I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
I had intended last time to take a look at exactly why God’s Law was given. Why did God make man responsible to Him on the basis of Law? I intend to examine that this time.
In all of the Dispensations that had come before, man had proven himself incapable of obeying God’s will. The Lord chose to give man His will, in its entirety, during the Dispensation of Law. The Law revealed the holiness of God, and His desire to have a holy people. [See Lev. 19:2]
God organized the children of Israel, and intended for them to be the leading nation of the earth. He gave them a visible system of worshiping Him, and a place where His presence continually could dwell. To a very real extent, God’s purpose during this Dispensation was the same as the Dispensation of Promise, with the addition of the Law.
The question as to why the Law was given to Israel was answered by the Apostle Paul:
“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. “ [Gal. 3:19]
This one verse of scripture reveals the beginning of the Law, the end of the Law, and the purpose of the Law. According to the Apostle Paul, the Law was not given until 430 years after God made His Covenant promises to Abraham (Gal. 3:17). The Law continued until the “Seed” came, which of course was the Lord Jesus Christ. The Law was “added” to the promises that God had given to Abraham and his seed, which were the basis of God’s dealings with man during the Dispensation of Promise. If man had continued to believe God and take Him at His Word, the Law would have been unnecessary. It is important that we understand this fact. The Law was, and Paul is very clear about this, “added because of transgressions.” Or, you could say it was added to reveal sin as a transgression. Before the Law was given, there was no transgression of the Law. The Bible says, “…for where there is no law there is no transgression.” [Rom. 4:15b]
Certainly before the Law was given, there was sin and rebellion, but it was not by definition a “transgression” of the Law, because the Law had not yet been given. Sin was just as wicked and horrible before the Law was given as it was after it came. Again, Paul clearly stated, “For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” [Rom. 5:13 emphasis added]
So, you could say that when the Law was added it gave sin a new meaning, for then sin became a transgression of the Law. For example, I can remember when I was a child playing in the street near my home. All of the kids did that back in those days. Now, it was wrong for me to play in the middle of the street, but it was not a matter of disobedience until I was instructed by my parents that it was unsafe, and therefore wrong to do so. Now if I did it again, (which I must admit I did), I then broke the rules, and transgressed against the “law” of my parents.
With this illustration I hope we can more clearly see that the purpose of the Law was to reveal sin as rebellion against the Lord, as a transgression against His Commandment, as the scriptures declare:
“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]
The Law then made the whole of humanity guilty before God, so that God could have mercy upon all persons alike.
Many people assume that God didn’t extend grace to humanity until the Dispensation of Grace, which we will study next. This simply isn’t the case. In fact, in a very real sense grace was embedded, if you will, in the Law. It is important to understand that God manifested His grace many times during the Dispensation of Law and even before this time. Although God deals with us today in the fullness of His grace, He also showed His love and mercy to His people prior to the Dispensation of Grace. In fact, Stephen in his sermon in Acts 7 referred to Israel as, “THE CHURCH in the wilderness”:
“This is he, that was in THE CHURCH in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us” [Acts 7:38 KJV emphasis added]
The word translated “church” in this passage in the KJV (rendered either, “assembly”, or “congregation” in most other translations), translates the Greek word, ekklesia. It is also used of the New Testament Church. It is a word that simply means, “an assembly of called out ones.” That is interesting. Typically we view the “church” has having begun on the Day of Pentecost, AD 33. However, when we view the “church” as referring to, “an assembly of called out ones”, it puts things in a whole new light, doesn’t it?
Abraham was “called out” from his father’s house and from the midst of his family (Gen. 12:1), so that Israel would be a nation “called out” from among the heathen to serve the true and living God. The New Testament “Church”, in the same sense, has been “called out” from among the sinful world, to be a separate and holy people before God. This is not often taught today, but it is what the Bible teaches.
I want to pick up next time looking at how Old Testament saints experienced New Testament blessings. I hop you will plan to join me.
Until next time,
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson