Psalm 119:1                        What Is the Law?                                        9/24/2017      ßà

 

 

 

 

 

#1.      The Law in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt 22:35-40, Deut 6:5, Lev 19:18, Gal 4:21)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2.      The Law in the Old Testament (Ezra 7:6,10, Psalm 119:174, Gal 3:10-11)

 

 

 

 

 

#3.      NT Concepts of the Law (Gal 5:14, Jam 2:8, 1:25, 2:12, Rom 3:27-28, Eph 2:8, Gal 3:22)

 

 

 

Please open your Bibles to the prophecy of the Psalms, Psalm 119:1 (2X). Let me first give you an:

Psalm 119 is by far the longest chapter in the Bible. I am not planning to do a series of sermons on Psalm 119, and I also do not plan to cover this entire Psalm today. This is installment # 11 in the series The Simplicity of the Gospel (2X). Today I want us to focus on a much neglected subject matter in the Christian world. The title of the sermon today is What Is the Law? (2X). Therefore the text for the sermon today is just the first verse, Psalm 119:1. As you can infer from the title of this series, this is not an in depth treatise of the subject matter. This is an introduction for beginners. Let us read V.1-8,

Ps 119:1 ¶  ALEPH. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.

Ps 119:2  Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.

Ps 119:3-5  They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.              Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.           O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!

Ps 119:6  Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.

Ps 119:7-8  I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.  I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.

As you can see from these first 8 verses, Psalm 119 is an ingeniously structured Psalm. It contains 22 sets of 8 verses, according to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The first set of 8 verses each start with the letter A, which is in Hebrew called “Aleph”. The second set of 8 verses each start with the letter B, which is in Hebrew called “Beth”. The third set of 8 verses each start with the letter G, which is in Hebrew called “Gimel”. And so on. In addition each set of 8 verses contains 8 synonyms for “the Law”. In these first 8 verses we recognize these 8 occurrences as the law, testimonies, ways, precepts, statutes, commandments, judgments, and again statutes, which in other sets of 8 verses is replaced by “Thy Word”. The entire Psalm 119 is a song of praise for “The Law”. Why the Law? What is so special about the Law? Does this reflect the tendency of the Jews toward legalism? And right away we have to say: NO! The Bible was not written to give us historical tidbits about the Jews of olden days. And the OT was not written just to give us a history of the Jews. The Bible was written for all people and applies to all times. Therefore we must study the Law of God not only from the OT Scriptures, but also from the NT Scriptures. We must keep in mind the words from 2Tim 3:16-17, which read as follows.

2Ti 3:16  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

2Ti 3:17  That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

All Scripture is profitable, not only the NT but also the OT. And when we want to be “throughly furnished unto all good works” we must study not only the NT but also the OT. When we first turn to the OT Scriptures we find that most of the commandments that God gave can be put in two categories: One is the Moral Law and the other is the Ceremonial Law. God did not spell it out precisely this way in the Bible. It is always called “the Law”. But when we use the NT as a commentary on the OT we learn from Col 2:16-17 that after the cross certain laws must be abolished, whereas we learn from Matt 5:17-18 that the Law still remains until the end of time. But since we must harmonize all things we find in the Bible we come to the conclusion that certain laws, like “Thou shalt not kill”, belong to the Moral Law, whereas other laws, like animal sacrifices, belong to the Ceremonial Law. This then is a brief overview of “the Law” as the church has understood it for 20 centuries. Let us now hear what the NT says:

#1.      The Law in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt 22:35-40, Deut 6:5, Lev 19:18, Gal 4:21)

Please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel according to Matthew, Matt 22:35 (2X). In this passage the Pharisees were gathered together trying to trap the Lord Jesus in anything He would say. First they tested Him with the question, “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar? Then the Sadducees asked Him a ridiculous question. After Jesus put the Sadducees to silence the Pharisees came again to test Him.

Mt 22:35  Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,

Mt 22:36  Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Mt 22:37-38  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.                  This is the first and great commandment.

Mt 22:39  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Mt 22:40  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

In verse 36 the Pharisee asked the Lord Jesus about the Law. What Law did he have in mind? Well verse 36 plainly says that the Law that he has in mind is the law of commandments. Perhaps he was thinking of the 10 commandments as recorded in Ex 20 and in Deut 5. And if you ask people who are attending churches today, “What is the Law?” most of them will answer you, “It is a name for the 10 commandments”. They have not studied the Bible, for the answer that the Lord Jesus gave was not from the 10 commandments at all. The answer that Jesus gave in verse 37 came out of Deut 6:5. And the answer that Jesus gave in verse 39 came out of Lev 19:18. And so, the Lord Jesus indicated that the Law refers to the entire Pentateuch, which refers to the first five Scrolls in the Bible that were given by Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. This we also understand from other references in the NT, like in Gal 4:21, where Genesis is called “the Law”. The Lord Jesus says in verse 40, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”, thereby indicating that the entire Pentateuch and all OT prophecies written after that are derived from these two commandments. And so, the first conclusion we arrive at is that the Law represents the entire Pentateuch, the first five scrolls of the Bible, attributed to the writings of God through the hand of Moses.

Please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel according to John, John 12:32 (2X). In this passage the Lord Jesus is speaking about His nearby crucifixion. This was the 10th day of the first month. On the 14th day of the first month would the feast of Passover be celebrated, and that was the day that the Lord Jesus would be crucified. The religious rulers did not intend to crucify Jesus on the Passover, but God decided that this would be the day that the Lord Jesus would be sacrificed as our Passover Lamb, and this is what actually came to pass. The Lord Jesus said in John 12:32,

Joh 12:32  And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

Joh 12:33  This he said, signifying what death he should die.

Joh 12:34  The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?

When Jesus spoke of being lifted up, the people understood very well that He meant to be lifted up on the cross, and that He would die on that cross. When Jesus spoke of being the Son of Man, they understood very well that He referred to Himself as the Messiah spoken of in the prophecy of Daniel. Let me read to you from Dan 7:13-14, where we have a symbolical view of the Messianic Kingdom.

Da 7:13  I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

Da 7:14  And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

In this vision the man who is the Messiah receives from God the Father His Kingdom, which is an everlasting Kingdom that shall not pass away. You can understand that the people were confused. They knew that Messiah would rule in His Kingdom, and it would be an everlasting Kingdom. If the Son of Man in the prophecy of Daniel was the Messiah, then who is this Son of Man who is standing before them, and who claimed that He would die on a Roman cross? They did not figure on Christ going to be resurrected from the grave after His crucifixion. But can you see the importance of John 12:34? The people understood that the Law included the prophecy of Daniel. And this is not the only prophecy that they referred to. When they said, “We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever”, they were referring also to Ezek 37:24-25. Let me read those verses to you.

Eze 37:24  And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.

Eze 37:25  And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.

Unlike many of the Premillennial persuasion today, those Jews of Jesus’ days understood very well that it is not David who would be resurrected, but the name David was assigned to Messiah, since the Messiah would be a descendant of David. But can you see, they understood correctly that Messiah and His Kingdom would be forever. Moreover, the people took this information out of 2Sam 7:12-13. This was a promise to David that out of his seed will come the Person who will establish the Messianic Kingdom forever. Initially the Jews thought that this would be Solomon. But Solomon’s kingdom was destroyed by the Babylonians, and his kingly line ceased to be rulers in the nation of Israel. And thus they understood that this Person referred to is Messiah, who is referred to as the Seed of David.

2Sa 7:12  And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.

2Sa 7:13  He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.

The people understood that Messiah, the Seed of David, will build a house for Jehovah God, which will be a far more glorious temple than the temple of Solomon, for Solomon’s temple was destroyed. And they understood that this glorious temple shall be in Messiah’s Kingdom forever. From the NT we understand that this temple is identified with the body of believers, or the Body of Christ, or the Bride of Christ. Moreover the people took this information out of the Psalms where Messiah is also portrayed as one who shall live forever, and whose Kingdom shall abide forever. For example, we read in Psalm 89,

Ps 89:35  Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David.

Ps 89:36  His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me.

Ps 89:37  It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.

This passage is essentially saying the same thing as the previous passage 2Sam 7:12-13. It says that Messiah, the Seed of David, shall endure forever, and His throne shall be established forever, and it shall be a faithful witness in heaven forever. The earth, the sun and the moon shall pass away, but Messiah’s Kingdom and His throne shall be forever. And so the people justifiably asked in John 12:34, “We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?” From this the second conclusion we draw is that the people called the entire OT the Law. Is this also the terminology of the Lord Jesus?

Please turn in your Bibles to chapter 10 of this Gospel according to John, John 10:34 (2X). The Jews took up stones to stone the Lord Jesus, for they accused Him of blasphemy. The response that Jesus gave included the Law and included a reference to the Psalms. He said in John 10:34-36,                                                                                                                       

Joh 10:34-35  Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?        If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;

Joh 10:36  Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?

Jesus said, “Is it not written in your law?” Where was this written? It was written in Psalm 82:1,

Ps 82:1 ¶   God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.

And it is also written in the same psalm in verse 6, where we read:

Ps 82:6 ¶  I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.

And so we see that the Lord Jesus also uses the Psalms and calls it “your Law”. This is the same

as “The Law”, because the Law was given by God to mankind. The Law is not given to God, and since the Lord Jesus Christ is God He does not fall under the precise letter of the Law, but under the Spirit of the Law. For example, the Scriptures state that the penalty for sin is to suffer for an eternity in the Lake of Fire. But Christ was allowed to suffer the equivalent of an eternity in the Lake of Fire, for this was necessary for His role as our Redeemer. The Scriptures state that every man shall bear his own burden. But Christ was allowed to bear the sins of many, for this was necessary for His role as our Redeemer. Please turn now to chapter 15 of this Gospel according to John, John 15:23 (2X). The Lord Jesus and His disciples are walking from the upper room to the Garden of Gethsemane where He  will be betrayed by Judas Iscariot and will be bound by the servants of the Scribes and Pharisees. In these last words of Jesus He warns His eleven disciples of the dangers that will surround them when they will be going into all the world witnessing for Jesus. And these are also words to us: Words of comfort, and words of warning. Then the Lord Jesus said in John 15:23-25,

Joh 15:23-25  He that hateth me hateth my Father also.         If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.                 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.

It is written in their law, They hated me without a cause”. Where was it written? The Lord Jesus quoted from Psalm 35:19. Let me just read that to you. Psalm 35:19 says,

Ps 35:19  Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause.

The Lord Jesus also quoted from Psalm 69:4. Let me read that to you. Psalm 69:4 reads,

Ps 69:4  They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away.

The enemies of Christ are more than the hairs of His head. In fact, the enemies of Christ are more than those who are going to be saved. The Lord Jesus said in Matt 7 that broad is the way that leads to Hell, and many there are who will be on the broad way, and narrow is the way that leads to eternal life, and few will be on the narrow way. All those who remain unsaved are His enemies. They all hate Christ without a cause. And so, we see that the Lord Jesus also labeled the Psalms as “the Law”. Moreover, we can read in 1Cor 14:21 that God also labeled the prophecy of Isaiah as “the Law”. And so we see, that the entire OT is called “The Law” in the eyes of God. Is this logical, and is this consistent? First of all, it is logical that the Bible is called the Law of God, because every word in the Scriptures is given by God. If we have been saved God will give us the faith to believe all that He has written, and He will give us an earnest ongoing desire to do those things that we read about here in the Bible and that are pleasing in His sight. We will want to obey the Law, insofar as it is pleasing in God’s sight. We shall not want to do those things that belong to the Ceremonial Law, for all those things have passed away. Secondly, is it consistent with what we have seen earlier, that the Law refers to the Pentateuch, the five scrolls of Moses? The answer to this question lies in our willingness to apply what we have learned so far. In this series of “The Simplicity of the Gospel” we have seen several times now that we must let the words of Scripture tell us what they mean based on the context. Each word that has a multifaceted set of meanings must be considered within its context, and the context should decide what the correct interpretation is of that word. This we saw applies to the words: world, and holy city, and Israel, and baptism and to the concept of anthropomorphism. To this we must add the word: Law, for the NT demands that we consider each occurrence within its context.

#2.      The Law in the Old Testament (Ezra 7:6,10, Psalm 119:174, Gal 3:10-11)

Please turn in your Bibles to the prophecy of Ezra, Ezra 7:6 (2X). When we read the OT we should not fall into the error of considering only the OT Scriptures by themselves. That is the classical way of understanding the Bible: by taking a Bible dictionary and reading what this or that word is supposed to mean. Take for example “the Law”. We could read many pages on what the Law is supposed to have meant to the people in the OT. But now we must apply what we have learned from the NT and we must let the context decide what the meaning is of the Law as we find it in the OT. We read in Ezra 7:6,

Ezr 7:6  This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him.

What is the meaning of the Law in this verse? We read that Ezra was an expert in the Law of Moses. In other words, Ezra was a scholar in the first five scrolls of the Bible, for that is what the context dictates. Now please move on to verse 10, Ezra 7:10, where we read:

Ezr 7:10  For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

What is the meaning of the Law in this verse? Does it still mean the Law of Moses? NO! Ezra was already an expert in the Law of Moses. He did not have to seek it again. He owns it. But what does Ezra seek in this verse? He sought the Law of the Lord. He sought to understand a much wider scope than just the first five scrolls of the Bible. He sought to include all the laws he could find in the prophets and in the Psalms, and in Proverbs, and so on. He sought the Law of the Lord with all his heart, so that he would be a faithful teacher of the Bible in all statutes and judgments. Ezra realized that he needed more than just the first five scrolls of the Bible.

Please turn in your Bibles to the prophecy of the Psalms, Psalm 119:174 (2X). Hold one finger here in Psalm 119 and please turn also to the Epistle to the Galatians, Gal 3:10 (2X). Now that we live in the NT time, we must always harmonize the OT with what we have learned from the NT. As you know, Psalm 119 is a song of praise for the Law of God, and when we have come to verse 174, we have probably seen the 174th jubilation over the Law of God. But here in this 174th verse another subject matter is introduced: salvation. So far throughout this psalm the salvation of the saint who sings this song is a given. But now it is possible to misinterpret this verse. We read in Psalm 119:174,

Ps 119:174  I have longed for thy salvation, O LORD; and thy law is my delight.

It seems as if the author of this psalm seeks salvation by obeying the Law. What is the meaning of the Law in this verse? Could it mean the Law of Moses, the first five scrolls of the Bible, which are loaded with commandments and statutes and ordinances? Absolutely not! Hold one finger here in Psalm 119 and please turn to Gal 3:10-11, and there we read,

Ga 3:10-11  For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.     But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

What is God saying in this passage? Paraphrased God says that no one can be saved by obeying the Law, or by obeying any law. Anyone who tries to become saved by obeying all of God’s laws is under a curse, for it is impossible to obey all of God’s commandments perfectly all the time. Angels can do it, but humans cannot. No human being can be justified in the sight of God by obeying God’s laws or commandments. We can be justified by grace through faith, but not by obeying the Law. And so, we must apply this understanding in the words of Psalm 119:174. Please turn again to Psalm 119:174. What Law is in view here in this verse? It is the Law which represents the entire OT. In fact, since these immortal verses also apply to our time, we must say that for our time the Law here represents the whole Bible. Yes, it is the whole Bible that is our delight. We do not delight any more in just the OT. It is only when the OT is completed by all the input from the NT that we delight in the completed Word of God. In this we truly delight. And now we can work our way back to the front of this Psalm 119.

Ps 119:1 ¶  ALEPH. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.

Who are the people who are called “Blessed”? The beatitudes of Matt 5 declare that they are those who have been truly saved. They are the people who have become born from above. They are the only ones who are called “Blessed” in this world. And so, when we, in this 21st century, read this psalm and apply it to our daily life, we must read this as a song glorifying the Bible, the whole Bible, for that has become our Law of God. And all the other seven synonyms, like judgments, or testimonies, or ways, are merely synonyms for the Bible, the whole Word of God. And in this do we delight.

And so, how did we arrive at such far reaching conclusions? We have arrived at these conclusions by letting the context determine the meaning of the word “Law”, and by doing this we have given new life to many verses in the OT. The words of 2Cor 3:6 come to our mind, which reads as follows,

2Cor 3:6  Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

By applying into the OT our insight gained from the NT God has made us able ministers of the New Covenant. God has not made us ministers of the stale history of the Jews, but ministers of the New Testament, which is the same word as the New Covenant, which means understanding the words of the Bible in terms of the New Covenant. By giving us new insight into the Law as it was used in the OT God has prepared the way for us to see the concepts of “the Law” in the NT.

#3.      NT Concepts of the Law (Gal 5:14, Jam 2:8, 1:25, 2:12, Rom 3:27-28, Eph 2:8, Gal 3:22)

Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to James, Jam 2:8 (2X). In the NT God does not any more treat us as children who need precise instruction in what to do and what not to do. In the NT God treats us as adults. Instead of precise laws God now gave us concepts to work with. For example we find in the NT: The law of love. The law of liberty. The law of faith. The Law of righteousness. The Law of God.  The law of her husband. And so on.

God speaks about the law of love in two verses in the NT. It is the love a saint has for his neighbor.

Ga 5:14  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Jas 2:8  If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

Especially this law of love is given to us to remember the poor, and to love those who are less endowed with worldly goods. It does not mean that God loves them less, but it means that God has placed them in our paths so that we can glorify God by giving some of our wealth and our love to the materially poor. God is not a respecter of persons and God has also saved from the poor of this world.

God speaks about the law of liberty in two verses in the Bible, both verses in the Epistle of James.

Jas 1:25  But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

The subject matter here is a mirror. One who is not going to be saved looks in the mirror of the Word of God, and forgets that he is a sinner on the way to Hell. But another who will be saved looks in the same mirror of the Word of God, which now becomes to him the perfect law of liberty. Why liberty? It is because Christ has purchased us and has set us free. He has set us free from our bondage to the law of sin and death, and He has set us free from the consequences of our sins, which is Hell. The second verse on the law of liberty is in Jam 2:12, (2X) where we read:

Jas 2:12  So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.

We have already seen that the law of liberty refers to the Bible for those who are going to be saved. And thus, those who shall be judged by the law of liberty have already their sins washed away by the Lord Jesus Christ. They shall speak and do as other saints do.

God speaks about the law of faith in Rom 3:27. Please turn to the Epistle to the Romans, Rom 3:27 (2X). We read here how we are justified by Christ’s righteousness that is imputed to us at the time we were born from above, and at the same time God gave us the faith to believe this. God says in Rom 3:

Ro 3:27  Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

Ro 3:28  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

It is not our faith that saved us but Christ saved us, and He did all the work almost 2000 years ago on the cross. It is His gift that saved us. God says in Eph 2:8, “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God”. And thus the law of faith refers to that gift of faith by which God has let us know that we have been saved. When we think of the law of faith we are reminded of the words of Gal 3:22, where we read,

Ga 3:22  But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

Time restrains us from elaborating on all the other law concepts that God has sprinkled throughout the NT. But in every case we must consider the context and find the interpretation that God wants us to have. And so, the Law of God does not have the deep and dark judgmental meaning that it used to have, but instead we find that the Law is holy, and just, and good. Praise the Lord for the gift of this new interpretation of the Law.

AMEN.                 Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.