and God acknowledged them.”
So you can see that those fundamental promises which were made to Abraham described in Genesis chapter 15 and also referred to in Genesis 13:17 and so on are promises of an unconditional covenant. So it is not surprising that we read here in the Book of Exodus of an unconditional covenant so it’s not surprising that we read here in the Book of Exodus so many centuries later that those promises so far as God is concerned are still valid promises.
And now in Exodus chapter 3, God will reveal himself to Moses as Yahweh. Now this is not the first time that term has been used but it in a special sense he will reveal himself as Yahweh in Genesis chapter 3, and I’ll just read the beginning at verse 13 through verse 15, so you’ll catch something of the flavor of it. We just had the incident of the burning bush and we read in verse 13 then Moses said to God.
“‘Indeed when I come to the children of Israel and say to them the God of your fathers has sent me to you” and they say to me ‘What is his name?’ What shall I say to them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ [Ehyeh asher ehyeh, the Hebrew text has it] and he said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel I am, ehyeh, sent me to you.’ Moreover, God said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the children to Israel the Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob has sent me to you this is my name forever and this my memorial to all generations.’”
It is very striking that God should speak of himself as “I am” and then go on to say that he’s the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The second is the relative term the covenantal term marks him out as the one who gave Abraham a covenant. The initial, of course, is simply a statement by which he says I cannot be defined. If I were to be defined then I would be limited by the definition that you give concerning me I cannot be defined, I cannot be defined, I am. But I can be related to you and he is related to them by virtue of the promises that he had made to them.
Now in the reaffirmation of Abrahamic covenant here in the earlier chapters of the Book of Exodus, and then when you realize that it’s going to be roughly more or less fifteen hundred years before the coming of the Messiah, the seed of Abraham, you naturally, if you think about it, you’ll ask the question why fifteen hundred years between the giving of the promises to Abraham and the coming of the seed. After fifteen hundred years, fifteen centuries, are to pass before the seed comes, there must be some weighty reasons why this lengthy delay.
And if we sum it up, we have to say that Scripture tells us that we have fifteen hundred years to develop the expectation of the redeemer and also to tell man something about himself. In Galatians chapter 3, we’ll be looking at this chapter from time to time, in Galatians chapter 3, verse 19 and verse 20, the apostle in his discussion of justification by faith on the principle of grace having stated it asks the question in verse 19, “What purpose then does the law serve?” And then answers, “It was added because of transgressions till the seed should come to whom the promise was made and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.”
So what we read there is, and I should go on to read verse 24, is that there is built up over time an expectation of the redeemer. But then in verse 24 further unfolding of the purposes set forth, “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Seems as if it would be especially long period of time to be taught that we are sinners and that we need a redeemer. But, of course, that tells us something about human nature doesn’t it?
Now I’ve looked at the TV screen a little bit over the last few days and I found ample illustration of what the Bible says about human nature. Now, lest you think because it’s the Democratic convention that I look forward to the Republican convention as the convention of the saints. Let me assure that we will see the same thing when we see them on our screens too. And better yet, after you listen to me, when you see them, when they meet you’ll think yes that’s exactly what Dr. Johnson warned us about and here it is before us.
Fifteen hundred years though to prepare for the coming of redeemer, there must be some weighty reasons. And one of the weightiest of the reasons is the gift of the Mosaic Law. Underline the word gift for it was a gracious gift on Gods part to let us know we are sinners. Nothing could be more significant for us as individuals to come to the knowledge of the fact that we are sinners under divine judgment. What a tremendous gift it is to know that fact and, ultimately, it comes from the Lord God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Now, I’m going to look at three things, you might expect that from a preacher, the preparation for the legal covenant, we’ll look at chapter 19 for a few moments. We will try to analyze the legal covenant, and we’ll talk for a little while, I hope, on its historical and theological purpose near the conclusion of the hour. But first of all, chapter 19 of the Book of Exodus, the preparation of the legal covenant.
It was the time for God to manifest himself as Yahweh, the infinite, eternal God, and to remember his covenant that he made to Abraham. Now, if you’ll just think for a moment you’ll realize something is rather important for you reading the Bible and it’s this. It’s clear that the Mosaic covenant, also called the Sinaitic covenant if I may use the term just to keep from boring you using the same expression, but the Sinaitic or the Mosaic covenant is an undergirding, a step along the way to the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. In other words, if we were to rank covenants in importance the unconditional Abrahamic covenant is an everlasting covenant. The Mosaic covenant is a temporal covenant. So the Mosaic covenant is an undergirding, a step along the way to the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.
Now here is the gift of the Mosaic Law there begins the Mosaic age with its subordinate temporary nature. Let’s go back to the Book of Galatians again and let’s read beginning of verse 15 of Galatians chapter 3, and I think you will see that this is the way the Apostle Paul understands this too. It’s always helpful for a preacher to follow apostles isn’t it? Now listen to what Paul says, “Brethren” verse 15 of Galatians 3, “I speak in the manner of men thou it is only a man’s covenant. Yet if it is confirmed no one annuls or adds to it now to Abraham and to his seed where the promise is made.” He does not say and to seeds as of many but as of one. “And to your seed who is Christ.” Now notice his next verses particularly, “And this I say that the law” which was four hundred and thirty years later, four hundred and thirty years later, “Cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God and Christ that it should make the promise of no effect.”
In other words, the Abrahamic promises cannot be made of non effect by the Mosaic covenant for is the inheritance is of the law it is no longer a promise. In other words if we are to inherit the benefits of the promise by what we do then we cannot say that the covenant is a promised covenant. But the Bible has said that it’s a promised covenant. So, consequently, a promised covenant, the unconditional covenant, is the covenant that is the important covenant. We’ll talk about that a little more but notice the verse, “For if the inheritance of the law is no longer a promise,” but God gave it to Abraham by promise.” So the inheritance is not of the law, it is a promise of grace through faith.
So what we’re going to be talking about when we talk about the Mosaic covenant then is we’re going to be talking about that which happens from Mount Sinai to Mount Golgotha, Mount Sinai to Mount Golgotha. From the giving of the Ten Commandments and all of the legal system that is associated with it, let me just say, the Mosaic covenant, from the giving on Mount Sinai to our Lord’s death on Calvary’s cross is the age of the law. That’s where we read on Mount Golgotha that when the Lord Jesus died the veil of the temple was writ in twain, top to bottom, not bottom to top, from top to bottom, God did away with the Mosaic commandment himself, supernaturally in his own power. Now you can see that the Mosaic covenant then is subordinate to the Abrahamic covenant and, furthermore, it has a definite termination whereas the Abrahamic covenant in the Book of Genesis is called an everlasting covenant.
Now the conditions are set forth in verses 1 through 6 of chapter 19 and I’ll read through these, I hope you have done your reading, but here we read.
“In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day they came to the wilderness of Sinai, for they had departed from Rephidim had come to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness, so Israel camped there before the mountain. Moses went up to God and the Lord called to him from the mountain saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob tell the children of Israel you have seen what I did for the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself.’”
I’m assuming of course you understand that the Exodus has taken place and God has brought them out by his mighty power through the blood of the Passover lamb. So they are out. And he says, “Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey my laws and keep my covenant then you shall be a special treasure to me above all people for all the earth is mine and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you shall speak to the children of Israel.” A very marvelous thing, you know, “You have seen,” God says. Now they are addressed as a typically redeemed people. You can tell from this, of course, since they have been redeemed out of Egypt, by blood and power, that the law is not a thing intended for salvation ever. It’s not intended for salvation, it’s grounded in the grace of God already manifested to the children of Israel. He said, “You have been brought out on eagle’s wings.” What a marvelous statement that is, the eagle. The eagle is the highest flying bird and therefore fearing no attack from above carries it’s young on its wings. No missile is going to come from above the eagle and so the eagle carries it’s young on its wings to protect it from arrows shot from below. So God extended to Israel his protection by means of the pillow of cloud through which no missiles of any kind could possibly pass. I brought you out on eagle’s wings. You have seen it typically redeemed people. You have seen it.
Now he says in verse 5, “Now therefore if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant then you shall be a special treasure to me.” You can see from this that the enjoyment of the promises that are bound up with the nation Israel is these promises are conditioned upon obedience and the obedience of the Mosaic Law is designed to condition the enjoyment of the promises not to give them life but to condition the enjoyment of the covenantal blessings.
We don’t have time to talk about that but if you look at Deuteronomy chapter 5, Deuteronomy chapter 7, you will see that, that I believe is what the way in which we are to understand that. Further God says, “If you obey my voice, keep my covenant, then you shall be special treasure to me above all people.” In other words, the election of Israel has a universal purpose and scope right here. Israel is a universally elected people. Being a Gentile and I hadn’t read the Bible a lot I might resent that. But you see God is a sovereign God, he is determined to do it this way, and fortunately for every Gentile he has opened the door for salvation to us so that we share in the blessings of the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New covenants. In fact he said right at the end of that verse giving of the promises, “In thee,” in Abraham, in Abraham’s seed, Christ the seed of Abraham, “In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” So we’ll allow, without any problem whatsoever, Israel to be the special people of the Lord God because we believing Gentiles have been adopted into the family. The New Testament spells all of that out in Romans chapter 11 and other places like that. So we don’t resent God’s sovereign activity, we rejoice in it, we’re included.
Same principle works in our individual salvation that he should, in his marvelous grace, look down upon Lewis Johnson of all people, I would say, and call me to himself. And I look at what I lived in, what I was, where I was, it’s a marvelous exhibition of the grace of God, I could never be anything but deeply, from the fundamental part of my being, grateful for the sovereign grace that reached me. How marvelous that is.
So Israel is going to be a special treasure above all peoples, all the earth’s mine, a kingdom of priests that is they are going to have special access to the Lord God, a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.
Now Moses at this point gives consent. We read, “So Moses came to call the elders of the people and laid before them all these words which the Lord commanded them and all the people answered together and said all that the Lord has spoken we will do.” You will notice that the law was proposed before it was imposed. The promise precedes the demand. And we must say that the answer that Israel gave is good so far as it went, in fact later on Moses giving the words of God says that’s precisely true God was very pleased with their response as far as it went. But Israel had so little knowledge of the laws holy character or of themselves. That’s evident and God recognizes that right from the beginning because we read in verse 9, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold I come to you in a thick cloud that the people may hear when I speak with you and believe you forever.’” So Moses told the words of the people to the Lord. And then when the law is given notice how it is given in verse 17 and 18, “Moses brought the people out of camp to meet with God, they stood at the foot of the mountain, Mount Sinai was completely in smoke because the Lord descended upon in smoke, smoke descended like the smoke of a furnace, the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the blast of trumpet sounded long and it became louder and louder Moses spoke and God answered him.” And, in fact, Moses warned the people. We know the passage goes on to say that they were fearful because they did not understand a Holy God in the sense that which the Lord God is holy.
I always think of Peter. Peter is a perfect illustration of so many things, but he surely is the illustration of this because our Lord says with reference to Peter, “Simon, Simon indeed Satan has asked for you that he may sift you his wheat but I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail and when you have returned to me strengthened your brethren.” But he said to him, “Lord I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” What a sad understanding of what he really was in his heart. Then he said, the Lord, “I tell you Peter the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know me.” That’s how much Peter understood of himself.
So let me analyze now this covenant, the legal covenant. Remember the law is given to Israel as a way of life under the Abrahamic covenant. Now I want to also make another point that the law was given to Israel only. Now later on the Apostle Paul will talk about a way in which it is applicable to us but the law is given to Israel only. Verse 27 of chapter 34, “Then the Lord said to Moses writes these words because according to the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” And then in one of the Psalms, psalm 147, verse 19 and verse 20, this is a very interesting statement because this says it even more directly it seems to me. Verse 19 of Psalm 147, he declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and his judgments to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any nation and as for his judgments they have not known them. The law was given to Israel, Israel.
Now, what about the literary structure of the Law of Moses? I imagine most of you in this auditorium you have been in Sunday school class, you’ve been in Bible classes, you’ve read the Bible a lot, I hope, and have heard a lot of preaching through the years, and you probably would say “Well as far as it’s literary structure is concerned the law is made up of moral law, the Ten Commandments, civil and social law, those judgments which had to do with Israel’s daily life, the life as a society, and then the ceremonial law.” The remarkable ways by which Israel carried out its religious life, the priesthood, the Levites, the offerings and sacrifices, and all of those things. So you may say the law may be looked at in three ways, moral law, civil and social law, and ceremonial law, all found right here in the Book of Exodus. In chapter 20 we have the moral law, the Ten Commandments; in chapter 21 through chapter 23 the civil and social law; and then from chapter 25 through the remainder of the book, primarily, the ceremonial law. But remember the law was given to condition their enjoyment of the promises of the Abrahamic covenant and ends with what promises were also repeated in connection with the legal covenant. We have said that no one could ever be saved that the law was never intended to be the means for the salvation of men and women.
Now there is a sense perhaps in a hypothetical way in which we could say the law could save. For example, I’ll read one passage in Luke chapter 10, in which the lawyer comes to the Lord Jesus, I’m sure you remember it, verse 25 of Luke chapter 10 says, “And behold a certain lawyer stood up and tested him saying ‘Teacher what should I do to inherit eternal life?’ And the Lord Jesus said to this lawyer, ‘what is written in the law, what is your reading of it’? So he answered and said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You have answered rightly do this and you will live.’” Actually it doesn’t say you will have eternal life but, nevertheless, you will live which would ultimately involve that.
What’s interesting about this is that the lawyer came and, actually the Greek text, the New Testament Greek text suggests that he came expecting to have an answer that would focus on one particular great event or act that he might perform, and so he says “What good things shall I do having done it shall I inherit eternal life.” I don’t know what he was expecting, perhaps, some unusual work that would indicate he truly could gain eternal life as life as his own inheritance. The Lord answers and said “You’ve answered very well,” but then he says, “Do this.” “Do what?” “Well do what he is talking about, keep the law; love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself. That sums up the law, just do it.”
But instead of presenting it as if it is one great thing, he puts it in the present tense. Go on doing it, in other words, if I had been the lawyer standing there at that point as I picture this, when I heard that I might think well all I have to do now is perfectly keep the law and I’ll live. But now being something of a theologian I would say “What about all those years before you started you’re already in debt.” As a matter of fact you have already lost any hope of ever being justified before the Lord God. If anyone could keep the law perfectly from this moment on, still be lost. God requires that which is past as well as that which is in the future. The law could never save anyone. And even hypothetically, one may raise serious questions with regard to it.
One of the men that I used to read a good bit of in my earlier years was H.A. Ironside because he was a teacher of mine at Dallas Seminary. He was a teacher among the Christian brethren for many years and then became pastor of the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, one of the great big churches of this country and preached there for many years. And would come down to Dallas Seminary and teach the students every year. And he was extremely well liked. He had all kinds of experiences. His experiences were he had been a missionary to the Indians, he worked for Salvation Army, and he preached on the street corners, and so he had a wealth of experience that he would share with us and usually did it with a tremendous sense of humor.
In one of his writings he said he intended to go to church in a country village one Sunday and got there just as Sunday school was starting, and he was asked to go in to the Bible class not to teach but listed. He said he didn’t remember the particular chapter they were studying but the leader put the question to the class, “Class how were people saved before Christ came into the world?” Someone raised their hand and said by keeping the law, exactly said the teacher. He was going on and Dr. Ironside I didn’t want to interrupt him I was a stranger but nevertheless I felt I had to and so I raised my hand I said, “I beg you pardon but did I understand that correctly? Did you say the people were saved by keeping the law before Christ came into the world?” “Certainly,” the teacher said. “Until Christ came that was the only way.” Well then what do you do with this verse in Galatians?” Dr. Ironside said, “If there had been a law given which could have given life then verily righteousness would have been by the law.” “Oh yes, I hadn’t thought of that,” teacher said. “Well class we were wrong. Now what other suggestions do you have and a woman spoke up and said, “Well by offering animal sacrifices.” “Exactly, I think the woman is right. Now is that satisfactory?” Dr. Ironside said, “It would be but for verse here says, “It’s not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to put away sin.” “Oh yes that’s true, isn’t it. Well then how do you think people were saved before Christ came into the world?” “Well exactly as Abraham said. ‘He rejoiced to see the salvation of the Lord, he saw it was glad. He looked on in faith to the seed of Abraham. Wherever men will honestly judge themselves and repent God will give them light enough to be saved. They were saved through the same sacrifice that as that which saved us. We were saved through the coming Savior or they were saved through the coming Savior, we are saved through the risen Savior.’”
I remember when I was in Charleston, South Carolina, holding a series of meetings in the First Presbyterian Church there, the pastor of the church, which is the church in which I grew up, was a godly man, but he was very convinced of the fact that we were under the law and under the Ten Commandments as a code for our daily living. And I sat in the car once with him during the week that I was there, and we had a lengthy discussion of the Law of Moses. And it was my viewpoint, still is my viewpoint, that we are not under the Law of Moses as a code although as I’ll try to point out, we are responsible by the guidance of the Holy Spirit to produce the righteousness that is in the law.
I remember him saying to me when we closed our discussion, “I may have to part with a lot of things but I don’t want to part with my Ten Commandments.” Years later he gave me a copy of John Dix’s theology, a two volume theology, he had written me a nice letter and I had written him about something else and I’ve always thought he didn’t resent my attempt to explain my understanding of the law to him. Webster said, “A law without a penalty is simply good advice.” And it’s helpful for us to remember, if we want to put ourselves under the law, then we are required to put ourselves under the sanctions of the law of Moses for they are set out in the Old Testament as well. So to be under law is to be under not simply the Ten Commandments but to under the sanctions of the Ten Commandments. That is the penalties that are set forth for the breaking of that law.
It’s not understood, unfortunately, but the law is a unity. That’s extremely important. The distinction between moral and ceremonial law has no meaning in the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. Never is that distinction made. The law is made up of moral law, civil and social law, ceremonial law and never in the Old or the New Testament are those parts of the law distinguished as if we may be under one but not under the other. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul talks about law. This is a well known fact of Evangelical New Testament scholarship that the Apostle Paul does not know the distinction of moral, civil/social, and ceremonial. In other words, the law is a unity. If we all want to take the position we are under the law, we must be under the whole of the law. That’s why in the New Testament we’re told that. We are told it more than once in Galatians again in chapter 5 in verse 3, in connection with circumcision Paul says in the 3 verse of the 5th chapter, “And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law, the whole law.” And the same thing is set forth in James chapter 2 in verse 10, “One indivisible whole.”
And, incidentally, in all that we know of Judaism at the present day, in Judaism itself, there is no such distinction and separation of the parts of the Mosaic Law. What’s the essential soteriological principle of the Mosaic Law? It has a command, an obligation, and sanctions. It’s a covenant of work’s righteousness, so the apostle says. Again I turn to Galatians, what a useful book Paul wrote, only six great chapters, chapter 3, verse 12, says, “Yet the law is not of faith but the man that does them shall live in them.” Verse 21, “Is the law then against the promises of God, certainly not, for if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law,” contrary to fact statement. Chapter 2, verse 21, “I do not set aside the grace of God for its righteousness comes through the law then Christ died in vain.” It was a great blunder on God’s part if our Lord came and died and endured the punishment of eternal judgment but we could get to heaven apart from what he did. Dr. Chafer used to say the greatest blunder ever committed in the universe by God if he allowed our Lord to be crucified when it was unnecessary.
Now, I want to say just a few words in the remaining time about the historical and theological purpose. The key text, of course, is Galatians 3:19 where we read, “It was added because of transgressions till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.” Till, it was added “Till, the seed should come,” underline it. It was added “Till the seed should come.” When the seed comes, it’s no longer necessary and the seed, in case you didn’t know it, has come. So we’ve been saying then the law was subordinate covenant, it came in along side that the offense might abound, so Paul says in Romans 5, “It’s a temporary covenant because it was added until the seed shall come.” So, consequently, the legal age is an insertion in the program and purpose of God.
I must say something about one of my old teachers, who I respected very much, and when I get to heaven I hope he’ll pardon me for what I’m going to say. Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer was a great man of God and I greatly respected him. But with reference to the nature of the church, in my opinion, he was misguided. Dr. Chafer thought of the church as an intercalation in God’s program, an insertion. In fact, he used to wax a little eloquent on it telling us for a long time he tried to find a word that would point out the church’s relationship in the program of God, the church having no antecedents and at the rapture of the church having no further history on earth.
So the church is an age set down in the midst of the divine purpose unconnected beforehand and afterwards. And he said, “I finally found a word that set that idea forth and it is intercalation.” If you want to know what an intercalation is it is an insertion, we used the term intercalary. And the best illustration I know is half time at a football game. What in the world does the things that happen on the football field have to do with the football game? Girls and orchestras and others come marching out on the field, and it’s just to give our heroes a little time to rest. It doesn’t have anything to do with what is going to happen in the football game and that fifteen minutes or so is an intercalation, not connected with the first half, its not connected with the last half.
Now, I think, you can see if you ponder this passage in Galatians 3 that the church and the promises given the church is not an intercalation. What is the intercalation according to Paul? What’s the intercalation? Do you all know, what’s the intercalation? Its not the church age, it’s the legal age, it’s the legal age. Mount Sinai to Mount Calvary. That’s the intercalation. He had the right words but he just applied it to the wrong body.
Now what then are the soteriological purposes of the gift of the Mosaic Law? First of all to instruct us concerning sin, Galatians 3:19 again says, “What purpose then does the law serve if it was added because of transgressions.” It restrains sin, it intensifies sin pointing out exactly how simple we are. It increases sin, incidentally, I’ve text to support all of those statements there Romans 7,8,9; Romans 5:20-21. The law was given by God to instruct Israel in the character of their nature as a result of the fall in the Garden of Eden. We’re sinners and the fifteen hundred years are designed to teach us what we need to know, all of us need to know.
M. R. DeHaan used to illustrate the law by the illustration of a glass of water that was full of filth and germs and dust, and it was left standing quietly undisturbed on the shelf of your home for months, let’s say. The dust and filth settled in the glass in an imperceptibly thin layer at the bottom of the glass the water looks clear when you look at it. But then if you take a teaspoon a stir it, all that has come down to the bottom of the glass has stirred and suddenly the water is not clear but dirty looking, not only dirty looking but unhealthy, cloudy, muddy, a stench rises from it and actually could be poisonous. Was it the fault of the teaspoon that stirred it? Oh no of course not, it’s already there. The teaspoon is the means by which you understand what is really in that glass of water. The law is the teaspoon. The law is the means by which God would have us understand what is really is in our hearts. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy soul.” How well do you do with that commandment?
I look at my life there have been some moments and it seems to me I may be coming close to fulfilling it some moments and to love my neighbor as myself that is what our Lord said. The law was given secondly to order the national life, the judgments, of course, were designed to do that, Exodus chapter 21-23, and then it was given to instruct us concerning the coming Savior. I think that is so nice because we not only have instruction concerning our sin, we’d be in horrible shape, “Oh wretched man that I am,” Paul says when he thinks about the law and what it really shows him of himself. “Oh wretched man that I am,” but fortunately those last chapters of the book of Exodus from chapter 25 on tell us that the Tabernacle and the offerings the Day of Atonement and the other things that make up the giving of the ceremonial law. And then the Book of Leviticus all of the things that are set forth there God’s way pointing us to the coming Redeemer, the Lord Jesus, who in his sacrifice would make it possible for our sins to be forgiven forever. So to instruct concerning the coming Savior, chapter 10, verse 1 of Hebrews makes the point.
Dr. Ironside had an interesting incident happen in his life, and I’ve always laughed about it because it is so true to life. And, I think, it is a particularly useful illustration because of the building that sits south of us here. Many years ago, he was preaching in Salt Lake City, Dr, Ironside did a lot of street preaching, he said he was younger then when he was telling the story and had a little more fire and energy. He said every night I would stand out in the snow and preach. It was during the winter time and although I had a place with an awning where the people were protected, I was standing in the snow and preaching to them. We preachers always have to suffer for the people. [Laughter] One night he said he was preaching the gospel to about three hundred Mormons when a surly man came along and said “Look here may I ask you a question?” Dr. Ironside said, “Yes, if you won’t take too long.”
He said, “I’m an elder in the church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, I understand you to be saying that we could be saved by grace apart from human merit; I deny that, I challenge you to show me a place in the Bible that says anybody can be saved by grace apart from works.” He said, “I opened my Bible and read Romans 4, verses 4 and 5, about ‘But to him that worketh not but believith on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness, now to him that worketh as a reward not reckoned of grace but of debt.” I said I also read Ephesians chapter 2, “By grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves, its the gift of God not of works lest any man should boast.” “Let me see that,” the man said. That’s not in my Bible. What kind of Bible do you have?” Dr. Ironside answered, “I think it is.”
He said I read the Bible a good many times but I never saw that. You know invariably a lot of people say I’ve read the Bible a lot of times, but I couldn’t find anything in the Bible. I had a lot of experiences like that discussions with people, “Oh I’ve read the Bible.” Well you know then what Isaiah 45 says don’t you? A blank look comes over their face. Ironside said, “Well why don’t you go home tonight and just look it up. This man said, “What kind of a Bible do have you?” He said, “This is the Authorized Version. He said, “Oh well that explains it all I use the King James Version.” [Laughter] This guy said he read the Bible several times, “Well I said you know perhaps that the Authorized Version and the King James Version are the same.” “Is that so, I never knew that. Does yours have the letter of King James on the front of it?” Dr. Ironside said “Yes.”
“Well all I’ve got to say is that I’ve never seen that in my Bible and if that’s in the Bible I’d rather have the Book of Mormon any day, and he ripped out a fearful oath and cursed and damned the Bible.” Dr. Ironside said “I saw my advantage,” and I said, “Look here, this is a practical demonstration of the thing I’ve been preaching. Here is an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, and he tells us that he’s saved by his own works. We just had a sample of his works, cursing and swearing. Now I come to you as a younger in the Church of Jesus Christ of the Former Day Saints and I’m telling you that I am saved by grace along without works and I challenge you to put a detective on my tracks and if you can find one unholy thing that I am saying or one wicked thing that I am doing, you can proclaim it from the house tops.”
One question that I want to say a little bit about in the last few minutes is what about the New Testament believer and the law. Well, I think, it should be clear to you from what we said that we are not under the law as a code that was given to Israel. It’s period of time was from Mount Sinai to Mount Golgotha, and as a code it’s not ours. Well then you mean that we don’t have to pay any attention to the Mosaic Law at all? No, no, the Mosaic Law is an unfolding of the nature of God. The Ten Commandments set forth the nature of our God in his perfect holiness and righteousness. As a matter of fact, the Apostle Paul tells us that we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us now as a result of Christ’s saving work and that we are responsible to walk by the Spirit.
And one of the great New Testament translations made by classical scholar, Arthur Wade, makes the point in his translation of the passage in Galatians near the end of chapter 5 that when we are under the Sinaitic spirit; we are actually on a higher plain. That’s the way he understood it. I don’t know that we can say higher and lower with reference to law and spirit of God, but we can say this that the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 8 in verse 1 through verse 4, makes it very clear that the person that walks by the spirit will be an individual who will also produce the righteousness that are in the law. Listen to what he says.
“There is, therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit for the law of the Spirit of Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the Lord could not do in that it was weak through the flesh God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh on account of sin he condemns sin in the flesh” now notice this, “that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, we do not walk according to flesh but according to the Spirit.”
So if an individual takes the position of not under the law and, therefore, I can live as I please, the New Testament speaks very strongly against that. “The man who is walking by the Spirit will produce the righteous requirements of the Law of Moses.” As a matter of fact, we are told that we are under the law of Christ. So we cannot take these disjunctions and make them into things and make an individual who is not under law but under the Spirit, an antinomian and necessarily a run with that the New Testament tells us we’re not under law.
Alva McClain, one of the individuals who was a fine Bible teacher and theologian, said, “There are three possible ways in which a theological system might be constructed to put the Christian under the law. First, pure Judaism in which the believer would be put under the total law with all its elements and penalties. It’s essentially what theotomy and some evangelical circles like to do. Second, he said, the believer might be put under the moral law and its penalties, that’s moral legalism. Third a system might have been devised with a Christian under the moral law stripped of its proper penalties. This,” Dr. McClain said, “Might be called a weak and beggarly legalism.”
Paul simply says you are not under the law. He makes it very plain that we are responsible to the ministry of the Holy Spirit who in dwells all Christians and people who in dwelt the third person of the Trinity have no license whatsoever to violate the righteous requirement of the Mosaic Law. The one exception of the Sabbath Law should be mentioned because in the New Testament the apostle seems to suggest we should not be judged with reference to the Sabbath days so, consequently, that is no longer an obligation. But the righteous requirements of the Mosaic Law, we’re responsible for. Well fifteen hundred years Israel lived under that law.
In our next study I think we are going to are going to taking up the promised program. I don’t have the list before me but we’ll talk about the Messianic promises and how they lead up to our Lord.
Let’s close with a word of prayer, it’s time to close.
[Prayer] Father, we give Thee thanks for the word of God. We thank Thee for the clarity with which Thou has unfolded the plan of the ages. Enable us, Lord, to be responsive to it. And we also pray, Lord, that thou wilt give us such a love for our Lord and such an appreciation for what Thou hast done, that Thou wilt enable us to be fruitful witnesses to our friends, our neighbors, those in whom we come in contact.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.