By Morris W. R. Bailey
Continuing our study under the above heading, we shall now proceed to show that a proper handling of the word of truth requires that we recognize the distinction that the Bible makes between
The Law And The Gospel
This distinction is clearly spelled out in the words of John 1:17. “For the law came through Moses. Grace and truth carne through Jesus Christ.” Also in Romans 6:14, Paul said, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under law, but under grace.” God’s grace is revealed in the gospel. Paul called it, “The gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). The contrast drawn in the above scriptures is therefore a contrast between the Law and the Gospel.
1. In the first text there is a distinction, or a contrast between the origin of the Law and the Gospel. John tells us that the Law came through Moses, while the Gospel came through Christ. John’s testimony that the Law came through Moses is confirmed by other writers of the Bible. The testimony of Moses should carry some weight. He wrote the first five books of the Old Testament wherein we learn about the giving of the Law. Time after time chapters begin with these words, “And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying . . . .” Exodus 31:1 and Leviticus 17:1 are but two of many such passages. The Old Testament closes with this appeal from the prophet Malachi, “Remember ye the law of Moses, my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, even statutes and ordinances” (Malachi 4:4). Then we have the testimony of Jesus. In one of his many confrontations with the Jews of his day, he said, `Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keepeth the law, Why seek ye to kill me?”
That the gospel of grace came through Jesus Christ is abundantly taught throughout the New Testament. The word “gospel” is strictly a New Testament word, used for the first time in Matt. 4:23, where we are told, “And Jesus went about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom.” Mark begins his record with the words, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).
John’s affirmation that the Gospel came through Christ is confirmed by Jesus, himself, in the Sermon on the Mount. In the fifth chapter of Matthew Jesus claimed the authority to set aside the Law of Moses and replace it with his own pronouncements. Verses 21, 22 record Him as saying, “Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: but I say unto you, that everyone that is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment.” Again, verses 27, 28 record Him as saying, “Ye have heard that it was said, thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, that everyone that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
So obvious was it that Jesus was introducing a new system of law that Matthew tells us that, “When he had finished these words, the multitudes were astonished at his teaching: for he taught as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matt. 7:28,29). The scribes and Pharisees were accustomed to quoting what “Moses said” (Matt. 22:24; John 8:5). Jesus, however, introduced his teaching with, “I say unto you.”
In Romans 6:14 Paul made a clear distinction as to that which Christians are under, and what they are not under. “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under law, but under grace.”
That Christians are not under the Law given by Moses is abundantly evident from the following facts:
(a) The Law was given to no one but national Israel. Deut. 5:1-3 clearly identifies to whom it was given and also to whom it was not given. Speaking to Israel, Moses said, “Jehovah our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Jehovah made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us who are all of us here alive this day.”
(b) The Law was never given to Gentiles. In Romans 2:14 Paul said, “For when the Gentiles that have not the law, do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are the law unto themselves.”
(c) The Law was given for a special purpose and for a limited time. Paul said in Galatians 3:19, “What then is the law, It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise hath been made.” Paul tells us in this same chapter that the promised seed is Christ (verse 16). So it is a matter of simple logic that the Law was given until Christ came. This is confirmed by Paul’s words in verses 24, 25. “So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor.”
The Law Abolished
That the law which came through Moses has been abolished is clearly and unmistakably taught in a number of scriptures.
(a) Dead to the Law. In Romans 7:1-3 Paul draws an illustration from the marriage contract. A woman is bound by the law of her husband while he lives, and is free to marry again only when he dies. In verse four he makes the application, “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead.” In verse six Paul further said, “But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter.”
(b) The Law nailed to the cross. To the Colossians Paul wrote, “Having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross.” Thus Paul said in verse 16, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a sabbath day.” Why? Because the Law governing those things was nailed to the cross.
Many of us remember the last war and the rationing of scarce commodities. If anyone was found hoarding food, or dealing in a black market, he was judged as a lawbreaker and punished. When the war ended, rationing was abolished. There being now no law forbidding the hoarding of food no one can be judged in that respect. While the Law was in force those who were under it could be judged when they broke it. But because the Law was nailed to the cross, Paul said that no man can judge us in respect of what it once required.
Adventists make an effort to evade the force of these scriptures by a play on the expression, “under the law.” They tell us that the phrase “under the law” means “under the condemnation of the law.” Thus when Paul said that Christians are not under the Law, he meant that they are not under its condemnation.
But the argument backfires. Paul said to the Romans, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it speaketh to them that are under the law” (Rom. 3:19). Thus when Adventists claim that God was speaking to them when he gave the Ten Commandments, they thereby admit that they are under the Law, therefore, they being witness, are under the condemnation of the Law.
But again: The gospel pronounces condemnation on the unbeliever. Jesus said, “He that disbelieveth shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Now, if “under the law” means “under the condemnation of the law,” would not the expression “under grace” mean “under the condemnation of the gospel?” Thus Christians would be worse off than those who were under the Law, for the writer of Hebrews said, “A man that hath set at nought Moses’ law dieth without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment, think ye he shall be judged worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:28,29).
Christians Under The Gospel
Just as certain as it is that Christians are not under the Law, just that certain is it that they are under the Gospel (Romans 6:14). Paul said, “For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of his Son” (Romans 1:9). It is God’s power unto salvation. Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” We are begotten by the Gospel. Paul said, “. . . for in Christ Jesus I begat you through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15). Christians are established, or strengthened by the gospel. Paul said, “Now to him that is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ . . .” (Romans 16:25). We are kept, or guarded by the gospel. Peter said, “Who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed at the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). Finally, Christians will be judged by the Gospel. Paul said, “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my gospel, by Jesus Christ” (Romans 2:16).
In an article to follow we shall point out some other contrasts between the Law and the Gospel which must be recognized if we would handle aright the word of truth.
Truth Magazine XXI: 35, pp. 552-553
September 8, 1977