Preaching the Law Before Grace
As a Christian it is important you have a strong foundation in which to build upon. Why? You are of great value to the Lord and His desire is to raise you up to be the man or woman of God He wants you to be. You are also of great value to the church you attend and It is our desire to come along side you in your new found journey in Christ.
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house upon the rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall for it had been founded upon the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house, and it fell, and great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:24-27)
Christ is our foundation and any foundation laid apart from Christ is faulty or is a house built upon sand and will not stand. The rock is Christ. Very simply, we can build our foundation on Christ or upon the sand of sin and self-righteousness. All who belong to Christ long and look forward to the day they will hear words of the Savior, “Well done Faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Master.” (Matthew 25:23) The contrast is a house built upon sand with no foundation. A foundation apart from Christ, “Did we not do all of these in your name?’ …. depart from me for I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:22-24)
Gospel is foundation
The gospel is the key component of our foundation. If we have a faulty understanding of the gospel then our presentation will also be faulty as will our foundation. It might be best explained this way. When you purchase a home it’s important to have a solid foundation. If you don’t over time cracks in the foundation will cause problems throughout the home such as: uneven or sloping floors, doors or windows won’t open properly, walls can separate from the house or you may develop cracks in the floor. An erroneous understanding of the gospel can also leave cracks in our foundation so It would behoove us to spend time gaining a greater knowledge and understanding of the Gospel but let this also be an examination of our own foundations.
Something as wonderful as the gospel message is worth taking the time to gain a fuller understanding of why the gospel is called the good news. To begin with what does the word “gospel” mean? The word “gospel” comes from the Greek word evangelion meaning a good message. To preach or share the good news comes from the Greek word evaggelizo. In classical Greek an evangelos was one who brought a message of victory, political, or personal news, etc. In other word’s it brought joy to its hearers.
The person who led you to Christ was heralding the good news and you responded by receiving it. You put your faith in Christ and all He accomplished at the cross on your behalf and submitted to His Lordship. He became your Lord and Savior, but before there was good news there was bad news. It is important that we understand our condition and why it was bad news. What was it God saw in you that was keeping you from Him?
Read Isaiah 6:1-7
Read 1 Peter 1:14-16
Read Revelation 15:4
What did you learn about God?______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What did you learn about Isaiah and yourself?
Holy means to be pure and undefiled. 1 John 1:5 says, “and this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5) His light is perpetual and never quenched. He is pure, undefiled and complete in His wholeness; He is holy. Darkness or consequence of sin has no place in Him.
Let’s use the example of oil and water to provide a picture of God’s holiness. Like God and sin oil and water cannot abide with each other. When mixed together they separate. The oil will rise to the top due to its lack of density. Water molecules will be attracted to each other than to the molecules of oil. Like water molecules sinners will be attracted to sinners but not to God or the things of God.
Because God is holy He cannot be in the presence of sin and our sin cannot be in the presence of Him, but unlike Isaiah we have not received a vision of God’s holiness. We must be awakened to our sinful condition by God’s Holy Spirit.
The Law and its Application
Like Isaiah if you were to stand before the throne of God in your sinful condition you would be judged as a sinner who had not met Gods righteous standard; you would be judged by His Law.
Read Exodus 20:1-17
Read Romans 7:7
Read Romans 3:19-20
Read Romans 2:12-13
What is the Law? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What is the purpose of the Law? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
How are sinners judged? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
This gives even greater understanding to Romans 3:19-20 does it not? Now we know whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced (stopped) and the whole world will be accountable to God. His very holiness will bring conviction and render a sinner speechless, his/her mouth will be stopped; guilt will be evident without a word being said.
Without Christ all will be judged by the law. Although, the full Jewish law falls under three categories:
- The Civil Law: Deals with disputes between individuals.
- The Ceremonial Law: Expired with the priestly work of Christ.
- The Moral Law: No expiration because it is based on God’s character.
(CARM Christian Apologetic and Research Ministry)
To be clear we are focusing on the Moral Law or the Ten Commandments. It was given to Moses by God at Mount Sinai. God employed a sacrificial system whereby their sins would be forgiven and they would be made right with God but this system was not meant to be permanent. In the fullness of time God sent His Son and the sacrificial system was no longer needed. You might be asking yourself, why didn’t He just send Christ into the world for the forgiveness of sins in the first place. It was because the Jews would not have been prepared to receive Him as their Messiah; it would have been premature. The Old Testament pointed to Christ their Messiah. This also explains why Christ did not come to other cultures in the world at that time. They would have thought He was one of the many gods they worshiped.
So how does the Law awaken us to our sin? This is very important for many times the law is left out of our presentation of the gospel. In John 6:44 Jesus said, no one can come to the Father unless they are drawn by Him. (John 6:44) As you have just learned the law is used by the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin, (John 1:16-17) and lastly through Christ grace is given. (John 16:8) Each person of the Godhead is involved in the gospel presentation. To bypass any member of the Trinity is to present a deficient gospel message. For now, lets look at the role of the Holy Spirit.
The Role of the Holy Spirit
The work of the Holy Spirit began on the day of Pentecost. Jesus had foretold of the Spirit’s coming to His disciples. The Holy Spirit would continue the work of Christ. Like our Lord he does not condemn the world but convicts or convinces the lost of their need for a Savior.
Read John 16: 7-11
Jesus told the disciples the Holy Spirit would do three things when he comes. What are they?
Of the three there is one sin that damns people to hell which one is it and why?______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
This may take some thought on your part but why is the sin of unbelief so damaging?______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Sin of unbelief
The sin of unbelief is the root of all sin. That is why trying to live a self righteous life is pointless. For example, if you try to pull up a dandelion but do not get all the root the dandelion head will come back again. Like the dandelion if unbelief is not up-rooted the head of sin will come back and abound by spreading its seed. Nothing is gained and everything is lost. Rejection of Jesus as Lord and Savior is what damns a person to hell. People who reject the Savior receive what they want. To be separated from Christ in life and in death.
The Holy Spirit convicts or convinces the world of sin, and righteousness. Jesus convicted the Pharisees and the teachers of the law of their self righteous legalism. The Holy Spirit now continues that work of the sin of self righteous promotion as opposed to the imputed righteousness of Christ given to every believer. He exposes self righteousness by pointing a sinner to the law. Paul equated his self righteousness as dung or manure. He considered it a loss. Meaning: to be thrown away or discarded. (Philippians 3:8)
Holy Spirit convicts
Lastly, the Holy Spirit convicts or convinces the world of judgment. Through Christ’ death and resurrection He defeated death. Satan no longer has dominion over us. Satan has been expelled and we have been emancipated. By His resurrection all who have been redeemed by Him have been given the power to live a holy life and serve our Lord not Satan. Is it any wonder the enemy seeks to discourage believers from sharing their faith? He knows if anyone receives Christ it is game over! The fear you experience when wanting to share your faith comes from Satan. As you grow in your understanding of the gospel your confidence will grow. As your love grows for the lost your fear will be banished and your love for the lost will cast out all fear.
Jesus provided a wonderful example of how He used the law with the rich young ruler to show him is heart condition.
Read Luke 18:18-30
Why did Jesus just not offer the rich young ruler grace?______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The rich young ruler came to Jesus seeking what he must do to have eternal life. How did Jesus use the law to expose his sin?______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Jesus through His questioning of the rich young ruler exposed his sins. What were they?______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What did Jesus mean when He said, “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Christ lovingly measured him against the commandments. The ruler was weighed in the balance and found lacking. His true motive was exposed. He was seeking not righteousness but self righteousness. He was deceived into believing he was a Jew of high character and by his obedience to the law he was deserving of eternal life. Instead Jesus showed him he had not kept all of the commandments. His treasure was his wealth. He was not poor in spirit but rich in pride.
When leading someone to Christ this is common. Most believe their goodness (self-righteousness) outweighs their bad deeds and will be found acceptable to God in the end. In witnessing this is where the battle lies. The pride of life birthed in the garden is alive and well.
God has a plan for you
As an example, if you were to tell a person there is a God shaped hole that God wants to fill, God has a plan for your life or God wants to fix your alcohol or drug problem you would not be wrong, but there has been no mention of sin. The Holy Spirit has not been given a chance to do His convicting work. In other words, grace is offered before law and a false convert is birthed. To just say a prayer without the understanding of sin or conviction of sin is a deception leaving the sinner still in the same place, dead in his/her trespasses and sins without any evident change of heart by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “you must be born again.” (John 3:7) Our Lord is pointing to the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit at conversion. In other word’s it is not a process but an event. As a result of this indwelling work of the Holy Spirit you are no longer the same person you were. (2 Corinthians 5:17) You are no longer comfortable sinning. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. (1 John 3:9)
Looking in the mirror
The gospel is not about leading someone to Christ for what He will do for them it’s about leading someone to Christ for what He has done for them at the cross. Self-righteousness is an irrational perception perpetuated by the enemy of our soul. It may be likened to a man who looks at himself in a mirror and approves of what he sees and is satisfied. In reality, he is covered in the blackness of sin. A living corpse dead in his trespasses and sins in desperate need of a new heart. When you present the gospel it’s as if the is Holy Spirit hovering over the chaos of sin and darkness. (Genesis 1:2) waiting to breathe life into a new believer. To create something out of nothing; a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17) A creation of imputed righteousness in Christ. The same Spirit that breathed life into the earth breathes life into every new believer. Let there be life and God saw that it was good.
The Law is Our Schoolmaster to Lead Us to Christ (Galatians 3:24-25)
Therefore, the law is our tutor to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.
A tutor to a Roman child was usually a trusted slave. He was not charged with teaching but the slave was in charge of providing the moral essentials that would lead to manhood. It was his duty to take the child in safety to and from school daily delivering him to the teacher. When we share the gospel we become a function of the law; we deliver him. We cannot take him into the presence of God but put him in a position that he might enter. (The Letter to the Galatians, William Barclay)
In the story the Wizard of Oz Dorothy is told to follow the yellow brick road that will lead her to the Wizard. In our understanding of the gospel we are to travel the road of law and self-righteousness when leading someone to Christ; the road that leads to life or as stated by William Barclay, we lead them to the gate of Gods presence.
So how is this done? How do you preach the law before grace? You can start with a question, do you mind if I ask you a spiritual question? Do you think you have kept the Ten Commandments? Very simply, as you review the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:17 ask: Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen anything? Have you ever lusted after someone of the opposite sex even in your heart? Then Matthew 5:28 condemns you. There may even be someone that would say, ‘Yes, but I’ve done a pretty good job keeping them. James 2:10 says, for whoever keeps the whole law yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. In other words, if you have broken one law in God’s eyes you have broken them all. Ask yourself if you were to be judged solely by the Ten Commandments would you be innocent or guilty? Would you go to heaven or hell? Your supposed goodness and your good deeds will not save you. Understand, this is where the battle for your soul will intensify.
You may protest and try to convince yourself you are not a bad person. “Surely God will weigh my good deeds against my bad deeds and allow me into His heaven. I’m not a bad person.” Let’s answer that question with an illustration.
Let’s say you are driving through a school zone and you are traveling at a speed of 40 miles per hour when you know the legal speed limit is 20 miles per hour. A policeman pulls you over and gives you a speeding ticket and a court appearance is required of you. You obey the request and appear before a judge. The judge asks you how you want to plead. You say to the judge, “Your honor, as you know I have a very good driving record and surely you will take that into consideration and rule in my favor.” Is that judge going to let you off or as a judge who is to rule by the law going to find you guilty? If you were to plea to a lesser charge there is still a penalty of admitted guilt that must be met. So why would a God who is holy, righteous, and the Judge of judges turn a blind eye to your sin when He made a way for you through His Son Jesus Christ. Again, would you be innocent or guilty? Would you go to heaven or hell?
Pointed to the law
Like Jesus you have pointed to the law that they might see their sin and the impossibility of keeping it. The Holy Spirit has tilled the soil of their heart in preparation for the planting of imperishable seed. Typically, in this scenario, if a person is still protesting innocence offer to pray for them and then excuse yourself. Know that you have planted seed that another might reap. Know that you have done your job you have presented the full gospel. if a person finally admits he/she will spend an eternity in hell move forward. All that has been heard is bad news now it is time for the good news of grace that brings salvation to all people. (Titus 2:11) In our next lesson we will herald the good news.
Notes: Resources used,
- Main source book of Romans, various scripture in the Old and New Testament. (NKJV, NIV, NASB) Extensive use of the Key Word Study Bible and Word Search 11 and its resources.
- John MacArthur: Book of Romans, John, and Luke
- William H Barclay: Letter to the Galatians
- Various online resources: CARM, Bible Hub, Bible.org, etc.
- Ray Comfort: The Way of the Master
Lastly, for a fuller understanding of the gospel: I would point you to personal study of the book of Romans. It will better prepare you in sharing your faith with the lost.