The Truth About Law and Grace - Part 1 or 2

By I. M. Haldeman, D. D.

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1923


There are those who teach Jl that the law of Sinai contained in the ten commandments, although given primarily to the Children of Israel, was ordained for the whole world; that the whole world is under bonds to keep it; and that Christians particularly are responsible to make it the rule and regulation of their daily life.

This teaching is without foundation in Scripture.

It is a false exegesis.

It is a perversion of the truth.

It is a darkening of counsel by words without knowledge.

The teaching of Scripture is clear and simple.

The Law was never given to any other nation or people but the Children of Israel.

This is the statement of the Apostle Paul.

He says:

"When the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves" (Romans 2:14).

This language admits of no misunderstanding nor quibbling. Speaking by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle authoritatively says:

"The Gentiles, which have not the law."

"The Gentiles, these having not the law."

This is the Holy Ghost's definite, dynamic declaration that in Paul's day the Gentiles did not have the law.

If they did not have it in Paul's day, they did not have it before his day, because there is no account of it having been taken away from them at any time previous to his day. If they neither had it in his day, nor before his day, they have never had it in any time since his day. If they did not have it before his day, in his day, nor since his day, they do not have it in this day. The statement of Paul is therefore the unqualified affirmation that—

The Gentiles as Gentiles never have been, and are not today, under the law of Sinai.

If the Gentiles never were under the law and are not under it now, then, and beyond all controversy —

The law of Sinai was given exclusively to the Children of Israel.

This is just what Moses the lawgiver himself says:

Hear what he does say:

"For what nation is so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for?

"And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?" (Deuteronomy 4:7, 8.)

That the Gentiles knew nothing of the law and were not under it as a system publicly delivered unto them is the testimony of Pontius Pilate, the Roman Procurator of Judea, when our Lord Jesus Christ was brought before him by the Jews on the charge of being a malefactor.

Pilate said to them:

"Take ye him, and judge him according to your law" ( John 18:31)

Plainly and definitely Pilate makes a distinction between Jewish law and Roman law. He affirms the Mosaic law was the law of the Jew, not the law of the Roman.

Remember he did not say, speaking as a Roman, "our" law, but as a haughty Roman, despising the Jew — "your" law.

Officially and corroboratively, therefore, Pilate says the Gentiles were not under the law in his day and therefore not under the law before Paul's day, and consequently not under the law in Paul's day; and still more corroboratively not under the law in our day; and thus Paul and Pilate stand together to support the testimony of Moses that the Gentiles never were under the law.

Scripture tells us that the law of Sinai was a covenant between the Lord God and the Children of Israel; as it is written:

"And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them.

"The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb (Sinai).

"The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, who are all of us here alive this day" (Deuteronomy 5:1-3).


"The Lord gave me the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant" (Deut. 9:11,15).

A covenant requires two parties.

The Lord God was one of the parties.

The Children of Israel were the other party.

The Children of Israel — not the Gentiles.

Here are three- witnesses that the law was never given to the Gentiles.

Moses, to whom God handed the law. '

Pilate, who as a Gentile, denied the law belonged to them.

Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews and a Pharisee of Pharisees, who declares the Gentiles did not have it in his day, and necessarily could not have had it since; and demonstrably, never have had it since, as there is no record of the law of the ten commandments given to the Gentiles between Paul's day and this.

What shall we say then to these things?

What can we say, what else dare we say than that —

The law of Sinai was never given to the Gentiles, and the Gentile world is not under the law today.

The law was given to the Children of Israel because they deliberately took themselves off the ground of grace and put themselves on the ground of the law.

The Lord had redeemed them from the sentence of death against the firstborn of Egypt by the blood of the passover Iamb.

He had brought them out of the land of bondage by the right hand of His power.

He did this in fulfillment of His covenant with, and His promise to, Abraham more than four hundred years before.

It was an unconditional covenant and a promise of pure grace.

When they came to Sinai the Lord tested them.

He rehearsed all He had done for them.

He bade Moses tell them what he had done, how He had brought them so far as on the wings of untiring eagles. If they would but obey His voice and keep his covenant, they should be to Him a peculiar treasure above all the people of the earth.

The people should have responded to the Lord that as He had dealt with them thus far in grace and by His mighty power, not their own, had delivered and led them, they would gladly continue to depend upon Him and not in any way upon themselves.

This is the attitude they should have taken, this is what they should have said and — at once.

Instead they answered and said:

"All that the Lord hath spoken we will do" (Exodus 19:7, 8).

In giving this answer they fatally affirmed their belief in their own ability to do all the Lord required of them.

Immediately He drew a line about the mount and forbade the people to pass under pain of death.

Along with this came thunder and lightnings, the sound of a trumpet so loud the people trembled. Sinai was altogether in smoke as the smoke of a furnace. The Lord descended upon the mount. The mount shivered and quivered at His presence.

Instead of the God of grace and protecting providence in the shielding cloudy pillar by day and its welcome illumination by night, there was revealed the God of righteousness and inexorable law.

And this is in the very nature and logic of the case..

Grace brings man into the favor of God.

Law shuts him out and shuts him up to himself.

In the issue of law it is no longer a question of what God will do, but what man is under bonds to do.

The law is set up to measure man and not God.

By their refusal to continue in grace the people of Israel came under law.

The law would never have been given had they not turned away from the Abrahamic covenant and the ministration of divine and measureless grace.

The law was given to the Children of Israel, not to keep, but to break.

It is written:

"Wherefore then serveth the law?

"It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made" (Galatians 3:19).

The literal rendering is —

"It was added for the sake (that is, for the purpose) of transgressions."

It was given, not to make them sin, but through transgressions to reveal the sin in them; as it is written:

"I had not known sin. (the nature of sin, that it is back of, and the cause of transgressions), but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said. Thou shalt not covet" (Romans 7:7).

"By the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20).

Again it is written:

"The law entered (was given at Sinai) that the offence (the trespass) might abound" (be overwhelmingly revealed) (Romans 5:20).

The Children of Israel broke the law spoken to them before they had received a written transcript of it.

Moses, at the call of God, went up into the mount to receive a copy of the law written by His hand on tables of stone as a record of covenant between Himself and the people.

He was gone for a long while.

The people became impatient.

They gathered about Aaron and said to him:

"Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him" (Exodus 32:1 ).

Aaron took the golden earrings of the women and made a calf such as the people had seen worshipped in the temples of Apis.

Then they made a proclamation that on the morrow would be a feast of the Lord.

It was an attempted and shameful combination of the service of God and the idolatry of Egypt.

"And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings, and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play" (Exodus 32:2-6).

The word "to play" has profound significance.

It means they proceeded to give themselves up to the abomination that went with such worship; for it is written:

"The people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies)" (Exodus 32:25).

That is, literally, Aaron had "taken off the bridle," and had given them "free rein," unlimited license to indulge in the indescribable things which in Egypt passed current for religious rites.

When Moses beheld what the people did, instead of going down to preach the law to them, he cast the tables of stone on which God had written it out of his hands and brake them beneath the mount.

Instead of preaching the law he went back to the presence of God to make an atonement and intercession for the people.

He said to them:

"Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin" (Exodus 32:30).

The ceremonial law was given to the Children of Israel as a memorial that they had broken the moral law: that they needed an atonement for sin through sacrificial death: and as prophecy that God would send the Lord Jesus Christ to redeem them by His own blood from the curse of a broken law and bring them again into the full blessing of the covenant and promise of grace.

Every time an Israelite brought a sin offering to the gate of the Tabernacle, and when once a year on atonement day sacrifice was made for the sin of the whole people, it was a proclamation that "without shedding of blood is no remission."

These offerings were simply shadows, types, figures of the true offering.

"For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year make the comers thereunto perfect. * * * For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" ( Hebrews 10:1, 4).

The moral law contained in the ten commandments was a witness of the failure of the people to meet it and the ceremonial law as a consequent and inseparable part of the moral law took the place of a schoolmaster (the word means the slave who took the children of a well to do household to the teacher) to lead the people to Christ; as it is written:

"The law was our schoolmaster (the schoolmaster of the Israelites — and in Paul's day that part of Israel called Jews) to bring us unto Christ" (Galatians 3:24).

By the tabernacle in all its construction, furniture and service; by the offerings and sacrifices, God was continually preaching an incarnate, sacrificial and redeeming Saviour, a risen Lord and coming King. By all these things He was preach ng Christ to them.

By their whole history, their ritual and providential movements. He was testifying to them of their natural weakness, their need of grace and the full provision He had made for them in a coming Messiah.

He was setting before them every day that Christ was the seed in whom all the promises made to Abraham concerning them should be fulfilled; as it is written:

"Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ" (Galatians 3:16).

The coming in of the law did not make the unconditional covenant of Abraham of no effect; but the people having repudiated that covenant and putting themselves on the basis of law and good behaviour, the law was added to seal home to them their need of grace and the assurance that Christ was the eternal depositary of the covenant, the unfailing guarantee of its promised blessings and the source whence all grace should again come to them.

Wherefore it is written:

"The covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect" (Galatians 3:17).

The law brought them face to face with their innate sinfulness, their helplessness to live up to the standard of God's righteousness, the futility of their own. righteousness at its best, and shut them up to a faith that looked forward to a redeemer and saviour; as it is written:

"The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might come upon them that believe.

"But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up to the faith which afterwards should be revealed. (Doesn't the logic of the thing run ahead and tell you that if they were kept under the law till faith should be revealed, after that faith should be revealed they would no longer be kept under the law?)
"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us (the children of Israel) unto Christ" (Galatians 3:22-24).

The law of Sinai was been done away in Christ, and both Jew and Gentile have been put completely under the grace of the Abrahamic covenant.

By the hand of Moses law came demanding that the people should by their obedience and perfect living earn the blessings promised in and by the covenant.

By our Lord Christ came the grace that is ready to bestow the wealth and riches of the covenant blessings upon all who are willing to receive them through faith; as it is written:

"The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).

The law was a temporary addition "till the seed (Christ) should come to whom the promise was made" (Galatians 3:19).

"The law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

"That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:20, 21).

The world today is not under the "reign of law," but under the "reign of grace."

By virtue of the cross and the empty grave; by virtue of the blood which the risen and ascended Lord took up within the vail, the throne of judgment has been transformed into a throne of grace, and the "much more" of grace reigns with its mercy over a world of sin.

By that grace men are now called to turn to the Lord and through faith receive the life which will enable them to triumph over sin in them, rebuke transgressions and walk pleasingly before God and in blessing to men.

The law demanded righteousness.

Grace bestows it.

Because grace reigns judgment is hushed and God waits to know what man will do with His offered mercy.

The law is not the ground of salvation to the sinner.

The reasons are manifold:

1. Because the law demands a perfection of life and character no man can give.

The law in its essence has been defined by our Lord Jesus Christ.

He said:

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

"This is the first and great commandment.

"And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40). The first commandment requires perfection of love to God.

Perfect love to God means perfect obedience to the will of God in deed, in word, in thought and the intents and purposes of the heart.

It means perfect righteousness, the soul like a mirror reflecting the character of God, not a mere reflection of goodness, but Godness; so that, God shall be lived and breathed, perfectly revealed and completely expressed by the soul — such a condition would be sinless perfection.

This is the demand God makes of every soul of man, not by any mere law written in tables of stone, but in the very nature of God. God himself, being holy, perfect, cannot admit into fellowship with Himself anything less perfect than His own character; to do so would be to condone sin and imperfection in man.

For man to love his neighbor as himself, he must deny himself and make the self of another first, not only in deed, but in heart and intent. This would be perfection of man toward man.

Nor must there be a failure or lapse in any particular of this attitude of man to man and man to God.

To break one link in a chain that holds a ship to its anchor is to break the whole chain.

To break the law at any one point, so far as the law can link a man to God, is to break the whole law. This is the declaration of Holy Writ.

"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10).

He is guilty of all because the law demands no less than perfect obedience, not partial obedience, but obedience in all points.

You may have a piece of costly ermine, whiter than the heart of a lily; it is not the great spot, but the small one that spoils it — it is the surrounding whiteness that will reveal it. Should you keep the law in every respect but one, the one failure would be conspicuously revealed by the otherwise spotless perfection; but .that one failure would cry aloud that you had missed the actual demand of the law — perfect obedience. Sinless perfection!

That is the demand of the law to all who, throwing themselves on their own resources, boasting in their own righteousness, seek to be justified by the deeds of the law.

What man is there on earth who can respond to this demand?

He who declares himself perfect is guilty of folly. His folly shall condemn him as guilty of sin and his acts shall prove him to his neighbors as one who has fallen short. If he shall be ignorant of his failure or seek to conceal it to himself his fellow men will know it and proclaim it in his ears.

There is no difference!

Hear what God himself says:

"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:22, 23).

2. Because sentence of death has been passed upon all men, and the  law does not ask a condemned sinner to keep it or bring forth a good character under it.

"Death passed upon all men" (Romans 5:12).

"It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9"27)

No matter how much a man condemned by the state to die should offer to keep the law on condition that he should be saved from the sentence, the law would be deaf to every plea. It would mercilessly say to him: "Pay me that thou owest. Pay me thy life. Thou must die.

Nay! the law is not the ministration of life. It is the ministration of death; as it is written:

"The ministration of death, written and engraven in stones" (II Corinthians 3:7).

"The letter killeth" (V. 16).

By the "letter" is meant the law graven in stone.

The man who turns to the law for salvation is as guilty of senseless folly as the sentenced criminal who should go to the electric chair expecting to get life instead of death.

The law is not the ground of salvation.

3. Because salvation is not a matter of good works.

Good works are set aside, not only because of man's inability to render them, not only because the sentence of death nullifies them, but because God will allow no man to boast in his own righteousness; as it is written:

"Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:9).

"By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight" (Romans 3:20).

"By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Galatians 2:16).

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done" (Titus 3:5).

"Not according to our works" (II Timothy 1:9).

"All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6).

The law is not the ground of salvation.

4. Because God Himself has achieved the work of redemption for lost and dying men.

"Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree" (I Peter 2:24).

"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust" (I Peter 3:18).

"Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Romans 4:25).

"Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures" (I Corinthians 15:3).

"When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost" (John 19:30).

That the work of redemption was finished is proclaimed by our Lord's resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the glory.

In face of such a finished redemption and one finished by such an author as God in the person of His Son, there is nothing left for man to do but receive the salvation which it brings.

The law is not the ground of salvation.

5. Because God is dealing with the world on the basis of the Ahrahamic covenant reopened in Christ as the true seed, and now made good to the whole world in His death and resurrection.

"It (the law) was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made" (Galatians 3:19).

"He saith not, And to seeds, as of many, hut as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ" (Galatians 3:16).

"And this I say, that the covenant... was confirmed before of God in Christ" (Galatians 3:17).

The Abrahamic covenant, it is to he remembered, is an unconditional covenant, a covenant and promise of grace.
Because of the functioning of this covenant now, grace and grace alone is the source of salvation.

"By grace are ye saved" (Ephesians 2:8).

"The grace of God that bringeth salvation" (Titus 2:11).

It is sovereign grace that brings salvation.

It is not of man nor law devising, but of the Lord; as it is written:

"Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9). "Salvation belongeth unto the Lord" (Psalm 3:8).

"It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy" (Romans 9:16).

"Who hath saved us, and called us, with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (II Timothy 1:9).

The law is not the ground of salvation.

6. Because salvation by the decree of God is wholly through faith and not works.

"The righteousness of God without the law is manifested being witnessed (foretold) by the law and the prophets.

"Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon ail them that believe" (Romans 3:21, 22).

"By grace are ye saved through faith" (Ephesians 2:8).

"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith — without the deeds of the  law" (Romans 3:28).

There are those who teach the law convicts men of sin, and because of that conviction brings them to repentance and to the Gospel which saves them.

It is true the Gospel saves, but it is not true the law convicts the individual sinner and leads him under the consciousness of that sin to receive the Gospel.

The law it is certain has brought the whole world in as guilty before God; but it has done so because it has revealed the sin and failure in Israel; as it is written:

"Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law (the Jews): that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Romans 3:19).

If all the world were at that time under the law, there was no need that Paul should say, " to them who are under the law," nor would there have been any value in such a phrase; but the fact that the Apostle makes such a statement is a demonstration that he was making a distinction, and that only a class were under the law. That class we have seen were the Children of Israel; and their failure at Sinai, together with the co-ordinate institution of the sacrifices, was witness that if the nation chosen of God had failed under law and were proven guilty, how much more in the light and demand of that law was it evident the whole world was guilty before the God of that law.

The convicting power of sin in this age is not the law, it is the Holy Spirit.

He is here for that purpose.

But He is here not to convict men of the violations of the moral law.

He is not here to convict men of lying, cheating, robbery and such like, the common law of the land will do that: He is here to convict men of one immense sin that includes all moral failure, the sin of unbelief; as it is written:

"When he (the Holy Spirit) is come, he will reprove (convict) the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.

"Of sin, because they believe not in me" (John 16:8, 9).

The sin of all sins is unbelief in the Son of God.

For this He made no atonement.

This is the sin that never will he forgiven.

Neither here nor in eternity.

"He that believeth not is condemned already, because (mark that causation well) he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18).

Condemned! because he has hesitated a single moment; because he did not, the moment he heard the Gospel, believe at once.

This is the sin which will render eternity an anguish and make endless existence a curse.

No matter what argument I may bring, nor how strongly I may speak, I cannot convince a modern moral man, a man upright in all his dealings, meeting all his duties and discharging all his responsibilities — I cannot convince such a man that the sin that will shut him out from eternal life and nullify all the earthly good he may have done will be, failure to believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, that God gave Him to die as a sacrifice for sin and raised Him from the dead to be the alone Saviour of men.

Nevertheless, this is the actual truth. It is the truth because in this age the question of all questions is not the sin question. It is not an issue of how more or less sinful a man may be; nor, whether one nan is a greater sinner than the other. That is not the question, because God has concluded all under sin, and in respect to meeting the standard of God's glory which is hi' holiness, He, Himself, has declared, "there is no difference."

The supreme question that outranks all others is the Son question.

Our Lord put that question in definite form when He said, "What think ye of Christ? whose son is he" (Matthew 22:42)?

God the Father is putting that question to the world today:

"What do you think of Jesus Christ? Is He my Son whom I sent to redeem the world and save the souls of sinful men?"

That issue is mighty and determining enough.

Heaven and Hell depend, not upon what you do, but what you think, yes, upon what you think about Christ.

If you think of Him as God thinks and as God has clearly revealed His thought in Holy Scripture; if you confess and make known your thought, even though you were the blackest sinner out of hell, you are saved. If you do not think of Him as God thinks of Him and has commanded all men everywhere to think of Him, even though you were the whitest soul on earth, you are lost now, and if you do not repent will be damned and lost forever.

But what self-righteous man, I repeat, will believe that, though I spoke with the tongue of an angel and the force of divine truth; nay, even though I should quote scripture after scripture in support of it? I assure you such a man would not believe it.

All the thunder of the law, all the flash of its lightnings would not do it.

There is only one person who can bring the conviction of that truth home to the heart and conscience of any human being, and that is the Holy Spirit.

The law then is not the instrument of conviction; it is not in any wise the ground of salvation.

If it were so, if the keeping of the law, if the establishment of a satisfactory righteousness before God by the works of the law could save, then the death of the cross was the most criminal blunder ever committed, the most useless shedding of blood God ever permitted.

And this is the logic of Scripture itself; as it is written:

"If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain" (Galatians 2:21).

This settles it.

Christ did not, could not die in vain.

Therefore — the law is not the ground of salvation to the sinner.