Dr. Jim McGowan
Law vs. Grace: An Overview
2 Corinthians 3:6-11 (5-15-16)
The children are dismissed, I’m supposed to say that so there they go. I love the sound of the children as they’re leaving [laughter], that didn’t come out right, did it? You know when I try to make a joke it flops. I meant to say I love the sound of their excitement as they’re leaving because they truly are excited and it encourages me and it challenges me and it convicts me when I see smiles on their faces and their desire to go meet with their Sunday School teachers and hear the Word of God, and what a blessing that is, isn’t it?
If you haven’t been attending Sunday School let me just make a quick positive comment about the class this morning. Brother Bob is teaching on the Holy Spirit and he mentioned some very interesting things about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and I want to thank you, Bob, for the great teaching this morning. And the reason I mention it is because I really believe that what we’ve heard up here this morning is an evidence of the gifts of the Holy Spirit being made manifest in our presence. Every person has a gift, he told us this morning, and what a wonderful gift you shared with us today, and all of our musicians and our singers, I think sometimes we take them for granted. Thank you Hedy for helping out on that, that was a wonderful, wonderful piece.
Let me ask your indulgence this morning, I’m having some small problems with my breathing; I’ve been having this for a little while so if you see me reach down and get a drink of water, just pray for me, forgive me and we’ll try to pursue and press forward.
What I’d like to speak to you this morning about is the topic of the Law vs. Grace and what this is, it is actually an introductory lesson that I taught in a home Bible study and with the intention of doing a full series on it. And I’m praying right now about possibly doing that in the fall but I thought it might be good for us this morning to talk about this. Little did I know, and this just goes to show you how awesome God is, that on this past Wednesday night that our wonderful pastor, Andy, would be mentioning many of the things I’m going to cover today. I almost stood up on Wednesday night and said stop, you’re giving it away. But it was awesome, in fact, I would encourage you if you haven’t been listening to the Wednesday evening messages on soteriology, please, by all means go listen, go watch them, I think you’ll find them incredibly encouraging and edifying. And you might just learn something. I know I learn something every time I go.
And then at the same time, Bob, this morning many of the things that you had to say in your class you’re going to see repeated here this morning, I’m sorry, I didn’t get into your notes, I think maybe the Holy Spirit must have been involved. So having said that let’s move forward, shall we?
So here’s basically what I’m going to try to cover this morning in the time that I have and let me get my watch off because I don’t want to be one of those competing for the longest time in the pulpit; I won’t mention any names Gabe… I mean… [laughter] So we’re going to look at this morning the purpose and aim of the study on law and grace and then I’m going to give you some points of contrast and comparison, some critical insights into Christ’s first coming. We’re going to talk a little bit about the misunderstanding that believers have with regard to the law on Christ’s earthly ministry, a proper response to the grace gift, and then we’ll conclude with that.
One more comment about Sunday School today, and again I chalk this up to just the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit, we had an individual in our class this morning who had a lot of questions and my real hope and prayer this morning is that some of the things I’m going to talk about are going to address those questions. And I mention that only because it’s not by chance that anyone is here this morning. Everyone here is here because God brought you here, He had something for you this morning so I hope that’s your heart.
So as we go on what is our purpose, aim and objective here, is to compare and contrast law and grace because we want to be able to properly understand these two important themes and then how they are related to the life of the New Testament believer. It you look at 2 Corinthians 3:6-11, which we read earlier, and I’m just going to touch upon this quickly and we’ll pick this up later.
[2 Corinthians 3:6, “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.  Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?  If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!  For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory.  And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!”]
But in that passage Paul actually introduces seven contrasts between the Law of Moses and grace. And you can see I have some things highlighted there, he notes that the letter kills but the Spirit gives life. He mentions that the Law, and we’re talking about the Mosaic Law here, you may not have thought about this but he actually calls this a ministry of death, and he contrasts that with the ministry of the Spirit. He then comes back in verse 9 and he calls the Law the ministry of condemnation, again contrasting that with the Spirit’s ministry which 9 is a ministry of righteousness. And then he addresses the issue of the glory that each brings to the table, so to speak. So we’ll talk a little bit more about that here in a minute.
I want to give you a quick disclaimer here; many times when we talk about the issue of law and grace the tendency is to become polarized. So some of us go way over here on the law side and we heard somebody in Sunday School today, there’s a group in the area that says that in order to be a Christian you have to keep all of the Ten Commandments. All right, then there’s the other side of the coin which says everything’s okay, you’ve got your eternal security taken care of, go and instead of sin no more it’s go and don’t worry about it. And so neither one of those views are correct so we’re going to endeavor not to have an extreme teaching this morning and later if I do the series.
But one the things that’s important for us is to understand that there are differences and that’s why we’re able to contrast and compare. You may have seen this or be familiar with a particular television show that talks about this. I used to believe that, I don’t any more. However, one of the problems with that is as we come to the Word of God it’s not an issue of being fair and balanced, it’s an issue of being biblical. Would you agree with that? [some say Amen] Good, I filled that now, now I can go forward; if you hadn’t answered right on that I’d just shut the whole thing down right now. [laughter] All right.
So we might want to ask the question, why compare and contrast and are there really differences with regard to Israel under the Law and the church under grace? And we would point out here that as we compare and contrast we’re going to discover that there are indeed similarities between Israel and the church, and I’ve given you a couple of passages here in Exodus. Notice that God refers to the children of Israel and He says they are My people, Exodus 7:4, “…My people, the sons of Israel…” But then we come to the New Testament and we see the Holy Spirit speaking through Peter, saying, “…now you” the Body of Christ “are the people of God…” [1 Peter 2:10] Both are true, are they not? I’ll answer that: Yes they are, both are true.
However, there are some very important differences between Israel under the Law and the Church under grace. For example, where are you blessed? I don’t know if you can make those pictures out that well but the picture on the left is a picture from the 30,000 foot level of the land of Israel. And as we read and study about Israel and God’s promises to Israel we discover that God’s promises to Israel are earthly; they’ve been promised land, for example. And we’ll talk some more about that.
But is that true for us? When we don’t understand law and grace properly are we attempting to bring Israel’s blessings into our camp and that would not be the right thing to do because our blessings are what? They’re heavenly, are they not. In fact, again in Sunday School we talked about the divine riches, the heavenly riches that God provides for us, resources, etc. As we compare and contrast we want to be sure that we avoid extremes. So how would we do that when we come to the Word of God? We do that first of all by noting what is the same or similar between Israel and the church because there are things that are very similar. But we also want to determine and talk about those things that are different. And thankfully God’s Word addresses those issues for us.
Now probably the next question would be does it really matter? Do we really want to waste our time on this and as you see I say here, why would we consider it so important to compare the contrast between law and grace, Israel and the church, isn’t this all just much ado about nothing? And sadly there are people who actually believe that and I hope that you’ll forgive me for putting this quote up, I have nothing particular against John MacArthur but I want you to notice what he says about dispensationalists.
He says, “There is a tendency, however, for dispensationalists to get carried away with compartmentalizing truth to the point that they make unbiblical differentiations. An almost obsessive desire to categorize and contrast related truths has carried various dispensationalist interpreters (Chafer, Ryrie, Hodges, etc.) far beyond the legitimate distinctions between Israel and the Church. Many would also draw hard lines,” notice this, “between salvation and discipleship,” in other words, “justification and sanctification” so he has an issue with drawing hard lines there. He says we’re
not on the right path because we’re making hard distinctions between “the church and the kingdom, Christ’s preaching and the apostolic message, faith and repentance, and the age of law and the age of grace.” [John MacArthur Jr., The Gospel According to Jesus, page 31]
And again that’s John MacArthur, who claims to be a dispensationalist but I think when you research his books and his writings and such you discover that he must have a different interpretation of what that means. And that’s not to say that I don’t like John MacArthur, I just disagree with him on some issues, like soteriology for example.
Does it really matter? Well, for one thing it does matter because it’s what the Bible says and isn’t that what matters—what the Bible says? In 1 Corinthians 10:11, referring back to, in context Paul was referring back to the things that transpired to the children of Israel in the wanderings and he says, “Now these things happened to them as an example and they were written for our instruction.”
So we don’t want to cast aside the law, we don’t want to cast aside what the Bible is telling us about the commandments, but neither do we want to over emphasize them under grace. Another reason why this matters is because properly understanding distinctions, these distinctions, between law and grace, impacts relationships and identities. And you’re going to see how important that is here in just a second. I’m going to make a bold statement here—God designed this life and eternity so as to require clarity of identities and relationships.” Sometimes we’re under the impression that when we die and go to heaven that we’re just going to all kind of morph into some nebulous spiritual entity without any separate identities.
And what I’d like to just call your attention to is if you remember the story, and it’s story, not parable, of the rich man and Lazarus. And I would ask you, did Lazarus recognize Abraham? Did Abraham recognize Lazarus? And he did, right? And all through the Old Testament you find when the patriarchs would die it would say they are going to be gathered to their people. Isn’t that an interesting way to word that. Some people say oh that just means they died. No, it doesn’t mean that, it means that when they died they went to be with their forefathers, those that had gone on before them, which has to include identifying them, wouldn’t it? Can you see somebody wandering around heaven going gee, are you my patriarch, are you my patriarch? No, they knew who they were. So I just share that for your information.
This issue of identity and relationships is pretty important. Should I just leave that up there and not comment? [Laughter] There you see my lovely wife and my two daughters. And I want to just share a couple of comments with you about that. If identities in relationships aren’t important we have some problems, don’t we. My wife and my daughters, here they are, my wife was born in Houston, Texas; my two daughters were born in Houston, Texas, there’s some sameness there, isn’t there? They are all three females, there’s some sameness there. One is a wife and two are daughters, that’s a little different but they are still all females. In this world today we never know, right? They are all born in the same city and the same state. They are all a part of the same family. They all at one point in time had the same last name, until my daughters decided to run off and get married, of course. So there’s a lot alike here.
Now I love all three of them. But it’s very important that I make a distinction regardless of what I see in common. Do you see where I’m going here? If I fail to make the appropriate distinctions in spite of what is common between my wife and my daughters a lot of people would get very upset, not the least of which would be their husbands. And certainly my wife. How about making proper distinctions with other women. Is that important? Well, it is for me; my dear sweet kind gentle wife has clearly indicated the ramifications of not maintaining appropriate distinctions and I believe if I recall correctly she expressed it something like this: I’ll snatch her baldheaded! Now she never did articulate what she was going to do to me and I didn’t ask!
So I’m being a little humorous here but I think that you’re getting my point, that distinctions in relationships here on earth are critically important and the point I want you to understand is they’re likewise important once we depart this earth, so to speak, once we go to our heavenly abode or earthly abode, as the case may be. It’s very important then, in spite of what is common, to see distinctions. It matters greatly in regards to identities in relationships, not only in our present earthly existence but also in eternity. It matters greatly in regards to identities and relationships not only in our present earthly existence, but also in eternity. It matters that we understand identities and relationships.
Not only that, it’s a matter of life and death. Does it really matter? Yes, I answer my own question here. We in the church have been crucified with Christ so as to die to the Law, so that Christ would do the living through us. That’s in Galatians 2:19-20. [Galatians 2:19, “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.  I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”]
Numbers 15:32–36, notice what it says here and you tell me if there are any distinctions between the law and grace. It says, “Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the sabbath day.  Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation;  and they put him in custody because it had not been declared what should be done to him.  Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.’  So” what did they do? “all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.” That’s law, isn’t it. So there’s a pictorial representation. I would like to suggest to you that if we insist on living under the Law, and believe me, there are many, many Christians who do, then we’ll be trying to be blessed by a ministry of death and condemnation, according to 2 Corinthians 3:7 and 9 which we’ve already read.
Many Christians today are trying to be blessed, though, by a ministry of death and condemnation. They’re trying to live under some form of law. And again those are not my words, those are the Apostle Paul’s words given under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Can you imagine trying to be blessed under a ministry characterized by death and condemnation. There it is, “But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was,  how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory?  For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory.” Corinthians 3:7–9
Paul’s talking about the Law of Moses here; he’s calling it “the ministry of death” and “the ministry of condemnation.” But God never intended that we in the church would live that way. Why? Because we’re already blessed so why would we strive and work under a ministry of death and condemnation in order to be blessed? We’ve heard Andy talk about, in the past from the pulpit, you know, we come to Christ. How do we come to Christ? By faith, right! Why is it that once we come to Christ by faith we think that the very next thing that should happen is that we should take over. God, you did a great job getting me saved, I’ll take it from here. Isn’t that what we do? Don’t raise your hand, it’s okay.
Because of our identification in Christ Paul tells us that we died to the Law. He goes on to tell us that Christ is now our life and He is our righteousness so we don’t have to try to find life and we don’t have to try to stay alive. He’s already done it all for us, hasn’t He. How wonderful is that! Galatians 2:19-20 says that, look what Paul says here, “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.  I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
So it’s no longer I doing the living, it’s Christ who’s doing the living in me. I like what Brother Bob has been saying in his class. He says are you a Home Depot Christian, I believe is the way you expressed that? When you said that I thought about what was that TV show that used to be on, Tool Time, Tim the tool man, are you Timothy the tool man, that type of a Christian? You know, you can do it, you can fix it all, just give me what I need, let me go and I’ll fix it? And of course the Scripture tells us very clearly that we can’t possibly do that, as believers we can’t fix ourselves; we can’t do what only the Spirit can do.
Romans 7:4, look what Paul says, “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” You died to the Law. I’m a very big proponent on teaching on the identification truths, understanding who we are in Christ. And I’m convinced that that’s the thing that causes us most of our grief in our Christian life, is we don’t really understand that. We don’t understand who we are in Christ and what He’s done for us. And then that causes us to be somewhat backwards in our understanding and our ability to move forward in progressive sanctification.
Let’s look at the next point, points of contrast and comparison. So pretty much everything up to this point was just to kind of get you thinking in terms of similarities and differences but let’s talk for a minute about some contrasting comparisons. The Law, of course, was given at Mt. Sinai, right; and who was it given to? Well, if you were here on Wednesday night you know the answer to that; it was given to Israel, wasn’t it? And one of the interesting things that happened when God gave the Law was He told Moses to tell the people do not dare come close to the mountain. He’s going to give them this Law but don’t you let one toe cross that boundary because if you do you’re going to die. The Law is being given, don’t come near.
The other mountain is Mount Calvary. Mount Calvary, also known as Golgotha, right, and this is the other mountain where what was shown? Was grace shown there or was it grace that was shown there. It was grace, wasn’t it. Here’s a chart that points out some contrasts and comparisons here. Notice that under Moses the Law was given. He was the steward; Moses was the steward, Christ, of course, is the steward of grace. What’s the governing principle? The governing principle under Moses is Law; under Christ it’s grace. Whose works are you depending upon under the Law? You’re depending on your own works, right? Your ability to keep the Law, which is, of course, impossible. But whose works are you depending upon under grace? You’re depending upon the Lord Jesus Christ, are you not, because again He’s living through you. What is the people group? The Law of Moses came to Israel and grace came to the church.
This is an interesting one, I wonder if you’ve noticed this before, the Bible tells us that the children of Israel were baptized into Moses. But who are we baptized into? We’re baptized into Christ. What’s another word for baptism? Another word for baptism is identification. So when the children of Israel were given the Law, when they went through the sea they were “baptized” into Moses, they were identified with Moses and the legal system. When you were saved, when you put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ what happened then? You were baptized in the Spirit, were you not, and you were instantly identified with the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, the Bible tells us that when He died I died; when He was buried, I was buried; when He rose I rose; when He ascended I ascended; when He was seated I was seated with Him in heavenly places. That’s identification.
What are the ministry characteristics? We’ve mentioned this already but under Moses and the Law it was death and condemnation; but under Christ it’s the Spirit and righteousness. What are the nature of blessings under the Law? Well, if you’re careful when you’re reading the Scriptures, especially Deuteronomy 28, you’ll notice that the blessings are what? They’re conditional, God tells Israel if you do this I’ll do that. And notice also that they’re earthly focused. When the millennial kingdom comes who is that for? Why is God going to set up the millennial kingdom? Why is He going to put David on the throne reigning as coregent with Christ? Why is he going to do that? Is that for the church? No, that’s to fulfill the promises to the Fathers, specifically to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
But what about us, do we have any blessings? We sure do but notice that our blessings are not conditional; our blessings are based entirely on the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. And notice that they’re heavenly. Where are our resources? Where are our divine resources? They’re in the heavens. Right? What about how earthly difficulties are dealt with? Under the Law there are curses for disobedience. Now it’s a popular teaching among some more radical Christian groups to teach that there are such things as generational curses. Well, I don’t believe that, not for the believer certainly. But under the Law, if you didn’t follow the Law there were curses that went along with that.
What about for the believer? When we have earthly difficulties does God curse us? Well, you know, you didn’t go to church on Wednesday night and listen to Andy’s Soteriology class so therefore you’re going to have boils on Thursday. [Laughter] No, no! I haven’t gone once or twice, no boils. NO! But does God discipline us when we do things that we’re not supposed to? Absolutely. Why? Because the Bible tells us that He loves us as a father loves his children, doesn’t He, and therefore He disciplines us for our own benefit. Anybody like discipline? I don’t particularly like it. And you know, that’s a good thing, you’ re not supposed to like discipline, you’re supposed to avoid the need. Isn’t that correct. Too bad I dismissed the children already… well, we’ll save that one for later.
How about this one, distance and intimacy. Have you ever considered the fact that there’s a real clear distinction between distance and intimacy, between the Law and Grace. A significant point of contrast between Law and Grace is in our access to and our intimacy with God. Under the Law of Moses distance from God was a (notice) legal requirement. Look at Exodus 3:4-5 here, “When the LORD saw that he turned aside” meaning Moses here, “when he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’” You know, everybody’s seen The Ten Commandments, right? And Charlton Heston said… I mean, Moses “said, ‘Here I am.’  Then He said, ‘Do not come near” “do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Wow, a God encounter and God says don’t come near. That sounds a little different from some of the things I’m hearing coming from some of the more radical Christian groups now. They have a different perception of who God is.
Exodus 19:12-13, when the Law was being given on the Mount Sinai, I’ve already referred to this but look what it says, “You shall set bounds” this is God speaking, “You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.  ‘No hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot through; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’” Wow, that’s kind of powerful.
How about this one, let’s move a little bit forward in the Old Testament, let’s move out of the Pentateuch, let’s go into the Prophets here. What happened when Isaiah was given a vision of the glory of God? Remember what he said here? He says, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”
I hope you can see this picture. As wonderful as the temple was and will be when it’s restored, one of the things you should notice about the temple is the construction of it. When you look at the picture on the far left what do you notice about that? Do you notice that it’s segregated? Do you see the divisions there? And then when you come over to the picture to the right at the bottom, that’s a blowup of the picture in the middle, that’s the actual inner court, if you will. And notice you see even more distinctions, more barriers to access to God. In fact, under the Law who was the only person that could actually access the Holy of Holies? Could just any average common Jew just walk in and burst open the curtains and God, You and I need to talk? Isn’t that what we’re hearing today about how we approach God by some people, that well, we have bold access so by golly let’s get in there, right, and forget about proper procedures and forget about a holy life and forget about sanctification. You know, God’s your genie.
But no, even in the temple you see what? You don’t see intimacy do you; you see distance. What about access? What does Jesus say to us. Well, we know from the Word of God that under grace we have access to God and we are called to draw near to God because God and Christ want us to know them deeply and intimately. Jesus wants to have an intimate relationship with you. He doesn’t just want to be your fair-weather friend. You know, I can’t pay my bills this week so let’s get on… as Jimmy Swaggart used to say, you know, call Him up, call Him up and tell Him what you want. Have you ever heard that song? Trust me, Jesus is on the mainline now. Call Him up.
I like these pictures, don’t you? When I think of Jesus I think about Him that way. Even when I sin, even when I fall short, the enemy is there to whisper to me and say now run, hide, but the Holy Spirit is doing what to me the whole time? Convicting me, drawing me, wooing me to do what? To come back, to confess my sins that I can be cleansed, I can be forgiven, have restored fellowship with the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:18 and then chapter 3, 11-12, look what it says; [2:18] “for through Him” that’s Christ, “we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.” [3:11] “…Christ Jesus our Lord  in whom we have boldness and confident access, through faith in Him.” What is it about us adults that the longer we live and the more we live and the older we get we lose that whatever it is that children have? Have you noticed how children will just run up to you and just the spur of the moment and hug your neck or talk to you. I just love to come into the church here because I get mobbed by the children and I absolutely love it. It keeps me thinking about how God wants me to interact with Him; He wants me to know that I have intimate access to Him. Are you taking advantage of that? The call that Christ is making to all of us today is come near and stay near.
Look at Hebrews 4:15-16, it says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” What is our natural inclination as believers when we mess up? We start listening to the sin nature, we start listening to the enemy whispering in our ear things, oh, I thought you were a Christian, oh, I thought you were a believer, oh, I thought you were a teacher, how could you do that? O my gosh! Right! And then the shame game, right, all designed to do what? To isolate us from Christ.
How does the lion hunt on the plains there in Africa? Do they just openly run up and scare all the animals? Well, they do, but they don’t do that until a certain point. What they do is all of the… the real hunters of course in the lion pride are the females, rights, I don’t know what that says to us today, but you know, gentlemen, treat your wives well [laughter]. But what happens, they single out, they find a weak animal, don’t they, and then what they do is they send out what the Bible calls the roaring lion. I don’t know if anybody in here has ever been to Africa, I’ve been to Africa and I had the pleasure of going to a facility where I got to stay up all night long and watch animals come up to a salt lick, which was fascinating. About 2:00 o’clock in the morning I start hearing this God-awful roar, and I literally mean that, it was terrifying. When I heard it, it send chills up and down my spine. But I heard it for about an hour before I ever saw anything, and finally out from the bush walks this incredible male lion, and he walks by the salt lick and he walks off and disappears. And the same thing happened about 4:00 in the morning with a different lion, before I ever saw him I heard the roar. Well, how do they hunt? The lioness I guess, because they’re the bosses, they send him out and say you go roar, right? You go roar and we’re going to find out where the weak ones are and then they’re going to run toward us and when they do we’re gonna get ‘em, right.
Well, sometimes I think we as believers are listening so much to the roaring lion of the enemy’s voice, you know, he’s ministering in our ears and instead of running to Christ and understanding that we have this awesome access to Him, we think well, you know, God just can’t forgive me for that, I just, you know, I’ll just try to fix it on my own and so I’ll go buy Oprah’s latest book. That was a joke!
We read earlier where it said that Moses recorded the things that happened to the Israelites for
our benefit and our instruction; that’s the Law of course. We’re told here in Romans 15 and
1 Corinthians, Paul reiterates this here, he says, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” [Romans 15:4] He goes down and the next verse says, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the age have come.” [1 Corinthians 10:11]
Among the benefits and things written for our instruction is that the Law points to who Christ is and what He did for us. We wouldn’t even understand what it is that God did for us if we didn’t have the Old Testament to give us these types and pictures. How would we understand the Passover, the need to put the blood over the doorpost? How would we understand about Moses getting the water from the rock? How would that translate to us in our understanding as Christians? What would we do with this issue of this unblemished lamb that has to be offered up? We know from 1 Corinthians 5:7 that the Bible says that Christ is our what? Passover. [1Corinthians 5:7, “Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.”]
In John 1, John the Baptist said that Christ was the Lamb of God. He said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” [John 1:29, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”] And in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 Paul said Christ is the rock who provides spiritual drink. [1 Corinthians 10:4, “and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.”]
Remember when it said Jesus stood in the last days and He said if any man will come to me I’ll give Him living waters. Grace also looks back on the Law because we understand again that Christ is the Lamb of God, and our Passover, and He’s the One that gives living water.
So let’s look at the third point here, critical insights into Christ’s first coming. Well, Christ was the steward who initiated the church through the apostles in His first coming, his three years of ministry are often misunderstood by Christians. And while all of my message is important this morning I believe what I’m about to say is probably the most important thing for our edification and spiritual maturity. Christ was first sent to earth to be born what? A Jew. Where was He born? In the land of Israel. And why? Because He was there to appeal only to the Jews. And what was His appeal? It was that they would receive Him as their King and Messiah. And how did He do it? By preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.
It’s vitally important that we understand that’s what was happening; if you study the Gospels you’ll really get that picture. Matthew 10:5-6, notice what this says, Jesus told His disciples, he says, “….Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;  but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew 15, He says, Jesus speaking,  “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
In fact, all but the very last part of the earthly ministry of Christ was to the Jews in the land of Israel. And it was an appeal to live under the Law and to accept Him as their King. Of course we know what happened, don’t we? Matthew 23:1-3 says, “Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples,  saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses;  therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.”
What did Jesus mean there? Well, He was not telling the Jews to follow and observe everything the Pharisees taught but rather those teachings that were faithful to the Law of Moses. It was only after it was abundantly clear that the Jews had rejected Christ as their King under the Law of Moses that Jesus began to introduce His disciples to the mystery of the Church. What happened? What caused the big change here in focus? Matthew 23, Jesus is speaking, He says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,” notice what it says, “and you were unwilling.  “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!  ‘For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’” And that will happen at the end of the tribulation period.
How about misunderstanding the Law and Christ’s earthly ministry? It’s my personal feeling that many believers in the church today are trying to carry out parts of the Law. They’re seeking the Jewish earthly blessings. What do I mean by that? Well, 2 Chronicles, “If my people, which are called by My name,” etc. etc. etc. [2 Chronicles 7:14, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”] How many times have you heard people pray that prayer for America? That was given in the context of Israel and is a prayer for Israel.
It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray for our leaders but what we do is we don’t go to the Old Testament, we go to the epistles and we discover Paul saying things like pray for your government that we can lead a quiet and peaceable life. [1 Timothy 2:1-2, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men  For kings,
and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”] That’s where we go, we don’t go back to Israel and try to bring Israel’s blessings into the church because we’re separate identities. Have we made it clear that identities and relationships are very important in the Scriptures yet? Very, very important!
Some people are forgiving so that they can be forgiven by God. Well, doesn’t the Scripture say that if I don’t forgive my brother God won’t forgive me? It does say that. [Matthew 18:35, “Thus also My Heavenly Father will do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from your heart.”] What’s the context of that statement, however. In the church the Bible says why do we forgive others? Not to be forgiven, we forgive others because we have been forgiven by God, and because of the sense of gratitude and thankfulness we have in having been saved and brought into the family of God, worthless as we were, because of a heart of gratitude we reach out to others and we forgive because we’ve been forgiven.
And then there are others who are striving to imitate the earthly life of Christ. Doesn’t that sound like a great thing? “ What would Jesus do?” That’s been a big thing over the last few years. Well, if I could just imitate Jesus; if I can be just like Him. Well, good luck with that, right? We already said that most of Christ’s ministry was to the Jews under the Law and it was to prove and demonstrate who He was as a part of His offer of the kingdom to them. So if I’m imitating Him why am I doing it? Am I trying to be something I’m not or do something I shouldn’t be doing? There just happens to be a branch of Christianity today that, in fact, is doing this very thing, it says we just need to be like Christ, we need to imitate His earthly ministry. It’s called dominion theology. And what do they say? They say well, it’s the duty of Christians to create a worldwide kingdom patterned after the Mosaic Law. But that’s not what God has called us to do.
Do you fall into any of these categories? I have at times and have to confess and forsake my ways and let the Word of God transform me by the renewing of my mind. These theological misunderstandings cause many Christians to misinterpret grace as well, leading them to think that they must do or not do things by living under the Law in order to be blessed and have spiritual maturity or spiritual victory. If I don’t understand the Law and God’s purpose for it, and if I don’t understand what Jesus came to do in presenting the gospel of the kingdom to the Jews then I will have a perverted understanding of God’s grace. A misunderstanding of the Law leads to a misunderstanding of grace. Failure to understand the Law causes believers to find ways to trim it down so they can handle it. Have you noticed that?
Well, how many laws were given? 613. How many of those are you following? Have you noticed that people that want to live under the Law, have you noticed that they don’t have… I bet you couldn’t go to their house and find anything that had the 613 laws posted on the wall. No, what do we do? We say well, you know, that one is kind of hard to follow, let’s see, maybe if I just keep commandment number 3, let’s do away with 4 and 5 right now, I’m having some struggles with those, trim it down, trim it down, trim it down. And once you get to the point where you trim it down so far that there is no sense of any kind of law, no sense of any kind of obedience, it’s just do your own thing. And we’re certainly seeing that today.
We say well, the Ten Commandments are great but you know that Sabbath thing bothers me so I’ll just take nine of them. But wait, I really like the idea of tithing so let’s bump it back up to ten. And you know, we can’t stone people in the church today so let’s just remove all discipline. Right? Let’s just remove discipline from the church because you know, they don’t let us stone people.
This is a quote from one of my favorite commentators, D. Edmond Hiebert, and he says: “Our obedience to God’s will cannot be on a selective basis. We cannot choose that part that is to our liking and disregard the rest.” So if we’re going to live under the Law we have to keep the whole thing.” Galatians 5:3, Paul says that those who place themselves under the Law are obligated to obey the whole Law. [Galatians 5:3, “And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.”]
We can’t pick and choose and say oh, I don’t like that one, let’s just forget it. We have to put our self under the whole Law. Well, what’s wrong with that? Well, there’s a good illustrative picture, right. Romans 3:19-20 says, “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;  because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”
Acts 15 you remember the big discussion, what was going on there? They had the big Jerusalem Council because you had all these Gentiles coming into the church and the Law-keeping Jews, the Judaizers, just couldn’t stand the thought of all these believers being added from the Gentile world, we just have to put some type of restrictions on them. And notice what it says: Peter stood up and he says, “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? [Acts 15:10] Peter says you know what, when you try to go back under the Law you put a yoke on yourself… not an egg yolk, right?
Galatians 5:1, what do we know about Galatians? Well, those Judaizers, what have they done? They just started following Paul around, didn’t they, and Paul had come in and God had used him to do this mighty work in Galatia and here come the Judaizers and they said oh well, you know, what Paul said is good, it’s good but you know, it’s really not enough; you’ve got to keep the Law of Moses. Here in chapter 5, verse 1, Paul says “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm,” stand firm in what? Stand firm in your freedom, “and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” So you’ve got a burden on you; you’ve got a yoke of burden and you’ve also got a yoke of slavery if you’re trying to live under the Law.
Living under grace is not what we do, it’s not what we do or don’t do, rather it is our reliance upon what Christ has already done that determines our blessings and spiritual victory. We don’t do or not do things in order to be blessed but because we already are blessed. We should have a banner that says that.
Ephesians 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Look what 2 Peter says, “Seeing that God’s divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” [ 2 Peter 1:3-4]
Doesn’t that sound a lot better than law; promises sound a lot better than commandments to me.
What’s a proper response? Let me back up, I wanted to make one more comment about that. This is from Zane Hodges, he says: “One of the greatest lessons of 2 Peter is that to maintain a holy life in a world like ours we must be deeply rooted in the prophetic promises of God’s Word. Above all we must hold fast to that blessed hope of the coming again of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” And all I can say to that is Amen.
What is a proper response? What should, how should we respond to the grace gift that we’ve been given? I bet you know the answer. Dr. Constable said this: “The Old Covenant” which was law, “was very specific concerning human responsibilities. It was essentially an objective, external standard that God revealed for His people Israel” notice this, “without any special enabling grace.” Now just stop there for a second. If you’re going to try to live under the Law guess what? You’re not going to have any special enabling grace. Let’s go on. “However the New Covenant” which is “(GRACE) rests on promises that include the indwelling and empowering presence of God’s Holy Spirit” why? Why is that important? Because it’s the Holy Spirit “who enables the believer to obey.” So what’s your choice? You can choose to live under Law without any enabling ability or you can choose to live under grace where the Holy Spirit gives you the ability and the power to live an obedient life. I think I’ll choose the latter.
What’s a proper response to the grace gift? Well, we say grace is a gift in the fullest sense, is it not? It’s not like some of those gifts that you’ve gotten in the past. Have you ever had a family member say hey, I want to give you whatever it is, and they give it to you and they don’t like the way you’re using the gift? Have you ever had that happen? Just don’t acknowledge that, I don’t want anybody to know. You know, I thought it was a gift, I thought it didn’t have any strings attached to it. Well, you know when I gave you that car I thought you were going to use it for this or that, and you’re just wasting it. Well, I thought it was a gift. I’m so glad that God’s gift isn’t like that; it’s a gift in the fullest sense. There’s no [can’t understand word] no Indian Giver, there’s no paying God back for the gift. It’s given freely out of His love, isn’t it.
So what does God expect, as you see there on the screen, He expects thankfulness. Are you thankful? Can I just tell you that one of the things that troubles me the most about my life as a believer is I’m so terribly ungrateful. I am just… I can get so negative sometimes and I can just focus on all the bad things, and I’m just completely forgetting what God did for me when He saved me. You know? And that’s why it’s so important to have brothers and sisters in Christ that you can fellowship with because about the time you start getting too negative, if they love you, they come and say you know brother Jim, you’re getting a little negative there, I think we need to have a sit down and talk to Jesus meeting. Right? And they’re right.
Are you grateful? Are you thankful? Is that something foremost in your heart and mind? And believe me, I’m asking myself that question, you know; I struggle with that. Sometimes I’m kind of hard on myself because I forget who I am in Christ; I’m thinking about who I was in Adam. And there’s a huge difference, isn’t there? Paul had something to say about being thankful. In Colossians he says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” Oh-oh, that’s a command form. That’s a command form! What does that tell me? That tells me it’s my choice, I can choose, I have to choose to be thankful. The Holy Spirit isn’t just going to come on me and say “be thankful.” You know. Wouldn’t that be great if he did. He probably wouldn’t, that’s why He doesn’t do it. So be thankful.
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you,” perhaps if the Word of Christ was richly dwelling with me as it should I would be thankful. Don’t get me started now, I heard somebody say come on back there, I’m liable to get going and time’s a runnin’ out so I can’t afford to do that. “”Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another” how do we do that, Bob, if we don’t associate together, I believe you said something about that in Sunday School again today, didn’t you? Yeah, we can, so we’re to encourage one another. How do we do that? Well, you know, I have to go to church again, and doggone it, I just know that crazy guy is going to get on those drums [laughter] and man, I wish somebody would turn Sister So and So’s mic down, whoooo. And that brother Jim, when he preaches he just drones on. [Laughter] That’s not a heart of thankfulness, is it. He says, “Whatever you do in word or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,” how are you to do that? “giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
Thankfulness! I don’t know if you noticed on the screen, the very first slide I had, this is basically the same slide and it points out that what it says here in John, John chapter 1, that the Law was given through Moses … but grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” [John 1:17] What a distinction we have there. Let me throw this out at you here; it’s my firm belief that if we don’t understand how overwhelmingly earth shakingly awesome the Law is we won’t understand how overwhelmingly heavenly shaking grace is. Maybe we need to do a study on that.
What should you take away from this this morning? For the believer misunderstanding the clear distinctions between Law and grace causes us as believers to incorrectly seek Israel’s earthly blessings. It causes us to come under bondage. It causes us to be burdened with striving to imitate the earthly life of Christ to the nation of Israel. We have to be reminded that Galatians 5:1 says, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” [Galatians 5:1]
What about the unbeliever? Maybe you’re here this morning and you’re thinking golly, this is interesting, I’ve never heard anything quite like this, you’ve got a weird church, or a weird speaker. Well, what should you come away with from this. The admonition that we would have for you today is that today is the day of salvation; TODAY! None of us has any guarantee that when we walk out this door, out in the parking lot to get in our cars, drive out of the parking lot, none of us has any guarantee that we’ll make it home. That’s the reality of things. So the Holy Spirit has promised He would do something this morning. And you know, He uses the Word of God. He promised that He would convict… He would convict! So if you’re sitting here this morning and you’re under conviction don’t get mad at the messenger, right? Attribute that to the Lord trying to speak to your heart.
What’s the message that you need to understand is that you can place your faith in Christ, in His promises, and you can do that right now. Perhaps the greatest question ever asked in the Bible is the one you see on the screen there. What must I do to be saved? What must I do to be saved! I’ve tried all these other things, maybe it was drugs, maybe it was alcohol, maybe it was sex, maybe it was this, maybe it was that, I’ve tried all these things and nothing has worked. Well, it’s because they can’t work. The only thing that you can do is come to the Lord Jesus Christ as it says there, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
Let me just tell you that there are no magical incantations, no secret handshakes, no promise on your part to do good deeds, no commitment to church membership, no emotional pressure induced assurances, no hand raising, no aisle walking are required. There is only one condition for salvation and that’s faith. What is faith? Well, it’s trust or confidence or reliance upon Christ’s promise to give new life to all those who come to Him for salvation.
So a simple question is this: Where are you this morning? If this is something you’ve done during the service or perhaps the Holy Spirit is speaking to you this very moment and I would ask for the believers if you would just begin praying right now in case we do have someone here who doesn’t know Christ, but if you’re here and you don’t know Jesus but God is moving on your heart, I can tell you that if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ you will be saved. And the wonderful thing about that is that I have the authority to declare to you that when you make that decision you become a child of God. That’s really good news because as a child of God you have access to all of God’s divine resources and riches of grace, some of which we’ve talked about this morning.
Now here’s the thing; it’s not enough just to get saved. That’s the first step, that’s the most important step but that’s enough, that’s not all God has for you. God wants you, because He loves you He wants you to grow and mature spiritually. And while there are any number of places, churches that you could attend to do that, could I just tell you, I’m a little bit biased, but I really believe that Sugar Land Bible Church would just be an awesome place for you to grow and mature. And we’re here for you for that very purpose. So maybe you’ll think about that.
If you feel like you need more information then that’s fine also, there are elders and deacons here and the pastoral staff, and believe it or not, there’s probably a church member sitting next to you that could also talk to you about whatever might be on your heart and mind. So I encourage you to take advantage of that. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, thank You so much for today; thank You for Your word, thank You for helping me speak given the restrictions that I’m dealing with right now. I pray, Father God, that the Holy Spirit’s ministry would go forth in power. Thank You for the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and I pray, Father, that we would all be sensitive to heed the voice of the Spirit as He draws us to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation or restoration of fellowship or spiritual growth. And all of God’s people said… Amen.