Chapter 18: THE LAW OF GOD


Seventh-day Adventists Believe...

The great principles of God's law are embodied in the Ten

Commandments and exemplified in the life of Christ. They

express God's love, will, and purposes concerning human

conduct and relationships and are binding upon all people in

every age. These precepts are the basis of God's covenant

with His people and the standard in God's judgment. Through

the agency of the Holy Spirit they point out sin and awaken

a sense of need for a Saviour. Salvation is all of grace and

not of works, but its fruitage is obedience to the

Commandments. This obedience develops Christian character

and results in a sense of well-being. It is an evidence of

our love for the Lord and our concern for our fellow men.

The obedience of faith demonstrates the power of Christ to

transform lives, and therefore strengthens Christian

witness.--Fundamental Beliefs, 18.

 

THE LAW OF GOD

All eyes focused on the mountain. Its summit was covered

with a thick cloud that, continuing to darken, swept

downward until the entire mountain was engulfed in mystery.

Lightning flashed from the darkness, while thunder echoed

and reechoed. "Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke,

because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke

ascended like the smoke of a furnace and the whole mountain

quaked....The blast of the trumpet sounded long and became

louder and louder" (Ex. 19:18,19). So powerful was this

majestic revelation of God's presence that all Israel

trembled.

Suddenly the thunder and trumpet ceased, leaving an

awesome silence. Then God spoke out of the thick darkness

that enshrouded Him as He stood on the mountain. Moved by

deep love for His people, He proclaimed the Ten

Commandments. Said Moses: "The Lord came from Sinai,...and

He came with ten thousands of saints; from His right hand

came a fiery law for them. Yes, He loves the people; all His

saints are in Your hand; they sit down at Your feet;

everyone receives Your words" (Deut. 33:2,3).

When He gave the law at Sinai God not only revealed

Himself as the majestic supreme authority of the universe.

He also portrayed Himself as the redeemer of His people (Ex.

20:2). It is because He is Saviour that He called not only

Israel but all humanity (Eccl. 12:13) to obey ten brief,

comprehensive, and authoritative precepts that cover the

duty of human beings to God and to their fellow beings.

And God Said:

"You shall have no other gods before Me.

"You shall not make for yourself any carved image or any

likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in

the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;

you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the

Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of

the fathers on the children to the third and fourth

generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to

thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

"You shall not take the name of the Lord Your God in

vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His

name in vain.

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you

shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the

Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work;

you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant,

nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who

is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the

heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and

rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the

Sabbath day and hallowed it.

"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be

long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

"You shall not murder.

"You shall not commit adultery.

"You shall not steal.

"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not

covet your neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his

maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that

is your neighbor's" (Ex. 20:3-17).

The Nature of the Law

As a reflection of God's character the Ten Commandment

law is moral, spiritual, and comprehensive, containing

universal principles.

A Reflection of the Character of the Lawgiver

Scripture sees the attributes of God in His law. Like

God, "the law of the Lord is perfect" and "the testimony of

the Lord is pure" (Ps. 19:7,8). "The law is holy, and the

commandment holy and just and good" (Rom. 7:12). "Your

commandments are truth. Concerning Your testimonies, I have

known of old that You have founded them forever"

(Ps. 119:151,152). Indeed, "all Your commandments are

righteousness" (Ps. 119:172).

A Moral Law

The Ten Commandments convey God's pattern of conduct for

humanity. They define our relationship with our Creator and

Redeemer and our duty to our fellow beings. Scripture calls

the transgression of God's law sin (1 John 3:4, KJV).

A Spiritual Law

"The law is spiritual" (Rom. 7:14). Therefore, only those

who are spiritual and have the fruit of the Spirit can obey

it (John 15:4; Gal. 5:22,23). It is God's Spirit that

empowers us to do His will (Acts 1:8; Ps. 51:10-12). By

abiding in Christ, we receive the power we need to bear

fruit to His glory (John 15:5).

Human laws address only overt acts. But the Ten

Commandments are "exceedingly broad" (Ps. 119:96), touching

our most secret thoughts, desires, and emotions such as

jealousy, envy, lust, and ambition. In the Sermon on the

Mount, Jesus emphasized this spiritual dimension of the law,

revealing that transgression begins in the heart

(Matt. 5:21,22,27,28; Mark 7:21-23).

A Positive Law

The Decalogue is more than just a short series of

prohibitions; it contains far-reaching principles. It

extends not only to the things we should not do, but to the

things we should do. We must not only refrain from evil acts

and thoughts; we must learn to use our God-given talents and

gifts for good. Thus every negative injunction has a

positive dimension.

For example, the sixth commandment, "You shall not kill,"

has as its positive side "You shall promote life." "It is

God's will that His followers seek to promote the well-being

and happiness of everyone who comes within their sphere of

influence. In a profound sense the gospel commission--the

good news of salvation and eternal life in Jesus

Christ--rests upon the positive principle embodied in the

sixth precept."(*1)

The ten-commandment law should not be seen "as much from

the prohibitory side, as from the mercy side. Its

prohibitions are the sure guarantee of happiness in

obedience. As received in Christ, it works in us the purity

of character that will bring joy to us through eternal ages.

To the obedient it is a wall of protection. We behold in it

the goodness of God, who by revealing to men the immutable

principles of righteousness, seeks to shield them from the

evils that result from transgression."(*2)

A Simple Law

The Ten Commandments are profound in their simple

comprehensiveness. They are so brief that even a child can

quickly memorize them, yet so far-reaching that they cover

every possible sin.

"There is no mystery in the law of God. All can

comprehend the great truths which it embodies. The feeblest

intellect can grasp these rules; the most ignorant can

regulate the life, and form the character after the divine

standard."(*3)

A Law of Principles

The Ten Commandments are a summary of all right

principles--they apply to all humanity at all times.

Scripture says, "Fear God and keep His commandments, for

this is the whole duty of man" (Eccl. 12:13).

The Decalogue--the Ten Words, or Ten Commandments (Ex.

34:28)--consists of two parts, indicated by the two tablets

of stone upon which God wrote it (Deut. 4:13). The first

four commandments regulate our duty to our Creator and

Redeemer, and the last six regulate our duty toward

people.(*4)

This twofold division derives from the two great

fundamental principles of love upon which God's kingdom

operates: "`You shall love the Lord your God with all your

heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with

all your mind,' and `your neighbor as yourself'" (Luke

10:27; cf. Deut. 6:4,5; Lev. 19:18). Those who live these

principles will be in full harmony with the Ten

Commandments, for the commandments express these principles

in more detail.

The first commandment directs the exclusive worship of

the one true God. The second forbids idolatry.(*5) The third

prohibits irreverence and the perjury that involves the

invoking of the divine name. The fourth calls for the

observance of the Sabbath and identifies the true God as the

Creator of heaven and earth.

The fifth commandment requires children to submit to

their parents as God's appointed agents for the transmission

of His revealed will to succeeding generations (see Deut.

4:6-9; 6:1-7). The sixth protects life as sacred. The

seventh enjoins purity and safeguards the marital

relationship. The eighth protects property. The ninth guards

truth and proscribes perjury. And the tenth goes to the root

of all human relationships by prohibiting the coveting of

that which belongs to others.(*6)

A Unique Law

The Ten Commandments have the unique distinction of being

the only words God spoke audibly to an entire nation (Deut.

5:22). Not trusting this law to the forgetful minds of

humans, God then engraved the commandments with His finger

on two tablets of stone that were to be preserved inside the

ark of the tabernacle (Ex. 31:18; Deut. 10:2).

To help Israel apply the commandments, God gave them

additional laws detailing their relationship to Him and to

each other. Some of these additional laws focused on the

civil affairs of Israel (civil laws), others regulated the

ceremonies of the sanctuary services (ceremonial laws). God

communicated these additional laws to the people through an

intermediary, Moses, who wrote them down in the "book of the

law," and placed them "beside the ark of the covenant"

(Deut. 31:25,26)--not in the ark as he had done with God's

supreme revelation, the Decalogue. These additional laws

were known as "the Book of the Law of Moses" (Joshua 8:31;

Neh. 8:1; 2 Chron. 25:4), or simply the "Law of Moses" (2

Kings 23:25; 2 Chron. 23:18).(*7)

A Delightful Law

God's law is an inspiration to the soul. Said the

psalmist: "Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all

the day." "I love Your commandments more than gold, yes than

fine gold!" Even when "trouble and anguish have overtaken

me," he said, "Your commandments are my delights" (Ps.

119:97, 127, 143). To those who love God, "His commandments

are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3). Transgressors are the ones

who consider the law a grievous yoke, for the sinful mind

"does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so"

(Rom. 8:7, NIV).

The Purpose of the Law

God gave His law to provide people with abundant

blessings and to lead them into a saving relationship with

Himself. Note the following specific purposes:

It Reveals God's Will for Humanity

As the expression of God's character and love, the Ten

Commandments reveal His will and purpose for humanity. They

demand perfect obedience, "for whoever shall keep the whole

law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all"

(James 2:10). Obedience to the law, as the rule of life, is

vital to our salvation. Christ Himself said: "If you want to

enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matt. 19:17). This

obedience is possible only through the power the indwelling

Holy Spirit provides.

It Is the Basis of God's Covenant

Moses wrote the Ten Commandments, with other explanatory

laws, in a book called the book of the covenant (Exodus

20:1, 24:8).(*8) Later he called the Ten Commandments "the

tablets of the covenant," indicating their importance as the

basis of the everlasting covenant (Deut. 9:9; cf. 4:13. For

more on the covenants, see chapter 7 of this book).

It Functions as the Standard of Judgement

Like God, His "commandments are righteousness"

(Ps. 119-172). The law, therefore, sets the standard of

righteousness. Each of us will be judged by these righteous

principles, not by our consciences. "Fear God and keep His

commandments," Scripture says, "...for God will bring every

work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it

is good or whether it is evil" (Eccl. 12:13,14; cf.

James 2:12).

Human consciences vary. Some consciences are "weak,"

while others are "defiled," "evil," or "seared with a hot

iron" (1 Cor. 8:7, 12; Titus 1:15; Heb. 10:22; 1 Tim. 4:2).

Like a watch, however well they may work, they must be "set"

by some accurate standard to be of value. Our consciences

tell us that we must do right, but they do not tell us what

is right. Only consciences set by God's great standard--His

law--can keep us from straying into sin.(*9)

It Points Out Sin

Without the Ten Commandments people cannot see clearly

God's holiness, their own guilt, or their need to repent.

When they do not know that they are in violation of God's

law, they do not sense their lostness or their need of the

atoning blood of Christ.

To help people see their true condition, the law

functions like a mirror (see James 1:23-25). Those who

"look" into it see their own character defects in contrast

to God's righteous character. Thus the moral law

demonstrates that all the world is guilty before God (Rom.

3:19), making everyone fully accountable to Him.

"Through the law we become conscious of sin" (Rom. 3:20,

NIV) because "sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John

3:4, KJV). Indeed, Paul said, "I would not have known sin

except through the law" (Rom. 7:7). Convicting sinners of

their sin, it helps them realize that they are condemned

under the judgment of God's wrath and that they are facing

the penalty of eternal death. It brings them to a sense of

their utter helplessness.

It Is an Agent in Conversion

God's law is the instrument the Holy Spirit uses to bring

us to conversion: "The law of the Lord is perfect,

converting the soul" (Ps. 19:7). When, after seeing our true

character we realize that we are sinners, that we are on

death row and without hope, we sense our need of a Saviour.

Then the good news of the gospel becomes truly meaningful.

Thus the law points us to Christ, the only one who can help

us escape our desperate situation.(*10) It was in this light

that Paul referred to both the moral law and the ceremonial

law as "our schoolmaster ["tutor," NKJV] to bring us unto

Christ, that we might be justified by faith"

(Gal. 3:24).(*11)

While the law reveals our sin, it can never save us. Just

as water is the means to cleanse a dirty face, so we, after

having discovered our need in the mirror of God's moral law,

reach for the fountain that is open "for sin and for

uncleanness" (Zech. 13:1) and are cleansed by "the blood of

the Lamb" (Rev. 7:14). We must look to Christ, "and as

Christ is revealed to...[us] upon the cross of Calvary,

dying beneath the weight of the sins of the whole world, the

Holy Spirit shows...[us] the attitude of God to all who

repent of their transgressions."(*12) Then hope fills our

souls, and in faith we reach out to our Saviour, who extends

to us the gift of everlasting life (John 3:16).

It Provides True Freedom

Christ said that "whoever commits sin is a slave of sin"

(John 8:34). When we transgress God's law, we have no

liberty; but obedience to the Ten Commandments assures us

true freedom. Living within the confines of God's law means

liberty from sin. And it means freedom from that which

accompanies sin--the continual worry, wounding of the

conscience, and increasing guilt and remorse that wear out

life's vital forces. Said the psalmist, "I will walk about

in freedom, for I have sought out Your precepts" (Ps.

119:45, NIV). James referred to the Decalogue as "the royal

law," "the perfect law of liberty" (James 2:8; 1:25).

That we might receive this freedom, Jesus invites us to

come to Him with our burdens of sin. He offers us in their

stead His yoke, which is easy (Matt. 11:29,30). A yoke is an

instrument of service. By dividing the load, the yoke makes

it easier to perform tasks. Christ offers to be yoked

together with us. The yoke itself is the law; "the great law

of love revealed in Eden, proclaimed upon Sinai, and in the

new covenant written in the heart, is that which binds the

human worker to the will of God."(*13) When we are yoked

with Christ, He bears the heavy burden and makes obedience a

joy. He enables us to succeed at what was impossible before.

So that the law, written on our hearts, becomes a delight

and a joy. We are free because we want to do as He commands.

If the law is presented without Christ's saving power,

there is no freedom from sin. But God's saving grace, which

does not nullify the law, brings the power that liberates

from sin, for "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is

liberty" (2 Cor. 3:17).

It Restrains Evil and Brings Blessings

The increase in crime, violence, immorality, and

wickedness that floods the world has resulted from disregard

for the Decalogue. Where this law is accepted, it restrains

sin, promotes right actions, and becomes a means of

establishing righteousness. Nations that have incorporated

its principles into their laws have experienced great

blessing. On the other hand, abandonment of its principles

brings about a steady decline.

In Old Testament times God often blessed nations and

individuals in proportion to their obedience to His law.

"Righteousness exalts a nation," Scripture says, and a

"throne is established by righteousness" (Prov. 14:34;

16:12). Those who refused to obey God's commandments

encountered calamities (Ps. 89:31,32). "The curse of the

Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the

habitation of the just" (Prov. 3:33; cf. Lev. 26; Deut. 28).

The same general principle is true today.(*14)

The Perpetuity of the Law

Since the ten-commandment moral law is a reflection of

God's character, its principles are not temporal or

situational, but absolute, unchangeable, and of permanent

validity for humanity. Christians through the centuries have

firmly supported the perpetuity of God's law, strongly

affirming its continuous validity.(*15)

The Law Before Sinai

The law existed long before God gave the Decalogue to

Israel. If it did not, there could have been no sin before

Sinai, "for sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John

3:4, KJV). That Lucifer and his angels sinned gives evidence

of the presence of the law even before Creation

(2 Peter 2:4).

When God created Adam and Eve in His image, He implanted

the moral principles of the law in their minds, making it

natural for them to do His will. Their transgression

introduced sin into the human family (Rom. 5:12).

Later God said of Abraham that he "obeyed My voice and

kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My Laws"

(Gen. 26:4,5). And Moses taught God's statutes and His laws

before Sinai (Exodus 16; 18:16). A study of the book of

Genesis shows that the Ten Commandments were known well

before Sinai. That book makes clear that people realized

that, before God gave the Decalogue, the acts it forbade

were wrong.(*16) This general understanding of the moral law

shows that God must have provided humanity with the

knowledge of the Ten Commandments.

The Law at Sinai

During the long period of bondage in Egypt, a nation that

did not recognize the true God (Ex. 5:2), the Israelites

lived amid idolatry and corruption. As a consequence, they

lost much of their understanding of God's holiness, purity,

and moral principles. Their status as slaves made it

difficult for them to worship.

Responding to their desperate cry for help, God

remembered His covenant with Abraham and determined to

deliver His people out of this "iron furnace" (Deut. 4:20)

by bringing them to a country where "they might observe His

statutes and keep His laws" (Ps. 105:43-45).

After their liberation He led them to Mount Sinai to give

them the moral law that is the standard of His government

and the ceremonial laws that were to teach them that the way

of salvation is through the atoning sacrifice of the

Saviour. At Sinai, then, God gave the law directly, in

clear, simple terms, "because of transgressions" (Gal.

3:19), "so that sin through the commandment might become

exceedingly sinful" (Rom. 7:13). Only by having God's moral

law brought into sharp focus could the Israelites become

conscious of their transgressions, discover their sense of

helplessness, and see their need of salvation.

The Law Before Christ's Return

The Bible reveals that God's law is the object of Satan's

attack and that his war against it will reach its climax

just prior to the Second Advent. Prophecy indicates that

Satan will lead the vast majority of people to disobey God

(Rev. 12:9). Working through the "beast" power, he will

direct the attention of the world toward the beast instead

of God (Rev. 13:3; for more on these prophecies see chapter

12 of this book).

1. The law under attack.

Daniel 7 portrays this same power as a little horn. This

chapter speaks of four great beasts, which, ever since the

time of Christ, Bible commentators have identified as the

world powers of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. The

ten horns of the fourth beast represent the divisions of the

Roman Empire at the time of its fall (A.D. 476).(17)

Daniel's vision centers on the little horn, a terrible

and blasphemous power that arose among the ten horns,

signifying the rise of an awesome power after the

disintegration of the Roman Empire. This power would attempt

to change God's law (Dan. 7:25) and would continue until

Christ's return (see chapter 19 of this book). This attack

is, in itself, evidence of the law's continuing significance

in the plan of salvation. The vision ends by reassuring

God's people that this power will not succeed in eliminating

the law, because the judgment will destroy the little horn

(Dan. 7:11, 26-28).

2. The saints defend the law.

Obedience characterizes the saints who await the Second

Advent. In the final conflict they rally to uphold God's

law. Scripture describes them in these terms: They "keep the

commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus"

(Rev. 12:17; 14:12) and are patiently looking forward to

Christ's return.

In preparation for the Second Advent, these people

proclaim the gospel, calling others to worship the Lord as

Creator (Rev. 14:6,7). Those who worship God in love will

obey Him; as John said: "This is the love of God, that we

keep His commandments. And His commandments are not

burdensome" (1 John 5:3).

3. God's judgments and the law.

God's judgment of the seven last plagues on the

disobedient originates from the temple of "the tabernacle of

Testimony" in heaven (Rev. 15:5). Israel was well acquainted

with the phrase the tabernacle of the testimony; it

designated the tabernacle that Moses built (Num. 1:50,53;

17:8; 18:2, NIV). It was called this because the tabernacle

housed the "ark of the Testimony" (Ex. 26:34), which

contained the "two tablets of the Testimony" (Ex. 31:18). So

the Ten Commandments are the "testimony"--the witness to

humanity of the divine will (Ex. 34:28,29).

But Revelation 15:5 refers to "the temple of the

tabernacle of the testimony in heaven." Moses' was merely a

copy of the heavenly temple (Ex. 25:8,40; cf. Heb. 8:1-5);

the great original of the ten-commandment law is kept there.

That the final judgments are intimately related to the

transgression of God's law adds to the evidence for the

perpetuity of the Ten Commandments.

The book of Revelation also depicts the opening of the

heavenly temple, which brings into view the "ark of His

covenant" (Rev. 11:19). The phrase ark of the covenant

designated the ark of the earthly sanctuary, which held the

tablets containing "the words of the covenant, the Ten

Commandments" (Ex. 34:27; cf. Num. 10:33; Deut. 9:9). The

ark of the covenant in the heavenly sanctuary is the

original ark containing the words of the everlasting

covenant--the original Decalogue. Thus it is clear that the

timing of God's final judgments on the world (Rev. 11:18),

relates to the opening of this heavenly temple with its

focus on the ark with the Ten Commandments--indeed, a

fitting picture of the magnification of God's law as the

standard of the judgment.

The Law and the Gospel

Salvation is a gift that comes by grace through faith,

not by works of the law (Eph. 2:8). "No deeds of the law, no

effort however commendable, and no good works--whether they

be many or few, sacrificial or not--can in any way justify

the sinner (Titus 3:5; Rom. 3:20)."(*18)

Throughout Scripture there is a perfect harmony between

the law and the gospel, each upholding the other.

The Law and Gospel Before Sinai

When Adam and Eve sinned, they learned what guilt, fear,

and need are (Gen. 3:10). God responded to their need not by

nullifying the law that condemned them; but instead, by

offering them the gospel that would restore them into

fellowship and obedience to Him.

This gospel consisted of a promise of redemption through

a Saviour, the seed of the woman, who would come someday and

triumph over evil (Gen. 3:15). The system of sacrifices that

God enjoined upon them taught them an important truth about

the atonement: that forgiveness could be obtained only

through the shedding of blood--through the death of the

Saviour. Believing that the animal sacrifice symbolized the

Saviour's atoning death in their behalf, they obtained

forgiveness of sin.(*19) They were saved by grace.

This gospel promise was the center of God's everlasting

covenant of grace offered to humanity (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:4,5;

17:1-9). It was closely related to obedience to God's law

(Gen. 18:18,19; 26:4,5). The surety of God's covenant was

the Son of God, who, as the focal point of the gospel, was

"the lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev.

13:8). God's grace, then, began to operate as soon as Adam

and Eve sinned. David said, "The mercy of the Lord is from

everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him,...to such

as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His

commandments to do them" (Ps. 103:17,18).

The Law and Gospel at Sinai

There is a close relationship between the Decalogue and

the gospel. The preamble to the law, for instance, refers to

God as the Redeemer (Ex. 20:1). And following the

proclamation of the Ten Commandments, God instructed the

Israelites to erect an altar and begin offering the

sacrifices that were to reveal His saving grace.

It was on Mount Sinai that God gave Moses a large portion

of the ceremonial law dealing with the building of the

sanctuary, where God would dwell with His people and meet

with them to share His blessings and forgive their sins

(Ex. 24:9-31:18). This expansion of the simple system of

sacrifices that had existed prior to Sinai foreshadowed

Christ's mediatorial work for the redemption of sinners and

the vindication of the authority and holiness of God's law.

God's dwelling place was in the Most Holy Place of the

earthly sanctuary, over the mercy seat of the ark in which

were kept the Ten Commandments. Every aspect of the

sanctuary services symbolized the Saviour. The bleeding

sacrifices pointed to His atoning death, which would redeem

the human race from the condemnation of the law (see

chapters 4 and 9).

While the Decalogue was placed inside the ark, the

ceremonial laws, together with the civil regulations God

gave were written down in the "Book of the Law" and placed

beside the ark of the covenant as "a witness against" the

people (Deut. 31:26). Whenever they sinned, this "witness"

condemned their actions and provided elaborate requirements

for reconciliation with God. From Sinai until Christ's

death, transgressors of the Decalogue found hope,

forgiveness, and cleansing by faith in the gospel portrayed

by the sanctuary services of the ceremonial law.

The Law and the Gospel After the Cross

As many Christians have observed, the Bible indicates

that while Christ's death abolished the ceremonial law, it

affirmed the continued validity of the moral law.(*20) Note

the evidence:

1. The ceremonial law.

When Christ died, He fulfilled the prophetic symbolism of

the sacrificial system. Type met antitype, and the

ceremonial law came to an end. Centuries earlier Daniel had

predicted that the death of the Messiah would "bring an end

to sacrifice and offering" (Dan. 9:27; see chapter 4 of this

book). When Jesus died, the veil of the temple was

supernaturally torn in two from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51),

indicating the end of the spiritual significance of the

Temple services.

Although the ceremonial law filled a vital role before

the death of Christ, it was deficient in many ways, being

only "a shadow of the good things to come" (Heb. 10:1). It

served a temporary purpose and was imposed on God's people

until the coming of "the time of reformation" (Heb 9:10; cf.

Gal 3:19)--until the time when Christ died as the true Lamb

of God.

At the death of Christ the jurisdiction of ceremonial law

came to an end. His atoning sacrifice provided forgiveness

for all sins. This act "wiped out the handwriting of

requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us.

And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the

cross" (Col. 2:14; cf. Deut. 31:26). Then it was no longer

necessary to perform the elaborate ceremonies that were not,

in any case, able to take away sins or purify the conscience

(Heb. 10:4; 9:9,14). No more worries about the ceremonial

laws, with their complex requirements regarding food and

drink offerings, celebrations of various festivals

(Passover, Pentecost, etc.), new moons, or ceremonial

sabbaths (Col. 2:16; cf. Heb. 9:10), which were only a

"shadow of things to come" (Col. 2:17).(*21)

With Jesus' death, believers no longer had any need to

deal with shadows--reflections of the reality in Christ.

Now they could approach the Saviour Himself directly, for

the "substance is of Christ" (Col. 2:17).

As interpreted by the Jews, the ceremonial law had become

a barrier between them and other nations. It had become a

great obstacle to their mission to enlighten the world with

the glory of God. Christ's death abolished this "law of

commandments contained in ordinances," breaking down "the

middle wall of division" between Gentiles and Jews so as to

create one new family of believers reconciled into "one body

through the cross" (Eph. 2:14-16).

2. The Decalogue and the cross.

While Christ's death ended the authority of the

ceremonial law, it established that of the Ten Commandments.

Christ took away the curse of the law, thereby liberating

believers from its condemnation. His doing so, however, did

not mean that the law was abolished, giving us liberty to

violate its principles. The abundant testimony of Scripture

regarding the perpetuity of the law, refutes such a view.

Calvin aptly stated that "we must not imagine that the

coming of Christ has freed us from the authority of the law;

for it is the eternal rule of a devout and holy life, and

must, therefore, be as unchangeable as the justice of

God."(*22)

Paul described the relationship between obedience and the

gospel of saving grace. Calling believers to holy living, he

challenged them to present themselves "as instruments of

righteousness to God. For sin shall have no dominion over

you, for you are not under law but under grace"

(Rom. 6:13,14). So Christians do not keep the law to obtain

salvation--those who try to do so will only find a deeper

enslavement to sin. "As long as a man is under law he

remains also under the dominion of sin, for law cannot save

one from either the condemnation or the power of sin. But

those who are under grace receive not only release from

condemnation (Rom. 8:1), but also power to overcome (Rom.

6:4). Thus sin no longer will have dominion over them."(*23)

"Christ," Paul added, "is the end of the law for

righteousness to everyone who believes" (Rom. 10:4).

Everyone, then, who believes in Christ realizes that He is

the end of the law as a way of obtaining righteousness. In

ourselves we are sinners, but in Jesus Christ we are

righteous through His imputed righteousness.(*24)

Yet being under grace does not give believers the license

to "continue in sin that grace may abound" (Rom. 6:1).

Rather, grace supplies the power that makes obedience and

victory over sin possible. "There is therefore now no

condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not

walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit"

(Rom. 8:1).

Christ's death magnified the law, upholding its universal

authority. If the Decalogue could have been changed, He

would not have had to die. But because this law is absolute

and immutable, a death was required to pay the penalty it

imposed. This requirement Christ fully satisfied by His

death on the cross, making eternal life available to all who

accept His magnificent sacrifice.

Obedience to the Law

People cannot earn salvation by their good works.

Obedience is the fruitage of salvation in Christ. Through

His amazing grace, especially displayed at the cross, God

has liberated His people from the penalty and curse of sin.

Though they were sinners, Christ gave His life to provide

them with the gift of eternal life. God's abundant love

awakens in the repentant sinner a response that manifests

itself in loving obedience through the power of the grace so

abundantly bestowed. Believers who understand that Christ

values the law and who understand the blessings of obedience

will be strongly motivated to live Christlike lives.

Christ and the Law

Christ had the highest regard for the ten-commandment

law. As the great "I AM," He Himself proclaimed the Father's

moral law from Sinai (John 8:58; Ex. 3:14; see chapter 4 of

this book). Part of His mission on earth was to "magnify the

law and make it honorable" (Isa. 42:21). A passage from the

Psalms that the New Testament applies to Christ makes clear

His attitude toward the law: "I delight to do Your will, O

my God, and Your law is within my heart"

(Ps. 40:8; cf. Heb. 10:5,7).

His gospel produced a faith that firmly upheld the

validity of the Decalogue. Said Paul, Do we "make void the

law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we

establish the law" (Rom. 3:31).

So Christ came not only to redeem man but to vindicate

the authority and holiness of the law of God, presenting its

magnificence and glory before the people and giving them an

example of how to relate to it. As His followers, Christians

are called to magnify God's law in their lives. Having lived

a life of loving obedience Himself, Christ stressed that His

followers ought to be commandment keepers. When asked about

the requirements for eternal life, He replied, "If you want

to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matt. 19:17). He

also warned against the violation of this principle, "Not

everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the

kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in

heaven." Lawbreakers will be refused entrance

(Matt. 7:21-23).

Christ Himself fulfilled the law, not by destroying it

but through a life of obedience. "Remember," He said, "that

as long as heaven and earth last, not the least point nor

the smallest detail of the Law will be done away with"

(Matt. 5:18, TEV). Christ strongly emphasized that the grand

object of God's law must always be kept in mind: to love the

Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your

neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37,38). However, He wanted

His followers not to love one another as the world

interprets love--selfishly or sentimentally. To explain the

love He spoke of, Christ gave a "new commandment" (John

13:34). This new commandment was not to take the place of

the Decalogue, but to provide believers with "an example of

what true unselfish love really is, such love as had never

before been witnessed on the earth. In this sense His

commandment might be described as new. It charged them, not

simply `that ye love one another,' but `that ye love one

another, as I have loved you' (John 15:12). Strictly

speaking, we have here simply one more evidence of how

Christ magnified His Father's laws."(*25)

Obedience reveals such love. Jesus said, "If you love Me,

keep My commandments" (John 14:15). "If you keep My

commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept

My Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John

15:10). Similarly, if we love God's people we love God and

"keep His commandments" (1 John 2:3).

Only through abiding in Christ can we render heartfelt

obedience. "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself,

unless it abides in the vine," He said, "neither can you,

unless you abide in Me....He who abides in Me, and I in Him,

bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing" (John

15:4,5). To abide in Christ we must be crucified with Him

and experience what Paul wrote of: "It is no longer I who

live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20). For those in this

condition Christ can fulfill His new covenant promise: "I

will put My laws in their mind and write them on their

hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My

people" (Heb. 8:10).

Blessings of Obedience

Obedience develops Christian character and produces a

sense of well-being, causing the believers to grow up as

"newborn babes" and to be transformed into Christ's image

(see 1 Peter 2:2; 2 Cor. 3:18). This transformation from

sinner to God's child witnesses effectively to Christ's

power.

Scripture pronounces "blessed" all "who walk in the law

of the Lord" (Ps. 119:1), whose "delight is in the law of

the Lord" and who meditate "in His law...day and night" (Ps.

1:2). The blessings of obedience are many: (1) insight and

wisdom (Ps. 119:98,99); (2) peace (Ps. 119:165; Isa. 48:18);

(3) righteousness (Deut. 6:25; Isa. 48:18); (4) a pure and

moral life (Prov. 7:1-5); (5) knowledge of the truth (John

7:17); (6) protection against disease (Ex. 15:26); (7)

longevity (Prov. 3:1,2; 4:10,22); and (8) the assurance that

one's prayers will be answered (1 John 3:22; cf. Ps. 66:18).

Inviting us to obedience, God promises abundant blessings

(Lev. 26:3-10; Deut. 28:1-12). When we respond positively,

we become His "special treasure"--a "kingdom of priests and

a holy nation" (Ex. 19:5,6; cf. 1 Peter 2:5,9), elevated

"above all nations of the earth," "the head and not the

tail" (Deut. 28:1,13).

References

1. Holbrook, "What God's Law Means to Me," Adentist Review,

Jan. 15, 1987, p. 16.

2. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 235.

3. Ibid., p. 218.

4. Cf. The Westminster Confession of Faith, A.D. 1647,

Chapter XIX, in Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom,

vol. 3, pp. 640-644.

5. See Taylor G. Bunch, The Ten Commandments (Washington,

DC: Review and Herald, 1944), pp. 35,36.

6. "Ten Commandments," SDA Bible Dictionary, rev. ed.,

p. 1106.

7. The law of Moses can also refer to a division of the Old

Testament called the Pentateuch--the first five books of the

Bible (Luke 24:44; Acts 28:23).

8. Included in the book of the covenant were certain civil

and ceremonial regulations. The civil precepts were not an

addition to those of the Decalogue but merely specific

applications of its broad principles. The ceremonial

precepts symbolize the gospel by providing the means of

grace to sinners. Thus it is the Decalogue that dominates

the covenant. Cf. Jer. 7:21-23; Francis D. Nichol, Answers

to Objections (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1952),

pp. 62-68.

9. Arnold V. Wallenkampf, "Is Conscience a Safe Guide?"

Review and Herald, April 11, 1983, p. 6.

10.Some have interpreted Paul's statement that "Christ is

the end of the law for righteousness to every one who

believes" to mean that the end or purpose of the law is to

bring us to the point where we can see our sinfulness and

come to Christ for pardon and receive through faith His

righteousness. (This use of the word "end" [Greek, telos],

is also found in 1 Thess. 1:5, James 5:11, and 1 Peter 1:9).

See also note 23.

11.Cf. SDA Bible Commentary, rev. ed., vol. 6, p. 961;

White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 233. The ceremonial law

was also a schoolmaster bringing the individual to Christ

but through different means. The sanctuary services with

their sacrificial offerings pointed sinners to the

forgiveness of sin that the blood of the coming Lamb of God,

Jesus Christ, would provide, thus bringing them

understanding of the grace of the gospel. It was designed to

create love for the law of God while the sacrificial

offerings were to be a dramatic illustration of God's love

in Christ.

12.Ibid., p. 213.

13.White, The Desire of Ages, p. 329.

14.Cf. White, Education, pp. 173-184.

15.The historic confessions of faith upholding its validity

are "The Waldensean Catechism, c. A.D. 1500; Luther's Small

Catechism, A.D. 1529; the Anglican Catechism, A.D. 1549 and

1662; the Scottish Confession of Faith, A.D. 1560

(Reformed); the Heidelberg Catechism, A.D. 1563 (Reformed);

the Second Helvetic Confession, A.D. 1566 (Reformed); the

Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, A.D. 1571 (Church of

England); the Formula of Concord, A.D. 1576 (Lutheran); the

Irish Articles of Faith, A.D. 1615 (Irish Episcopal Church);

the Westminster Confession of Faith, A.D. 1647; the

Westminster Shorter Catechism, A.D. 1647; the Confessions of

the Waldenses, A.D. 1655; the Savory Declaration, A.D. 1658

(Congregational); the Confession of the Society of Friends,

A.D. 1675 (Quakers); the Philadelphia Confession, A.D. 1688

(Baptist); the Twenty-five Articles of Religion, A.D. 1784

(Methodist); the New Hampshire Conference, A.D. 1833

(Baptist); the Longer Catechism of the Orthodox, Catholic,

Eastern Church, A.D. 1839 (Greek-Russian Church), as quoted

in The Creeds of Christendom, ed. Philip Schaff, rev. by

David S. Schaff (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983),

vols. 1-3.

16.For references to the first and second commandments see

Gen. 35:1-4; the fourth, Gen. 2:1-3; the fifth, Gen. 18:29;

the sixth, Gen. 4:8-11; the seventh, Gen. 39:7-9; 19:1-10;

the eighth, Gen. 44:8; the ninth, Gen. 12:11-20; 20:1-10;

and the tenth, Genesis 27.

17.Froom, Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 1, pp. 456,

894; vol. 2, pp. 528, 784; vol. 3, pp. 252, 744; vol. 4, pp.

392,846.

18.Questions on Doctrine, p. 142.

19.Cain and Abel were fully acquainted with the sacrificial

system (Gen. 4:3-5; Heb. 11:4). It is most likely that Adam

and Eve obtained their first clothes (Gen. 3:21) from the

skins of the animals sacrificed to make a atonement for

their sins.

20.See, e.g., the following historic confessions of faith:

The Westminster Confession of Faith, the Irish Articles of

Religion; the Savoy Declaration, the Philadelphia

Confession, and the Methodist Articles of Religion.

21.Cf. The SDA Bible Commentary, rev. ed., vol. 6, p. 204;

White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 365.

22.Calvin, Commenting on a Harmony of the Evangelists,

trans. by William Pringle (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans,

1949), vol. 1, p. 277.

23.The SDA Bible Commentary, rev. ed., vol. 6, pp. 541,542.

24.Others have interpreted Christ as the end of the law to

mean that Christ is the goal or aim of the law (cf. Gal.

3:24) or the fulfillment of the law (cf. Matt. 5:17).

However, the view that Christ is the termination of the law

as a means of salvation (cf. Rom. 6:14) seems best to fit

the context of Romans 10:4. "Paul is contrasting God's way

of righteousness by faith with man's attempt at

righteousness by law. The message of the gospel is that

Christ is the end of the law as a way of righteousness to

everyone who has faith" (The SDA Bible Commentary, rev. ed.,

vol. 6, p. 595). Cf. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p.

394.

25.Nichol, Answers to Objections, pp. 100,101.