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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Derek Prince » Derek Prince - God's Law Written On Our Hearts

Derek Prince - God's Law Written On Our Hearts

Derek Prince - God's Law Written On Our Hearts
TOPICS: Hebrews Bible Study, Law, Heart

As I was sitting here before the meeting, before my part in the meeting began, I was very vividly reminded of something which I feel God wants me to share with you. I was reminded because I was thinking of the responsibility that rested upon me here tonight to try to interpret to you these Scriptures. I assure you, I feel it to be a very solemn responsibility. The incident I'm going to describe briefly took place in Wales in the year 1913, one year before World War I. A well-known evangelist of that generation, Steven Jeffries, was preaching in a little chapel in Wales, a very simple structure with whitewashed walls, practically no kind of ornaments of any kind and behind him was a bare, white wall. I have this from people who were personally acquainted with the people who were witnesses.

As the evangelist was preaching, he noticed that the eyes of the people were fastened upon him with extraordinary attention. He wondered what he was saying or doing that was causing them to be so attentive. Only when he had finished preaching and stepped down from the platform did he discover that supernaturally on the white wall behind him there had been projected in glowing colors the head of a lamb. This lamb's head was there clearly on the wall behind him. Then, afte awhile, the head of the lamb changed to the head of Christ as a man of sorrows. Particularly people noticed that his hair was prematurely flecked with gray. This remained on the wall after the service had closed.

Ladies went up with scarves and held them and the light shone through the scarves and remained there probably on into the night but it was gone the next day. What particularly brought this to my mind was that the people told Steven Jeffries that both while the head of the lamb was there and then when it became the head of Christ, the eyes moved continually watching every movement that the preacher made. For me as a preacher, that spoke to me in a way that I think hardly anything else has done about the fact that the eyes of the Lord are on those who minister His Word. He's checking every move, every gesture, every word spoken. It's left me always with a sense of responsibility to the Lord as I interpret His Word to His people.

I think it came back to me tonight because as we go into the 8th and 9th chapters of Hebrews we're moving into a very strange realm. A realm which is outside that of natural experience and sense knowledge. This epistle to the Hebrews is a very remarkable book because it's dealing with things that most of us have never seen with our natural eyes. It's dealing with them as absolutely real. As I prayed with my wife before I came tonight I prayed that the Holy Spirit would make these things real and vivid to all of us, myself not least. Because, without the Holy Spirit this will just be words. Only the Holy Spirit can reveal these unseen but eternal realities which are the theme of the next chapters of Hebrews.

Chapter 9 particularly and also, to some extent, chapter 10. All the practical teaching in Hebrews is derived from these eternal unseen realities. Unless the Holy Spirit makes the unseen real to us, the practical will not have the impact on us that it ought to. I was blessed when Brother Jim Croft just before I spoke led us in that beautiful chorus 'Holy, Holy, Holy,' because I think there's probably no other passage of Scripture which more fully unfolds the holiness of God than this epistle to the Hebrews. You've probably heard it said', and I may have quoted it before' that Hebrews is the Leviticus of the New Testament. Or, Leviticus is the Hebrews of the Old Testament. They go parallel in many ways and both of them unfold this service of God and what is required to be in God's presence and how we come into God's presence and how we can avoid transgressing against the holiness of God.

This is a very solemn thought because even those who served only in the tabernacle of Moses which we were told was a copy, and shadow of the heavenly things, if they transgressed they were instantly struck with death. Two of Aaron's sons died instantly because they didn't observe the requirements of holiness. We're not talking now about the mere copy but we're talking about the actual heavenly realities. How much more does that demand holiness in us? We'll turn now to the outline of chapter 8 which you'll find on the page marked 8/1. The page numbers all refer to the chapter which the outline relates to. We will very quickly go over the outline for the first six verses which we did deal with last time.

The first two verses of chapter 8 extract the main points about Jesus as high priest from the foregoing elaborate comparison of chapter 7. These are the four main points: He sat down because He never needed to repeat His sacrifice' unlike the Levitical priests who always remained standing. Second, He sat on a throne. He was not only a priest, He was a king. That's the order of Melchizedek, not of Levi. Third, it's in the heavens, not on earth. And fourth, it's in the true tabernacle which was pitched by God and not by man. Verses 3 and 4 reaffirm the function of a priest. The Lord seemed to cause me to dwell on that last time rather to my own surprise. To emphasize that nobody can give God a gift or a sacrifice without a priest. Nobody just walks up to God and slips something into His hand.

The function of a priest is to take the gifts and the sacrifices of God's people and transmit them to God. Only if the priest is accepted will the gift or the sacrifice be accepted. We need always to bear in mind as Christians our gifts are accepted much more because of our priest than because of ourselves. Verse 5 points out the Levitical priests served only in a tabernacle that was a copy of the heavenly one. We need continually to remind ourselves the heavenly is the original, the material and earthly one is the copy. We are so earthbound that we tend to think about the earthly one as real, and the heavenly one as shadowy. It's the other way around. Then from verses 6 through 13, which we will be going through now, we come to the fourth passage of comparison and all the passages of comparison are listed in the introduction which we will not turn to.

This comparison is between the Old and the New Covenant. Bear in mind when you read your Bible, the same word that's translated 'testament' is also 'covenant.' Both in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, and the Greek of the New. Our Bible comes to us in two covenants: the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. In verse 6 we looked at briefly last time the writer states three aspects of the superiority of the new order. First, Jesus has a more excellent ministry. It's heavenly, not earthly. Second, He's mediating a better covenant. It's an eternal, not a temporary, covenant. And thirdly, it's enacted on better promises. There's promised much more than was promised under the Old Covenant.

Now I think the best thing I can do is translate verses 7 to the end of the chapter. Then we'll work through them. My translation is off the cuff, and it may not be very elegant but it probably will bring out some meanings which might not be apparent from the more elegant translation that's printed. I'm going to start at verse 7. For if that first covenant was without fault [or there was nothing wrong with it or if it had been adequate]. I think the key word is inadequate.

We'll look in a few moments why it was inadequate. We could translate it this way: 'If that first covenant had been adequate, no place would have been sought for a second. That's obvious. If the first one does the whole job why look for a second? That's logic, it's Talmudic logic, but it's very real. Then the writer, as he so often does, proceeds to quote from the Old Testament to show that what he's saying is based on the Old Testament Scriptures and fully in line with them. For blaming them He says [He is God and them is Israel]. And notice, we'll look at this further, He's not blaming the covenant, He's blaming the people. This is what He says.

Now this is quoted from the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 31, verses 31'34. You're welcome to turn there if you'd like. If you do turn you may discover if you look at it rather closely that there are certain quite significant differences between the version we have in the Old Testament in Jeremiah and this one which is a quotation here in Hebrews. The reason, which I have dealt with before in this series, is that the writer of Hebrews does not normally quote Old Testament Scriptures directly from the Hebrew text but he quotes them from what we call the Septuagint, which was the Greek translation of the Hebrew text made in about the first or second century BC. It was probably made in Alexandria in Egypt, made with the authorization of the Jewish leaders. That was probably more widely disseminated in the world of the New Testament than the Hebrew version because everybody who had any education read Greek. Comparatively few people read Hebrew.

Why there's a difference is a problem which I think we better not try and get into. We have enough to deal with without getting into that one. It's possible that the translators of the Septuagint had the same Hebrew text, and understood it differently or it's possible that there were some alternative variations in the Hebrew text at that time. This has been brought to the floor again by the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in Qumran, which happened, as you know, in about 1948 because there are some Hebrew texts, especially in 1 and 2 Samuel, and in Jeremiah which are not in full agreement with the accepted standard Hebrew text that is familiar today which is called the Masoretic Text, which is the text that the Jewish people decided to adopt as their official version about the ninth century of the Christian era.

The whole question of texts is somewhat complicated and I think it's better that we don't get too deeply involved in it. One reason being I'm not qualified to speak on it in detail. I'm going to translate from the Greek of chapter 8. It might be quite interesting to you' if you've got enough fingers and you can partition your brain enough' to turn back also to Jeremiah 31 in the Old Testament. You may be able to read them both simultaneously. I'm now starting Hebrews 8:8: Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, that I will accomplish or, what word should we use? What does it say here? That I will make. Well, that's a little weak. It means: I will completely make, I will finish it off I will make with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant.

Notice, it's with the entire people of Israel. The house of Israel, that's the descendants of the northern kingdom. The house of Judah, the descendants of the southern kingdom. It's not some part of the Jewish people, it's the entire Jewish people. not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not abide in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. Because this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: Giving My laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts. And I will be to them a God [or God or their God], and they will be to Me a people. And they certainly will not teach each one his fellow citizen, and each one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they will all know Me, from the smallest to the greatest of them.

It's interesting that the Bible, when it has small and great nearly always puts small before great. Very, very few places can you find great put before small. For they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them. Because I will be merciful to their unrighteousnesses, and their sins I will no longer remember. We might as well read verse 13, which is not a quotation from Jeremiah but a comment. When He says, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first one old. But that which is becoming obsolete and old is near to vanishing away. Let's go back and go through that with our outline, which I trust you will find helpful. We're going to the bottom of Page 8/1 and my comment there, which requires some amplification, is: The covenant based on the Law was rendered ineffective or inadequate not by any fault in the law, but by the weakness of man's carnal nature.

It's very, very important to understand that. That's why it says, 'He found fault with them,' not 'He found fault with the covenant.' There are a number of passages in the New Testament that bring out this fact. We'll look simply at the two that are quoted there. The first is in Romans 7. I have a problem. When I'm in Hebrews and I get into Romans it's sometimes difficult for me to get out of Romans but I'm going to try. Romans 7, this is an elaborate passage of Paul's writings here. We just have to dive in, that's all. I hope we can come up for breath! Verses 4'12: Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, Paul is saying: When Christ died, you died. His death was your death, and His death was to the Law.

You see, you've got to bear one thing in mind about the Law. The ultimate it can do to you is put you to death and after that it has no more. Once you're dead, the Law doesn't apply to you. The law applies to the living, not to the dead. That's the only way out of being under the Law, is by death. But the death was Christ's death. I hope you get that. Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another [that's a metaphor from marriage], to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God. It's a union that will bring forth fruit. He's pointed out earlier that if the Law were alive and they were married to the Law, they couldn't ever get free because it's 'until death do us part.'

But when the Law died in Christ, then they were released from that marriage union and without being adulterous they could be united to the resurrected Christ to bring forth fruit. I can see from your faces that's a new thought to some of you, we cannot dwell on it. Verse 5: For while we were in the flesh, and the flesh does not mean merely our physical bodies. It means the nature that we inherited with our physical bodies. And that nature can be summed up in one key word which is rebel. Every one of us has inherited a nature that contains in it a rebel. That nature is called 'the flesh.' Some of you may not yet have come face to face with that fact. It's a very important one. It'll make a lot of difference in your life when you discover it. God has only got one remedy for the rebel.

Those of you that have heard me preach know what that is. He does not send him to church or Sunday school or teach him the Golden Rule, or how to memorize Scripture. God's only remedy for the rebel is execution! The message of mercy is the execution took place when Jesus died. Verse 5: For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. That's an astonishing statement, isn't it? The sinful passions which were aroused by the Law. We'll go on reading. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound... Remember the only way out from under the law is death. so that we serve in newness of the Spirit, and not in oldness of the letter. And there, by implication, are the two covenants: the Old, the letter; the New, the Spirit. What shall we say then?

Now Paul's going to defend himself. Much of Romans is written in answer to imaginary accusations from people' presumably Jewish people' who didn't accept his version of the gospel of grace. They're saying to him, he imagines, 'So, the Law was bad.' He says, 'Oh, no, not at all. Nothing wrong with the Law.' Verse 7: What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! If you know anything about the Jewish people, that's so typical. Ha-lee-la is what they say. Far from it, never let it be. On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting [or lusting] if the Law had not said, 'You shall not covet.' 'To the Law,' Paul says, 'I owe the fact that I can identify sin.'

The particular sin that he's referring to is coveting or lusting. He's referring, of course, to the tenth commandment which says, 'Thou shalt not covet.' I have to confess, for the first time today I realized specifically that the first thing you're not to covet is your neighbor's house; the second, his wife. I've always thought, Why did Paul put lust instead of covet, but that's the answer. When you covet your neighbor's wife, that's lust. Paul says if there had never been a commandment that says don't covet (don't lust), I wouldn't have recognized lust. It was the commandment that brought lust to light in me. I don't know whether you have experienced that. But in a small way I experienced it as a boy of 15 when I was confirmed in the Anglican Church.

This is no criticism of the Anglican Church. I was not instructed in the essence of the gospel. That's to say, mentally I could repeat the various things that were said, but no one had ever made it personal to me. I never had had a personal application of what the death of Jesus was intended to do in my life. But at that time I decided, 'This has come at just the right moment. I'm really not nearly as good as I ought to be. From now on, I'm going to be a whole lot better.' That was my view of what would happen through confirmation. Well, it actually worked out exactly the opposite. The more I tried to be good, the quicker I got bad, and the worse I got. See, I made the same discovery. You don't know how bad you are until you try to be good.

As long as you're content with being bad there's really no struggle. But when you see the standard of goodness and aim at that, something is triggered inside you. That rebel says, 'Not me! I'm not going that way and you can't make me!' He's quite right; you can't make him. There's no way you can make him. Paul says in Romans 8, 'They that are in the flesh cannot please God. The carnal or fleshly mind is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be.' Going on reading in Romans 7: But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. And I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me.

So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. That's the essence of what I wanted to say. The problem is not in the Law, it's in the people' in Israel then, and in every son of Adam now. It's the rebel. What the Law does in the purposes of God is to bring the rebel out into the open. Paul says, "I wouldn't have known sin if the Law hadn't said, 'Don't covet.'" And in Romans 3:20 he says: 'By the Law is the knowledge of sin.' The Law is God's diagnostic. It brings out the problem into the open. We'll look also, for a moment, in Romans 8:3'8. Romans 8:3'8: For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

The essence of that is we cannot do what is pleasing to God as long as we are in the flesh, as long as we are controlled by the carnal, unregenerate, Adamic nature. Because, that's a rebel. The rebel has to be dealt with before we can please God. God dealt with the rebel in Christ. Our old man'that's the Adamic rebel' was crucified with Him. I'm sure for some of you that's perhaps the first time you've ever been confronted with that fact. But, it's a historical fact, it's true whether anybody believes it or not. Until you know it and believe it, it's not going to work in your life. Paul says, 'Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin on the basis of Christ's death.' He died our death. He paid our penalty. He got us out of the Law. No other way out but death.

Going on in Romans 8:5: For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh [but I prefer the King James Version, 'the carnal mind'] is death, but the [spiritual] mind... is life and peace, because the [carnal] mind is hostile toward God; [Okay? It's at enmity with God.] for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so;

That's a very important statement. Even if it tries, it can't do it. Verse 8:, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. All that we went into at some length' perhaps longer than we should have done' because of the statement that the problem was not with the law, it was not with the covenant, it was with the people. Now we're going back to our outline and we've at last got to Page 8/2. And, We've already seen the transition from the Old to New Covenant is predicted in Jeremiah 31:31'34. It's also predicted in Jeremiah 50:4'5, a reference which is not in your outline but is worth looking at for a moment.

Jeremiah 50:4'5, 'In those days and at that time,' declares the LORD, 'the sons of Israel will come, both they and the sons of Judah [notice again, it's the total people, Israel and Judah] as well; they will go along weeping as they go, and it will be the LORD their God they will seek. They will ask the way to Zion, turning their faces in its direction; they will come that they may join themselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten.' I prefer the alternative reading in the margin: 'Saying, come ye, let us join ourselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten.' That speaks about the other side.

Jeremiah 31 speaks about what God will do. Jeremiah 50 speaks about the response of Israel to what God will do. That's a very vivid passage to me because when I was originally learning Hebrew from a young Jewish man in Jerusalem who was killed in the war of 1948 (but he was my Hebrew teacher at that time). I wrote him a composition in Hebrew explaining that I thought this was what was going to happen to the Jewish people' that they were going to come and say, 'Let us join ourselves to the LORD' and ask the way to Zion. And I said, 'That is the way to Zion.' Ultimately, the only way to Zion is the everlasting covenant. He pointed out something to me which I've never forgotten which I cannot explain in detail. The punctuation in the Hebrew indicates precisely that. The way to Zion is to say, 'Let us join ourselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant.'

So there we have the two aspects: God's declaration in Jeremiah 31 and the response of the people when God's time comes in Jeremiah 50. Now we'll go through the points of contrast between the two covenants bearing in mind this is one of the passages of comparison and contrast. First of all, the Old consisted in external commandments on tablets of stone. Stone is a very significant word. It's something very hard and unyielding, external. The New consists of laws written inwardly in hearts and minds.

I think perhaps the key word is external and internal. We've already seen from Paul's analysis of what the law could not do that as long as it remained outside and couldn't deal with the rebel, it could never get the job done. People could look at it and say, 'We'll do it all,' but they never did do it. How is the law written inwardly on hearts and minds? This is very, very important. We'll look at 2 Corinthians 3:3. 2 Corinthians 3:3. We need to read verse 2 as well. Paul is writing to the Corinthians Christians who were a very bad lot by their natural state in life. They were all sorts of things: prostitutes, homosexuals, extortioners, blasphemers. He lists all their problems. It says: You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; I always appreciate that.

Paul said, 'If you want to know what I believe, if you want my theology, just go to Corinth and look at the people there. That's my theology demonstrated. Find out what they were, look at the way they live now and you'll know that's my letter.' That's the kind of letter I think preachers need to be able to write. Verse 3: being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of [flesh or of] human hearts. What is it that can write God's laws on hearts of men and women? The Holy Spirit. That's tremendously important, because many, many times in the Christian church we've gone back to a situation which is just like the Ten Commandments only we've probably substituted our own silly little list of rules for the Ten Commandments' or added to it.

See, if the Holy Spirit doesn't do it, it will not work. There is no way you can change the human heart without the Holy Spirit. All preaching that is just words without the Spirit is wasted time. It accomplishes absolutely nothing of permanent value. The only agent in the universe that can transmit God's laws to the heart of men and women is the Holy Spirit. If He isn't on the scene, if He isn't working, all our religious activities are just a waste of time and we're deceiving ourselves. You can have the fundamentals of your faith up on the walls of your church but that won't stop people being liars and hypocrites and cheats.

In fact, it tends to make them, if anything, somewhat more hypocritical. The only thing that can change people is the Holy Spirit when He has access to our hearts. I am so conscious these days when I speak that if it isn't the Holy Spirit I could just as well stop. I tell you, tonight I have prayed earnestly that it would be the Holy Spirit that would do the writing because if it's just a human voice or human rules or regulations or fundamentals or statements of doctrine that are written external, they will not change the human heart. There is no power in the universe that can change the human heart from sin to righteousness, from rebellion to obedience except the Holy Spirit. Ink won't do it. It's not with ink; it's with the Spirit of the living God.
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