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The Law and the Gospel

by M. W. Kiser
via, The Sower, Vol. 53, No. 5, Sept/Oct. 2008.

"Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust" (I Timothy 1:5-11).

Years after the establishment of the church in the city of Jerusalem, it became necessary for the apostles and the elders to come together and deal with the matter of whether Gentile converts were required to keep the law of Moses in the matter of circumcision in order to be saved (Acts 15). Seventeen years later the church was being troubled again by teachers who had turned from the gospel and were making unlawful applications of the law of Moses. Paul said they did not know what they were saying (I Timothy 1:7).

Many of the false, but popular churches of our day have come into existence and remain popular through ignorance and misuse of the Old Testament. Some of the practices that religious leaders appeal to in the Old Testament in order to establish "their authority" are: burning of incense, polygamy, abstaining from meats, an earthly priesthood, spiritualism, premillennialism, infant church membership, mechanical istruments of music in the worship, salvation without baptism, and sabbath keeping. We still need to stress "study" that men may know how to "rightly divide the Word of truth" (II Timothy 2:15). People do not know and understand the great difference between the law and the gospel. The text under consideration will help answer four vital questions:

What Does The Gospel Have To Say About The Law Of Moses?

In other words, what does the New Testament say about the Old Testament? Paul said that his remarks about the law were according to the gospel which he had received by inspiration as a trust from God (I Timothy 1:11, cf. Galatians 1:6-12). The New Testament answers the following questions regarding the two covenants:

  1. What were the covenants called respectively? They were called "the law" (John 1:17; Hebrews 9:1) and "the gospel" (Mark 16:15; II Corinthians 3:6).
  2. Through whom were the covenants given? They were given through Moses (John 1:17; 9:29) and through Christ (Hebrews 8:6; 12:24).
  3. What became of the law? It was taken out of the way (Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 8:13; 10:9).
  4. With whom was the first law made? It was made for and with the Jews (Hebrews 8:9).
  5. Why was a new covenant made? The first was faulty (Hebrews 8:7,8), unprofitable (Hebrews 7:18), weak and could not give life (Galatians 3:21). The second was promised (Hebrews 8:8), has better promises (Hebrews 8:6), and better in all respects (Hebrews 7:22). It is more glorious (II Corinthians 3:6-11) and is eternal (Hebrews 13:20).
  6. To whom was the second given? It was given to all nations
    (Matthew 28:18-20).

For What Purpose Was The Law Given?

There is a negative and a positive reason stated in the text: "The law is not made for a righteous man..." (I Timothy 1:9). To say that a Christian, one justified by faith in the Lord Jesus, must keep the law in order to develop his spiritual life is an unlawful use of the law. It is a perversion of the nature and purpose of the law (yes, even the Ten Commandments). Today, no one is under the law of Moses (including the Ten Commandments); Jew nor Gentile; saved or unsaved! Paul then tells us for whom the law was made.

I Timothy 1:9,10 follows the same type of order of the Ten Commandments (cf. Exodus 20:1-17). That law stood against all sinners who would array themselves against their fellow man (commandments 5-10).

Two observations need to be made:

  1. The seventh commandment "thou shalt not commit adultery," Paul saw standing against all forms of fornication and homosexuality (I Timothy 1:10).
  2. The eighth commandment, "thou shalt not steal," Paul saw standing against slave dealers (I Timothy 1:10). If it is wrong to buy, steal, and deal in stolen property, how could it have ever been right to buy, steal, and deal in stolen persons?

"Wherefore serveth the law? It was added because of transgression till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator" (Galatians 3:19). The law, including the Ten Commandments, was given by God to Israel as a means of opening their eyes to sin and its consequences till the Messiah should come as the grace and truth of God personified. The Messiah would come in fulfillment of the wonderful promise God made to father Abraham (cf. Romans 7:4-25).

Does The Gospel Contradict The Law Of Moses?

The Seventh Day Adventists try to imply that since we teach we are no longer under the Ten Commandments that it is permissable to engage in immoral conduct. In this they are begging the question to cover up for their unlawful use of the law! The same God who gave the Ten Commandments (which constituted sound doctrine, I Timothy 1:10) is the same God who gave the glorious gospel. Both stand against impiety and immorality. God did not condone impiety and immorality before the law was given (see the cases of the flood and Sodom and Gomorrah), neither did He condone impiety and immorality of the Gentile nations during the Mosaic dispensation (see the cases of the Canaanites and Babylon). God does not condone impiety and immorality today! The Holy Spirit's work in this age is to "convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment" (John 16:7-13) and whenever the sword of the Spirit is used, men are made to reason of "righteousness, temperance, and the judgment to come" (Acts 24:25). "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness adn worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world" (Titus 2:11,12). Both laws deal with the same principles of piety and morality; therefore, there is no contradiction.

Who Is Amenable To God's Holy Principles?

A study of the characters under consideration in I Timothy 1:9 reveals that God intended the law even for those who had no intention of obeying it. The fact that some would be scoffers, opposers, and unbound by any authority did not stop God from giving them a law. To have a "hypothetical heathen" somewhere in the world practicing impiety and immorality with immunity is absurd (Acts 17:30,31; II Thessalonians 1:7-9).