Faith That Works

download

USELESS FAITH

James 2:14-26

If you have genuinely experienced the life-changing power of God’s grace, if you have been radically changed and transformed, if you have the nature of Christ and the Spirit of Christ within you, how can that not make you a generous person?  Is it possible that even though you know the right answers to the questions, you’ve actually never experienced true saving faith?  And a faith that isn’t a saving faith is a faith that is useless.  That’s the argument that James makes in James chapter 2.

Now James is a very practical book, perhaps the most straight-up practical book in the New Testament.  The author James is not the Peter, James, and John; it’s James, the half-brother of Jesus.  This book’s written less than twenty years after the resurrection of Christ, so a very early book.  He’s writing to dispersed Jews—Jews that consider themselves to be Christians, but because of the persecution in Jerusalem they have fled and been dispersed around the Mediterranean.  But James has a concern that even though they consider themselves to be Christians, for many of them there’s simply no evidence that they have experienced a life-changing encounter with Jesus.  They say the right things but there are no works that seem consistent with a life that has been changed by Jesus.

Just because you say you are a Christian, just because you may know the right answer to some quiz questions, doesn’t mean you’ve actually experienced true life change.

So in Chapter 1, James talks about the need to be “doers of the word and not merely hearers only.”  The Bible’s not an encyclopedia.  The deal is not that someday when you die God gives a quiz and if you get eighty percent, you’re in.  It’s not all about information; it’s about: This is how life is to be lived, and it begins with a powerful encounter with the resurrected Christ.  He ends chapter 1 by saying, “For example, it should affect the way you talk.  It should affect a compassion for orphans and widows in need.”   In a 1st Century culture, those were the two most vulnerable categories of people.  You should genuinely care about those in need, and number three:  to remain unstained from the world—in other words to pursue a lifestyle of holiness.  So that’s being a doer of the word, not merely a hearer.

Chapter 2 moves into a discussion about partiality, that if you treat someone with money differently than someone who is poor, you’re guilty of partiality, which is completely contrary to the message of grace.  He doesn’t say that’s bad behavior; he says that’s sin.  As a matter of fact he says, “It’s every bit as much sin as murder or adultery.”  That then creates the context for the discussion that we want to have starting in verse 14:

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? (*NASB, James 2:14)

 

Now it’s very important to understand the question is not whether salvation is by faith alone.  The discussion is not:  Is it faith alone?  Is it works alone?  Or is it faith and works?  That’s not the discussion.  As a matter of fact, that is a settled issue.  The New Testament could not be clearer that it is faith alone, not by works.  The issue James is discussing is the nature of saving faith.  There’s no question it’s by faith alone, but the faith that saves is a faith that works.  The Bible does not teach that salvation is basically an intellectual assent of three or four bullet points and, on the basis of my assent to that, I get my ticket to heaven and slip it in my back pocket.  The New Testament teaching is that salvation is a radical transformation.  It is rebirth.  You are a new creation in Christ.  You actually have a new nature and it’s the nature of Christ.  You actually have the very Spirit of Jesus dwelling within you.  It is complete and it is radical.  If that’s true, then it’s far more than an intellectual assent.  It is life changing and there should be evidence of a changed life.  If all there is that twenty years ago I said a prayer, put my ticket to heaven in my back pocket, and “I’m good,” and other than that you live no differently than the rest of the world, you have reason to question whether you have actually experienced a saving faith.  That’s why James says, “Can that faith save him?  Can a faith that has no works save?”  That’s the question at hand.

Verse 15:

If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? (Vs. 15-16)

So there’s our illustration:  Somebody is in need of food.  Somebody is in need of shelter.  Rather than having a heart of generosity, there’s merely pious language.  Go in peace, be warmed and be filled.  But the question is, “What use is that?”  And the answer is, “It is no use.”  It does nothing to meet the needs of these people.  A true, radical transformation produces a heart of generosity.  There is within us the compassion for people in need just like Jesus demonstrated when He walked on the earth.  Verse 17:

Even so…verse 16 is the illustration…faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself…

 

In other words faith that demonstrates no real life change.

To experience the resurrected Christ, something deep within me changes.  I have a new conviction of sin; I have a passion for righteousness and holiness; I have a desire to be generous.  I want to know God; I want to know God’s Word; I want to know God’s people; I want to give my life to the things that matter.  If there’s simply no life change, that is a faith that is dead, and it is not a saving faith.  James anticipates an objection and he records that in verse 18:

But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works”; (Vs. 18a)

Now verse 18 is much debated.  The debate is about where the quotation marks go.  In the Greek text there are no quotation marks, and so it’s up to the interpreter to decide how much of that verse is the voice of the objector.  I believe only the opening line is the objector.  All the scholars agree that it’s the voice of the objector saying, “Now wait a minute”, (and by the way this is perfect for our 21st century post-modern crowd).  The objection is, “Now wait a minute, you have your deal; I have mine.  You do it your way; I’ll do it mine.  Some have faith; some have works; it all works itself out.”  That’s basically what the objector is saying.  So then James is responding:

       “…show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”                                        (Vs. 18b)

How do you demonstrate that you have truly experienced a saving faith if there are no works?  James is saying, “You have no reason to believe that you have experienced a life-changing encounter with Jesus if there are no works.  You simply have no evidence of that.”  But James is also saying, “I’ll show you I’ve been radically changed; it’s evident in the way I live my life.”

Now the purpose of this text is not for everyone to walk back out the doors thoroughly insecure, now wondering, “Am I really saved?”  It isn’t that complicated.  Look at your life: If you can demonstrate, “I have been radically changed,” “I have a passion for holiness,” “I have a heart of compassion,” “I want to know God,” “I want to know what God says,” “I want to be generous,” “I want to walk in holiness,” “I have conviction of sin,” there’s evidence that I have been radically changed by the power of Jesus.  But if you were to be completely honest and say, “You know when I look at my life, I know the right answers to the quiz questions, but other than that I see no real difference between my life and the unsaved people around me,” you have reason to believe perhaps you haven’t really experienced saving faith.  Verse 19:

You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

 

In referring that God is One, remember these are dispersed Jews and at the core of Judaism was the belief of one God.  It’s a reference to the Shema from Deuteronomy that says, “Our God is One God.”  All of the religions of the ancient world were polytheistic—had multiple gods.  There was one religion and that was Judaism where there is one and only one God.  So this is at the core of their belief system and James is saying, “You believe that.  Good for you!  So do the demons!”  They get it! There is one God and this God is powerful and it makes them tremble.  So let’s put this in 21st Century language.  Most of the people who identify themselves as Christians would say, “Well, I believe like the Christmas story; I believe that, you know, God became flesh; Jesus was born in a manger from a Virgin Mary.”  Well, good for you!  The demons believe that too!  “Well, but I believe the Easter story.  I believe that Jesus died on a cross.  I believe that He was buried.  I believe He rose again.”  Good for you!  The demons believe that too!  I would suggest there’s not a demon out there that denies the Christmas story or the Easter story; they know that’s what happened.  They get it.  They believe it and they tremble!  But clearly that doesn’t make them Christian.

You have to move from intellectual assent to what the Bible would call believing or trusting.  It’s a step of faith—that I actually trust that Jesus did this for me.  It includes repentance: I’m no longer pursuing self-righteousness but trusting in what Jesus did for me.  And it is a faith that results in a radical transformation, and that radical transformation should be evident in changes in your life, your purpose, your mission, your conviction of sin.  You are a new creation in Christ, and at the center of that should be a heart of generosity.  That’s who Jesus is and, if we now have the nature of Christ, it should be evident in our desire to help those in need.

 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?  You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.  In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?  (Vs. 20-25)

Two illustrations:  If you were to take those verses, pull them out of context and isolate them, it’s very confusing. That seems completely contrary to what Paul teaches in Romans.  But this is a reminder why we do not take verses out of context and isolate them.  They are very much given in a context and that’s where they have to be understood.  So to start with, let’s remind ourselves that when Paul was making an argument that salvation is by faith alone, who did he use as the poster child to make his point?  Answer is Romans chapter 4: Abraham. He quotes Genesis 15:6: “Abraham believed and it was reckoned as righteousness.”  He wasn’t circumcised until two chapters later.  The discussion here in James is thirty years later when Abraham offered Isaac.  The argument that James is making is not that Abraham was justified on the basis of works, but rather that the Bible states he was justified on the basis of faith.  But to demonstrate that faith was a saving faith, it was followed by works.  Specifically thirty years later, in his greatest moment of faith, he was willing to offer Isaac, his only son, on an altar in obedience to God.  So the question would be: “Okay, the text says that Abraham was justified by faith.  How do we know that’s a true statement?”  Answer:  “His works demonstrated that he was truly, radically changed, justified by the power of God.”

It’s the same argument with Rahab.  Somewhere along the way, Rahab the prostitute believed.  We don’t know when that was.  We only know that when the spies went in to Jericho, she risked her own life to protect them, to care for them, and to deliver them.  What we know is that Rahab did not just have an intellectual assent.  She believed; she was radically changed; the evidence is that she actually risked her life in order to act on that faith and to deliver the spies.  The story of Rahab is a fascinating one.  Her faith was so great that she would live among the Jewish people and she would actually be a woman through whom the seed of the Messiah would travel.  If you look in Matthew chapter 1 in the genealogy of Christ, there listed is Rahab the harlot—a radical transformation.  His point is true: saving faith works.  He closes the chapter with verse 26:

For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.  

It’s a rather graphic illustration, but if you’ve been to a funeral, there’s a body in a casket.  Without the spirit there is no life; it has no potential to do anything.  Faith without works is like a body without spirit; it is simply dead.

So what do we do with this text?  First of all, this is not a text by which we judge everyone else’s salvation.  That’s always the danger in a text like that.  Perhaps you’re sitting there thinking, “Well, I’m thinking about Joe,”—“Joe’s out”—“and Sally”—“Sally’s out.” Or even my spouse.  That’s a very dangerous thing to do.  You don’t know that.  What you do know is yourself and your own heart, and that is the point of the text. Okay, good for you. You know the right answers: You know the right answers on the quiz; you know what to say when God asks you the Kennedy question.  That doesn’t mean you’ve experienced a saving faith.  A faith that saves is a faith that works (not faith plus works).  If you’ve truly experienced a radical transformation by the power of Jesus, Paul says to the Corinthians that salvation is on the basis of God’s grace and that grace is so radical that if you’ve truly experienced God’s grace, it will make you a generous person.  Specifically he says, “Jesus, who was rich for your sake, He became poor in order that through His poverty you might become rich.”   

 

Advertisements

How Abraham was justified

abraham

The Gospel Story: Like Abraham

A Study of Romans

Romans 4:1-25

If you could think of anyone in all of history who could possibly be good enough to be justified by their works, who would that be?  Oh we could probably talk about some names that we’d throw out, but what about this? The very first verse of the New Testament—Matthew, Chapter one, Verse 1— starts with the genealogy, the family tree of Jesus, and describes Jesus as the son of David, the son of Abraham—two of the marquee names of the Old Testament.  So let’s start with them.  Do you think it’s possible that these great men of faith, the great King David and father Abraham could possibly be justified by works?  That’s what we want to talk about now.  But I’d ask you to consider this possibility:  If it becomes obvious that even these great men of faith could not possibly be good enough for God, then wouldn’t it be reasonable to conclude that none of us are either?

If you have a Bible, turn to Romans, Chapter 4.  In Romans 3:21-31 we see one of the most hope-filled, beautiful paragraphs in all of the Bible where Paul reminded us that on the basis of Jesus becoming the propitiation for sin—that Jesus became the payment for sin—that God can remain just and declare sinful people to be righteous in His presence.  But it’s all by faith, nothing to do with works.  He summarizes it in Chapter 3, verse 28: “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works…”  

But one can imagine these religious Jews responding they don’t agree with that because they believe they themselves were perhaps good enough.  So Paul is going to argue this by saying, “Okay, let’s think about this.  Let’s think about our great father, Abraham.  If Abraham wasn’t good enough to be justified by works, then wouldn’t it be fair to conclude no one is good enough?” Verse 1:

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about…(*NASB, Romans 4:1-2a)

So he starts with, Let’s think about Abraham, our forefather.” Abraham would have been the greatest figure of faith that these people knew of.  He says, If it’s possible that he was justified by works, he would have something to boast in.” Now the Jewish rabbis did believe that Abraham was that good.  They did believe he was justified on the basis of his obedience, on the basis of his works.  I think part of what Paul is referring to is people that are highly moral, religious people tend to have kind of a mutual admiration society.  They convince each other that they’re good enough; they pat each other on the back.  And so that is kind of the imagery of Abraham.  If he was in their circle, they’d be patting him on the back and saying, “Abe, you’re good enough.” And so Paul says, “You know, if he was that good, he’d have something to boast about,

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about……but not before God.” (Romans 4:2b)

But not before God! He reminds them that, at the end of the day, there is only one opinion that matters, and God doesn’t share their opinion.  He’s not good enough. Verse 3:

For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

That statement comes from Genesis, Chapter 15, Verse 6 and virtually all theologians agree that was the statement of Abraham’s conversion.  That was the moment when he was justified.  In Genesis, chapter 12, God comes to Abraham and calls him out of his homeland and promises that, “Abraham, I will be your God, and I will make you into a great people; and through your seed all the nations of the world will be blessed if you just trust Me.” And Abraham believed.

Much as we talked about in Romans 3:21-31, this was not an intellectual assent.  He actually put his trust in God’s promise to the degree that he put his entire family at risk.  They actually pulled up stakes and headed for a land that they had never known but had been promised, which was his way of saying, “I believe you.”

But by Genesis 15, Abraham was starting to wonder about this promise.  He was getting older and older and starting to think: I may be getting a little too old to have children, so I’m not going to be able to have a seed that would become a great nation. So he said to God, I’m thinking maybe we should consider Plan B.” And God said, No Plan B.  I made a promise; I’ll keep the promise.” And Abraham believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

The word credited there is an accounting term. It was credited to his account.

When we defined justification we talked about the fact that we stand before God clothed in the robe of our sin.  It’s dirty; it’s stained; it’s offensive.  But because Jesus became the propitiation for our sin, because he paid the debt for that sin, if we believe by faith, God is willing to remove the robe of our sin and replace it with a robe of His righteousness so that when God looks at us, He literally sees His own righteousness.  That will never be changed.  It will never be stained.  It will never be diminished.  It’s how God sees us now and forever.  That’s what it means to be justified.  Paul uses just a little different terminology with Abraham: that the righteousness of God was credited to his account because he believed—in other words, by faith. Romans 4:4:

‘Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due’

That phrase as what is due is literally not according to grace. So Paul is saying that when you work eight hours for someone and they pay you for that work, they’re not doing you a favor.  It’s not according to grace.  It’s what you’ve earned.  That’s what a wage is.  You have every right to expect that.

‘But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness’ (Romans 4:5)

To the one who does not work, this is then not a wage.  It’s not earned.  It’s not a right, but is rather a gift of God’s grace because you believe. Now a couple things in this verse:  There are those who would push it so far as to say: “Believing is actually a work.” Paul would disagree with that.  Look at the verse.  He clearly identifies belief in contrast to works.  It’s a non-work; it’s an un­work.  It’s simply believing the work has been done.  What does he believe?  He believes in Him who justifies the ungodly. It doesn’t say who justifies the high achievers, the really religious people like father Abraham.  As a matter of fact, the text is calling Abraham ungodly.

If that phrase does not sound somewhat scandalous to you, I would suggest you still don’t get it.  What right does God have to declare the ungodly righteous?  Now think about this: If a rapist, if a murderer came and stood before a judge, and the evidence was overwhelming that this person was guilty, what right would a judge have to stand in the courtroom and say, This person is righteous? But that’s exactly what God does.  He justifies the ungodly. How can He do that?  It’s based on the fact that His Son Jesus paid the debt of that sin.  And having covered that sin, He has the right to declare the ungodly to be righteous upon faith and repentance.  We’ve seen this word ungodly before. It shows up in Chapter 1, Verse 18: For the wrath of God is against all ungodliness. Until Abraham believed, he was under the condemnation of God.  He was under sin.  He was considered ungodly by a Holy God until His faith is credited to His account as righteousness. Now he uses David as another example:

‘… just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works’ (Romans 4:6)

So David clearly identifies that his own righteousness was not something he earned.  It wasn’t his wage, but rather by faith it was credited to his account.  Then Paul quotes David’s confession from Psalm 32:

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT.”  (Romans 4:7-8)

Psalm 32 was David’s confession after his sin with Bathsheba.  He stands before God guilty of adultery and guilty of murder, and so he is celebrating that this is a God who doesn’t credit righteousness according to works.  He doesn’t give him what he’s earned.  What is the basis by which he says that? Well he tells us in his confession.  “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven.”  The Greek language has several words for forgiven. This is a word that means to carry away, to remove away. He follows that by the statement, whose sins have been covered. This is the idea of the propitiation, that the sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus.

Now those two concepts should sound familiar.  David was very familiar with the theology of the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the day when there would be two goats.  One would be the scapegoat upon which the sins of the people symbolically were placed, and he was removed.  He was taken away, symbolizing those sins removed or taken away from their presence.  The other one would be a sacrifice, and the blood would be poured through the mercy seat, representing the blood covering the sins of the people.  Those are the two concepts David identifies.  Clearly he’s referring to the Day of Atonement.  He knows his theology: that God has taken his sin away, that God has covered his sin, that Jesus became that propitiation for sin, to the degree that he says God does not credit his sin to his account.

Now think about what he just said.  He is in the midst of a confession that he has committed adultery, that he has committed murder.  And yet, even in the midst of his confession, he states that God will not credit that sin to his account.  Why?  Because by faith he believed that God justifies the ungodly.  What he is saying is that when you are declared to be right in the presence of God, that righteousness is not a wage because of good works.  It’s not earned by good works, because it’s not your righteousness.  It’s not what you have earned.  It is the righteousness of God.  It can’t be changed.  It can’t be diminished.  It is the righteousness of God forever.

The Jewish rabbis taught that Psalm 32 only applied to the Jewish people, the circumcised.  They were God’s favorites, and so they could apply that, but no one else.  Paul says, “Let’s talk about that.”  Romans 4:9:

Is this blessing then on the circumcised or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, “FAITH WAS CREDITED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.”  How then was it credited? (vs. 9-10a)

So they’re saying the promise is only to the circumcised.  And Paul is saying, “Let’s think about that a little bit.  How was it credited to Abraham?”  In other words, was it credited on the basis of faith or on the basis of works (works meaning circumcision)?  The question of how is answered around the question of when.

While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised. (Romans 4:10b-12)

 Okay, what’s he saying there?  It’s actually quite radical.  Genesis 15:6 is the statement, “Abraham believed and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  The question Paul is asking is, “When was that statement made?  Before or after circumcision?”  Circumcision doesn’t even enter into the picture until Genesis, Chapter 17—two chapters later—probably even more importantly, at least a minimum of thirteen years later.  So the argument that Paul is making is that circumcision could not have had anything to do with this justification because he was justified thirteen years before he was circumcised.

Then he says something really radical.  He says, “Actually, if you want to get technical about it, Abraham was justified when he was an uncircumcised Gentile.” He was an uncircumcised Gentile long before he was a circumcised Jew.”  The question would be: why did he do that? The answer is in the text:  in order that he might be the father of all the uncircumcised Gentiles who would ever believe.

So we as Gentiles could actually say he was our father first.  Why did God do that?  The text tells us:  in order that it might be clear that the promise to Abraham was for the nations—every tribe and tongue and nation.  It was never intended to be restricted to the circumcised Jew only.  So before he was ever the father of the circumcised Jewish people, he was the father of the uncircumcised Gentiles who would believe down through history.  And then he adds, “He’s also the father of the circumcised, but not just the circumcised, the circumcised who believe and believe like uncircumcised Abraham did.”  So Abraham was justified apart from works.  He was justified apart from circumcision.  One can imagine now the objection: Well, what about the Law?  Certainly once the Law enters the picture, didn’t everything change?  Romans 4:13:

For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. But if those who are of the Law are heirs…meaning are justified…faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation. (Romans 4:13-15)

So you could imagine the objectors saying, “Well, what about the Law?”  Paul would make the argument to the Galatians that Abraham’s justification could not have had anything to do with the Law because the Law came four hundred thirty years later.  But what he says here is that the faith of Abraham is what was credited to his account as righteousness.  But if one single person, on the basis of keeping the Law, became an heir (in other words was justified), then at that point faith is void and the promise is nullified. In other words, what he is saying is: if it’s possible that someone could be good enough, then it’s no longer of faith and the promise is off.

Paul makes a similar argument in the book of Galatians when he says, “If, on the basis of keeping the Law you can make yourself righteous, then grace is nullified.” (Galatians 5:4).  If you add one single work to grace, then grace ceases to be grace; faith is void; the promise is nullified, and you’re on your own.  In order to keep the Law, you must keep every point of the Law perfectly every day of your life. This is very important to understand.  The first century religious Jews that Paul was writing to, some of them may very well have been Christians; they would have believed in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  They would celebrate, in our terms, Christmas and Easter.  They would have embraced salvation by grace through faith.  They would have simply said, “Salvation by grace through faith plus...”  “At least you need to be circumcised.” “At least you need to be Jewish.” “At least you need to keep the Law.”

The very same problem concerns us today.  You have many, many Christian church denominations that would say, “It’s salvation by grace through faith.”  They celebrate Christmas.  They celebrate Easter.  They would quickly embrace the message of the gospel to where it sounds like they’re saying the exact same thing.  But once you drill down a little bit, what you find out is: it’s salvation by grace through faith…plus…baptism…plus…communion…plus…keeping the Sabbath…plus… whatever you want to put in there.  Jesus’ work was really good, but not quite enough.  There’s got to be this little thing we do as well.” The logic by which most people rationalize this goes like this: As long as they believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, as long as they embrace the core message, what does it really hurt?  You know, it doesn’t hurt to cover all the bases, maybe get a little extra credit, you know, maybe do a few more things just in case maybe that’s included too!  And so people think of it as being safe. What does it hurt to just add a few more works to the message of grace?

Look at the text.  That is not safe at all!

But if those who are of the Law are heirs…meaning are justified…faith is made void and the promise is nullified (Romans 4:14,15).

 At that point, faith is made void and the promise is nullified. Grace ceases to be grace when you add one single work to it.  Most of those denominations would deny that they add one single work to what Jesus did on the cross.  They would say, “We believe in salvation by grace through faith.  It was all Jesus!”  And they would maintain that position…until you choose to leave that denomination. And then they remind you: you cannot get to God without us. And at that point the jig is up.  They’ve been exposed.  You don’t need any denomination to merit righteousness with God.  It’s salvation by grace through genuine faith alone. Is this faith a working faith? Yes, works are the fruits, but faith is the root. Works don’t save us, but they prove your faith is genuine in God.

So Abraham was justified apart from works, apart from circumcision, apart from the Law, and finally apart from sight.  He had to believe by faith.

For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, (as it is written, “A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE.” Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore IT WAS ALSO CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.(Romans 4:16-22)

 God made a promise to Abraham that through his seed the nations of the world would be blessed. That would require Abraham to have a son, but Abraham was getting very old.  When it says in verse 18—in hope against hope, that phrase actually means he hoped even when it was unreasonable to hope by human standards.  Now think about this:  He’s 80…he’s 85…he’s 90…he’s 95…he’s approaching 100…no children! Human reason would say: Abraham, it’s probably not going to happen. Imagine the conversations he may have had with his friends.  They probably did an intervention and said, “Abraham, ol’ buddy!  Man, we love you, but you and Sarah, you need to let this thing go!  You’re 100!  She’s 90!  I mean you better think of adopting!  This is never gonna happen!”  But the text says there was one factor:  God had made a promise, and Abraham was unwilling to not believe the promise.  So he believed, even against all human hope, and God fulfilled His promise and gave him a son.  And eventually through that son and through the seed of Abraham would come the Messiah, through whom the nations of the world would be blessed. You say, “Why is he telling us that?”  Verse 23:

Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as thosewho believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our transgressions. (Romasn 4:23-25)

That we might have the faith of Abraham—that we might believe that God tells the truth—that He is a God who justifies the ungodly on the basis of what Jesus has done on our behalf.  Jesus being turned over is a phrase of a sacrifice—being handed over to be slaughtered—that he was handed over to the cross, the resurrection affirming our justification.  Basically what that means is: the resurrection gave evidence that the payment was indeed accepted.  God’s wrath was satisfied.  The evidence was the resurrection.

So what Paul is saying is that we choose to believe that God tells the truth.  The historical facts of the gospel story can be investigated.  They can be researched.  There’s lots of evidence to support that the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus are indeed true.  But I cannot prove to you the effect of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  That you must believe by faith. You must decide in your own heart whether or not you believe God tells the truth when He says, “On the basis of that work, I am willing to justify the ungodly for those who believe by faith.”

I would suggest to you that there are far too many Christians who still identify themselves by their shame, by their guilt, by their struggles, by their failures, by their sin.  That still remains their identity and, because of that, they continue to struggle through life day after day after day, never really experiencing the victory over sin and temptation, and the joy and the freedom that God desires you to have.  And typically it’s reasoned out or justified like this:  “I’ve messed up so much.  I’ve sinned.  I have all this shame; I have all this guilt so I’m really thankful I believe that Jesus died for my sins.  I accept Him as my Savior, and He’s given me a ticket to Heaven, and if that’s all I get, that’s way more than I deserve, and so I’m just thankful to have that.”  And we think of that as humility.  Friends, that is not humility.  That is simply unbelief.  You simply lack the courage to believe God tells the truth when God has the audacity, when God is so radical as to say, “On the basis of what Jesus has done on the cross, to those who believe, I am willing to declare the ungodly righteous in My presence now and forever.”

My prayer would be that each one of us would have the courage to believe that.  It’s not what we’ve earned.  It’s not our wage.  It is a gift of God’s grace.  But I am telling you this: When you begin to see yourself as God sees you, it will change the way you live!

(Adapted: A message by Pastor Bryan Clark posted with his permission. Here’s the original sermon. http://www.lincolnberean.org/sermons/the-gospel-story/like-abraham)

God’s great moral law is unchangeable 

The foundation of the Sabbatarian error, is a false theory of the law taught by some other churches that led them into this sad error. For many years I was held in that “bondage.” Now that I have found my way out, if I can help others, I shall rejoice.

The following simple facts with regard to the law helped me out of Adventism and I have never known anyone to get out of it any other way. I believe it to be the correct answer to the Saturday Sabbath error. I write for candid readers. They will examine our arguments fairly and allow others to do the same, even if they should not agree fully with every position. Many years of investigation and discussion of the question have firmly settled me on the following propositions. They are in harmony with the best men and theologians of this and past ages; hence nothing original on our part.

Antinomianism

Antinomians, from ANTI, against and NOMOS, law, against law, is a term applied to those who maintain that Christians are under no obligation to keep the law of God or to do any good works. This is an abominable doctrine, subversive of the gospel; yet Seventh-Day Adventists brand all as Antinomians who do not agree with them as to what is the law of God. I am as much opposed to Antinomianism as they. We believe in strict obedience to law, in keeping the commandments of God (see there are over 1000 commands for Christians), and in the necessity of good works, as strongly as they do.

Luther vehemently opposed Antinomianism and yet taught the abolition of the Mosaic law & Sabbath. It is ignorance for Adventists to call people Antinomians who abhor that doctrine. We plead for a pure life, good works and obedience to God, as fruit of our salvation. Bunyan, Judson, and a host of such men have repudiated the Sabbatarian idea of the law, and yet have been holy men. We are not afraid to stand with them.

Even Elder Waggoner says: “As to whether the Saviour abolished the ten commandments and with them the Sabbath, is a theological question; it is only a matter of Scripture interpretation.” Replies to Elder Canright, page 164. Very well; then men may differ on this question and still be honest Christians. I will now lay down a few propositions concerning the law, which seem to me so plain and well supported by the Bible, that all must agree with them.

PROPOSITION 1. “THE LAW” EMBRACES THE WHOLE MOSAIC LAW, MORAL, CIVIL AND CEREMONIAL. The term, “the law,” when used with the definite article and without qualifying words, refers “in nine cases out of ten, to the Mosaic law, or to the Pentateuch.” Largely the Adventists use the term, “the law,” for the ten commandments only. This is their fundamental error on the law. We affirm that “the law” included the whole system of law given to the Jews at Sinai, embracing all those requirements, whether moral, civil or ceremonial, decalogue and all. Even Elder Butler is compelled to make this confession: “The term, “the law,’ among the Jews generally included the five books of Moses, thus including the whole system, moral, ritual, typical and civil.” Law in Galatians, page 70.

Now bear in mind this one simple fact, wherever you find the term “the law,” and you will have no trouble with Sabbatarian arguments on “the law.”

Take a few examples of the use of the term “the law.”

  • 1 Cor. 14:34: Women “are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.” Where does the law say this? Gen. 3:16. So Genesis is in the law.
  • Again: “The law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” Rom. 7:7. Where? Ex. 20:17. So Exodus is in the law.
  • Once more: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” Matt. 22:36. Jesus then makes two quotations from the law; first, “Thou shalt love the Lord with all thy heart.” This is taken from Deut. 6:5. So Deuteronomy is in the law.
  • Second, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” This is from Lev, 19:18. So Leviticus is a part of the law.
  • And this: have ye not read in the law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?” Matt. 12:5. It is from Num. 28:9.

These then, embrace all the five books of Moses as “the law.” Observe a little where the law is spoken of and you will soon see that it refers indiscriminately to each and all of the books of Moses as “the law.” Of course any verse in any of these books is quoted as “the law,” because it is a part of the law. So then the ten commandments are quoted as the law because they are a part of the law.

Again, “the law” embraces all parts of the law, moral, civil or ceremonial.

  • Thus the ceremonial precepts: “The parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him after the custom of the law.” Luke 2:27. That is, to offer a sacrifice.
  • Moral precepts: The law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers.” 1 Tim. 1:9.
  • Civil precepts: “Commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?” Acts 23:3.

Notice that every time it is simply the law. “Gamaliel, a doctor of the law.” Acts 5:34. Of what law? Was he simply a doctor of some part of the law, as the moral, or civil, or ceremonial precepts? Every intelligent man knows that “the law,” of which he was doctor or teacher, was the whole Pentateuch, decalogue included. The law, then, is the whole Jewish law, in all its part.

This one point, clearly settled, destroys nine-tenths of all the Seventh-Day Adventist argument for the Jewish Sabbath.

The Two Laws

PROPOSITION 2. THERE WAS NO SUCH THING AS TWO SEPARATE LAWS GIVEN TO THE JEWS. To sustain their doctrine Sabbatarians have invented a theory of two laws given at Sinai; one the moral law, the other the ceremonial.

Adventists attach the utmost importance to their theory of two laws as well they may; for if this is wrong their cause is lost.

1. “Moral law,” “ceremonial law.” Adventists use these two terms as freely as though the Bible was full of them; yet, strange to say, the scriptures make no such distinctions, never speak of one law as “moral” and of another as “ceremonial.” Adventists severely criticise those who happen to use an unscriptural word or phrase; yet they themselves do the very thing commonly, as in this case. It would be amusing to hear one of them try to preach on the “two laws” and confine himself to Bible language! He could not possibly do it. If there were two distinct laws given to Israel, so opposite in their nature, it is strange that there is no record of it, no reference to it in the Bible. If one was abolished and the other was not, strange that Paul should not make the distinction when he has so much to say about the law. Why did he not say, “we establish the moral law”? or, “the ceremonial law was our schoolmaster”? No, he just says “the law” and leaves it there. He seems not to have been quite as clear on that point as Adventists are!

On this point Kitto’s Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature, Article Law, says: “Neither Christ nor the apostles ever distinguished between the moral, the ceremonial, and the civil law, when they speak of its establishment or its abolition.”

2. The two laws contrasted. Adventists have drawn up a long list of things which they claim are true of the “moral” law and an opposite list which can apply only to the “ceremonial” law. These two they contrast and make out two laws.

Thus Adventists say: “Moral law:

  • “Was spoken from Sinai by the voice of God and twice written upon tables of stone by his own finger.”
  • “Was deposited in the golden ark.” “Related only to moral duties.”

Of course this was just the ten commandments, nothing more, nothing less, according to SDA’s. So here we have their “moral law.” Now here is the other one:

Thus Adventists day: “The ceremonial law:

  • “Was communicated to Moses privately and was by Moses written with a pen in a book. Deut. 31:9.”
  • “Was put into a receptacle by the side of the ark. Deut. 31:26.” “Was wholly ceremonial.” 

Hence everything not found in the decalogue belongs to the ceremonial law and everything Moses himself wrote in the book of the law placed in the side of the ark is “wholly ceremonial.” Deut. 31:26, reads: “Take this book of the law and put it in the side of the ark.” The decalogue was in the ark, the book of the law was by the side of the ark.

We enquire from Adventists, then, how much “the book of the law” contained? The answer is easy:

  • It contained all the five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
  • Thus 2 Kings 14:6, says it “is written in the book of the law of Moses,” and then quotes Deut. 24:16, as that book of the law.

Dr. Scott on Deut. 31:26, says “This book appears to have been a correct and authentic copy of the five books of Moses.”

So what Adventist call the ceremonial law contains scores of precepts as purely moral as any in the decalogue.

Read these:

  • “Thou shalt not vex a stranger.” “Ye shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child.” Ex. 22:21, 22.
  • “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.” Ex. 23:2.
  • “Ye shall be holy.” “Thou shalt not go up and down as a tale bearer among thy people.” “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Lev. 19:2, 16, 18.
  • Thou shalt not discriminate people.” “Thou shalt be perfect.” Deut. 16:19, 18, 13.

Are these precepts, and scores like them, to be classed as ceremonial because God did not write them on a stone but gave them to Moses to write in a book? Surely not.

Then the nature of a precept was not determined by the way it was given. God gave them all at different times as it pleased Him.

As we have seen, “the law” embraces the “whole law.” Gal. 5:3.

Of course, in that law, some precepts refer to moral duties, other to civil, and others to ceremonial but all are only different parts of the same law, called, as a whole, “the law.”

Thus Jesus quotes from Lev. 19, as “the law.” See Matt. 22:36-40. Now read the whole chapter, Lev. 19, and you find moral, civil and ceremonial precepts all mingled together, and often in the same verse. Adventists, to sustain their theory, have to go through this chapter, as they do through the whole Bible, and cut and carve, and split hairs, and label one sentence “the moral law,” another “the ceremonial law,” etc. This is what is properly termed “the scrapping system or proof text method.” It does great violence to the Scriptures, wresting them out of their evident meaning.

In no place can they find their ceremonial law given by itself.

They have to pick it out here and there in scraps. The “book of the law,” which was placed in the side of the ark, Deut. 31:24-26, is pointed to as the ceremonial law. But this “book of the law,” as we see, embraced the whole five books of Moses, which had the ten commandments.

It contains all of the ten commandments word for word twice repeated.Ex. 20 and Deut. 5.

Adventist Elder G.I. Butler himself makes this confession: “The “book of the law,’ which was placed in the side of the ark, or at the side of it, contained both the moral and ceremonial laws.” Law in Galatians, p. 39.

That drops the bottom out of the theory that the moral law was “in the ark, and the ceremonial law in the side of the ark,” as they usually claim.

So, on close examination, every text on which they rely for two laws will fail them. That the “book of the law” did contain moral precepts is settled by Gal. 3:10: “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.” Where in the book of the law is this written?

In Deut. 27:26. Turning there we have a curse against images, verse 15, disobedience to parents, verse 16, adultery, verse 20; murder, verse 24; bribery, verse 25; then comes the verse quoted as “the book of the law.” So if the decalogue contains moral law, then the book did too. This shows the utter fallacy of their theory of two laws.

The following passage alone overturns the two law theory of Adventists: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law [Torah = 5 books of Moses] and the prophets.” Matt. 22:36-40.

Note that:

1. These two great commandments were “in the law.”

2. But neither of them is found in the decalogue.

3. Both of them are in what Adventists call the ceremonial law.

4. Neither of them was spoken by God, nor written by him, nor engraved on stones, nor put into the ark. Both were given by God to Moses privately and he wrote them with a pen in the book of the law which was placed in the side of the ark. And yet these two precepts are the greatest of all. Jesus said of the first one that it is “the first of all the commandments.” Of the two he said, “There is none other commandments greater than these.” Mark 12:29, 41. And on these two hang all the law.

So, then, the greatest commandments are in the book of the law, not on the tables of stone. How utterly this demolishes their two law argument. It shows that the mere fact that the ten commandments were spoken by God, written on stone, and placed in the ark, is no proof that they were superior to those given through Moses in the book of the law.

We will examine a few more of their contrasts of the two laws as they arrange them. Thus:

“1. Moral: Existed in Eden before the fall. Ceremonial: Was given after the fall.

2. Moral: Was perfect. Ps. 19:7. Ceremonial: Made nothing perfect. Heb. 7:19.

3. Moral: Contains the whole duty of Man. Eccl. 12:13. Ceremonial: “Stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances.’ Heb. 9:10.”

1. Where do they read that the decalogue was given in Eden? Nowhere. This they assume not only without proof, but against the plain record of Ex. 19 and 20 that it was given at Sinai. So their very first comparison is a failure.

2. The law is perfect, Ps. 19:7, and again, the law made nothing perfect. Heb. 7:19. This they regard as one of their clearest proofs of the two laws. But where is the proof? Does it follow that if the law is perfect it will or can make sinners perfect? If it could, then, as Paul says, righteousness should be by the law,” Gal. 3:21, and “then Christ is dead in vain.” Gal. 2:21. The law could be perfect and yet fail to make anybody perfect. So there is no proof of two laws here after all.

3. Eccl. 12:13 is quoted as referring to the ten commandments alone and then it is asserted that these contain every duty of man. Both statements are fallacious. There are scores of duties we owe to God and men not even hinted at in the decalogue. Then there is not a particle of evidence that Eccl. 12:13 refers alone to the decalogue. It manifestly embraces all God’s commandments on all subjects. Look at the second quotation, Heb. 9:10. It does not refer to any law whatever but is speaking of the services of the priests in the temple, which service “stood only in meats, drinks,” etc. Read it.

Thus their “two laws” are made out:

1. By pure assumptions.

2. By misapplications of scripture.

3. By detached phrases here and there taken out of their proper connection. So I could go through their whole list and show that it proves no such contrast as they claim.

But they assert that such opposite things are said of “the law,” that it cannot be the same law all the time. This method of proving two laws by contrasting particular expressions about the law when spoken of from different standpoints would make bad work with the Bible if urged on other subjects.

Paul said he was “a Jew,” Acts 21:39, and again that he was “a Roman,” Acts 22:25; two Pauls?

So Christ is “a Lion” and “a Lamb,” Rev. 5:5, 6. “The everlasting Father,” Isa. 9:6. And born of a woman, Luke 2:7; Prince of Life, Acts 3:15, yet died through weakness, 2 Cor. 13:4; a child, Isa. 9:6; and yet God, Heb. 1:1-8; two Christs?

It would be much harder to reconcile the apparently opposite things said of Christ, than it would be the different things said about the law. There were different sides to Christ’s nature, yet he was but one person. So there were different sides to the law, but it was only one law for all that.

  • Viewed in the light of its ultimate design, viz.: to prepare the way for Christ, Rom. 10:4; Gal. 3:23-25, in its spirit, Rom. 7:6; in its righteousness, Rom. 8:3, 4; it was “holy and just and good,” Rom. 7:12.
  • But viewed from the side of its mere letter, Rom. 2:29; 7:6; 2 Cor. 3:6, 7; its numerous rites, ceremonies, penalties and rigorous exactions, it was “the ministration of death,” 2 Cor. 3:7; and a “yoke of bondage,” Gal. 5:1-3; Acts 15:1-10.

This is the true explanation of their “two laws.”

Further, it is not true that there was nothing ceremonial in the decalogue. The weekly Sabbath was the chief ceremonial of all the Jewish worship. The Bible is so clear on this. Jesus, Paul categorized Sabbath a ceremonial. Mainstream Jews believe it. Early Christians taught it. Early father’s who learned from apostles wrote about it. Luther, Bunyan and scores of other godly men preached it. In fact no moral law is called a SIGN in the Bible; but only the rituals and ceremonies such as Passover, Circumcision, & the Sabbaths.

PROPOSITION 3. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS ALONE ARE NEVER CALLED “THE LAW OF THE LORD” NOR THE “LAW OF GOD.” Sabbatarians constantly use these two terms, applying them to the decalogue alone. With them “the law of God” and “the law of the Lord” is just the decalogue and nothing more. They are the only ones who keep God’s law, as all others break the Sabbath, the seventh day.

But now notice this fact which is simply the truth. The word law occurs in the Bible over 400 times, yet in not one single instance is the decalogue as a whole and alone called “the law.” It is never in a single instance called “the law of the Lord,” or “the law of God.” Of course the ten commandments are a part of the law of God, but only a part, not the whole. Examine a few texts:

Luke 2:22. “The days of her purification according to the law of Moses;” verse 23, “It is written in the law of the Lord, every male that openeth the womb;” verse 24, It is “said in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtle doves;” verse 27, “To do for him after the custom of the law.”

Here “the law,” “the law of the Lord,” and “the law of Moses,” all mean the same thing, viz: the law touching the birth of a son.

Again, sacrifices, offerings, Sabbaths, new moons and feasts are all required “in the law of Moses.” “He appointed also the king’s portion of his substance for the burnt offerings, to-wit, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the Sabbaths, and for the new moons and for the set feasts, as it is written in the law of the Lord.” 2 Chron. 31:3.

Scores of texts like these could be quoted, showing that “the law of the Lord” includes sacrifices, circumcision, feast days and all the Jewish law. So “the law of God” is not simply the decalogue, but the whole law of Moses. Read Neh. 8:1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 14, 18. “The book of the law of Moses,” “the law,” “the book of the law,” “they read in the book of the law of God,” “the law which the Lord commanded by Moses,” “the book of the law of God.”

The law of God, then, includes the whole law of Moses.

No Sabbatarian, therefore, keeps “the law,” “the law of God,” or “the law of the Lord,” for if he did he would offer sacrifices, be circumcised, and live exactly as the Jews did.

So all their talk about “keeping the law” amounts to nothing, for none of them do it.

Moreover in their attempt to keep a part of that law they thereby bring themselves under obligation to “keep the whole law,” as Paul argues in Gal. 5:3. But as none of them keep the whole law, they bring upon themselves the curse of the law, by constantly violating one part while attempting to keep another. This is the very point which Paul made against Judaizing legalists of his day. “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 them.” Gal. 3:10.

That is, the person who keeps one precept of the law just because the law says so, thereby acknowledges that the law is binding on him. Then if he neglects some other part of the law, he thereby becomes a transgressor of the very law he professes to keep. This is exactly what Sabbatarians do. They keep the Sabbath because the law says so and thereby become “debtors to do the whole law.” Gal. 5:3. Then they neglect many things in the same law and so are under the condemnation of the law. Gal. 3:10. But Christians do this or that, not because the law of Moses says so, but because so says law of Christ as commanded through the commandments of Jesus and apostles in the New Covenant, that was established after His resurection.

PROPOSITION 4. “THE LAW” WAS GIVEN BY MOSES AND THE “LAW OF MOSES” INCLUDES THE DECALOGUE. Not that Moses was the author of it, but it was through him God gave it to Israel. This is stated so distinctly and so many times that it is useless to deny it. Thus:

“For the law was given by Moses,” John 1:17.

“Did not Moses give you the law?” John 7:19.

“The law which the Lord had commanded by Moses,” Neh. 8:14.

“God’s law which was given by Moses,” Neh. 10:29.

Law of Moses includes the decalogue.

Moses said, Honor thy father and thy mother,” Mark 7:10. This is the fifth commandment. Again: “Did not Moses give you the law and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?” John 7:17. The law against killing is here called the law of Moses.

In Heb. 10:28, it is said that “he that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses.” Persons were put to death for violating the decalogue. See Deut. 17:6. They were put to death for breaking the Sabbath, Ex. 31:14, blasphemy, theft, and the like. Hence the decalogue is included in the “law of Moses.” But in verse 24 they said ye must “keep the law.” So in one verse it is “the law of Moses” and in another verse it is simply “the law”: Hence there is no difference between “the law” and “the law of Moses.”

PROPOSITION 5. “THE LAW” WAS NOT GIVEN TILL THE TIME OF MOSES AND SINAI. The texts above quoted prove this. Thus: “The law was given by Moses.” John 1:17. “Did not Moses give you the law?” John 7:19. “For until the law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses.” Rom. 5:13-14.

The entrance of this law is here located at Moses. Again it is located under the Levitical priesthood. “If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, for under it the people received the law.” Heb. 7:11.

So the giving of the law is located “430 years after the covenant with Abraham.” “And this I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul.” Gal. 3:17.

This brings us to the very year the Jews came out of Egypt and arrived at Sinai. “And it came to pass at the end of 430 years, even the self-same day it came to pass, that all of the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.” Ex. 12:41. Beyond dispute, then, what the Bible calls “the law” was not given till Moses, 2,500 years after Adam, or nearly half the history of the world.

PROPOSITION 6. THE LAW IS NO WHERE FOUND TILL MOSES. No copy of this law nor any reference to it can be found till Moses. Of course God’s great moral and spiritual law, condemning every sin and requiring every righteous act – existed from Adam, nay, from eternity. That’s how Adam and Eve sinned, Jospeh knew adultery was sin.

But what in all the Jewish Scriptures is known as “the law,” as drawn out in a code on Sinai, whether in a book or on the tables of stone, this certainly did not exist till Moses.

The whole dispute between Paul and the Judaizers of his day was over this law. See Romans, Galatians and Acts 15 and 21. The question was whether “the law,” that which was written in “the book of the law,” Gal. 3:10, and “engraved in stones,” 2 Cor. 3:7, was to be kept under the gospel. Paul said, No; they said, Yes.

Sabbatarians now stick for the national law of Sinai as did the Judaizers of old.

To say that the principles of the law existed before Sinai, does not prove that the law existed. These principles could have been taught to Adam and his descendants in a different form from the law as afterwards given at Sinai. But where do you find the law or even one of the ten commandments, as worded on Sinai, before that time? Nowhere.

The various principles and precepts, moral, ceremonial, and typical, which had previously been taught in different ways, were now gathered into one code and worded so as to adapt them, for the time being, to the circumstances of the Jewish nation. As thus worded, certainly this law had never been given before (see also Decalogue Examined).

PROPOSITION 7. THEIR FATHERS DID NOT HAVE THE DECALOGUE AS WORDED ON THE TABLES. This Moses directly states. Deut. 4:12, 13, says God spoke to them from heaven, and declared to them “his covenant,” “even ten commandments,” Chap. 5:2, 3, says: “The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us.” Then he repeats the ten commandments as spoken from heaven. Verses 4-22;

That the main principles and requirements of this code were taught to the fathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacon) in some way no one can doubt; but that the fathers had the law as worded and arranged at Sinai is directly denied by Moses, as above.

PROPOSITION 8. THE LAW WAS GIVEN ONLY TO THE JEWS. This is so manifest in every item of the law, that it needs no argument to prove it. Moses says, Deut. 4:8, that no nation has a law so good “as all this law which I set before you this day.” Then he names the ten commandments as a part of it. Verses 10-13. “This is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel.” Verse 44. Before whom? Israel, not the Gentiles.

So again, Chap. 5:1. “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears.” Then follows the decalogue. So it is a hundred times over all through the law. It is addressed to the Jews and to them only. The very wording of the law shows it was designed for them only.

THIS IS A NATIONAL LAW FOR ISRAEL, NOT UNIVERSAL.

The decalogue is introduced thus: “I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods” Ex. 20:2,3. To whom is that applicable? Only to the Jewish nation. Neither angels, Adam, nor Gentile Christians were ever in Egyptian bondage. Then this law is not addressed to them. To whom was the law given. Let Paul answer.

“Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law.” Rom. 9:4.

It was given to Israel. “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.” Malachi 4:4. The law was “for all Israel,” and them only.

All these things show that this was a national law worded to fit the condition of the Jews at the time.

PROPOSITION 9. THE GENTILES DID NOT HAVE THE LAW. This has been proved already; but Paul directly says so.

Rom. 2:14. “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law, are a law unto themselves.

This is too plain to need arguing. The Gentiles did not have the law. Paul says so directly and that ought to settle it, and does. To understand and obey the great moral principles of that law is one thing, to be under the letter, the exact wording of the law as given in detail on Sinai, is quite another, as we will see further on.

PROPOSITION 10. THE REWARDS AND PENALTIES OF THE LAW WERE ALL TEMPORAL. There are no promises of future rewards, nor threatenings of future punishments in all the Mosaic law. Every careful student of that law must be aware of this feature of it. The reason is evident: it was a national, temporal law, given for a national, temporal purpose. As a sample of all, see Deut. 28:1-19.

If they keep the law, they shall be blessed in children, in goods, in cattle, in health, etc. If they disobey, they shall be cursed in all these. Stoning to death was the penalty for theft, murder, etc. Hence that was the “ministration of death written and engraved in stones,” 2 Cor. 3:7, and “is done away,” verse 11.

Paul states that the promise of Christ and the future inheritance was made to Abraham four hundred and thirty years before the law was given. From this he argues, and forcibly, too, that the keeping of that law was not necessary in order to obtain Christ and the inheritance. Verses 16-18. “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.”

So to the Romans he wrote: “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect.” Rom. 4:13,14.

This plainly teaches that the law was not given with reference to the future inheritance.

Certainly Abraham did not keep a law which was not given till hundreds of years after he died. But Abraham is the father of all the faithful, and not simply of those who were “of the law.” Rom. 4:13-16. This point alone ought to open the eyes of those who contend so earnestly for the keeping of that law as necessary to salvation. We are the children of Abraham, Gal. 3:29, and “walk in the steps of our father Abraham,” who was never under that law of Moses. Rom. 4:12-16. We are under the covenant of promise made to Abraham 430 years before the law, Gal. 2:15-19, and not under the covenant of law from Sinai, which is bondage. Gal. 4:21-26.

PROPOSITION 11. GOD’S ETERNAL LAW OF RIGHTEOUSNESS EXISTED BEFORE THE LAW OF SINAI WAS GIVEN. This proposition is self-evident. God has a law by which to govern his creatures, both angels and men, long before Sinai. Long before he ‘made’ national laws for Israel. Long before he ‘made’ the ritual sabbath day under the national law. But “the law,” as worded in the decalogue and in “the book of the law,” was not given till Moses, 2,500 years after creation.

Hence universal moral obligation did not begin with that law, nor would it cease if that law was abolished. 

“All unrighteousness is sin.” 1 John 5:17. And “sin is the transgression of the law.” Chap. 3:4. This text is used by Sabbatarians to prove that every possible sin is always a violation of the ten commandments. But,

1. “The law” is the whole Mosaic law, not merely the decalogue.

2. A correct translation entirely spoils this text for them. The word law is not in the text in the original 1 John 5:17. The revised version gives it correctly. “Sin is lawlessness.” This is the true meaning of the text. Sin is lawlessness, a disregard for some law, but not necessarily always the same law. Thus: “The angels sinned.” 2 Pet. 2:4. But they did not violate the law of Sinai, for it was not given till thousands of years after they fell, and they were not under that law any way.

Adam “sinned” long before that law was given. So Paul says, Rom. 5:12-14. Cain sinned, Gen. 4:7. The Sodomites were “sinners,” Gen. 13:13, and vexed Lot with their “unlawful deeds,” 2 Pet. 2:8.

Surely none of these violated “the law,” which was not given till Moses, hundreds of years afterwards. To say that they must have violated the principles of that law is not to the point. When the Jews killed Stephen, Acts 7:59, they violated the principles of the law of Michigan, which forbids murder; but did they violate the “law of Michigan, USA”? No; for it was not given for 1800 years after. And they were not under it any way. So neither the angels, nor Adam, nor the Sodomites could have transgressed the law of Sinai, for it was not yet given. So Abraham kept God’s laws, Gen. 26:5, but surely not “the law which was four hundred and thirty years after,” Gal. 3:17.

All this clearly shows that God had a higher universal law before the code of Sinai was given.

Jesus, under the gospel 1500 years later, in naming the commandments, gives them neither in the same words nor in the same order as found in the decalogue. Further, he mingles with them some precepts from the book of the law as of equal importance with the ten commandments.

Thus: Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, defraud not, honor thy father and mother. Mark 10:19. This shows that the mere form and order of the commandments is of no consequence as long as the idea is given. So the two editions of the decalogue in Ex. 20 and Deut. 5 vary much in the wording; yet one is as good as the other. This shows that the exact wording is not essential.

In whatever form or manner God chose to communicate his will to men, this would be “his commandments, his statutes, and his laws.” Gen. 26:5. Paul says: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.” Heb. 1:1, 2. A disregard for his revealed will would be lawlessness – sin. But to claim that God gave the patriarchs his law in the exact form and words of the ten commandments is a proofless assumption, contrary to reason and all the facts in the case.

PROPOSITION 12. THIS ORIGINAL LAW IS SUPERIOR TO THE LAW OF SINAI. When asked “Which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matt. 22:37-40.

Neither of these is in the decalogue; but that law hangs on this higher law.

These principles, clad in the panoply of eternal immutability, lay back of the Mosaic law and existed with it throughout that dispensation as they had existed before and exist now.

In its very nature this great law of supreme love to God, and equal love to fellow creatures, must be as eternal and everlasting as God himself. This law governs angels, governed Adam, the patriarchs, the pious Jews, while under “the law,” and gentiles without ‘the law’, and Gentile Christians now.

It is applicable to all God’s creatures, in all ages and all worlds.

Idolatry, murder, theft, selfishness and “all unrighteousness,” 1 John 5:17, are and always were violations of this supreme law of God. This great law might be worded in different ways at different times and yet the same essential idea be preserved. Thus Jesus stated the second great commandment in another form.

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.” Matt. 7:12.

The idea is the same as “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” The exact words or form in which this law is stated is not material so long as the idea is made plain. Evidently this supreme law must have been made known to Adam and to the patriarchs but in just what form we are not told. To say that it was in the exact words of the decalogue is to affirm what can in no wise be proved.

PROPOSITION 13. THE MOSAIC LAW WAS FOUNDED UPON THE HIGHER AND ORIGINAL LAW. Jesus directly affirms this, Matt. 22:40. “On these two commandments hangs all the law.” The principles of this great law were interwoven all through the law of Sinai, being the life, “the spirit,” or “the righteousness” of “the law.” Rom. 2:26-29; 8:4. As an example, examine Lev. 19. Here you have the second great commandment, verse 18, and the principles of every one of the ten commandments.

Thus: 1st commandment, verse 32; 2nd, verse 4; 3rd, verse 12; 4th, verse 30; 5th, verse 3; 6th, verse 17; 7th, verse 29; 8th, verse 13; 9th, verse 11; 10th verse 35. Mingled among these are commandments about sacrifices, verse 5; harvest, verse 9; clothing, verse 19; priests, verse 22; first fruits, verse 23; wizards, verse 31. Gentiles, verse 34, etc. All these (moral, ceremonial, civil) are founded upon this higher law of love and can be changed to fit circumstances without affecting the supreme law, which is ever the same.

The particular wording of the law as adapted to the Jewish age was “the letter” or “form” of the law for the time being. While the spirit of the law can never change, the letter of it must change to fit the changing circumstances of God’s people.

If a Jew loved God with all his heart, he would have circumcised his sons, offered burnt sacrifices, paid tithes, kept the passover, the new moons, the Sabbath, and attended the temple worship, for this was “the law of the Lord.” 2 Chron. 31:3; Luke 2:22-27.

But if a Christian loves God he will be baptized, Acts 2:38, take the Lord’s supper, 1 Cor. 11:24,  will not neglect meeting together for worship and fellowship (Heb. 10:25), will not judge anyone on the Sabbath whether they observe it or not (Col 2:16, 17), Consider all seven days alike, or some days sacred (Rom 14:5), and do much more.

Hence “there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” Heb. 7:12. This is both Bible and common sense.

Those who make the mere letter of the Jewish law an iron rule, and contend for the exact wording under all circumstances, and in all ages, miss the spirit of the gospel, and are in bondage to a system out of date. Gal. 3:19-25; 4:21-25; 5:1-3, 13, 14; 2 Cor. 3:3-15.

PROPOSITION 14. “THE LAW” OF SINAI WAS GIVEN TO RESTRAIN CRIMINALS WHO WOULD ONLY OBEY GOD THROUGH FEAR. Consider this proposition well. A failure to understand this simple fact is the cause of all the blunders of Sabbatarians and legalists in their extravagant and unscriptural praises of “the ministration of death written and engraven in stones.” 2 Cor. 3:7.

On this point hear Paul state why that law was made and notice that it is of the moral precepts of the law that he speaks. “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.” 1 Tim. 1:9, 10.

There can be no doubt that he refers to the code of Sinai, that which prohibited murder, thefts, etc. This law he says was not made for a righteous man but for the lawless. Of this law in another place Paul says: “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions.” Gal. 3:19. Again, “The law entered that the offense might abound.” Rom. 5:20, and, “until the law sin was in the world,” verse 13.

Hence it is manifest that sin, offense and transgression existed before “the law” was given, and that it was given to prohibit already existing crimes. Evidently God put the race on trial from Adam to Moses under the same eternal law of right and love which governed the angels and holy men. But mankind failed shamefully. They did not live by that rule. They became lawless. Disregard of God and open violence towards men were increasing, till life and property were insecure. Then God selected one nation, the Hebrews, and gave up the rest to their own ways. Rom. 1:20-28.

Up to this time God’s people had not been a nation by themselves but had dwelt among other nations and had been subject to their civil laws which prohibited open violence and protected life and property. But as soon as they became a nation by themselves, it became absolutely necessary to have a national law of their own which would prohibit and punish open crime, such as murder, theft, adultery, etc. Life and property would not have been secure without this, because many among them were wicked, lawless men, “stiff-necked and rebellious.”

If all had been righteous, if all had loved God and their neighbors, there would have been no need of a prohibitory law with a death penalty. We can readily see the reason why Paul says “the law was not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless,” These lawless ones would have robbed and murdered the righteous ones had there been no national, temporal law to protect them, for these, wicked men would have cared little about God’s higher law, which pertains to the future judgment. But as the Jewish government was a theocracy, one in which God himself was ruler, the law required and regulated service to him as well as duties among themselves.

Hence to this nation God gave the law of Sinai. Ex. 20:2. Would it have been given if men had obeyed God without? Paul has settled that point. “The law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient.” l Tim. 1:9.

Then the law was not made till man had sinned, Rom. 5:13, offended, verse 20, transgressed, Gal. 3:19, and became lawless.

This then is not God’s original law by which he prefers to govern men. It was a law largely of prohibitions, threats, pains and penalties.

Its object was to restrain open crime, protect men in their natural rights and preserve the knowledge of God in the earth till Christ should come. Gal. 3:19-25. In order to keep that nation separate from all others, many burdensome rites were incorporated into the law which made it a yoke of bondage. Acts 15:10; Gal. 5:1, 3.

When Christ came, and the Jewish nation was rejected and dispersed, and their national law overthrown, and the gospel went to all nations, that law had served its purpose, and so passed away as a system. Matt. 5:17-18; Rom. 10:4; Gal. 3:24; Heb. 7:12-19.

Now Christians are not under the Aaronic priesthood, nor the Jewish law. Heb. 7:11, 12; but are under the priesthood of Melchisedec, verses 14-19, as was Abraham our father, Gen. 14:18-20, who never had “the law” of Sinai, Gal. 3:17, but walked by the higher law which governs angels and holy men, Gen. 26:5.

The Jewish law being removed, we now come under the same law by which Enoch and Abraham “walked with God.” The sermon on the mount is a beautiful elucidation of that law, the rule by which all Christians should live, and by which all sinners will be judged at the judgment.

Now, as in the days before Moses, God’s people are not a nation by themselves, but are scattered among all nations where they are governed and protected by the civil law of those nations.

Hence the New Testament provides no civil law for the government of Christians, no temporal penalties for criminals. It would be directly contrary to the nature of the gospel to do either.

All this is left to the rulers of nations wherever Christians happen to be. Open criminals, who will not obey from principle, the higher law, are now turned over to the civil magistrate. Paul makes this matter very plain and puts the question beyond dispute.

Thus: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou, then, not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For, for this cause pay ye tribute also; for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.” Rom. 13:1-6.

There is where you find prohibitory law for “the lawless;” that is, in the civil law of the land where they live. This punishes their crime against society. Their offenses against God’s great law will be recompensed at the judgment, but the saints of God must be governed by the higher law, the law of supreme love to God and equal love to fellows. Such obedience can come only from a heart renewed by the Spirit of God, 2 Cor. 3:3, and “if ye be led of the Spirit ye are not under the law.” Gal. 5:18.

Is any man a Christian who refrains from murder, theft, and adultery, simply because the law says, “Thou shalt not”? No, indeed, he must refrain from these from a higher motive than that.

Then surely he must be governed by a higher law than the decalogue. “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” Rom. 13:10. The dispute between Paul and the Judaizers then was over the nature and obligation of the Jewish law. The dispute now concerning the Jewish Sabbath involves the same point, the obligation of the letter of the Jewish law.

PROPOSITION 15. THE LETTER OF THE LAW IS NOT BINDING UPON CHRISTIANS AS A COERCIVE CODE. Little argument ought to be needed to prove this; for if the letter of that law is binding, then we must be circumcised; offer sacrifices, keep the seventh day and all the Jewish ritual, for “the law” included the whole law, Gal. 3:10; 5:3.

Notice in the following text that “the righteousness of the law” and the spirit of the law is one thing, while “the letter” and outward service is quite another. Notice further that a man may “fulfill the law” without keeping the letter of it, and thus condemn the formalist who keeps the letter of the law but not the spirit of it. Paul says:

“If the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfill the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Rom. 2:26-29.

Paul argues that Christians must be circumcised, but not “outwardly in the flesh,” as formerly, but “inwardly in the spirit, not in the letter.” By this he illustrates the difference between keeping the law now and formerly. So, further on: “Ye are not under the law but under grace.” Rom. 6:14. So in the next chapter he says:

“But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” Rom. 7:6.

How can one misunderstand language so plain? Now, under Christ, we are delivered from the law of Moses; that law is dead, and we serve Christ in the spirit, “not in the old letter.” So again he says, urging this point: “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.” Chap. 8:4. Paul uses the word “flesh” for the outward “works of the law.” See Gal. 3:2, 3. We do not walk according to the outward form of the law, but we do obey the intent and spirit of it or its “righteousness,” as he here calls it.

The higher law of God, supreme love to God and equal love to our neighbors, upon which the Jewish law hung, was the “spirit,” “righteousness,” or real intent of “the law.” This “first and great” law Christians do keep, while free from the mere letter of the law, which was bondage. Hence to the Galatians who were being troubled with Judaizing legalists, Paul wrote: “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” Gal. 5:13, 14, 18.

How he reiterates the truth in all his letters, that Christians are not under the law; that they are called to a liberty which Jews never enjoyed. Notice how he states it over and over that all the law is fulfilled in this, Love your neighbor as yourself. “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” “He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Rom. 13:8, 10.

This is not a liberty to licentiousness and self-indulgence; but it is a liberty from the forms and ceremonies of the law which bound the Jews.

In Jer. 31:3l-34, it was foretold that the Lord would make a “new covenant” with Israel, “not according” to the one he made at Sinai; for he would put his laws in their hearts and minds. This clearly indicated a change from the previous formal way of governing God’s people. Paul thus refers to that prophecy: “not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart.” “Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” 2 Cor. 3:3, 6.

Now the law for the Christian is not that written in the book or on the tables of stone. It was not the letter but the spirit of that law which the apostles taught. So Paul says. Then he says that “the ministration of death written and engraven in stones, was” “done way.” Verses 7, 11.

Surely, then, Christians are free from the letter of that law; but it is still to be studied with reverence and its spirit carried out in Christian duties though in form these must differ from Jewish duties. The voluntary gathering on the Lord’s resurrection day meets the spirit of the fourth commandment. We are circumcised in heart, not in the flesh. Rom. 2:26-29.

Hence, the coming of Christ did not repeal any moral law, and the ceremonial law was not repealed, but fulfilled. All that was permanent, useful, or spiritual in the Mosaic economy remains, NOT IN THE LETTER OF STATUTES, but in the fulfilled and completed dispensation of grace.

The following, from Peter, is a fair illustration of the spiritual application of the old law which the apostles make all through the gospel: “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5. The old temple, priesthood, and sacrifices of the law, now have a spiritual meaning as found in the church and its service.

PROPOSITION 16. THE LAW WAS CHANGED. Jeremiah predicted that under the new covenant, God’s law would be written in the heart and not as it was before. “I will put my law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts.” Jer. 31:33. Paul refers to this when he says, Ye are our epistle “written not with ink, but with the spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart.” 2 Cor. 3:3. So then God’s law is not now written on tables of stone as at Sinai. This is a square contradiction to what Adventists teach. They claim that God’s law is still on stones in heaven the same as of old. Paul says no, it is written by the spirit upon the heart.

This implied a radical change in the form of the law and the way it was to be taught. In Heb. 7:12, it is expressly declared that “there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” The letter of the Jewish law is wholly unfitted to the condition of the Christian church. It can only be a guide to us as modified and interpreted by the gospel. But in the gospel there is no injunction to keep the seventh day or circumcision law. Hence the letter of that command does not concern us.

PROPOSITION 17. THE WHOLE MOSAIC SYSTEM ENDED AT THE CROSS. Surely this is so plainly taught all through the New Testament that no one should deny it. But we have clearly proved that “the law” included the whole code of laws given to Israel at Sinai, moral, civil, and ceremonial precepts, decalogue and all.

That entire system of law was framed to fit the Jewish age and could not possibly be applied to Gentile Christians in all parts of the world. Hence a “new way,” Heb. 10:20, a “new covenant,” Heb. 8:13, a new “ministration,” 2 Cor. 3:8, was introduced, so there was “made of necessity a change also of the law,” Heb. 7:12.

Examine carefully a few texts to which I will refer. “The law was given by Moses but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” John 1:17. This teaches a change. “Ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Rom. 6:14. “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster,” Gal. 3:24, 25. “Ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ,” Rom. 7:4. “Now we are delivered from the law,” verse 6. “Christ is the end of the law,” Rom. 10:4. “The ministration of death written and engraven in stones was glorious.” “That which is done away was glorious,” 2 Cor. 3:7, 10. That ends the decalogue.

“Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances,” Eph. 2:15. “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross.” “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days,” Col. 2:14, 16, “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” “For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.” “For the law made nothing perfect but the bringing in of a better hope.” Heb. 7:12, 18, 19.

Read Acts 15:1-29 and see this whole matter of “the law” discussed by the apostles and settled in these words:

“Forasmuch as we have heard that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, YE MUST be circumcised, and keep the law; to whom we gave no such commandment.” Verse 24.

The, decision is positive and clear: the apostles gave no commandment to “keep the law.” It does not say “ceremonial law,” or a part of the law, but simply “the law.” Adventists say we must keep the law or “ye can not be saved,” exactly what those Judaizers said, verse 1, and just what the council condemned.

Circumcision was specially mentioned because it was the initiatory rite, the sign which represented the whole law. Thus when a Gentile would partake of the privileges of the nation, he had first to be circumcised. Ex. 12:48. To be uncircumcised was to be a heathen, unclean, and lost; to be circumcised was to be an Israelite, a member of the holy nation.

Hence circumcision represented the whole law of Moses in all its parts.

Elder Butler, Adventist leader, has to confess this. He says: “The term ‘the law,’ among the Jews generally included the five books of Moses, thus including the whole system, moral, ritual, typical, and civil. This as a system these Judaizing teachers desired to maintain. Circumcision was a sign of the whole.” Law in Galatians, page 70.

Never was a truer statement.

Circumcision was the sign of the whole Mosaic system, moral, typical, civil, all that was written in the five books of Moses, of which the decalogue was a chief part. The apostles decided that Gentile believers were free from this whole system of law. Put with Butler’s statement this from Elder Smith, another leading Adventist, and you have the whole truth:

That which was abolished at the cross was an entire system. God did not single out and abolish portions and pieces of some arrangement or system, and leave other parts remaining.” Synopsis of Present Truth, page 259.

Correct; the whole system ended at the cross.

PROPOSITION 18. NO PART OF GOD’S GREAT SPIRITUAL LAW WAS ABOLISHED, RE-ENACTED, OR CHANGED AT THE CROSS. Adventists make a great ado over the absurdity of the idea that God should abolish his law at the cross and then immediately re-enact nine-tenths of it. They say, as well cut off your ten fingers to get rid of one bad one and then stick nine on again. So they go on with a whole jumble of absurdities involved in the position that God’s moral law was abolished at the cross and a new one given. But this is only a man of straw of their own making and hence easily demolished.

We hold no such absurd position. God’s great moral law is unchangeable.

 But the Mosaic law was only a national one founded upon the principles of God’s moral law. Even while it existed it did not supersede God’s higher law, and when it ended it in no way affected God’s law, which continued right on unchanged and unchangeable.

To illustrate:

The state law of Michigan forbids murder, theft and adultery. In these items it is founded upon God’s moral law. Now abolish the law of Michigan. Does that abolish God’s law? No.

So with the state law of Israel. Neither its enactment on Sinai nor its abolition at the cross in any way changed God’s great moral law by which he will judge the world. The Advent absurdities grew out of their own false theory, that is all.

Adventists agree with us that the law of Moses, Acts 15:5, was abolished. Well, that law contained many precepts as purely moral as anything in the decalogue.

Here are some: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.” Deut. 6:5. “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” “Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.” Lev. 19:11, 18.

Scores of such precepts are all through this law which they admit was abolished. They are just as moral, spiritual, and necessary as anything in the ten commandments, and yet all this law was abolished as they admit. But did that abolish the duty enjoined in these precepts? No, because they were inherent in a higher law.

Just so every moral principle involved in the decalogue existed in a higher law before that document was given, and so did not cease when that law expired.

Elder White himself makes this admission: “The ten commandments are adapted to fallen beings. As worded in the sacred Scripture, they are not adapted to the condition of holy angels, nor to man in his holy estate in Eden. * * * But the two grand principles of God’s moral government did exist before the fall, in the form of law. * * * These two great commandments embrace all that is required by the ten precepts of the decalogue.” Law and Gospel, pages 4, 5. Good and true.

Then the ten commandments are not God’s primary law. They are only temporary, while that containing all that is moral in them, and much more, continues always.

“The teachings of Christianity are facts and principles, not propositions and restrictions; its institutions are simple outlines, not precise ceremonies; and its laws are moral sentiments, not minute mechanical directions.” Pulpit Commentary on 2 Cor. 3:6.

This is the truth well put.

So the wicked who do not live by these principles, who do not love God nor their fellows, but who live selfish, corrupt lives, will be judged and condemned by these principles of God’s eternal law.