Christianity in Contrast With Mosaic Economy

 •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 8
We shall place before the reader, a passage or two of Scripture in which the moral glories of Christianity shine forth with peculiar luster, in vivid contrast to the entire Mosaic economy.
First of all, let us take that familiar passage at the opening of the 8th of Romans, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." vv. 1-4.
Now, we must bear in mind that verse 1 sets forth the standing of every Christian-his position before God. He is "in Christ Jesus." This settles everything. He is not in the flesh; he is not under law; he is absolutely and eternally "in Christ Jesus." Hence there is-there can be-no condemnation. The Apostle is not speaking of or referring to our walk or our state. If he were, he could not possibly speak of "no condemnation." The most perfect Christian walk that ever was exhibited, the most perfect Christian state that ever was attained, would afford some ground for judgment and condemnation. There is not a Christian on the face of the earth who has not, daily, to judge his state and his walk-his moral condition and his practical ways. How then could "no condemnation" ever stand connected with, or be based upon, Christian walk? Utterly impossible. In order to be free from all condemnation, we must have what is divinely perfect, and no Christian walk is or ever was that. Even a Paul had to withdraw his words (Acts 23:55Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. (Acts 23:5)). He repented of having written a letter (2 Cor. 7:88For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. (2 Corinthians 7:8)). A perfect walk and a perfect state were only found in One. In all beside-even the holiest and best-failure is found.
According to the most accurate translations, the second clause of Rom. 8:11There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1) is not in the original manuscript; it is not Scripture. This, we think, would be seen by anyone really taught of God, apart from all question of mere criticism. Any spiritual mind would detect the incongruity between the words "no condemnation" and "walk." The two things cannot be made to harmonize. And here, we doubt not, is just where thousands of pious souls have been plunged into difficulty as to this really magnificent and emancipating passage. The joyful sound, "no condemnation," has been robbed of its deep, full, and blessed significance by a clause introduced by some scribe or copyist whose feeble vision was, doubtless, dazzled by the brightness of that free, absolute, sovereign grace which shines in the opening statement of the chapter. How often have we heard such words as these, "Oh! yes; I know there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. But this is if they walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Now I cannot say that I walk thus. I long to do so, and I mourn over my failure. I would give worlds to be able to walk more perfectly; but, alas! I have to judge myself- my state, my walk, my ways, each day, each hour. This being so, I dare not apply to myself the precious words, 'no condemnation.' I hope to be able to do so some day, when I have made more progress in personal holiness; but, in my present state, I should deem it the very height of presumption to appropriate to myself the precious truth contained in the first clause of Romans 8."
Such thoughts as these have passed through the minds of most of us, if they have not been clothed in words. But the simple and conclusive answer to all such legal reasonings is found in the fact that the second clause of Rom. 8:11There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1) is not in the original text at all, but a very misleading interpolation, foreign to the spirit and genius of Christianity; opposed to the whole line of argument in the context where it occurs; and utterly subversive of the solid peace of the Christian.
We cannot but think that the occurrence of the clause, "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," in verse 4, affords abundant evidence of its misplacement in verse 1. We cannot for a moment admit the thought of redundancy in Holy Scripture. Now, in verse 4, it is a question of walk- a question of our fulfilling "the righteousness of the law"; and hence the clause is in its right, because divinely fitted, place. A person who walks in the Spirit-as every Christian ought-fulfills the righteousness of the law. Love is the fulfilling of the law; and love will lead us to do what the ten commandments could never effect; namely, to love our enemies. No lover of holiness, no advocate of practical righteousness, need ever be the least afraid of losing aught by abandoning the legal ground, and taking his place on the elevated platform of true Christianity-by turning from mount Sinai to mount Zion-by passing from Moses to Christ. No; he only reaches a higher source, a deeper spring, a wider sphere of holiness, righteousness, and practical obedience.
And then, if anyone should feel disposed to ask, "Does not the line of argument which we have been pursuing tend to rob the law of its characteristic glory?" We reply, Most assuredly not. So far from this, the law was never so magnified, never so vindicated, never so established, never so glorified, as by that precious work which forms the imperishable foundation of all the privileges, the blessings, the dignities, and the glories of Christianity. The blessed Apostle anticipates and answers this very question in the earlier part of his epistle to the Romans. "Do we then," he says, "make void the law by faith? Far be the thought: no, but we establish the law." Chap. 3:31; J.N.D. Trans. How could the law be more gloriously vindicated, honored, and magnified than in the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ? Will anyone seek, for a moment, to maintain the extravagant notion that it is magnifying the law to put Christians under it? We fondly trust the reader will not. Ah! no; all this line of things must be completely abandoned by those whose privilege it is to walk in the light of the new creation; who know Christ as their life, and Christ as their, righteousness-Christ, their sanctification; Christ, their great Exemplar; Christ, their model; Christ, their all in all; who find their motive for obedience not in the fear of the curses of a broken law, but in the love of Christ, according to those exquisitely beautiful words, "The love of Christ"-not the law of Moses" constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead. And that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again." 2 Cor. 5:14, 1514For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 15And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. (2 Corinthians 5:14‑15).
Could the law ever produce anything like this? Impossible. But, blessed forever be the God of all grace, "What the law could not do"-not because it was not holy, just, and good, but-"in that it was weak through the flesh"-the workman was all right, but the material was rotten, and nothing could be made of it; but, "God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who"-as risen with Christ, linked with Him by the Holy Ghost, in the power of a new and everlasting life -"walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
This, and only this, is true, practical Christianity; and if the reader will turn to the 2nd of Galatians, he will find another of those fine, glowing utterances of the blessed Apostle, setting forth, with divine force and fullness, the special glory of Christian life and walk. It is in connection with his faithful rebuke of the Apostle Peter, at Antioch, when that beloved and honored servant of Christ, through his characteristic weakness, had been led to step down for a moment from the elevated moral ground on which the gospel of the grace of God places the soul. We cannot do better than quote the entire paragraph for the reader. Every sentence of it is pregnant with spiritual power.
"But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face"—he did not go behind his back to disparage and depreciate him, in the view of others, even though-"He was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid [or, far be the thought]. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor." For, if the things were right, why destroy them? And, if they were wrong, why build them again? "For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live" not by the law, as a rule of life, but "by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain [or has died for nothing]." vv. 11-21.
Here then we have one of the very finest statements of the truth as to practical Christianity, anywhere to be found. But what specially claims our attention just now is the very marked and beautiful way in which the gospel of God opens up the path of the true believer between the two fatal errors of legality, on the one side, and carnal laxity, on the other. Verse 19, in the passage just quoted, contains the divine remedy for both these deadly evils. To all-whoever or wherever they are who would seek to put the Christian under the law, in any shape or for any object whatsoever-our Apostle exclaims in the ears of dissembling Jews with Peter at their head, and as an answer to all the law-teachers of every age, "I... am dead to the law."
What can the law have to say to a dead man? Nothing. The law applies to a living man, to curse him and kill him, because he has not kept it. It is a very grave mistake indeed to teach that the law is dead or abolished. It is nothing of the sort. It is alive in all its force, in all its stringency, in all its majesty, in all its unbending dignity. It would be a very serious mistake to say that the law of England, against murder, is dead. But if a man is dead, the law no longer applies to him, inasmuch as he has passed entirely out of its range.
But how is the believer dead to law? The Apostle replies, "I through the law am dead to the law." The law has brought the sentence of death into his conscience, as we read in Romans 7. "I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me."
But there is more than this. The Apostle goes on to say, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." And here is the triumphant answer of the Christian to those who say that, inasmuch as the Mosaic law is abrogated, there is no longer any demand for the legal restraint under which the Jews were called to live. To all who would seek liberty for self-indulgence, the answer is, "I... am dead to the law," not that I might give a loose rein to the flesh, but "that I might live unto God."
Thus nothing can be more complete, nothing more morally beautiful, than the answer of true Christianity to legality on the one hand, and licentiousness on the other. Self crucified; sin condemned; new life in Christ; a life to be lived to God; a life of faith in the Son of God; the motive spring of that life, the constraining love of Christ. What can exceed this? Will any one, in view of the moral glories of Christianity, contend for putting believers under the law, putting them back into the flesh-back into the old creation-back to the sentence of death in the conscience-back to bondage, darkness, distance, fear of death, condemnation?
Is it possible that any one who has ever tasted, even in the very feeblest measure, the heavenly sweetness of God's most blessed gospel, can accept the wretched mongrel system, composed of half law and half grace, which Christendom offers to the soul? How terrible to find the children of God, members of the body of Christ, temples of the Holy Ghost, robbed of their glorious privileges and burdened with a heavy yoke which, as Peter says, "Neither our fathers nor we were able to bear." We earnestly entreat the Christian reader to consider what has been placed before him. Search the Scriptures; and if you find these things to be so, then fling aside forever the grave clothes in which Christendom enwraps its deluded votaries, and walk in the liberty wherewith Christ makes His people free; tear off the bandage with which it covers the eyes of men, and gaze on the moral glories which shine with such heavenly brilliancy in the gospel of the grace of God.
And then let us prove by a holy, happy, gracious walk and conversation, that grace can do what law never could. Let our practical ways from day to day, in the midst of the scenes, circumstances, relationships, and associations in which we are called to live, be the most convincing reply to all who contend for the law as a rule of life.
Finally, let it be our earnest, loving desire and aim to seek, in so far as in us lies, to lead all the dear children of God into a clearer knowledge of their standing and privileges in a risen and glorified Christ. May the Lord send out His light and His truth in the power of the Holy Ghost, and gather His beloved people round Himself to walk in the joy of His salvation, in the purity and light of His presence, and to wait for His coming.