Frank J. Dunn
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15 KJV).
In order to understand God’s will concerning us and our duty toward Him, we must diligently study and rightly divide the word of truth. The two principal divisions of the word are the law and the gospel.
The law enfolds the entire Jewish economy which began with the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mt. Sinai (B.C. 1492) and continued until Christ died upon the cross. Before His death, Jesus taught His disciples to observe all the commandments of the law, saying, “Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished” (Matt. 5:17-18).
“All things” were accomplished when in His crucifixion Jesus fulfilled His mission upon the earth. Thus, we read of the law that Jesus, “blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:14).
The gospel is the system of faith of the New Testament. Most of the principles of the gospel were announced by Christ while He lived on the earth in the flesh but, actually, His law did not go into effect till after His death on the cross. This is evident from Hebrews 9: 16-17: “For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him that made it. For a testament is of force where there hath been death: for it doth never avail while he that made it liveth” The law of Christ is contained in the gospel of Christ, or the New Testament.
In view of these facts, we conclude that any precept or example not enjoined by the law of Christ, after He died on the cross and after His law went into effect, is not then enjoined on any person today. On the other hand, whatever we find enjoined by the law of Christ, after it went into effect, is required of all of His followers today.
While Jesus lived upon the earth, He might forgive sins on any conditions, or on no conditions, if He so willed. But after His death, and after His law went into effect, forgiveness could not be obtained without compliance with His expressed will.
If we wish to know what is required of one in order to obtain forgiveness of sins today, we should read the book of Acts, where all the different cases of conversion are recorded. A careful reading of these will show that the following conditions are enjoined:
1. Faith in Christ (Acts 2:36; 16:31).
2. Repentance of sins (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30).
3. A confession of Christ (Acts 8:17).
4. Baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 10:48; 22:16).
If we want to know how to worship God today, we must go to the law of Christ. The specific items enjoined upon Christians in their public assemblies for worship are singing, teaching, partaking of the Lord’s Supper, contributing, and praying to God (Acts 2:43; 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:8). These are the only items enjoined upon Christians by the law of Christ when they meet together upon the first day of the week for worship.
A number of items were practiced by the Jews under the law of Moses which have no place in the law of Christ. For example, the Jews observed the Sabbath, offered animal sacrifices, used mechanical instruments in worship, gave tithes, had infant members, and burned incense.
Finally, let us not make the mistake of confusing the law of Christ with the law of Moses in any sense. There is no overlapping between them. There is no hint that a part of the law of Moses was abolished while a part remains. It was all done away when Christ died on the cross.
On the first Pentecost thereafter, the law of Christ was announced for the first time by the apostle Peter (Acts 2). On this day, the Great Commission which Jesus gave to His apostles after His resurrection went into effect. On this day, the church was born. On this day, Christ’s Mediatorship and High Priesthood began—in short, the whole Christian system was ushered in and began to function in full force.
If we start at the right time and the right place to learn how to become a Christian, and how to live the Christian life, we shall have no trouble. If we start at the wrong place, we can never understand either the Old or the New Testament.
Note: All Scripture quotations, except 2 Timothy 2:15, are from the American Standard version.