The gospel.

Before the strictures concerning the gathering for public worship were put in place, I was working through a sermon series on the gospel of Christ according to Mark.  But for the past five or six Lord’s Days I have been preaching topical sermons from various portions of God’s Word. (2 Tim.3:14-17)

And in those sermons, I consciously sought to comfort God’s people with Scripture that was most directly for our peace and courage and hope in Christ.  Of course, this is in fact what the gospel of Jesus Christ provides for us.  Peace with God.  And peace within.  And peace forever. (Isa.9:1-7, Jude 1:24, Jer.16:5, Jn.14:27)

Let me give you some of the ways that the Bible speaks about the gospel which means, as you know good news.  And it is actually – great news!   Great news of great joy as the holy angels announced to the shepherds the day Christ was born. (Lk.2:10-11) Listen to God’s word.

The gospel of the kingdom, the gospel of the kingdom of God, the gospel of God, the gospel of His Son, the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God, the gospel of Christ, the gospel of our salvation – the power of God unto our salvation to them that believe, the gospel of the grace of God, the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. (Acts 20:24, Mt.4:23, Mk.1:1, Mk.1:14-15, Lk.16:16, Rom.1:1-9, Rom.1:15, Rom.15:19, I Cor.9:12-23, 2 Cor.4:4)

Beloved, do you see that the gospel is about Jesus Christ.  It is about His person.  His work.  And not ours.  The gospel is the message of the cross. The Savior saving sinners by blood. (I Cor.1:17, Rev.1:5, 2 Cor.5:21, I Cor.15:1-6, Gal.5:11, 6:12-14, Col.1:20, Jn.3:16)

The calling of every minister echoes the calling of the apostle Paul.

I Corinthians 1:17.  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.   18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The corrupters

Beloved I am afraid that certain people who are wolves in sheep’s clothing have crept into the church unaware by the flock.  And they have preached another gospel, which is no gospel, which therefore presents a false Christ and no salvation in the true Christ. (Gal.1:1-11, Jude 1:4, Acts 20:26-32, Mt.7:15, Gal.2:3-5) This will leave us in our sin as Jesus warns us about in Matthew 24:4-25.

God has sent His servants in Christ’s name to warn you against these false teachers, these perverters of the gospel and of the law. (Titus 1:7-16, 2 Tim.2:14-26, 2 Tim.4:1-8, I Pt.5:1-6, Jude 1:1-25, Jn.21:15, Mt.28:20/Mt.24:24, WLC 158-160)

The Bible says these men and women are Satan’s servants disguised as angels of light, as servants of righteousness. (2 Cor.11:13-15) As Paul tells Timothy, they want to be teachers of the law, and I would add, of the gospel and they are ignorant of both, though they speak with great confidence. Smarter than Calvin! Outwardly, oh so holy and pious!  Beware Beloved.  (I Tim.1:7, 2 Pt.2:1, Jude 1:16) Test every spirit.  Test everything by the word of God. (I Jn.4:1-3)

And these false gospels take many forms.  Two of the forms are related.  And they are related to the law of God.  I will say this, if you err on the law of God you will err on the gospel of God.  And as you misunderstand the gospel, you will also misunderstand the law.  As you diminish the demands of the law, you diminish the work of Christ.  For which we pray, Holy Spirit preserve and protect us.

The relationship

Today I want to consider the law of God.  And specifically, I hope to show how the gospel relates to the law, as Paul speaks about it here in Romans chapter three.  Our sermon will be a topical sermon using Romans three as our platform text.

Later in Romans six he will say we are not under the law (as a covenant of works).  The grace of God given to us in the gospel does not free us to live unholy lives, just the opposite.  In Romans chapter seven Paul says the law is holy, good, and spiritual.  But it is not the gospel.  The law cannot save.  Let me say that again.  The law cannot save.  Cannot.  (Rom.3:20, 4:15, 2 Cor.3:9)

Our secondary standard says that the law of God is ‘not’ contrary to the grace of the gospel of Christ, but sweetly complies with it. (WCF 19.7) What a different sentiment from much of the church, which is anti-law, antinomian.

Listen to these quotes from Martin Luther, they are instructive.

The difference between the law and the gospel is the height of knowledge in Christendom.  Every person and all persons who assume or glory in the name of Christian should know and be able to state this difference. 

To mix the law and the gospel not only clouds the knowledge of grace, it cuts out Christ altogether.  (Gal.2:21)

The need

Beloved, I wanted us to look at this because I believe the church today has lost its moorings as regards to the holy law of God.  This means as well, that many professing Christians have misunderstood the true gospel of salvation.  These errors have eternal and unchangeable consequences. (Rev.2:18-29, Rev.3:14-22)

This is why many Christians live lives without conscious awareness of God’s moral government over us, and often there is no moral difference between the professing Christian and non-Christian.  I would say that it is bad when a professing lamb looks like a professing goat.  (Mt.13:24-30, Mt.7:13-29, Heb.12:14, 2 Cor.6:14-18)

Christ has died to save us from sin and for holiness.  To live holy lives out of gratitude and love.

As regards to the unbelieving world, they trample on the law of God as delivered to Moses on Sinai.  The majority in our land are terrified of dying by the virus.  But they are bold to scoff that God says that He alone is God and He commands, not requests, that we treat His name as holy, and that we honor marriage and honor life.  They scoff, who does God think He is to command us?!  Every man does what is right in his own eyes.  They think they are a law unto themselves. Every man does what is right in his own eyes. (Jg.21:25, 17:6, Dt.12:8, Jn.8:47, Jer.23:36, 18:12)

They think this because they misunderstand the true law and they do not know the law Giver. Therefore, they also trample on the blood of Christ.  (Heb.10:28-31, Dan.4:28-37, Ps.94:7-9)

The distinctions

Part of the confusion about the law of God is due to the fact that in the OT there are three types or classes of laws of God.  You sometimes see unbelievers mixing these types of law in their opposition to the law and the gospel.  They mix the ceremonial and judicial and the moral.  Well you eat shellfish now, so why are their still strictures on marriage.  That kind of thing.

Our passage speaks about the moral law.  And it speaks about the moral law as a covenant of works.  As I hope to show.  (Romans 3:19, 20, 21, 27, 28, 31)

The ceremonial

But first, let’s consider the ceremonial law.  The ceremonial law depicts the person and the work of Jesus Christ.  It is the gospel in shadow form in the old epoch.  This is before the Incarnation of Christ.  The ceremonial law is the OT gospel of Christ in types.  Christ is the antitype.  The book of Hebrews explains the book of Leviticus. See chapters 7, 8, 9, 10.

For instance, this law set forth the priests, the sacrifices, the feasts, the tabernacle and then later the temple with all the associated equipment.

Think of this, the Passover lamb – Christ.  The day of atonement – Christ.  The mercy seat – Christ.  The scapegoat – Christ.  The temple – Christ.  The high priest – Christ.  (Heb. 9, Heb. 10:1, Gal. 4:1-3, Col. 2:17, 1 Cor. 5:7, 2 Cor. 6:17, Jude 1:23, Col. 2:14-17, Dan. 9:27, Eph. 2:15-16)

The ceremonial law has been abolished with the Incarnation and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (WCF 7.5) The shadows of the gospel are gone, the Perfect has come.  (WCF 19.3)

Listen to the writer to the Hebrews.

Hebrews 10:8.  After saying above, “SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, NOR HAVE YOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them” (which are offered according to the Law),  9 then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second.  10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;  12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,  13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET.  14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

The judicial

The next law we will consider is the judicial or civil law.  This law dealt with Israel as a theocratic political body.  (WCF 19.4) Their civil life was regulated by their religious life, by God, by the word of God.

These laws dealt with their day to day life oftentimes down to minutest details.  It regulated the military, criminal justice, commerce, sexual relations, and so on. Think of the laws concerning penning up oxen, building parapets around your roof, even some of the slavery or indentured servitude laws, things like these.   This law taught them that God governed ‘all’ of their life.  Every moment of every day was to be lived for the glory of God.

Well that principle of general equity, which I would argue is the application of the moral law, is still applicable in the NT church.  Love to God.  Love to Man for God’s sake.  Read the Beatitudes in Matthew chapter five.  Every aspect of our life is to be lived for the glory of God and under His rulership.  Christ says we are to live on every word of God. (Mt.4:4, Ezek.3:3)

But the particular expressions of these laws are done away with in the New Testament epoch.

Christ opened His church to the nations.  We no longer exist in a theocracy.  (Mt.21:33-46, Mt.28:18-20, Acts 1:8, Rev.5:9, Eph.2:12-21)

The moral

Now we come to the third kind of law that we find in the OT and also in the NT and that is the moral law of God.  The moral law of God is codified in the Ten Commandments.  And Christ further summarizes the moral law of God in Matthew chapter twenty-two.  (WCF 19.2)

Matthew 22: 34.  But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together.  35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him,  36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  37 And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’  38 “This is the great and foremost commandment.  39 “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’  40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Lev.19:18-19)

The apostles Paul and James, both under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, say that love fulfills the law of God – the moral law of God.  (Gal.5:14, Rom.13:8-10, Jas.2:8)

Now this law, unlike the ceremonial and the judicial, ‘is’ still binding on all men.  And I will say, even in eternity, all of God’s people will keep the moral law.  And that – perfectly!

The covenant of works

As I mentioned earlier, Paul is speaking about the moral law as a covenant of works.  This is why he contrasts it with the gospel of grace.

Adam was in a covenant relationship with God as His representative for all men that descended from him via ordinary generation.  Theologians often refer to this as a covenant of works.  (Rom.3:20-26, Rom.10:5-13, Gal.3:10-14, WCF 19.1)

The idea is that God told Adam, if you eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you will surely die.  Adam failed.  The penalty for breaking this covenant was death.  And that guilty sentence for his failure was imputed to us.  And the corruption of his nature was conveyed to us. (Gen.2:16-17, Gen.3:9-24, Hosea 6:7, Rom.5:12)

All human beings before faith in Christ, being in Adam, are bound to the moral law as a broken covenant of works. (WCF 19.5) Though no mere man can keep the moral law as a covenant of works any more. (WLC 94)

Christ, as the Second Adam, was likewise in a covenant of works as our federal representative, as relates to the moral law.  Christ obeyed all its precepts.  God required Christ to love God and love man perfectly.  And He did.  Christ kept every one of the Ten Commandments in thought, word, and deed perfectly.  Christ endured all its penalties.  Death and God’s wrath.

The covenant of grace

And now Christ’s satisfaction of the moral law is imputed to us as righteousness.  So, the new covenant for us in which we stand is a covenant of grace, a covenant of life.  He merits.  We receive.  (Rom.5:12-21WCG 7.3, WLC 30, Belgic Confession article 24, HC 60) (note: the covenant of grace is the gospel.  See Berkhof and Bavinck)

Listen to the martyred English Puritan Christopher Love (1618-1651).

The covenant of grace is that free and gracious covenant which God made with Adam after the fall, promising him pardon of sin and eternal life, through the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  This is the sum and the substance of the covenant of grace: it is the promise of God first made to Adam, and then renewed to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and all the faithful.  It is the solemn promise that God made to the elect of their obtaining salvation through the righteousness of Jesus Christ.   (Love, The Natural Man’s Condition, pp.72-73)

The uses

Let’s conclude our time by considering three uses of God’s moral law.  And again, I will bring in the relationship of the gospel. The moral law is a reflection of the law-giver.  Holy, holy, holy.

Civil use.  For the unregenerate.

God as moral Governor over all moral creatures, angels and men, and for our purpose men, threatens disobedience to His moral law with death, physical, spiritual and eternal.  And eternal death is damnation.

The first use of the moral law is to restrain the evil committed by the sinner for the preservation of the greater society.  And I would say, especially for the preservation of the church.  This law is especially seen when the civil laws of a nation also punish that particular sin.  Think of murder and theft.  And there was a time in this country when adultery was also punishable by the state. (Gen.9:6)

This use of the law is not saving.  It establishes a measure of justice upon the earth, insofar as men obey it even externally and partially. (WLC 96)

Instructional use.  For the regenerate.

Next.  The apostle Paul says in the book of Galatians 3:19-24 that the moral law acts as a school master to bring us to Jesus Christ for salvation in the gospel.  This is because the law shows us what sin is. (I Jn.3:4) And shows us our sin. (Ps.32, 51) Paul says that the law convicted him of coveting. (Rom.7:5-11)

And the law shows us the divine punishment due to us for our sin.  (Rom.3:20, 4:15, 5:13)

The law shows us the spotless holiness of God.  And for the sinner, this is a terror.  Walk through the Ten Commandments, which ones have you broken in thought word and deed?  What is God’s penalty for this?  Death and wrath.

And then we hear of our wrath-bearer sin-bearer Christ.  Oh Christ be merciful to me the sinner.  (I Cor.6:9-11, Exod.20:1-21, Rev.22:15) The law brings us to our sin.  The gospel brings us to our Savior.  (WLC 97)

The legalist.

The (true) legalist abuses this use of the moral law.  The legalist says keep the moral law and you will be saved.  The legalist says the moral law is the gospel! This is the Galatian heresy.  There is one writer who is bold to say, the gospel of the kingdom is the Sermon on the Mount. (Shepherd, The Call of Grace, p.76)

Beloved, the gospel of grace is not our love to God or our love to man or our obedience to the Beatitudes.  The gospel of salvation, of Christ, is something that Christ alone does.  And He does it alone.  If we were to add one of our own works to Christ gospel of grace, we would destroy it. (Rom.11:5-6, Rom.10:1-10, Rom.9:30-33)

Through (our) works of the (moral) law no flesh shall be justified in God’s sight. (Rom.3:20, 4:1-10)

Regulative use.  For the regenerate.

The last use is a moral use or a regulative use for Believers in Jesus.  This is not for merit, but rather the law shows us what pleases and displeases God.  And now as His born again children we delight in Him, and we delight to please Him.  We love His law, because we love Him. (WCF 19.6)

The Ten Commandments help us live lives to God’s honor. (Mt.5:1-19, Rom.3:31, 13:8-9, Eph.6:2, Jas.2:10-11) {walk through the commandments} Jesus says, if you love Me then you will keep My commandments. (Jn.14:15, Ps.19:7-11, Ps.119:9-16, Rom.7:7-25, Rom.8:3-4, I Cor.7:19, Gal.3:24, Heidelberg Catechism 2-3, 91, 115)

The libertine

The libertine or the antinomian abuses this use of the law, in fact they deny it.  Their view is Christ has saved me from the condemnation of the law therefore I am free to enjoy my law-breaking.  Therefore, it does not matter how we live.  Oh beloved, without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Heb.12:14)

The conclusion

Beloved let me end with a quote from John Flavel (1627-1691).  The law sends us to Christ to be justified.  And Christ sends us to the law to be regulated. 

 Oh how we love God’s law.  Oh how we love Christ’s gospel.

A M E N

Study Questions

  1. What is the gospel? What is the content of the gospel? What is the saving response to the gospel?  Or, how does the gospel save?  (Lk.2:10-1, Acts 20:24, Mt.4:23, Mk.1:1, Mk.1:14-15, Lk.16:16, Rom.1:1-9, Rom.1:15, Rom.15:19, I Cor.9:12-23, 2 Cor.4:4, I Cor.1:17-18, I Cor.1:17, Rev.1:5, 2 Cor.5:21, I Cor.15:1-6, Gal.5:11, 6:12-14, Col.1:20)
  1. Biblically who is a false teacher? What makes them a false teacher?  Does erring on say church government or end times view make a person a false teacher?  What lessons do we learn by the presence and activities of false teachers?  (Gal.1:1-11, Jude 1:4, Acts 20:26-32, Mt.7:15, Gal.2:3-5, Titus 1:7-16, 2 Tim.2:14-26, 2 Tim.4:1-8, I Pt.5:1-6, Jude 1:1-25, Jn.21:15, Mt.28:20/Mt.24:24, WLC 158-160, 2 Cor.11:13-15, I Tim.1:7, 2 Pt.2:1, Jude 1:16)
  1. Is the law of God contrary to the grace of the gospel? Briefly describe the relationship between the law and the gospel. (Gal. 3:21, Ezek. 36:27, Heb. 8:10, Jer. 31:33, related passages:Gal.2:15-16, Acts 13:39, Rom.4:13-15, Rom.5:20, I Tim.1:9-10, I Jn.3:4, Gal.3:24, Rom.3:28, Gal.3:11, Habakkuk 2:4, Rom.4:1-5, Gal.3:10-14, Eph.2:15, I Pt.1:15-16, Lev.11:44-45, Rom.13:8-10, Jas.2:8-11, Gal.5:13-18)
  1. What is the ceremonial law? How does Christ fulfill the ceremonial law?  Is the ceremonial law still binding on the NT Christian?  Why?  Why not? (Heb. 9, Heb. 10:1-14, Gal. 4:1-3, Col. 2:17, 1 Cor. 5:7, 2 Cor. 6:17, Jude 1:23, Col. 2:14-17, Dan. 9:27, Eph. 2:15-16)
  1. What is the judicial law? Give examples of the judicial law.   To what entity did it apply?  Is the judicial law still binding on the NT Christian?  Any part of this law applicable to the NT Christian? (Exod. 21, Exod. 22:1-29, Gen. 49:10, 1 Pet. 2:13-14, Mt. 5:17,38,39, 1 Cor. 9:8-10,Mt.21:33-46, Mt.28:18-20, Acts 1:8, Rev.5:9, Eph.2:12-21, WCF 19.4)
  1. What is the moral law? Give examples of the moral law.  Give a summary of the moral law.  (Gen.2:16-17, Exod.20:1-20, Dt.5:1-22, Mt.22:34-40, Lev.19:18-19, Gal.5:14, Rom.13:8-10, Jas.2:8, WCF 19.2)
  1. How does Christ fulfill the demands of the moral law? How does He satisfy Its precepts?  How does He satisfy Its penalties?  (Rom.5:1-21)
  1. What is the civil use of God’s moral law? How does the moral law promote justice and restrain evil?
  1. How does the moral law act as a tutor to bring us to salvation in Christ? (Gal.3:19-24,Rom.7:5-11, I Jn.3:4, Ps.32, 51, Rom.3:20, 4:15, 5:13, I Cor.6:9-11, Exod.20:1-21, Rev.22:15)
  1. How does the moral law help guide us as Believers in Christ? Give examples. (Mt.5:1-19, Rom.3:31, 13:8-9, Eph.6:2, Jas.2:10-11, Jn.14:15, Ps.19:7-11, Ps.119:9-16, Rom.7:7-25, Rom.8:3-4, I Cor.7:19, Gal.3:24)
  1. Extra credit. Interact with these two quotes.  Martin Luther: To mix the law and the gospel not only clouds the knowledge of grace, it cuts out Christ altogether.  John Flavel: The law sends us to Christ to be justified.  And Christ sends us to the law to be regulated. 

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