The question that engaged our attention in our former article at its conclusion ought to be kept rather clearly in mind.
We were interested in the contrast drawn by the apostle Paul in .
What was this sharp and important contrast?
It is the contrast of what “Moses writes” and what is “righteousness which is by faith confesses.”
What “Moses writes” is the principle of the law. It is the standard of works; works that a man must do in order to be saved, to have life. According to this dealing of God with man, only the man who perfectly keeps all the commandments has life. He who fails in the least falls hopelessly and irrevocably under the curse. For thus “Moses writes”: cursed is every one that does not remain in all that is written in the book of the law to do it.; . Where this law is, this standard of works is applied and maintained there is not hope, there is no way out!
That is one side of the contrast as drawn by Paul.
The other side is the principle of grace. It is the principle of being saved by grace, out of faith, and, even this latter, is not of the believer. It is the gift of God. Here no man shall boast before God. It is the law written in the heart. It is spiritual circumcision, a cutting away of the old and hard heart. It is a turning unto God to love Him alone and to love Him wholly. And that all of sovereignly free grace!
The contrast is, therefore, that of works of man, or the grace of God. It is either-or. If it is out of works it is no more of grace; otherwise work is no more work. And if it be out of grace it is not more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace.
It is the contrast that maintains the truth of the Gospel!
Paul’s thesis here is: Salvation is solely of the Lord. It never was anything but this. For Christ is the end of the law!
This is the simple, yet, fundamental truth of the Gospel with which we are here dealing. Let us keep this in mind!
It is our conviction, that, in, the Apostle is giving the sense of the Holy Spirit in . He does not merely give his own free rendering. He gives us the truth of the Gospel, as this permeated the message of Moses in the land of Moab.
In this passage we also hear, in clear and unmistakable language: Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. The yoke that is easy and the burden that is light are in this passage proclaimed by Moses. Christ is the warp and woof of this passage. Let there be no mistake about that.
Oh, it is true, there are passages, in this message of Moses to Israel, when taken by themselves, which seem to have much more of the thunder of the wrath of God in them, than of saving and redeeming mercy. We have but to call to mind such expressions as “the curse set before thee”, chapter 30:1, and “all the curses that are written in this book” to see that Moses indeed also touches upon the reality of the awful curse of the law and of the terror of Sinai’s majesty. Indeed, there are elements here which caused even Moses to say: I exceedingly fear and tremble..
He, who is really in doubt about the awful majesty of God’s law in this message, of the “curse”, which Moses places before Israel, had better readand ff. It is these curses, that Moses refers to in Deut. 29, when he speaks of “all the curses that are written in this book.”
Pray, what are these curses?
We quote as follows: No one when he reads the “words of this curse” shall bless himself in his heart, saying, “I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst. The Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and His jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven.” Chapter 29:19, 20.
Again we read in similar vein, in idem, verses 23-28 as follows: “And that whole land is brimstone and salt burning, that is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger, and in His wrath! Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? What meaneth the heat of this great anger? Then men shall say. Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers which He made with them when He brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: For they went and served other Gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom He had not given unto them: And the anger of the Lord was kindled Against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book”.
Certainly, herein we do not hear the joyful sound of the glad gospel tidings, someone may venture to say!
To this we heartily agree.
But let us not forget, that Moses does not only speak here of the “curse”, the curses of the Law written in this book.
Moses here also places the “blessing” before Israel.
Fact is, that this blessing, this positively entering into the covenant of God, is the very aim of Moses’ address.
Listen to the following from Moses mouth: “Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives and the stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of wood unto the drawer of water; that thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into His oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day: that He may establish thee today for a people unto himself, and that He may be unto thee a God, as He hath said unto thee, and as He hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.”
“Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath; but with him that standeth here with us this day before the Lord our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day. …”
What must we say of this latter quotation?
To begin with, we can say, that this entire exhortation of Moses to Israel, telling them to enter into the covenant, the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, presupposes the gospel tidings. Israel must not enter into their own efforts to work the works of the law, but Israel must enter into the work of God’s great redemption of Israel and enter into the rest. As heirs of the promise they have the word of Promise, plus the immutable oath of God. Into this they must enter in, in a new obedience of faith and trust.
Surely Israel is told by Moses here to do something. They must enter into God’s covenant and have fellowship with God, walking in the light as He is in the light.
The question, the real issue is not whether Israel must do something to escape the curse of God’s law.
That Israel must do something is outside of debate.
But what must Israel do according to the Word of God in Deut. 29 and 30?
Must Israel here in being obedient to God’s law seek to establish her own righteousness, or must she look for the Promised redemption in the wonder of Grace, which God will, in the fullness of times, work in the dead and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
We answer: most emphatically Israel must do the latter.
Only thus understood can the truth, that Abraham is by virtue of the Promise the heir of the world, come to its own.
For this Paul states the matter in:
“For the promise that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect. Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.”
Here are the two alternatives: law or the Promise!
It is: wrath where the Law works!
Moreover, it is: grace where faith and the Promise is.
In the light of these observations, it is our conviction, that when Moses calls to mind the “curses that are written in this book” it is not that he would at all suggest the possibility of Israel’s fulfilling the law by their own native endeavors.
If this were the case, all we read in the writings of Paul, concerning the righteousness of God without works of law that we have done, would be contradicted here by Moses. The law, mere law without grace, always works wrath. It is always condemnation. The law brings sinful man into hell. It cannot deliver the sinner. The. law is weak because of sin. It only and always condemns apart from the Promise, apart from Christ on the Accursed Tree!
What is Moses’ purpose, in calling attention to the law?
It is twofold. First of all, Israel of all ages, both in the New Testament and the Old Testament Dispensations, must know, that God always judges every man according to his works. He never lets go of His law. He will surely maintain it. This law of God, as the expression of God’s will for our lives, has been clearly revealed to us. The “secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”. Of course, it is understood, that to do all the words of this law, is not the same as merit salvation by works of law that we have done. But of this we need here say no more. To this we called attention above.
Secondly, Moses calls attention to this law and the doing of it because it is in the keeping of the commandments i.e. in the curse of the law that guilty sinners find redemption. Israel, the whole church of God of all ages, passes through the curses of the law to come to the promise; they must pass through hell to get to heaven. Zion is surely redeemed. She is redeemed through justice. God hath shut up all under sin, under the curse of the law, that there He might show forth the wondrous greatness of His sovereign love and mercy!
Grace in the midst of wrath Moses preaches in Moab’s plains.
God is not far from His people under the law.
Grace and mercy dwell at His right hand.