The Setting for the Law
Dr. Joe Temple

The Setting for the Law

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Exodus, chapter 19. This is the section of the book of Exodus which deals with the law of God. When we think of the law of God we think primarily of the Ten Commandments, but we are going to see before we are through with this section, chapters 19-24, that the law of God is broader than the Ten Commandments. It includes more than the Ten Commandments.

May we bow our heads together for prayer:

Our Father, we do praise Thy name for another opportunity of looking into Thy Word, and we do ask that Thou wilt open the Word to us, that we may be able to understand what is before us. Particularly, our Father, do we pray in connection with this passage of Scripture that Thou wilt give us the insight and the understanding we need. For we pray in Jesus' name and for His sake. Amen.

Wrong Ideas About the Law

Chapter 19 provides the setting for the giving of the law. I think it is very important for us to understand this setting, because usually when we think about the law of God, we think of God as an austere, terrible person who is interested only in condemning people, not in helping them. When we think about the law, we think about it as such an awful, terrible thing that we think the Israelites made a tremendous mistake in saying they would even attempt to keep the law. We could go on and mention many misunderstandings related to this passage of Scripture, but I believe the best thing for us to do is to read the passage and find out what it does say.

As I have said to you a number of times about all the Word of God, time would fail us to learn all the false teachings and the errors that are related to the Word of God, but if we learn what the Word of God says, then when we hear some error or some mistake in interpretation, we will be able to dismiss it because it does not fit in with the truth of the Word.

Preparations for Receiving the Law

Follow in your Bibles as we read the major portion of this chapter, and then we will think about it together:

Exodus 19

1In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai.
2For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount.
3And 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;
4Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.
5Now 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:
6And 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.
7And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him.
8And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.
9And the LORD said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the LORD.
10And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes,
11And be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai.
12And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death:
13There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.
14And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes.
15And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives.
16And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.
17And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount.
18And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.
19And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.
20And the LORD came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the LORD called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up.
21And the LORD said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish.
22And let the priests also, which come near to the LORD, sanctify themselves, lest the LORD break forth upon them.
23And Moses said unto the LORD, The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it.
24And the LORD said unto him, Away, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the LORD, lest he break forth upon them.
25So Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto them.

We are going to stop our reading there. Chapter 20 is the record of what God said to Moses and what Moses said to the people in relation to what we commonly refer to as “the Ten Commandments.” As I said, it is important for us to understand first the setting in which we find the Ten Commandments given.

Significance of the Number Three

The first thing I would like to call to your attention is the emphasis upon the number three in this chapter. If you were listening closely, you probably noticed it. In the first verse there is a reference to the third month; in verse 11 there is a reference to the third day; in verse 15 and again in verse 16 we find a mention of the third day. We have suggested to you that numbers in the Scripture are always significant; whenever we find emphasis upon numbers in any portion of Scripture, it is interesting to notice it and to remind ourselves of the reason for it.

You will remember that the number three is the number of God from a divine standpoint, and three is the number of manifestation as far as man is concerned. In this chapter we have the manifestation of God to the Israelites. Keep in mind that this was the first time He manifested Himself to them; that was the reason the third month was chosen. It was not by mistake.

We could notice a number of passages of Scripture which would clarify what I have just said about the number three being the number of manifestation, but I don't think it would be wise for us to take the time if we are to get into the rest of this discussion. You might like to notice what happened on the third day of creation. You might read the last part of chapter 5 and chapter 6 of the book of Hosea. You might keep in mind the story of Jonah and the three days in the belly of the whale before he was manifested, and also the truth that is related to the Resurrection, etc. Numerous examples in the Word of God indicate that the number three is the number of manifestation.

I mention this to you because I want you to see that God's Word is accurate. This did not happen on the seventh day, it did not happen on the first day, it happened on the third day. It happened in the third month. Particularly is this significant when you keep in mind that the journey from Egypt to Mt. Sinai was only 150 miles. God kept them occupied here and there, with long rests here and shorter rests there, until the day appointed for the giving of the law. You will keep in mind also that the children of Israel were here at Mt. Sinai for about 11 months before they started their journey once again.

Fulfillment of a Promise to Moses

Keep in mind also that this chapter 19 is important because it is a fulfillment of the Word of God. Glance back with me at chapter 3 of the book of Exodus. You will remember that Moses was somewhat concerned about the job to which God had called him, leading the children of Israel through this land about which we have been studying–about this wilderness experience. He was concerned that he might not be up to it, etc. God encouraged his heart with a promise which we find in the paragraph which begins with verse 11:

Exodus 3

11And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?
12And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.

So chapter 19 is not a record of the first time that Moses was on Mt. Sinai. He had been there when God called him into His service. God said, “Now, as a token that I have really called you, that I really mean what I say, you are going to serve Me on this very mountain.”

We see that chapter 19 records a fulfillment of God's Word. It is a fulfillment of promise. I emphasize that again because some of the terrible things we are going to read in this chapter are awesome–terrible in sight and in sound–and it is good to know that the God who is back of all these awesome, terrible sounds is the God who keeps a promise when He makes it.

Interested In Welfare of Man

You will notice in verse 4 another indication of God's interest in the welfare of man instead of an interest in the condemnation of man. Verse 4 of chapter 19 is one of the sweetest verses in the Word of God, portraying as it does the grace of God:

Exodus 19

4Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.

Get the picture. God is saying to the Israelites, “You know the miracles which I performed in Egypt. You know how I defended you from the Egyptians. You know how I bare you on eagles' wings and brought you unto Myself.”

This phrase, “bare you on eagles' wings” is very picturesque. It is often used in the Word of God to illustrate God's watchcare over His children. The picture is that of a mother eagle who takes a little fledgling eagle to the edge of the nest and flutters about until the fledgling eagle has left the nest. Because it knows nothing about flying in actual practice, though it has been born with the instinct, it begins to drop rapidly, and it looks as if it will go crashing on the rocks below. But the mother eagle swoops down underneath that fledgling eagle and stays just low enough that she is there to support it, but free enough that the eaglet can exercise its own wings and get where it wants to go. God says, “That is exactly what I have done for you. From the time when I brought you out of Egypt until I brought you to this place to Myself, I have borne you upon eagles' wings.” This is an illustration of the grace of God.

A Plea From God

So we have had an illustration of the faithfulness of God in this chapter and we have had an illustration of the grace of God. Now we are going to have a plea from God–a plea that He made not only to the nation of Israel, but as we are going to see, a plea that He makes to all of us, to all who know Him as Savior and Lord.

Will you remember that by the time the law was given, God had already chosen Israel for Himself? He did not give them the law in order that they could become His people. He gave them the law for a definite purpose, as we are going to see in just a moment. This should settle once and for all an idea that the Bible spends a great deal of time correcting–the idea that the law was meant as a means of salvation. It was never intended as that. Yet men all down through the ages have been confused about the law and its ineffectiveness for salvation. That is the reason the book of Galatians has so much to say about the law and its ineffectiveness for salvation. That is all we are going to say about that now, because we will be talking later about the purpose of the law–about why God gave it and what it was expected to do. We are thinking now only about the situation, the setting, and the plea that is related to it.

Notice in verse 5 God said:

Exodus 19

5Now 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:
6And 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.

This was God's plan. It was not a plea that people should become Christians, if we were using the terms then that we use now. It is a plea, rather, that people should walk in fellowship with the Lord, and God has never changed that plea. He makes that plea even now.

God's Plea to the Church

Turn with me, please, to the second Corinthian letter and notice how He makes an appeal to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in the very same fashion as He made to the nation of Israel. You will recognize that we are not suggesting to you that the nation of Israel and the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ are one and the same. They are not. They are two distinctly different groups, but God's appeal is the same:

II Corinthians 6

14Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Isn't that exactly what He said to the nation of Israel? “You will be My people.” Then you will notice in verse 17 that if we are to be His people, some changes will have to be made. Will you keep in mind that these Corinthians were already believers? This is not an appeal for a sinner to become part of the people of God. This is an appeal to Christians:

II Corinthians 6

17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
18And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

Our Response to God's Plea

Here is an appeal to the children of God. “I want you for My people,” God said, and that is exactly what He said to the nation of Israel. In chapter 7 you will notice Paul's response, which we suggest you keep in mind for the next few moments because we will be making reference to it:

II Corinthians 7

1Having therefore these promises…

What promises? The promises that are related in verses 17 and 18 of chapter 6.

II Corinthians 7

1Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

What is it Paul is saying? “Let's respond. God is making a plea. Let's respond to that plea. Let us answer the cry that He presents.”

Will you turn, please, to the book of Titus, chapter 2, and notice how Paul uses the very same phrase about the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ that God conveyed to Moses and Moses conveyed to these Israelites:

Titus 2

11For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,

Let's stop there for a moment, because this verse may be a little bit misleading. If this verse were true the way it is stated, then you and I could sit down and take it easy. The grace of God hath not appeared to all men yet. That is the reason we have missionary programs. That is the reason we spend and are spent in getting out the Gospel. But according to the original text the verse should read:

Titus 2

11For the grace of God that bringeth salvation to all men hath appeared.

It made its appearance, and it brings salvation to all men, but it has not appeared to all men as yet. The grace of God that bringeth salvation to all men hath appeared; notice verse 12:

Titus 2

12Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

Our Responsibility Under Grace

Let's pause for a moment. We talk about saving grace, and preach about it, and it is wonderful. How much do we say about teaching grace? So often we get the idea that grace is related solely to liberty without any reference to responsibility. That is not true. The grace of God, the real grace of God, will teach us that we should deny ungodliness, that we should deny worldly lusts or worldly desires, and that we should live soberly and righteously and godly (notice the wise selection of words by the Holy Spirit) in this present world. When Paul said, “Come out from among them and be ye separate,” he did not mean for us to go into a monastery or convent. When we are told here that we should deny worldly lusts and live soberly, righteously and godly, we are not to live thus apart, but to live thus in this present world.

Titus 2

13Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

Notice how the “blessed hope” is related to holy living, the greatest incentive to a sanctified life that there is.

A Peculiar Treasure

Titus 2

14Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

“A peculiar people”; how often has that verse been read and how often have people tried to act peculiar, to fulfill the suggestion of the verse. Literally, the verse should read: “a people for his own possession,” “a people who belong especially to Him.” Isn't that exactly what Moses said in verse 5 of Exodus 19 when he said, “Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me”?

Go with me to the book of Malachi, chapter 3, and notice another way that phrase, “peculiar treasure,” is translated. It will help us to see how precious fellowship is to the Lord. So often when we are talking about fellowship, we are talking about it entirely from our standpoint; we are talking about how sweet it is to be in fellowship. Well, we need to notice as well those Scriptures that speak about how much our fellowship means to the Lord. He misses it when we deny it to Him. He rejoices when we answer the plea to be His peculiar people. Notice in verse 16:

Malachi 3

16Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.
17And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
18Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.

God's Jewels

Notice verse 17: “In that day when I make up my jewels.” The little phrase, “my jewels,” is a translation of the same Hebrew word that is translated “a peculiar treasure” in verse 5 of Exodus, chapter 19. These phrases and words all indicate to us how precious our fellowship is to the Lord. That was the plea that He was making to the Israelites before He gave them the law.

He was making a plea for fellowship. Let us go back to chapter 19 and notice verse 5:

Exodus 19

5Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure…for all the earth is mine:

A Holy Priesthood

Notice verse 6:

Exodus 19

6And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation…

God said to these Israelites, “If you obey, if you stay in fellowship with Me, then you will be a kingdom of priests, a people marked by their intercession, and you will be a nation that is holy to Me.” This is not an outlandish thing that is related only to the law and has nothing to do with grace. This becomes evident if you will turn to Peter's first epistle, chapter 2. Peter was writing to the strangers who were scattered abroad, the Jewish Christians, and it would be natural, of course, for him to use phrases and words that were familiar to them. But keep in mind that he was still talking to Christians who were saved by grace.

I Peter 2

1Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, all evil speakings,
2As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
3If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
4To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
5Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

Glance at verse 9, where we read:

I Peter 2

9But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people…

Isn't that practically what God said to Moses and the Israelites? Notice what Peter said:

I Peter 2

9…to show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;

Obedience and Fellowship Are Inseparable

The Ten Commandments, when God gave them, were based upon a plea for fellowship, because obedience and fellowship are inseparable. Will you remember that? The Word of God says so.

Turn with me to the first epistle of John, chapter 1, so you will be able to see that the statement I have made is true: obedience and fellowship are inseparable:

I John 1

5This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

You could just as well paraphrase this verse thus: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and disobey the Word of God, we lie and do not the truth. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and ignore what He says to us, then we are lying, and we are not doing the truth.”

Go back to Exodus, chapter 19, verse 8. This was the message that Moses relayed to the children of Israel:

Exodus 19

8And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.

A Stand for God

Let's stop for a moment and look at those words: “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.” My, what a tremendous statement that is! They bit off a hunk when they said that: “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.” They took a great, tremendous stand when they said that, and I refuse to agree with people who say they made a mistake when they said it. I don't believe they made a mistake. I believe their hearts were tender toward the Lord.

I am quite willing to agree with you that they did not fully understand everything they said, but aren't we like that? Sometimes when we have gone into the midst of something that was big for us, hard for us, maybe almost too big for us, haven't we said at some time or other, “Well, if I had known what I was getting into, I never would have said that I would do it.”? Haven't we talked like that at various times? I suspect that nearly all of us have. The Israelites could well have said that. They could well have said, “If we had known, we never would have said, 'All that the Lord hath spoken we will do'.”

God Approves of Their Stand

I am quite willing to agree that they did not know their own weaknesses when they said that. They did not know their incapabilities when they said that. They did not know the holiness of the law of God when they said that. All of that is true; but I would like for you to turn to chapter 5 of the book of Deuteronomy to verify that they did not make a mistake, because we are told here that Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord. What do you think God said? Do you think God said to Moses, “Why, those foolish people. Why are they talking like that? They made a great mistake. They ought not to say a thing like that.” Is that what He said? Well, look at verse 28 and notice the words which Moses reported to God:

Deuteronomy 5

28And the LORD heard the voice [Moses is repeating this later, saying that this is what happened] of your words, when ye spake unto me; and the LORD said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken.

“They have said well. I am glad they said it. I am glad they said they want to do all that I asked them to do. I am glad they said that.”

Our Need for Commitment

May we pause long enough to emphasize that regardless of how feeble our efforts are, and regardless of the mistakes we make, it pleases God for us to want to do His will. It pleases God for us to want to obey Him. Don't ever sit back and say, “Well, I would like to do what God wants me to do but I just don't know whether I can or not.” Don't ever do that. How many times have people waited about making a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ because they have said, “I don't know whether I could live it or not. I don't know whether I could be the testimony I need to be,” etc., and they have wept. Well, their theology is slightly mixed up, but even at that, it would be much better for them to trust Christ as their Savior and be a poor testimony than not to trust Him, because God wants us to respond to His Word.

God Understands Our Weaknesses

God did not accept their testimony at face value. Look at the next verse. He was glad they wanted to obey Him, but He knew more about His law and more about their weaknesses than they did, so He said:

Deuteronomy 5

29O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!

Do you see what God is saying? “Moses, aren't you glad they want to keep My law? I am so glad that they are willing to do anything I tell them to do. I am so glad. And I wish they could. I wish they could.” You see, God remembered their frame, and they were but dust (Psalm 103:14). He remembered how weak they were, and He knew they were going to have some real problems by and by.

Evidences of God On Mount Sinai

Go back to Exodus, chapter 19. Now that we have noticed God's interest in the Israelites, God's concern for them, we glance briefly at some of the physical settings related to the giving of the law as God came down on Mount Sinai. The Lord said unto Moses in verse 9:

Exodus 19

9And the LORD said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the LORD.

Look at verse 16:

Exodus 19

16And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.

Notice verse 18:

Exodus 19

18And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.
19And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.

And down in verse 21:

Exodus 19

21And the LORD said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish.

Reasons for the Sights and Sounds

Why? Why all this terrible spectacle of smoke and fire and long-sounding trumpet that stirred the hearts of the people with fear? Why? Well, there were two reasons closely related. One of them you find in verse 9, when God said, “I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever.” Then will you look at chapter 20, verse 20:

Exodus 20

20And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.

Why all these sounds? That the people might stand in awe of God, that they might realize that it is a serious thing to play fast and loose with the Word of God. God is about to say something; He is about to give some commandments related to living, and He wants them to know that it is not child's play. He wants them to know that it is serious, and He gives all of these physical trappings that it might be so emphasized.

Emphasizing the Holiness of God

His holiness is emphasized in like manner by all the restrictions related to the washing of their bodies and the washing of their clothes, and by certain renunciations they were to make as they waited for the appearance of the Lord; God wanted them to know that He is holy and that He is awesome.

You may not understand what I am about to say; you may not agree with it. But I believe it is good for us to be reminded of the holiness of God; I believe it is good for us to be reminded that God is not to be made light of. I am concerned sometimes at the familiarity with which holy terms are used, the familiarity with which people speak about God. Oh, yes, I appreciate that intimate relationship with God that the Apostle expressed by the words, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15); but we must never reach the place where we forget that God is God.

A New Mountain

I have said to you that the best commentary on any passage of Scripture is one that the Holy Spirit makes elsewhere in the Word of God, so will you turn with me to chapter 12 of the book of Hebrews, where the Holy Spirit makes a comment on chapter 19 of the book of Exodus. Hebrews, like Peter's epistle and like James' epistle, was written to those who had a background of Jewish faith, and many were the terms with which they were familiar:

Hebrews 12

18For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, [that is, a physical mountain; Mount Sinai is a physical mountain] and that burned with fire, [that is what we have been reading about, isn't it?] nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest [blackness, darkness, and clouds] ,
19And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; [the voice of God] which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:
20(For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:

Was that not what God said to Moses and Moses relayed to the people? “Don't let anybody break through to this mountain. Don't let man or beast break through to this mountain. This is a holy place.” So terrible was the sight that Moses himself, although he was on top of the mountain, talking with God, said, “I exceedingly fear and quake.” Paul said, “That was the mountain to which your forefathers came, but things have changed. You have not come to a mountain like that.” In verse 22:

Hebrews 12

22But ye are come unto mount Sion…

A Mountain of Grace and Life

Notice the difference: Sinai meant law and death, as we are going to see before we are through with our studies along this line; Zion meant grace and life.

Hebrews 12

22[you are come] unto the city of the living God, [not earthly Jerusalem, but] [the city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10 ])…

You remember the woman at the well of Samaria? She was trying to start an argument with the Lord Jesus Christ about the place of worship. She said, “You Jews say you ought to worship in Jerusalem. We say in Samaria,”etc., etc. The Lord Jesus Christ said, “The time is coming when that won't matter. The physical place will no longer be the center of worship; they that worship God will have to worship Him in spirit and in truth.” That is why as the writer of the letter to the Hebrews expressed it, we have come to the heavenly Jerusalem which some day will come down to this earth and will be our dwelling place:

Hebrews 12

22…and to an innumerable company of angels,
23To the general assembly and church of the firstborn,…

The Church of the Firstborn

The Jews were members of the commonwealth of Israel. We are not members of the First Church, but members of the Church of the Firstborn. There is a big difference. What church is that? It is the one that is recorded in Heaven. That is the one. If you must have your name written down somewhere, make sure it is written down in Heaven before you write it anywhere else, because that is the only Church that makes any difference, the only one the Bible speaks about.

Hebrews 12

23…which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
24…And to Jesus…

Therein lies the difference. You are not come to a mountain that can be touched; you are come to Jesus. You are not face to face with a mountain that smokes and belches fire and thunders, and a voice that strikes terror to your heart; you have come to Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant.

Hebrews 12

24…and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things that that of Abel.

Command to Heed God's Voice

Notice: The Word of God drew our attention to what we have been studying about in Exodus, chapter 19, that He might make this appeal:

Hebrews 12

25See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:
26Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
27And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

Stop for a moment. What is he saying? He is saying, “Eventually those people who heard the voice of God through the lips of Moses and refused to obey that voice did not escape.” God dealt with them. How much more concerned ought we to be about the voice that speaks from Heaven–the voice of the Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, the voice that Moses heard, that voice shook the earth? Peter said, “But this Person about whom I am speaking is going to shake both the Heavens and the earth one day when He returns, and you had better listen to His voice.”

Hebrews 12

28Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

Need for Grace

Did you notice the appeal Paul is making? Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably. Do you know why the Israelites failed in the keeping of the law? Because they did not have that grace. Do you know why anybody fails in the keeping of the law? The only way that you and I are going to serve God acceptably is to have grace. That is the only way. And lest you think we are speaking about licentious liberty, the Apostle adds, “Serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” I have heard it said that there is no room for fear of God in this dispensation. Well, this verse says there is–reverent and godly fear. That is the way we must serve Him acceptably, for our God is a consuming fire, and that is the reason the mountain belched with smoke.

No Condemnation

What does it mean to have grace so that we may serve God acceptably, and what has this to do with the Ten Commandments? Well, turn with me to chapter 8 of the book of Romans:

Romans 8

1There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,…

Stop right there; the rest of that verse is not in the original text. Your condemnation does not depend on whether you walk after flesh or after the Spirit. Your lack of condemnation depends on the fact that you are in the Lord Jesus Christ. The only way to escape condemnation is to receive Him as your Savior.

You could translate “condemnation” as the word “judgment”: “There is therefore now no judgment for them who are in Christ Jesus.” The Word of God says that God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world by that Man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given us assurance in that He raised Jesus Christ from the dead (Acts 17:31). You don't need to worry about that day if you are in Christ Jesus, but if you are not in Christ Jesus you had better worry about it. You say, “I am doing the best I can,” etc. etc. That is not enough; the secret is in Christ Jesus. The reason for that is:

Romans 8

2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Overcoming the Weakness of the Flesh

What is the law of sin and death? That is what we are going to be studying about. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Made you free how? Free from the condemnation that goes with it. Notice verse 3:

Romans 8

3For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh…

The law was not weak; the flesh was weak. Keep that in mind. Isn't that what God said? When Moses reported to Him, “They want to do everything You want them to do, God,” God said, “I am so glad to hear that. I wish they could; I wish they could.”

Romans 8

3…weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, [notice the word ”likeness.” He did not send Him in sinful flesh; He sent Him in the likeness of sinful flesh] and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

Notice verse 4:

Romans 8

4That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

That is where that phrase belongs. It does not belong in verse 1; it belongs in verse 4: “Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” What happens if we walk not after the flesh, but walk after the Spirit? Well, the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in our lives; that is what happens. That is what we were talking about a while ago when we said, “Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with godly fear.”


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