By Cecil Willis
This week we want to begin another line of thought to pursue for the next few issues. Beginning with this lesson, we would like to suggest some thoughts concerning “The Law of Moses and the Gospel of Christ.”
Definition of “The Law”
Inasmuch as we shall be mentioning “the Law” and “the Gospel” for the next few weeks, it will be best for us to understand what the Bible means when it speaks of “the Law” and “the Gospel.” By the Law, the Scriptures ordinarily mean the Law of God which was given by Moses atop Mount Sinai. The Law is to be taken to mean the Law of Moses, including the Ten Commandments as well as the so-called “ceremonial laws.” Some people have divided the Law of Moses, so as to make Moses the author of the ceremonial laws which governed the worship under the Old Covenant. We will investigate this particular point more thoroughly in the coming weeks. In this lesson we are just trying to define the terms, and somewhat present the problem for discussion. In Galatians 3, Paul speaks of the Law, so as to define that of which he is speaking without doubt and beyond dispute. He says, “now this I say: a covenant confirmed beforehand by God, the law, which came four hundred and thirty years after, doth not disannual, so as to make the promise of none effect” (Gal. 3:17). What is the Law? It is that which came 430 years after the promise was made to Abraham.
According to one widely-used chronology of Biblical events, the promise was made to Abraham in about 1921 B. C. The Law of Moses was given in 1491 B. C., which is exactly 430 years after the giving of the promise. Thus; the Law which was 430 years after the giving of the promise is the Law that God delivered unto the people through Moses at Mount Sinai. Then 40 years later, after their wilderness wandering, the people entered into the promised land. They entered about 1451 B. C., according to the same chronology. The Law of Moses, which included both the Ten Commandment Law and the so-called “ceremonial law” is spoken of as “the Law.” So when we refer to the Law, we are referring to the Ten Commandment Law, or the Law of God as delivered by Moses.
Definition of “The Gospel”
It is our purpose to study the relationship existing between this Law, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we mean that system by which God had purposed from eternity to save fallen man. It is referred to as a promise in some instances. In fact, Paul says, “Now unto Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to they seed, which is Christ” (Gal. 3:16). Before making any comment on this passage, let us refer to the Old Testament scriptures and see this promise of which Paul speaks:
“Now Jehovah said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:1-3). This is the promise. The promise is that in Abraham, or in the seed, the posterity of Abraham, shall all nations of the earth be blessed. Well, to what did this promise refer? Paul tells us precisely of whom the promise spoke. “He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed which is Christ” (Gal. 3:16). So this promise made to Abraham is that in Christ Jesus all nations of the earth are to be blessed. This is the good news of salvation, hence this is the Gospel of Christ. The Gospel means good news, or glad tidings, and the good news is that Christ died that men and women of all nations might be saved.
So God’s plan of salvation is called the Gospel, and it is also called the Promise. Furthermore, the Gospel is also called the Faith. Some people read the Bible, and think that every time the word “faith” occurs it is talking about believing, and they think because the Bible teaches that salvation is by faith, they have found Scriptures proving their false doctrine of salvation by faith only. But many times, when the word “faith” occurs, it is not speaking of believing at all, but it is speaking of the system of faith, the Gospel, or of the fulfillment of the Promise made to Abraham. Let us notice some instances of such a usage:
In Rom. 3:28, Paul says, “We reckon therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” Paul is saying, that one is justified by the Gospel, and not by the Law of Moses. Some people use this passage in an effort to prove that salvation or justification comes by faith only, but to so use it is to misuse it.
Again Paul says, “But before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed…. But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Gal. 3:22, 24). Here the term “faith” is used to refer to the system of faith, or the Gospel.
One other passage will have to suffice. In Jude 3, the writer says, “Contend earnestly for the faith, which was once for all delivered unto the saints.” We are not exhorted in this passage to contend for believing, but to contend for the system of faith. So the Gospel may be called “the Gospel,” “the Promise,” or just “the Faith.” We shall be using these terms considerably in the weeks that lie ahead.
Judaism and Christianity
The problem of intermixing the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ is not a problem peculiar to our day. During the New Testament times, one of the greatest dangers confronting the church was that of mixing Judaism with Christianity. This is more understandable in New Testament times, than it is in our day. Yet I am fairly confident, that there was not much more mixing of the two then, than there is now. Those people in New Testament times had just come out of Judaism, and therefore it was rather difficult for them to leave all of their Jewish concepts, and to replace these with Christian concepts. As a nation, the Jews had lived under the Law of Moses for fifteen-hundred years. This made it all the more difficult for them to give up their Jewish beliefs overnight. An effort was made on the part of some to Judaize Christianity, and to Christianize Judaism. So considerable writing and preaching was done to show that this would not work.
One of the intentions of the Roman epistle is to give the people to whom it was addressed an insight into the relationship existing between the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Christ. Some in Rome obviously thought that they could be saved as were those who lived under the Old Testament Law. So Paul wrote to correct this false impression. The Galatian epistle was written because some of the members of the church were on the verge of going back to the Law, and even already some of them were intermixing the Law and the Promise. So Paul writes to teach them that Christianity is a religion separate and independent from Judaism. The Hebrew epistle has a similar intention. Certain ones of the Jews that had been converted to Christianity were getting a little discouraged. So Paul wrote to them to encourage them to continue in the Faith, and to warn them of going back to the Law. These brethren were being severely persecuted by their former Jewish brethren and this persecution had something to do with their retreat toward Judaism. Paul rebuked them for giving up, saying, “Ye have not resisted unto blood, striving against sin” (Heb. 12:4). The indication is that there was great danger that they were going to have to shed some blood because of renouncing Judaism, but he said you are giving up before you even shed your blood. So one can readily see that this problem of intermixing the Old Testament and the New Testament laws was a problem confronting the church.
It is likewise a tremendous problem in the world today. There are probably as many false doctrines taught because people do not understand the relation of the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Christ as any other misunderstanding we might mention. Some denominations exist as separate bodies simply because they want to intermix the Gospel with a touch of Judaism, and this touch of Judaism is often a rather heavy touch.
There are some individuals today who try to bind the carnal act of circumcision, and to say that it is an obligation upon these living today under God’s Law. This sounds rather absurd to virtually all religious was a part of the Old groups are violating the groups, because circumcision Covenant. But these religious same principle.
There are some organizations that keep the Sabbath Day. They do not meet upon the First Day of the week as the New Testament church did, but they meet on Saturday. Why? Because they try to bind on people today a portion of the Law of Moses.
There are some religious organizations which burn incense in their worship. Why? Not because of any commandment found in the New Testament, the Gospel of Christ, but merely because it was a part of the Law of Moses. They mix the two laws and come out with a conglomeration that is not distinguishable as either Christianity or Judaism, but is a mixture of both.
The vast majority of religious organizations use mechanical instruments of music in their worship service. They sometimes resent others inquiring as to why they use their instruments. Many, many times individuals have asked me why the church of which I am a member does not have a piano or an organ to accompany its singing. I take no offense at their inquiry. In fact, I welcome it. But let someone ask them why They have an instrument or music to accompany their singing, and when they search the New Testament for the authority for it, and fail to find it, they become offended. Usually, they reply by saying, “Well they had mechanical instruments of music in the Old Testament, didn’t they?” To which one must reply, “Certainly so,” but it just so happens that we are not living under the Old Testament Law. Friends, with all respect for the people who do this, this is but another attempt on the part of man to intermix Judaism and Christianity. Instruments of music are no part of Christian worship, but were a part of the Old Testament worship.
There are others who think a preacher or a “priest” has to make intercession for the sinner, and that they have to make confession to some man in order to get their sins forgiven. Under the Old Testament, the priests had to offer the sacrifices, and they did stand between God and the sinner. But not so in the New Testament. Christ is the High Priest, and each Christian is a priest, so each person can pray to God for forgiveness. This is another example of mixing the two systems.
So it is apparent that this was as much a problem in New Testament times than it is today.
Truth Magazine, XX:3, p. 3-5
January 15, 1976