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The Law of God (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
December 28, 2023 3:00 am

The Law of God (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 28, 2023 3:00 am

What role do the Ten Commandments play in a contemporary Christian’s life? Are they obsolete? Are they the means to salvation? Have they been replaced by the grace of the Gospel? Join Alistair Begg on Truth For Life as he looks to the Bible for the answers.



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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at tfl.org thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!





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What role, if any, do the Ten Commandments play in the life of a Christian today?

Are they obsolete? Are they a means of salvation? Have they been replaced by the grace of the gospel? We'll look to the Bible for answers today on Truth for Life.

Alistair Begg is teaching a message he's titled The Law of God. For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come, instead of the true form of these realities, it can never by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshippers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.

For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me. In burned offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book. When he said above, you have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings—these are offered according to the law—then he added, Behold, I have come to do your will.

He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us, for after saying, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord, I will put my laws on their hearts and write them on their minds, then, he adds, I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Amen. Father, bless your Word to us now, we pray. Grant us understanding that we might live, for Jesus' sake.

Amen. I want as some short notice, although it's been in my mind in the week, to address a subject—namely, the place of the law of God in the life of the Christian. I don't want to tackle it exegetically. I don't want to tackle it expositionally, I might say, in terms of either of the passages that we have read from Romans 8 and now from Hebrews 10, although both of those passages are pivotal in the principles that I hope we can uncover for ourselves.

I want to deal with it then topically. When we think of the law of God encapsulated in the Ten Commandments, we're thinking of something that is even more than that. We're thinking not simply in terms of legislation but in terms of revelation. But inasmuch as the Ten Commandments give to us that apt summary, it is an expression in specific detail of God's will and purpose for the life of man—and when I use man, I mean for the life of humanity—that instead of the Ten Commandments being viewed as some restrictive mechanism that would spoil and ruin life, when we consider them with any care at all, and certainly if we come to them with a believing heart, we realize why it is that Paul, in Romans 12, after he has encouraged his believers to submit themselves entirely to God, and then he says, And you're going to do this in relation to his will, which is his good, pleasing, and perfect will.

One of the challenges that is represented when we come to this subject—just, as it were, out of the blue—is that there is just manifold confusion in the minds of people, even good people, who would profess to know their Bibles. I think of all the things I regret, I regret that I never went through the catechism with my children. We have introduced that at a latter stage. I'm certainly aware of it, but I never did it.

I've lost the opportunity to do it, I suppose. But both the catechism and the creeds, in their summary form, are really, really helpful in relationship to a subject like this. For example, there is a logical progression in the shorter catechism when it begins with the question that we all know, What is the chief end of man? asking the question, What is the reason for my existence? And of course, we know the answer to that, that we exist to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Most of us have stopped at that point in our knowledge of the catechism and would be in difficulty immediately with question two, which is, What rule has God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him? In other words, how are we supposed to know what it means to glorify and enjoy God? The answer to that is, the Word of God, contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us as to how we may glorify and enjoy him.

Question three. What, then, do the Scriptures principally teach? The answer is, they principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man—or duty, as some say. But the duty that God requires of man immediately raises a flag in the minds of some people. And you have to proceed through the catechism all the way to question thirty-nine before it follows up on that and asks, What is the duty which God requires of man? And the answer to question thirty-nine is, The duty which God requires of man is obedience to his revealed will. Obedience to his revealed will.

Question forty. What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience? Answer, The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience was the moral law.

Inevitable question. Where is the moral law summarily comprehended? Answer, The moral law is summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments.

Now, having said that—and this is very clear, catechetically, and I'm saying to you that it is also—as clear as that may be and as ignored as that has often been—there is a sort of confusion in the minds of many. And it stems in certain circles from the kind of study Bibles that we've been using. Those of you who grew up relying too heavily on the Schofield Reference Bible or the Ryrie Study Bible have actually been led to believe that since we are now living in the age of the church and we're awaiting the age of the kingdom, that the law of God has actually no place in our lives.

That's the standard package there. If you've been saved from that, then be thankful that you started later than those study Bibles. John Murray, in referring to that answer, to question forty-one, where is the moral law comprehended, Murray writes, The statement of such a position—i.e., that this is where we can know how to fulfill our duty to God—the statement of such a position is exceedingly distasteful to many phases of modern thought, both within and without the evangelical family. It is agreed that the conception of an externally revealed and imposed code of duty, norm of right feeling, thought and conduct, is entirely out of accord with the liberty and spontaneity of the Christian life. We are told that conformity to the will of God must come from within, and therefore any stipulation or prescription from without in the form of well-defined precepts is wholly alien to the spirit of the gospel. It is inconsistent, they say, with the spirit or principle of love. Don't speak of law, nor of moral precepts, nor of a code of morals, speak of the law of love.

Now, to the extent that that doesn't outfit where you are, then you can just tuck it away for future use. But it is not uncommon to meet this. I'll give you an illustration out of the blue. Some years ago, a fellow wrote a book—I can't remember what it was called—but his thesis was—and it's good that I can't remember or his name, because there's no advantage to me in recommending his book or appearing to be unkind to him. But anyway, he wrote a book. I know what it was called now, but I'm not gonna say.

And I've remembered his name as well. But let's just leave it alone. But basically, his thesis was this. The reason that men in the evangelical church are in the predicament they're in is because they're not having enough of an adventure. They're in the kind of context where there are far too many shoulds and shouldn'ts, and if they could be set free from all the shoulds and the shouldn'ts and just get out and have the adventure of their lives, then, you know, everything would fit in perfectly. And I remember when I read that book, I said, I'm not sure that that's the problem that I've been facing.

In fact, most of the adventures that I may conceive of might lead me into some of the really bad sections of Pilgrim's Progress, rather than right down the narrow road that leads to the wicket gate. So there are two essential perils that confront us in relationship to these things. On the one hand is the danger of dealing with the law in such a way that we embrace a form of legalism—essentially, an approach to things which conceives of the idea that salvation is dependent upon observing various laws and fulfilling various regulations. Now, Paul has dealt with that in Galatians very clearly.

I won't go through all these different references, but if you're making a note at all, you just note Galatians 2 verses 15 and 16. Paul is hitting that head on, and he's taking on these people who are suggesting that that is the case. And he says, If anyone was going to come to you with a gospel like this, then actually he should let him be accursed.

That's how strongly he felt about it. At the other end of the spectrum, of course, is antinomianism—nomos is law, anti or anti is against—against the law. So you have a certain group of people who are saying, The key to salvation is in the rules and regulations and in our fastidious obedience. And on the other hand, you have the person who is there saying that the law of God no longer is any place in the lives of believers. So, you know, there's no reason for us to give consideration to it. So, in summary form, the legalist sees the law as the solution, and the antinomian sees the law as the problem.

John Stott, always helpful. Legalists fear the law, and they're in bondage to it, and antinomians hate the law and repudiate it. Okay, with that said, the question still remains, what does Paul actually mean when he says, You are not under law but under grace? Because in any conversation regarding the place of the law and the life of the Christian, it's only about a minute and a half before somebody will say, Well, wait a minute.

After all, it says in the Bible that the law's got nothing at all to do with this. Paul says it in Romans chapter 6. Well, if you listen carefully to Romans chapter 8, when we began the service, you'll know that in verse 4 he says that he is concerned that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in the believer. So he's not contradicting himself. Therefore, we need to understand what it is he says when he says that.

Now, the answer to that I can give you in just perhaps three straightforward statements. What Paul means by that, or what we are to understand by that, is first of all that we are not as believers under the law as a means or as a way of justification. We're not under the law as a way of justification.

Again, Galatians pulsates with this, Galatians 3.11 clearly says Paul, No one is justified before God by the law. Now, one of the ways in testing whether in our lives we have confidence in the finished work of Christ—and we've addressed this in our hymns this evening, I think, very carefully and very helpfully—one of the ways in which we can explain to ourselves that we have a solid experiential grasp of this essential truth is to determine how we react to the accusations of the evil one. So when we are tempted to despair, when we are reminded of our guilt, as we sang in the hymn, how do we respond? Do we respond by pointing out our obedience and our good deeds and our righteous acts? So the evil one comes and says, I can't believe you had that thought-bed. I thought you were the pastor of the church. What was the answer to that? Well, I've had a lot of good thoughts. I had more good thoughts, and I've had bad thoughts.

No. I hope that's not your answer, because the only safe and true answer is to point a way to the Lord Jesus Christ—again, in Galatians, as having become a curse for us. He has become a curse for us. Therefore, the law has no authority to accuse the child of God nor to instill in us the fear of final condemnation. We have been saved in Christ from sin's guilt, not by obedience to the law.

We have been saved by the precious blood of Christ. It was this, actually, which turned the lights on for Martin Luther. He failed to find peace with God in meticulous, religious observance of the law.

If you've read anything of him, you know that to be the truth. And then finally it dawned him that Christ had borne the curse, and that as a result of that, even though he was a lawbreaker, Christ had kept the law on his behalf. And the righteousness which was his to enjoy was an alien righteousness. Therefore, he was able to look out from himself, and he was able to write and say, So much of the Christian life is actually outside of us. Behold him there, the risen Lamb, our perfect, spotless righteousness.

That is it. So we are not under law as a means of justification, nor are we under law as it relates to Mosaic legislation. This is one of the ways in which people often stumble as they read the Old Testament.

Well, what are we supposed to do with the ceremonial and the judicial law? Well, again, that was what Paul was addressing in Galatians. Because the Judaizers were saying, You know, if you're going to be a proper Christian, you're going to have to not only do this, but you've got to do all these other things as well. And that's why Paul, he gets to chapter 5, and he says, Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty in which Christ has made you free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

What's he pointing to? He's pointing to the fact that in Jesus all those ceremonial and judicial elements have been fulfilled by his sacrifice and by his life. So when the people were coming and trying to trip one another up in relationship to all these rules and regulations, Paul is saying, We're not under law in that way. Nor are we under law as a dynamic of sanctification. As a dynamic of sanctification. And someone says, Well, I get it now what you're saying. We can't be put in the right position with God by means of the law, but it's by means of the law that we keep ourselves in a good position with God.

No! Because the law is not the dynamic of sanctification either. Again, Paul, if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. In other words, we say no to sin and yes to righteousness, not as a result of struggling to keep the law, but by the power of the indwelling Spirit.

Now, I could spend a long time working through this, but I think it's suffice simply to say that. The believer gives up looking to the law in terms of any of the ceremonial legislation and mosaic material. That's why we're not doing the sacrifices.

That's why we're not going back to these things. That's why the Council of Jerusalem in Acts chapter 15 was so crucial, because they were hammering out these very issues. Well, what part, then, does all this old stuff fit in our newfound profession of faith in Jesus?

And as they worked that out together, they were laying down, if you like, a foundational premise from which everything else must follow. So the believer gives up looking to the law for justification or for sanctification. When the Reformers picked up this material, they spoke in terms of the threefold function of the law.

And they spoke of the law, first of all, in terms of its civil or political function—obviously, within the context of the Mosaic law. But even beyond that, the Reformers were quick to point out that, as we said in the outset, the Ten Commandments—the moral law of God—actually are a specific summary statement of how the world is able to work perfectly according to the plan of the Creator. In other words, if you just think about it, every so often I say to somebody in a department store when they've caught some poor stove or trying to steal a handbag or something, I'll often say, can you imagine what it would be like if just for one week everybody in the United States of America obeyed the Ten Commandments? And usually the answer is, well, it would shut down the entire nation. Well, yes, it would, actually.

I mean, it would just bring everything to a crashing halt. So the Reformers were very clear. When people come around and say, you know, the pathway to freedom is to overturn these dreadful and ridiculous commands of God, then the Reformers said, No, that is actually the pathway to chaos, because the law of the Lord is perfect. There's a reason why the Ten Commandments are in the rotunda where the Supreme Court sits. There's a reason why British jurisprudence in American law is as it is.

It was because at the outset of things, the founders of the nation agreed with the Reformers about the civil and political place of the law in establishing the bounds of a civilization and of a country. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life as we consider the continuing significance of God's law. We'll hear more from Alistair tomorrow. One of the outcomes of our mission to teach the Bible at Truth for Life is to help you become more firmly established in your faith. And as you anticipate a new year, I want to encourage you to get a copy of the Truth for Life Daily Devotional. This is a great way for you to stay connected to God's Word and to gain insight from Alistair as you begin each day. Both Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the Truth for Life Daily Devotional present a passage of scripture for all 365 days of the year.

Each passage is accompanied by a commentary from Alistair in which he explains the passage and shows how it applies to our lives today. If you have yet to purchase your copy of either Volume 1 or Volume 2 of the Truth for Life Daily Devotional, you'll find both of them in the online store at truthforlife.org slash store. They're just eight dollars each. Whether you purchase a single book or a box of several to give to others, shipping here in the U.S. is free. And just to let you know, we've stocked up on our supply of both volumes so you can purchase as many as you'd like. Once again, look for the devotionals at truthforlife.org slash store. Now our offices are closed today, but when you go online to make a purchase, we would appreciate if you would take a minute and give an important year-end donation when you visit truthforlife.org slash donate. By the way, another outcome of our mission at Truth for Life is that unbelievers will become committed followers of Jesus.

So along with the daily teaching you here on this program, we look forward to selecting books to recommend to you to help you with that. And today's offer is unique in that it's not so much a book for you to read. Instead, it's a three-pack of the Gospel of John booklets you can give away to three people in the new year, people you'd like to introduce to Jesus. So join us in our mission to reach the lost. Request a three-pack of the Gospel of John when you donate at truthforlife.org slash donate. While you're on our website, we also want to encourage you to take a few minutes and see how your giving is benefiting others from all across the world. We have posted pictures and stories from people from your fellow listeners, people who learn from God's Word every day listening to this program, reading the daily devotionals, taking advantage of the free downloads, purchasing the at-cost books. I think you'll be greatly encouraged as you see how your partnership in the Gospel is taking this message far and wide. Check it all out at truthforlife.org slash stories.

I'm Bob Lapine. God's law is sometimes accused of being a restrictive means of control that takes all the fun out of life. But as we'll see tomorrow, it's actually a loving means of protection. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-28 05:07:13 / 2023-12-28 05:16:05 / 9

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