Dr. S. Lewis Johnson explains God's purposes in giving man a law.
[Prayer removed from audio]
[Message] For those of you who are here for the first time tonight, and for the review of the others, we have been studying God’s plan of the ages. The Bible is structured in such a way that we may understand it most simply by treating the various ages under which he has dealt with men. And I have put a simple outline on the board. It may not look so simple, but it’s fairly simple, to briefly tell you what we’ve been talking about. This represents the eternal past. And then in the beginning God created Adam and Eve, placed them in the Garden of Eden, and there was an age of innocence. Each one of the ages during which God reveals truth to them and tests them is a revelation of his will. So the age of innocence is the age in which Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden. They sinned and fell, and so God had to send them forth from the Garden of Eden in judgment.
There followed the age of conscience, and then the age of human government. And we have passed through these ages. In each one of these ages God tests men with respect to obedience to some specific revelation of his will. Man responds and his response has always been in unbelief and sin, and therefore God has executed judgment. Finally, with the call of Abraham, God began to deal with one man and his descendants, and gave them unconditional promises. They would be given a land. Abraham’s name would be great, and furthermore, through Abraham all of the nations in the earth would be blessed. This, of course, was an ultimate reference to Jesus Christ, the Redeemer who would come and die at the cross for men’s sins. During each one of these ages in the Old Testament during which God has dealt with men, he has also given them additional revelation concerning the coming of Christ. And so we have the outworking of God’s purpose is a series of ages or dispensations. And these ages or dispensations reflect his will and plan for men, which is Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior and Redeemer.
Now with Abraham began an age which we have termed promise, which in a sense extends on to the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ, because the promises made to Abraham and to his descendants have never been abrogated. They are unconditional, so that we may look forward to the fulfillment of them in the future. But last time we began to study the age of the Law. At Mount Sinai God, to the descendants of Abraham, gave them the Law. And we last time studied some particular facets of the Law of Moses, and that is where we want to pick it up tonight. And I want to remind you of some of the things that we studied last time, just before we go on and consider tonight the purpose of the Law of Moses. We made these points last time with regard to the Law of Moses.
First of all, we said that the Law was necessary because the Abrahamic covenant, which is the promises given to Abraham and his descendants, did not emphasize man’s sin, nor did the Abrahamic covenant instruct the believers or instruct the descendants of Abraham in the principles of grace. The Abrahamic covenant represents certain promises, but not an emphasis upon human sin, nor an emphasis upon divine instruction in grace. So the Law has come in for that purpose. It was necessary for that reason.
Furthermore, we said last time that the name of the age of the Law comes from two statements in the New Testament, one in John chapter 1, verse 17; the other, in Galatians chapter 3, in verse 17. The one in John reading something like this, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” The age of the Law begins at Mount Sinai and extends all the way to the cross when Jesus Christ died for our sins. You remember that I emphasized last time that when the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross he cried out, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” And that represented his death for us on the cross as our substitute. He was there suffering for us and that is why he cried out, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” He was the sin offering for us, our substitute. This, of course, is the climatic event of all of the ages, past, present, or future. This is the climax of God’s dealing with men, the cross.
At the time that Jesus Christ died upon the cross Matthew tells us that the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom, God signifying by this that the tabernacle, and all of the services of Israel, part of the Law was done away with, and that he was doing away with it himself. So that today, men who honor the God who is the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ do not bring offerings. We do not, for example, when we sin, bring sin offerings. We do not when we trespass, bring trespass offering, because we are no longer under Law, but under grace. I pointed out that therefore the Law was a temporary age. It was not designed to be permanent. It was temporary. It was provisional. It was designed to have an end, and though it was necessary, it was necessary only for a time. We looked at such passages as Galatians chapter 3, and verse 17, where Paul distinctly states that the promises given to Abraham were not annulled by the coming of the Law. The Law which came approximately four hundred years after cannot disannul the promises, for the promises were unconditional; so that the Law came in alongside and existed with the promises during the time from Mount Sinai to Mount Golgotha or Calvary where the Lord Jesus Christ died.
We also pointed out that the Law was a unity. We frequently have in Christian churches today, teachers who tell us to memorize the Law of Moses. And frequently it is stated that if we keep the Ten Commandments, then surely God will honor our keeping of the Ten Commandments, and we shall someday go to heaven. We pointed out that the Law is a three-fold unity, that we have no divine right; no right in the light of divine Scripture to take the moral Law contained in the Ten Commandments, and separate the moral law from the civil, social, and ceremonial laws. There are three parts to the Law, the moral law, the Ten Commandments; the civil and social law, or the judgments, these regulated Israel’s behavior among themselves and with reference to others; and then the ceremonial law, and in the ceremonial law the tabernacle was given, the priesthood was set forth, and the offerings which the priests were to bring were also described.
If we are under Law, we are under the whole of the Law. We turned to James chapter 2, and verse 10, and we saw that James said, “If a man offends in one point of the Law, he offends in all.” The Law is like a pane of glass, if you break one part of it, the whole pane is broken. The Law is like a chain, if you snap one link, the chain is broken. So we cannot say, if we keep the Ten Commandments, we shall have everlasting life, aside from the fact that no man keep commandments, no man ever has kept them except for one, Jesus Christ. For the Law is a unity, and if conceivably it were possible for us today to keep the Ten Commandments, we would not only have to keep the Ten Commandments, but the civil and ceremonial Law as well. The Law is a unity, and we emphasized that.
Furthermore, we emphasized that the Law was never intended to convey salvation. It is one of the greatest misconceptions that has ever been hoisted upon the Christian church, that the Law, the Ten Commandments, is able to be a way of salvation. Now, I grew up in a church in which some of my teachers taught me, at least by example or by suggestion, that if I kept the Ten Commandments I could have everlasting life. This is contrary to the whole of the Bible. The Bible never says anywhere that if a man keeps the Ten Commandments, or rather that the keeping of the Commandments is a way of salvation. We emphasized this last time, pointed out that the Law was given to Israel as a conditional covenant. It was not given to them to be a way of salvation at all. We looked at passages like Galatians chapter 2, and verse 21. We looked at Galatians chapter 3, and verse 21 where Paul says, “If there had been a Law given which could have given life, then verily righteousness would have been by the Law.” So the Law was given to Israel as a way of life, it was not given to them as a way of salvation.
Well, that naturally brings up the question, what then in detail was the purpose of the Law? And that’s what we want to deal with tonight, the purpose of the Law. And I want to suggest to you seven reasons why God gave the Law. Now, these reasons are in some ways similar one to another, but some of them are quite different. And now, I want to look at them from the word, but before I do, let me read a passage from Romans chapter 3, beginning at verse 9. So take your Bibles and turn with me to Romans chapter 3, and verse 9.
Now, Romans, remember, is the first of the Pauline epistles. It follows the Book of Acts. It’s not only the first chronologically, but in many ways is the first theologically, because this Epistle to the Romans is in a sense a little Bible, in that in Romans we have almost all facets of truth compressed. If you should happen to be a lawyer in the audience, and you like something logical, rational, clear, structured in such a way that you can understand it, you should read the Epistle to the Romans. If you are not a lawyer, but you thing you have a logical mind, and you would like to see things logically so you can understand them, read Romans.
When I first was in the insurance business and someone came to me and began to talk to me about the Bible. They flattered me and said, “I believe, Lewis, that you have a logical mind. The book that you ought to read is Romans.” And I felt, “Yes, you’ve analyzed me properly.” [Laughter] “I have a logical mind.” And so I remember going to the Epistle to the Romans and reading it more than once, but I could not get head nor tails from it. For you see, I had not been born again, and the Bible not only is a book easy to understand, but we need to qualify that by saying this, that the Bible is a spiritual book, and it is understood on the basis of spiritual principles. And one must have spiritual capacity to understand it. Now, when I did receive Jesus Christ as my Savior and turned to Romans, it became my favorite book, and has always been my favorite book ever sense. Because it is exactly what they said it was, except that you need the Holy Spirit to teach you.
Well now, Romans is set up by Paul in this way. He begins this epistle by pointing out that all men are sinners, Gentiles, Jews, all men have sinned. Jesus Christ is the way of salvation. Now, in this section which I am going to read beginning at verse 9 of Romans chapter 3, he is concluding his section in dealing with sin. He has charged that Jews are sinful. He has charged that Gentiles are sinful, and now he is going to prove it. And Paul is a man who thinks according to the word of God. So he will prove it by quoting the Old Testament Scriptures, which his readers accepted as authoritative. “What then?” verse 9, “are we,” that is the Jews, “better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before charged,” the Greek word should be rendered here, “for we have before charged both Jews and Gentiles that they are all under sin.” Jews and Gentiles all are under sin. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” Did you know that? “There is none righteous, no, not one.” Not even a Baptist, [Laughter] not even a Presbyterian, [Laughter] not even an Episcopalian, not even an Independent; none righteous, no, not one.
“There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. (Now, notice these verses carefully.) Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. (Now, this is not Paul’s climax, the 20th verse is.) Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
“By the Law is the knowledge of sin,” the Ten Commandments are not a way of salvation. The Ten Commandments condemn every one of us, stop our mouths and show that we are under sin. So the first reason, now I’ve read this as a general text, but let me go through the reasons. As a first reason, God gave the Law to restrain the lawless. And to support this, let’s turn to 1 Timothy chapter 1, 1 Timothy chapter 1, verse 9 and verse 10, that’s page 1274 in the Scofield Edition of the King James Version. This is near the end of the Pauline letters, 1 Timothy chapter 1, verses 9 and 10. We want you to see it with your own eyes, 1 Timothy chapter 1, verse 9. “Knowing this,” Paul says, “that the law is not made for a righteous man.” Look at it carefully. “The Law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,” and so on. The Law is not made for a righteous man. The Law was given, Paul says then, to restrain the lawless. This is a reference to lawlessness in a social sense among men, in fact, Paul says in Romans chapter 13, and verse 4, that the governments of the world have been ministers of God to restrain sin. The reason that we have human government today is because God has appointed them to serve him in this way. We have a police force for the restraint of sin. Human governments and their laws are faint reflections of divine law. And the Law of God was given to restrain sin.
But secondly, the Law also was given to give the knowledge of sin, and that’s what we read in Romans 3:20, “For by the Law is the knowledge of sin.” The word that Paul uses when he says knowledge is a word in the Greek text that means full knowledge. By the law is the full knowledge of sin. You see, God gave Abraham and his descendants these promises, but he did not emphasize their sin. So the Law came in to show them their need of the promises, which had to do with redemption. The Law came in to show Abraham’s descendants that they were sinners, and that they had a need for divine righteousness, and to give them a desire for it. The promises are primary. The Law comes in to prepare them for the reception of these promises. Let me illustrate the Law in this way. Do you see this glass of water here?
Now, let’s suppose I were to take the ice out and I were to fill this with something very filthy containing many germs. And let’s suppose that I were to set it aside somewhere and let it sit for some time. Soon all of the impurities will come down to the bottom of the glass and the water will become clear again. It may look very pure, but it is not. It is full, of course, of filth and germs, all kinds of things that we wouldn’t want to drink. Let’s suppose I take a spoon and I sterilize the spoon so that it is absolutely pure or sterile hygienically, however you say it, and let’s suppose I take the spoon and I stir the glass, and we see that the glass becomes clouded because the germs and the filth are now mingled with all of the water again. Did the spoon bring impurity to the glass? No, the spoon was absolutely pure in itself, but the spoon was the means for revealing the impurity that was already in the glass.
The Law, Paul says, was holy, just, and good. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,” and so forth. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” “Thou shalt not murder and so forth. The Law is holy, just, and good, Paul says, but you see, the Law came as a holy instrument to stir up sin so that we would see that which already was in our hearts. So the Law came to give the knowledge of sin. The Law did not come to save. Well now, to some these two reasons might seem to be a contradiction. You say in one moment, Dr. Johnson, that the Law restrains sin, and then you say in another moment that the Law revealed sin. That seems contradictory. How can it restrain sin, and how can it reveal sin, give the knowledge of sin at the same time?
Well, there are two aspects to the Law. There is the outward aspect and the inward aspect, because there are two parts to the Law. The Law is composed of commands, but the Law is also composed of penalties. The Law says, “Thou shalt not” do this, but the Law says, “If thou dost do this, then you are subject to this judgment.” So when the commandment comes to us, it stirs up sin in our hearts, and so we rebel inwardly; we don’t like somebody to say to us, “Thou shalt not.” In fact, when we see signs, “Thou shalt not,” that’s the very thing that we want to do, isn’t it? Now, go on and admit it, it is. [Laughter] When it says speed limit sixty miles per hour, there is an uncontrolled urge to go sixty-five. And if we were not sure that we might get caught, all of us would be driving over sixty, because down within us we want to be God. We want to have the right to rule our lives. So the Law stirs up sin inwardly, but the Law has penalties. And we don’t want to expose ourselves to the penalties, so the penalties restrain our sin outwardly, so that we do not commit the acts overtly that we want to do inwardly. So the Law both stimulates sin and rebellion, but it also restrains the expression of that rebellion. There is no contradiction in these reasons.
Thirdly, the Law is given not only to reveal sin, but to reveal the evil character of sin. Let’s turn to the 7th chapter of Romans now, and I think I will begin reading at verse 7, because if I do you will see that Paul says in this section exactly what I have just said to you. Now, in verse 7 of Romans, that’s page 1199 in the Scofield Edition of the King James Version, verse 7. He has just said that by means of the death of Christ believers were put to death to the Law. We died in the mind of God when Christ died, for he was our substitute, and we died to the Law. Well, that might cause a Jew who thought so much of the Law to say, “Well, wait just a minute. If our old man died when Christ died, and if we died when Christ died, and we died to the Law, Paul, you seem to be saying that the Law is evil.” So he says, verse 7, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”
Now, this is exactly what Paul is saying, you see. I didn’t even know that I was coveting until I looked at that commandment and it said, “Thou shalt not covet.” And when I saw that commandment, I saw that I was guilty of it. “But sin, taking occasion by the commandment,” notice it, “the commandment.” Think of that, God’s Ten Commandments seem to be responsible for my sin. “But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.” It’s just what I was saying when I said we see speed limit sixty miles an hour, we want to go sixty-five. The Law wrought in Paul “all manner of concupiscence, for without the law sin was dead.” If we didn’t have that sixty miles and hour speed limit, then we would drive along only fifty and be perfectly happy.
“For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law (the spoon by which is stirred this glass), the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. (Nothing wrong with the sterile spoon.) Was then that which is good made death unto me? (Was it the spoon that brought the impurity to the water of the glass?) God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.”
So Paul says, “By the Law I learned the exceeding sinfulness of sin.” The Law, this holy, righteous, good instrument of God, became the means of stirring up my sin. How sinful sin must be if it takes occasion by something that is good in itself, not evil. So the Law then was given to reveal the evil character of sin.
Fourthly, the Law is given to reveal the great number of sins. Let’s turn back to Romans chapter 5, and verse 20; Romans chapter 5, and verse 20. “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Now, I want to stop for just a moment on this verse, because I think that it is important, and furthermore we have in it a very interesting word study. Notice the 20th verse, “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound.” The word translated “offence” here is the Greek word; I’ll put it down for you and say it for you, paraptoma. Now, I want to explain it to you; paraptoma is a word that is made up of two words. Toma means actually a carcass, something that has fallen. For this word is built on the word para which means “by the side of,” a preposition, and trypto which means “to fall.” So that the word translated “offence” in the Authorized Version is a word that means “a falling aside” or “a falling.”
Now back here in the beginning when Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, and when they sinned they fell. And they fell from their position of innocence. They fell from their position of fellowship with God. And so we refer to the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as the fall. Now, it’s not an accident that when Paul says, “Moreover the Law,” entered at Mount Sinai, right here, “that the fall might abound.” You see, when Adam fell, we all fell, and we have been sinners ever since. David said, “In sin my mother conceived me.” We may not like the doctrine of original sin, but it is God’s doctrine. There is taught in the word, original sin, but there was no Law until Mount Sinai, and where there is no Law there is no transgression. Although sin existed, transgression did not. For transgression is the breaking of the Law. If there is no Law, there is no transgression.
So the Law came in, in order that the fall might abound. As the Law came in, men saw themselves to be lawbreakers, and thus the fall, which took place historically in the Garden of Eden, then, takes place individually in the heart of every single one of us. It has already taken place for us, but it takes place for us constantly, so that the Law came in alongside the fall, the offence, the falling aside might abound, men might see that they have fallen, and do fail to meet God’s standard of righteousness.
The word “came in alongside” is also an interesting word, too. In ancient days if a play was put on, and let’s just suppose, for example, in ancient days that they were putting on a play Cleopatra. Now, let’s suppose that there was some ancient character who roughly corresponds, if there is possible for anyone to roughly correspond to Richard Burton [Laughter] and Elizabeth Taylor. Let’s suppose that they were the leading characters in this play, Cleopatra. Now, on the stage, generally speaking, when the main characters of the play are acting, they will be in the center of the stage. Let’s suppose that they are in a room and Elizabeth and Richard are engaged in something or other at the front of the stage. And let’s suppose that while they are engaged in this something or other in the middle of the stage to the front, someone should come in by the side and empty the ashtrays in the room and go out, perhaps a butler or something like that. Now, in ancient days, to describe an actor who had an accessory part the word pareiserchomai was used, which is the word translated here, “The Law came in alongside,” came in by the side of, had an accessory, and yet an inferior, subordinate part.
Now, that is what Paul means right here when he says, “The Law came in alongside.” It was not the important thing. The important things were the promises given to Abraham, which will be fulfilled. But the Law came in alongside playing a subordinate and an accessory part to show men their sins, so that they would be desirous of receiving the promises for themselves. Thus, the Ten Commandments have never been intended to give men life, for man cannot keep the commandments. Ideally, they would give us life if we could obey them, but nobody can keep the commandments. And we cannot say, as we pointed out last time, “Oh well, I broke one, the Lord will forgive me.” Because you see, the Law has its penalty and we must suffer its penalty, and its penalty is condemnation. So the Law came in alongside that the offence might abound. As Paul puts it then, the Law came in to reveal the great number of sins in the human race.
Fifthly, the Law came in to reveal the guilt of sins. Let’s turn back to Romans chapter 3, in verse 19, Romans 3:19. We’re spending a lot of time in Romans tonight, because this book has as one of its major themes, the relationship of believers to the Law. Verse 19 again, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” To reveal the guilt of sin; today you know, if we say “Well, I was guilty of that,” what do we mean? Well, we mean simply that we committed it. I was guilty of breaking the speed laws. That means that I committed the act of sin. But this word translated guilty here means a lot more than that we have committed sin. The word really means answerable, liable to judgment, liable to punishment, and so when Paul says the whole world is guilty before God, he does not mean that the whole world has just committed sin. He means the whole world has committed sin and is therefore under divine condemnation. That’s what he means, and so this is a serious thing. The Law then came to reveal the guilt of sin.
Sixthly, the Law came to train the nation Israel. Let’s turn to Galatians chapter 3, in verse 24. Now, Galatians is on a little ways from Romans. This is the other side of the coin from Romans. Romans, someone has said, “Tells us what the Good News is.” Galatians tells us what the Good News is not. Romans tells us that if we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, we may have everlasting life and the righteousness is acceptable to God, even though we’ve broken the Law. That is the theme of Romans. Galatians tells us that the gospel is not “Keep the commandments and you shall have righteousness.” Galatians in verse after verse shatters this confusing and contradictor teaching, which men are responsible for.
Now, let’s notice verse 24. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster,” just put brackets around the word “to bring us.” Now, for those of you who are new, I think I said this for the benefit of the others once, but let me say it again. When you see words in the English text in italics, this means that the words have been supplied by the translators to give that which they thought was the thought of the Greek text, most of the time they are right, because they were intelligent men and were able to understand the New Testament. But at the same time, they were men, and since the time that this text was translated, we have had four hundred years to study the Epistles of Paul, and so sometimes they are wrong. This is one time that they are wrong. I think you can see it would be very confusing to say, after he has just told us that you cannot be saved by the Law to say, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster, to bring unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” And Bishop Lightford, a long time ago, said that this interpretation that the Law was designed to bring us to Christ ought to be abandoned. And he was right. The best way to do it is to put brackets around these words and say, “The law was our schoolmaster, unto Christ,” that is unto the time of Christ, “that we might be justified by faith,” when Christ came. So the Law is a schoolmaster.
Now, let me stop for just a moment and explain to you what Paul meant by this. In ancient days, in Rome for example, if you were an ordinary middle class or upper class Roman, you would desire for your child to have the best possible education. And so, when he was young you would obtain for him a slave guardian. Generally speaking, since the Romans were very, very enamored of Greek culture and the Greek language, if they possibly could get a Greek slave to be the slave guardian of their child, they would get a Greek slave. And so Greek slaves were tutors, or slave guardians of Roman children in many, many cases. Let’s suppose that the young child when he’s say six or seven years old, is placed under the jurisdiction of the slave guardian. The word translated “schoolmaster.” It is the word paidagogos, really the Latin term; it is derived from the Greek word, paidagogos.
So if you had a young son coming along, six or seven years old, you would be looking around for a paidagogos, and if you could get a Greek who knew Greek, and knew Greek culture, and knew Greek learning, why that is the one that you would get. And this slave guardian would be the constant companion of your son. He would go with him as he went to his Roman school. He would return. He would protect him. He would be his constant companion, in every way his master. In fact, the young boy, even though he was a Roman, and though the man was a slave, frequently was called his master. And quite a close relationship frequently was built up. We even have illustrations in ancient literature of when a child came to adulthood and the slave guardian had no more authority over him, still the master, having this close relationship, frequently lectured the adult Roman. Something like, of course, in the old days in the south when we used to have our mammies who grew up with us; a paidagogos, a slave guardian.
Now, Paul says, “The law was our slave guardian.” A young child in Rome would put on what was called a toga praetexta. It was a white garment, but it had a crimson fringe around it. This was his garment which he wore while he was a child. But when he reached adulthood, which frequently was around the age of eighteen or nineteen, determined by the head of the family, then they went through a ceremony whereby he took off his toga praetexta, laid it aside, took a toga virilis. If you’ve studied Latin, you know that that is the toga of manhood, for the virs means “a man.” The toga virilis; and he put it on, which was the pure white Roman toga, signifying that he had become an adult son. Now, Paul says, with that figure in mind, the Law was our paidagogos unto the time of Christ. When Christ comes, the Law is done away with. We are brought to maturity. We are no longer under the Law. We are justified simply by trust in Jesus Christ, and we come under the direction and jurisdiction of the Holy Spirit of God. The Law is done away with, but during the period of time from Mount Sinai to Mount Golgotha, Israel was under the paidagogos, and so Israel was trained morally by the Law. That was the purpose of the Law, to train the nation in righteousness, preparing them for the coming of Christ. So that is the sixth reason why God gave the Law.
And finally, the seventh and final reason, and most important in some, or at least the second most important, the Law was given to testify to the new age that would come. Let me just read one verse from Hebrews chapter 10. Now, you will in the notes have this information, and you can go home and read it over and get it more deeply in your mind. But let’s read verse 1 of Hebrews chapter 10. Now, this is in the New Testament, coming nearer to the end, page 1299 in the Scofield Edition, Hebrews chapter 10, and verse 1. And the author, all through this epistle, has been speaking about the ceremonial law, primarily, the priesthood, the offerings. And so he says in verse 1, Hebrews chapter 10, “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.” Let’s read verses 2 and 3, “For then would they not have ceased to be offered?” In other words, if the offerings of the Old Testament could put away sin, there would be no need to repeat them over and over again, if they really put away sin. “Because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.” Every year that the Day of Atonement, every year that the Day of Atonement came around was constant testimony to the fact that the last year’s Day of Atonement had not put away sin. It had only put the nation right with God for one more year, but it had to be repeated. So the Law, Paul says, could never put away sin. But he also says, you will notice, that it was a shadow of good things to come. What does he mean by this? Well, he means simply this; the Law contained not only the Ten Commandments, mind you. The Law contained not only the civil and social law, but the Law contained the ceremonies, the tabernacle. We are going to talk about the tabernacle next, and I want to draw a little chart of the tabernacle, if possible have some pictures, and go through the furniture of the tabernacle to show you how it pointed to Christ.
But let me just say tonight, in the Law there was contained all of the prescriptions of God for the tabernacle and the worship of Israel. They were given priesthood, men who were set apart from the tribe of Levi who were to bring the sacrifices for the nations and they were also given certain sacrifices for certain types of sin. And also, for certain occasions, and this whole system in which every day animals were slain was designed to be a shadow of good things to come. In other words, Jesus Christ hanging upon the cross at Calvary cast his shadow over the age of the Law, and we have the right on the basis of this text, as well as many other texts for that matter, to go to the Law of Moses and expect to see things that illustrate, that foreshadow the coming and the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, this is gracious side of the Law of Moses. The Law revealed our sins. The Law revealed the wickedness of our evil hearts. The Law, today, shows us that we are sinners and under divine judgment. But the Law also taught Israel the principle of approach to God by means of sacrifice. It taught Israel, in effect, that no one could come to know God by keeping moral law, but that there must be an approach to God by way of sacrifice, a sacrifice that covered sins. It may not have put away sin. In the Old Testament days it did not, but it covered sin ceremonially, and taught them that someday someone would come who would be the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world forever so that the Law pointed forward to Jesus Christ, and in a gracious way showed Israel that God was going to provide for them that which they could not provide for themselves. They could not save themselves, but he would provide a Savior who would wipe out their sins and make it possible for them to have a righteousness which they could not have by keeping the Law.
One of my teachers was a man by the name of H.A. Ironside. He was the pastor of the large and well-known Moody Memorial Church in Chicago and very wonderful Bible teacher. He had very many unusual experiences in his early days, because he was a Salvation Army worker for some time before he came to the Moody Church, many years before. He tells in one of his books, and he used to tell us at the seminary, a very interesting story, which occurred in his ministry, and which illustrates what I have been trying to say to you tonight. H.A.I., which we used to call him, H.A.I. was once preaching in the state of Utah, and he was preaching out in the open air on a street corner, and there were three or four hundred people who were listening to him. And it was a very cold night, and so he was standing under a little shed, and the people were listening to every word he had to say, until finally a man interrupted him and said, “Sir, I just want you to know that I object to that which you are saying.” H.A.I. said he had just simply been quoting texts like, “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourself. It is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.” He quoted texts like Romans chapter 4, and verse 5, which says, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
And this man interrupted and said, “I just want you to know that I do not believe that a man is saved by faith. A man is saved by works.” And H.A.I. said, “Well, then you disagree with Paul who says, ‘But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.'” He said, “I certainly do, and I want you to know that I am an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” And H.A.I. said, “Well, now I want to quote to you again a text from Paul, ‘For by grace are ye saved through saved, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.'” The man said to H.A.I. “Let me see that.” H.A.I. handed him the Bible. He looked at it. He said, “Well, this is not in my Bible.” [Laughter] And Dr. Ironside said, “Well, what kind of Bible do you have?” He said, “Well, all I know is it’s not in my Bible. What kind do you have?” Dr. Ironside said, “Well, I have the Authorized Version.” He said, “Oh that explains it, I have the King James Version.” [Laughter] Dr. Ironside said, “Well, I suppose then you don’t know that the Authorized Version and the King James Version are the same.” He said, “Well no, I didn’t know that. Does yours have the letter to King James in it?” And Dr. Ironside said, “Yes, mine has the letter to King James in it.” That used to be put in our Authorized Versions; it’s not many of them anymore. He said, “Well, I don’t know what to say about this.” He said, “All I know is it’s not in my Bible, and furthermore, if that’s in the Bible, I would rather have the Book of Mormon any day.”
And with that, H.A.I. said he ripped out a fearful, open curse, and damned God, the God of the Bible that Paul is talking about. And H.A.I. said, “I saw my opportunity.” He said, “I said to the crowd, ‘You see here is a man who says that he is an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and he says that a man is not saved by faith but by works. And you’ve seen an exhibition of his works. He curses and damns the Bible, and I want to tell you that I’m here as a younger in the Church of Jesus Christ of the Former Day Saints [Laughter] and I’m telling you that man is saved by grace.’ And furthermore,” he said, “If you want to put a detective on my tracks, I give you permission to do it. And he may follow me all around and listen to what I say and see what I do. And if he sees me breaking the law he may stand of mountain tops and shout it to all of the people in the community.”
Of course, that’s true. The reason it’s true is simply this, that when we see that we are sinners in the sight of God, even though we may not feel that we are lost, but when we see and when we believe God’s word, then we know that we have a need. And then when we see that God, at infinite cost to himself, for you see he gave his only begotten Son, the eternal God, to die for us, when we see that he has provided the remedy for our sins in giving his own Son to die for us, and we see that this meets our need, and we put our trust in Christ, and we receive as a free gift everlasting life, and everlasting righteousness, there comes new life, for we are born again by the Spirit of God. He gives us a new nature, and there rises up from the heart of the man who knows Christ, an eternal gratitude for that which he has done. And therefore, from that time on, though he still possesses the old nature, though he is still a sinner, he doesn’t want to displease God. He wants to please the one who loves him so much. So this is why the Law was given, to show Israel their sin that when the Redeemer might come, they would be morally prepared to receive him and to recognize him by means of the many manifestations of the things that concern him in the Old Testament.
Let’s bow together in prayer.
[Prayer] Heavenly Father, we thank Thee for the wonderful truth of holy Scripture. We thank Thee it is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to divine mercy that Thou hast made it possible for us to be redeemed. We know that whatsoever things that the Law saith, it saith to those who are under Law; that all the world might become empty before Thee, that every mouth might be stopped. We thank Thee for the marvelous revelation of grace, that there is a way back to Thee through Christ. May, Lord, each one us know this way personally. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
[Johnson] Now, we have a few minutes for questions. And if you have some questions, I will be glad to try to answer them.
[Question from the Audience]
[Johnson] Let me repeat the question so that those in the back might hear. Ms. Delafield has asked the question of, let me see if I can repeat this right, transgression is the overstepping of the boundary, and sin, of course, is a missing of the mark, and sin becomes transgression when it is a direct breaking of something that has been set forth as a commandment, and she has the question, what is a trespass?
Now, I don’t know exactly how to answer this without getting awfully technical. I think that a trespass and a transgression are very close together. Actually Paul does use a slightly different word, but in the idea of trespass, there is also constrained the breaking of some law that has been specifically set forth. Whereas sin may exist without transgression, sin, the law makes sin transgression. And I think that probably the best explanation would be that trespass looks at it from the standpoint of man. When I disobey God, a specific commandment, I transgress in the sight of God, that is I step over the mark which he has laid down, and I transgress, that’s the meaning of the word transgress is to go beyond. I break that. From God’s standpoint, I have transgressed his Law. From my standpoint, I have trespassed. But they really mean approximately the same thing.
[Question from the audience]
[Johnson] Well, sin is the more abstract missing of the mark, which may exist even though there is no transgression. For example, let me illustrate it in this way. Let’s suppose that we are living in 1850 in America. We have slavery in existence. Now, let’s assume that we all agree that slavery is immoral. But slavery was legal. Now, it was legal so that there was not question of breaking laws, a man could have slaves. My South Carolinians love to brag, “My family had more slaves than any other family in all of South Caroline.” That gives you social status, you know, in Charleston where I lived. But it was wrong. We’ll assume that without debating it. Let’s assume it was wrong. It was therefore immoral and sinful, but it was not against the law. Now, when the law was passed, then the sin became transgression when it was carried out. Do you see what I mean?
For example, child labor laws, we know that it was immoral to have little children working long hours, but it was legal for a long time. So something may be legal, and yet immoral. It may be sinful, and yet perfectly all right…
[RECORDING ENDS ABRUPTLY]