by Delmar Leger
Allow me to tell you a story. We can start this story in the winter of 1935. The nation was in the throes of the great depression. It’s hard for us to imagine in today’s affluent society just how desperate those days were. Well do I remember, as a child, people knocking on our back door begging for food. Mom would always feed them. Long lines of hungry people were standing in front of soup kitchens waiting for something to eat. Jobs were virtually non-existent, and money was as precious as it was scarce.
There was a man by the name of Fiorello LaGuardia who was the mayor of New York City during those dark days. LaGuardia seemed to have a genuine heartfelt love for the common man, especially the downtrodden. One time, during a newspaper strike, he spent his Sunday mornings reading the funny papers over the radio—and with all the appropriate inflections. Why? He didn’t want the children of New York to be deprived of that little bit of enjoyment. He was well known for his blustery outbursts against the “bums” that exploited the poor. He was completely unpredictable and full of surprises.
One night he showed up at a night court in one of the poorest wards of the city. That’s where this phase of our story begins. He dismissed the presiding judge for the evening and sent him home to his family. Then the mayor himself took over the bench.
On that bitterly cold night, a tattered old woman stood before the bench accused of stealing a loaf of bread. You must understand, those were desperate times. A lot of people were going hungry.
With quivering lips and tear filled eyes, she admitted to the theft. But, she added, “my daughter’s husband has deserted her, she is sick, and her children are crying because they have nothing to eat.”
The shopkeeper, however, refused to drop the charges. “It’s a bad neighborhood your honor, she’s guilty,” he shouted. “The law must be upheld, she’s got to be punished to teach other people a lesson.” LaGuardia knew that her accuser was right. The very office that he swore to uphold required that he enforce the letter of the law.
LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the old women and said, “I’ve got to punish you; the law makes no exceptions. He then pronounced the sentence. The old woman shuddered when she heard the words “Ten dollars or ten days in jail.” But already the judge was reaching into his pocket. He pulled out a ten-dollar bill and threw it into his hat. “Here’s the ten-dollar fine, which I now remit. Furthermore, I’m fining everyone in this courtroom fifty cents, for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.”
Sitting in the courtroom that night were about 70 petty criminals, a few New York policemen, and her accuser, a fuming, red-faced, storekeeper. The bewildered old grandmother left the courtroom with $47.50. That was enough money to buy groceries for several months.
That’s a very good story. It’s a true story; but how is that relevant to us today? Let’s review the event and see what really took place that cold winter evening.
Was the storekeeper correct in his accusation? Yes. The old woman had committed a crime.
Was guilt confessed? Yes. She admitted the theft.
Did her reason for stealing make any difference to the law? No. The law can make no exceptions.
Was the judgment decreed and sentencing pronounced? Yes. The old grandmother was found guilty and sentenced to a fine she could not pay.
Was justice carried through, thus satisfying the law? Yes. The fine was paid in full.
Was grace extended? Yes. The guilty party walked out of that courtroom completely free and her penalty paid.
Did the guilty party do anything at all to deserve or earn the grace received? Not a thing. It was free, and there for her to accept.
Was the law done away? No. The law is still intact. It’s still against the law to steal bread in New York City. The law was neither changed, adjusted, sidestepped nor done-away.
Having received grace, is the grandmother now free of the law to go steal again? As Paul would say, “God forbid!”
Could we, therefore, conclude:
The law was fulfilled.
Justice was done.
Her accuser was silenced.
Compassion won out over the law.
Yet the law is still intact.
I think we have no other choice. What about you?
Actually, we started this story in the middle. Have you ever walked in to the middle of a movie, and then have to sit through the beginning in order to understand the ending? You see, our story actually began nearly six thousand years ago, in the Garden of Eden, with the fall of man.
Can you see the parallel? Can’t you imagine Satan standing before God’s throne shouting, “Guilty! Guilty! You must enforce the law! There can be no exceptions.” And there was mankind, the weight of guilt too heavy to bear; a penalty too horrible to contemplate.
Does it matter how justifiable the reason for our crime, or what excuse we offer? Like LaGuardia said, “The law can make no exceptions.” Just as LaGuardia had to uphold the laws of New York City, God had to uphold His heavenly laws.
Satan had succeeded it seemed, in forcing God to choose between destroying the law and destroying mankind. It’s either/or. For God to be true; for God to be righteous; for God to be God; action had to be taken. Otherwise the law is effete [depleted of vitality, force, or effectiveness] and of non-effect. The very foundation of the government of God was challenged. For no government can function without law.
What, then, must be done? It was man who sinned; therefore, man must pay. But if man pays then man will be no more. Satan will have accomplished his objective; which was then, as it is now, to destroy mankind.
But what if there came a second Adam? What if another Adam should come who is totally obedient to God, completely sinless, and qualified in every way to pay the death penalty for all who come to Him in humble submission. Could He—would He—step into man’s place and die in his stead?
We read of just such a Man in Revelation 5:5 where it tells us of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, who has qualified to open the Book of Life. As a matter of fact, we read of Him from Genesis to Revelation. The scarlet thread of His redeeming blood can be traced throughout the Bible. He is described in Philippians 2:6–8 as being in the form of God, but humbled Himself to the likeness of man. He came to serve, not to be served, and was obedient unto death.
Just as Adam’s sin sentenced every human to death, so this Man offers eternal life to everyone who believes in Him. And having accepted and believed the works that God has done through His Son; we then become buried with Him in baptism into his death. Paul tells us in Romans that “…just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:4–5).
God’s inspired word tells us in Romans 5:19, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” And in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” Also in verse 45, “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”
What would our answers be if we asked the same questions about the grace extended to us as we did about the grace extended to the old grandmother? Well, let’s do that and find out:
Is our accuser correct in his accusation? Yes. All mankind has sinned.
Was guilt confessed? Yes. We have confessed our sins before God.
Did our reason for sinning make any difference to the law? No. The law can make no exceptions.
Was judgment decreed and sentencing pronounced? Yes. All mankind was found guilty and sentenced to a penalty we could not pay.
Was justice carried out, thus satisfying the law? Yes. The death decree was paid in full.
Was grace extended? Yes. The guilty party rose up from the waters of baptism completely free and the penalty was paid in full.
Did the guilty party do anything at all to deserve or earn the grace received? Not a thing. It was free, and available to all mankind.
Was the law done away? No. The law is still intact; and it’s still against the law to disobey God. The law was not side-stepped, and not one jot or tittle was changed, adjusted, eliminated, or passed from the law. That includes the Ten Commandments. Review Christ’s own words in Matthew 5:17–48 if you have any doubt. Having received grace, are we now free of the law to continue in sin?
As Paul said in Romans 3:31, “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.”
Also Romans 6:15–16, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” But haven’t we been told, maybe even read, that the law was nailed to the cross? Does it really say that? Well let’s go to the source and find out. We read in Col 2:14 “having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (New American Standard Bible).
What is a certificate of debt? The law is not a certificate of debt. It is never referred to in those terms. A certificate of debt is like an I.O.U. or a mortgage; a note that has to be paid. It was our decree of guilt—not the law—that was nailed to the cross. The Man who was nailed to the cross paid the penalty that was decreed to us. If the law could have been done away, why would it have been necessary for Jesus to die?
You see, it’s not really an either/or question as Satan thought. It was not necessary to destroy mankind, and grace does not destroy nor replace the law.
Paul tells us in Heb 8:10, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” (KJV). He repeats the same statement in chapter 10 and verse 16.
Paul is quoting Ezekiel. These are the same laws God gave Israel. By putting them in our mind God has opened up our knowledge and understanding of them. By writing them in our heart we will never forget them, and our hearts desire will be to obey them. In Romans 6:17 Paul tells us we obey from the heart. If God’s laws are not in your heart, you will find many logical sounding reasons not to obey them, just like Eve did.
Can we, therefore, conclude:
The law was fulfilled.
Justice was done.
Our accuser was silenced.
Compassion (grace) won out over the law.
Yet the law is still intact, and always will be. Isaiah, speaking of Christ, writes, “…He will magnify the law, and make it honorable” (Isa 42:21, KJV).
I think we have no other choice but to say “yes” to all of the above. What about you?
Certainly our salvation is secure in Jesus Christ, but our blessings come from obedience.
Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Letter from the Author
My name is Del Leger, and I’m the pastor of the Christian Church of God in Grand Junction, Colorado. Until last fall, I was the pastor of the Grand Junction Worldwide Church of God, (chartered through WCG as the Christian Church Of God). I was the speaker at the opening night services for our Feast of Tabernacles. The sermon I gave so incensed Gerald Schnarrenberger (regional supervisor for the WCG) that shortly after the final collection was taken up on the last day, he rushed over and fired me.
As soon as we could get away, my wife and I left on a much-needed vacation; but after about a week or so I was contacted by our congregation and asked to come back and be their pastor. Upon discussing it with my wife we decided to accept. Of course it would be at the same pay as before—nothing. But that’s a good thing as I will never be tempted to try to balance the truth of God with a paycheck.
Last fall was the most phenomenally successful Feast of Tabernacles ever hosted by our little group here in Grand Junction. The first two were successful beyond all expectations, with nearly 200 attendees the first year and over 300 the second year. In 2002 we capped out at over 500. Who would have thought that such a little congregation, with an average attendance of only 18 to 20, would be able to accomplish such a feat? The truth is, God did it. We were simply His willing tools.
The many small miracles that came our way at just the right time were surprising and inspirational, and proved to us that God was with us. Everything was done on a volunteer basis, even the speakers (except for 2002). No financial help of any kind was offered or given by [the WCG] headquarters.
Our successes were becoming too well known and headquarters was becoming concerned. So, they sent their paid performers in an attempt to control the speaking. God’s Spirit, however, was indomitable, and held sway over the entire services. Although the hirelings held the podium, God held the Spirit, which was beautifully evident in the prayers, singing, healings, special activities, and the contagious joy expressed by so many.
Since other speakers (who were sent by WCG headquarters) felt the first night was not important enough for their efforts, I volunteered, and gave a sermon that many said was the only meat-filled sermon they heard during the entire feast; it received a standing ovation. Apparently, certain ones in authority choked on the meat, so they fired me. I am enclosing that sermon for your perusal in the hopes that you might consider publishing it, so that others might judge for themselves the merits of the issue.
We are now an unaffiliated religious organization, incorporated under the name Christian Church of God, a Colorado nonprofit corporation.
We have already committed ourselves to hosting the Feast of Tabernacles for 2003 and plans are well under way. It will again be at the Adam’s Mark hotel, and, of course, on the correct days.
Since we are now independent, we can again select speakers from our list of volunteers as we did originally; and we can now advertise, which we intend to do. We are open to all sincere applicants who wish to honor, praise, and learn more of God’s truth and purpose for mankind.
Anyone interested in the Feast of Tabernacles in Grand Junction should contact Coy & Annetta Colbert, phone: 970-858-9299, e-mail: email@example.com, website: www.geocities.com/gjfestival
Mr. Leger reported that after a couple of months of being an independent congregation, their average attendance had almost doubled. Some who had stopped attending began to come again, others who attended sporadically began attending regularly, and then some new brethren began to attend.