Our message this evening makes up part of the reason for this kind of thinking and preaching on my part. Paul has just shared with us a “catena” of scriptures – a series of statements right out of his Greek Bible. It was Robertson’s Word Pictures which gave me that word earlier this week. Robertson also referred to another man – Dr. J. Rendel Harris – who had suggested that the early Christians possessed something that he called “Testimonia.” He pictured these Testimonia as something similar to more a modern catechism with question and answers. He believed that the Christians had several of these “catena” memorized and ready give to any one who asked what it was that they believed. I’m sure that he thought that was what Peter was thinking when he said, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” To be honest with you, I’ve never heard of “Testimonia” before the other day, so I have no corroboration for the idea, but I suppose that it’s possible.
Whether that is true or not, Paul has just given us a string of scripture references about the sinfulness of man. And then he makes the comment of verse 19 – “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” You might say that this is the summary and conclusion of the preceding ten verses. And this verse explains in part why I preach the way that I do. When it comes to the Bible – its revelations are not entire, but its declarations are distinct. It’s claims are universal; its precepts are authoritative, and its messages are very important and sure. But especially in regard to the law, its effects are condemnation, and it results in silence. And thus – we really, really need the message of the Word of God.
When it comes to the Bible, its ASSERTIONS are CERTAIN.
“Now we KNOW that what things soever the law saith…” Paul was a part of a strange breed of people – a rare group – a God-blessed segment of society. It was that Paul was certain that the Word of God was really the Word of God. He wasn’t in doubt, when he picked up his Bible, that what he would read really was divine revelation.
One of the truly sad phenomena in Christendom today is the proliferation of Bible versions. In some of the large churches of this community and around the country, as people come into so many modern houses of worship, if they bring a Bible at all, it is very likely to be different from the next person’s Bible. The other day I got an e-mail from a non-Baptist acquaintance of mine, and it concluded with wonderful Ephesians 1:18-19. “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.” But the reference in this e-mail, despite mentioning Ephesians 1:18-19 read – “I pray also that you will have greater understanding in your heart so you will know the hope to which he has called us and that you will know how rich and glorious are the blessings God has promised his holy people. And you will know that God’s power is very great for us who believe.” The reference cited was the NCV. I have to admit to you that I have no idea what the NCV is, although I can guess to what the N and what the V refer. If that e-mail didn’t tell me that this was Ephesians 1:18-19, I am sure that I would never have guessed.
How many people today in churches across this nation, saw verses from the NCV projected onto huge screens, which differed from the NIV on their laps and which also differed from the King James verses that those people had memorized in their youth? How many of those people began to wonder which version really was the revelation of God? Not all of them to be sure, but I would hope that some of them might use their heads and wonder. In some versions the differences between verses isn’t great, but in others the message is entirely different. Furthermore how many people in looking at their Bibles, saw the printed notes in the margin, which cast doubts on whether those verses were in the original Bible? Were there any who wondered about the Bible that they were reading?
Unlike them, Paul had no doubts as to the Word of God – and neither do I. “Now we KNOW whatsoever the law saith.” And of course, when he referred to the “law” he was talking about his entire Bible.
When it comes to the Bible, its source and message is certain and sure.
But secondly, its REVELATIONS are NOT ENTIRE.
“Now we know that what things soever the law saith…” This Bible that I have right here has 1323 pages. It’s pages are approximately 6½ inches by 9 inches, and it is about 1½ inches thick. I’ve been studying it for about 75% of my life, and I have to confess to only beginning my study. It’s a big book with an unending reservoir of information. But – I have theology books that are much bigger than my Bible. And I have other books on history, science, art and other subjects that are bigger than my Bible.
What I am trying to suggest is that the law of God is a revelation of God’s heart dealing only with certain areas. We know that what the Bible says is true, but it is also true that there is more which could be said. Although the Bible contains history, it is not an historical text book even about the histories and lives of important spiritual people like David and Abraham. And although the Bible tells us things which relate to the mysteries of science, there are scientific mysteries still waiting to be unraveled which are not addressed in our Bibles. And even though I think that there are thousands of human laws that are stupid, unjust and superfluous, that doesn’t mean that some current non-Biblical laws are unnecessary or unscriptural. For example, you may disagree with me, but I think that speed limits are laws necessary for our safety. And I don’t remember any drunk driving laws hidden in among the precepts of the decalogue, but drunk driving laws are perfectly fine with me, since our society permits drunkenness in other areas. The Bible doesn’t deal with thousands of subjects, but it does speak out on the most important subjects.
Then on the other hand, even though it tells us a lot about some things, even then it isn’t all that could be said. For example, it tells us about Heaven and Hell, but it certainly doesn’t reveal everything. The Bible has all that we really need for eternity and salvation, but throughout eternity, we will be continuing to learn even more.
So the Bible doesn’t speak out on every issue, but what it does say must be heard by all men everywhere.
Going back to Paul’s general theme, the Bible’s claims are UNIVERSAL.
“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” Every once in a while I see envelopes posted in Canada, but which carry an American stamp on it. Most of them also carry a postage due notice or an extra stamp, because postage is accepted only in the country for which it was originally printed. But once in a while I see and envelope where that incorrect postage wasn’t caught by the post office. I can’t say that envelope will ever be valuable, but under certain circumstances it is possible, so I keep that one in a safe place. The laws that apply to one country do not apply in another country.
But I can tell you that “thou shalt not kill” applies in every country on earth. It might be that in one country a murderer is executed, while in another he is sent to jail. In some countries that murderer is ignored, while in another he is a honored as a hero. But every single one of those murderers will be justly judged by the omniscient and omnipotent God. For example, the doctor who performs abortions will be judged as severely as the serial killer and the young woman who goes to the abortionist to kill her unborn child will be judged as well. It doesn’t matter what the law of the land, or the state, might say about the matter – God says that “whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” And it also says – “whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”
Paul has told us that one of the great blessings of being a Jew, was his possession of the oracles of God. It might implied that not to be a Jew has its advantages because those people didn’t have those oracles. Someone might say, if they didn’t have the law of God, then they weren’t responsible to obey it. But the fact is that the basic moral law is written in the heart of every man, and therefore every mouth is stopped and all the world is guilty before God.
The claims of the law are universal.
Fourth, the DECLARATIONS of the law are DISTINCT.
Let’s pretend that there is a law in the State of Washington which says, “There shall be a fine of $100 for anyone caught driving too fast.” Exactly what is driving too fast? What is driving too fast in snowy weather may not be driving too fast on dry well-illuminated roads. And what is driving too fast in town amongst children may not be driving too fast on the highway. A law like that doesn’t help to control traffic one little bit, and enforcing it would be nearly impossible.
When Paul says that every mouth is stopped and all the world is guilty before the law of God, it must be assumed that the law which silences and condemns such people is specific enough to do the job. What is difficult to understand in “thou shalt not covet” once we define what it is to covet? What is so hard about “thou shalt not kill,” “honour thy father and thy mother,” or “thou shalt not steal.” There will not be a single soul standing before the Great White Throne, who will not have to admit his guilt and that he knew that he was guilty.
God’s Word, and the laws within it, are pretty specific.
Fifth, its PRECEPTS are AUTHORITATIVE.
The Oldfield’s live in a city with laws and ordinances, but we also live in a distinct community within that city. When we moved into our house, we were given a copy of the Covenants and Ordinances of the community. There are all kinds of things listed in those rules: for example, We are not supposed to plant trees on our property beside the road, unless they are a specific variety. But as I walk through the community, I see that lots of people have ignored that regulation. There is a rule against leaving our trash cans where they can be seen from the street. But there is a house kitty-corner to us, where the trash cans are left on the street most of the week. There is an ordinance which says that derelict cars can’t be left on the street, but some don’t move for months. Judy gets worried because there is an ordinance against having air conditioners protruding from the front windows, but for several years now, I have had a small air conditioner in my study window because it is absolutely essential for life in that room during the summer. And yet for some reason she didn’t get too worried about the rabbits that she had in the back yard – even though they were forbidden by the community. There is a regulation that neighbors can’t be noisy after 11:00 at night, but it’s not enforced. And there is another regulation that dogs must be on a leash when taken for a walk, but Kujo doesn’t bother to demand that I leash him up when we go out.
The problem with the community ordinances is that there is very little authority behind them. The police will not arrest someone for having an air conditioner in their window or a boat in their front yard. And although someone from the Community Association might visit a neighbor if he hasn’t cut his grass in six weeks, he can’t force the man to pay a fine.
On the other hand, Jehovah has the authority to enforce each and every law in His book. It is a fool who would trifle with, argue with, or ignore the command of God. James says, “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.” And we might add, If thou commit no adultery, but you tell one lie, or talk back to your mother on one single occasion, you have become a transgressor of the law, and condemned to eternal death. That isn’t a threat, that is the promise of God, who cannot lie, cannot fail, or cannot forget His promise.
The precepts of God’s word are authoritative. And as a result we might add that its message is important – it is essential. It needs to be heard; it needs to be learned; it needs to be heeded.
Because, its ultimate END is CONDEMNATION.
“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” By the law is the knowledge of sin, unfortunately, not the salvation from sin. At least not that portion of the Word of God which we call specifically “the law.” Through the law there has never been a single person who has been cleansed, pardoned or perfected. “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The Word of God proves us all to be guilty before the Lord – it condemns us.
If you stop and think about it, the Bible, really doesn’t directly have anything to do with making us righteous. We aren’t saved, regenerated or made righteous by heeding to the things which the Bible tells us. The only way for a sinner to be saved is through the direct, miraculous and intervening grace of God. What the Bible does is tells us that we are sinners, and it tells us about the Lord’s mercy and grace. Yes, it exhorts us to repent and to believe on Christ, I acknowledge that, but since those are gifts of God, the Lord doesn’t have to have His Word to grant them. And yet this Bible IS the tool that the evangelist uses to bring the subject of salvation to the lost man.
No the end of the law of God is condemnation and only indirectly salvation.
And then lastly, it RESULTS in SILENCE.
“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” The Word of God robs the sinner of any chance of back-talk or self-justification before God. When the books, including the Book of God, are opened, that lippy, egotistical, self-righteous sinner will not be able to say a word in reply to the Lord’s condemnation. While earlier in his life he might have plead that he was a son of Abraham, it will mean nothing at that point. Silence will be the sinner’s only reasonable response. Earlier he might have quoted some scriptures or said that as a child he asked Jesus into his heart – but at the Great White Throne it will be total silence.
The Bible, the Word of God, the Law of the Lord is not only the first word – it will be the last word. And that is why it is such an important word today. Yes, it might be important to learn ABOUT the Word of God – but more importantly, we need to learn the actual message OF the Word of God. That is why I preach the way that I do. That is what I wish that we all might see.