Wherefore now the Law? (Gal. 3: 19)
Why did not Christ come at the time of Abraham (about 1900 B.C.)? Does not the New Testament say plainly that salvation depends on faith alone? And was not faith already present in Abraham and this indeed in very mature degree (Rom. 4), even in the knowledge of God, of the free character of grace, of justification, sacrifice, resurrection, the Messiah, the heavenly city? Is not, then, a period of law covering fifteen centuries superfluous, a needless delay, indeed, a retrogression?
There [in Abraham] a direct inward life of faith-here [under the Law] outward mediating forms; there, restful sublime simplicity-here, complexity, scarcely to be comprehended: there, the word and the promise prevailing-here, demand and symbol dominating.
But the simple is nobler than the complicated, and the word is more direct than the symbol; the promise is more creative than the command, and the inward higher than the form.
Nevertheless God gave the Law in such solemn majesty, with thunders and lightnings, accompanied by a quaking mount and trumpet blast (Exod. 19: 16-19; Heb.12: 18, 19)! And yet He suffered mankind to languish in the shadow of death and to wait another millennium and a half for the coming of the Redeemer (Isa. 9: 1, 2; 60: 1-3; Luke 1: 78, 79). For this there must be weighty reasons. What are they?
The answer of Scripture is, that the chief meaning of the Law lies in the developing of an expectation of the Redeemer by revealing human sinfulness, so that thereby the Law should be "a tutor [schoolmaster, corrector, one who disciplines] to bring us to Christ," and to Him as the Saviour of sinners (Gal. 3: 19, 24; Rom. 3: 20; 7: 7ff.). So as to fulfil this its task it occupied a particular relation to the past, the future, and the present, and, as regards the last, toward the outer, the above, the beneath, and the inner. It is
as to the past --an addition,
as to the future --an insertion
as to the present --an instruction, and this
against the outer --a hedge,
from above --a restraint,
against the beneath --a barrier,
of the inward --a mirror.
In no sense has it set aside the covenant with Abraham, or stepped into its place, but has completed it, and is set by its side. It was "added" (Gal. 3: 19; Rom. 5: 20); and as having come later, by as much as 430 years, it naturally could not annul that which had been long before in force (Gal. 3: 15-17). Therefore with all the significance which the Mosaic Law has, it acquires nevertheless no fundamental significance. For Israel's history the promises of the covenant with Abraham are alone fundamental. Therefore Paul in his doctrine of justification turns back not to Moses but to Abraham (Rom. 4; Gal. 3: 9, 14), and the epistle to the Hebrews (ch. 11) is able to name a whole series of heroes of faith from the period of the Law.
Nevertheless this addition was necessary. For with all its grandeur and depth the covenant with Abraham lacked a sufficient emphasis on sin. Its chief imperfection lay in this too light unfolding of man's lost condition and incapacity for self-redemption; and yet the perception of these is really the weightiest prerequisite for experimental acquaintance with Golgotha! Therefore it must be supplemented, and this comes to pass through the Law.
Henceforth the whole pre-Christian revelation of salvation divides into two chief sections: the covenant of promise and the covenant of law. In the former the positive stands in the foreground, in the latter the negative. With Abraham it is the blessing (Gal. 3: 9, 14), with Moses the curse (Gal. 3: 13), with Abraham life (Rom. 4: 17-25; Heb. 11:19), with Moses death (II Cor. 3: 6; Rom. 7: 9, 10). The Mosaic covenant reaches its summit in the Crucifixion (Gal.2:19, 20; 3: 13), the Abrahamic covenant in the Resurrection (Heb. 11: 19; Rom. 4: 17, I9, 23-25).
But they both belong together. For the sinner is to be redeemed, and to this end renewal and new birth are needful. But the new birth has man's conversion as a presupposition, and conversion is twofold; a turning from and a turning to, a NO to oneself, and a YES to God, or, as the New Testament puts it Repentance and Faith. Only here is revealed to us the true meaning of the Old Testament histories:
Throughout centuries God spoke the word "Faith" into the history of salvation-this is the meaning of the covenant with Abraham. Through two thousand years it was an education in faith.
Throughout centuries God spoke the word "Repent" into the history of salvation-this is the meaning of the law of Moses. Through one thousand five hundred years it was an education in repentance.
"Repent" and "believe the gospel (Mark 1:15) says Christ, and thereby conjoins both in redeeming oneness. This is the New Testament purport of the Old Testament.
It was added "until" the Seed should come to which the Promise referred (Gal. 3: 19). This "until" indicates that the Law in its Mosaic form is something only temporary and transitory, that it stands to the Seed in a merely preparatory relationship, that it has its goal in Him and, concerning its Old Testament level, spirit and Levitical order, disappears with His arrival. This is a most important, marvellous truth in the history of salvation which, as to its actual realization, as with all principles of God's redemptive plan, is conditioned by and takes practical effect in real personal belief and thus in a surrendered, sanctified life of obedience and faith (I Cor. 9: 20, 21; Matt. 5: 17ff., comp. I Cor. 9: 8-10; 14: 34; Gal. 6: 2, 3; I Tim. 1: 8f.). Christ is the end of the Law unto righteousness to every one that believeth (Rom.10:4).
Therefore even in the time of the "old covenant Jeremiah spoke of the coming of the "new" (Jer. 31: 31-34), and David the "prophet" (Acts. 2: 29, 30) foretold an eternal priesthood of the Messiah: "Thou art priest for ever after the manner of Melchidezek" (Psa. 110: 4),
But inasmuch as David already knew that this his Lord (Psa. 110:1) would at the same time be his son (Matt. 22: 41-45; I Chron. 17), and consequently, as Isaiah's branch (Isa 11:1), would be also a descendant of Judah (I Chron. 5: 2), the Old Testament had already testified that in Him there would come a transfer of the priesthood from the tribe of Levi to the tribe of Judah and therewith a change of priesthood in general (Heb. 7: 11-17). And further, because the priesthood is the foundation of the whole legal system, and the latter forms one continuous indivisible unity (Jas. 2: 10)? therefore with the changing of the priesthood there of necessity takes place a changing of the law" (Heb. 7: 12), and thus already, through David the psalmist and Jeremiah the prophet, the Old Testament testified that the Law is only a temporary insertion. This is the view of the Old Testament itself.
In reference to its own particular period the Law ts hedge, bridle, rule, barrier, and mirror. In its outward aspect it is a hedge which separates Israel from the nations of the world (Eph. 2:14,15). In its Mosaic and Levitical form the Law was not given to all men but to Israel alone: "He made known his word to Jacob, his statutes and judgments to Israel. To no other nation has he so done " (Psa.147:19,20). As regulated by Moses the sabbath was the token between God and Israel (Exod.31:5 13,16,17; Ezek. 20:12,20). But, in the sense of Sinaitic statutes, the nations have "no law" (Rom.2:14). This alone refutes all carrying over of the Sinaitic Law into the present gospel of grace to the nations such as legal holiness, Judaic celebration of the sabbath, Old Testament forms of worship, special priesthood, priestly vestments, incense, etc. The Mosaic Law was never given to the nations, whether heathen or " Christian," but only to Israel. But nevertheless Israel and its Law are given to be "an objectlesson in the grandest style upon the stage of world history (I Cor.10:11) so that all peoples of all centuries can read it as they pass by."
From above the law is the bridle with which Jehovah rules His people Israel. For right conduct it is the rule.
From beneath it is, for sin, the barrier which should restrain its development (comp. Gal.2:15;I Pet.4:3).
From within it is a mirror (Jas.1:23,25). "Through law comes knowledge of sin " (Rom.3:20). This is really its proper and chief task. Therefore the holiness of the Lord is its foundation thought. As the Holy One, the Lord is the exalted, unapproachable, jealous, perfect, and heavenly One; and in this order these five foundation qualities of His holiness come into relief in the Old Testament.
(1) God's holiness in its majesty, especially in the Patriarchal age.
(2),(3). God's holiness in its unapproachableness and jealousy, especially in the Mosaic age (Exod.19:12,13,20, 21; 20:5; Josh.24:19).
(4) God's holiness in its ethical (moral) perfection, especially in the writings of the prophets (Isaiah 29 times, the "Holy One of Israel:" see 6:3).
(5) God's holiness in its heavenliness, especially since the captivity in Babylon ("God of the heaven"): see Neh. 2:20. The New Testament finally crowns this unfolding in that it reveals in Christ
(6) God's holiness as love (John17:6,25,26).
Thus there is indeed in the history of salvation a historical progressive, gradual unfolding of God's holiness in ever new aspects.
But through this its inward working the Law points to things in advance; it awakens in the sinner the cry for redemption (Rom.7:24), and thereby becomes a "disciplinarian to direct us to Christ" (Gal.3:24).
Thus the Law is a gift from the redeeming God; and while in the matter of the sanctification of the individual grace excludes the Mosaic Law, yet in the general development of salvation it includes it in itself.
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