The Law And The Gospel
by Rev. Timothy L. Atterberry, Ph.D.
Presented by Saint Luke Evangelical School Of Biblical Studies

In the barren world before grace there were some men who could hear the heart of God. A few moved it. A couple took a hold of it. Most shot arrows through it. God loved man, and in order to find mankindís heart after the fall of the human race, God gave man a written law. Rules and regulations to bring his mind into check. To make him think to do right, by knowing from the law what was right or wrong. In a fallen world, each man does what is right in his own mind, but it will not bring him to God. If man kept the rules, then perhaps he would see God through them and turn from his ways and bring his heart to God. Then man could have fellowship with Him. The written law was good. It carried in it the message from God. It told of His nature. The written law symbolized God and helped the mind of man find Him. Unfortunately man found it difficult to follow the law, and even harder to bring his heart to God.

Do you think by being marked by the covenant rite of circumcision that Abraham found favor with God? I donít. I believe Abraham embraced God for what He did for him. It was a heart decision and not a thought decision. Law could make us think in the direction of God, but God interacting with us could lead our heart to God. Its what is in the heart that determines who we are. Before Abraham was ever physically marked by covenant rite, he had already embraced the heart of God. The law was easier to live that way. It was his desire, his passion that made him the man of God he was. To most men, God was just a lawgiver, but to Abraham he was more. He was a friend.

God, The Lawgiver

How fortunate we are to have a lawgiver that is not just about law, but also love. Many times when we think of law, we think of authorities that remain distant so it becomes easier to enforce the laws they give. There are some people who lead this way: do what I say, and you will be in right standing with me. This is the way God presented the law to his children. However, God desired a relationship. Most authorities become ďuntouchableĒ. Our God is not this way. Though it is true that He is the potter and we are the clay, which puts us in a position of his pleasure, meaning he can choose to do whatever he wills. He can make us into a bowl to be used at the table, or a vase to be used as decoration. We can only be what he designs us to be. Yet he loves us so much that he finds pleasure in us if we are willing to be used in the way He wants to use us. He is not a Lawgiver that is far from his people. It was his bloodshed, not ours. It was His sandal worn feet, not ours. It was his mercy and His grace that brought His law of love to our lives. He not only brought us a law that was hard to live, he fulfilled it by a sacrifice that we could never give. The creator became His own creation to know us. He did more than what he expects of us. God not only stretch forth his hand of grace, but cradled in it, the human form, breathed himself in it, and became one of us to show us his way. The law was then fulfilled in love.

God, The Love-Giver

How else can it be? God is love. It is His nature. This is what we lost in Eden. Godís love is pure. Manís heart is defiled. God had to win manís heart back. The human race was in its infancy when God began to lead us back to Him. The first steps we were to take had to be trained. Humanityís training lesson was the written law. It gave us the first corrective action plan from God. The Jews could be his people and He would be their God, if they would obey Him. Notice he asked them to be humble and seek after Him. His real desire was that they would turn their hearts, not just their minds to Him. He always insisted that He be the focal point of their daily lives. This was accomplished through keeping the commandments. If they did this, then for sure their hearts would follow. Some did. Some began to embrace what He was doing in them as the law straightened out their lives. So, that was the solution. Give them enough rules and they canít go wrong. Right? Wrong. God wanted everyoneís heart, not just the Jews. He looked on his whole creation and knew what He had to do. They were becoming so absorbed in how they well they were keeping the law that they were forgetting why they were keeping the law. They no longer were trusting in God, but in their own abilities to keep the law. You see, the law was good, but it wasnít enough. God had to write the law on our hearts.

Godís Good News

The law was good in that without its clear guidelines for right and wrong, moral behavior would be mostly guesswork. The written law of God was an excellent piece of work. The problem was the mind of man. It was being fed from a bad heart. The mind perverted the law into another tool of Satan. It was like eating from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil again. The serpent once again used it to seduce man. Man began to take pride in being the one who followed the letter of the law, but still never have a relationship with the Law Giver. The commandments were good, but there was no communion.

As the schoolmaster could no longer keep the mind of the child, God determined to find fellowship with man. He no longer would allow His law to only lead our minds. Now it would first find our hearts. Since Christ came and died, He began to write his law in our hearts. This is the law of faith, grace, and love. This law is experienced only through a heart relationship with God. He convicts our hearts, exposes our minds, and breathes his own compassion into us. We become new creatures with new hearts that through the Holy Spirit can break our thinking and free us to put on the mind of Christ. In this way, God can have fellowship with us. The Good News is that Jesus came to fulfill the law by giving His life as a ransom for our hearts so that He could once again fellowship with all of His children. Now our hearts can bring our minds to God.

copyright 2000 Rev. Timothy L. Atterberry, Ph.D.
Used by permission.