Gospel of the Kingdom
THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL
THE Bible distinguishes--not seven
dispensations, each having a character exclusively its own, but two
great eras of God's dealings with mankind; the first of which was
preparatory to the second, and the second of which is the completion of
the first. Their scriptural designations are:
First: The Old Covenant; or the Law
and the Prophets; or simply, the Law.
Second: The New Covenant; or the
Kingdom of God; or simply, the Gospel.
This division is not man-made, artificial,
conjectural; for it comes to us plainly marked in the structure of the
Bible itself, which is composed of two grand divisions, the Old
Testament, and the New Testament. (And it should be noted
that the word "Testament" is one of the renderings of a Greek
word that is sometimes, as in Hebrews 8:6-10, and should be always,
Furthermore those two grand divisions of
the Bible are clearly marked and separated, the one from the other, by
the long stretch of time that intervened between them, there
being a period of four hundred years between the last Book of the Old
Testament and the first events (Luke I) recorded in the New. GOD HAS
SPOKEN: TO THE FATHERS---TO US.
This scriptural division of God's dealings
with men into two great eras is referred to in a number of passages. I
have already cited Luke 16:16, "The law and the prophets were
until John: since that time the Kingdom of God is preached,"
and John 1:17, "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and
truth came by Jesus Christ." Another passage that clearly
distinguishes them and also sheds light upon the whole subject is
Hebrews 1:1, 2, "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners
spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in
these last days spoken unto us by His Son."
By this passage we learn that God has
spoken in two different eras: (1) "in time past," and (2)
"in these last days." Here we have something certain, and
therefore we can safely build upon it. How valuable is the information
that these days of the Gospel of Christ are "the last
days"! But the dispensationalists must explain away the meaning
of these words because, for one reason, their scheme provides for at
least one dispensation after the termination of the Gospel era. There
are, however, other passages that confirm and settle the meaning of this
one. Thus Peter, speaking of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the
day of Pentecost, said: "This is that which was spoken by the
prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days saith
God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh" (Acts 2:16, 17);
which plainly locates the day of Pentecost in the era which God's Bible
calls "the last days."
Likewise the same apostle writes concerning
Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God, without blemish and without spot,
saying: "Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the
world, but was manifest in these last times for you." (I
Pet. 1:19, 20). And the apostle John says with characteristic brevity
and emphasis: "Little children, it is the last time" (I
Then we have the words of Paul who,
referring to the things that befell the Israelites in the wilderness,
said: "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples; and
they are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world (lit,
the ends of the ages) are come" (I Cor. 10:11). And again it
is written concerning the first coming of Christ that "now once in the
end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice
of Himself" (Heb. 9:26). It is worthy of special note that this
last passage contains the adverb of time, "now," emphasizing
the fact that the period of our Lord's coming and of His sacrifice
belongs to "the end of the ages." We recall that the
"Scofield Bible" places it in the era of the law, and does so
for the purpose of separating His words (and particularly His Sermon on
the Mount) from us, God's children, and allocating them to an imaginary
Jewish Kingdom of a supposed future dispensation. How satisfying to the
heart, and how fatal to this modernistic and pernicious error are the
words of Hebrews 1:1, 2, quoted above, which plainly declare that God
"hath in these last days spoken UNTO US by His Son"!THE LAW OF MOSES AN
UNSPEAKABLE BLESSING TO ISRAEL
And now as regards the character of God's dealings with those who
were under the Law and the character of the Law itself, it is difficult
indeed to account for and more difficult to speak calmly of, the terms
of disparagement and strong repugnance in which the leaders of the
dispensationalists express themselves when speaking of the Law of God.
Of our Lord it was prophesied that He should "magnify the law and
make it honorable," but the aim of many of His ministers in these
days seems to be to belittle the law and make it detestable. Take a few
specimens from the writings of prominent dispensationalists: "The
Law is a ministry of condemnation, death, and the divine curse." So
says the Scofield Bible (notes to Gal. 3:24). But does God's Bible speak
that way? We shall see. And another leading dispensationalist declares
that, "The law was the instrument of condemnation, and only
that." In fact, the leaders among the dispensationalists seem
to take a delight---not as did the Psalmists, "in the Law of the
Lord" (Ps. 1:2), but---in inveighing in terms of strongest
reprobation against it. In support of this view of the Law, reference is
commonly made to certain passages in Galatians, and also to the seventh
Chapter of Romans, which are misinterpreted in such a way as to cause
them to render a semblance of support to that view. But before we
examine those passages let us get the testimony of Scripture, which is
clear and unequivocal, as to what the character of the Law actually is.
We have already cited the testimony of Moses that the Law delivered at
Sinai was God's love-gift to the people (Deut. 33:3). It is further
stated in that inspired record of "the blessing wherewith Moses the
man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death," that
"they sat down at Thy feet; every one shall receive of Thy
words" (v. 3). And he goes on to say: "Moses commanded us a
law," and that that law is "the inheritance of
Jacob" (v. 4).
A number of passages earlier in the Books
of Moses reveal that the law was given as a means of life. Thus,
in Deuteronomy 4:1, Moses exhorts Israel to hearken to the statutes and
judgments which (he says) "I teach you for to do them, that ye
may live." (And to the same effect see Leviticus 18:5.) And
concerning God's law he says: "For this is your wisdom and
your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear
these statutes and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding
people. . . . For what nation is so great, that hath statutes
and judgments so righteous as all this law" (Deut.
4:6-8). Thus the Law of God was given the people of Israel to be their life;
and it constituted their wisdom, their understanding, and
their greatness in the sight of all other nations. And a little
farther on Moses says: "And the Lord commanded us to do all these
statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He
might preserve us alive. . . . And it shall be our righteousness,
if we observe to do all these commandments." (Deut. 6:24, 25). And
he tells them that it was because the Lord loved them that He had
redeemed them out of Egypt; and that "He is the faithful God, which
keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His
commandments" (Deut. 6:8, 9). Thus, they were to love Him, because
He first loved them; and they were to manifest their love by keeping
his commandments. And is it any different now? Is it not written,
"We love Him, because He first loved us" (John 4:19)?
And does not our Lord say to us, even as he said to them "If ye
love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15)?
Finally, before leaving Moses, we call
attention to Deuteronomy 30:11-20, where he tells the people that the
commandment which was to be their life, was not hidden from them
(for God had revealed it to them) nor was it far off. It was not in
heaven, neither was it beyond the sea; but it had been brought very nigh
to them that they might hear it and do it. "And His commandments
are not grievous" now (I John 5:3); nor were they grievous then.
For on that occasion Moses gave as the great commandment of the law, "to
love the Lord thy God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His
commandments and His statutes and His judgments" (cf. Matt. 22:37).
And he repeats in verse 20 the exhortation that they would "love
the Lord," and "obey His voice"; and for the reason
that "He is thy life, and the length of thy days."
According to Paul, the word which Moses had
said was "nigh" unto them, not afar off (in heaven or across
the sea) was the very same "word of faith which we preach" (Rom.
10:8-13); citing in proof thereof two O.T. passages: "Whosoever
believeth in Him shall not be ashamed" (Isa. 28:16); and
"Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be
saved" (Joel 2:32).
Likewise Peter testifies that the things
ministered by the prophets during the era of the Law are the same that
are now proclaimed by those who preach the Gospel (I Pet. 1:12). We are
not saying, of course, that it is not a far better thing to be under
Grace than under Law; for truly God has "provided some better
thing for us" (Heb. 11:40), but we are seeking the testimony of
God's Bible as to the character of His law, which the
"Scofield Bible" grievously maligns; and its testimony as to
just what it meant to the Israelites to be under the law of God instead
of being left to their own ways, as were the heathen all around them.
And we have seen that Moses, the mediator of that Old Covenant, declared
to them repeatedly that, in the possession of the law of God they were
unspeakably blessed, and chiefly in that it provided a way of life for
all who set their hearts to obey it. Looking a little further we note
that the Book of Psalms opens with a glowing reference to the
blessedness of the man whose "delight is in the law of the
Lord," and who meditates in it "day and night" (Ps. 1:2).
And there are other passages, not a few, which testify that the law of
God was a thing in which the heart of man could (and therefore should)
find delight, and find also profitable meditations continuously
(Job. 23:12; Ps. 119:70, 77, 92, 174).
Now as to the effects of the law, so
far from it being true that it was "the instrument of
condemnation and only that," or "a ministry of condemnation,
death, and the divine curse," the testimony of the Holy Spirit
is that "the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the
soul"; and that "the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes" (Ps. 19:7, 8). And the same Psalm
declares as to the value of the commandments and judgments of the
Lord, that they are "More to be desired than gold. Yea, than
much fine gold"---more intrinsically valuable than great
quantities of the richest treasures of earth---and that, so far from
being distasteful and obnoxious, they are "sweeter also than
honey and the droppings of honeycombs" (v. 10, marg.).
The writer of Psalm 119 adds his testimony
that there are wondrous things to be seen in the law (v. 18); that it
was better to him "than thousands of gold and silver" (v. 72);
that he loved it beyond his power to express (v. 97); that by its
precepts he got understanding, and learned thereby to hate every false
way (v. 104); and that "great peace have they which love thy
law; and nothing shall offend them" (v. 165).
Solomon too bears witness that "the
commandment is a lamp, and the law is light" (Prov. 6:23); and
that "the law of the wise is a fountain of life" (13:14).
Light and life were surely there for all who sought them; and many
sought and found. Solomon also records the words, "Keep My
commandments and live, and my law as the apple of thine eye"
Isaiah, in foretelling some of the glorious
things that Christ (whom God designates in that passage as "My
Servant") should accomplish, says that God had given Him "for
a light of the Gentiles"; and that "He will magnify the
law and make it honorable" (Is. 42:6, 21). Is not this a rebuke
to those who traduce the law and make it despicable? Likewise during the
Babylonian captivity God, in recounting the great things He had wrought
for Israel and His many acts of mercy on their behalf, emphasizes the
giving of the law as one of the chief of them, saying: "And I gave
them my statutes and showed them my judgments, which if a man do, he
shall even live in them" (Ezek. 20:11).
Also through Hosea, God, in recounting the
offences of Israel, said: "I have written to him the great
things of My law; but they were counted as a strange thing"
(Hos. 8:12). And through the very last of the prophets of Israel, and in
almost the last words of his message, God calls to them: "REMEMBER
YE THE LAW OF MOSES MY SERVANT, WHICH I COMMANDED UNTO HIM IN HOREB FOR
ALL ISRAEL, WITH THE STATUTES AND JUDGMENTS" (Mal. 4:4).
Is it possible in the face of these
testimonies to maintain that the law was imposed" upon Israel
because of their own improvident choice? that "At Sinai they
exchanged Grace for Law; they rashly accepted the law"? or that
"The Law is a ministry of condemnation, death, and the divine
curse," an instrument of "pitiless severity"? If not,
shall we allow these false and derogatory things concerning the holy,
life-giving and soul-enlightening law of our God to be any longer
preached and taught amongst us without earnest protest on our part?
This is a serious matter indeed; and
therefore I trust that my readers may be moved to join in a solemn
protest against the further publication and sale of a book that many
unwary children of God accept as a "Bible," and which contains
so grievous a misrepresentation "amounting to a vilification"
of the holy Law of God.WHAT THE NEW TESTAMENT
SAYS CONCERNING THE LAW
But it will be asked whether God's servants
under the New Covenant, the apostles of our Lord who have been taught by
Grace, do not give a different character to the Law, from that ascribed
to it by Old Testament writers. We have quoted the words of Christ that
He came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them;
and also Paul's word to the same effect, that the purpose of the Gospel
is to "establish the Law." Further our Lord declared that "the
weightier matters of the law," which the Pharisees had omitted,
are "judgment, mercy, and faith" (Matt. 23:23).
The apostle Paul also, whose words are
cited as authority for the teaching we are now examining, speaks clearly
and forcefully to the same effect. He says that "the righteousness
of God," which is now manifested apart from the law (i.e. by
the gospel) was "witnessed by the law and the prophets" (Rom.
3:21). Further he declares that "the commandment" was
"ordained TO LIFE"; that "the law is holy, and the
commandment is holy and just and good"; and that "the
law is spiritual" (Rom. 7:10, 12, 14); which testimonies carry
the more weight because they are found in that very passage which is
supposed to teach things derogatory to the law.
But does not Paul say that the law brought
death and a curse? that those who are under the law are under a curse?
and that no one can be justified by the law? The reply is that the law
is indeed a two-edged sword, bringing life to those who submissively
receive it and who set their heart to obey it; but bringing death and
condemnation and a curse to those who despise it, or who only profess
respect for it with the lips while in their hearts they continue
unchanged in their own ways. But precisely the same thing is true of the
Gospel. For the ministry of the gospel, like that of the law, while a
ministry of "life unto life" to all who with humility
receive and submissively "obey the gospel," is likewise
a "savour of death unto death" to all who refuse it, or
neglect it, or who profess with the mouth, but continue unchanged at
heart (2 Cor. 2:16). For the word of Christ is salvation and life to all
who receive it; but concerning him that receives not His words He
Himself has said: "The word that 1 have spoken"---the
very word that was given for his salvation---"the same shall
judge him at the last day" (John 12:48). Precisely so is it
with the commandment of God; for in that very passage Christ
declared that "His commandment is life everlasting" (v.
Indeed, the consequences threatened to
"them that obey not the gospel" are represented as being even
more severe than those threatened to them who refused obedience to the
law (2 Thess. 1:7-10). And in Hebrews 10:28, 29 it is put this way:
"If he that despised Moses' law died without mercy;---of how
much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who
hath trodden under foot the Son of God"--etc.
Returning to Paul, we note that after
saying that "the commandment was ordained unto life,"
he immediately adds that he "found it to be unto
death" (Rom. 7:10). Why so? Because Paul was a Pharisee. He
had been thoroughly indoctrinated into rabbinism, one of the
cardinal doctrines of which was this very teaching as to the earthly and
"Jewish" character of the Kingdom which has become the
cornerstone of modern dispensationalism. He had been schooled in
a barren orthodoxy. He was "called a Jew," and made his
"boast of the law" (Rom. 2:17, 18, 23); but he had yet
to learn that "He is not a Jew"---though "called a
Jew"--"who is one outwardly; . . . but he is a Jew
who is one inwardly" (vv. 28, 29).1 Of course to
such it will be found that the law was "unto death"; and
precisely so with the gospel. But all who were like Ezra, of whom it is
recorded that he "prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord,
and to do it" (Ezra 7:10) have found that it was indeed
"ordained unto life." Paul clearly states the principle here
involved when he says, "But we know that the law is good, if a
man use it lawfully" (I Tim. 1:8). And the same is true of the
gospel as well.
Then as regards the statement often heard
in these days, that those who were under the law were under a curse,
what Paul says is that "as many, as are of the works of
the law are under the curse" (Gal. 3:10) which is quite another
thing. For Paul is here remonstrating with those who were relying for
their salvation upon the rites and ceremonies (the
"works") of the law, upon circumcision, keeping of days and
the like. "A man," he says, "is not justified by the
works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ" (Gal.
2:16). So it was under the Law precisely as now under Grace. And it
should not be necessary to say that a man can no more be saved by
Christian rites and observances (baptism, the Lord's supper, keeping
holy days etc.) than by those of Judaism. So the apostle declared in
another place, saying, that "Israel, which followed after the law
of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
Wherefore?" (Was it because righteousness was unattainable by the
law? Not at all; but) "Because they sought it not by faith, but
as it were by the works of the law" (Rom. 11:7); and as we
have seen from the word of Christ Himself, faith is one of
"the weightier matters of the law"; and of course no
amount of "the works of the law" will serve instead.
Continuing in Galatians, Paul asks whether
they had received the Spirit "by the works of the law, or by
the hearing of faith" (3:2); and whether he himself, who had
ministered to them the Spirit and had wrought miracles among them, had
done it "by the works of the law, or by the hearing of
faith" (v. 5). And then he declares that--so far from what the
dispensationalists teach as to there having been a complete change in
the principles of God's dealings with men--God acts now upon
precisely the same principles as of old, "Even as Abraham
believed God, and it was counted to him for
righteousness." And adds as a corollary: "Know ye therefore,
that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham"
This verse clearly identifies those who are
to inherit the promises made "to Abraham and his seed" (v.
16), and it completely rules out the natural descendants of Abraham. The
last verse confirms this; for there we read, "And if ye be Christ's
then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (v.
29). And this, as most impressively shown by the "allegory" in
the next chapter, makes it evident that there remain no unfulfilled
promises of blessing for the natural Jews as such. To this I hope to
Further in chapter III of Galatians, Paul
takes up the question whether the law is against the promises of
God" (v. 21). According to dispensational teaching the answer
would be "yes." For, as we have seen, the so-called
"dispensation of promise," which embraced the lives of
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and their descendants for several
generations, terminated at Mt. Sinai where Israel "rashly accepted
the law"; and thereupon a new dispensation (the law, with
its ministry of condemnation, death and the curse, and with a character
and ruling principles totally different) was inaugurated. Thus it is
clearly the teaching of the Scofield Bible that the law is against the
promises of God. But Paul rejects with indignation the idea that
"the law" is in anywise contrary to "the promises of
God," saying: "God forbid" (v. 21); and he goes on to
show that the law had a great purpose to fulfill introductory to the
coming of the One who was to accomplish eternal righteousness and to be
the Fountain of eternal life to all the world. For he says:
"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster"; and what for?
"to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by
faith" (v. 24). And he adds: "But after that faith is
come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster" (v. 25). So far,
therefore, from speaking with disparagement of that divinely-given
"schoolmaster," or saying that his ministry was useless and
worse, he shows that it was most necessary and important. It did not
vacate the previously given promises. It did not introduce a new era
characterized by contradictory principles; but "It was added"
(to what God had previously done) "because of transgressions, till
the Seed should come to whom the promise was made" (v. 19). And
a further purpose of the law, in preparation for the gospel, was "that
every mouth might be stopped, and ALL THE WORLD BECOME GUILTY BEFORE
GOD" (Rom. 3:19).
Following further the teaching of
Galatians, we find that the law as given from Mt. Sinai on tables of
stone was suited to an immature stage of God's dealings with the
world (Gal. 4:1-4); and that the subsequent giving of the law into
the hearts of a blood-washed people by the Holy Spirit (vv. 5-7) was
the mark of the mature or adult stage of the same living
person (so to speak). And from this we learn that the gospel, so far
from being antagonistic to the law, sustains with respect thereto the
same relation that the adult period of a man's life bears to his
And in this connection, the pertinent
lesson for our present purpose is that "the works of the
law" against which Paul was warning the Galatians (the observing of
"days and months, and times, and years," (v. 10) and
circumcision (5:2, 6), belonged to the childhood stage of God's
dealings with His people. And it was for that reason that though they
served useful purposes for a certain period, they were to be laid aside
as outgrown things, now that "the fulness of the time was come (v.
4). As Paul said in another place: "When I was a child, I spake as
a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I
became a man, 1 put away childish things" (I Cor. 13:11)--not,
be it noted, because they were detestable or reprehensible, but simply
because they were outgrown, and would be a hindrance to the duties of manhood.
We see therefore, that the very passages
that are used now-a-days to breed feelings of aversion toward the law of
God, and to make it appear as something wholly antagonistic to the
gospel, teach the very contrary; namely, that the law was a stage of the
divine work preliminary to that of the gospel; or in other words, that
the law and the gospel are complementary stages of one and the same
great work of God.
For the truth in this regard is, as has
been taught all through the Christian centuries, that the law was a
necessary part of God's great plan of Redemption even as is the Gospel.
And as an excellent specimen of what enlightened servants of Christ, men
who were mighty in the Scriptures, had always taught concerning the
relation of the Law to the Gospel (before dispensationalism was
invented) I quote the following from Bernard's celebrated work, The
Progress of Doctrine.
"A principle that is contended for and
secured (by Christ's apostles in their teaching) is that the Gospel
is the heir of the Law; that it inherits what the Law had prepared.
"The Law, on its national and
ceremonial side, had created a vast and closely woven system of ideas.
These were wrought out and exhibited by it in forms according to the
flesh "an elect nation, a miraculous history, a special covenant, a
worldly sanctuary, a perpetual service, an anointed priesthood, a
ceremonial sanctity, a scheme of sacrifice and atonement, a purchased
possession, a holy city, a throne of David, a destiny of dominion. Were
these ideas to be lost? and was the language that expressed them to be
dropped when the Gospel came? No! It was the heir of the Law. The
Law had prepared these riches; and it now bequeathed them to a successor
able to unlock and diffuse them. The Gospel claimed them all, and
developed in them a value unknown before. It asserted itself as the
proper and predestined continuation of the covenant made of God with the
fathers, the real and only fulfillment of all that was typified and
prophesied; presenting the same ideas which had been before embodied in
the narrow but distinct limits of carnal forms in their spiritual,
universal, and eternal character.
"The body of types according to the
flesh died with Christ; and with Christ it arose again, a
body of antitypes according to the Spirit. Those who were after the
flesh could not recognize its identity; those who were after the Spirit
realized and proclaimed it. The change was as great, the identity was as
real, as in that mystery of the resurrection of the body which the same
preachers showed; in which the earthly frame must lay aside the flesh
and blood which cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, and must reappear;
dead and raised again; another and yet the same; 'sown in weakness
and raised in power, sown in dishonor and raised in glory, sown a
natural body and raised a spiritual body.'"
1. In passing let it be noted that, by the
light of this verse, it may be seen that all the promises of God which
read to Israel or to the Jews, are for the true "Israel"
(Rom. 9:6; Gal. 6:16), and the real Jews. See the passage herein
on "ISRAEL HATH NOT OBTAINED; BUT THE ELECTION HATH OBTAINED