Romans 3:19 – 20 — “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. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
Leading into this pivotal paragraph in the Apostle’s declaration of the gospel of Christ, we learn the truth about what the law really is. Looking at verse 19, we see to whom the law is speaking: it is speaking to them that are under it. Who is under it then?
Exodus 19:3 – 6 — “And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto Myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.”
We see from just before that the Lord gave Moses the law, that it was given to a specific group of people. This specific group of people was to enter into this covenant with their God. In doing so, if they kept this covenant, they would be to God what He called them to be: “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.”
It should be noted that the nation did not really have a choice in whether or not to enter into this covenant. God’s called-out, elect nation, would not be just like the Gentile (heathen) nations out from which He called them.
Leviticus 20:26 — “And ye shall be holy unto Me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be Mine.”
But the law that was imposed upon them to make them this “holy nation”, was often broken, by the individuals in the nation, and the nation at large. It also carried blessings and curses with it.
Deuteronomy 28:1 – 2, 15, 45 — “And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all His commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God … But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee … Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded thee …”
Notice that from this passage, the “prosperity gospel” is not totally without Scriptural foundation. The children of Israel under the Mosaic covenant, which is the “old covenant” that is made old by the bringing in of the new covenant (Hebrews 8:13), surely did have a prosperity gospel. The answer to the prosperity gospel is, like many others, a dispensational one. This prosperity gospel was given to the children of Israel living under the Law, which was a dispensation, or stewardship, administration, government, etc., that the Lord gave to Moses¹. Under it, the Israelites were blessed abundantly if they kept the covenant, and cursed abundantly if they did not. God used them to judge the nations², and used the nations, more wicked than them, to judge them when they disobeyed (Habakkuk 1:13).
The children of Israel did not keep their part of the agreement, and in so not doing, they ended up with the curses. We know that the captivity into Babylon came about, when they “mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people³, till their was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:16). Many speak of the Roman oppression of the Jewish people, and the poverty into which the Lord Jesus Christ was born, but both of these should be to us first evidence of the place into which the elect nation slid because of their rebellion against the Lord. Think of this, for a moment: We find the angel appearing to Joseph addressing him as “thou son of David” (Matthew 1:20); we find in Luke 2:4 that Joseph was required of Caesar Augustus to go to Bethlehem to be taxed “because he was of the house and lineage of David”. When Mary and Joseph went into the temple to present their holy Child to the Lord, according to the law, they offered, in accordance with the law, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:24). This was the offering allowed for those in poverty (Leviticus 12:8). Think of this, the royal family in poverty. As is often said in “memes”… let that sink in.
That is, however, the truth of the law. It speaks to those under it, that EVERY MOUTH MAY BE STOPPED, AND THAT ALL THE WORLD MAY BECOME GUILTY BEFORE GOD!
Let that sink in!
Their are no arguments against this verdict allowed any more. “Shut up, you’re guilty”, is essentially the word from the Judge to any defense from the defendant, or anyone speaking on his behalf. The law proved both Jews and Gentiles, all under sin (Romans 3:9). All the world is now standing condemned before the Righteous Judge, “Who will render to every man according to his deeds” (Romans 2:6). An argument from the law will only bring a curse, for as the Apostle Paul reminds us in Galatians, quoting again from Moses in Deuteronomy4:
Galatians 3:10 — “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”
Praise God that the apostle does not end here, for he continues to say that “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, as it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:13).
By this we learn that there is no way possible for any man to plead the law against his guilt. It is the law that shows him exceedingly guilty. The law entered that the offence might abound (Romans 5:20), and abound it did! Mankind has no argument that will be heard regarding his righteousness. We are all guilty as charged, and God’s answer to all arguments is “Shut up, you’re guilty”.
But the gospel of Christ, in which the righteousness and wrath of God are revealed (Romans 1:17 – 18), also reveal His love, mercy, and grace to the cursed children of Adam.
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is revealed” is the very next word the apostle states. How we need that righteousness without the law, for within the law we stand only condemned!
Ephesians 2:4 – 5 — “But God, Who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins…”
Romans 5:8 — “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
God has intervened against His own judgment in providing the way for all mankind under the curse to be saved — to be justified (made righteous), to be sanctified (made holy), and to have eternal life. Eternal life is found only through Jesus Christ our Lord, and He is our only Redeemer. Those who think it narrow-minded to think that God would only allow one way for men to come to Him have missed a very important point: He need not provide any way whatsoever! But He did, and that way is through the death, burial, and resurrection of out Lord Jesus Christ, Who was on our behalf made sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God, in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Do not continue your arguments for your own righteousness! You are guilty, but when you submit to the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ, you will find Him a wonderful Savior, Who is able to save to the uttermost them that come to God by Him (Hebrews 7:25).
This is God’s grace: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved!
- Now, the whole world is living under the “dispensation of the grace of God” given to Paul as the steward (Ephesians 3:2). In this dispensation, believers may rightly say we are not under law, but under grace (Romans 6:14), and all may come to Christ apart from the law and fall on God’s grace as the only way that they may be saved.
- This is the answer as to why God commanded that which He did in regard to the Canaanites. It is also the correct understanding of what is known as the “imprecatory Psalms”. These are not just David’s “personal feelings” but the real way that God was dealing with nations and people who were the enemies of His people. David was God’s chosen king over Israel, so David’s enemies were indeed God’s enemies, and as such were under His judgment and the objects of His wrath. These Psalms are right when they are dispensationally understood. They are not the way in which God is dealing with people and nations in the dispensation of grace. God is not dealing with nations and people as enemies, but is offering salvation by grace through faith to all that will believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. He will again turn to the nation of Israel and treat its enemies as His enemies, but for the present, He has reconciled the world to Himself, and has given us the word of reconciliation.
- Notice “His people” here to be the nation of Israel. This is the same “His people” in Matthew 1:21, “For He shall save His people from their sins”. This is not a “limited atonement” as some will argue, that the atonement provided by Christ is limited to “the elect”, as they call them, but that Christ would save His people, Israel, from their sins. And He will yet do this: Romans 11:26 – 27 — “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”
- Deuternomy 27:16