What is holy, just, and good?
By Don Ruhl
The Law Came Before the New Testament
I think everyone agrees about the blessing of the New Testament, but the Lord did not give the world the New Testament first. He wanted us to see something or to learn something before He delivered the New Testament system of faith to the church and to the world.
The New Testament itself explains this very thing.
Galatians 3 shows that what God promised Abraham was what we have in the New Testament, but then someone wonders why did the Lord gave the Law,
Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ (Gal 3.16).
That shows the connection the promises God made to Abraham with the fulfillment in the New Testament with Christ. Next, Paul explained that the Law of Moses did not remove the covenant with Abraham and the promises made to him,
And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise (Gal 3.17, 18).
So then, if the promises made to Abraham have fulfillment in Christ and His testament, why did the Lord give the Law?
What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one (Gal 3.19, 20).
A huge problem exists in the world: sin and death have reigned over all humanity. However, that does not mean we understand the problem, or that we even know there is a problem. Most sins do not have immediate consequences. Therefore, we do not see the behavior as a problem. Yet, those sins will bring on consequences, sometimes in this life, but definitely in the next world.
Does this mean the Law fights the promises?
Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe (Gal 3.21, 22).
Righteousness does not come by the Law. So then, the Scripture, that is, the Law confined everyone under sin with the purpose that we can then receive the promise by having faith in Jesus Christ. The Law awakened us to our sin, and so we want the blessing that comes through the promised Seed. If I did not know of my sin and its consequences, I would see no need for the promise that comes through Christ.
Peter also revealed the fulfillment of the promise,
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2.38, 39).
“Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities” (Acts 3.24–26).
Romans 7 makes the case clear for the need for the Law,
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good (Rom 7.7–12).
No prophet, no apostle, no Old or New Testament preacher, and certainly not Jesus, ever spoke against the Law or the Old Testament. Therefore, let us not in anyway speak against it.
Earlier in Romans 3, Paul had explained more about the place of the Law,
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Rom 3.19, 20).
Then with the knowledge of sin comes the hunger for righteousness, which comes only through the promised blessing of Abraham, which is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Deuteronomy 5–26 – The Law of God
These chapters in Deuteronomy comprise the second speech that Moses made just before he died. He began this speech on the Law of God by urging Israel in verse 1, to hear God’s word so that they could learn them and observe them carefully,
And Moses called all Israel, and said to them: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them” (Deu 5.1).
Moses reminded Israel that God made a covenant with them in Horeb, referring to Mt. Sinai (v. 2). That covenant was not made with their fathers, meaning Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but with the generation that was at the foot of Mt. Sinai (v. 3). Then Moses said that the Lord Himself spoke with them (v. 4), although Moses stood between the people and the Lord (v. 5), and starting at verse 6, Moses reminded them of the covenant, and beginning with the Ten Commandments, showing that the Ten Commandments were part of the covenant that He made with Israel and not with any another people.
However, in Romans, Paul quoted from the Ten Commandments to show what sin is, and what sin is for any people. That was Paul’s point from Romans 3 and 7, and from Galatians 3. While the Lord did not deliver the Ten Commandments to the world, the Lord nevertheless, wanted then, and wants now, for the world to understand that sin is a violation of His will. For example, Paul quoted the Law against coveting, truly quoting the Ten Commandments, and if I do, I have sinned, I have missed the mark.
Within the Ten Commandments, the matter of observing the Sabbath is the only one that I know of, wherein the Lord specified that it was just for Israel, although I believe we can learn something from it. Notice in verse 12 that the Lord commanded Israel to observe the Sabbath, and that verses 13 and 14 explain how they observed it. Then listen the Lord explain why He gave them the Sabbath,
“And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day (Deu 5.15).
Nehemiah 9 shows the Levites led a prayer in which they understood that the Sabbath was revealed to Israel at Sinai, and not before, so that it is not something for all peoples,
“You came down also on Mount Sinai,
And spoke with them from heaven,
And gave them just ordinances and true laws,
Good statutes and commandments.
You made known to them Your holy Sabbath,
And commanded them precepts, statutes and laws,
By the hand of Moses Your servant.”
(Neh 9.13, 14)
However, from the Sabbath we still learn that we must make time for God and that we must make time for rest.
In Deuteronomy 6, Moses declared what Jesus called the first and greatest commandment,
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deu 6.4, 5).
This is the heart and soul of the Law of God, in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. If you love God, you will do whatever He says. Jesus declared, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14.15).
Then Deuteronomy 5–26 reiterates many of the things God commanded the Israelites to do, and they were written for our education, and many of them move into the New Testament.
Now let me take you back to Romans 3,
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law (Rom 3.21–31).
What is the Lord telling us by giving us the Book of Deuteronomy, and the teaching that we saw in Romans 3 and 7, and in Galatians 3? The Lord wants us to know of our sin. Once we know of our sin, we will seek the remedy!
God love us, and wants us with Him, but He demands that we change. He is holy. We have to be holy. That is so important to Him that He sent Jesus to receive the wrath of our sins, and by doing so, Jesus gave us the opportunity to be forgiven of our sins. Once forgiven, He can make us holy, qualified to be with God in heaven.
Please do not enter eternity without having gone to the Lord to make things right with Him. He loves you, but He will do what He has to do, if you failed to follow His Son faithfully during your sojourn on Earth. Now is the time to do something about it.
- Sermon: The Law of God, Deu 5 – 26 (grantspasschurchofchrist.com)