Law and Grace
September 6th, 1992 @ 10:50 AM
LAW AND GRACE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-06-92 10:50 a.m.
And to all of you who are sharing this hour on radio and on television, you are a part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the senior pastor, W. A. Criswell, bringing the message from the third chapter of the Book of Romans. In our preaching through this incomparable revelation from God, we are in the heart of chapter 3, and the text is the essence of the gospel itself: how we can be delivered from the penalty of sin, and how we can go to heaven when we die. Romans chapter 3, beginning at verse 19: “We know that whatever the law says”—and the title of the message is Law and Grace :
We know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
By the deeds of the law . . . no flesh shall be justifies . . . for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Now the righteousness of God—God’s grace—apart from the law is revealed, witnessed by the Law and the Prophets;
Even the righteousness of God through faith in Christ Jesus, to all and on all who believe: for there is no difference:
All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God;
Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood through faith—we receive it through faith—to demonstrate His righteousness . . . because in His forbearance . . .
God has passed over the sins that we and they and the whole world have committed.
Law and Grace. Law, law is universal. There is no soul, no civilization, no life that is not under law; law of nature, law of God, law of government, law of life—law is universal! It was written on Ten Commandments of stone for the Jew [Exodus 20:1-17]. Chapter 2 of this book says that it is written in our hearts and in our conscience, we who are Gentiles [Romans 2:15]. And the condemnation of the law is no less universal; he that sins, he that transgresses, he that breaks the law shall die [Ezekiel 18:4]. And death is universal. Law has no power to remedy our lost condition. After the law is given, we are yet sinners, transgressors, and we die. It’s a remarkable thing as you read it, the impotence of the law to deliver from sin. The righteousness of the preaching of Noah, one hundred and twenty years, resulted in not a convert [Genesis 6:3, 18; 2 Peter 2:5]. Not one!
The mayor of Sodom was Lot, a righteous man. And after Lot had been pastor and emissary from heaven and mayor of the city [Genesis 19:1], there was not one Sodomite that changed his style of life [Genesis 19:15-25]. An amazing thing: when the death angel flew over Egypt, all one had to do was put the blood on the doorpost in the form of a cross, and the angel would pass over [Exodus 12:7, 13, 23]. But after the people of God, with their law, lived four hundred years in Egypt, there was not one home, not one, that looked to God in the blood among the Egyptians [Exodus 12:30].
I was reading this week about Moody. He was there in the Chicago fire. And Moody was speaking of how it devastated the rich and the poor alike, and as I listened and read the words, I thought, that is the condemnation of sin; it is universal like a fire that destroys the city. And however humanity has sought to rid itself of the curse, the achievement also ends in abject failure. We never succeed. We are still sinners.
As we’ve tried to find restoration back into the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:22-24], we are as lost as our forefathers. Mankind seeking to obviate the condemnation and curse of sin; our first parents tried to cover it with fig leaves [Genesis 3:1-7]. The righteous Noah, preaching [Hebrews 11:7; 1 Peter 3:20], had an open door into the ark [Genesis 6:16]. Not one entered in [Genesis 7:1, 23]. In the unusual aberration in the life of Abraham, he lay with his servant, and Ishmael was born [Genesis 16:1-4, 15]. And to this day, I think the world is cursed by the Muslim religion. However man has tried, his inability to rid himself of sin is universal and ever present. I don’t think there is anything more amazing in the Bible than these things. One: while Moses is on top of the mount to receive the law of God [Exodus 31:18], the people are naked down there in the valley, in open promiscuity, around a golden calf [Exodus 32:7-8, 19, 25].
Or take again in the Book of the Revelation; God reveals to us the coming millennium. And for one thousand years, according to the word of God, this world is ruled over by Jesus Christ Himself [Revelation 20:4-6]. And at the end of the one thousand years of perfection and holiness, Satan is loosed for a season, and the greatest rebellion the world has ever known occurs, and ends in the ultimate and final judgment [Revelation 20:7-15].
There is no converting power in the law, none whatsoever. You’re still a sinner after you are acquainted with the law, and still a rebellious enemy of God. All that the law does is to damn the sinner [Romans 3:20], confining in hell the demons [Matthew 25:41], and driving our first parents out of the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:23-24]. We are sinners condemned by the law, and that again is one of the strangest providences in human life.
Wouldn’t you think that, after Satan had been damned for these thousands of years, he would repent? But the law and the penalty of the law but confirms us in our rebellion. Penalty does not sanctify us, and the judgments of the law do not make us godly. There is no ableness or power in the law to convert us. Then what is the purpose of the law? The apostle writes: “It is to show us our weakness, reveal to us our sin and our helplessness before it; and to lead us to Jesus, to the grace of our wonderful Lord” [Romans 3:20-31].
You know, it’s a marvelous thing, when you read God’s Word, what the Lord purposes for us. The plan and purpose of God for us is that we be sons of God and no longer slaves; that we be joint-heirs with Christ inheriting the kingdom [Romans 8:16-17]. And according to the Book of Hebrews, we are to be higher than the angels [Hebrews 1:4, 14, 2:9; 1 Corinthians 6:3]. What a miraculous thing in the purpose of God for us; and that leads us to the grace of God.
Law and grace; there are two ways by which mankind can be saved, and just two: one by the law, by our works, by keeping to perfection all that God has commanded—but in order to be saved by the law, you would have to be perfect; no transgression, no sin [James 2:10]. The other way for us to be saved, according to the revelation of God, is in His love, and in His grace, and in His forgiveness; and you can’t mix the two. If some of it is of God and some of it is of us, then we get the glory because “I did it.” But the author of the Book of Romans says: “If by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. And if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work” [Romans 11:6]. It’s one or the other. You are saved by your good works, your reformation, your sinlessness, or you are saved by the grace of God [Ephesians 2:8-9]. And it’s not both; it’s one or the other.
I could illustrate that easily. Somebody gives you a home. That home is worth $200,000, and he gives it to you, but you say, “Oh, no, no, let me give you a thousand dollars.” “Fine,” he takes the thousand dollars, and you boast, “I bought a $200,000 home for $1,000.” No! If he gives you the home, it’s a gift and you don’t buy it; and if we’re saved by the grace of God, it’s a gift, and we don’t earn it, and we’re not good enough to inherit it! It’s something God has done for us! [Ephesians 2:8-9].
And this is a remarkable thing in the revelation of this Holy Scripture. For example—speaking now that God does it, God has to save us; it’s the grace of the Lord that opens for us the door into His presence. For example, in the thirty-sixth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel is described the conversion, the salvation, of Israel. And in this one chapter, I counted thirty-six “I”s, thirty-six of them:
“I had concern for My holy name” [Ezekiel 36:21].
“I will sanctify My people” [Ezekiel 36:25].
“I will take you from among the nations” [Ezekiel 36:24].
“I will sprinkle clean water” [Ezekiel 36:25].
“I will give you a new heart” [Ezekiel 36:26].
“I will put My Spirit within you” [Ezekiel 36:27].
“I gave to your fathers My love” [Ezekiel 36:28].
“I will be your God” [Ezekiel 36:28].
“I”—thirty-six times in this book of the prophet of Ezekiel; God does it. If Israel is saved, God does it! It’s by the grace of the Lord.
Now I turn to the seventeenth chapter of the Book of John and the same thing do I find: if we are saved, it is a gift to the Lord Jesus Christ, by His love and His grace. In the seventeenth chapter of John: “As You have given authority over all flesh to Me, that God should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him”—”You” [John 17:2]. And again: “I have manifested Your name to the men whom you have given Me” [John 17:6]. Look again: “Your name”—”Keep through Your name those whom You have given Me” [John 17:11]. Look again: “Those whom You gave Me I have kept” [John 17:12]. Look again: “Father, I desire that they, whom You gave Me, be with Me where I am” [John 17:24]. You are a gift of God the Father to the Lord Jesus Christ. By His grace and goodness and love, God has given you salvation and eternal life as a gift to His Son [Ephesians 2:8-9].
Could I turn that around and say it like this? Somewhere up there in heaven, before the world began, the Lord God said to Jesus His Son: “You go down there and die for those lost people in the world, and I will give You a reward. I will give You souls. I will give You their love and faith and devotion.” Could you imagine the Lord Jesus Christ coming down into this world to die, and nobody accepted Him, nobody believed in Him, nobody trusted Him? He died in vain! God said: “Not so! You go down there and die in this world, and I will give You souls. I will give You a harvest. I will give You a reward.”
And the reward is you! You, you, you, you—Jesus died, and in the grace of God, the Lord gave Him a beautiful reward—you! You were not chosen because you were handsome, or pretty, or rich, or good, nor did you reform yourself in order to be worthy of it. You are a trophy of the grace of God! The Lord gave you to the blessed Jesus as a reward for His dying for our sins, and that is the essence of the faith; that’s the essence of the gospel. We are saved by the grace of God [Ephesians 2:8]—not the glory to us, but the glory to Him. “Unto Him who washed us from our sins in His own blood . . . to Him be glory and honor forever and ever. Amen” [Revelation 1:5-6].
That’s a remarkable thing. The gospel of Christ is not defined by ritual or by formality. It’s not ordinances or ceremonies. It’s the creation of a new love in our hearts [Romans 5:5]. The gospel of Christ is free for the pagan, for the heathen, as it is for the covenant people of Israel [John 3:16-17].
The gospel of Christ goes through the past. The old dispensation was a preparation for the coming of our Lord. They were saved back there as we’re saved today. They were saved back there on the promise of the atoning love of Jesus, and we’re saved today looking back to that same love and grace. The gospel of Christ is defined by the gift of God’s Son for our sins [John 3:16], and it is mediated to us through our faith in our blessed Lord [Ephesians 2:8], that redeems us [1 Peter 1:18-19], and reborns us, and remakes us [John 3:3, 7]. And it brings to us a security forever and ever [John 10:28].
I think of the ark [Genesis 7:14]. In that ark, on the back of the big elephant is the little wren, and that little wren is as safe as the elephant. In that ark, there’s a little butterfly lighted on the shoulder of Noah, and that little butterfly is as safe as Noah himself. It is the ark that saves, not we. It is the grace of God that saves us, not we [Ephesians 2:5]. All glory and praise to the Lamb.
Do you notice the difference in the response created by these two ways of salvation? The response to the law is one of fear. “I’ll be damned if I don’t!” It is always one of fear. In the Old Testament, the way of execution was by stoning. You break the law, and you’re stoned to death [Numbers 15:35-36]. In our generation, it’s a damnation in hell. You transgress the law of God, and you’ll spend eternity in the fire and brimstone of damnation [Revelation 21:8]. It’s one of fear.
Let me illustrate that to you as you live today. Here is a man who is not promiscuous. Why is he not promiscuous? Because he’s afraid of AIDS; fear governs his life. “I’m not promiscuous because I’m afraid of AIDS.” What a difference. “I’m not promiscuous because I love the Lord!” Or take again: “I don’t drink because I’ll get fired from my job.” How different: “I don’t drink because I love the Lord.” It’s an altogether different motive for what you do and how you live; whether it is by the law, or whether it is by the love and grace of Jesus our dear Lord.
Sweet people, there’s not a motive in this world as dynamic as the love of the Lord, and I can illustrate that easily. Here is a boy in the home, and the mother: “Gracious alive! He won’t shine his shoes. He kicks the toe of them out! He won’t comb his hair! He won’t tie his tie! He’s a ragamuffin!” And she threatens him and sometimes beats him, but he’s as uncouth as he ever was. And upon a day, he shines his shoes; he puts axle grease on his hair; he ties his tie in a thousand different ways. You know what happened? He has fallen in love. He’s fallen in love, oh, and how it remakes our lives. That’s exactly the motivation in the life of a Christian. We have fallen in love with our Lord Jesus, and it’s a whole new world.
I one time heard of an evangelist in a great tabernacle: “All of you who have been in sin, and lost, and have been saved by the grace and love of Jesus [Acts 15:11], I want you to stand up,” and they just stood up by the hundreds. And then he said, “All of you who were lost, and have been saved because of fear of the penalty of what you’ve done, you stand up,” and one stood up—and he was drunk.
There is no dynamic in the world like the love and grace of Jesus our Lord. I was reading about Joseph Rabinowitz. He was a learned Jew and very affluent, and in  he was sent to Palestine to buy land into which immigrants from [Kishinev] in Russia could settle and build a home. When he got to Israel, he was told that if you will read the New Testament, you will find an intimacy of an introduction to Jerusalem such as you couldn’t find in any other way.
So Joseph Rabinowitz, that learned and affluent Jew, sat on the top Mount of Olives, as you and I have sat there many times. He sat on the Mount of Olives, and he read these Gospels of Jesus Christ. Everything he’d ever known about the Lord had been one of violent persecution. The Greek and the Orthodox churches had said to the Jews of Russia, “You convert or we will persecute you,” and he had known nothing but persecution from the Christians all of his life.
Then he read the Gospels here in the Bible, and he read of the Lord, and of the love of Jesus, and His grace, and His death for us in our sins [Matthew 27:26-50]. And he looked out over the city, and there was the Via Dolorosa, and there was Mt. Calvary, and here, where he was seated, the Mount of Olives, from which He left us to be with His Father in heaven [Luke 24:50-51], and at the exact place where He is coming back again [Acts 1:10-11]. And Joseph Rabinowitz fell on his knees and cried: “My Lord and my God.”
Sweet people, he did something I never would have thought of in all of my life. Because he was affluent, he went back to Russia and built a synagogue. He built the synagogue! And what they did in that synagogue every Sabbath day service, they took the text of the Old Testament that told about the atoning grace of our Lord: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace is upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” [Isaiah 53:5]. Take again: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6]; every service in that synagogue, a text from the Old Testament describing the love and grace of our precious Lord Jesus.
And that is our gospel today. It is one of love. It’s one of grace. It’s one of forgiveness. It’s one of heaven. It’s one of the love and mercy of our precious Savior, the Lord Jesus, our hope and our salvation [John 3:14-16]. And that is our invitation to you today, to accept Him in your heart; to put your life with the fellowship of the people of God, the family of our Lord, or to answer a call in your heart. In this moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, in the balcony round, down one of these stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles: “Pastor, I have opened my heart to the Lord Jesus, His love and grace, and I am giving my life to Him, and here I stand.” On the first note of the first stanza, come, and welcome, while we stand and sing.
the Jew it was written on tablets of stone (Exodus
the Gentile it was written on heart and conscience(Romans
The universal penalty of death(Romans 3:10, 12,
23, Ezekiel 18:4)
Offers no remedy for sin(Romans 3:20)
preached 120 years and not one was converted (Genesis
a righteous man, was mayor of Sodom – not one Sodomite changed his style of
life(Genesis 19:1, 15-25)
Death angel over Egypt – people of God had lived there 400 years, and not one
Egyptian home looked to God in the blood
Moody speaking of the Chicago fire
Our helplessness before the power of sin
have tried everything to win back our position in Eden
However we have sought to obviate curse of sin, we have failed
Covering of fig leaves in Eden(Genesis 3:7)
Open door of the ark of Noah(Genesis 7:12, 23)
Tragedy of Hagar and Ishmael(Genesis 16:1-4, 15)
While Moses on top of the mount, people below are making a golden calf (Exodus 32:7-8, 25)
After the millennium there will be the greatest rebellion the world has ever
known (Revelation 20:4-15)
You’re still a sinner after you are acquainted with the law
Law and the penalty of it but confirms us in our rebellion
The purpose of the law(Romans 3:19-31)
show us our weakness, reveal to us our sin
The plan and purpose of God is that we be sons and no longer slaves, joint
heirs with Christ, and higher than the angels (Romans
8:16-17, Hebrews 1:4, 14, 2:9, 1 Corinthians 6:3)
ways to heaven – law (works), and grace
by works, must be perfect; if by grace, must trust in Jesus
Cannot mix the two(Romans 11:6, Ephesians 2:8-9)
a. It is a gift – we
cannot earn it
way of grace
The conversion of Israel described in Ezekiel 36 contains 36 times God says “I”
– God does it
given to Christ as a reward(John 17:2, 6, 11-12,
Grace is the essence of the gospel (Romans 3:24,
Ephesians 2:8-9, Revelation 1:5-6)
not defined by ritual or formality
It is a renewed state of the heart
It is free to all mankind
It is related to the past
Old dispensation was preparation
They were saved on promise of atoning love of Jesus; we are saved by looking
back to that same love and grace
is defined as God’s gift of His Son for sin
It is mediated to us by faith in Christ(Ephesians
It is a forever salvation, safe and secure (John
difference in response to these two ways of salvation
the law – fear
grace – love
Love is the deepest motivation in human life
Rabinowitz(Acts 1:10-11, Isaiah 53:6)