Part Four: The Giving of the Law
Unfortunately, the topic of the Law is the place where most conservative Christians part ways with the apostles. Many well-meaning Christians have not processed what the apostles say about the Law and as a result have taught something totally contradictory to what the apostles taught concerning the purpose and function of the Law. Many of these Christians get upset whenever they hear what Paul and the other apostles taught concerning the Law. They act as if the apostles and those who follow the teachings of the apostles are attacking the Law. Neither Paul nor the other apostles attacked the Law. They all agreed that the Law was from God and is holy and righteous and good (Rom. 7:12). What they WERE attacking though was the misuse of the Law. That attacked the view that by keeping the Law you could become righteous. Unfortunately many of us use the Law the same way the Jewish opponents of the apostles used it. When properly used, the Law becomes a positive, NOT a negative in the life of the believer.
THE EXODUS ACCOUNT
Preparing to Meet the Lord
If the traditional site for Mt. Sinai is right, then the Israelites turned south whenever they crossed the Red Sea into the Sinai peninsula. Three months have passed since the Israelites have left Egypt (Ex. 19:1). According to Ex. 19:9 what is God going to do?
What are the people to do in order to prepare themselves to meet God (Ex. 19:10-11)?
How holy are they to treat the mount of God (Ex. 19:12-13)?
What kind of scene greets the Israelites whenever the Lord descends upon Mt. Sinai (19:16)?
How did this terrifying scene affect the Israelites (19:16)?
The Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17)
The Ten Commandments serve as a type of overture to the rest of the Law of Moses. An overture is a piece of music played at the beginning of a movie or opera which introduces the different musical themes of the movie, opera, or musical. For example, in the movie Lawrence of Arabia the composer Maurice Jarre has a musical theme for Lawrence, another for the Arab forces, and a third one for the British army. He plays all 3 themes in the overture. He will develop them more fully in the movie itself. In the same way God introduces the different themes of the Law in the 10 Commandments and develops them in the rest of the Law of Moses.
Following is a brief survey of the Ten Commandments.
|NUMBER OF COMMANDMENT||SCRIPTURE||CONTENT OF COMMANDMENT|
|First Commandment||Ex. 20:3||No other gods|
|Second Commandment||Ex. 20:4||No graven image/idol|
|Third Commandment||Ex. 20:7||.|
|Fourth Commandment||Ex. 20:8||.|
|Fifth Commandment||Ex. 20:12||.|
|Sixth Commandment||Ex. 20:13||.|
|Seventh Commandment||Ex. 20:14||.|
|Eighth Commandment||Ex. 20:15||.|
|Ninth Commandment||Ex. 20:16||.|
|Tenth Commandment||Ex. 20:17||.|
Let's see how the Ten Commandments function as a type of overture to the rest of the Law. Many Christians still use the King James Version of the Bible which translates the 6th commandment: "Thou shalt not kill." Based on this translation many Christians claim that it is wrong to go to war or to enact capital punishment. Yet other translations translate this verse: "Thou shalt not murder," which does NOT do away with war or capital punishment. Which translation is right?
The second. Why? Because the rest of the Law of Moses says that we are to execute capital punishment against those who commit murder and that we are to engage in righteous war. Now either the 6th commandment refers primarily to murder or else Moses did not understand what the 6th commandment was referring to, something I find hard to digest.
The People's Response (Ex. 20:18-21; 32:1-)
The giving of the Law is one of the greatest moments in Israel's history. From this point on you would think that Israel would serve God like never before. Moses goes up to the mountain. How do the people respond when Moses is gone for 40 days and 40 nights on top of Mt. Sinai (Ex. 32:1-6)?
What does God want to do to the people because they have responded this way (Ex. 32:9-10)?
What does Moses do to keep God from responding this way (32:11-14)?
THROUGH THE EYES OF THE APOSTLES
Abraham was the man of faith in the OT. With the coming of Moses and the Law the life of faith and adventure gets replaced with the life of legalism and rule keeping. Many well-meaning Christians exalt the Law. They claim that it is still the rule book or guide we should follow in order to live the Christian life. This perspective leads to disaster. For example, in the book Pilgrim's Progress Christian is walking towards the Celestial City (Heaven) whenever he feels a sharp blow on his back. When he looks up he sees a rider on a horse that has passed him by, wielding a club in his hand. The rider turns around and hits Christian again, and again, and again, and again. Come to find out the man on the horse is no one other than Moses. The reason he keeps hitting Christian is that Christian is trying to live by the Law. Such an approach to life brings disaster.
Where did Pilgrim's Progress get this take on the Law? From the NT itself which has correctly analyzed the Law in the OT. For example, the author of Hebrews compares the giving of the Law with the covenant of grace by comparing Mt. Sinai and the new mount of God, Mount Zion. According to Hebrews what kind of mountain did the Jews approach at Sinai (Heb. 12:18-21)?
On the other hand, what kind of mount is Mt. Zion, the city of Christianity (Heb. 12:22-24)?
Next, Paul provides for us some characteristics of the Law most of us are unfamiliar with. For example, according to Paul the Law was given to us because of ___________________ (Gal 3:19); having been ordained through ________________ (Gal 3:19); by the agency of a ___________________ (Gal 3:19); until the ______________ should come (Gal 3:19).
Because of Transgressions
The Law was NOT given to us to make us better. We shall see that whenever we come into contact with the Law, we actually get WORSE! Rather the Law was given because of transgressions. First, to define what a transgression was. According to Paul what was unknown to him before the Law revealed it to him (Rom. 7:7)?
According to Romans 5:20 did people get better whenever God gave us the Law (Rom.5:20)?
In fact once Paul learned about the commandment not to covet, what did he want to do then (Rom. 7:7-8)?
Romans 7 discusses Paul's trying to live by the Law. What kind of life does the Law produce (Rom. 7:24)?
The classic example of this is the Israelite nation itself. If ever they would have kept the Law, it would have been right after God gave it to them. What did they do though? They made a golden calf and put on an orgy. Keeping the Law simply does not work. It leads to rebellion. (Probably the best modern example of this involves the Jew again. Few realize that Hollywood is truly a Jewish town, for example, Spielburg, Dustin Hoffman, etc. The Jews there have encountered the Law and have responded by rebelling. )
Is the problem with the Law? If not, where does the problem lie (Rom. 7:12-14)?
Although the Law is good and is from God, because of ME keeping the Law, laws, rules, regulations, etc. don't work. When Christ died on the cross, I died with Him. When I died with Christ, what did I specifically die to (Rom. 7:4)?
The Law Was Temporary in Nature
According to Paul the Law was in force UNTIL THE SEED SHOULD COME, that is, until Christ came. Look at 3 different images he uses to describe the function of the Law in order to show that the Law was temporary in nature. According to Gal. 3:22, 23 the Law acted as a jailkeeper, a referee, or a coach (circle one).
According to Gal. 3:24-25 the Law functioned as child-conductor, teacher, or mother (circle one).
According to Gal. 4:2 the Law served as a dad, a brother, or as trustee of an estate (circle one).
In each of these cases 2 things were true. First, the boy was not to remain permanently in this sad state. He was not to remain in jail forever; one day he would turn 16 and no longer need this child-conductor slave; one day he would turn 21 and never need another trustee. In the same way Paul says that the world would no longer need the Law. According to Paul when would that day come (Gal. 3:25)?
Second, the reason the Law served as a warden, a child-conductor, and trustees was that we would want to get away from the Law and live a life of faith! The Jews were kept in prison under the Law for 1400 years; they were beaten down by the child-conductor for 1400 years; they were restrained by the managers and trustees for 1400 years. Now that God has opened the prison door, given them the possibility of being free from this child-conductor, and handed over to them the trust, you would think they would jump at the chance. (Unfortunately most Jews did not.) God wants us to be so miserable whenever we try to keep the Law so that we will want to live by faith!
How Then Are We to Live
If we are not supposed to live by the Law, live a life of rules and regulations, how then are we to live? According to Rom. 7:4 although we died to the Law, we became joined to whom?
After we have denied ourselves and taken up our crosses, what does Jesus command us to do (Luke 9:23)?
The essence of the Christian life is following Jesus. It is that simple. Just follow Jesus. Each and every day I need to wake up and commit myself to Him and allow Him to guide me throughout the day. When that happens, His Spirit energizes me so that I can truly experience His life. This does not happen by keeping laws; it happens by following Him.
(Some will claim though that the Law is still in force. This much is true. Jesus will never guide you to do anything which contradicts the Law. A person who claims Jesus led him to divorce his wife so that he could marry somebody else is wrong because Jesus would never guide you to violate the 7th commandment. It's just that the Law basically only tells you what NOT to do. It doesn't ever really tell you what to do. You can sit in a chair all day long and do nothing, and NOT break a single commandment. That's not life though. Jesus came that we might have life and might have it abundantly. That comes about only by following Jesus.)