The Present Truth : November 12, 1896
“Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound; that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5.20
The object of the entering of the law at Sinai was “that the offense might abound.” Not that there might be more sin; for since we are warned not to continue in sin that grace may abound, it is evident that the righteous God would not deliberately increase sin in order that He might have an opportunity of exhibiting more grace. The law is not sin, but has the effect, by its own righteousness, of causing sin to “appear sin,” “that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” Romans 7.13. The object, therefore, of the entering of the law at Sinai, was to cause the sin that already existed to stand out in its true nature and extent, so that the super abounding grace of God might be appreciated at its true value.
The entering of the law made the offence to abound. But the sin, which the law made to abound already, existed; “for until the law sin was in the world.” Romans 10.13. Therefore the law was also in the world before it was given upon Sinai, as well as after, for “sin is not imputed when there is no law.” To Isaac, God said, “Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statues, and My laws.” Genesis 26.5. The blessedness of Abraham was that of sins forgiven, “and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised; that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also.” Romans 4.11. Before the children of Israel had reached Sinai; when the manna first fell, God said that He was proving them “whether they will walk in My law or not.” Exodus 16.4
It is evident; therefore, that the giving of the law upon Sinai did not make any difference whatever in the relation that already existed between men and God. The very same law existed before that time, having the same effect, namely, to show men that they were sinners; and all the righteousness which the law demands, and all that it is possible for any man to have, had been possessed by men of faith, of whom Enoch and Abraham are notable instances. The only reason for the giving of the law upon Sinai, was to give men a more vivid sense of its awful importance, and of the terrible nature of sin which it forbids, and to lead them to trust in God, instead of in themselves.
This effect the circumstances attending the giving of the law were calculated to produce. No such event of awful majesty and power had ever been witnessed by man. Neither has its like been seen since. The event of the giving of the law upon Sinai will be paralleled and exceeded only by the second coming of Christ, “to take vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and “to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.” 2 Thessalonians 1.8-10
At the giving of the law, “Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire.” Exodus 19.18. At the Second Advent “the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven,” “in flaming fire.” 1 Thessalonians 4.16; 2 Thessalonians 1.8
When God came to Sinai, sending forth from His right hand “a fiery law” for His people, “He came with ten thousands of saints.” Deuteronomy 33.1,2. The angels of God—the armies of heaven—were all present at the giving of the law. But long before that time, Enoch, the seventh from Adam, had prophesied of the second coming of Christ, saying, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment.” Jude 14,15. At His coming in glory, He will have “all the holy angels with Him.” Matthew 25.31
God came down upon Sinai to proclaim His holy law to His people. “From His right hand went forth a fiery law for them.” That law from Sinai was a verbal description of God’s own righteousness. But when He comes the second time, “the heavens shall declare His righteousness; for God is Judge Himself.” Psalm 50.6
To announce the presence of God upon Sinai, in royal state, “the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder.” Exodus 19.19. So Christ’s second coming will be proclaimed by “the trump of God.” “For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed,” for “He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds.” 1 Corinthians 15.52; Matthew 24.31
When the trumpet sounded long and loud upon Sinai, “Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.” Exodus 19.19. Then God spake all the words of the Ten Commandments “out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice; and He added no more.” Deuteronomy 5.22. In like manner, “our God shall come, and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people.” Psalm 50.3,4. “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God.” 1 Thessalonians 4.16
But herein the Lord’s coming to judgment will be greater than His coming to proclaim His law: for then none of the people saw Him. “The Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire; ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.” Deuteronomy 4.12. But when He comes the second time, “every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him; and all kindred’s of the earth shall wail because of Him.” Revelation 1.7
Lastly, a parallel as a difference in the effect of the voice of God: When God spoke His law from Sinai, “the whole mount quaked greatly.” Exodus 19.18. “The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God; even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel.” Psalm 68.8. “The earth trembled and shook.” Psalm 77.18. But even greater will be the effect of that voice at the Second Advent. From Sinai, His “voice then shook the earth; but now hath he promised, saying: Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.” Hebrews 12.26. “The heavens shall pass away with a great noise,” (2 Peter 3.10), for “the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.” Matthew 24.29
Wonderful likenesses we find between the coming of the Lord to give the law at Sinai, and His coming to judgment in the end of the world; and we shall find as we study that the likenesses are by no means accidental.
The Ministration of Death
“The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.” 1 Corinthians 15.56
The law entered for the purpose of making the sins of the people stand out in the boldest relief. The sin which lies dormant, and of whose power we are unconscious because we have never entered into mortal combat with it, springs into life and activity when the law enters. “Without the law sin was dead.” Romans 7.8. The law sets forth sin in its true character and magnitude, and arms it with its power—the power of death. “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3.20. To point out sin, and to show its hideous strength, is the sole office of the law.
But death comes by sin. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Romans 5.12. Where sin goes, there death goes. Sin does not merely bring death in its train; it carries it in its bosom. Sin and death are inseparable; each is a part of the other. It is impossible to set the door far enough ajar to allow sin to creep through, and to shut death out. Be the crevice never so small, if it be large enough to admit sin, death comes with it.
Since sin already existed before the law entered at Sinai, the entering of the law proclaimed a 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.” Galatians 3.10. That curse was death, because it was the curse, which Christ bore for us. It is evident, therefore, that the giving of the law from Sinai was the ministration of death. “The law worketh wrath.” All the attending circumstances proclaimed that fact. The thunders and lightning’s, the devouring fire, the smoking mountain, and the quaking earth, all spoke death. Mount Sinai, itself a symbol of Divine law broken, was death to whoever should touch it. It needed not the barriers about the mountain to keep the people away, after the awful voice of God was heard proclaiming His law; for when they heard and saw, “they removed, and stood afar off,” and said, “Let not God speak with us, lest we die.” Exodus 20.18,19
“Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.” (Romans 7.8); for “the sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.” It was impossible that there could be a law given which could give life. But it was not necessary that there should be and this we shall see clearly when in the light of revelations previously made to Israel we consider the deeper reason.
Why the Law was Given
Did God wish to mock the people by giving to them a law, which could bring them nothing but death? Far from it. “Yea, He loved the people;” and never did He love them more than when “from His right hand went forth a fiery law for them.” Deuteronomy 33.2,3
For be it remembered that although “the law entered that the offense might abound,” yet “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Romans 5.20. Since it is the law that makes sin to abound, where can its hideous magnitude be more clearly defined than at Sinai? But since “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound,” it is evident that at Sinai we may most clearly see the vastness of God’s grace. No matter how greatly sin abounds, in that very place grace super abounds. What though “the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven?” Still we have the assurance, “Thy mercy is great above the heavens; and Thy truth reaches unto the clouds.” Psalm 107.4. “As the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him.” Psalm 103.11
Jesus is the Comforter. “If any man sin, we have a Comforter with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2.1,R.V. margin. So when His disciples were sorrowing because of His announcement that He was going to leave them, He said, “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth.” John 14.16,17. While Jesus was on earth, he was the embodiment of the Spirit; but He would not have His work limited, so He said: “It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go away, I will send Him unto you. And He, when He is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” John 16.7,8
Mark well the fact that the first work of the Comforter is to convict of sin. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, which pierces “even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4.12. Yet even while sending the keenest and deepest conviction, the Spirit is the Comforter. He is nonetheless the Comforter in convicting of sin, than in revealing the righteousness of God for the remission of the sin. There is comfort in the conviction, which God sends. The surgeon, who cuts to the very bone, that he may remove the poisonous death-breeding substance from the flesh, does it only that he may successfully apply the healing oil.
The great sin of the children of Israel was unbelief—trust in self rather than in God. This is common to all mankind. What is needed is something to destroy this vain self-confidence, so that faith may come in. The law entered in a way calculated to do this, and to emphasize the fact that only by faith, and not by works of man, does righteousness come. In the very giving of the law is shown man’s dependence on God alone for righteousness and salvation, since men could not so much as touch the mountain where the law was spoken, without perishing. How, then, can it be supposed that God ever designed that any man should, for a single moment, imagine that he was to get righteousness by the law? At Sinai Christ the crucified One was preached in tones intended to reach all people, even as they shook the whole earth.