The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable.
1. With respect to "law." It is a word used in Scripture in two ways; and matters very important are said about it, both as it is a universal thing, and as it is a particular thing.
(1) By law as it is a universal thing, I mean the moral law, which cannot but exist wherever there is an intelligent creature upon earth. We cannot conceive of any creature existing anywhere having intelligence and moral feeling, of whom it is not the duty to love God with all the heart, and to love other beings as himself; and in that one thing we have the elements and rudiments of all possible morals. The law is more than advice — it has authority, and therefore has sanctions associated with it. We cannot conceive of any moral creatures who are not under it, — either in the perfection of their obedience and enjoying the blessedness which waits upon it, or as the victims of it and having administered to them its penalty, or (if there be such a thing) in an intermediate state, in which they are convicted as transgressors, and yet have the opportunity of escaping the penalty. And this last is altogether supernatural; the other two are what we call natural.
(2) What I mean by law as a limited thing is the ceremonial institutions which were given to a particular part of mankind and for a particular time. These have not their basis in the nature of things. They rest simply upon the Divine authority. As such they have an importance affixed to them in the reasonings and representations of Divine truth.
2. To "magnify the law and make it honourable" cannot mean that Messiah was to produce any change in it, — that. what He did was to perfect the law itself. As to the moral law, there it is, necessarily resulting from the Divine perfections and government, a glorious and sublime thing, as incapable of improvement as the perfections of God; as changeless and permanent as God. So with respect to the ceremonial law, Christ did not in fact do anything to it in the way of enlarging it.
3. Another idea might be dwelt upon: that we cannot suppose that this means that there was to be any change effected in the conceptions of God about the law, — that the work of Christ was intended to affect the Divine mind in relation to the perceptions that it had of law. There, in the Divine intellect, lay the law in all its perfections and splendour; and we cannot conceive that the Divine mind needed any change in its conceptions of law, or that the law could be magnified and made more glorious in its estimation. We cannot conceive that God could have a more distinct perception with respect to it at one time than at another. And so with respect to the ceremonial law. It was a thing that resulted from the Divine mind, and in the Divine mind there were reasons for every appointment which He made.
4. So that we are led, by these simple and natural steps, to this idea: that this "magnifying the law and making it honourable" must signify the manner in which created minds were to be affected by it. Something (whatever it might be) was to be done by which there should be a certain impression with respect to law produced upon the minds of the intelligent universe. Something might be done that should (so to speak) give body and substance and visibility to God's own conceptions about His law. These might be made manifest to the universe. God's creatures might come to understand how He looked at it — the reverence and respect (if we may so speak) that He had for it. And that is what I think it means. That is what I think was done. And for this there was a necessity. And the Scripture teaches this in the plainest way, and puts it before us again and again
5. If sin had never entered into the universe, God's law would always have been a sublime thing in the estimation of that universe. And if, when sin was admitted into the universe, permitted to enter, the penalties and sanctions of the law were carried out fully and literally, then law would always have been magnified; it would then also have been always a great and glorious thing. But if there is to be the fact, that there are violaters of the law, those that on just principles are exposed to the penalty, and yet there is to be, along with that, another fact — that they escape, that they are treated as if they were actually righteous and enter into the full enjoyment of the results of perfect obedience, then law so far seems to go for nothing. Therefore there was this necessity. It is required that something shall be done the moral effect of which upon the minds of God's rational creatures, who are all under His government and are all ruled by Him, shall be equivalent to the impression which would have been produced by the literal carrying out of the principles of law itself. And that is just the thing which the work of Christ does. And by the effecting of that thing it is that this prophetic declaration is realised.
6. The conclusion of the matter, then, is — the manner in which this is done.
(1) We might dilate upon the manner in which the scope of Christ's teaching always maintained the authority of the law.
(2) We might speak with respect to His own personal character.
(3) But all these are hut preliminary and preparatory to that one great act which I deem to be the consummation of Messiah's work; in which the law was honoured and magnified by His propitiatory sacrifice; in which, in a certain sense, He stood forth bearing the penalty of the moral law, and in another sense manifesting the substance and casting a glory upon the ceremonial. "It became" God thus to act. As "the children were partakers of flesh and blood," the Son of God took part of the same; that being manifested in our nature, and having thus a body prepared for Him, He might present Himself as the Lamb of God, "without spot or wrinkle or any such thing," and that He might accomplish the great redemption act, which consisted in substitution, in the sacrifice upon the Cross for the sins of the world. There was a substitution in two senses; a substitution of person, and a substitution of suffering.
(4) The law is "magnified and made honourable" by Christ, inasmuch as His people are redeemed unto obedience. The Gospel as it is revealed here is a thing distinct from law, yet is not contrary to it, but consistent with it, illustrative of it, sustaining it, beautifying it, magnifying it.
Parallel VersesKJV: The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.