The Special of the Day… From the Orange Moon Cafe
"Old Testament and New"
Part 2 - Grace, Law, Grace (The Three Eras)
One Biblical way of viewing God's working in human history after the sin of Adam involves three Eras we might refer to as "grace… law… grace."
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come" (Romans 5:12-14).
Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:20-21).
From Adam to Moses -the First Era - God did not impute sin because no objective standard for righteousness had been revealed. "Where no law is, there is no transgression" (Romans 4:13). Sin still paid its inevitable wages - "death reigned" - and human beings were accountable because God's light shined on our conscience through creation (Romans 1:20). However, God's primary dealings with humanity involved the grace of freely given favor, received by freely exercised faith. "Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him as righteousness" (Romans 4:3).
Through Abraham, the Lord raised up a nation to whom He gave a law of commandments and rituals - the Second Era. Grace still characterized God's working in those who trusted Him with their hearts, but His dealings with the nation Israel involved "if-then" contingencies of command and obedience. "For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, that the man which doeth those things shall live by them" (Romans 10:5). No one (other than the Lord Jesus Christ) ever kept the law's mandates to the degree required - perfection (James 2:10). Thus, "the law made nothing perfect" (Hebrews 7:19). It condemned rather than converted, leading to judgment and wrath.
The Third Era - the reign of "grace through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" - fulfills the purpose for which the law of Moses was given, namely, as "our schoolmaster to lead us unto Christ" (Galatians 3:24). The law prepared Israel - and ultimately, the world - for the realization that the problem of human involves the heart, that is, the innermost spiritual being of humanity. "Out of it are the issues of life" declared Solomon, and apart from God's grace in Christ, those "issues" reveal that something dreadfully wrong exists within us (Proverbs 4:23). God gave the law to expose sin rather than redeem sinners from it. The law was the diagnostician, as it were, that led us to seek the Surgeon. "I had not known sin but by the law… For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin the flesh" (Romans 7:7; 8:3). Thus, the Second Era of commands and rituals vividly revealed humanity's need for the grace that began God's dealings with us, and is now exponentially increased in the Third Era of grace and truth that "came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).
No human being ever became righteous by keeping the law of Moses. No human being can be saved by keeping the law of Moses. Nevertheless, we rejoice that a "holy and just and good law" was given by God to prepare our hearts for the grace that alone provides salvation and newness of life (Romans 7:12). The Three Eras all served - and continue to serve - our Lord's loving purpose of convicting sinners by revealing their need, and converting sinners by revealing God's supply of a freely given Savior of grace, our blessed Lord Jesus.
"The law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did, whereby we draw nigh unto God."
"But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully, knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient."
(I Timothy 1:8-9)
Next: The Lord Jesus Christ and the law
Weekly Memory Verse
The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
(I Corinthians 2:14).