Law and Gospel

The Law is good. The Law is perfect and holy. There is no defect in the Law of God. The problem is not the Law itself but that man is a sinner by nature and cannot keep the Law. Through the law comes the knowledge of sin. Rather than curb sin, revealing to us the depths of our human, sinful depravity.

Imagine a large plane glass window. You can break it by driving a tank through it, or you can simply fire the smallest pellet from a gun through the glass, but in both cases, the glass is broken and needs to be replaced. In the same way, to break even one of God’s commandments makes a person guilty of breaking it all. As James 2:10 reminds us, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”

Man as a sinner cannot keep the Law and to fail to keep it in one part makes us guilty of breaking it all. That’s because the law is a complete set of requirements and we have broken it. We have all commited high treason deliberately.

The Law was given not to make people righteous but in fact to forever shut men’s mouths regarding any attempt at self justification before God. The Law reveals sin, and knowing the holiness and righteousness of God, it shows us our desperate condition before Him. When the Law does it work, it reveals sin to the point that we understand the justice we deserve and cry out for intervention from a Savior. That is why even in the Old Covenant Law system, there were sacrifices of atonement for sin, pointing us to One who would come and remove sin by His perfect sacrifice as the Lamb of God.

The Law reveals the holiness of God, the exceeding sinfulness of our sin, and its remedy in the sin bearing substitute lamb.

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus

The good news of the Gospel is that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He took the punishment we deserved as He was punished in our place as our sin bearing Substitute, and the righteous life He lived, is then credited to the account of anyone who believes in Him.

In anticipating the work of the Savior to come, Isaiah wrote, “Surely he has borne our griefs (lit. sicknesses) and carried our sorrows (lit. pains); yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” – Isaiah 53:4-6

The cross was no accident, but the center point of a plan devised by God before time began. The plan culminated in a divinely ordained exchange which would take place at Calvary. All the wrath and punishment due to us for our sinfulness was to come upon Jesus; and the good due to Jesus due to His sinless obedience was to come upon us. The innocent would bear the just punishment of the guilty, and the guilty would receive all the benefits due to the just.

I remember more than two decades ago, hearing a sermon regarding this divine exchange. What I heard still affects me greatly today. For His glory, and out of His love for us, God met all of our needs at the cross: spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, material, financial, temporal and eternal. As we think about these eight declarations concerning what Christ achieved for His people in His death, burial and resurrection, let us celebrate the perfect and finished work of the perfect Savior:

1. Jesus was punished so that we might be forgiven (Is. 53:4, 5)

2. Jesus was wounded so that we might be healed (Is. 53:4, 5; 1 Pet. 2:24)

3. Jesus was made sin with our sinfulness that we might be made righteous with His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21)

4. Jesus died our death so that we might share His life (John 10:10; Rom. 6:6, 7; Gal. 2:20)

5. Jesus was made a curse so that we might receive the blessing (Gal. 3:13, 14)

6. Jesus endured our poverty that we might share His abundance (2 Cor. 8:9)

7. Jesus endured our shame that we might share His glory (Ps. 69:7; Is. 53:3; Heb 12:2; Heb. 2:10)

8. Jesus endured our rejection that we might share His acceptance (Matt 27:45-47; Eph. 1:3, 4)

Here’s a poem by Ralph Erskine showing the different roles of the Law and the Gospel.

The law supposing I have all,
Does ever for perfection call;
The gospel suits my total want,
And all the law can seek does grant.

The law could promise life to me,
If my obedience perfect be;
But grace does promise life upon
My Lord’s obedience alone.

The law says, Do, and life you’ll win;
But grace says, Live, for all is done;
The former cannot ease my grief,
The latter yields me full relief.

The law will not abate a mite,
The gospel all the sum will quit;
There God in thret’nings is array’d
But here in promises display’d.

The law excludes not boasting vain,
But rather feeds it to my bane;
But gospel grace allows no boasts,
Save in the King, the Lord of Hosts.

Lo! in the law Jehovah dwells,
But Jesus is conceal’d;
Whereas the gospel’s nothing else
But Jesus Christ reveal’d.

6 thoughts on “Law and Gospel

  1. John,

    I would like your permission to repost some of your blog posts from time to time to the Daily Audio Bible forums. It would be done with your name at the top of the post on the Devotional thread. I would of course neither add or subtract anything from any of your writings.
    I have been reading your blog for some time now and feel there is much that would edify our Brothers and Sisters in Christ. I love the way you make things so understandable.
    There are tens of thousands in the Daily Audio Bible community from all over the World. A community based around the daily reading of Scripture. Your writing would help many with a better understanding, especially those who were not raised with a Christian background.
    Sincerely,
    Your Brother in Christ,
    David Wayne Lackey.

  2. Hi David,

    Thank you for your kind words. Of course, feel free to use anything you think may edify and benefit others. I only ask you to do so without editing content (which you have already indicated is your intention), and where you can, perhaps you can provide a link to the original article here on this blog for those who might enjoy exploring additional material here. God bless.

  3. Hi John,

    Good stuff! I would like to use some of it (if not a link) as well.

    I have a question not directly related to this post, only slightly based on one sentence? Feel free to email if you prefer and have time. Have you written anything on repentance? Do you believe that repentance along with trust/belief in Christ is a required piece of the gospel?

    Thank you for your time.

    Blessings!

    Buddy

  4. Hi Buddy,

    Yes, I was actually working on a short article explaining the elements of true saving faith, so your comment was timely. I have now posted it here.

  5. “It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13 I think you need to find out which law this is since one has been added after Jesus’ crucifixion.

  6. Theodore,

    Romans 2:13 is true… those who obey the law will be declared righteous.. but as scripture reveals elsewhere, no man can keep or obey the law, and so a Savior is needed.

    Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

    No one gets to God through the law then…

    21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

    27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

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