The Law and Grace

Correspondence has been proceeding in "The Christian" on the intensely important subject of the Law given by Moses, its meaning and use and its value in this day of Grace. We venture to pass on to our readers some thoughts gathered up from the study of the subject. In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord said, "Think not that I am come to destroy but to fulfil. For verily I say to you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law until all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:17-18). It had not been kept until He came, but now it was to be more than kept, it was to be fulfilled, and that meant much more than the mere keeping of it in the letter. It meant to fill it out, to show its full and proper character. The law was like a beautiful portrait, the portrait of a perfect man, and there were those who could appreciate its beauties, like the Psalmist who said, "Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law." When Jesus came every feature of it found living expression in Him. He was the original. He filled out every jot and tittle of it, brought out all its beauty and made it instinct with life. Now the anointed eye can look upon His life on earth and see in Him the blessed Man whose delight was in the law of God, and in whose law He meditated day and night. He loved the Lord His God, with all His heart, and His neighbour as Himself, and in His life He showed that "the law is holy, just and good, " done that He could bring in the grace that saves those whom the law could only condemn, but to do that He had to suffer its full penalty, which He did when He suffered for sinners upon the cross.

It has been urged by some that the Lord's words in verses 21, 27, 33, 43, "Ye have heard it said of them of old time… but l say to you, " give a warrant for discarding the Scriptures and substituting for them something up to date. It is a scandalous and immoral procedure. He was shifting the searchlight from the outward actions to the unseen inner nature. One reason for which the law was given was to check and curb the lusts and passions of man, to hold within bounds the evil acts of his fallen nature. This is shown in Paul's first letter to Timothy. "But we know that the law is good if a man use it lawfully: knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for man-slayers" etc. (chap. 1:9, 19). Thus had it been rightly interpreted, but the Lord went deeper and dealt with the hidden desires of the heart, with the nature that lies at the root of every transgression and from which all evil deeds spring, and declared that God required truth in the inward parts. David learned in his great repentance, that more terrible than his deeds was the nature that produced them, and the law taught Saul of Tarsus the same necessary lesson (Romans 7). This did not make void the law, it established its use as a searching, convicting power.

In the law God declared that He required righteousness from men, and the law was the measure of that demand, but the early chapters of Romans show that God's demands received no answer or satisfaction from men. "As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one." God knew that that would be so, but it was necessary that it should be demonstrated. The law brought condemnation upon all who came under it, as Romans 3:19 states, "Now we know that whatsoever things the law says, it says to them who are under the law: that every mouth might be stopped and all the world become guilty before God." Instead of bringing a blessing, it inflicted a curse, for "it is written, Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Gal. 3:10).

Instead of justifying men it condemned them, for while it is good and justly demands goodness, men were utterly bad, they would not nor could bring forth any good. So we read, "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20). It exposes and convicts the sinner and leaves him entirely hopeless as to being right with God on the ground of his own works. That is its work and it does it truly and well.

It is at this point that God intervenes, "Man's extremity is God's opportunity, " and His righteousness without the law is manifested. He has found a way by which men can be justified without the law, and to this the law and the prophets bore witness. The way that God has found is that men should be justified by His grace freely, through FAITH, instead of by the works of the law.

Is then the law set aside as though it were of no consequence? Are its claims ignored or treated with indifference by God when He justifies men through faith? Certainly not, or God Himself would be unjust. The Apostle anticipates such questions when he says, "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, WE ESTABLISH THE LAW" (Rom. 3:31). But how can this be? The awakened soul feels the absolute necessity of a righteousness before God: if he goes to the law to obtain it, he finds that it only condemns him, for he has broken it. He does not ignore it, he owns its just demands and that he lies under its condemnation and curse. Then he learns in the gospel that its dread penalty has been met to the full by the blood of Jesus, and that God can now account all those righteous who without works believe in that Saviour. This is the way that God, according to His own righteousness, has taken to justify men, to place them in righteousness before Himself. They are "justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."

God would not be righteous if He treated the claims of His own law as of little importance, and yet it is He that justifieth the ungodly; He does so because every claim of His holiness, which goes far beyond the law, has found its satisfaction in the death of Jesus; it is because of this that His grace flows freely forth; and the law as a way of righteousness is closed for ever. Men could not tread that way, and now righteousness, divine and unchanging, is found in Christ instead of in the law. He is "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes" (Rom. 10:4).

The believer's position as justified — i.e. as righteous before God — does not depend upon his doings, either before his conversion or after, but upon the grace of God, and he is "not under law but under grace" (Rom. 6:14). Can then a man live as be pleases? May he be indifferent to righteousness? This question also was anticipated by the Apostle when he said: "What then, Shall we sin, because we are not under law but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey: whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered to you" (Rom. 6:16-17).

Obedience is to characterize the justified man, but it is not now obedience to a law which is irksome to him, but to the gospel of God's grace; this has reached his heart, and won his affection, so that he delights with every fibre of his renewed nature to yield himself to the will of God, who sent His own Son to be his Saviour. In the Holy Spirit which has been given him he has a power which the law never gave, by which he can as God's servant, have his fruit to holiness, and the end everlasting life. So that when we come to the eighth chapter of Romans we find that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled IN us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shalt not fulfil the lusts of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16).

The law itself could not produce this, for "it was weak through the flesh, " the material that it had to work on was utterly bad, but grace produces it, for the evil, sinful flesh has met its judgment in the cross of Christ, and now the believer has a new position, for he is in Christ; he has a new condition, for he is in the Spirit, since the Spirit dwells in him; and he has a new life which is divine. The nature of this life is love, and "love works no ill to his neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law; for he that loves another has fulfilled the law" (Rom. 13:8-10).

Here we see the triumph of grace, and all boasting is taken from men. It is of God from first to last, and He must have all praise; and in this matter, as in every other, we can take up the language of Romans 11:33-36, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counsellor? Or who has first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed to him again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen."