The Law and the Gospel

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By Mike Cleveland: Board Member, Setting Captives Free
July 10, 2021
Dear brothers and sisters,
One of my favorite things to do is to dissect songs and study the Scripture to get at the theology they are proclaiming. I do this in my spare time as a devotion, simple worship of my God and Savior Jesus Christ.
I thought I would just share with you what I wrote out late the other night as I was filled with worship because I’d been meditating on the cross. Here it is, along with the song I was worshiping to, and a question at the bottom:
Devotional With Worship Song
Main verse: “You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24).
Context: “You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. 19 For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking. 20 They staggered back under God’s command: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” 21 Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “I am terrified and trembling.” 22 No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. 23 You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.” Hebrews 12:18-24 (NLT)
The Old Covenant Law was terrifying to human beings who are unable to keep it perfectly.
At the giving of the 10 Commandments, Mt. Sinai became a place of flaming fire accompanied by darkness and gloom and a whirlwind which was a description of what the Law itself would do to the people under it through covenant:
  1. The Law would terrify like a flaming fire about to consume all in its path and burn them under the horrifying wrath of God, for under the Law even one sin demands an eternity of everlasting destruction. “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
  2. The Law would not bring illumination but rather utter darkness. The Law plunges all people into darkness and gloom when they realize it requires perfection in thought, word, and action and threatens eternal punishment for not keeping it perfectly and continually. “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law” (Deuteronomy 27:26).
  3. The mountain was consumed in a whirlwind when the Law was given, threatening to destroy anyone who came near. A whirlwind produces chaos, blindness, and destruction and is a fit metaphor for the Law given on Mt. Sinai. Notice how the Law, like a whirlwind, gathers up all manner of sin, deception, condemnation and produces death: “Once I was alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life, and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death” (Romans 7:9-11).
  4. The people staggered back in fear at the incredible sight, and upon hearing God’s command to stay away. The Law terrifies and pushes away, for it produces fear in all who know of its perfection and their failure to keep it.
Moses declared his own fear, stating that he was “terrified and trembling,” for who can stand up under the booming voice of God or the Law’s scrutiny and demands? Not even the chosen prophet of God, the most humble man on earth (Number 12:3).
It is the most wonderful news, then, that we have not come to Mt. Sinai but rather to a different mountain (Hebrews 12:22), meaning we do not approach God through the Law but rather through the gospel.
When we come to the cross of Christ, we see Jesus’ body torn to shreds, and His soul made an offering for our sin. We see blood pouring from the wounds in His head, hands, back, side, and feet. We see sorrow, love, and joy mixed on Jesus’ face and flowing down, as He receives in Himself the due penalty of our sin, knowing He is dying to set an unnumbered multitude free from sin and death.
  1. When we come to the cross, we have come to God, the Judge of all things (Hebrews 12:23). We can confidently come to Him knowing that He has judged Jesus guilty in our place, and therefore judges us as righteous and holy in Him. Our sins were put to death in the mangled body of our Lord Jesus, and so we can stand before this Judge clothed in the righteous robes of the saints. Our Judge has become our Savior, the Holy Magistrate has become our Father.
  2. We see standing around us the city of the Living God, countless angels and a multitude of people without number, all worshipping the Lamb. All are celebrating the salvation of humankind through the death of Jesus Christ. Through His death, this great multitude was born, just like when Joseph died, and then the Israelites “multiplied greatly, increasing in number, and became so numerous that the land was filled with them” (Exodus 1:7).
  3. We see standing around us “righteous ones...who have now been made perfect.” Though the Law was perfect, even “holy, righteous and good” (Romans 7:12), it could never make us holy, righteous, and good. But God did what the Law could not do by sending His Son to be a sin offering. Now, “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).
  4. We can not only see the blood pouring from Jesus’ wounds; we can hear it speaking of forgiveness for our wrong-doing, pardon for our sin, justification for those who believe. It is such a better word than the blood of Abel, which cried out for vengeance for the wrongdoer. Oh how I love listening to the sermon this blood preaches!
Prayer: “Father, thank you for bringing me to Mt. Calvary, where I hear the blood of Jesus speaking forgiveness over me, even as I see the Lamb of God taking away my sin!”
Question 1. What does it mean to you that you have not come to the Law to be saved but to the gospel of Jesus Christ?