I HAVE been glad to see that gradually the great
difference between the evangel of the Circumcision and that of the
Uncircumcision is spreading among the saints. But it disappointed me that
in some cases it does not seem to take, so I am more and more impressed
with the necessity of going to the bottom of these things. There is enough
clear teaching as to what the Scriptures say, but we lack a deeper
apprehension of why these things are so.
There are a great many philosophies in the world today.
Men have a lot to say and some imagine that they really know something
about what is going on in the world. But if you simply ask one question,
they all are dumb. That one word is, Why?
I think it is our privilege, if we become mature in our
understanding of God's Word, to go beneath the surface and know why
certain things are so. Then it will be much easier to avoid what is wrong
and to conform to what the Scriptures have to say.
In our studies we now have come to the subject of the
law - the law of Moses. There is a good deal said about the law in Paul's
epistles, especially in Romans and Galatians. The attitude we should take
toward the law is clearly set forth in these epistles and, of course, in
some others also, showing that there is a tremendous difference between
the evangels of the Circumcision and of the Uncircumcision with regard to
the law. Now it might be well if we should go back and see where
Christendom got on the wrong track. Why is it that the Lord's people are
in a haze about this matter in spite of the clear revelation we have in
Romans? Very few seem to grasp the great difference between the two
Let us consider the main points of distinction: In the
evangel of the Circumcision we have law. It is not abrogated. As a
matter of fact, the law continues throughout the millennium. Then Israel
will still be under law. There will be a great difference in contrast to
what was before, but nevertheless, the main object that God has in view
continues right straight through that whole eon, with regard to the
Circumcision. The law was not given to be observed. It was not given
that men should obey it and get a recognition from God, but to show them
their inability to keep it. That is why we have the long list of
failures in Israel. The law given at Sinai was a great success from the
viewpoint of God's intention. It showed that man is not capable of
conforming to its standards. Yahweh's people had all sorts of special
advantages. They are given this law and they excel only in making a
failure of keeping it. That was God's intention, although it was
contrary to His expressed will. This continues in the millennium, even
though the law is written on their hearts. Perfection is not reached, even
in that blessed era.
Perhaps it will help to show how futile law keeping is
if we will briefly consider its effect on the other nations. In the
millennium there will be blessing through Israel to the world. The
knowledge of Yahweh will cover the earth as the waters cover the floor of
the sea. If that is so, why those various occasions when the nations turn
against Yahweh? In the land of Israel the knowledge of Yahweh will be
universal, but not among the nations. There will be a great defection at
the end of the millennium. I used to think that the millennium would be a
time of perfection. But no consummation is possible under law. Israel, at
present, is not keeping the law. Yet those of them who believe in Christ
now, instead of being devoured by fiery judgments, are raised to heights
supernal like all the other members of His body.
We will now consider a problem that has troubled the
servants of God quite a good deal, and so far as I know there has never
been a real solution. That is, what is the place of the law today? Once,
when I treated this subject, one of my friends said that he thought it a
fine thing that, in the churches of Christendom, the children should be
taught the law, in order that through it they might come to a knowledge of
sin. That is what the law was given for. To me this was not very
convincing, and became less so when I considered it in the light of actual
practice. I spent a few years in a land where everyone was an amateur
theologian. They all knew the ten commandments and lengthy explanations of
them by heart. It was really surprising what a place was given to the law
of Moses in that country. It was practically a part of the school system,
an educational essential. Yet the tendency was to make people
self-righteous. It seldom led to conviction and salvation by faith.
The Supreme Court has held that we are a Christian
country. Otherwise it would be difficult to realize it! But in this place
to which I refer, religion was brought in constantly. Now, if such
teaching were calculated to prepare men for the evangel, it would he a
good thing. Well, I tell you plainly, I never saw such a dead place in my
life. You could talk Bible with the people but it had no more effect than
it had in Israel. The law was not given to save. The evangel alone can do
that. The law is not needed in order to prepare men for the evangel. It
was never given to the nations.
I will read a passage to show what the law did for
Israel, and it seems to me that it has the same effect elsewhere: "But
their minds were calloused, for until this very day the same covering is
remaining at the reading of the old covenant, it not, being discovered
that, in Christ, it is vanishing" (2 Cor.3:14). So you see the law's
effect on Israel. It made them callous. And that is what you also see in
Christendom. Many Christians speak of themselves as if they were spiritual
Israel. I think it would not be far off if we called them "unspiritual
We find this same covering in Christendom. When I went
to Sunday School they told me: If you are a good boy and obey God, you
will go to heaven. That is Christianity, but not Scripture. It makes the
heart callous and puts a covering upon it.
There are a few very simple things that most of us do
not fully grasp in connection with the law. If I only mention them, you
will see what I mean. I wait particularly to lay upon your heart that law
is not God's way of dealing with humanity. Yet that is the idea you get
in Christendom and its publications. They insist that God has given us His
law and that we must obey it.
To begin with, God left humanity without law for over
two thousand years. He did not even give the law to Israel until they came
to Mt. Sinai. Not only that, but He did not give it to humanity at all.
The law is a very limited thing. God is using only a very small portion of
humanity in this demonstration of the weakness and inability of the flesh.
It is not for all mankind. God never intended it for the whole race. In
time and scope it was limited. Not only that, but it is a national
thing. It was given to only one nation, as such, not merely to
individuals in that nation.
When we hear Israel at Sinai say, "All that Yahweh has
spoken we will do," we cannot help pitying them. How dark they must be
with regard to their own heart and ability! The idea, that they could
fulfill God's holy law! But what is that compared with the nations today?
They have seen what happened to Israel. God has given us this lesson. We
have it in the Scriptures. God has made it very plain, so plain that the
present administration is based upon this demonstration that those who
are in the flesh cannot please God or obey His law. Notwithstanding this,
Christendom puts itself in the same place as Israel had done. I am getting
over the idea of looking back to these bad people in the past. We can
find worse failures much nearer home. Christendom has taken a place of far
greater self-confidence and conceit than Israel ever did, and for that
reason it seems to me that Christians are altogether astray when they
think they should put themselves under the law.
I hope you will get this contrast. Many real believers
want to get under law. That is far worse than Israel at Sinai.
Considering the light which believers should have now, I think we can find
greater failure in our own midst. When we get the idea that, in our own
strength, we can fulfill God's will, we sin against light such as Israel
never had. It seems to me that one cause of the darkness and of the
covering lying on the heart of Christendom today, the reason why we cannot
reach them with the truth, and the evangel has so little appeal to them,
is because, strange to say, they know so much of the Bible, but of the
wrong parts. They have deliberately ignored the fact that God never gave
the nations the law, and have arrogantly put themselves under it. How
conceited and silly that is!
They recognize to some extent the impossibility of
their keeping it all, for they divide the law into the moral and the
ceremonial, to evade some parts that they cannot fulfill, such as going to
Jerusalem every once in a while. There are parts of the law which can only
be fulfilled in the land of Israel, and if you are not in the land, you
cannot fulfill the law.
Here we have one clue as to why so many are led astray
by various errors in connection with Israel. If we had not wandered from
the way, and had really grasped the fact that even Israelites now are
exhorted by Paul to die to the law, then a great deal of the teaching that
today deceives the Lord's people could not find any hearers. Many are
trying to prove, for instance, that this nation is a part of Israel, and
as a result, of course, they would immediately put themselves under
law - at least they ought to. Well, if that is the case, what are they
doing in the far corners of the world? There is something very, very wrong
with them. If they are not in the promised land, it is because they have
not obeyed the laws and are under the curse of the law. The very fact
that they are scattered shows that they are not eligible to the
blessings, but to the curses of Israel. If they want to claim
anything, let them claim those.
In Christendom today we have the cover lying on the
heart of almost everyone. Last Sunday I was given a tract, entitled, "Rays
of Living Light." I will give a bit of it to you in order to reveal some
of this cover. It is a Mormon tract. Here is just a small sample. It shows
how little is known of this truth that I have been trying to put before
you. Here we have what is called Saint Paul's testimony: "The apostle Paul
is generally set forth as the preacher of the great doctrine of
justification by faith alone." This man sees something. He knows what is
in the Word of God. Quoting again: "But that he is misunderstood on that
subject is evident from his epistle to the Romans..." This is remarkable.
I did not think anyone would ever go to Romans to prove that justification
by faith is not true. But here it is: "...in which, while he proclaims the
doctrine of justification by faith, he also emphasizes the necessity of
good works as the fruit of faith, for instance, when he says: 'Who will
render to every man according to his deeds...'" But one passage deals with
God's judgment of all mankind, apart from faith. The other gives the
grace that is shown the believer in Christ Jesus. So we are to accept
that which is not concerned with us, and to reject what is our special
By such a practice the evangel of the grace of God is
absolutely eliminated from the Word of God. All that this man has is what
the unbeliever has who goes on to judgment. There is no evangel in it at
all. You see, he has the very thing that I have been talking
about - justification by means of works. And he finds it in the book of
It is almost the same cover as Israel's. Yet Israel
once had a revelation. So this man has a revelation. He actually quotes
from Scripture! Nevertheless there is a cover, and it seems to me that
this cover comes through the nations seeking to observe the law that was
given to Israel. The nations have the Bible, but, like Israel at the foot
of Sinai, their hearts rebelled at receiving God's grace and they
themselves wanted to work for their own salvation.
So you can see today that the law, instead of doing
what a good many theologians think it does, that is, break the ground for
the evangel, makes peoples hearts callous. God never intended it to do
anything else. God did not have to give the law in order to prepare for
salvation, but rather to demonstrate what was in the human heart - to put
man in his place so that He, Himself, might be given His exalted position
as the Saviour and Justifier of all.
THE "LAW" FOR THE NATIONS
Most people imagine that there is only one new
covenant. But there is a new covenant to be made with Israel in the land
that is limited to them, and there is another new covenant brought before
us by Paul, that is not limited to Israel, and is for today, while the
new covenant for Israel is for them in the future when they are once more
gathered in the land.
Not only that, but there are two laws. This may be a
little confusing. As one of the new covenants is not a literal covenant,
but is called one only because it replaces the covenant given to Israel,
so it is with the law. The law given to Israel had a purpose. It was not
given to be obeyed. It was given to be broken, and, as a matter fact,
before Moses could reach the people, he himself broke the tablets of stone
on which it was written. It was God's intention that it should be broken.
If Christendom could only realize that the law was
given to make sin a transgression - to aggravate its character - then they
would want to be without law.
This scene down here is only a stage on which the
tragedy of humanity is going to be used by God to reveal Himself to all
creation. The law is merely a side issue.
Now I want particularly to point out to you that, when
the truth for today is presented to us by Paul in Romans, it is not based
on law, but on the failure of law. The great point here is that we have
come to an end of the law. God has demonstrated that there is nothing in
the law by which to attain salvation or blessing. That is not so with the
Circumcision. God still keeps on in the kingdom eon with the law in order
to make His demonstration complete. God limited His law to only a small
people. Later on He actually writes the law upon the hearts of His people
and even that does not bring in perfection. When we come to the end of the
dispensation of law and to the time when Paul begins to write, we have a
divine righteousness entirely apart from law.
I thank God that, early in my experience as a believer,
I was led to make a study of Romans. On this point Paul's evangel is
radically different from what the Circumcision apostles had for Jews and
proselytes. In order to further press the point that each passage must be
kept in its context, let us consider the following statement in Romans
7:13: "The doers of the law will be justified." Let us not read the
context. In this demonstration we do not want the context. We simply read
that the doer of the law will be justified. "But," you say, "that is
altogether different. In Romans 3:20 we have: '...because by works of law
no flesh shall be justified before Him.' Now you see how the Bible
contradicts itself!" Such contradiction ought to be corrected if there is
one. It ought to read: "The doers of the law will not be justified."
But, between these two passages, we read: "Not one is just - not even one.
"Instead of being a contradiction, it is simply a logical result. If
there are no doers of the law, then it is very plain no one will be
justified - no flesh shall be justified before God.
That is only one example. The particular passage I want
to bring before you is like it. In Rom.1:18 to 2:16 we read about those
who are not under law. God will be paying each one in accord with his
acts: to those, indeed, who by endurance in good acts are seeking glory
and honor and incorruption, life eonian (2:6,7). Here we have a great
statement of fact. All will acknowledge that it is true and we dare not
contradict it. God must do the right thing to all His creatures. He must
reward those who fulfill the conditions.
But who is going to get this reward? I have had a
trying time over this in Europe. Some claimed that there were such people.
We might imagine that such a character exists, even if we have never found
one. But God has made it plain that not one is even just, let alone
good (Rom.3:10). That should settle the matter.
I have made it clear now that there is no contradiction
whatever, but that the argument requires first of all that God will be
righteous and treat everybody according to this standard of righteousness.
If we will go on a little further in Romans, we will see that God does not
reckon on anyone justifying himself. In the fifth of Romans we read:
"Consequently, then, as it was through one offense for all mankind for
condemnation..." Thank God, there are no exceptions! It would nullify the
work of Christ, if a single soul should be able to work its way into
salvation or justification or anything of that kind, either through law or
apart from law.
Conscience, is God's law for the nations. As Paul
says, "Whenever they of the nations that have no law, by nature may be
doing that which the law demands, these, having no law, are a law to
themselves, who are displaying the actions of the law written on their
hearts, their conscience testifying together..." Just as the law of Moses
condemns those to whom it was given because they had not the power to
fulfill it, so the nations were given conscience without the necessary
ability to heed its monitions at all times. In the judgment it will take
the place of the law for those who are not enlightened by divine
But the believer should not walk according to this dim
light, nor should he fear the judgment to which it leads, for he has the
blazing brightness of God's greatest grace both as luminary and as a vital
power to enable him to live far above the monitions of conscience or the
thunders of the law.