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Monday, September 16, 2013

Law and Grace # 6

Law Unable to Save Men

1. There was no defect in the law. "The law of the Lord," we are told, "is perfect" (Psalm 19:7). And there is no question here as to the identity of this "law." It is the well known law of the Old Testament, the law of Moses. Coming to the New Testament, we read that "the law is good" (1 Timothy 1:8), and again, "the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good" (Romans 7:12). Here we should note a striking fact. The highest estimate of the law was written by the Apostle Paul, the man who was the surest that this law could in no wise give life and salvation to sinners. The weakness was not in the law.

2. The fatal weakness was in man. After declaring that the law is holy, good, and even "spiritual", the apostle shows in Romans why even such a divine law cannot save. "I am carnal," he says, "sold under sin" (Romans 7:14). The weakness was in man, not in the law. If the law appears to be weak because it cannot save, the explanation is that "it was weak through the flesh" (Romans 8:3). That is why the Son of God had to come to do "what the law could not do" (Romans 8:3). The writer of Hebrews seems to suggest that the first "covenant" (of the law) was faulty. But he guards from any possible misunderstanding by adding that the real "fault" was with "them," that is, the people (Hebrews 8:7-8). We must understand that the whole difficulty is in man, not in the law of God.

3. The law's demand could not be relaxed to accommodate the weakness of men. This is the curious idea that some people hold. Grace, to them, is God's tolerance in lowering the absolute demands of the law to the point where sinners can keep it. Such a misconception dishonors both law and grace. If such a scheme had been possible, there would have been no necessity for the Cross. "If there had been a law given which could have given lie," argues Paul, "verily righteousness should have been by the law" (Galatians 3:21). This is made crystal clear in Romans: "There is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law" (Romans 2:11-12). The expression "without law" means without a written law such as the Jew had.

But the apostle shows that even though these Gentiles did not have a written law, nevertheless they had a divine law - "the law written in their hearts" (Romans 2:14-15). And both Gentiles and Jews in the day of judgment will be held completely accountable and responsible for the law which they had, whether written in a book or in the heart and conscience. There is no respect of persons with God. The law stands inviolable as an expression of  the immutable holy nature of God. It will not, and cannot, be adjusted to suit the moral weaknesses of sinners. "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of thy throne," we are reminded in Psalm 89:14.

The very throne of the eternal God rests upon the inviolability of His own law which is the expression of His divine nature. There can be no tampering with that law, not even by God Himself, in the interest of men who have broken the law. If the salvation of the sinner lies in this direction, as some men suppose, there can be no salvation for anyone.

4. It was necessary, therefore, for God to devise a plan for saving sinners without any relaxation of the law. This brings us to the very heart of the gospel, which is the good news of God. Without the slightest relaxation of the law, the Son of God incarnate at Calvary paid man's obligation to broken law to the last farthing. There was no reduction of the debt through some slippery evasion of the righteous demands of divine law. It was paid in full - Jesus paid it all. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13). "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6).

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 7)

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