I am grateful that I am part of a church family that feels comfortable talking to me about the lessons I preach, for it gives me the opportunity to reflect and at times clarify something I said or on other occasions, correct it. Last week I used a quote concerning the Old Law that, upon reflection, could leave someone asking the question, “Where was their hope?” It is this very question I seek to bring insight to.
Let’s begin with something the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Galatia. He said, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’” (Galatians 3:10) He goes on to say that the “man who does them [the Law] shall live by them.” (Galatians 3:12) Why would such a man be cursed? It’s not that the law was somehow imperfect (Romans 7:12 says it was “holy, just and good.”); but rather, “the flesh” of man was weak (Romans 8:3; Hebrews 8:8), unable to maintain it perfectly; and thus, revealed man’s imperfection. Paul said it this way in Romans 3:20, “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20) The very fact that sacrifices were continuously needed, revealed man’s inability to live righteously, that is, perfectly, while under the old law. As one person put it, “The Law is therefore, not meant to save, but rather strip us of all hope of looking to self for salvation…” Where then, is their hope prior to Christ’s work on the cross?
Hope was in the mind of God before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), in His redemptive plan spoken of long before the Old Law would come into view. At the fall of man God promised, saying to the serpant, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15) This promise was revealed again to Abram (soon to be called Abraham) saying that “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3; 17:5) through him. Now listen to what Paul writes to the church in Galatia, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel [that is, good news] to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’” (Galatians 3:8) That seed promise given to Abraham was fulfilled through Christ (Galatians 3:16), their good news, as well as ours.
And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith,
did not receive the promise, God having provided something better
for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
So, where was their hope? It could not be in the Law, or in their ability to keep the Law. The Law exposed the sin problem and sought to point man towards the solution. Thus, their hope, as well as ours, is placed in God’s redemptive plan, which found its fulfillment in Christ’s sufficient work on the cross. Dennis