VALIANT FOR THE TRUTH
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THE LAW and THE GOSPEL
Our text this morning is found in the book of Exodus chapter 20:1-18.
Please hear the reading of the Word of God.
Read Exodus 20:1-18
Let us pray:
Oh Sovereign Lord, thou created all things for thy glory. I ask now that you would open the ears of your people to hear and understand what your unworthy servant will bring forth from Thy word. If your Spirit does not attend this preaching then we will not truly hear from you. We desire your Spirit to accompany your words to grant growth and edification. May this be according to your will and may it bring you glory. In the name of Christ, our mediator and advocate, Amen.
My burden before you this morning is not to expound each commandment and how it is to be lived, although I will be explaining them. My burden is, however, to show that man is found guilty of treason before God on the highest cosmic level based upon the law of God. My greatest concern is that through the Law of God we will see Gods holiness, justice, righteousness and that through the gospel we will taste of his love, mercy, grace. We must truly understand our condition, before we can truly taste the mercy of God in the sacrifice of Christ. So my emphasis today is upon the Moral Law of God summarized in the Ten Commandments. It is a tool to bring us to Christ, and a guide on how we must live unto Christ. "The Law wounds, the gospel cures; the law discovers the evil that is in sin, and the misery that follows it; and the Spirit of God, working in fellowship with the word, effectually turns the heart from sin." (John Flavel)
God is holy and separate from man. In Him there is no darkness. He is spirit and not flesh. He is eternal and is not bound by time or space. He is just and true in all of his ways. He is perfect and doesnt lack any imperfection. He dwells in unapproachable light. God is all-powerful and his ways cannot be thwarted. He has foreordained from all eternity all that will come to pass. He created the heavens and the earth by the power of His spoken word. The creation is His handiwork and gives man proof that He exists. King David says in Psalm 19, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork, day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge." And again in Romans 1:20, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal Godhead." God declared His creation good. After God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, He created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden, and spoke to them saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
We were not created free to be a law to ourselves, but subject to the law of God. In other words He is the Law Maker, and He sets the boundaries as to how we shall live on earth. He is the creator we are the creatures. Man was created in the image of God. God is moral, and we were created moral beings. Along with this image stamped upon mans soul, the law of God was written upon mans heart. This of course is not referring to the new covenant promise but the knowledge of good and evil, that is, a moral consciousness. At creation God not only gave Adam and Eve His law, but He also them the liberty to practice it. They lived in full communion with him, and they felt His pleasure in them as they gave glory to Him. Adam and Eve in their original state, delighted in the law of God.
However they were tempted and deceived by the serpent to rebel against Gods command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They saw the fruit was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eye, and desirable to make one wise. In spite of Gods express command, they ate. Adam and Eve freely chose to disobey. Adam brought death to all men through his rebellion. Romans 5:12 states, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned." We are born enemies with God, hating His laws. We do not have a will that is free, for it is free only to disobey. Adam was the one that had a freewill and in him we died. Scripture is clear on this point, it says, "in Adam all die" (I Corinthians 15:22). Being "in Adam" means that we were either in his loins or that he judicially represented us. Either way we are in Adam. According to Ephesians 2, we are born in bondage to sin and a slave of the devil, and by nature children of wrath. Man is the one with the problem. Due to the Fall, man is no longer capable of obeying the Law. A person who is dead in trespasses and sins can not do the works of the living. An unregenerate, unsaved person doesnt have the freedom to do what is good as he is a slave of sin (John 8:34). In the beginning, before the fall of man this law was a delight to man, but after the fall this law is burdensome, and we in our natural state hate this law.
The Moral law of God reflects His holy character; it tells us who He is. God commands the behavior that pleases him and forbids what offends him. Now, in the Old Testament the Jewish people, were generally subject to three different types of Law. There was the Judicial Law of God, Ceremonial Law of God, and the Moral law of God. The Judicial and Ceremonial laws were fulfilled in Christs incarnation, however the Moral Law of God is ongoing. Christ has said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. (Matthew 5:17)." This Law as seen in the Ten Commandments is, as I had said earlier, the summation of the Moral Law of God. . To quote Martin Luther, "God was compelled to give a written law to remind men of the natural law in their hearts. Properly understood, Moses only interprets and clarifies the natural laws written in mens hearts." Again this is not referring to the new covenant written upon mans heart, but the idea of a moral conscience that has been in man from the very beginning. The first four commandments describe how man is to relate to God. The remaining six describe how man is to relate to one another. This is by no means the comprehensive law of God. I ask you, is this the complete moral law of God? Does God tell us anywhere else how we are to live? Certainly, we are told, not to worry. We are told to watch our tongues. We are commanded to love. We are told to carry each others burdens. Christ has said, " You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." Through this statement of Jesus, we are shown that the sum of Moses law was based on love to God and to our neighbor. The Law is found in both testaments. Wherever Gods Word teaches the requirement of perfect obedience- there the Law is emphasized and taught. But as we are unable in our natural condition to practice this law, Paul writes in Romans that, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them." Rom 1:18-19
The Moral law is for all men without distinction. It is the summation of the Moral Law by which man is judged. This Law is not merely outward, and external as the Pharisees had thought, for at the time of Christ there were 248 regulations, and 365 prohibitions in the Jewish system many of them had been invented by the Pharisees themselves. In Christs Sermon on the Mount he addresses this very issue. Jesus said, "you have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." The violation of this takes place in the heart. This commandment which is the seventh forbids all impure thoughts, words and actions. The law binds "the whole man unto obedience forever."; "It is spiritual, and so reaches the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul as well as the words, works, and gestures."
What exactly does the Moral law require of us? "The first commandment requires us to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God, and our God, and to worship and glorify Him accordingly. The second commandment requires the receiving, observing, and keeping pure all religious worship and ordinances as God has appointed in His Word. The third commandment requires the holy reverent use of Gods names, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, and works. The fourth commandment requires keeping holy to God such set times as he has appointed in his Word, expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to Himself. The fifth commandment requires children to respect and honor their parents. The sixth commandment forbids the taking of our own life or the life of our neighbor unjustly, and forbids murderous, hateful thoughts. The seventh commandment forbids all impure thoughts, words, and actions. The eighth commandment forbids us to take anything that does not belong to us. The ninth commandment requires the maintaining of a truthful tongue, and forbids lying. The tenth commandment forbids discontentment with our possessions, and the desiring of those things which our neighbor may own." As I read this law, I see that apart from Christ, I stand before the throne of God: guilty. . .guilty. . .guilty. We stand guilty of hellfire the moment of conception, for King David states, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin my mother conceived me. The law stands against us. And in our pride, we see ourselves just and worthy of all pleasure. We see ourselves in a condition that is not all that bad. Are our sins so small that they seem petty, and we think that God will somehow overlook them? Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness and sin is lawlessness. Sin is an infinite offense against God as He is infinite. If we think that ours sins are too small to notice, then we have not even begun to comprehend the holiness, justice and righteousness of God. Nothing impure will be able to stand before Him on judgment Day. For many in that day will be cast into utter darkness where there will be a weeping and gnashing of teeth. You see hell, is not eternal separation from God; it is a place exceedingly tormenting in which the conscience is opened and revealed because it stands face to face with the knowledge of an infinitely holy God with no mediator and no advocate. We look now at the intricate working of the law of God.
The Apostle Paul was a Pharisee, declared himself to be the son of a Pharisee, circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel. He was of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews. Concerning the law, he was a Pharisee. Concerning zeal, He persecuted the church. Concerning the righteousness, which is in the law, he was blameless. But what does Paul say of himself in Romans 7:7-11, "I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had not said, You shall not covet. But sin, taking the opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was once alive without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment which was to bring life I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and it killed me."
How was it that Paul had life and then due to this commandment he died? It had to do with his false zeal. The Puritan John Flavel says this, "This was the opinion Paul had, and all unregenerate men have of themselves before conversion. By life, it is meant liveliness, and confidence of his good estate and condition: He was full of vain hope, false joy, and presumptuous confidence. . .The death he here speaks of stands opposed to that life before mentioned. . . the commandment signifies the sorrows, fears, and tremblings that seized upon his soul. . .the commandment came home to his conscience. . .He never knew it till now the commandment in its spiritual sense." Thus it killed him. Martin Luther, the father of the great Protestant reformation had a similar experience as the Apostle Paul. Listen to an excerpt from his biography, "God works by contraries, so that a man feels himself to be lost in the very moment when he is on the point of being saved. When God is about to justify a man, he damns him. Whom he would make alive he must first kill. Gods favor is so communicated in the form of wrath that it seems farthest when it is at hand. Man must first cry out that there is no health in him. He must be consumed with horror."
Do you understand that we must uphold every aspect of this law in order to be right before God, who is utterly holy? God can not tolerate sin, no matter how small. For sin is a violation to the infinite holiness and purity of God. Do you feel the weight of this law? Do you see what the requirement is to stand before God on judgment day? Do you think that you can live according to the standards of this law? If so, truly, you have not felt the strength of it. What happens if we do not fulfill each and every part of this law? "Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 27:26). "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10). The servant who knew his masters will and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, "shall be beaten with many stripes" (Luke 12:24). Do you not know that the summation of Gods will for you is summarized in the Ten Commandments. So is there any aspect of this Law that you have failed to keep? Have any of you lied? Have any of you worried? Been jealous? Have you ever had anything in your life be more important to you than God? That is idolatry. Have you ever had a lustful thought? There is none righteous, no not one! We are all Law Breakers! And from our very nature we despise and hate Gods Law. However, there is hope for man. . . When a man believes himself to be utterly lost. . . light breaks. "For the Law of God works suddenly and strikes like a dart through the heart and conscience of man. . .It works irresistibly with an uncontrolled power upon the spirits of men. Let the soul be armed against conviction with the thickest ignorance, strongest prejudice, or most obstinate resolution, the word of God will wound the breast of such a man, when God sends it forth in his authority and power."
The law demands perfect obedience, yet gives no power to obey, it only condemns. "The Law produces thirst, it leads the hearer to hell and slays him." (Martin Luther) What do we do, we have this Law given to us by God that demands perfection and we are riddled with sin? We must look to the Law and see what it says of us. It shows us that we are sinners. The law shows us that there is no hope for us to stand before God. It does not make us righteous, it only shows us our unrighteousness. Gods law, which was to tell us how to live, actually shows us our sin because we are faced with how we are unable to obey. The secrets of our sinful hearts are made known; our mouths are stopped; our pleas are silenced. From the sentence of the law our soul stands mute, and condemned at the bar of conscience. Romans tells us this, "every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God". The law didnt come to reform and improve. A person dead in sins cannot just get better. He is dead and must be brought to life, but first the law must condemn and kill. The Law is diagnostic it merely shows us our sin. It leads us to Christ. It is our tutor in bringing us to Christ. A "Tutor", in the context of the New Testament, was a slave, who was responsible for a childs training, who would have to point out and punish misbehavior. Like a tutor, the Law points out sin and punishes it. The law will either lead a man into despair with a deeper hatred of God, or a despair of himself and of his own capability so that he expects everything from Christ. John Owen tells us three things that the law does, " (1) it reveals the character of God in His goodness, holiness, wisdom, and makes known His sovereign will and authority. (2) it reveals the duty of man whether saint or sinner. (3) it brings men to Jesus Christ because it reveals sin, the sinfulness of sin, and brings men under bondage to sin, death, Satan, and hell, - so making us long and seek for a Savior."
"What the law 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. . .Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes (Romans 10:4)." If we are unable to establish our own righteousness in and of ourselves, a righteousness must then come from outside of us. For, "the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed" (Romans 3:21). Jesus Christ took on flesh and lived among His own creation. Through Christs incarnation the love of God is never made more manifest. "For God so loved the world" that he sent his Son. Galatians 4: says, "When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his own Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Ladies and Gentlemen this righteousness is outside of us; it is found in Christ alone. It is not found in what we can accomplish in and of ourselves, but according to what Christ had accomplished.
Throughout the Old Testament there are many promises given concerning the coming of Christ. In Genesis 3:15 we see that there would be enmity between the serpent and the seed of the woman. Christ shall bruise the head of the serpent, and the serpent shall bruise His heel. In Gods covenant with Abraham, Christ would be the seed in which the nations would be blessed. In Gods covenant with David, Christ would be the king that would reign eternally. In Moses Law, Christ would be the righteousness of God revealed.
I mentioned before how the ceremonial law ended with Christ. This was because His sacrifice was a once for all sacrifice. He was the Lamb of God without blemish who was to take away the sins of the world. Christ entered the heavenly tabernacle not made with hands, as a priest. He sacrificed himself upon the altar, as a Lamb. Hebrews tells us, ". . .he has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. . .Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. . . we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." The blood sacrifices of the Old Testament were a pattern of Christs death upon the cross. Year after year the priests would bring their animal offering to the tabernacle that the blood might be shed upon the altar and atone for sin. In order for their sacrifice to be acceptable to God it had to be an animal without blemish and without spot. Metaphorically speaking, the book of Leviticus is written in blood, proclaiming the holiness of God. In a manner of speaking God says, "I am Holy you must come by blood". "According to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. . .for the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul (Hebrews 9:22; Leviticus 17:11)."
Christs sacrifice was sufficient and satisfactory to make atonement for sin in that it was perfect. In His divinity He is the Son of God, in his flesh he is the Son of Man. He was tempted at all points yet he was without sin. He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin (I John 3:5). His blood was perfect. He fulfilled Gods law in all of its points.
Christ not only fulfilled the law, but he delighted in it and did it willingly. In the Gospel of John, Jesus told the Jews, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself. . .And He who sent me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him". He was circumcised on the eighth day. After His birth, Mary and Joseph made a sacrifice at the temple. "For according to the law of Moses, Every male who opens the womb was to be called holy to the Lord". Christ grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Jesus insisted that John baptize him for it was fitting for Him to fulfill all righteousness. After he had been baptized the, "heavens were opened to Him and a voice came from heaven saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Then He was tempted for forty days by the devil in which the devil was unable to lead Him astray. So as Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent and brought death to all men, the Son of God resisted the devils temptation and brought righteousness to the many. His messiahship was tested in the wilderness. In the beginning of His ministry He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath and read, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because he has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD." The Scripture says that He closed the book, sat down, and the eyes of those who were in the synagogue fixed on Him. He then said to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing". Jesus, while praying on the mountain with Peter, James and John, the appearance of His face was altered and His robe became white and glistening. He was transfigured before their eyes. A cloud overshadowed them and a voice was heard saying, "This is my beloved Son. Hear Him." He spoke to His hearers in the Sermon on the Mount, "I say unto you till heaven and earth pass away the smallest letter or the smallest stroke in the Hebrew letter will by no means pass from the Law till all is fulfilled".
He then became obedient even to the point of death. He was crucified upon a cross outside the walls of Jerusalem. In 2 Corinthians 5 it states, "He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Luther called this the great exchange. Christ took our sin and gave us His righteousness. He was the Lamb without blemish and without spot. The written code that was against us was nailed to the cross. . ." (Colossians 2:14). "Mans salvation required the Son of Gods undertaking, as Christ put on humanity to fulfill the law for man. Christ sustained on his own shoulders the penalty incurred by man in his violation of it. . .Christ fulfilled the laws ceremonies, revealed its true spiritual nature, representatively obeyed its precepts and bore its penalty. The believer is therefore free from the law in each of these respects." (John Owen) You who have believed in Christ's death, are justified. You are declared righteous. This truly is amazing grace.
We must not forget Christs resurrection. Because through His resurrection He brought newness of life. Those who embrace Christ are made alive, through the Holy Spirit in cooperation with His Word. Christ was the first fruit of the new life. His resurrection gave proof of the full consummation of the coming kingdom. He ascended into the heavens and now sits at the right hand of the Father. Our salvation is inseparably linked to the life to come, "for he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. His resurrection gives us confidence that he conquered death and that one day we also will be resurrected. Christ possesses the keys of death and of Hades. Through His death He brought forgiveness, and through His resurrection He brought life everlasting. For the Christian the penalty of the Law has been permanently removed. However, the Law has not been removed completely. It now becomes a guide by which the Christian lives unto obedience to God, and becomes a tool by which we are to kill remaining sin.
We love God by obeying His law. When we enter into the freedom of the gospel the law does not become irrelevant to us. The "New Covenant, rather than abolish the law, restores it to its true place in mans life". Listen to the way in which King David described the Law of God, " The Law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul; The Testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. . ." If we know Christ, then we love the law and want to keep it. Christ said that if we love Him, we are to keep His commandments (John 14:15). Psalm 119:47-48 says, "I will delight myself in Your commandments, which I love, My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, which I love, I will mediate on Your statutes." We desire to keep the law because we want to please God, we want to show our gratitude for His grace that He lavished upon us in Christ. Once we are in Christ the law guides us into the good works that God prepared beforehand for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). Followers of Christ are to be taught to keep all that Christ commanded (Mt 28:20). Psalm 112:1 says "Blessed is the man who fears the Lord and who delights greatly in his commandments."
Once saved the Holy Spirit leads us to a degree of obedience that was not there before we were saved. The believer now has the ability to delight in the law and seek to obey the commandments of God. Why? Because the enmity that was between the law and us has been removed. Being declared righteous on account of Christ before God transforms our relationship to the law. Luther says, "The Spirit has produced new drives within believers in the form of loving God and his laws and hating evil." Our works are not any longer "works of the law" forced out of us by the law, but willing "works of grace".
Yet we still have this flesh of the old man, that remains. This remaining flesh will not be completely done away with until Christ returns. Part of our assurance of salvation is from the awareness of the battle between flesh and spirit. The conflict of Paul in Romans 7 is that Christ is dwelling in him and sin is also dwelling in him (Galatians 2:20; Romans 7:17,20). Paul says, "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. . .For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. . . For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" The frustration is that we are in Christ and free from the law, yet find that we are still unable to keep the law in its entirety. There is an inner war as the mind of the redeemed wants to obey, yet in the flesh he finds that he still wants to sin. It is at this point that we, as new creations in Christ, must again depend upon Christs righteousness for our growth. The Christian still has this sinful flesh, and the law must still carry out its spiritual work and reveal remaining sin. As Christians, the law shows us how to live, yet still doesnt provide the strength to live according to it. We must always look to Christ who is the "author and the perfector of our faith". We can never rely on ourselves. We must trust Christ as His righteousness is how we are able to stand before God. The "already but not yet" aspect of our salvation is that in Christ, we are now presently saved, yet we are being saved and salvation will not be complete in a sense until Christ returns and we are glorified. Mortality will put on immortality.
Look at verse 18 and19 of Exodus 20, "Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightening flashes, the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, You will speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us lest we die." Because of Christs life, death, and resurrection we no longer, as Hebrews 12 states, "come to the mountain that may be touched that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them any more. (For they could not endure what was commanded: And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow. And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, I am exceeding afraid and trembling. But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. . .to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel."
If you see the law as a heavy burden, a yoke of bondage and slavery-Listen to the words of Christ, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Amen. (Mt. 11:28-30)
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