Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 3 * BOOK 5
Law – Weak and Beggarly
Turn with me to Exodus 19. In this lesson we are going to pursue the difference between Law and Grace. I have found that if there ever was any area of confusion among Christian people, it’s in this area. When they are able to recognize this difference, they become so excited about it that they admonish me to be sure to teach this difference between Law and Grace to others. In Exodus 19 we find that the Nation of Israel has come out of Egypt where they have been in bondage, and by virtue of the miraculous power of God they are able to cross the Red Sea and come to Mount Sinai. In Chapter 20, Moses went up onto the Mountain and received the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law from God. When I refer to“the rest of the Law” there may be some confusion so we need to understand that “the Law” consisted of three parts:
The Moral Law commonly referred to as
The Ten Commandments
The Ecclesiastical Law which was associated with
The Temple worship
The Civil Regulations which governed how neighbor was to get along with neighbor and how they were to handle the various aspects of their society, such as how to transfer ownership of land; all intrinsic problems of a society were covered in The civil law
It is important that when we come across the word “Law” in The Bible, we need to determine whether or not the term is being used to cover all of the above aspects of the Law, or just a portion of it, such as the Ten Commandments. The text normally reveals the use clearly. In Exodus 19, we find Israel had not yet received the Law.
“And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, ‘All that the LORD hath spoken we will do.’ And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.”
That’s legalism! You cannot have legalism without the flesh doing something. So Israel said, “Lord, tell us what you want us to do and we’ll do it!” Another Scripture passage we need to review is in Deuteronomy. I believe this is more or less a recapitulation of what was said in Exodus, since Deuteronomy is generally an analysis of what has gone on before. In this passage, the leaders of Israel are speaking to Moses and tell him:
“Go thou near, and hear all that the LORD our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the LORD our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it.”
Turn to Hebrews 11. Some of these things are just so basic we dare not skip over them! This is The Bible definition of faith, as it is laid out in the opening verses of this chapter.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Faith is the very substance, the very core, of things hoped for; faith is the evidence of things not seen. When we get into areas of faith, we’re dealing in areas where you cannot use your five senses. You cannot touch them, you can’t put them in a test tube in the laboratory; faith is the area of the invisible; the spirit world.
“For by it (faith) the elders obtained a good report (I believe Paul wrote Hebrews, and here he is referring to those of the Old Testament times, the forefathers). Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”
There’s no way to prove that the world was made in this way scientifically. We must believe that God made it this way, because God said that He did, and He expects us to believeHim. He spoke the word, and the universe came together.
“But without faith it is impossible to please him (God): for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”
We cannot please God unless we believe what He has said! I hope no one ever accuses me of promoting an “easy-believeism.” In other words, “believe in the Lord Jesus, and you’re all right.” I never teach that. When I talk about “believing” or “faith plus nothing,“ I’m talking about a belief and a faith that is so rock solid you can honestly say, “With all my spirit, I know that Christ died for me. I know that my sins have been forgiven because His Blood has taken care of them. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt He has risen from the dead. I have no doubt of these things. I know He did them for me!” When someone believes like that, and it has become “a power of God experience,“ it’s going to change his life! It is going to have such an effect that you don’t have to have a set of rules and regulations to guide your behavior. Right action will come from that power God hasplaced within you. But it has to start with faith! We have to believe it because God has said it.
The Law included the Ten Commandments which were set in stone. God didn’t see fit to put the Ten Commandments on a teddy bear that someone could cuddle up to. They were, instead, cut into cold, hard tables of stone, and were immovable. The Law could do nothing but condemn. It had no power whatsoever to help a man keep from stealing or from committing adultery. All the Law could do was say, “Don’t you do that!” or, “Do this!” Even the first commandment about love said:
“…’Thou shalt love the Lord thy God….'”
Can you force anyone to love you? It’s impossible. Love has to spring from within. So it is with the Ten Commandments. They did nothing but stand in stark reality to convict and condemn. See how foolish it is when people say something like, “I’m doing the best I can. I’m keeping the Ten Commandments.” That’s impossible! The “good” Jew, under the Law, as soon as he realized that he had broken one of the Laws, had to reach down into the second part of the Law to practice what God had said to do with regard to approaching God, and regarding worship. He had to do everything according to the instructions provided by God, according to the letter of the Law. For example, until Israel got into the Promised Land they had the Tabernacle as their place of worship. When they camped, the Tabernacle was at the center of the community, with three of the tribes camped on each side of it.
You’ll remember that the group that came out of Egypt, and camped at Sinai, was made up of from three to six million people. Consequently, the people who were on the outer fringes of the camp were a long way from the altar contained in the Tabernacle. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Suppose someone from the outer perimeters of the camp had broken the Law. Maybe he stole something from his neighbor. He knows that he’s broken the Law. He knows that the Law said, “Thou shalt not steal”, and because of that he has to do something to make the situation right. But, he might think, it’s a long way from here to the priest and altar, so I’m going to admit to God that I’ve sinned, and I don’t think that I’ll have to make that sacrifice. So that’s what he does. He says, “God, I’ve broken your commandment. I’ve stolen from my neighbor, but I don’t want to go all the way up to the Tabernacle to make a sacrifice.” According to the Law, was that man accepted? NO! Why? Because he did not do what God said to do! He didn’t take the sacrifice to the priest. That was works.
A second example. Let’s say that this same fellow commits the same sin, recognizes it, and says, “My neighbor down the road had this same problem a few weeks ago. He took a sacrifice to the priest and everything was all right. I think that’s what I’ll do.” So he does that. Now, was he accepted? NO! Why? Because he didn’t do it by faith in what God had said to do. Do you see the difference? So either way, he could go through some of the motions by faith, but if he didn’t do it exactly according to God’s explicit instructions, he wouldn’t be accepted. But on the other hand, even if he carried out God’s instructions to the letter, but didn’t do it in faith, he still wouldn’t be accepted. That’s legalism. That was the Law! Let’s look at the timeline we used in the last lesson.
We saw that God began to deal with the Nation of Israel through Abraham and all the prophetic promises, and that Messiah came and was crucified. Now, we need to look at the Book of Acts. This is where a lot of people end up in confusion. Many churches teach that, somehow, the “Age of Grace” started somewhere back during Jesus’ ministry on earth as recorded in the Gospels; not that Jesus lived out His life and worked His ministry under the auspices of the Law. Everything that took place in the Gospels did so under the Law. The Temple was still going strong. Sacrifices were being brought by the thousands. Whenever people would come to Jesus, He would tell them to go to the priests and make theproper sacrifices. Remember the ten lepers who were healed? Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priest (Luke17:12).
When the rich, young ruler came to Jesus asking how to be saved, Jesus told him to keep the Commandments. (Luke 18:18-23) Jesus meant that he should keep the whole Law. If he broke a Commandment, he had to come by the prescribed way to approach God. These things all happened under the Law, and Jesus labored under that Law for the entire period of His ministry.
Let’s look at Acts 10. According to all the chronologists that I’ve studied (the men who have put a time element on Biblical events), Peter went to the house of Cornelius about eight to ten years after Pentecost. That’s a long time! God knew the heart and mind of Peter (which was correct under the Law), and when God wanted Peter to go the home of thisGentile, He knew He’d have to do something special to get him there. So, while the men were coming from Caesarea to Joppa to get Peter, God gave Peter a vision to prepare him to go with them. Otherwise, Peter never would have gone! Peter would never have gone to that Gentile home unless God had taken drastic measures. God showed Peter the vision of the sheet which contained all manner living things.
“And there came a voice to him, ‘Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.’” Remember the time element – about ten years down the road from Pentecost when this took place. But what was Peter’s answer?
“But Peter said, ‘Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.”
Peter was a Law-keeping Jew. He wasn’t going to eat anything that was not legally acceptable under the Law. Now, if that’s not enough to convince you, let’s look at verse 25. The men have reached Peter and have taken him back to their master’s house.
“And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.”
That should give you a good indication of how far from the truth this man Cornelius was. The passage had said earlier that he was a good man, he gave alms, and he prayed to God, but yet he was so ignorant of the true God that he fell down to worship a mere human being. Verses 26 and 27:
“But Peter took him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I myself also am a man.’ And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together.”
Try putting yourself in Peter’s shoes. He was a Law-keeping Jew, going into a strange area, and even worse, into the home of a Gentile. He was very uncomfortable, even though God had made it clear to him that this is what he was to do. Look what Peter said as he went in:
“And he said unto them, ‘Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”
Peter said in effect, “I’m not supposed to be here. But God . . .” Peter would have never gone there if God had not forced the issue! What I’m trying to show here is that even at this late date, these Jewish believers, such as Peter and the eleven, and all those who had come to believe in Christ, were all Law-keepers. This is hard for people to comprehend. Everything was still in the prophetic program. Christ had been crucified, buried and had ascended, but when we get into Chapter 3 of Acts, Peter was still expecting that Christ would come to set up His Kingdom in Israel with the believers. We’re now coming to a place of change. God was going to usher in something totally different than had ever been available to the human race before. He was about to initiate the “Age of Grace.” Let’s look at some of the basic tenets or doctrines of this Age of Grace. Turn to I Corinthians 15. Remember in the last lesson we looked at the passages in Romans and Ephesians, where Paul referred to the “mystery”, that secret that had been hidden in the mind of God? Now it has been revealed!
I Corinthians 15:1,2
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel (not a gospel) which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.”
Do you see what that says? It is by this Gospel that we Gentiles are saved. Now verse 3:
I Corinthians 15: 3
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures;
If you study Paul’s letters, you’ll see that he constantly refers to the revelations that he got from the ascended Lord. How the Lord revealed the new truths to him that were never before revealed in the Scriptures. These truths were prophesied, but it was never revealed that Salvation would be for Jews and Gentiles alike.
I Corinthians 15:4
“And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:”
Now, let’s see what Paul says about this very premise of Christ’s death, burial and Resurrection. Turn back to I Corinthians where Paul writes:
I Corinthians 1:18a
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness;…”
We see that all around us, don’t we. People just don’t comprehend how someone who lived 2,000 years ago could have any effect on us today.
I Corinthians 1:18b
“…but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
That’s what I want you to understand. The Gospel is the Power of God! Let’s use an illustration. Let’s imagine a newly married couple, and the husband has put on the wall a whole list of do’s and don’ts for his wife; things she must or must not do if she is going to stay out of trouble. If she’s human, what’s she going to do? She’ll put up her own list for her husband. “If I have to do this, then you have to do that.” That would be a marriage based on Law. “Thou shalt…Thou shalt not.” Legalism! What’s lacking there? LOVE.
Now, let’s take the same couple that love each other, what are they going to do? They’ll do the same things that they would have written down, but it won’t be by command, it will be from hearts of love. This is exactly the difference between Law and Grace. Everything that God said “Thou shalt” does not now become permissive. It now becomes that which comes from within. In other words, the believer is automatically going to adhere to the things written in the Law. The believer is not going to steal; he’s not going to commit adultery; he’s not going to worship a pagan idol; and on through the Commandments. There is only one commandment that Paul does not reiterate as he does all the others.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)”
Paul never says that we can now break the Commandments, or that they are no longer any earthly good. It’s just that we are not under their demands in worship and their condemnation. Once we recognize that, “Yes, we were Law-breakers, we have broken the Law; but now in Christ we have become everything that the Law demands of us, but from an inward working power. Look at:
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.”
Now, all you have to do is read the following verses in Romans 13. The Commandments are all listed there.