Keeping the Law - They DID Do It
Another Proof of Dispensational Salvation
One of the common arguments against dispensational salvation is that "One no could keep the law; therefore, the only way of salvation must be by faith in Christ." While it is certainly only the blood of Christ by which one gains entrance into heaven, that blood is imputed through at least two different means. The one applicable to the Church Age, of which we are most familiar, is by grace through faith; and another - by the works of the law - is applicable during that particular dispensation. (Let it be noted that Christ completed the salvation of those who made it to Abraham's Bosom through the works of the Law.) The argument that "No one could keep the law" is easily proven false by scripture.
First let's look at a few of many verses where God commands Israel to keep the Law.
Deuteronomy 4:2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
Deuteronomy 6:17 Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee.
Deuteronomy 30:10 If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.
Deuteronomy 17:19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:
Joshua 22:5 But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Joshua 23:6 Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left;
1 Kings 2:3 And keep the charge of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself:
Many, many more verses echo this theme: keep the Law. Did God demand something which could not be done? He never instructed Israel to "try" to keep the Law or to "do its best." He told them to "Keep it." And with all the national vacillation between being right with God and being in his disfavor from one generation to the next and one king to the next, there was never the complaint "Why Lord, no one can keep the whole Law! How can you ask us to do such a thing?" The Jews under the Law understood that the Law could be kept. Not even once was the impossibility of God's requirement thrown back in his face, because they knew it could be done! The Bible itself confirms this. Here are a few verses that actually say that the Law was kept.
Joshua 22:2 And said unto them, Ye have kept all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you:
Judges 2:17 And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so.
1 Kings 11:34 Howbeit I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand: but I will make him prince all the days of his life for David my servant's sake, whom I chose, because he kept my commandments and my statutes:
2 Kings 18:6 For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.
Psalm 119:55 I have remembered thy name, O LORD, in the night, and have kept thy law.
The Bible recognizes that many kept the Law. Even David is included in that group.
1 Kings 15:5 Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.
It was only David's special dispensation of grace from the Lord, that saved him from condemnation and death under the Law for his adultery and murder. With the exception of those two sins the Lord himself said he kept the Law. And others kept the Law as he did.
2 Chronicles 34:2 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left.
2 Kings 22:2 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.
1 Kings 3:3 And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father:
Now since the Bible says that there were those who kept the Law, we need to have a Biblical understanding of what "keeping the Law" means. I believe that many Christians believe that "no one could keep the whole law" because they equate keeping the Law with total sinlessness. But that obviously cannot be an accurate or Biblical definition because the Bible says that some people did keep the Law and we know that they were not sinless.
The dictionary defines "law" as "a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority of a community." The nation of Israel was given something that no other nation on earth was given: written laws from the very mouth of God. There were laws that applied to the nation as a whole, and laws which applied to individuals within the nation; and these laws were given to be kept.
Before we continue with this truth let's look at some verses that are often used to try to support the false premise that "no one can keep the whole law." They can be understood by comparing scripture with scripture.
James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all
Those who use this verse say: "See, everyone breaks at least one point of the law and that makes him all guilty of breaking all the Law. No one can keep the Law. Only Christ did that." Then thinking they are further proving their point they quote the next verse.
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.
They say: "You see, anyone who tries to keep the Law must keep it all or he is cursed. Since we know that no one can keep it all, the only way to get out from under the curse is by faith in Christ." Then to top it off they might use this verse.
Mark 12:30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
They say: "How could anyone "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind"? It's humanly impossible. Only in Christ can that commandment be kept."
But instead of just believing what "they say," what does the Bible say? Did anyone in the Old Testament "keep the whole law" with all his heart, soul, mind and strength? Many surely did! Verses have already been quoted that show that. Again and again, in those verses and many others, Israel is told to keep all the law with all its heart and soul. Does the Lord command the impossible?
Proverbs 7:2 Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye.
Here he promises life to law-keepers.
Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;
Here he promises to keep his covenant and have mercy on law-keepers who love him. If that is impossible to do, to whom is he speaking? Their keeping the law is the basis for their forgiveness, which will be shown.
Exocus 34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty...
Numbers 14:18 The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty...
But while their law-keeping earned them their forgiveness, it did not clear them completely. Only the blood of Christ would do that when he came hundreds of years later. Now since the Bible says that there were those who kept the law in the Old Testament, what does the verse in James mean? Well, it means what it says. Let's compare some scripture with scripture.
James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
This verse says that a law breaker is guilty of the whole Law, which is absolutely true, until he follows the remedy prescribed in the Law.
Leviticus 4:13 And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which should not be done, and are guilty;
14 When the sin, which they have sinned against it, is known, then the congregation shall offer a young bullock for the sin, and bring him before the tabernacle of the congregation.
20 And he shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering, so shall he do with this: and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them.
Leviticus 4:22 When a ruler hath sinned, and done somewhat through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD his God concerning things which should not be done, and is guilty;
26 And he shall burn all his fat upon the altar, as the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall make an atonement for him as concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him.
A member of Old Testament Israel was either obedient "keeping the law" or guilty "under the law." Obedience to the Law has never meant sinless perfection and behavior. It has always meant "following" the Law, including making sacrifices for sins committed. The formula for obedience was to "obey the Law, and bring the prescribed sacrifice if you sin." Doing this would earn forgiveness and atonement for the guilty. A person "was" guilty UNTIL he brought the sacrifice. THEN he was no longer guilty, but forgiven. He had KEPT the Law.
Leviticus 5:4 Or if a soul swear, pronouncing with his lips to do evil, or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall pronounce with an oath, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty in one of these.
5 And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing:
6 And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD for his sin which he hath sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin.
The verse in James is saying that ANY sin (in this
case respect of persons) puts a person under condemnation. Just as today there
are only two "standings": saved or lost; under the Law there were also only two
"standings": forgiven or guilty. Guilt was guilt whether the sin was minor or
major, and the prescribed sacrifice (if there was one) had to be made for the
sinner to gain forgiveness. If there was no sacrifice there was no forgiveness. So then the Biblical definition of "keeping the Law" meant that the OT
Israelite made sure that his standing was that of "forgiven" by following the
prescription which the Law itself detailed. It never meant that he never did
anything wrong. It does mean that a person could break the Law, reconcile that
behavior, and become a forgiven keeper of the Law again.
Leviticus 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.
Some say: "It is impossible to keep the entire Law!" Tell me, does your city have laws? How many laws does your state have? How about our entire country? A conservative estimate would be that you and I have tens of thousands of laws which we could break, comprising tens of thousands of sheets of paper. How many did you break today? My guess would be none. And if you did speed, you know you didn't have to. You could have kept that law, too. But if you received a speeding ticket all you would have to do would be to pay the fine in order to be a law abiding citizen again. "Keeping the Law" in Old Testament Israel did not mean a person never did wrong. It meant that if wrong was done that person followed the procedure for forgiveness that was written in the Law. A person who did that was a Law-keeper. He KEPT the Law.
Now if you and I can keep all those city, state, and national laws, why was it considered impossible for the Israelites to keep the laws found in Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy? Specifically, let me ask you which of those laws was it impossible for an individual to keep? The "whole heart and soul" qualification was a matter of attitude and disposition, not one of supernatural ability and sinlessness. And it was included in the commandment to keep the Law.
Deuteronomy 4:29 But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
Deuteronomy 6:5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
Deuteronomy 10:12 And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,
Deuteronomy 26:16 This day the LORD thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgments: thou shalt therefore keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.
Since verses have been given to show that there were indeed law-keepers, they obviously must have met the "heart and soul" requirement as well.
Now this brings us to the explanation of the next verse.
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.
Since the scripture is clear that there were those who did keep the Law in the Old Testament, what does this verse mean? Well, Paul, as he frequently does, is quoting old testament scripture.
Deuteronomy 27:26 Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.
The context of that chapter shows that the people were expected to do "the words of this law", but that is obviously not what is meant in Galatians. Paul warns here, as in other places, that trying to put oneself back under the Law is a curse. This is not because the Law was a curse in the Old Testament but because there are now (during the Church Age) elements of the Law are no longer effectual. In other words, the Law can no longer do what it used to do. It used to be the means with which an individual gained forgiveness, but if someone today, kept exactly the OT Law, it would be to no avail because that is not the means of forgiveness during the Church Age.
If you cross a privately owned toll bridge, you are under a law to pay the owner a fee for using his bridge. But if your state purchases the bridge and makes the access free, you are no longer obligated under that law to pay a toll. You may choose to continue to throw your quarters into the defunct toll basket, but in spite of your good intentions they are meaningless. Those quarters are not required for you to cross: the state has already paid for you.
Thus it is with the Law during the Church Age. The whole Law cannot be kept because the blood sacrifices which were required in the Old Testament are no longer effectual. The Law is still in effect during the Church Age but it's purpose is different than it was during the Old Testament. Under the Old Testament keeping the Law was the means of obtaining personal righteousness and securing a place in Abraham's Bosom to await the redemption that would come with Christ. Zachrias, Elisabeth, and Paul all had the righteousness which came by keeping the Law.
Romans 10:5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
Luke 1:6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
Philippians 3:6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
During the Church Age, however, the Law is more of a "blinking arrow" on the highway of life, pointing to the "narrow way." The moral components of the Law point out sin and make the sinner guilty.
Romans 3:19 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.
20 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.
Justification in the Church Age is accomplished only by faith in Christ, but there were those in Paul's time who were still trying to justify themselves through the Law.
Romans 10:3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
They rightly knew that righteousness used to be determined by the Law.
Romans 11:6a And if by grace, then is it no more of works:...
"No more" but it used to be. (See this author's work on the above verse.) And since the Law is not effectual during the Church Age those who put themselves under it have no means of gaining forgiveness, let alone redemption.
Galatians 3:23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
The Law and faith are two totally different ways which God himself chose to save people. While salvation under the Law was incomplete, it still kept people out of Hell. They just didn't get full redemption and a place in heaven until Christ came.
Now some people would say "But when a person who has worked to be saved gets to heaven he can boast about how he 'deserves' to be there because of what he did." No, that would never be the case. Let me give you different example with a little imaginary dialogue between myself (DJR) and Another Christian (AC).
DJR: "Do you expect to have some rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ?"
AC: "Why yes, I think I'll have a few."
DJR: "Do you deserve them? Will you boast about those rewards?"
AC: "Why no! How could I? Anything good I did was because of Christ working in me. He is the one who deserves all the praise and glory for anything I did. It wasn't me at all! I could only boast about what he did, not about myself!"
DJR: "I couldn't agree more. If that is the case why will you receive rewards?"
AC: "Why because of the mercy and grace of God."
DJR: "So then because of God's mercy and grace ALL Christian's will receive rewards - the same rewards as you?"
AC: "Well, er, no."
DJR: "So then why will YOU receive some rewards while other Christians will not?"
AC: "Well, I guess because I allowed Christ to use me for different things while some other Christians didn't."
DJR: "So you are being rewarded for some work that you did because you allowed Christ to work through you?"
AC: "Yes, I guess so."
DJR: "I still don't get it. You didn't really do the work, Christ worked in you. We both know that God is merciful and gracious, but why would he give you a reward that even you don't think you deserve?"
And there the dialogue ends because most Christians don't have a clue as to why. The word "deserve" means "to be worthy of." Truly no Christian is worthy of receiving rewards for the work which Christ actually did. But Christians will receive rewards. Why? BECAUSE GOD **SAID** THAT HE WOULD GIVE THEM.
Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
God has placed himself under contract and promised to give rewards to those who earn them. And yes, "earn" is the correct word. "Earn" does not mean "deserve." "Earn" means to "receive as return for work done or services rendered." God himself said "Do this and receive this." We will receive rewards if we meet the requirements of his voluntary contractual obligation. Here is only one example of many.
2 Timothy 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Here the Lord inspired Paul to write that all those who love the Lord's appearing will receive a crown of righteousness. "Hath he said, and shall he not do it?" Yes, he will.
Now the exact same type of explanation applies to salvation. No one in any dispensation **deserves** to be saved. No one is worthy to receive God's mercy and grace in order to avoid the flames of hell. But they did and they do. Why? Because God put himself under a contractual obligation. He said "Do this" and you will be saved. But what a person "did" in the OT under the Law is not what a person must "do" today.
Ezekial 18:5 But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, 9 Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD.
Under the OT Law a man was "just" before God if he kept the Law. If he died "forgiven" under the Law then he went to Abraham's bosom to await full redemption in Christ. That is what God said. That was the contract - actually the Bible word would be covenant - that God had with his people under the Law. Those saints will not boast of their works getting them into heaven, because their works did not do it. They know that they are there because of Christ.
Luke 17:10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
No one from any dispensation deserves heaven, but if one meets God's qualifications that he has written in his "contract" one will get there. The OT Jews were to keep the Law. Those in the Church Age are to place their faith in Christ. There will be no boasting from either group, but only praise and honor and glory to God and our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.