Derek Prince - Righteousness In The Death Of Christ
We closed our last session with Romans 3:19–20, which are in a sense the culmination of the first stages of our Pilgrimage, and at this point Paul has proved out of Scripture that the whole world is accountable to God for sin and that no one can avoid standing before the judgment of God on account of sin. I think I’ll read those two verses again because they are so important. Romans 3:19: Now we know whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; That’s the destination Paul has brought us to: the whole world is accountable to God. Both Jews and Gentiles. Both religious people and nonreligious people are accountable to God. And then he goes on to say keeping rules or the Law never changes the fact that we are still accountable to God.
And he says in verse 20: because by the works of the Law Or you can leave out the "the" By the works of the law, [by the keeping of rules] no flesh [no human being] will be justified in [God’s] sight [will be reckoned righteous or achieve righteousness in the sight of God]; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. Now that’s a startling statement for religious people. Through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. And I’ve learned from experience, many, many Christians find it very hard to comprehend why Paul should say the Law is what causes us to recognize sin. And then to wonder why God would give the Law if all it can do was make us aware that we’re sinners and it cannot make us righteous. So I’m going to devote this particular section to the Parenthesis which you will find in your outline: Six Purposes for Which the Law Was Given.
I’ve learned by experience that if I don’t deal with this there’ll be a whole string of unanswered questions in your mind and you’ll never really be able to give attention to the positive which Paul is building up to. So I want to suggest to you out of Scripture six purposes for which the Law was given. First of all, to show men the reality and power of sin. First the diagnosis, then the medicine. And this is very true psychologically. It’s no good explaining to people God’s way of salvation if they haven’t realized they have the disease of sin. A person has to first be convinced that he’s a sinner before he will recognize and receive God’s plan of salvation. God does the same. He doesn’t offer us the plan of salvation until He’s shown us how desperately we need it. But we’re sick with an incurable disease, which is sin and there’s only one remedy.
Let me give you some Scriptures now. We’ll read again Romans 3:20: by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified [will achieve righteousness] in [God’s] sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. That’s the first purpose for which God gave the Law, to show us the disease of sin. The Law is God’s diagnostic to make us aware of the condition of sin which prevails in our lives. And apart from the Bible and books based on the Bible, I do not believe there is any book in the world that reveals the nature of sin. This is one of the priceless benefits of the Bible. I was a student of one of the greatest philosophers of old, Plato. And Plato was really interested in the issue of righteousness. He called it excellence or virtue. And his conclusion was that knowledge is virtue. And I mean, he worked this thing out, it didn’t come to it lightly. And he said if people know what is right, they’ll do it.
Well, that’s flat contrary to human experience. We're continually confronted by people who know what is right and don’t do it and know what is wrong and do it. And who know also that doing wrong will cost them dearly and still they do it, you see, because only the Bible diagnoses this force within us, which is called sin, which causes us to do things against our own best interest; even when we know what we’re doing. So knowledge by itself is not the solution. The only solution is the gospel. Let me read you just a few other passages on this theme from Romans chapter 7; and we’ll be dealing with Romans chapter 7 in good detail later on, so let me just pick out a couple. of passages there. Romans 7:7: What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! [What do we say for that?] [Perish the thought!] On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "You shall not covet". So how did he come to know about sin? Through the Law, that’s right.
And again in verses 12 & 13: So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Paul is very careful to point out there’s nothing wrong with the Law. The fault isn’t in the Law. Verse 13: Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! [What do we say?] [Perish the thought!] Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. The purpose of the Law is to bring into the open the total sinfulness of sin. To show it in all its ugliness, all its real colors. There’s no other source of this revelation but the Bible.
The second purpose of the Law is to show men that they’re unable to achieve righteousness by their own efforts. And Paul gives us his own experience again in this same 7th chapter of Romans, verses 18–23: For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; I have to point out to you, and we will see this again, the word flesh is sometimes used in a technical meaning. It doesn’t mean my physical body, but it means the nature which I have inherited from my descent from Adam, my old Adamic nature. We’ll come back to that further on. So I know that in my flesh nothing good dwells, for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. [I wonder how many of you are going to be able to identify with these words as we go on] Verse 19: For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. See what it’s done? Pinpoints sin. Shows that there’s a power at work in us which even works contrary to our own sincere will and intention.
Verse 19: For the good that I wish, I do not do; But I practice.... I'm sorry I've read that. [verse 21:] I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. [verse 22:] For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, [verse 23:] but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. And the word for prisoner there is not a criminal who has broken the law, but prisoner of war someone who has been taken prisoner and is made to fight against the side he is really on So that’s Paul’s description of his own experience. For my part, I say, Amen, Paul, I understand you. Because at the age of 15, while I was still at Eton, a decree went out to the college that all the boys of 15 were to be confirmed in the Anglican Church.
Well, I didn’t really feel like being confirmed, so I wrote to my father, who was serving with the British Army in India, and said, I don’t really want to be confirmed. I was surprised at my father’s response. He wrote back and said, You will be confirmed. What surprised me was that my father thought he was doing well if he went to church twice a year, Christmas and Easter, so I didn’t see why he wanted me confirmed. Anyhow, in order to be confirmed in the Anglican Church, as many of you know, you have to go to be instructed. Well, I was instructed by a history tutor, not by a religious professor, and you have to learn how to answer certain questions. And those of you who have been in the Episcopal Church, what is the first question? What is your name? Well, that’s pretty easy to answer for most of us.
The next one is, Who gave you this name? And the answer, which I really don’t believe, is: My godparents at my baptism, etc. But I won’t go into all that. But in studying these questions, I became aware of the fact that I wasn’t really nearly as good as I thought I was. I thought, I really need to be better. So I concluded that, Confirmation has come at the right time and from now on I’m going to be a lot better. In due course, the Bishop of Oxford came along and laid his hands on the heads of about 50 Eton boys, of whom I was one. So I said, That’s it. Now I’m going to better. Well, Well, I was totally disillusioned, because instead of getting better, I got steadily worse, and the harder I tried to be good, the quicker I got bad. Now, I was perfectly sincere. I really meant it. Well, my way of thinking was, This thing doesn’t work. I said to myself, I might as well not try to be good because I don’t get so bad that way.
So I concluded this thing doesn’t work, you see, because I’d had the diagnosis, but I hadn’t had the remedy. It was ten years later that the Lord met me and I was born again, and immediately a change took place in my life. But I can so well identify with the words of Paul. All right, the next reason for which the Law was given is to foretell and foreshow the Savior, the Messiah. And in this context, Paul calls the Law a tutor. If you turn for a moment to Galatians 3 Verse 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ [the Messiah], that we may be justified by faith. Now the word that’s being translated tutor there is actually the word from which we get the English word pedagogue. And it describes a senior slave in the household of a wealthy man whose job was to give the wealthy man’s children the first basic instructions in right and wrong and then, when they became old enough, to lead them every day to the school or to the tutor who was going to teach them.
So this man was not the teacher but he was the one who took them to the teacher. And Paul says thats what the Law did for us Jews. It gave us the first principles of right and wrong, but it couldn’t teach us the whole thing But it became our slave to lead us to the Messiah who could teach us. So the purpose of the Law was to direct Israel to the Messiah, to reveal Him and foreshow Him. And this it did in two ways. By foretelling and by foreshadowing. There are many prophecies in he Law that clearly predict the Messiah. We’ll just look at one. Deuteronomy 18 Deuteronomy 18:18–19. The Lord is speaking to Moses and he says: I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you [like Moses], and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And it shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.
So there’s a clear prediction that God was going to raise up to Israel, from amongst their own brothers a prophet who would be like Moses. And I have written a study years ago called, A Prophet Like Moses. I think I found 26 points in which Moses and Jesus are parallel. There’s no other prophet that even approaches that number of points. This prophet was to have unique authority because He was going to tell them all that God commanded and if they didn’t listen, God was would require it of them. And all the apostles of the New Testament unanimously concur that this promise of the prophet like Moses was fulfilled in Jesus. So there was a foretelling of the Messiah. But the Messiah was also foreshadowed in the Law, in many of its ordinances and sacrifices.
In fact, I believe every sacrifice in the law in some way or other foreshadows Jesus. There’s not a single sacrifice that doesn’t tell us something about Jesus if we can see it. But just to take one example, the Passover lamb which was slain in Egypt and whose blood protected the Israelites’ households against the wrath and judgment of God that came upon the Egyptians who were not protected. And let me point out to you that it's not a question of nationality or race. There was just one issue. Is the blood on the house, or is it not? And this is perhaps as clear a picture of Jesus, the Lamb of God, as you can find anywhere in the Bible. We’ll just look at two passages in the New Testament in which this picture of the Passover lamb is applied to Jesus.
The first is in John 1 The introduction of John the Baptist who was sent to prepare the way for the Messiah. John 1:29: The next day he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming to him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He was the one who fulfilled the type of the Passover lamb. And then very specifically in 1 Corinthians 5:7, Paul applies this to Jesus. He says - and he’s referring now to the ordinance of the Passover in which every Jewish home had to be purged of leaven: Cleans out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. So there he states specifically that Christ was the true Passover lamb. And we of course bear in mind that His sacrifice, His death, took place at the Passover season.
So the Law pointed those who were under it to the true solution, the Messiah who was to come. Then the fourth reason for the Law, which is not always understood especially by Gentiles, is to keep Israel as a separate nation to which Messiah could come. Kept in custody or shut up. And Paul says this again in Galatians Galatians 3 verse 23: But before faith came, we [we Jews] were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. So the Jews were shut up by the law in a special situation to keep them ready for the Messiah. And if you like to turn to the words of Balaam a prophecy concerning Israel in Numbers 23:9. This is prophetic vision of Israel. As I see him from the top of the rocks, and I look at him from the hills; behold, a people who dwells apart, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. The word nations is goyim, the word for Gentiles.
So even after they were dispersed driven out of their own land for 2,000 years, that prophecy has been fulfilled concerning the Jewish people. A people who dwell apart who shall not be reckoned amongst the nations. It’s one of the most remarkable facts of history that that Jewish nation could be dispersed from their own land in the year 70 A.D. and 19 centuries later, after spending nearly 2,000 years amongst at least 100 other nations, could still be a separate, identifiable people.
My first wife was Danish. She often used to say to me, If you scattered the Danes amongst the other nations and came back at the end of 100 years, you wouldn’t find a single Dane. It’s unique that it is true only of Israel. And the thing that kept them separate primarily was the law of Moses. And one particular ordinance, the sabbath. That always separated them out from other people. And they kept that at tremendous personal cost and sacrifice to themselves. You see, God had to have a people to whom the Messiah could come. I was speaking in Singapore a few years ago to a crowd of about 3,000 people nearly all of whom were Chinese.
And as I looked at them, and I was preaching on how to be delivered from the curse, I said to myself: There’s hardly one of these Chinese persons here today who doesn’t have an ancestor three generations back who was not an idol worshiper. And then I thought to myself, God could never have sent His Son to such a nation, because if He had obeyed His parents, He would have been worshiping a false god. So God had to prepare a nation very carefully and specially to whom He could send His Son, Who could obey His parents, keep the ordinance of His nation and still be faithful to God, His father. It’s a tremendous miracle, in a way, that God was able to do that.
All right, we’re going on with the purposes of the Law. To provide humanity with a pattern of a nation governed by just laws. We look just for a moment at Nehemiah 9:13–14. This is part of a tremendous prayer which was prayed after the return from the Babylonian exile. And they rehearse all the acts of God on behalf of Israel. And then they say: Then Thou didst come down on Mount Sinai, and didst speak with them from heaven; Thou didst give to them just ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments So Thou didst make known to them Thy holy sabbath, and didst lay down for them commandments, statutes, and law, through Thy servant Moses. That is a true statement. Basically, in our world today, nearly all the nations that have a code of law that preserves human integrity and morality can trace those laws back to the law of Moses. So the law established a pattern to which all other nations could look to see what it would be like to be a nation governed by just laws.
Finally, this is very important, and not usually taken into account, a purpose of the law was to provide inexhaustible material for spiritual meditation. How many of you can quote the opening words from Psalm 1? The first three words are: Blessed is the man [who] walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. [Verse 2:] But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in His law doth he meditate day and night. [What is the result? Verse 3:] And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
Do you want to be successful? The key is what you meditate in. The successful man meditates in the law day and night, and that’s the key to his success. And I want to say, when you know who the Passover Lamb is, the meditation of the Lord becomes infinitely richer, but it’s still an inexhaustible source of material for meditation. Let us just quickly glance through these purposes for which the law was given. I want to review them and we’ll close this session.
First of all, to show men the reality and power of sin. The diagnostic and the only diagnostic. There is nothing else in human experience that can diagnose sin but the law.
Second, to show men they are unable to achieve righteousness by their own effort. How many of you would agree to that? You’re unable to keep the law by your own efforts. Even your own church law you really don’t keep if you are honest with yourself.
Number three, to foretell and foreshadow the Savior, the Messiah. Foretelling Him in prophecy and foreshadowing Him in type and picture.
Number four, to keep Israel as separate nation to which the Messiah could come. And the words that Paul uses are in custody or shut up, a nation set apart.
Number five, to provide humanity with a pattern of a nation governed by just laws. And at least in our Western world, in our Protestant inheritance, every one of our nations has derived the greater part of its laws in one way or another from the laws of Moses. And when we really get into trouble, brothers and sisters, is when we depart from that principle, which is just what’s happening to us today.
And finally, the sixth purpose of the law to provide inexhaustible material for spiritual meditation. And I want to emphasize there’s a matter of practical application. The key to success in life is right meditation. The 3rd verse of Psalm 1 is an astonishing verse. In the New International Version of the Bible it says: Whatever he does succeeds. Very simple. What’s the key? Right meditation. What’s the great source of meditation? The law You could just read almost any of the five books of Moses and find inexhaustible lessons to guide you and guard you and warn you. Do you want to succeed? There’s no one here today who doesn’t want to succeed. Remember that meditating on the law of God is the root cause of success in the Christian life. Amen.