Recently a preacher friend of mine posted an interesting comment on Facebook. He said something to the effect of, “Those who say you can preach too much about grace don’t really understand grace.” I did not disagree with his message, but I felt the other side of the issue needed to be addressed. So I responded with a comment that went something like this, “Those who say that ‘law is dead,’ or ‘grace counteracts law’ don’t really understand law.”
My friend quickly deleted my comment. He sent me a private message wondering whether I had posted the comment intentionally or if I had made a mistake and really meant to use my statement as my own personal status. I informed him that I just felt that his friends needed to know the balance that exists between grace and law throughout scripture. He informed me that his original post “wasn’t about law,” and the issue was dropped.
It is quite popular today for preachers, especially denominational preachers, but also including a growing number within the brotherhood, to preach salvation by grace alone, and that the New Testament is all about grace as opposed to containing any resemblance of a law. Brothers and sisters, don’t fall for this kind of one-sided preaching. Our preaching needs to be balanced to reflect the balanced nature of our God. The Almighty is full of grace and mercy (Exo. 34:6), but he is also just and righteous (Exo. 34:7). The Old Testament is a law that is no longer in force (Heb. 9:15-18), and truly the New Testament is a message of God’s grace and love for all mankind. But this does not mean that the Old Testament does not contain an account of God’s grace and love, nor that the New Testament contains no traces of a law. The Old Testament has been fulfilled - every sacrifice, every holy day, every purification ritual, and every priestly requirement has found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. But there are principles and purposes contained in the Old Testament that continue today as binding as ever. Romans 15:4 says, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime [the Old Testament - DD] were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” I would like for us to take a look at a principle and a purpose of the Old Testament which abide as truthfully today as ever.
God is the God of all grace.
Noah (Gen. 6:8) and Moses (Exo. 33:17) both found grace in the eyes of the Lord. If there is ANYTHING we learn from reading the Old Testament it is that God is gracious to ALL MEN! This is why God commanded His people to care for the sick, the poor, the widowed, and the orphans among them - because He is gracious, and He expects His people to be (Exo. 22:21-27). This is why God commanded IN THE OLD TESTAMENT all of His followers to love their neighbors as themselves (Lev. 19:18)! The priestly blessing that Aaron spoke upon the people contains this line, “The Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee” (Num. 6:25). It was God’s grace that heard the Israelites cry out to Him in Egypt and delivered them into the Promised Land. It was God’s grace that brought them to Sinai and delivered to them a Law to keep. The Old Law is a demonstration of God’s grace! It was God’s grace that raised up deliverers (judges) when the people were oppressed by the nations around them. According to Jeremiah, it was God’s grace that promised a restoration of the tribes of Israel that had been scattered after their captivities (Jer. 31:2). Job (Job 33:14-26), David (Psa. 86:15; et al.), Ezra (Ezra 9:8), and Nehemiah (Neh. 9:17) all recognized God’s grace in the time of law. The pages of the Old Testament are gilded with God’s great grace!
It seems that some preachers today have the notion that worshippers of God under the Old Law lived in constant abject fear of the punitive justice of God, and had no concept of grace, and did not view God as gracious. Anyone who thinks that way needs to read and reread the Old Testament. Every Jew who ever lived under the Law of Moses ought to have fully appreciated the Grace of God. And from the grace that He showed them, we learn a principle that endures for all generations - God is full of grace!
The purpose of law is to point out sin.
A practicing Jew neither had to hear, believe, repent, or make confession before he became a child of God. He was born into a relationship with God. As he went about his daily life and made sacrifices and tried to keep the Law of Moses, he was not required to have full understanding of how all of the Law would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. That prospect was available to be understood, but understanding was not required of a Jew. All a Jew had to do was faithfully execute the Law and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ would be applied him when it was accomplished. To a Jew, the Law of Moses specifically pointed out what behaviors were sinful. When a Jew committed a sin, he knew exactly what his response was supposed to be - sacrifice. If a Jew did not precisely execute the ordinances of the Law, he committed sin.
The purpose of the Law of Moses was so the Jews could know when they sinned and when they didn’t (Rom. 3:20). IT CONTINUES TO SERVE THAT PURPOSE TODAY! If there is ANYTHING we learn from reading the Old Testament it is which types of behaviors and attitudes are sinful and which are not! True, we do not have to, indeed we MUST NOT, continue offering sacrifices for our sins, or observing holy days, or distinguishing between clean and unclean meats, for to do so is to crucify the Son of God afresh (Heb. 6:6). Jesus Christ fulfilled all the sacrifices, rituals, observances, and feasts of the Old Testament. BUT, the spirit and truth with which we are commanded to worship God (John 4:24) were commanded as part of worship under the Old Testament also, and can be found throughout its pages (Deu. 10:12-22).
More accurately, the spirit and truth God expects and has always expected of His children can be found to be ABSENT from the Jews’ worship in the Old Testament. The captivity in Babylon, which was predicted by Moses (Deu. 28), and fulfilled in the days of Jeremiah, did not happen because they were not faithfully executing the Law (they weren’t, but that was a symptom of the bigger problem). Their captivity happened because the Jews were UNCIRCUMCISED IN HEART (Deu. 10:16; Jer. 9:25-26). Because they didn’t properly love God and recognize His amazing grace towards them in ages past, they had stopped obeying the Law.
You see, from studying the Old Testament, we find this immutable truth: Grace and Law CAN NEVER BE SEPARATED! The New Testament contains no instructions for physical sacrifices, or holy days, or feasts, or outward cleansings, because we have all the instructions for those things from which we can learn the proper attitude of obedience in the Old Testament. It has been nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14), but it has not disappeared entirely! But, brothers and sisters, do not be deceived - THE NEW TESTAMENT CONTAINS A LAW! It is the Law of God (Rom. 7:22, 25), the Law of Christ (Gal. 6:2), or the Law of Faith (Rom. 3:27), and it is just as binding on us as the Law of Moses was on the Jews (Rev. 22:18-19; cf. Deu. 4:2). Indeed, every Christian must to a certain degree establish the Law of Faith in his own life (Rom. 14), but the principles which we bind on our lives today are not just drawn out of thin air based on our own desires and lusts. The principles for the Law of Faith in our lives today are right before our very eyes - IN THE OLD TESTAMENT!
Do you want to know what sin is today? Read the Old Testament.
Do you want to know what kind of attitude and heart God expects of us as we worship Him and serve each other today? Read the Old Testament.
But if you want to know how to apply the blood of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to your sins today, then read the New Testament.
And if you want to fully appreciate the Grace of God manifested in His giving of the Law and establishment of the Church, then read the whole Bible.