Salvation and the Law
by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 7 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Salvation is More than Being Saved)
In a real sense the law was given to be broken. This does not mean that God delights when we break the law, nor does it mean that we should attempt to break the law or not attempt to keep it. It simply means that we are unable to keep the law to perfection. It was given to make us aware of sin. The law is perfection to place beside our imperfection that we may realize our imperfection in order that we may realize that we cannot save ourselves. It causes us to flee to the salvation that God has given us through Jesus Christ. On these pages we will discuss the purpose of the law, both to the unsaved and to the saved.
1. The law was given to show us that we are under the curse. Galatians 3:10-13, "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." Man was sinful before the law was given, but the law came in order that sin might revive and be more exceeding sinful. Man was placed under a curse in the garden of Eden because of his sin. However, there needed to be a law in order that man may be constantly aware and increasingly aware of the curse that is upon him that he might realize his 'Inability to save himself.
2. The law was given to reveal sin. Romans 7:7-9, "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." Romans 3:19-20, "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them 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 there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin."
James likens the law to a mirror. The mirror cannot cleanse; it can only reveal the need of cleanings. James 1:23b, 24, "He is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was."
Recently I stopped at a McDonald's restaurant. I ordered chicken McNuggets with hot mustard sauce. I was extra careful, I thought, not to deposit mustard on my clothing. In fact, I was quite proud of myself for being so careful and tidy. When I got to my office I went to my washroom to shave. When I looked in the mirror, I found that I had spilled mustard on my white shirt. I did not know that I had done so because it was up close to the collar, and looking down, I could not see it. It was the mirror that showed me that I was soiled. I immediately changed shirts. Now the mirror did not clean my shirt nor did the mirror change my shirt-the mirror revealed to me that I needed to change shirts because I was dirty.
Years ago when our oldest daughter, Becky, was a baby I burped her after she had taken her bottle one evening just before I left to go speak. I was already dressed in a navy blue suit. It was a new suit, and I was so pleased with it, and to be quite frank, I thought I looked pretty nice that night. On the way to my speaking engagement I stopped at a large drug store. As I walked down the sidewalk, I noticed people looking at me, but I thought nothing of it because I knew that I had on a new suit. I assumed that they were admiring my new clothing. I walked in the drug store, and everyone who saw me stared at me, but still I was not surprised. It was a beautiful suit. I made my purchase under the careful scrutinization of the clerk. Then I went to a counter to pay. The cashier said, "Mister, do you realize you have milk or something all over your right shoulder'?" I rushed to a mirror only to find that Becky had belched sour milk on the shoulder of my suit. Now the mirror did not clean the milk off the suit. The mirror revealed to me my condition, and I fled to that which would cleanse it.
This is the purpose of the law. The law is a mirror that reveals to us our condition and causes us to realize that we cannot keep it and that we must flee to Jesus for salvation.
Paul uses the illustration of a plumb line. A plumb line is a long chain or rope with a very heavy rock or stone on one end. The line is held at the top of a wall of a building with the heavy object at the bottom. This makes the rope very straight. The purpose of this is to reveal the condition of the wall. If the wall is crooked, it will be obvious as it is compared to the plumb line. A wall may look perfectly straight to the naked eye, but when compared to the plumb line, its crookedness is revealed. The plumb line does not repair the wall; the plumb line shows the need for repair and causes the builder to reconstruct or straighten the wall, The law is a plumb line; it does not straighten us. It shows us we are crooked and causes us to go to Christ, Who alone can straighten.
3. The law is to bring us to Christ. Galatians 3:24-25, "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster." Paul says that the law is a schoolmaster. A schoolmaster was one who would gather his pupils together and take them to the school in order to insure their safety. When the students got to the school, the schoolmaster returned home and waited until the end of the day when he returned to escort them safely back to their homes. The law is a schoolmaster. It brings us to Christ, Who is the Teacher. The law does not teach; it simply brings us to the Teacher.
The law is the diagnostician. It diagnoses our case and reveals our need. Grace is the doctor who observes the diagnosis and does his work of healing. The keeping of the law cannot heal; it simply diagnoses and shows us that there is a need and leads us to Christ. Paul said that without the law, he would not have known sin. Romans 7:7b, "Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law."
4. The law cannot save. Galatians 2:16, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."
5. The law cannot help in salvation. Galatians 3:1-3, "0 foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?"
A person examines himself by the law and compares himself to it. He attempts to keep it, but finds it impossible! He then realizes that Jesus is the only Saviour and flees to Him for salvation. As far as salvation is concerned, that is the end of the law. Romans 10:4, "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." However, that does not mean that the Christian is finished with the law. It simply means that he is finished with the law concerning his salvation. Christ has become the end of that. Once we are saved, however, we turn to the law, and out of love for Christ, we attempt to obey it, not in order that we might be saved, but in gratitude for our salvation!
Years ago in the South during the days of slavery it is said that there was a slave being auctioned one day. This was a young lady who was strong and able. The auctioneer placed her on the auction block and asked for bids. The bidding began. One man especially seemed interested in her, so he kept bidding. The bids got higher and higher, but this one man was determined to buy this young lady. She became bitter toward him and looked at him with hatred. However, he continued in his attempt to purchase her. Finally she began to curse him, but he was undaunted in his effort and determined to reach his goal. At last there were no other bids. She was his. He paid the auctioneer, whereupon the young lady began to curse more vehemently "I won't go with you," she said. A hate you! I hate you! I won't be your slave! I won't go with you!" The man kindly looked to the young black lady and said, "Ma'am, you do not understand. I saw something in you today that I felt deserved freedom. I decided to buy you in order that I could set you free. I am not taking you to be my slave. I purchased you. You are mine. Now you may be free." The young lady for a moment looked in silent disbelief. Then tears filled her eyes as she bowed before the man who had bought her. On her knees looking up to his face she said, "Oh, sir, you bought me to set me free, Now I'll be your slave forever."
This is illustrative of our relationship to the law. We were bound by the law. We were slaves to it. Jesus said, "I will purchase you to set you free." We then turn to Jesus and say, "Then I will do my best to please You by obeying Your wishes." Did not the Saviour say, "If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments"? This does not mean that we keep the commandments in order to be saved; it means that out of hearts of gratitude, we throw ourselves at the feet of the Saviour and say, "Jesus, I love You! I want to obey You and Your commandments." Should not a person who is saved and freed from the law still tell the truth, refrain from murder, etc.? Even though we are not under the law, we are not through with the law! Though the law is not a means to save us, it is a wonderful tool with which to show our love for the Saviour. Romans 3:31, "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law." Romans 10:4, "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
Now then, let us consider how the law affects the believer.
1. Even after a person is saved, sin is decided by the Word of God. Romans 6:13, "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." Coming to Christ does not give us a license to sin; it gives us even more of a hatred for sin and causes us to desire to live a life of righteousness so that we can be pleasing to our God and show our gratitude and our love to our Saviour.
2. Jesus set me free FROM sin, not TO sin.
3. Sin is still the transgression of the law. I John 3:4, "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."
4. When a person is saved, God does not change sin from the transgression of the law to one's own conscience. God does not "throw the book out the window" at salvation. The obedience to Christ's commands, though not necessary to salvation, is necessary to happiness and success in the Christian life. Salvation does not set us free from doing right. The God Who hated murder in the Old Testament hates murder in the New Testament. The God Who hated adultery in the Old Testament hates adultery in the New Testament. The law has not be nullified; its purpose has been changed. Whereas it was a mirror to show us our need of Christ, it now is a utensil to enable us to show our love to Him. Just because we are free from the law in salvation does not mean that each person becomes his own law and each person decides what is right. Right is still right; wrong is still wrong, and God's idea of right and wrong did not change between Malachi and Matthew!
5. The truth is, Jesus strengthened the law. Just a simple look at Matthew 5 will show us that the law of love should go beyond the law of the letter. The Lord Jesus reminds us that the law said we should not commit adultery, but He says we should not even look at a woman with impure thoughts. He tells us that our righteousness should exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, who were the strictest adherents to the law. He talks about going the second mile. Love should serve more fervently than the law. Love should give more than the law. Love should sacrifice more than the law.
6. The law is still profitable. 2nd Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." Notice here that Paul wrote to Timothy and said, "All Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction. etc." "All Scripture" includes Romans. "All Scripture" includes John. "All Scripture" includes Galatians, but "all Scripture" also includes Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I and 11 Samuel, I and 11 Kings, etc. Though we are not under the law for our salvation, the law is certainly a wonderful instrument with which to demonstrate our love for Christ.
The naming of the dispensations has caused some misunderstanding here. We speak of the dispensation of law and the dispensation of grace. Some people get the wrong idea that there was a day in the Old Testament when people were saved by the keeping of the law and now in the New Testament are saved by grace. Nothing is further from the truth! Adam and Eve were saved by grace. All the Old Testament saints were saved by grace. The purpose of the law In the Old Testament was the same as its purpose in the New Testament--to make sin exceeding sinful, to show us our inability to save ourselves by the keeping of the law. Bear in mind that there was a day before the law. There was a time when the law had not yet been given. Sin was sin, but it is more sinful now.
We often stress carefully the importance of New Testament Christianity. Why don't we just say, "Bible Christianity"? The God Who wrote the New Testament also wrote the Old Testament. He has not changed; what He hated before He hates now. What was an abomination to Him then is an abomination to Him now. He never changes. Malachi 3:6, "For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." He always likes and dislikes the same things. Leviticus 18:22, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." We find here that homosexuality and nakedness are abominations to God. Do you not think they are still abominations to God? Or is it not still true since it is taken from the Old Testament?
Deuteronomy 7:25, "The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the Lord thy God." Here we find that idolatry was an abomination to God. Do you think with the changing of Testaments that idolatry became acceptable with God? No! What was an abomination in the Old is an abomination in the New. Proverbs 3:32, "For the froward is abomination to the Lord: but His secret is with the righteous." Proverbs 11:20, "They that are of a froward heart are abomination to the Lord: but such as are upright in their way are His delight." Notice, the froward (the dishonest) are an abomination to God. Of course, that was the Old Testament. Do you think that God suddenly in the first chapter of Matthew decided to embrace dishonesty? No, God hated dishonesty in the Old Testament, and God hates dishonesty in the New Testament!
Proverbs 6:16-19, "These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren." Here is a list of things that were an abomination to God. Read the list carefully. Do you think they are still an abomination to God? Does God like what He used to hate? No! God's moral law never changes! The law's relationship with man may change, but what God hated before, He hates now! We have given the law a bad reputation because so many people use it as a toot for salvation. Used in this manner the law is bad, but we have spread some rumors about it that are not true! The law is still good if it is used for the right purpose.
Deuteronomy 22:5, "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God." Notice again here is something that was an abomination to God in the Old Testament--just like homosexuality, nakedness, idolatry, dishonesty, etc. The same word, "abomination," is used concerning God's attitude toward women dressing like men and men dressing like women. Does God still have the same idea about murder, adultery, dishonesty, homosexuality, but has changed His mind about women and men dressing alike? Of course not! The God Who wanted a division of the sexes in the Old Testament wants a division of the sexes in the New Testament. The God Who does not want a woman dressing like a man in the Old Testament does not want a woman dressing like a man in the New Testament.
Occasionally someone will say that we should not tithe because tithing was in the Old Testament. Well, "Thou shalt not murder," is in the Old Testament also. Shall we murder because that is in the Old Testament? God wanted His people to bring to Him the first tenth of the increase in the Old Testament, but God has not grown old and senile or entered into some kind of change of heart or change of mind. He is the same yesterday, today and forever! His tastes never change; His desires never change! His wants never change; His wishes never change, and by the way, His commandments never change, and His law never changes! The purpose for that law changes. The purpose for the law originally was to bring us to Christ. When we came to Him, He became the end of the law for righteousness, but not for expression of love, not for obedience, not for success and happiness in the Lord's work.
7. The holiness of the New Testament is based upon the law of the Old Testament. I Peter 1:14-16, "As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as He Which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." Compare that with Leviticus 11:44, "For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." You will notice that the basis for holiness in the New Testament is based here on a statement in the Old Testament.
2nd Corinthians 6:14-18, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteous ness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
Now notice Deuteronomy 7:2-7, "And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following Me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people."
Deuteronomy 22:6-12, "If a bird's nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, or on the ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young: but thou shalt in any wise let the dam go, and take the young to thee; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days. When thou buildest a new house, then thou shaft make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence. Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled. Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together. Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together. Thou shalt make thee fringes upon the four quarters of thy vesture, wherewith thou coverest thyself."
Isaiah 52:11, "Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord." Notice carefully that the basis and argument that Paul used in the New Testament for separation was built on an Old Testament teaching.
Thank God for the law! It showed me my inability to save myself and led me to Christ, Who became the end of the law for righteousness for me; but thank God, the old law is still there, giving me many, many tools with which I can say to Jesus, "I love You!"
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