Summary: In our Lord Jesus Christ, God was incarnate and brought to man the grace necessary to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law.
Three weeks ago, I was driving through Frankford on my way to a jobsite. I had neglected to watch my speed and in short order I saw flashing lights behind me. I pulled over to the side of the road. The officer informed me how fast I was going. Had I been going that fast? Yes. He was brining truth. And he could have stopped there. But he didn't. So he asked me some more questions, and then suggested that I more carefully watch my speed. Not only did he show me the truth, but he also allowed for grace. Grace and truth are what our Lord Jesus Christ brings to the world this Christmastide.
"For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (Jn. 1:17). The law was given through Moses. The Law was not Moses' own invention. He was a recipient of it from someone else. "When the LORD finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God" (Ex. 31:18). The Law of Moses was the Law of the Lord.
But Israel's history shows us that the Law was not adequate. "He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul" (Prov. 19:16). Yet Moses disobeyed God and struck the rock at Meribah, King David committed adultery, and Jonah turned away from Nineveh. The Law showed us our own sinfulness and inability to meet the requirements of righteousness.
Man can meet man's own standards of goodness and morality--and man changes the standard when it no longer suits him. God gave to Moses and the Israelite the Law to teach what is sin in His sight, and that we, who may in our inner being delight in God's law, do not do it, have not done, and, however much we try, cannot do it. That's pretty dreadful. But there is Good News. Let's look backwards, though, to see where the Good News was first announced.
When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, simple innocence died in them. "Once I was alive apart from law" (Rom. 7:9). Oh, the cleanness, simplicity of life apart from law! Sin and temptation, powerless. But man's knowledge of good and evil required God to now treat man differently. No longer content to walk with God in the garden, naked and feeling no shame, man had to find another way to be with God--a task impossible for man alone.
Man tried to cover his nakedness, "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves" (Gen. 3:7). Did these coverings prove adequate? No. "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden" (Gen. 3:8). How awful that moment must have been. Caught with their hands in the cookie jar, Adam and Eve ran away from God at the very instant that God was coming toward them. What once had been a pleasing communion had now become unworthy communion, and they felt the weight of judgment.
God, even before the announcement of salvation was seeking out man, even as man tried to hide and repair the damage done, to pay the wages of sin on his own. "But the LORD God called to the man, 'Where are you?' He answered, 'I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid' " (Gen. 3:9,10). God wanted to reconcile man at that moment.
We all know what happened. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. And God cursed the serpent, saying, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel" (Gen. 3:14,15). God's promise was for an unusual salvation. The word "offspring" here is not a good translation. I'm not going to impress you with my knowledge of languages; I'm going to impress you with yours. The word "offspring" in Latin is semen, and in the Greek, sperma. Do you understand? The offspring, the seed of a woman is a biological impossibility. The seed of the serpent was to be defeated by the seed of the woman. In no wise could man fabricate this salvation on his own, as he had futilely attempted to cover his own nakedness. Somehow God would have to intervene to make this promise come about.