LAW & GRACE
Updated: Feb 27, 2021
The story of salvation is not written in years or decades or generations or centuries or even millennia, but it is woven into the very fabric of eternity. It’s line can be heard in creation when it is said that “He was slain from the foundation of the world.” For you see, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ....And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”
The names and faces of those whom God called to be a part of this story are many and varied. They transcend age and race and status and time. Some walked through palaces, others walked through poverty; some elite, others plain; some educated, others “unlearned and ignorant men.” Some were a list of usual suspects and others we would have never imagined their inclusion. There were kings and priests and prophets, but there were also prostitutes and thieves and beggars. Some came willingly to be used in this story, others came kicking and fighting. Nevertheless, God gathered a wide array of characters to write His story, and still to this day is enlisting those who will join in His continuing saga.
The recording of this story spans hundreds of years involving two covenants, or testaments. We tend to separate these testaments into two separate stories, old and new, as if they do not relate. After all, one is really hard to read and understand, while the other is full of grand events and fast paced action. One is filled with old crazy guys with long, impossible to pronounce names, and the other with Jesus.
But if you look really closely, and pay particular attention, you will see that each depends on the other, they do not stand alone. There is an intricate and magnificent interweaving of both stories into the whole. They draw their story line one from the other. The “old” looks forward, anticipating the fulfillment of its foreshadowing events, while the “new” looks back to establish the foundation for what was yet to take place. That’s the reason Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
His very life gave substance to the places and events and people that filled the narrative of the first covenant. Whether it was the Tabernacle with it’s doorway, or the alter of sacrifice, or the laver, or the lamp stand, or the table of communion, or the incense alter, or the curtain, or the ark of the covenant with its mercy seat; they all pointed forward 1500 years to the person and work of Jesus. Even the feast days and sacrifices showed the prism of His ministry and character. They were not accidental, nor were they coincidental, but they laid the foundation and narrative for the grace covenant.
Jesus constantly quoted scripture from the law and the prophets to confirm and substantiate His ministry on earth. In Luke 4:18, Jesus enters the synagogue and proclaims:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,”...He was quoting from the prophet Isaiah who prophesied over 700 years before Him. The law and the prophets look forward to Christ’s ministry, and Christ looks back to the prophets for reference. One depends on the other.
Between these two narratives there was a period of time, of almost 400 years, where the world was being prepared for the fulfilling of all that had gone on before. During this time, major events and shifts took place in the world’s culture to introduce the Creator, the Savior, the King. These events prepared the world for the spreading of the Gospel and the establishment of the kingdom.
The fantastic stories of serpents in gardens, floods and arks, burning bushes and parting waters, laws written in stone with the finger of God, tabernacles and yet another ark, miraculous victories and miserable defeats. There were multitudes fed with a small amount of food, people healed, some raised from the dead. And then there was the marvelous, yet polarizing teaching of the Christ. These were not random events taking place on a nondescript page, but were signs of God’s hand moving through time writing the greatest story ever told. It all speaks to a coming day when salvation’s plan will be fully revealed.
Salvation’s story is written in blood. In the Old Testament by war and sacrifices at an alter, in the New Testament with Jesus Himself on the alter, the cross. Both display a side of God’s story that must be told. Each shows both God’s expectations, and His remedy. Each deals with sin and redemption. Each deals with the issue of sacrifice as a requirement for redemption. And, most certainly, each deals with the necessity of righteousness and obedience as God’s requirement for His people.
However, in the quest for righteousness, one testament deals with the perfunctory attendance to the rules and regulations of the law, while the other depends entirely on the grace of God for salvation and righteousness.
Let me give you an illustration to show you what I mean.
In the Old Testament (see how easily I separated the two), there are three arks mentioned. Each one of these arks represent salvation in some form. One is the ark of Noah, another the ark in which Moses was sent down the river to save his life, and the third is the Ark of the Covenant (with no deference given to Indiana Jones). All three were made of wood, and, at God’s command, were covered inside and out. The first two with pitch, or tar, to make them waterproof, and the third with pure gold. The words, pitch and cover are both later translated into atonement. Hundreds of years passed between some of these events, yet each one speaks to our salvation that was accomplished with Jesus on the cross. In other words, each pointed forward to the atoning work of Christ covering our sin in salvation. A simple point maybe, but there are hundreds of such illustrations throughout the Bible that weave the two stories into one account of God’s grand design. Though everything may look different on the surface, redemption runs through every page of God’s marvelous story of salvation.
In more than 50 years of preaching (I started preaching in 1965), I have spent a lot of time preaching messages from the Old Testament because I believe there is so much insight to be gained in fully understanding God’s plan for us. I would encourage you to not too quickly cast aside the Old Testament scripture, but to revisit its pages for yourself and see what God will show you. I believe what you will find will be a much deeper grasp of God’s plan for your life.